Tag: British

“The sight of strangers safe at home…”: (Review) The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

“The sight of strangers safe at home…”: (Review) The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Published by Penguin Group US on February 11th 2015
Genres: Adult, Mystery
Pages: 378
four-stars

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people's lives.Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She's even started to feel like she knows them. "Jess and Jason," she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.And then she sees something shocking. It's only a minute until the train moves on, but it's enough. Now everything's changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

Spiritual Illuminations: [How this book made me think about spirituality.]

Three perspectives were featured in this story, and that made it extremely interesting. I’m drawn to books with multiple narrators (and if they are unreliable, even better!) because I appreciate getting more than one side to the story.

Here we have a mystery—Megan (second voice) has vanished and is nowhere to be found. Rachel (first voice), a thirty something recently divorced woman, has watched her on the train every day as she passes the back garden of Megan’s home. When she witnesses something that she thinks may be a clue as to Megan’s whereabouts, she gets involved in the investigation. And that complicates things a bit.

The third voice, Anna, is married to Rachel’s ex-husband, and they also become involved in the investigation, due to living on the same street as Megan and her husband. Needless to say, switching between each of these perspectives made the story race along for me. I couldn’t stop listening. (After all, I was “reading” the audiobook version of this during a cross country trip.) All three of these narrators seem unreliable in some way. Who can I believe? What really happened? What was only imagined? These kinds of questions popped up during the reading event, and kept me on my toes, so to speak, desperately trying to piece together what happened. Paying close attention to detail with this story is a must, if you want to have a chance at figuring this one out.

If this story had not been told through three perspectives, and through just one, for example, it wouldn’t have been as rich. Getting a story through three voices accomplishes something important—it communicates to the reader that there is more than one side to a story, and your side is going to inevitably affect the way you respond to others in the same situation. Whether you related to Rachel, Megan, or Anna, hearing all three of the voices at one point or another in the story gives readers a chance to develop empathy for more than one character.

This is the way it is in life, as well, and I appreciate getting this reminder. Sure, there are many books that do this—that employ the multiple voices in the story, but when it’s well-done (and from my perspective, it’s pretty good), I think it adds rich nuances and complexity to a narrative.

What I Liked About This Audiobook:

I really liked the first two voices on the audiobook but the voice of Anna was a bit annoying! Then again, I think the actress probably was playing her part well because I think Anna is meant to be annoying. I didn’t really like Anna for the entire book, until the end. At that point I saw a little more that I liked in her character. Hawkins, in my opinion, brought the three voices together in a clever way, and I would definitely listen to the audio version of the book again.

The setting! I so appreciated the way Hawkins builds London as the setting in the book. Having lived in London twice, and having been a regular train rider on London trains, I absolutely loved her realistic depiction of that travel. Whether it was mentioning specific parts of Central or Greater London in the story, or referring to details about what it’s like to be stopped on the train during a red signal, I liked this book even more because of the way I could relate to the movements of a Londoner. Even if you haven’t lived in London, though, I think you would appreciate those details.

If you’re an audiobook listener, I would recommend checking this title out!

Not all of my blogger friends liked this one, but I do think it’s a story that you either really enjoy or you just don’t get into. And that’s ok, but I still suggest, give this one a chance!

Quotes of Illumination:

“The holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps.”

“I am no longer just a girl on the train, going back and forth without point or purpose.”

“On the train, the tears come, and I don’t care if people are watching me; for all they know, my dog might have been run over.”

The Final Illumination:

The Girl on the Train featured flawed people dealing with the various joys and trials that life brings—and some people had lives that more difficult than others. However, as different as one character was from the other, you got the sense that there is always something that can connect us. Even though our lives might be vastly different, we can connect—though we have to be intentional about it.

Rachel, Megan, and Anna all lived terribly different lives, and they each had struggles and joys that were vastly different. But, I wonder how their stories would have turned out differently if they would have recognized the ways they were similar.

Finally, something I could completely relate to in the book: the way Rachel looked at strangers’ homes the train rolled past during her commute. She liked to imagine what kind of lives they lived, and who they were. This is something that I think a lot of Londoners do—and I think it’s brilliant to imagine what kind of lives these other people are living. I never get tired of that dimension of being in London!

Did you read The Girl on the Train? What did you think about how the story ended? Be careful of spoilers for people that haven’t read. You can always tweet me though!

four-stars
What Katie Read

A Journey of the Heart: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

A Journey of the Heart: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel JoyceThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Published by Random House Publishing Group on July 24th 2012
Genres: Adult, Family Life, Literary, Realistic
Pages: 368
Goodreads
five-stars

“He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too. The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time.

Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human” (p. 180-181).

Suggested age range: 16 and up

The Book:

Harold Fry’s life is about to change after he receives a letter from an old friend, Queenie Hennessy. This letter informs him that Queenie is dying of cancer, and she writes to say goodbye to Harold. Out he goes to post a response back, but his walk doesn’t end at the mailbox. Instead, he continues walking, intent upon completing his pilgrimage from one end of England to the next, in hopes of saving his friend. What follows is the story of Harold’s journey, but it is much more than a physical journey. As Harold meets a variety of characters and adventures along the way, he reflects on the past, and this in turn affects his present. For just as his interactions affect those he encounters, he is affected by those he meets along the way. The story is a moving narrative of Harold’s journey of the heart–a journey that ends up changing many more than just Harold.

Spirituality in Harold Fry:

Harold’s decision to embark on this impossible walk from the south of England to the north certainly reflects his spirituality, for there is hope inside of Harold that one small act can have a significant effect on a situation. Harold doesn’t claim to be religious, but I think his  story is rife with spiritual moments. As he gets deeper into the pilgrimage, his perspective on the people around him becomes deeper and compassionate. Harold experiences significant connectedness with people and animals alike, and this adds another spiritual aspect to the story. There’s too much to discuss in detail here, but let’s just say the topic of spirituality in fiction would be an amazing area of discussion with this book!

Who Should Read This Book:

This is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Though Harold is older, he is a protagonist that even young readers would be drawn to, at least I think, from my own reading experience. I wanted to know about his friendship with Queenie—what was it that was so significant about their relationship? Also, what happened between Harold and his son? His journey, which includes flashbacks and reflections on his life, unfolds throughout the narrative, leaving clues here and there so the reader can piece together a fuller picture of the character of Harold Frye. And it’s a character the reader is certainly sad to say goodbye to after the last page is turned.

The Final Word:

By all means, go and read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. This novel has received rave reviews from many sources, and I’m surprised it took me so long to read it myself. It was during a recent trip to London, while browsing in a bookstore, that I realized this book was perfect for my life in that moment. I was on a pilgrimage of sorts, of my own, so this story fell into my lap at the perfect time! I read it on planes, on trains, and while listening to live jazz one afternoon outdoors in Jerusalem. It’s a rich story, and one with loads of memorable quotes—so have a notepad ready to jot those down. You’ll definitely want to go back and read them again. Be warned–you may need tissue!

 

five-stars
What Katie Read

The Rich Beauty of The Crystal Mirror by Tim Malnick & Katie Green

The Rich Beauty of The Crystal Mirror by Tim Malnick & Katie GreenThe Crystal Mirror on November 13, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Picturebooks
Pages: 96
Goodreads
four-stars

Suggested age range: 6 and up

I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Book: This is a delightful and thought provoking collection of beautifully illustrated stories that will keep readers thinking long after the last word is read. Just the kind of book we at Spirit of Children’s Literature appreciate! Not only are the textual parables enchanting and rich, but the visual stories provide a true feast of saturated colors, gorgeous backgrounds and borders, and fantastic details.

Here are just a few of my notes about several of the stories.

The collection opens with “The Cuddliest Monster in the World,” which might seem silly at first, but illuminates rich themes about getting lost on our way, compassion, and the strength of loving others. I adored the ending of this one! “The Master Painter” lauds the power of creativity and the endless beauty of the world around us. What happens when that is hidden from us? “Polly, the Girl Who Was Always Changing” reminds readers of just how tricky it can be to navigate the intricacies our own developing identity, and this quest to “finding oneself.” There are intriguing ideas in these tales.

Spirituality in The Crystal Mirror: Rich, spiritual themes abound in this collection! This isn’t a religious set of stories, however; these tales cross cultural and religious boundaries, reflecting the beauty of ideas that are relevant across people groups and countries. Malnick and Green showcase themes that young and old readers alike can understand such as searching for one’s identity, longing for the unknown and unexplored, or approaching the world with the freshness and vision of a child.

Who Should Read This Book: Both young and older readers alike would appreciate and find delight and wisdom in the pages of these stories. I think this book would especially be fabulous as a shared book or as a read aloud with a class. The stories beg to be discussed, and I could even see extension and arts-based response activities revolving around the text.

The Final Word: The Crystal Mirror is a book I’ll be returning to again. There were some stories that I though, “Wait! I want more!”, but at the same time, the gaps left open could generate interesting discussion. I see myself sharing it with young readers of all ages, and it would work well as a read aloud. Its visual aspect opens up the potential for all kinds of arts-based activities, and let me tell you—these illustrations are amazing! Tim Malnick and Katie Green have put together a gorgeous book with stories that don’t always get tied up neatly, but still work. I’d have to say my favorite story is “The Story of Oswald Bat.” Go check it out. Thank you, Vala Publishing, for sharing this book with me!

You can check out the website, www.thecrystalmirror.co.uk

four-stars
What Katie Read
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