Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys

wide sargasso seaThis is the back-story to Rochester’s mad wife in Jane Eyre, a woman trapped in England after a life in the Caribbean. Rochester is revealed as first immature, then manipulative, greedy and deceitful so that his wife Antoinette is driven into madness. The author Rhys’ story is also fascinating.

Museum Of Extraordinary Things – Alice Hoffman

museum-of-extraordinary-things-alice-hoffmanOne of the best features of this book is the setting: New York and more specifically Coney Island in Brooklyn in 1911. The “museum” is really an exhibit of freaks of nature, both living and dead, most faked/manipulated. The Professor character is wonderfully wicked, but love wins out. Part of the story is a mystery, to add to the flavour.

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night – Heather O’Neill

Wonderful storytelling of the remarkable relationship between two siblings, Nouschka and Nicolas, who have grown up without parental love: a physically absent mother and an emotionally absent father. O’Neill captures the francophone world on Montreal in 1995, leading up to the separation vote. The sibling relationship is amazingly close but they are moving in different directions: Nouschka is going forward and Nicolas is stuck in the present/past. Wonderful writing, especially the metaphors!

Flora – Gail Godwin

A 10-year-old (Helen) and a 22-year-old (Flora, a cousin of Helen’s dead mother), spend part of the summer of 1945 together. Helen’s father is working at Oak Ridge on bomb development so Flora is a companion/chaperone. Helen is a precocious, petulant, self-absorbed and incredibly manipulative kid, so interesting character and the ending to the book is a surprise.

Nocturne by Helen Humphreys

Nocturne by Helen Humphreys.jpg(thanks to Amy/Steph). Really excellent writing; book was read in one setting so clearly I was engaged by the story. The book describes the experience of the author’s life together with her brother, and details after his death. Perhaps I was primed by the [Miriam] Toews AMPS [All My Puny Sorrows] but I have a personal preference for introspective and insightful writing. Humphreys captures the cruelty of disease and the numbness of grief. She writes: fear the worst because the worst has happened” (first Matthew and then Anne).