This book had a pretty good plot. It concerns the rediscovery and sale of an 18th century French masterpiece called The Improbability of Love. The novel opens on the night of the auction where we learn about all the fuss and attention of the sale and we also learn a little about the people buzzing round the painting; potential buyers and those hoping to profit directly or indirectly from the sale. Then the novel jumps back 6 months to the initial discover of the painting in a junk shop then moves us through the identification of the painting and the discovery by certain characters of it’s very dark history and then back to where we opened on the night of the sale. Along the way we have; romance, struggles with alcoholism, sex, greed, lies, a woman arrested and imprisoned for a crime she did not commit, Nazism, murder…and more! Sounds like rollicking good read? Well unfortunately it’s just really badly executed.
A major problem is that there are too many characters and most of the characters don’t play a part in the actual story. We learn all about the backgrounds and wealth and…wardrobes of the incidental billionaires and millionaires hoping to purchase the painting but this knowledge doesn’t take us anywhere of achieve anything. I guess Rothschild is trying to establish just how important the discovery of this painting is by showing us how many people are effected and involved but the problem with all her characters is that they are either A – totally boring, or B – totally over the top and not slightly believable or C – totally boring AND over the top and not slightly believable (mostly they are C).
Aside from all the bit parts we do have a couple of main characters at the heart of the tale. Jesse and Annie are the innocent romantic leads unwittingly caught up in the chaos around the painting. Annie is the young down at heel cook who buys the painting as a birthday present for a date who stands her up and Jesse is a struggling artist she bumps into in a gallery a little later who is helping her identify her mystery painting. A bigger pair of sappy dull wet fish are difficult to imagine. Reading about the development of their relationship and growing connection and attraction is the least sexy thing I have read since…Mein Kampf! She is just a saintly goody two shoes with ‘victim’ written all over her (aside from discovering the painting she is nursing an alcoholic mother and her own broken heart from the end of a long term relationship) and he, well we don’t really know too much about him other than that he has floppy hair and a “slightly feminine mouth” and that he fell totally in love with Annie’s goodness and sweetness the second he laid eyes on her and will do anything to help (YUK!)
Most of the characters are mega rich, the leads are the only exception but are as about as convincing a picture of working class life as you’d find in a Richard Curtis script. Annie comes to London after being dumped by her long term romantic and business partner in Devon. She has no connections and no formal qualifications as she ran her own catering business with her older boyfriend from the age of 16, she has no references either as it would be a bit awkward asking her ex! So what does she do when she arrives in London? Find a room to rent in a shared property using Gumtree ? Get a few zero hours shifts at a Sports Direct while getting a cleaning gig in the evening to pay the rent? NO! She rents an entire one bedroom flat to herself (in London…in 2015…) and somehow gets a job as an assistant to a world famous film director – as you do! The job is lowly but obviously flings her into the orbit of the rich and influential, her connection with the film director gets her a job as a chef with his wife, an art dealer, which then gets her catering gigs with the great and the good. Honestly, rich people must think us down here are all mugs wasting our time complaining about minimum wage and job seeker’s allowance when apparently it’s that easy to go from nothing to being quite successful with only hard work, talent and goodness in your armoury. It had the massive chip on my shoulder itching and throbbing painfully.
I considered quitting this book many times. But the plot kept me in there as I was curious to find out what happened to the painting, but you know what they say about curiosity? Don’t make the mistake I did, save yourself the pain and don’t get started.
The Muse by Jessie Burton (Pan Macmillan) has been chosen as the book for Cityread London 2018. The title will be the centre of a month-long celebration of reading in the capital, starting on 30 April and running throughout May. Cityread is a huge city-wide book group which aims to help Londoners explore and celebrate their city through its stories.
The Muse opens in London 1967, where we meet Odelle Bastien, recently arrived from Trinidad and trying to make her way in a new country. A new job at the Skelton Institute of Art brings a mysterious painting, and even more enigmatic colleague, into her life. We are then transported to Spain, 1936, and meet Olive Schloss, and we begin to discover how the painting came into being, against the turbulent backdrop of Spain on the eve of civil war.
Taking Burton’s depictions of 1960s London and 1930s Spain as a starting point, a programme of events exploring The Muse’s themes of arrival, the creative process, art history and family secrets will take place in Brent Libraries (and indeed across London!) throughout May. Highlights will include:
- A life drawing art workshop on Tuesday 8 May
- A Spanish cookery class on Thursday 10 May
- A history talk about the Moors of Spain on Wednesday 16 May
- An art history talk, Guernica and beyond, looking at the art of the Spanish Civil War on Tuesday 22 May
We will also be holding a competition for the best book review of The Muse with some exciting themed prizes!
For full details of our events look out for our special brochures, keep an eye on our online events lists or email firstname.lastname@example.org
“I’m truly delighted that The Muse will be London’s Cityread for 2018. It’s a novel that celebrates the diversity, humour and spirit of Londoners – both those who were born here and those welcomed in to make it their home. It’s an honour to support our city’s libraries and to be reminded of their incomparable value, and I can’t wait for new readers to find my story of Odelle and Olive, and make it their own.”
Further details of all Cityread London activity can be found at the website:
www.cityread.london and at Facebook/CityreadLondon
The clue is in the title plus a serious crime has been committed. Great mix of characters reflecting UKs rich diversity. Author Susie Steiner really captures ordinary lives, the hustle and bustle of urban living and social welfare challenges. The protagonist does online dating and you really relate the all the uncertainty surrounding such attempts. Brent folk will enjoy recognisable locations including watering hole McGoverns. An engrossing crime mystery with some unexpected outcomes. Looking forward to reading the next in the series following good reviews for this first crime novel which has garnered a lot of attention. The follow up second crime novel Persons Unknown was given Sunday Times book of the month for June 2017. Happy reading!
Come and meet author Anne Corlett at Kilburn Library on Thursday 7 December at 6.30pm.
Anne Corlett is originally from the north-east, but sort of slid down the map, finishing up in the south-west where she now lives with her partner and three young sons. Before she became a full time writer, she spent 16 years working as a criminal lawyer in London and Bristol.
The idea for The Space Between the Stars came to her while on one of the regular family trips up to the Northumberland coast. While walking on Beadnell beach one evening, she had a sudden clear image of someone arriving on that spectacular stretch of coast after an impossibly long journey, and the story grew from there. At the time, she was working on another novel as part of the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, but she put that project to one side to write The Space Between the Stars.
Anne has had short fiction and non-fiction pieces published in various magazines, journals and anthologies, and she has won, or been shortlisted for, various literary awards.
Anne has lots to share about the writing process and about her life as an author. Book now for this free event.
Really looking forward to learning more about Stan and Ollie at your talk in December! https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/laurel-and-hardy-from-soup-to-nuts-tickets-37839787824
will / write and talk
Ollie: “Shut up and get this mess cleaned up. Do you know that my wife will be home at noon?”
Stan: “Say, what do you think I am, Cinderella? If I had any sense I’d walk out on you.”
Ollie: “Well, it’s a good thing you haven’t any sense.”
Stan: “It certainly is.”
As John Connolly magnificently recounts in his heartbreaking new novel “He”, Stan (above right) never did walk out on Ollie. At least not professionally. Many subsequent comic double acts ended in recrimination and alienation (see the sad fate of Abbott and Costello or Martin and Lewis), but Laurel and Hardy’s artistic and personal partnership endured, lasting three decades until Ollie’s death in 1957. What Connolly’s scrupulously researched and sensitive book has achieved is an explanation of perhaps how it did so. It’s a story of love, friendship and compromise between two very different performers.
The novel opens…
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I recently read The Silence Between Breaths By Cath Staincliffe. This book starts with Passengers boarding the 10.35 train from Manchester to London with ordinary people going about their ways. Amongst these people is Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack….
This book was clever and harrowing and it tells us about Saheel’s family and what they too have to face with the knowledge of knowing the unthinkable.
It was an easy read but emotionally heartbreaking and has been proven to be an excellent topic in any reading group.
Do you know someone that has a mental health condition? Would you like to know more about how hard are they struggling with their conditions? Would you like to find stories full of love, hate, sadness, happiness, tears, laughter, lost, pain, joy? Are you able to show empathy and patience towards all the people who need “someone to talk to”? We are not doctors, but we can be a friend, or a shoulder for someone that desperately needs it.
If the answer is YES, than have a look at the list bellow with books that shine a light on experiencing mental health difficulties. Young adult novels are powerful potions that can blow up the bridges between I’m fine and I’m not fine, and this stories remind us that above everything, we are Humans.
I found myself “inventing” a few words in a desperate try to identify some of my book lover moods.
First one is BOOKOVER and I use this one to express my book hangover and by that I mean that feeling of still being inside the book, unable to finish “living” it. I do feel intensively a good book and when it gets me I’m just stuck in it for a few days and even if I try really hard, I can’t start reading another book. It’s just not over yet in my mind.
The second one is BOOKERFLY. And this word came in to my mind when someone called me a bookworm. I know what it means, but I’m just thinking that every good book that I read changes me, works like a chrysalis and, transforms me from a “very hungry caterpillar” into a butterfly. So, I’m not a worm, I’m a Phoenix butterfly that revives with every good book that challenges me.
And the third one is BOOKORDER, and it’s not about being organized or keeping books in an order. That order part from the word comes actually from disorder. I do believe, and my friends confirmed it, that I have some kind of disorder because I can’t restrain myself from buying books, even if I have plenty unread and some friends might call me a bookaholic and it is true but it doesn’t say all. I need a TBR pile next to me to feel safe and comfortable and collecting signed copies is an important goal. And last but not least, I do feel the need to check my books from time to time or to change the way they are shelved. So, because I have this special relation with my books some might call me bibliomaniac, but I prefer not to, and not because it isn’t true, just because disorder sound friendlier and understandable then mania.
The bookover bookorder bookerfly
As person who is trying to lead a more healthy more “organic” life (which I believe is a made up word for natural and before supermarkets and chemical engineers mess with perfectly good food) I can’t state how much I enjoy reading books by Dale Pinnock the Medicinal Chef. The recipes are easy to follow some use minimal ingredients but taste great for example the Kale chips. Also unlike some others there is no abuse of power words like revitalising and nourishing, instead he clearly explains the health benefits and goes into how different foods help skin, hair, digestion, respiratory system, immune system etc. His books even explain how food can be used to improve emotional health which included things like anxiety and depression.
I highly recommend these books to anyone wanting to eat and live well.
Over the weekend on November 5-6, libraries all over Britain took part in a twitter hash tag called #LoveToRead, which involved workers and customers to take a picture of themselves and upload it onto Twitter. As the event was organised by the BBC, they put on various events across the country, one being a talk about books with singer Cerys Matthews on BBC 6 Music and another being various BBC television personalities taking part in the event, well mainly the news team. The BBC website also had interviews with famous authors about what books shaped them over the years. Of course, Brent Libraries took part in the event and you can see a selection on the @BrentCulture twitter.
Kieran from the Library at Willesden Green’s favourite book is Christopher Hitchens ‘Diary of a Young Contrarian’
The book by the noted Vanity Fair writer and essayist explains his views in greater detail and details his life and politics.
Adina, also from Willesden Green Library, chose Youth without Youth by Mircea Belidem, which was made into a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola starring Tim Roth
And finally (as we don’t want this to be all about selfies) Development Officer Kate chose two Charles Dickens classics that are not A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations; Nicholas Nickelby and A Tale of Two Cities
Well done to everyone in Brent who took part in the event during the weekend, it was a pleasure seeing the amazing variety of tastes and books on display there. The weekend shown that the library is a magical place in which anything can happen if you let your imagination wonder in it and choose a book that will make it flourish. The library is the only place (besides the internet, of course) where you do not have to pay for knowledge. Unlike the internet, in the library you can touch the knowledge, and no the iPad does not count!
I did not take part myself in the event due to intense selfie phobia but I do have a number of books that I would have liked to pose with if not for my various ailments. First is the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. It is famous in two ways: one for winning the Pulitzer Prize and secondly for being Seth Cohen’s favourite book in the O.C. The book centres on the two protagonists in the title over 16 years of their lives in pre and post war America. The book tackles a wide range of subjects from war, religion, immigration and sexual identity. Plus it’s about comics. Comics are fun.
The second is a book I discovered in highschool and would have loved to study but it’s of French origin and my French is bad. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas is a story about one man seeking revenge for the deeds his friends did to him years ago. He gets sent down and then discovers gold. Jackpot. Guess what happens next?
I must end it there but now I ask you: Did you take part in #LoveToRead? Do you have a book you love to pose with?