Two book reviews

I really suck at writing book reviews, which may be one of the reasons why we haven’t incorporated it into our Accelerated Reader lessons yet. We do have plans to introduce them next year, but in a much more diluted way: I’m thinking book Tweets or character Facebook pages rather than the traditional review which would probably put our pupils off reading even more!

I recently finished two books: The Queen of Four Kingdoms by Princess Michael of Kent and Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. I should state right now that my form of book selection is choosing whatever is cheap on the Book People or what I have won and, as a result, my bookshelf is…eclectic, to say the least. I literally will give anything a go so long as it’s fiction and I would recommend anyone to step out of their reading comfort zone because you never really know what you will find. It was only through buying a bargain sci-fi book bundle from the Book People that I discovered the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, some of the best and certainly some of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

So..index

I don’t mind the odd bit of historical fiction even if it involves royalty, which I am fiercely opposed to; but I won’t be recommending this book which details the life of Yolande of Aragon and her family. The novel doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be; is it a romance novel? A historical recount? At one point I felt as though I’d fallen into an Enid Blyton novel when the queen’s children were so delightfully gamboling around her. The romantic parts I could tolerate because there was at least a human side to the story, but then HRH would veer off into history class and we would have page after page of retelling of historical events with no personal reflections (other than the odd, ‘Yolande was sad.’)

I don’t mind admitting that my knowledge of this period of history is poor, so perhaps Yolande did do all the things attributed to her in this book (verifying that Joan of Arc was a virgin being one of them.) However, she seems to be so integral to everything that was going on in France at the time as to be almost unbelievable; dare I say a Mary Sue? If so then she was certainly a remarkable women in a time when women in general were seen and not heard. I’d struggle to think who to recommend this book to as people interested in the historical aspect would be irritated by the Mills and Boon prose, yet the romantics would sigh at the pages and pages of ‘this happened then that happened.’

This book took me over a week to read which is a long time for me and I’m struggling to say what I got out of it. I guess, at a push, it could help me with history questions on University Challenge – so long as I remember which Louis was which.

Now…

elizabethThis is a great book. I should give some personal background before I start: My grandmother is 87 and suffering from dementia. She still lives in her own home, like the protagonist in this book, but my aunt lives with her. It is hard to see the deterioration in my Nanna and I’ve often wondered what it is like in her head. This book has helped me get closer to understanding that.

Maud, the protagonist, is an elderly lady with memory problems. She often can’t remember who people are or where she is; but she does know her friend, Elizabeth, is missing. The book follows Maud in her quest to find Elizabeth as she becomes ever more muddled. In flashbacks we learn about Maud’s childhood in the pre-war years and her missing sister. I won’t divulge too much as I would just advise you to buy and enjoy this book. Even if you don’t know anyone suffering with dementia, it’s still fascinating to read a novel narrated by a sufferer. The book reaches its climax as Maud becomes even more confused and fragile, mixing the past with the present with shocking results.

It’s hard to believe that this is the author’s first novel and I would definitely buy her next offering. It is a rare gift to be able to place your readers inside someone’s head in the way Emma Healey places us inside Maud’s. In contrast to HRH’s book, I read this in two days. Buy it, borrow it (probably best not to steal it) just read it!

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2 thoughts on “Two book reviews

    1. I hate it when that happens. You get all these lovely new books and see them going out the door and inside you’re wailing “Please come back OK!” It usually only takes one borrow for our new books to look dog eared: Bumped around in a school bag, gravy dribbles, chewed by younger siblings…

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