Rachel Joyce is a successful radio play writer for the BBC and “The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry” was her first novel. It is one of the books in our library in which several people have put comments on the “I’ve read this” sheet including ‘Amazing’, ‘Moving’, ‘Awesome read’, ‘Loved this story’ & ‘Captivating’. Well, I agree with them all. Rachel Joyce has chosen a storyline that might well have been too hard to bring off but has managed it brilliantly.
It is inspirational without being sentimental or pious. Harold Fry is a mild, shy disappointment of a man – a failed father, a lack lustre husband, a retired and retiring chap who leaves home one morning & starts walking to a city 627 miles away. There, a woman lies dying of cancer, whom he once knew, and who helped him by taking the blame at work for something that he did. This is his pilgrimage – the story of a walk that took 87 days and for which he was totally unprepared – no proper shoes, no map, no raincoat, no mobile phone, no ready cash. He believes that so long as he keeps walking, the dying woman will find the will to live and await his arrival.
This is a story of hope, of courage, of friendship. Harold re-visits his life’s best and worst moments while his wife at home also comes to terms with her true feelings and begins to recognise that it takes two to make a marriage work. This is a lovely story because it’s about a very flawed man who is redeemed by his own brave, difficult but inspiring will to do what he has set out to do. Have a hankie handy!
PS. The companion story “The love song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” by Rachel Joyce, is the story of the dying woman who Harold is trying to reach. Go to Library Catalogue
Do you ever wonder about the lives of others; random strangers whose faces you catch a glimpse of as you pass them on the street, on the highway, or from a train? Do you ascribe them characteristics based on the briefest possible first impressions; make up entire lives for them? Author Paula Hawkins has used this premise as the jumping off point for her first fiction novel “The girl on the train” (which has already been optioned for film).
Rachel, spurned in love, creates an entire fantasy life for a couple she watches from the train on her daily commute to London. Rachel’s interest in the couple deepens, not least of all because they live a few houses down from her ex-husband and his new wife and child. And then the woman goes missing. And Rachel is determined to get to the bottom of it… (Read more : warning spoilers)
This could have been a formulaic, run-of-the-mill psychological thriller, but it was much better than that, owing to Hawkins’ writing skill.
A great first novel, and a recommended read. 4 out of 5 stars.
Simon Winchester has written a number of non-fiction books, ranging from subjects like how words were collected for the 20 versions of the Oxford English Dictionary, to the story of Krakatoa, the story of maps and one called ‘The meaning of everything’. Mr Winchester is always worth reading and the one I am reviewing now is as fascinating as anything else he has written.
“The man who loved China” is the story of an English scientist, Dr. Joseph Needham, a Cambridge Don who was brilliant and eccentric, and could speak French, German, Greek and Mandarin Chinese quite fluently. He was happily married to the same woman most of his adult life but also had for decades a Chinese mistress. He was the creator and author of a multi volume work, published by the Cambridge University Press as “Science and Civilisation in China”.
Now, you may well think that this could be a rather dull book but let me tell you that it is anything but!
Joseph Needham led an extraordinary life. This young , tall, good-looking man who, back in the early 1930’s fell in love with China, its language and its mysteries, got the opportunity to visit that country. While he travelled around uninterrupted he searched and found evidence to bolster his convictions that long before European invention and science took off, the Chinese had invented a raft of things such as printing (from wooden blocks), the magnetic compass, explosives, suspension bridges, coal as fuel, ball bearings, air conditioning, cast iron, the cross-bow, folding chairs, the handgun, paper, the stirrup, weather vanes, inoculation and much, much more. Some of these date back to before Christ.
Dr Needham discovered documentary evidence and hidden treasures which were the basis of his hand written notes. But this is not a book so much about academic research. It has more than its share of adventure, dangerous risk taking and escapes. It was, after all, the time the Japanese had invaded China and was in possession of a large chunk of it and pressing forward to take all of it, if it could. It was also not long before Mao Tse Tung’s long march after which the Nationalists were defeated and the Communists took over.
Joseph Needham was a socialist supporter while staying on good terms with everyone he came into contact with. He was later sent back to China to give material support to the scientific community. He crossed war-torn China on thrilling and dangerous journeys. On his return to England he wanted to change the west’s antiquated perception of China, its history and its contribution to world knowledge and civilisation.
By the time he died in 1995, he had produced, almost single-handedly, 17 volumes on every aspect of science and technology. Through him and through this excellent book by Simon Winchester, we get a truer picture of China and perhaps a better understanding of how and why this great country has emerged in the 21st century, as one of the foremost economic powers ‘going forward’ as the jargon has it.
– Larry Gordon
Challenge yourself this year! Do Reading Bingo, try something different, explore a new genre, delve into some non-fiction on a topic you wouldn’t ordinarily investigate, or take up the Good Reads challenge!
In ‘The gardens of the dead’ by William Brodrick, the main character is Father Anselm, a monk who had once been a barrister (just like the author) and fancies himself a sleuth.
Thus the author, having had feet in both very different worlds, has chosen to write a modern day mystery that involves both. And a very good page turning mystery it is. It is not a detective novel – there is no official detective – and it is not a police procedural though a police officer is one character in it.
I do not want to give too much, if anything, away as plot is all important in this kind of writing. It is one of those onion like mysteries in which more and more is revealed page by page until the whole truth is uncovered, and one finishes the book pretty well satisfied that the intricate threads of the story have been brought together in the final pages.
This is no psychological, serial killer, blood thirsty or gory tale but a cleverly constructed, almost believable second novel by an author from whom further clever and highly readable stories will come, I am sure.
My only very minor winge is the title, which seems too obscure for me, but then what is in a name?
– Larry Gordon
This year is the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. I have written previous posts about that so this year I want to draw your attention to the opportunity to order a commemorative birth certificate in honour of this anniversary.
The Department of Internal Affairs (Births, Deaths, Marriages and Citizenship) are proud to offer this certificate to New Zealand citizens, which will be available for order from 6 February 2015 until the end of the 2015. This is a genuine certificate, which serves the same functions and has the same legal status and security features as a regular birth certificate.
So if your original birth certificate is a bit worn or tatty, or you are expecting a happy bundle of joy this year, you may like to choose this particular certificate. See more
“Mozart’s last aria” by Matt Rees is a book that, for all its attractive cover and eye-catching title, has only been borrowed eight times in the last four years, and should surely have a wider readership, so I now draw it to your attention.
On the cover it says “Musical genius, masonic initiate, murder victim”? Which was more than enough to intrigue me. Many of us remember the movie “Armadeus” based on the play which makes Salieri, the court musician to the Austrian Emperor of the day, the bitterly jealous rival of the comparable child prodigy, pianist and composer, Wolfgang Armadeus Mozart.
Using the same suspicion that Mozart, who was only 35 when he died, did not die of natural causes, the author of this book spins a tale of mystery and murder woven around the central character of Maria Anna Mozart, Wolfgang’s sister. It is worth noting that nearly all of the characters in this tale actually lived though the author has taken the liberty of re-writing their stories. Maria Anna was as accomplished a pianist as her brother but was held back from pursuing a musical career by a greedy and selfish father. She loses touch with her famous brother when they quarrel over an inheritance but when she hears that rumours are in circulation about his death and what he was involved in at the time, she travels from her provincial home to Vienna to find the truth.
There she discovers that Mozart had become a member of a Masonic Lodge and was caught up in court- intrigue, coming under suspicion of the minister of Police. I will not reveal much else of the plot but if you like a history/ mystery and if you are at all interested in the possible murder of one of the great composers of all times, you will enjoy this book.
Matt Rees, as his name indicates, hails from Wales and has written four previous detective stories. This one, “Mozart’s Last Aria” required considerable research into Mozart, his times and his music so it may appeal to you from more than one point of view.
– Larry Gordon
I am a terrible reader. I love to look at the last few pages of a book and see if that casually mentioned character is important after all. Often with many books having the first chapter of another book at the end, I am left confused and wondering where did that twist come from! My own fault for snooping and trying to rush the story.
“The collected works of A J Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin is one such book where reading the last page won’t tell you an awful lot. This is a lovely book, gentle and well written. It has a few laugh out loud moments but mostly it is just the story of a widowed bookshop owner who finds new meaning in his life. There are a few mysteries, some gentle plot twists and a not so happy ending.
One quote on the cover says “I read it in one sitting” and once I picked it up I also read it in one go, it’s a good rainy afternoon book and it will leave you happy to have known the characters. There are no blood thirsty villains to set your heart racing or twisted love stories to wring your heart-strings but rather a set of ordinary people living ordinary lives while trying to be happy and whole. Sometimes just what we need out of a book. Enjoy.
Yes, that’s right – Little Ears is coming to Pahiatua and Woodville Libraries! ‘Little Ears’ is a free half hour early literacy session for pre-schoolers that is run during Term Time. Parents or caregivers, bring your little one’s along to listen to stories, sing songs, and sometimes do other activities.
Give your child a head start – expose them to reading now, and socialize them (and you) at the same time!
- Dannevirke Library – every Monday, 9.30am
- Pahiatua Library – every Tuesday, 2pm
- Woodville Library – every Wednesday, 2pm
Questions? Talk to your local librarian or email us.
PS : thanks to those who supported this, but Baby Rock movement to music sessions are no longer being offered at Dannevirke Library.
In Thessaloniki, 2007, Dimitri has breakfast with his grandparents, Katerina and Dimitri Komninos. After hearing a blind man exclaim how much he loves Thessaloniki, he is intrigued when his grandmother passionately agrees. His grandparents tell their story: Dimitri Komninos, son of the beautiful, loving Olga, and angry, rich textile wholesaler Konstantinos who sees Dimitri as a possession. Katerina Sarafoglou is separated from her mother as the Greeks chaotically sail to Greece when their homes in Asia Minor are destroyed. The doctor turned guerilla and modistra (seamstress) are intertwined through two World Wars, a civil war, a dictatorship and through the people they both love.
I have read The Island by Victoria Hislop, and The Thread is just as good. You can picture Greece and each character with all the tiny details that make these books especially stand out.
– Molly Thompson