Goodbye Ruby Tuesday – A.L. Michael

In the midst of the heavy-duty reading I’ve been doing as part of my coursework for university, I was in desperate need of something light-hearted and fun to read. I had never read an A.L Michael novel before, but considering that Goodbye Ruby Tuesday  featured in Kindle’s Bestsellers list (one of the primary indicators I use when choosing a book), I downloaded it straight away.

I hadn’t read the book’s description, so when I began reading the book it really was a surprise. I must admit, it wasn’t what I was expecting- I had expected the ‘goodbye’ to be someone changing their old personality, but I probably couldn’t have been further away from the reality. However, that isn’t to say that the difference between my expectations and the reality was a bad thing. In fact, I quite liked the reality, and how it serves to show that the loss of someone can bring others around them closer together, or push them to do things they had never considered before. I must say, though, that from the impression that was created of Ruby by other characters, I was half-expecting her to pop up at some point, laughing at the point she had made to the others.

I thought that Michael’s characters were all fairly well-developed, making them feel quite three dimensional and real. My favourite of all, though, was ten year old Esme- with the all the sass and wisdom that fully grown adults wish they had and could use against others. Having said that the characters are developed, I do feel that their narrative arcs and inter-character relationships didn’t have the same feel. For example, Evie’s relationship with Killian, though charming, did feel very rushed considering their first impressions of one another. However, as this book has a sequel, perhaps there is more to learn there.

 

In the same vein, it seemed that the main ‘event’ of the book sort of appeared out of nowhere, with little build up or explanation and, as a result, made the plot seem under developed and a little rushed. But, once again, perhaps the sequel could offer more insight to this and may provide more of a back story.

I liked the flashbacks from the present day to a previous narrative, as I think it added more depth to character relations and development. It was much easier to gauge how characters came to be in the position that they were after reading about their past. However, again, I do feel that for some characters (the relationship between Evie’s father and Ruby), there could have been more flashbacks, as it could have provided more of an explanation for the main action of the narrative.

Overall, in spite of the apparent flaws in certain parts of the narrative, they weren’t enough to put me off the book completely.  I would recommend Goodbye Ruby Tuesday to anyone who is looking for something light hearted and easy to read because, after all, I did like the characters and I am intending on reading the sequel in the future as I am genuinely interested in the future of the characters.

 

 

Le Ventre de Paris- Émile Zola

Texts that deal with the subject of the dynamic between the rich and the poor, or the upper  classes and the working class people have interested me for a while, so this Zola novel seemed an obvious choice.

Apart from the fact that it is a Zola novel, meaning it is by no means an easy read, it was not a let down!

From the very start, as is usually the way with Zola, the description of settings and scenes made for a very vivid image of the characters and their surroundings. I found Zola’s use of metaphor, using food to represent a person’s position in society or among others, particularly interesting as I had never seen social class represented in such a way before.

I also found it very interesting how he uses the microcosm of the Parisian market to represent the goings on in the city on a larger scale. It means that the reader is able to establish a better sense of ‘knowing’ each character, because of the small-scale setting, meaning they can predict how a character may react towards certain situations later in the narrative. The microcosm setting also means there are fewer characters to ‘get to know’, which is important for a long novel, but also means that it is easier to see character development within each. Personally, I mostly enjoyed seeing the development of Lisa, as I think her character shows the most change, particularly towards her brother in law, Florent.

On the same subject as Florent, I believe that he worked as a brilliant protagonist. I found it incredibly easy to empathise with and sympathise for him, constant willing the best for him for the entirety of the narrative.

What I particularly liked about Le Ventre de Paris is the fact that it shows that one’s position in society is not fixed, and because of this changeable nature, it is not to be taken for granted. I liked seeing how, not only characters facing the changes reacted, whether they were climbing up or falling down the social ladder. It was also interesting to see the cut-throat nature of business and money-making from the perspective of someone writing in the 19th Century, and how it is not so different from modern day attitudes and behaviour.

Overall, whilst it is by no means an easy book to read, I would definitely recommend persevering with Le Ventre de Paris , even if for nothing more than to see the difference between the effects of capitalism on people and their personal relationships in the 19th Century fiction and in our own experiences in the modern world.

Girl On A Train- A J Waines

I discovered this book whilst scrolling down the Kindle Bestsellers list, but first dismissed it as a ‘rip off’ of the Hawkins novel that I read, and was incredibly disappointed in, earlier this year. However, after some research, I learned that it was actually a completely separate narrative, and people generally thought well of it. I bought it with some reservations (after all, people had raved about The Girl on The Train and I could barely bring myself to finish it), but it did promise an unpredictable twist and I wanted to give it a chance.

At first I was not blown away. My first impression was that the writing style did ressemble that of Hawkins, of which I was not a fan However, the saving grace in this case was that the book took a mere few pages to get into the action, which meant I quickly became interested in the narrative. I didn’t need pages to get to know the character and why she was there at that point etc. , I just wanted to get on with the story. My favourite was to learn about characters is through their reactions to other people and certain situations, as that is how we tend to get to know people in real life.

I liked how Anna, the protagonist, gets involved in the story through more than simply self-interestedness or being a busy-body. Her husband’s own suicide ( if that’s what it was) is what pushes her to clear Elly’s name from suicide, too. I like how, for the majority of the narrative, we are led on the quest to discover the clues Elly left behind, rather that being tricked into believing lots of red-herrings. This means that when the twist does come, it definitely is unexpected- and impossible to see coming (my favourite kind of twist!). And even though that initial twist isn’t the final conclusion, it very quickly leads Anna (and the reader) to find out the truth, which is even more shocking and unpredictable. Having said that, though, I did have some reservations about the credibility of the final result, even though it wouldn’t be completely impossible…

The book’s narrative is split into three sections: two of which are told from Anna’s perspective, and the middle told from Elly’s. I understand what Waines’ intentions were with this: to allow Elly’s voice to enter the story, even after she has died. However, in reality it didn’t really add much to the story- especially because it was only a short section of the longer narrative. What it does reveal is her thinking behind leaving the clues, which gives Anna’s predictions more credibility, but I would say that this is where its usefulness ends.

The narrative conclusion is satisfying, in the way that it ends in the way you hope, even though there are points at which it seems it won’t. However, it does leave some unanswered questions with regards to parts of the narrative that aren’t directly concerned with Elly- but perhaps that is the point?  And in spite of these unanswered questions, I definitely feel that those other aspects of the narrative that branch away from Elly’s death are important, as they give the characters some depth and explain their motivations.

 

To conclude, I would thoroughly recommend A J Waines’, Girl on a TrainWhether you enjoyed the similarly named Hawkins novel or not, there is definitely something to take from this one!