When Will There Be Good News?

When Will There Be Good News?When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These books keep getting better and better. The only reason I didn’t rate this a “5” was because I found the American narrator’s “fake” Scottish and Irish accents very annoying. (Audio book narrated by Ellen Archer.) Jackson Brodie gets on the wrong train and ends up in a horrific train crash near Edinburgh. Reggie is a wonderful character, and provides the glue that holds the various plot threads together. Louise Munroe is back, but both she and Jackson have made life choices that would seem to put any chance of romance even farther away. Ms. Atkinson writes wonderful character studies, and tackles dark themes with an undercurrent of humor.

The first three books have now been turned into a three-part television series starring Jason Isaacs as Jackson Brodie. The first episode just aired this past Sunday in the US on Masterpiece Mystery, and will continue on the following two Sundays. It was mostly faithful to the book, although some of the more humorous or extreme elements were removed: Binky Raine’s cat “Nigger” was never mentioned by name, Jackson’s house is not blown up, the nudist club is missing, Amelia does not attempt suicide… Nevertheless, the end result is perhaps a bit easier to follow. I look forward to the next two episodes.

Description:
On a hot and beautiful day in the English countryside, six-year-old Joanna Mason witnesses an appalling crime. Thirty years later, the man convicted of the crime is released from prison. Sixteen-year-old Reggie works as a nanny for a doctor devoted to her new young son. But Dr. Joanna Hunter has gone missing, and Reggie, no stranger to bad luck and worse, seems to be the only person who is worried. Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe is also looking for a missing person, unaware that hurtling toward her is an old friend – Jackson Brodie – himself on a journey that becomes fatally interrupted. As lives and histories intersect, as past mistakes and current misfortunes collide, Jackson is caught up in the most personal, and dangerous, investigation of his life.

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The Hand That First Held Mine

The Hand That First Held MineThe Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sound recording narrated by Anne Flosnik. This was a very interesting dual-timeframe story. The author’s prose evokes detailed images. I loved many of her descriptions, especially the minutiae of motion. It was like reading a film or a screen play, if that makes sense. It fits the story, since Ted is a film editor. Things move back and forth in time, sometimes you get a kind of slow-motion sequence, scenes cut back and forth and somehow all ends up as a satisfying whole. I will admit that I expected the ending to be more dramatic somehow. As you move through the story you wonder if it is going to turn into some kind of gothic horror or murder mystery, and hopefully, it isn’t a spoiler to say that in the end it is really only about motherhood and the power (both for good and bad) of the mother/child connection. (Which really I should have figured out from the title, and the picture on the audiobook cover of a child’s hand holding a woman’s hand…but I didn’t.)

The author, Maggie O’Farrell, was born in Northern Ireland in 1972, and grew up in Wales and Scotland.

Description:
Lexie Sinclair is plotting an extraordinary life for herself.

Hedged in by her parents’ genteel country life, she plans her escape to London. There, she takes up with Innes Kent, a magazine editor who wears duck-egg blue ties and introduces her to the thrilling, underground world of bohemian, post-war Soho. She learns to be a reporter, to know art and artists, to embrace her life fully and with a deep love at the center of it. She creates many lives–all of them unconventional. And when she finds herself pregnant, she doesn’t hesitate to have the baby on her own terms.

Later, in present-day London, a young painter named Elina dizzily navigates the first weeks of motherhood. She doesn’t recognize herself: she finds herself walking outside with no shoes; she goes to the restaurant for lunch at nine in the morning; she can’t recall the small matter of giving birth. But for her boyfriend, Ted, fatherhood is calling up lost memories, with images he cannot place.

As Ted’s memories become more disconcerting and more frequent, it seems that something might connect these two stories– these two women– something that becomes all the more heartbreaking and beautiful as they all hurtle toward its revelation.

The Hand That First Held Mine is a spellbinding novel of two women connected across fifty years by art, love, betrayals, secrets, and motherhood. And it is a gorgeous inquiry into the ways we make and unmake our lives, who we know ourselves to be, and how even our most accidental legacies connect us.

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