review: The Librarian

SPOILERS AHEAD

I have been procrastinating with this review a lot, simply because, as sad as I am to say it, I was a little disappointed by The Librarian. I’m not saying that it’s a bad book, I still enjoyed reading it, but it’s not my favourite and definitely not as exciting as I thought it would be.

I loved Salley Vickers’ message throughout this book – libraries matter. I agree, I used to love going to the library when I was little, I still carry my first ever library card in my purse! I volunteered at the library for a few summers before I went away to uni, helping out with the Reading Challenge, organising events for families while encouraging children to read. So Sylvia’s plan to bring the children’s library to life resonates with me. It’s what made me buy the book. It was lovely to read how the children of East Mole acquired an interest in reading and fell in love with the children’s classics that Sylvia recommends, and reading about the beauty of children’s books:

‘Maybe [ . . . ] it’s because children’s authors can write about magic, other worlds, and be taken seriously’

The library also proves to be a catalyst for Sylvia. The theft of Tropic of Cancer from the restricted section, a dissatisfied boss and neighbour, an affair with the doctor – whose daughter regularly visited the library when Sylvia was working – risk Sylvia’s good-heartedness and her career.

I liked that there were so many different characters in this novel, all with a range of personalities. I found it interesting that Sylvia never quite fits in with each one, there’s always some sort of difference between the characters she engages with.

What I didn’t like about the book was how jumpy the narrative was. Not in terms of plot (although the last chapter jumps ahead about seventy years, something that I found unnecessary), but in terms of scenes and conversations. Usually, the speech is written without stating who’s saying what (which isn’t a problem as it’s easy to follow on’ but Vickers does not include the movements that the characters are making at the time. An example of this is when speaking with the doctor (I’ve completely forgotten his name, oops), he suddenly changes conversation by asking ‘Why are you laughing?’ This changed the narrative for me, as I had no idea that Sylvia was laughing – it was not indicated anywhere in this section – and I was not imagining her that way. So it took me out of the novel slightly. (disclaimer – I don’t have the book with me at the moment, so if that is not the exact speech, I apologise!)

This is not the only instance when Vicker’s writing put me off – I personally found some of the descriptions quite flat and plain at times. I was unable to paint a clear image from her words during some scenes, which is the most important thing when it comes to writing for me.

Finally, I really wasn’t a fan of the time jump at the end. I felt too disconnected from the characters (granted this is 70 years on, so they were different, but it was like they were complete strangers), and I just didn’t find much point to it. Once it mentioned that Sylvia had married (someone who we never met) and passed away, I wanted to put the book down. I felt like, after spending so much time with this lovely character, I would have liked a bit more detail on her husband and family life.

The Librarian is definitely not the worst book I read, and I loved so many aspects of it, the story itself was sweet. But I personally could not get on with Vicker’s style of writing. This book has been quite successful, so it appeals to other readers, clearly, but it just wasn’t for me.

Mary Queen of Scots

SPOILERS AHEAD

I was looking forward to seeing this film, as I have a fascination with the Tudors as well as the rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth !. I find it incredible that during a time when women were oppressed and degraded, two Queens were ruling two great countries at the same time.

While there were some issues that I had with the film, I still enjoyed it and would be happy to watch it again. The acting from both Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie was incredible; I couldn’t imagine two actresses who would play these challenging roles any better.

I had no idea that David Tennant was in this movie, playing John Knox. It was his accent that made me recognise him, not his appearance, as he was wearing a long beard and wig and dark robes throughout the whole film. I know Tennant as Doctor Who and the angry officer in Broadchurch, so this for me was entirely different from his prominent roles. However, I loved his portrayal of Knox, he was aggressive and emotive, thus making it easy to see why the real, charismatic Knox had obtained so many followers.

I love how the way that this film presents these two formidable Queens as merely two women trying to do what is right. This portrayal was more dignified than say, Reign, the American TV show that portrays Mary’s life in a more sensual way (which is still really good though!).

It’s strange to think that, if these two characters were not queens who were pitted together by royals, they would have probably worked together and become great allies, as hinted by Mary naming Elizabeth, her son’s godmother. James went on to be the first King of both England and Scotland, a historic moment and an indication of what could have been, had these two women were not rivals.

Furthermore, this can also be suggested by one, and possibly the most prominent, scene of the whole movie. Most of the rivalry takes place via the course of letters, where each queen has to wait weeks before receiving the next letter. Naturally, this created a challenge for the filmmakers, as a verbal fight is harder when conveying a sense of competition, so they invented a scene near the end of the film in which Mary and Elizabeth meet face to face. The issue with this scene is, while I get what the filmmakers were trying to do, the two queens never met face to face. Knowing this fact kind of ruined this part of the movie for me, as I had heard that it was overall quite historically accurate, but because of this scene, I started to doubt the whole thing together. I also highly doubt that Mary had her ladies rip apart her black dress to reveal a bright red one at her beheading.

Overall, I loved the film, aside from that one meeting scene at the end. There was a lot in terms of plot to squeeze in; you can’t blame the crew for making this film two hours long. However, they managed to tell Mary’s story in a way that had me crying for her, and admiring her even more (and Elizabeth too, of course.)

Review: The Subtle Knife

SPOILERS AHEAD

The second installment of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials struck me as almost entirely different from the first. It was darker and more gruesome, set in a different world (England as we know it, not the alternate version in Northern Lights). An array of new characters are introduced in this novel alongside the characters I already know and love, and a whole new meaning of Dust is revealed.

We are immediately introduced to Will, who doesn’t comply with novel stereotypes – he’s not the wise kid or the one who tries to act tough. He is set on protecting his mother at all costs, his thoughts continually wondering back to her throughout the novel. His familial circumstances have affected his upbringing, as he comes across as older than his years. This is further shown through his friendship with Lyra, who is now in a completely different world to her own. He looks after her in ways that reminded me of a parent and child, such as stopping her from being hit by a car and teaching her how to cook an omelette and baked beans. I loved their relationship, seeing them look out for one another while they fight to stay alive. They both grow up as the novel progresses, them making each other coffee in the mornings just seemed so cute.

The overall plot of the book was kind of like two novels in one. Any scenes that related to Mrs. Coulter, Scoresby or the witches seemed like the sequel that I was expecting, but when the plot followed Will’s story, it just seemed so different to what I was reading a few chapters ago. I loved the story and enjoyed following Will and Lyra on their story, but when the two merged or switched to one another it just didn’t seem to fit for me; it was disorientating in a way. I didn’t think it was a smooth transition.

It also took a while for the subtle knife to turn up, but when it did, I loved the concept. A blade that can cut through everything, including air, was different from anything I’ve read, and it was nice to see Will with his own device, like Lyra’s alethiometer.

Like the first book, Pullman’s writing was breathtaking. I’ve been struggling with my writing recently, so this novel has been just what I needed. From little descriptions of fire, ‘the embers of a fire glowed’ to the horror of Lee Scoresby’s death. The final words of his life were heartbreaking:

“Lee saw the fireball and head through the roar in his ears Hester saying, “That’s the last of ’em, Lee.”

He said, or thought, “Those poor men didn’t have to come to this, nor did we.”

She said, “We held ’em off. We held out. We’re a-helping Lyra.”

Then she was pressing her little proud broken self against his face, as close as she could get, and then they died.”

The last sentence of that passage brought tears to my eyes. The phrase ‘her little proud self’ broke me, as the wording presented Hester as a superhero in a children’s book, which is what she and Scoresby have been throughout the series so far. They come across as soldiers who died fighting, and the fact that that’s how they’ll be remembered is somewhat comforting but horrible at the same time.

I also love the idea of Spectres. They reminded me of Dementors from Harry Potter, which is probably partly why I liked them. I pictured them as ghostly figures floating hazily around adults, and when they suck the souls of various characters throughout the book, I had goosebumps.

Overall, I didn’t prefer this book to the first one, but I did still really enjoy it. My reading suffered this month, so that could partly be why there were times when I felt like I was reading a completely different trilogy. I also really missed the ice bears! I’d say this book succumbed to the middle book syndrome, although Pullman’s language and characterisation certainly made up for it.

Review: Northern Lights

SPOILERS AHEAD

I’ve heard so many good things about the His Dark Materials trilogy, and so many people have told me to read the books. The film The Golden Compass was my favourite when it came out, but I still didn’t read the books. For Christmas, I received The Folio Society’s editions, and Northern Lights was the last book I picked up in 2018 and the first I finished in 2019. Safe to say, it certainly lived up to my expectations.

I love Lyra. She’s feisty and intelligent and curious, everything that I want to be, essentially! I also enjoyed the moments when her childish nature shone through the text: ‘But it didn’t seem to Lyra that she would ever grow up.’ It highlights the fact that even though she is on this long journey and is part of a huge task that could change everything about her world, she is still a child at the end of the day. But that fact that she is not letting the weight of her journey crush her is what makes her one of my favourite fictional characters.

It’s not just Lyra’s characterisation that’s brilliant, though. Pullman gives each character their own dialect – the gypsy’s slang, or the educated upper class – which makes them feel more real, and they all have a range of personalities that will have you sympathising with them at least once in the novel, even if you despise them.

Saying that there is one thing that I didn’t like, and it is the tiniest of criticisms. When Lyra reunites with Ioreck just before his fight with Iofur, she calls him ‘dear’ multiple times. This could just be me, but when I was a child, the word ‘dear’ made me shudder and think of an old man addressing his wife. I can’t see Lyra using it for Ioreck, or anyone even if she grew up in a world of scholars. Again, this could just be me though, as I’m not one for pet names, especially ‘dear.’

Pullman’s style of writing draws you into the narrative. The world he has created is beautiful, even though many of the locations, such as Oxford, Lapland, and Svalbard are not fictional. However, he has transformed them into places that seem more magical and alive, in a way it saddens me that our version of these places is not filled with armored bears and witches and sacred devices like the alethiometer.

Speaking of the alethiometer, I think the idea of that alone is incredible. I would never have imagined an object that can answer your questions through symbolism. Pullman has a vivid mind, and it’s this fact alone that makes me want to read more of his works.

One scene that stood out for and still replays in my head, even while reading The Subtle Knife, is the fight between Iorek and Iofur in part three. The language Pullman uses here is beautiful:

‘Like two great masses of rock balanced on adjoining peaks and shaken loose by an earthquake.’

‘And that was when Ioreck moved. Like a wave that has been building its strength over a thousand miles of ocean, and which makes a little stir in the deep water, but which when it reaches the shallows rears itself high into the sky, terrifying the shore-dwellers, before crashing down on the land with irresistible power.’

As a writer, I struggle with fight scenes. My novel is set in the 1600s, and the weaponry and techniques were very different during this period. I can never create the right imagery, but the way Pullman has in these lines is overwhelmingly clever. The nature imagery and similes convey the power and brutality of the fights while maintaining the grace and dignity of the two bears. This technique also works well with the third person narrative, for, if the story was told in the first person, he may not have been able to use this technique as well, as Lyra would probably not have seen it this way.

I do find that this book is a bit like Harry Potter, in the sense that it’s adaptable for a wide audience. It’s a children’s book, and yet I’m reading it at 22 years old, and loving every minute of it. However, I do sometimes struggle to see how someone Lyra’s age could read this and not get confused at times, such as the conversations surrounding Dust.

It has taken me far too long to read this book; I wish I started it sooner. Pullman has created a beautiful world filled with wonder and magic, and it has left me in awe. I’ve started reading the next in the series, The Subtle Knife, and I’m already enjoying it just as much.

Also, while I was writing this, I took a quiz to see who my daemon would be. I got a golden monkey, because I’m ‘ambitious, worldly and smart’. I’d prefer to have an owl though…

Let me know which animal your daemon would be!

My favourite books of 2018

Today I’m going to post my favourite books of 2018. Not all of these were necessarily published this year, although there are quite a few on this list that were. This list is in no particular order; I feel that choosing my number one book of 2018 would be an impossible task. Every time I think I know the answer, I suddenly discover a new book that I love just as much!

The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell

“Death, once conceived, was rapacious. It took all with it .”

If you follow me on Insta, I’m sure you’re sick of me talking about this book by now. So I’ll make it short. If you like historical fiction, gothic horror, or are simply looking for a book that you can’t put down, then this is the one for you. It’s set in an old mansion filled with dark secrets, the main character is forced into a lonely and horrific situation and any person that lives in that house is far from safe.

The Corset – Laura Purcell

“But then I have noted that murderous thoughts seldom trouble the pretty and the fashionable.” 

Again, once I have raved about far too many times. But the second novel by Purcell is just as dark and terrifying. This one starts with a young woman, Ruth Butterham, who has been accused of murder. This Victorian gothic tale explores her life leading up to this point, uncovering a sad and dark past, while the second narrator, Dorothea is determined to help her as much as she can.

You can read my review of these two books here.

The Eve of Man – Tom and Giovanna Fletcher

“Against all odds, she survived. The first girl born in fifty years. They called her Eve…”

I love the world that the Fletcher’s created in this book, as well as the characters. The second book is currently being written, and after the ending in the first, it better come soon. It’s a book that I wouldn’t usually pick up, but once I started reading, I could see why so many people were raving about it. It’s the story of the first girl to be born on Earth in fifty years, and it’s one you definitely want to read.

This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay

“So I told them the truth: the hours are terrible, the pay is terrible, the conditions are terrible; you’re underappreciated, unsupported, disrespected and frequently physically endangered. But there’s no better job in the world.” 

We are incredibly lucky to have the NHS. Adam Kay kept a diary when he worked as a junior doctor, and now he’s published it so we can all experience his ups and downs. From unbelievable patients and funny remarks, this book provides an insight into the work of a doctor, in a witty and sarcastic way.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

I’m not one for books about motivation, sorting out your life, etc. because frankly I find them quite dull. I just can’t get into them, I don’t find them interesting or motivating, and I just end up putting them aside. But Big Magic is a different kind of motivational book. It is aimed at creatives, helping you work towards your goals and whatever it is that you are passionate about. Gilbert explores the concept of ‘inspiration’, and gives us insight into her creative process. If you are struggling to make a start with your creative endeavors, this book will provide you with the kick that you need.

Helter Skelter – Vincent Bugliosi

“I may have implied on several occasions to several different people that I may have been Jesus Christ, but I haven’t decided yet what I am or who I am.” 

I read this book as for university, and it is one that has stayed with me. It’s an account of the case and trial of Charles Manson, as told by the persecutor, Vincent Bugliosi. While it did take me a while to get into it, I still learnt so much about Manson, and it was interesting to see the amount of work that went into the case by the police.

All That She Can See – Carrie Fletcher

“To the voices in our heads that tell us we aren’t good enough: do be quiet.” 

My friend recommended this book to me and I’m so happy she did. It’s such a sweet book, where the protagonist has her own little bakery (you will get very hungry when reading this!) and just wants to make people feel better with her sweet treats – and her ability to see emotions. But of course, nothing ever goes to plan, and she runs into some trouble along the way.

The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

“While I was repairing a broken shelf in the crime section, I overheard an elderly customer confusing E. L. James and M. R. James while discussing horror fiction with her friend. She is either going to be pleasantly surprised or deeply shocked when she gets home with the copy of Fifty Shades of Grey she bought.”

I have this thing for books that are set in bookshops and libraries, so of course I bought this one as soon as I saw it. Shaun Bythell is blunt and sarcastic, and is filled with details about the book-buying process, the customers that he encounters and his not-so-reliable staff. It sounds like he wants to put people off running a bookstore, but strangely, it made me want to own one even more?

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

“How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home?” 

This book is so cleverly written, it just had to be featured in this list. Full of traditional crime-noir motifs, complex characters and inner battles between the protagonist and the bodies he inhabits, it’s a read that you will not want to put down. It’s long, over 500 pages, but that’s because there are so many events and little details that all add up to the novel’s conclusion, nothing could be missed out. I did struggle to get into it first, but after the first few hosts, the situation is explained and the rest of the book is clear.

Read my review for this book here.

Hamilton: I went to the room where it happens

SPOILERS AHEAD

I had the incredible opportunity to watch Hamilton at Victoria Palace Theatre over the weekend. I’ve been struggling to find the perfect word that describes the overall experience, it’s just impossible. There are no words that can capture the beauty of this play. It was cleverly written, amazingly performed and sung. I cried so many times throughout, not just from the story but also because of how overwhelmed I was. I’ve been wanting to see Hamilton since it first came to London, imagining the scenes in my head over and over, and to see it come to life was just incredible.

I’ve listened to the soundtrack more times than I can count, and each song is detailed and helps tell the story. So the fact that there are no spoken words in the play wasn’t that surprising. However, most of the time each song was set in a different place, or time, and with different characters. So to jump straight into the next song was impressive. The play is physical theatre, which by definition means ‘a form of theatre which emphasizes the use of physical movement, as in dance and mime, for expression’, so there was only one set and furniture like writing desks, chairs, even the set of Alexander and Eliza’s wedding, was brought in during the songs as if they were dance moves. The actors managed to smoothly move throughout the play without error, as did the dancers, who were on stage for the majority of the play.

Another technique that was used in the play was a rotating stage. The middle of the stage would rotate, sometimes in different parts, and added to the story. One of the highlights was ‘Satisfied,’ where Angelica tells the story of ‘Helpless’ from her perspective, revealing her love for Alexander. Angelica stood in the middle of the stage, and the outer part started to rotate along with the rest of the cast, acting as if someone genuinely pressed a rewind button on a remote controller. This transition happened over only a couple of seconds, and it was flawless. ‘Satisfied’ is one of my favourite songs in the play, and Allyson Ava Brown performed it beautifully. The most moving part of the song was during the last rendition of the chorus, when everyone around Angelica is celebrating the wedding while she stands in the middle, her heart breaking in front of us.

Many other songs amazed me in the play, more so than they did when just listening to the soundtrack. King George’s songs came to life when performed in person. Before the play, I didn’t enjoy his songs as much and often skipped over them. However, Jon Robyns performed them in a way that was so sarcastic it was hilarious.

‘The Reynolds Pamphlet’ also stood out for me. It was already one of my favourite songs on the soundtrack, and the way it was performed on stage made me love it anymore. What stuck in my head was the image of Alexander standing in the middle while the characters flung their copies of the pamphlets at him, leaving him standing amongst the pile, while he tried to speak over them all, singing the words ‘At least I was honest with her.’

One word that I’d use when describing the play is powerful, and that is because of some of the lines that are spoken. ‘Death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints, it just takes, and it takes’ is one of my favourites, along with ‘Dying is easy young man, living is harder.’ I just realised while writing this that both of these sentences are about death, so here’s on that doesn’t focus on dying: Angelica’s ‘At least I keep his eyes in my life.’

It wasn’t just the lines that hit me. Philip’s death had me in tears, even though I knew it was coming. I was crying from the moment Eliza arrived at his hospital bed and throughout ‘It’s Quiet Uptown.’ And then during ‘Hurricane’ where Alexander gives his last monologue before his death, followed by Eliza’s verses during ‘Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.’

I’ve only seen a few musicals, but Hamilton is one of the best that I’ve seen. After it ended, I spent the rest of the evening and the next day just replaying it all in my head, still in awe. If you ever have a chance to go and see this play, do it. You won’t regret it.

Review: Coram Boy

SPOILERS AHEAD

Winner of the 2001 Whitbread Award, Coram Boy relates the intertwining stories of Meshak Gardiner and Alexander Ashbrook, two young men of different abilities and backgrounds who nonetheless find their fate inextricably linked. Meshak, the mentally handicapped son of Otis Gardiner, helps his father dispose of unwanted children; generally infants whose mothers think that Mr. Gardiner will transport them to Coram Hospital, a newly-created facility to care for abandoned children. Able to convince the distraught mothers that their newborns will be well-cared for in exchange for a small fee, Mr. Gardiner later hands the infants over to Meshak, who then buries the children in the woods. Years of burying infants and selling older ones into slavery have made Mr. Gardiner rich, but one day he is accused of blackmailing the wealthy mothers of these children. Everyone believes that he was hanged for his crimes and that his son, Meshak, quietly slipped away. Not until years later do people realize what happened to the Gardiners and all of the abandoned children.

***

Historical fiction is my favourite genre. I’ve always been fascinated with history, and so reading stories that allow me to live the lives based upon past events excites me so much. I’m currently writing a historical fiction novel myself, and for the setting, I’ve been inspired by the Forest of Dean, my home, and its surrounding areas. Coram Boy takes place in Gloucester as well as London, so it was nice to read a book of this genre that’s set in the same county as mine. I could see how Jamila Gavin captured two 18th century cities, both of which were clearly researched in meticulous detail, in their dirtiest light, exploring the lives of the lower classes instead of just focusing on the more privileged.

One of the things that stood out for me was the character of Meshak. He is described as a ‘simpleton’ and is treated poorly throughout the novel, particularly by his father. He has a strong moral compass, even though there are times when it becomes a bit warped (trying to keep Aaron from his parents to protect his ‘angel’s’ son, for example). He is plagued by the voices of the children that he buries, feeling guilty over the fact that he didn’t save them. Gavin capture this with chilling sentences like ‘He feels the need to be dead.’ For a boy as young as Meshak to think something like this is just heartbreaking.

While the story is told through an omniscient narrator, the majority of the events are experienced through the children’s perspective, which, in a way, makes some of the horrific events seem worse. When Meshak sees black slaves, for example. ‘It was human, wasn’t it? He licked his finger and smoothed it over the baby’s skin to see if the black would come off.’ The way that this baby is alienated because of his skin colour is shocking, and the way that Meshak innocently rubs him with his finger to see if the colour would come off shows the severity of the racism during this period.

Racism is also explored through Toby, a black orphan and Aaron’s best friend. Toby’s treatment at Mr. Gaddarn’s party is exceptionally saddening, as ‘the ladies adored him, and loved to bounce him on their knees, feed him sweets, and push their fingers under his turban to feel his extraordinarily crinkly hair.’ I never knew that black children were hired to be poked and prodded simply for entertainment during this time period, and, to say the least, it was appalling.

The characters of Alex and Thomas are two of my favourites in this novel. They both come from different worlds and yet are united through their love of music. I felt so sorry for Alex, as his father forbids him to follow his passion. I have to say though; there were times when I forgot Alex’s age and thought him as older, so the times when I was reminded of his age completely changed my image of him.

I also felt this way with Melissa, who, at the start of the book, is fourteen years old. She acts her age at the beginning, from joining in with her sibling’s games and experiencing her first period, but then also sleeps with Alex and gets pregnant. I could not imagine characters as naive as these having sex. Also, the fact that Melissa was able to conceal her entire pregnancy and birth is hard to believe tbh. There were moments when her youth was highlighted, such as when she thought she could raise her child at home without her parents noticing, not realising how noisy a baby could be, her focus on knitting cute little clothes for it. Not to mention her reaction to her growing ‘roundness’ and her disbelief when her maid informed her of her pregnancy. If anything, moments like this made it so much harder for me to believe this subplot.

I enjoyed Coram Boy, mainly because of the amount of history intertwined in this novel. Gavin covers a range of diverse perspectives when it comes to 18th century London, allowing the reader to explore this world in so many different ways. It’s a dark book that features some appalling attitudes amongst the characters, and Gavin conveys their beliefs in such a gripping way that you can’t help but feel shocked at some of the events. Aside from the issues regarding ages, I think this novel is beautifully written and an incredible read for both adults and children.

Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

SPOILERS AHEAD

‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once.

Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

***

At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to buy this book. I knew that Turton had drawn upon many familiar tropes of crime fiction – more so from the noir period in my opinion – and while I have enjoyed a few crime novels before, I was never really a fan of the traditional crime genre.

However, there was so much hype around The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, and the name alone was intriguing. So, caught up in the pleasant atmosphere of the Cheltenham Literature Festival, I gave in and bought a copy.

The one word I’d use to describe this book? Complex. The plot is full of shocking twists and reveals, it’s all just very mind-boggling. You will find yourself bewildered so many times throughout the story. However, I can’t help but admire Turton’s intelligence and his ability to craft such an epic storyline, along with the many side plots.

I’ll admit that it did take me a while to get into this novel, I had to persevere through the first three hosts before everything became clear. And so, from that point, I was hooked.

One of my favourite things about this novel is the descriptions that are inserted throughout. While Turton focuses more on the action than setting the scene, there are a few lines in there that are beautifully written: ‘A draught greets me at the top of the staircase, twisting and curling in the air, sneaking through the cracked windows and beneath the doors to stir leaves littering the floor.’ The way he describes the wind as if it is as cautious as the characters themselves contributes to the foreboding atmosphere of the book, and it’s as tense as hell.

The way in which the protagonist switches between each host is undoubtedly one of the most memorable aspects of the plot, As he gradually adapts to each host’s abilities, he has to battle the darker side of the characters before they take over completely. For example, one of his hosts is a rapist, and he finds he has to resist the urge to attack. Trying not to lose himself adds another layer to the novel, and it is certainly one of my favourite subplots. Turton manages to overlap the hosts’ thoughts with the protagonist’s so well it’s almost as if you are also caught up in the battle, and you know a novel is good when you become that sucked in.

The variety of hosts is also notable. As well as a rapist, he lives as an intelligent but obese man, a drug dealer and a butler who is lying on his deathbed, to name a few.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a long book, but it is far from repetitive. The ending is dramatic and unexpected, I was thinking about it for days, even when I started my next book. The difficult start appears to be a popular criticism, but it is certainly made up for with the exciting plot and characters. A must read.