Eileen – Book Review

download (2)A few pages into this book , there was only one thought that was go on and on in my  mind – Eileen Dunlop is one suspense fiction heroine who you won’t forget easily .

I have read shelf-loads of books in the suspense genre , but none of the heroines stood out to me as Eileen Dunlop does . Almost all the heroines have been beautiful , intelligent , competent , compassionate …. the list can go on . And yes , damsels in distress – eventually .

But Eileen is not like the others even remotely –

*Plot blurb starts here for those of you who want to dive right into the review*

Eileen is an insecure young woman who day-dreams about life in the Big City but is too preoccupied with

a.) running the errands / caring for her alcoholic father who seems to be on the verge of lunacy = getting him his bottle of gin from the local alcohol store ; locking up his shoes in the boot of the car so that he doesn’t wander off in his perpetual drunken stupor only for the town police force to bring back Father Dunlop with some polite words about needing to look after him ; keeping his gun for him to prevent him for turning it on the passers-by while she is at work .

b.) perversely fantasizing about nearly everybody she has come in contact with = fantasizing sexcapades of brawny prison guards & imagining homosexual encounters between office ladies who were her colleagues at the boys’ correctional institution . Even the adolescent boys in the institution too were no far from her fantasies .

During the weekends though, for a change , she maintains  a stakeout of one of the guards ‘ houses whom she crushes on . Or maybe goes for a movie or two . Sometimes , she goes on a shoplifting or shop-damaging spree .

When the beautiful , stylish and charismatic Rebecca St John starts out as a counselor , Eileen , characteristic of her hatred for beautiful women , does not take too well to her – she takes Rebecca to be her rival for her ( almost-null ) chances with Randy ( that guard whose house she stakes out every weekend ) . But Rebecca seems to want to befriend her genuinely – which is too much for Eileen who hasn’t heard a friendly word from anybody for a long time . She wants to rise up to the demands of the friendship which Rebecca seems to be offering .

How far can she go to keep Rebecca happy whom she sees as a ticket to all glamorous things in life ? Be an accomplice to a crime ?

Literary Awards

Man Booker Prize Nominee ( 2016 )

Shirley Jackson Award Nominee for Novel ( 2015 )

National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee For Fiction ( 2015 )

The Center For Fiction First Novel Prize Nominee For Longlist ( 2015 )

Review :

Eileen can be a character study – that is to say a good two – thirds of the novel , the author lets the readers to know Eileen really well by making her the narrator . We come to know the people in her life – her alcoholic father and  the colleagues at her workplace . She also touches upon several significant memories of her early adulthood and her childhood . In recapping her memories about her 20′ s , we get to know about her regressive tendencies and her inner self – the one which she hadn’t given a glimpse of , to anybody till now .

As the old saying goes , still waters run deep – Eileen’s facade , which she prefers to call the ‘death mask’, perfectly conceals a young woman who is consumed by self loathing . She is insecure about her appearance and at 24 , still had not come to terms with her womanliness . Her habits are freakish to say the least – sometimes they are downright distasteful . To put it simply , Eileen is a weirdo – her mental make-up has more to do with this than her physical appearance .

Eileen has this absurd idea that Rebecca ‘ s friendship would transform her inside out – she would become like the other girls , whom she hated with a passion for their charisma and beauty . Doesn’t it seem a bit absurd and self – centered that Eileen relies on one of those beautiful young women whom she had learnt to hate to help her transformation ?

“In time we hate that which we often fear ” – William Shakespeare

In that sense , Eileen’s  obsession with her self – her anguish , her dreams , her perverted ideas , her views on herself almost border on insanity . And her obsession with Rebecca is also equally unhealthy .

The one good thing that came out of her entanglement with Rebecca was that  , she was finally shoved into action to move to the Big City . Let me not further dwell on the plot – line but I hope you got sufficiently intrigued with Eileen .

Eileen is an unlikely heroine but she is one of a kind – one whom you cannot miss . She is a rarity whom we do not come across often in fiction . She is one heck of a story-teller and the story is equally interesting as Eileen herself . Go , grab a copy of Eileen soon – this is one book which is definitely making to my list of best reads this year .

If you are interested in picking up few more books for your bookshelf you can read my reviews and recommendations by clicking on the below links –

I’ve got my eyes on you

The Reunion

Instructions for a heat wave

Seriously underrated Christie must-reads

The Girl Before

It’s always the husband

For more book reviews and other books – related content , follow my blog . Have a look around my blog and let me know your thoughts on the posts here .

Until the next post then…

Closed room mysteries of Christie’s you MUST read….

There are plot devices which are recurrent in several of Christie’s mysteries

Closed Circle of Suspects –

This is Christie’s favorite plot device I guess – close to  a dozen  of Christie’s  mysteries feature this one. Christie only needs to bring a bunch of  people together before bumping off one of them and the game begins …

The settings for several of her closed circle mysteries are widely varied – trains , country manors , a tropical beach resort , a private island , a luxury cruise , dinner tables (!!) that the reader doesn’t have the “I’ve-seen-this-before” complaint .

Her first suspense novel , The Mysterious Affair At Styles is credited to having used this plot device first which had become something of a rage with the writers of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction ( first half of 20th century ) . Here are a few closed-circle-mysteries from the Christie’s pen which you should definitely check out if you have not read these earlier –

And Then There Were None

Ten people have arrived at a private island for a weekend getaway . They are strangers to each other but their unknown host seems to know their darkest secrets . And when the they are murdered one by one , the survivors become the suspects and each must look out for oneself . But none would make it out of the island alive – they have been marked for murder .

Murder On The Orient Express

Poirot is travelling in the Orient Express . Samuel Ratchett , an elderly American tries to hire him as he has fears for his life which Poirot refuses out of distaste for the man . However , the third morning Ratchett is found dead and an interesting revelation presents itself – Samuel Ratchett is none other than Cassetti who abducted little Daisy Armstrong and killed her despite collecting the ransom .

Has retribution caught up with him finally ? With 13 possible suspects , the guessing game is a dream for the crime buff in the reader . But don’t think you can figure out the killer ….

A Caribbean Mystery

Miss Marple has gone to a Caribbean island for a vacation . Major Palgrave , whom she meets at the beach resort tells her about a wife killer who got away with murder twice . He even proceeds to fish a photograph which he claims to be that of the wife killer .  But when he takes a look at the photograph and somebody nearby , he hastily changes the subject . Miss Marple is convinced that the story old Major Palgrave told about the wife killer had been true when he is found dead the next day . So , which one among the guests at the Golden Palm resort is the seasoned murder?Will he get away with yet another murder this time also?

 

the end

Death Comes As The End

Set in 2000 BC Thebes, the story follows a spate of murders in the house of Imhotep, the Ka mortuary priest. It all began with the death of Nofret, his young concubine from Memphis. Her arrival at Imhotep’s house had not been without some animosity . She antagonized Imhotep’s sons and their wives – only the threat of disinheritance seemed to keep Yahmose and Sobek’s wives from bullying her any further. Her death seemed to bring everything back to as it was before Nofret’s arrival –  BUT IT WAS NOT SO .

Soon , as Renisenb , Imhotep’s daughter witnesses , the family members become victims to the unknown murderer one by one – Or is it the vengeful spirit of Nofret exacting her revenge on the family?

Christie puts together a really convincing ,  racy suspense with a jaw-dropping ending in a timeline that we don’t have much idea about .  I think this book alone can establish  Christie’s unsurpassed mastery in crime fiction writing – I can’t recommend this enough.

Cards on the table:

Four sleuths – Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard; Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, famed writer of detective stories; Col. Race of His Majesty’s Secret Service; and Hercule Poirot get together for an evening of bridge at Mr. Shaithana’s house with four other people each of whom is suspected to have murdered somebody in their past and gotten away with the murder . But , before the first rubber was completed Mr. Shaithana is found dead .

Who amongst the four had killed Shaithana thinking that (s)he could get away with murder a second time ? And with our Poirot on the scene too….

Now that you are here , just have a look around my blog …..If you want new books to add to your TBR please hit the follow button . I would be posting book reviews and other interesting book related stuff…And do provide your valuable comments on the post .

If you think that some book should definitely make it to the list , please mention in the comments below .

[This is part-1 of a series of posts where I take a look at some of the recurrent interesting plot devices in Christie’s novels and the books you MUST pick up which play out these plot devices masterfully ]

You can also have a look at this post where I talk about some of the most underrated Christie mysteries which should make it to your TBR if you have not read them already.

 

 

Book Review: I’ve Got My Eyes On You

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I’ve Got My Eyes On You is my Mary Higgins Clark book after quite a long time .

Plot Synopsis :

Kelly Dowling is found dead in the swimming pool in her house . She had hosted a party the previous night for her classmates before they all left for their respective colleges when her parents were away from home . The guests included Kerry’s Harvard-bound boyfriend Alan Crowley , with whom she had a serious fallout during the evening .  Jamie Chapman , Kerry’s next door neighbor was also angry that Kerry had not invited him to her party . Or is there somebody else? Aline , Kerry’s elder sister pitches in to help the police bring the sister’s murderer to justice – She just doesn’t know that Kerry’s killer is ready to kill a second time to save himself .

Hopefully I have got you sufficiently intrigued with this short blurb.

Review :

As I had mentioned at the start , I am picking up a Mary Higgins Clark after quite a long time . Also , having read several of her titles , I felt that this plot was comparatively a regular one and not something that makes you feel that ONLY the Queen of Suspense could pull off such a plot-line which she did every single time during the ’90s . Still , the storytelling kept me hooked till the last page and I never got an inkling about the identity of the killer .

The story is paced well so that people like me don’t take a peek at the last 2 chapters to get to know who is the murderer [ guilty of DOING it when the story moves slowly sometimes ] . This is one of my chief complaints with some of the new authors I have tried . Sometimes the suspense novels become family dramas when the writers try to pack too many into the book – too descriptive language and too much after-crime drama that the focus on the crime actually dwindles . Put that together with a plot-line which actually is not very interesting / follows similar trail like a previous read , you can be sure that I will plod on with that book during my short breaks in office when I can’t accommodate my one-sitting finish .

Trust Clark how to tell her story – all her books have been one-sitting reads for me and this one was no different . With Clark the story has the right amount of everything – You won’t be put off by the romance that is slowly developing as the novel proceeds or when you get to see the family dramas in the victim’s / suspects’ families . Clark surely knows how much of anything other than suspense ,  a suspense fanatic would accept in a suspense novel . While there have been complaints that Agatha Christie does not allow her characters to develop , you would never have that complaint with Clark – through her words you get to see the despair of the suspects , how the families of the victims cope with the loss of a loved one eventually and yet she keeps the narrative racy .

Of course , as someone who has read several of her titles I can identify with a few staples in her books – the female leads who are featured in Clark’s books do not rely on a man to help them with their problems despite being beautiful , successful and everything else that a female ought to be to qualify as a female lead in several of the books .  Not even one of them have been damsels in distress – they are ready to rough it out . And they have few good people helping them along the way . Another thing that stands out in a Clark novel is that the characters move on at the end of the book – they look forward to new beginnings . Perhaps , that might be a reflection of Clark’s own attitude to life – this needs some elaboration I guess . If you are free head on to this Wikipedia page to read her full bio – She truly is an inspiring lady . And of course , there is a romance slowly developing between two characters and a thrilling climax where the guy saves the girl from the deranged psychopath [Am I giving away too much ?? ] .

Yeah , I have a few favorite lines from her books which are so beautiful that makes you wonder if you are reading a suspense . Here are some for you…

[….] How can our all-loving and merciful God fail to protect us and those we love at the time when we most need him? […] ”

” The best answer I’ve heard came in a sermon given by an elderly priest many years ago. He was travelling in the Middle East and was overwhelmed by the majesty of the Persian rugs he saw . Those gorgeous creations skillfully woven into such beautiful designs . One day he was in a shop where those rugs were on display . He walked behind one that was hanging on hooks from the ceiling . Looking at it from behind , he was shocked to behold a confusing array of threads that led nowhere . Such beauty on one side , total disharmony on the other , but both part of the same plan . It was then that the message became clear to him . In life we see only the back side of the rug , We don’t know how or why our unspeakable hardships are part of a beautiful design . That is why having faith is so important .”

 

I guess I’ll leave you to check out this book for yourself . I would recommend it for all my readers and would love to hear from you about how your reading went .

Rating : 3.75 / 5 *

*  I have given a 3.75 because I have read other titles by the same author which had more complex plots and some even scared the hell out of me. For a first time Mary Higgins Clark reader , surely it would have been at-least a 4 pointer . So , make sure you pick up this book for a good suspense read .

Now that you are here , just have a look around my blog …..If you want new books to add to your TBR please hit the follow button . I would be posting book reviews and other interesting book related stuff…And do provide your valuable comments on the post .

 

The Reunion – A review

The Reunion by Samantha Hayes is my latest ” psychological thriller” read . ( More on this below…. ) . Here’s my review of the book –

Plot Summary :

Claire’s father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her mother is finding it increasingly difficult to run the family farm while taking care of her father . While her mother is seriously considering putting up the place for sale , Claire decides to have a reunion with her gang at the farm one last time.  She has a firm belief that revisiting old memories would slowdown the progress of the disease for her father .

But she couldn’t have foreseen that her family and friends would be forced to relive the nightmarish days following the disappearance of  her sister Eleanor – this time it’s her friend’s teenaged daughter . Claire couldn’t miss out the jarring similarities between both the disappearances….


 

Review :

I just don’t get the idea of every suspense/thriller  being marketed as ” The psychological thriller with a twist that you wouldn’t see coming ” . I guess editors read every suspense/thrillers they’re editing to see if it could be marketed as ” The Next Gone Girl ” or like that tagline I mentioned above which are super-easy click-baits for suspense fanatics like me.  If they can’t , they probably ask the writer to sketch a plot with a shocking twist ( doesn’t matter if it is sans logic . . .The reader should not see it coming in any way…. ) .

What several publishers don’t realize is that when you are marketing a book as a psychological thriller , there should be a real psychological element . To begin with ,  let me start with the definition of the term –

Psychological thriller is a thriller narrative which emphasizes the unstable or delusional psychological states of its characters. [ Wikipedia definition ] .

To put is simply , it should delve deeper into the psyche of the  characters  – especially the ( most probably ) twisted psyche of the perpetrator  .You can probably  give me an idea of why (s)he is  , the way (s)he is … When you have the victim’s POV you can get an idea of the effect of the crime on the victim’s psyche and how it had affected his / her life .

And secondly , scare us with your shocking twists & your psychologically deranged characters . Few of Agatha Christie’s villains are more shocking than the villains of few of these new age ” psychological thrillers ” . The element of menace is clearly missing in many of  almost all of these books . When you don’t elaborate on the villain’s deranged tendencies  , please don’t expect me to be scared by a Mr.Hyde like villian who is shown to be actually the darker side of XYZ in your story . Seriously???

If you are wondering whether this is a rant or a review , it is both .

The narrative was engaging and the characters are well fleshed out . The premise looked good with the setting just right – a family home ,  a disappearance ( or probably a rehash of an earlier disappearance ?? ) , the darker sides of those close to us ….. And then the twist came – it just left me so disappointed .

I think The Reunion is a book where the last 30 pages was the undoing of the entire book . The ending was a shocker , I concede – just of a different kind though!! Clearly did not see what was coming , else I would not have bothered to finish the book .

Let me know your thoughts on the book if you have already read it…

Rating : 2.5 / 5

If you want some good suspense novels to add to your TBR check out these posts –

it’s always the husband – A Review

The Girl Before – A review

Seriously under-rated Christie must-reads

Follow my blog to stay updated on my latest book reviews and other interesting discussions….Do not miss out on any of the activity here….

The Great Indian Reading Challenge

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Its year end and already there are several 2019 Reading Challenges doing the rounds . I am currently reading Gone with the Wind and enjoying it thoroughly. What I love particularly about this book is its narrative that captured the Civil War period so well that it is really informative. Sometimes, fiction teaches us history in ways a history book cannot and sometimes gives us a glimpse of the alternate history which did not make it to the history books….

This spurred in me a renewed interest in picking up some historical fiction from India which I have been meaning to read for a good period of time. Then I got a better idea to draw up a Reading Challenge list where the readers are allowed to pick up only books by Indian writers . And then , I got an even better idea to post it on my blog  so that I have some company (hopefully..) to keep the reading challenge interesting and going on… I would definitely need all the enthusiasm you guys would bring into the challenge to help me complete it . So , here goes my list –

A book in your mother tongue **

A book set in the colonial era

A biography of a leader in post-independence era.

A winner of the Man Booker Prize from India.

A book that made to the Man Booker Prize shortlist from India

An acclaimed debut book of an author

A book that is set in your home state**

A book translated to English from any vernacular language

A book that won the Sahitya Academy Award for English

A book that won the Sahitya Academy Award for any vernacular language**

A book that inspired a movie adaptation

A Pulitzer Prize winning novel

Any work of a Nobel Laureate from India

A graphic novel

A book set during Partition

** The items in the list marked as shown require the reader to pickup a non-English book. For non Indian readers I have included additional options to complete your list of 12 items…

If you are ready to take up the challenge with me please leave a word in the comments section below . I would be thrilled . Now that you are here , just have a look around my blog …..

 

 

 

A quick update on my reading…

Its been a long time since my last post . So , I thought I would just drop by with some updates on my reading . I have shared the TBR books on my bookshelf and Kindle shelf . Do look up these titles – you might get your next read or a list of books to be added to your TBR list . Here we go  –

Books on my Kindle shelf

All the books in my Kindle shelf are psychological thrillers except for The Haunting of the Hill House . Yeah, it is an addiction that I can’t  break 😉

The Good Daughter -Karin Slaughter

The Visitor – K L Slater

The Proposal – S E Lynn

The Craftsman – Sharon Bolton

The Haunting of the Hill House — Shirley Jackson

I should say I have not taken to Kindle very well. I made every single purchase here because I couldn’t resist the temptation of a superbly written blurb for yet another psychological thriller (is there anything  that is not a “psychological” thriller nowadays ?? I just don’t get our crime writers’ fascination for the word psychological . Even books with no psychology element come with the description ” a psychological thriller” – beats me!! ) The Kindle copies came at a much better price than the hardcover/paperback and that sealed the deal . But getting the reading done is a different story –   I am currently 10% into the Karin Slaughter thriller, The Good Daughter. Trust me, I have never plodded through a thriller (or any book for that matter) in my life but reading in Kindle is not the same as reading a physical copy and it’s definitely not my style of reading . I am not able to identify the thing that puts me off Kindle but so it is….There is no inclination I-need-to-finish-this-one hookups with Kindle books.  The immersive reading experience that make book-reading an experience by itself is not there for one .  I might pick them up when I have no other books to go to…The Kindle haul has become a costly mistake ( Never again ….) . Currently , my bookshelf too has a good number of books from my pretty long TBR list. I guess that would do for the present. So here are the books from my bookshelf –

Thinking Fast Thinking Slow -Daniel Kahneman

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

Shades of Saffron – Saba Naqvi

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Currently reading) – Rebecca Skloot

Jasmine Days – Benyamin

Until the next post then..

Instructions for a heat wave

One summer morning of 1976, Robert Riordan has walked out of the house under the pretense of buying a newspaper only to not retudownloadrn home. The Riordian children – Michael Francis, Monica and Aoife return home trying to find any slightest clue that could throw some light on the motive/reason for this disappearing act or where to start looking for him. As the story progresses, we get to know about the family dynamics, the personal lives of each Riordian, the past and the secrets it holds…..

Michael Francis’ marriage with Claire is currently going through a rough patch. After being a doting mother to his kids and a devoted wife to him, Claire has begun the process of rediscovering herself and a step towards it she has decided to complete her degree. To say that Michael is not-so-pleased and confused with all the transformation in his household is an understatement – bewildered / clueless would be a better word for it.Nowadays, he is coming to a house in disarray with his wife who has locked herself up in the room with her books with instructions to be called only “in a matter of life or death “. He and his kids (specially) do not have her entire time and attention nowadays – the new Claire has too many demands on her time. The kids are getting used to the idea but Michael cannot easily do so. He suspects that the reason for Claire’s new direction in life is sort of a rebellion against him or maybe there is more to it than some new found enthusiasm for academia and social life…..

Farrell beautifully describes the crisis Michael finds himself in – What he finds hardest about family life is that, just when you think you have a handle on what’s going on, everything changes it.

Monica, Gretta’s favorite has her own domestic hassles which she is trying to right it out but does not seem to succeed at it very well. She is currently living with an antiques dealer and is trying to gel with his two daughters but is clueless as to how to clear the animosity they feel towards her and to win them over. She is determined to live a picture-perfect life and is determined to rough it out …

Aoife, the black sheep of the family has moved to America to lead a normal life like others free from the judging looks of the family. She is a functional illiterate (the descriptions fit the symptoms of dyslexia perfectly!)  working as an assistant to one of the photographers who is expected to manage the financial stuff too .But how could she confide to her employer about her problem? She has learned to manage the cheques by shoving them in a file and putting it out of sight. For her struggle with the written word, she has a stock of reasonable sounding excuses or casual phrases that help her out easily. Even her boyfriend has never come to suspect her. But, how long can she keep up the charade? Won’t it be better for her to ask for help atleast now?

We see that each of them have their own secrets (including the eccentric matriarch of the family), their private struggles in the course of the book. The characters evolve through reminiscences about each other and their shared past and we get to know their past and pivotal incidents that might have shaped the family history. What I absolutely loved about this book was its beautiful language, evoking a vivid picture of the summer long gone. The narrative is fluid despite alternating between past and present. The narrative is interesting with several techniques employed tactfully – memory, perspectives, bird’s eye view of domestic scenes and city life… For me, there were a few instances which I had encountered in my own life and which the author had described perfectly in relation to one of the characters

Along with the Riordan children we get to know a shocking family secret and how they deal with it forms the crux of the story…..

One minor theme that struck a chord with me is that some of us might judge our friends/family quite harshly for their conduct in certain circumstances while our own behavior under similar circumstances might not be very honorable. Yet, we have excuses for ourselves but would vehemently deny others their excuses. Farrell explores several such interesting aspects of relationships and families and it’s a treat to let the story unfold at its own pace. Here are few excerpts from the book that bear testimony to Farrell’s superb narrative

“Strange weather brings out strange behavior. […] so a heatwave will act upon people. It lays them bare,it wears down their guard. They start behaving not unusually but unguardedly. They act not so much out of character but deep within it

She’d whispered, ‘Make it deep,’ to him, before realizing that she’d heard those words before, in similar circumstances. Always strange, to catch yourself echoing your parents’ words, to find experiences coming round again. The same yet different.

Melodrama is her specialty, like the time Aoife returned home from school to discover her mother had been to visit a funeral parlor after finding a lump in her throat. She knew she was dying, she knew this was it, she could feel it in her bones, and wanted a ‘ good send-off’ at the ‘right sort ‘ of funeral home , with plenty of early afternoon slots, so that there was time for a Mass to be said beforehand and time for a wake back at the house afterwards. It was the least she could do for them all. Aoife requested to see the lump, examined the place beside her mother’s collarbone and told her it was an insect bite. […] the first time Gretta had a proper crisis to grapple with, she seems to shrink in the face of it, to abandon all of her usual tricks.

His father minus his mother is an unsolvable equation. His silence is leavened by her loquaciousness, his order and impassivity the counterpoint to her chaos and drama.

For some of the most beautiful quotes on parenthood –

The air for Gretta, still rings with their cries, their squabbles, their triumphs, their small griefs. She cannot believe that time of life is over. For her, it all happened and is still happening and will happen forever. The very bricks, mortar and plaster of this house are saturated with the lives of her three children. She cannot believe they have gone. And that they are back.

[Michael on the passing of infant hood of his children]

[..] he mourned it’s passing too: the sense of the children’s intense, zealous need of you, their overwhelming urge to be near you, to study you,to watch you as you peel an orange, wrote a shopping list, tied your shoes, the feeling that you were their study in how to be human.[..] yes, it’s gone, but life holds other things, when everything changed again.

There were a few narrative threads like Monica’s future which seemed to be an abrupt conclusion which raised too many questions. That is my only complaint with Farrell’s book. It is hinted that the man who went to get newspaper and disappeared finally made his appearance at the last page of the book!!It is a beautiful read and I would urge my readers strongly to pick up the book.

Do share your thoughts on the post or the book in the comments section below.Until the next post then…