Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
Summary: Claire Randall is thrown back in time to a war-torn Scotland of the 1700s, and torn herself between husband Frank, back in the future, and gallant redheaded warrior Jamie.
I can’t remember the last time I thoroughly enjoyed a book so much. Let’s be honest; I’ve been reading some pretty literary (relatively) stuff – Outlander was a rip-roarer from start to finish, albeit a little long. I wouldn’t compare it to The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – which should never have seen the light of day in its final state – but a little more editing wouldn’t have hurt.
It’s obvious Gabaldon loves the characters of Claire and Jamie and that’s infectious for a reader – this comes through very strongly, and the great thing about this couple is that it’s a marriage of equals. While he’s very much a product of his time – protective and gentlemanly – she’s equally strong willed, independent and feisty, and enjoys some great dialogue thanks to her quick, sharp tongue. They’re both as stubborn as each other and are soulmates from the beginning.
Gabaldon is a fantastic storyteller…although a bit too fantastic at times, perhaps – her plotting doesn’t quite measure up to her writing. Also worrying is Jamie’s punishment of Claire for putting their troops in mortal danger and his violation at the hands of villain Captain Randall – an ancestor of Claire’s husband.
But all in all, it’s a bit of a bodice-ripper, a bit of a guilty pleasure, a historical romance – highbrow chick lit? In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I’m reluctant to read all the rest in the series, as they have really disappointing reviews.
Charlotte’s Web – EB White
Summary: A naive piglet learns some lessons about the ways of the world, with help from a colourful cast of characters, including one very onto-it spider.
Yes, I did make it to the ripe old age of 23 without ever having read Charlotte’s Web. I have, however, remedied this oversight. And how glad I am! This is simply charming. Wilbur, the runt of the litter, is saved thanks to the pleas of Fern, and soon settles into farm life at her uncle’s. There he meets the garrulous geese, the wily rat who shares his food, and of course, Charlotte. It’s Charlotte who takes a shine to this white piglet and who takes it upon herself to save him from the Christmas slaughter by weaving words into her web that astound the farmer and his family, convincing them that Wilbur is something special.
While I understand this is a children’s book, I would have liked to have heard more about Fern. While she dotes on Wilbur at the beginning, she begins to drift away, and apparently takes an interest in a local boy. I felt that coming back to her towards the end would truly have brought the book full circle.
Bought – Anna David
Summary: One unhappy, unfulfilled celebrity-chasing journalist embarks on an investigation of LA’s underworld – the world of modern courtesans, or prostitutes who take goods in lieu of cash.
As a journalist, I got a fair few chuckles out of narrator Emma’s misadventures on the press line at the red carpet – being a “party reporter” must surely be one of the more demeaning beats out there. Trying to survive on forty grand a year in Hollywood, perpetual rejections of her feature ideas, drifting away from her former best friend and perpetual singledom has soured this modern woman. But when she discovers her ex is involved with a high class prostitute – one who accepts not cold hard cash, but bounty in the form of clothing, dinners out, and having her living expenses covered – she smells a good story.
In fact, Jessica, the ferociously beautiful Eurasian on Matt’s arm, befriends Emma and introduces her to her fast world of sex, drugs and black Amexes. And that’s where Emma proceeds to lose her perspective and objectivity entirely. She’s sucked into a bizarre dimension where she can’t be sure of what’s real. Highly intelligent and highly educated, Jessica is an expert in manipulation – particularly of men – and is of the game-playing philosophy of dating. She’s also rather unstable. While Emma emerges more confident in herself, thanks to Jessica’s coaching, she’s also left virtually friendless. Unlike most chicklit, she doesn’t get the (nice) guy in the end, and doesn’t keep her job. But she does clarify her principles and realises that while some women are happy to wield their sexuality and be “bought”, she can’t live that way. A quick, engaging and satisfying read, David perfectly captures the dilemmas of 21st-century womanhood.