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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittlemore

Book Review Rating ♥♥

Mabel Dagmar is a plain teenage girl who is befriended by her beautiful, rich, blue blooded college roommate, Genevra Katherine Winslow who is known by the diminutive Ev for no obvious reason and no reason is ever given. Ev invites Mabel to spend the summer with her in her newly inherited house called Bittersweet at Winloch, an estate owned by Ev’s parents and where all the Winslow family spend their summer.
Mabel begins to realise that there are dark secrets at the heart of the Winslow family and decides to investigate the Winslow past. However, Mabel also harbours a secret which is as dark as any that haunt the Winslow family.
Bittersweet is a competently written novel with the author having a good grasp of characterization, dialogue and plot. However, the novel is 150 pages to long and very bland in its style and substance. The novel’s ‘twists’ that are straightened out eventually are all obvious to anyone who is well read. The secrets are plot twists that have been used too often not only in books but in films especially in recent years. One twist concerns a Van Gogh painting that had the family had the sense to simply recover the back of the painting this particular secret would never have been exposed.
Too often the author struggles for an analogy or simile she hasn’t already utilised and in doing so becomes repetitive. Emotions and feelings wash over the characters too often in the form of water and its many guises; a lake, a river, rain. Allusions are writ large. Mabel’s favourite book is Jane Eyre. She is always attempting to read Paradise Lost.
Some scenes in the novel border on the ridiculous. Not once but twice Mabel stumbles upon couples having sex and she is also stumbled upon while she is masturbating. A young boy stumbles across his father having sex in the bathroom. The author wishes us to believe that a man in his seventies manages to outrun a fit, athletic twenty something when he pursues him after said twenty something witnesses a heinous act.
As already mentioned the novel is far too long and is in need of a good editor. There are too many scenes that not only slow the pace of the story but are also redundant as they add nothing to the story’s characterization or plotlines.
Despite the above criticisms there is a good novel struggling to get out and hopefully the author will free that particular novel from this 400 page tome.

Advanced copy supplied by NetGalley. 

First Line - Before she loathed me, before she loved me, Generva Katherine Winslow didn't know I existed.

Memorable Line - None

Number of Pages - 400
Profanity - None
Sex Scenes - Yes

Friday, 17 January 2014

Bloomsbury by Quentin Bell

My version published by Futura Publications, 1974

Book Review Rating ♥♥♥♥♥

Quentin Bell is the son of Vanessa and Clive Bell and the nephew of Virginia Woolf. As he was born in 1910, he freely admits his recollections of Bloomsbury are confined to the last phase of the Bloomsbury group.
I will state upfront that I am a lover of all things Bloomsbury. I have been an admirer of Virginia Woolf for many, many years. My bookshelves are heaving with all things Bloomsbury. So, read the five stars rating with that in mind. But in all fairness it does deserve the five stars.
Quentin Bell

I came across this little book some months ago in a second hand bookshop and was absolutely delighted I did. It is a delight from beginning to end and though I knew almost all the information about the Bloomsberries contained within the book it was interesting to read Quentin Bell’s take on the Bloomsbury group and their place in history.
Duncan Grant

This being an essay it can of course only scrape the surface of a group of people who still influence the world of literature, art and politics today. And as some 90 years ago still  today they can still polarize opinion. D.H. Lawrence the writer of such works as Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, hated the Bloomsbury group. He referred to them as a “group of immature, ill educated people.” He even referred to them as “black beetles” due to these insects infesting his nightmares.
Roger Fry

It would have been quite easy for Quentin Bell to have fallen into the realms of hagiography but like his fantastic two volume biography of Virginia Woolf he maintains his footing on the precipice and only occasionally looks down into the well of sycophancy. By resisting the hagiography the author is also falling in the footsteps of the Bloomsbury group. They all criticized each other’s work: Virginia disliked Lytton Strachey’s ‘Elizabeth and Essex’ and did not refrain from telling him so. 
Vanessa Bell by Duncan Grant
The book also contains some wonderful photographs and I was pleasantly surprised that there was two I had never seen before.

The essay is of course written commandingly and with supreme authority. The Bloomsbury group looked to bring a new honesty to art and literature after the traditionalist tyranny and emotional cant of the Victorian era and in many ways Quentin Bell achieves that same aim in this essay.

First Line - "It is necessary that I should begin by saying a few words about myself."

Memorable Line - Too many to mention

Number of Pages - 86