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Sheila Deeth has commented on (322) products.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
The Solitude of Prime Numbers

Sheila Deeth, May 15, 2015

Did you ever stand on the edge of the crowd, unbelonging and unable to turn away? If you did, you’ll see something of yourself hidden in Alice or Mattia, both wounded by their childhood attempts to escape. Calming the mind with numbers, soothing the body with pain, starving their thoughts and their feelings, they suddenly find themselves thrown together, with each’s dark unbalance harmonizing the other, and childhood ends.

Of course, childhood’s end is messy, inconvenient, and fraught with conflicting purpose. But Paulo Giordano tells the tale of his misfits with beautifully well-fitted words, complex turns of phrase that fly from the page and soar, and fragile emotions aching to be seen instead of ignored.

As plans fail and lives flail, growing apart replaces growing together for these two stranded characters. A chance encounter might restore what’s lost, but there’s a core of genuine, unpredictable feeling underneath the mathematical precisions of separation. The novel slowly opens to reveal a view wider than mountainscapes, deeper than rivers, and more honest than fiction is usually allowed to be. If you want glib and easy, this isn’t the book for you. If you want gritty, broken, and quietly healed, it is.

Disclosure: A friend loaned me her copy, correctly guessing I would really enjoy it.
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One Good Turn: A Novel by Kate Atkinson
One Good Turn: A Novel

Sheila Deeth, May 15, 2015

I love Kate Atkinson’s writing in One Good Turn, each chapter turned out like a new short story, polished to perfection, filled with character and plot, and smoothly carrying the story on to the next. Protagonist Jackson Brodie seems slightly darker than in the first novel, Case Histories, as if the rewards of luxury might be too much time to think dark thoughts. But he’s back on British shores, following Julia’s acting career on the road to the Edinburgh Fringe. There he meets a dead body, a female detective, temptation and mystery. But One Good Turn isn’t simply a Jackson Brodie story. It’s the story of each of its characters; of a mother, struggling with her teenage son; of a shy man thrust into the spotlight; of guilts long-hidden and festering; and of guilts too easily forgotten. One Good Turn is the tale of a woman scorned, a woman scorning, and a woman caught in between; or of a boy, a man, and a man still struggling to grow up. Perhaps it’s just a window into the unexpected lives of unlikely heroes and heroines, but if so the glass is astoundingly clear, and the view is enthralling.

Unexpected road rage, unintentional death, unwanted heroism, unwilling assistance and unwelcome distractions all feed into this novel as each good turn leads to further demands, and each promise leads to betrayal. Each chapter is tightly woven, offering the perfect chance for distraction at its end, and the perfect promise of satisfaction to undistracted readers. I loved this book.

Disclosure: I think it was a Christmas gift from a friend.
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The People Under the House by Dene Hellman
The People Under the House

Sheila Deeth, May 15, 2015

Dene Hellman tells a compelling three-part story in The People Under the House, with a short fourth part bringing it all to completion. It’s a tale that begins with a 60s housewife and, whose perfect life, with all those extras long-hoped for, long-promised, seems suddenly dull and gray. The perfect husband works hard for a living, and the perfect children are truly admirable. But wife and mother loses sight of herself and feels like a servant below-stairs in the rich man’s home. Many women today, though the world has certainly changed, will still recognize themselves in her dilemma.

The chance to interview a German Jew, survivor of WWII, just might be what the lonely housewife needs to revive lost dreams of being a writer. Or it might serve to shatter the dreams she’s in danger of losing now.

Part two gives a new and haunting perspective to the tale. The wife who has everything is brought, together with the reader, into the life of a man who lost everything. The trials of a 60s housewife, or a wife and mother today, seem as nothing compared with the slow shattering of childhood hopes, Kristallnacht’s swift shattering of lives, and all those small incidental betrayals required just to stay alive in Hitler's Germany. Werner’s no hero, but he proves to be a determined survivor. Meanwhile his story has romance but no fairytales. And his dreams are still born of nightmares.

By the end of part two, the reader’s primed to believe there must be hope. But this story continues with real-life trials and tribulations while fairytales fade. There are other wounds besides being hunted or ignored. The lives of the everyday can be filled with secrets every bit as painful as the lives of the lost. And living below-stairs might be preferable to what’s to come.

I love the first two parts of this tale. Fast-flowing, deeply involving, painfully relatable, they contrast beautifully as the protagonists meet on a 60s housing development. But this novel is memoir, and real-life conclusions can be messy, complex and sad. Warts and all, the story builds on post-traumatic stress and lifestyle trauma into a picture of two real lives, separate, intertwined, and finally far enough apart to be knitted back together at the seams.

Disclosure: I was given a free ecopy and I offer my honest review.
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Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist
Tiffany Girl

Sheila Deeth, May 15, 2015

Imagine a Jane Austen novel, transposed to the US, and set around Chicago’s World Fair. The dashing wounded hero seems like he might never fall in love. The independent adventurous heroine will surely never realize he loves her. The wise older women sees everything and keeps it to herself. Meanwhile there’s a convincing backdrop of streetcars, bad behavior, bustle-pinchers, strike-breakers, awkward parents, and a young girl who dearly wants to paint. Plus Tiffany glass.

Fascinating details weave very naturally into the story -- unlocked rooms in a boarding house; dinner-time parlor games; and even the details of how stained glass windows are made. Meanwhile there’s the pleasing progression of a girl’s self-knowledge, from assumptions of greatness to that quiet acceptance which turns the ordinary into something wonderful.

Some beautiful scenes will remain with me now I’ve finished reading the novel -- a skating scene where Reese’s first step into the fun zone almost turns into disaster; a moment of unexpected release when a kindness is reported; a wonderful meeting on a street-car where the tables are turned on an unruly bustle-pincher; and, of course, the long awaited scene where romance wins the day. Author Deeanne Gist does a very pleasing job with romance, carefully avoiding cringe-worthy soap-box sensuality while still teasing the senses delightfully. Suddenly it’s clear why layers upon layers of discreetness combined with a button-hook might be erotic, and it’s beautifully told.

I enjoyed watching the protagonists change in this novel. I enjoyed the details of history, life, and social change. And I particularly enjoyed the sense that life and love aren’t just defined by success. The pictures between chapters are delightful too. And the cover entices with an image that’s not quite real, but waits for semi-fulfilment, just as the character learns her fulfilment is more. Tiffany Girl is a lovely historical romance -- highly recommended.

Disclosure: I was lucky enough to be given an advance proof copy, and I really enjoyed it.
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Polite Conversation about the Weather by D. A. Mcquin

Sheila Deeth, May 1, 2015

Like Elizabeth’s Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, D.A. MacQuin’s novel, Polite Conversation about the Weather, is grown from a set of short stories about the interlocking lives of Midwestern characters. The parts are nicely fitted together, offering that enticing delight of discovery as remembered characters reappear, together with a sense of hopes fulfilled or dashed as their stories are seen through different eyes.

MacQuin’s short stories are built on the backs of science-fiction readers, pot smokers, and angry young men and women looking back on, or forward to, uncertain futures. The world around them is changing. The death penalty��"a mournful bracket around the whole collection��"comes and goes, but wounded lives go on and guilt lies often unseen. Dune’s Atreides wanted to save the world, but author D.A. MacQuin saves small lives individually by giving them depth and breath.

From final meal to sirens tempting a missionary by the pool, from dark internal dialog to convincing and natural flashes of conversation, and from past to present, these tales present a selection of ordinary people with lives both successful and dull, hopes lost and found, and dreams distorted. Sharp stings in the tales twist perception and preconception, and unedited tense shifts offer a rapid-fire approach to deep realities and pains. Too early? Too late? Too fast? Too slow? Or just life? These tales are just life, frequently seen in injustice or justice delayed, wounded and picking up the pieces, ever going on. But together they form a novel that’s more than the sum of its parts, and a fascinating mirror on a generation.

Disclosure: I was given a free ecopy and I offer my honest review.
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