Saturday, 31 March 2012

Read in 2012 - 6: Dead Ernest

Many of you will be familiar with Frances' blog; if you have not yet visited her there, I recommend you do so, because Frances covers such a variety of subjects, and all of her blog entries are of a length that is easy to handle, sort of bite-sized chunks. Her topics range from the funny (check out her "Horse Diaries"!) to the very very serious (Death Row in Texas prisons). Plus, and now I am getting to the point of this blog entry, she is one of the few published authors I know.
(Well, I say I "know" her, but we have never met in person - it is through her blog that I know her a little bit.)

For my birthday, I was given a Kindle from my parents; in the short space of time since I first opened the small cardboard box until now, I have already transferred about 70 books to it, including both of Frances' novels.

"Dead Ernest" was her first published book, and it is also the first one I've read.
And enjoyed! This is a book I can really recommend - not just because I like Frances as a person, from what transpires about her through her blog, but because it really is a good book, a good story well told.

The story in itself is not unusual; quite ordinary people live quite ordinary lives, and their lives change by events some of which they have a certain control over, while others simply happen without them contributing actively to them. This ordinariness makes the story and character development very credible; one can imagine acting in a similar way in the place of the characters (at least I can).

You can read this book either just for entertainment, enjoying the story and wanting to know what will happen next (there is drama, there is romance), or you can accept the lessons taught - never in a school-teacherish manner, but simply by what the characters have to deal and cope with in their lives, in both past and present.

Ernest is the husband of Annie; when we first hear of him in the book, he has just died of a heart attack outside a fish and chip shop (what WAS he doing in front of the chippie? This is one mystery that remains unsolved!).
But we meet him later on as a younger man in the book, when Annie tells the story of her life - which is invariably also the story of her marriage of 60 years) - to Andrew, the vicar who is asked to visit her by her son Billy. In spite of Annie not being a churchgoer or a particularly religious person at all, a friendship develops between her and Andrew, and she starts telling him her story.
Shortly after these regular visits have started, Billy's daughter Ophelia, Annie's only grandchild, comes to see her grandmother, also originally sent there by Billy. 

Things between Annie, Andrew and Ophelia turn out rather different from what Billy imagined when he initiated these visits, and the lives of all three of them are changed by what they learn about each other and about themselves.

As I said, nothing in this book is unrealistic. People behave like humans do; Annie does not willingly play the role of grieving widow everybody seems to expect her to be, Ophelia is not her parents' dream-daughter, and Andrew is not quite the man of god he feels he should be.

I won't tell you more and I won't quote anything from "Dead Ernest", although there are many bits worth quoting - but I want you to read it for yourself.

Soon, I am going to read Frances' second novel, but before that, a non-fiction book awaits me, one I have meant to read in a long time and have now finally on my Kindle, too :-)

12 comments:

  1. I occasionally read Frances' blog. Perhaps I'd better check out her novels too.

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    1. You'll find it is worth it, I think!

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  2. Thanks for taking the trouble to write that kind review, Librarian. Much appreciated!

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    1. You are welcome, Frances! By the way, I only found very few typesetting errors ;-) Once or twice, Annie had turned into Anne, and there were maybe 3 or 4 others across the whole book.

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  3. That sounds like a great book! I'll have to check it out. And I love my kindl, too. When I was in Germany last, my dad gave me one and it was perfect for bringing back a number of German books and not having to carry them all in my suitcase... xoxo Silke

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    1. Yes, Silke, isn't it just great for that? I intend to take my Kindle always with me now when I am travelling, which will be quite a few times again this year, both for business and leisure. No more heavy, overstuffed handbags for me!

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  4. Oh yes, I know Frances from your blog, of course! I find her to be very interesting and so I know that I would like her book too. I must get new glasses first though...then, I will be able to read books again! (And maybe even type on my keyboard better and not hit the incorrect keys which messes things up!)
    Great book review as always...I will let you know when I have read this book.

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    1. My new glasses will be a year old this summer - do you remember how much fun my sister and I had in chosing a pair that suits me?

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  5. I downloaded the novel as soon as I read the first line on Amazon. I couldn't resist it. I'm just half way through The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and will start on Dead Ernest when I've finished.

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    1. Are you going to post a review when you're done?

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    2. I'd like to think that I will Meike. It's a very good book on so many levels. Still quite a bible for socialism. The problem for me and that book is that there would be so much to write about. In fact I haven't written any posts on my book blog for a very long time. The books piled are up back in Scotland. Whether I can even recall what they were all about now might be doubtful.

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    3. I agree that book reviews can turn out a bit lengthy if we have a lot to say about a book, but when you are trying to summarize in your mind what you'd like someone who has not read it yet to know about the book, without giving away too much so that it will still make them want to read it, and then just write that mental summary down, it shouldn't be too long.

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