Synopsis from Waterstones:

1995, and at a party in Bedford, Mary meets Jack and Neal, a pair of hipsters and self-confessed Beats’ stuck (un)squarely in the sixties. After a Beat (not-quite) Happening’ at the local library, the three of them (and Neal’s cat Koko) set off in Mary’s Vauxhall on a road trip to Brighton in search of literary fame and fortune. But, this is neither the time nor the place for free love, uncomplicated sex and unrestrained cool this is 1990s Britain and everything comes with a price

When asked what category I would place this book in, I struggled to think of an answer. I think it would just sit in fiction as the book just follows a group of twenty-somethings as they live life as though they are stuck in the 1960s – the era before Dylan had his motorcycle accident. This is not horror or a even a psychological thriller, it is just Mary, Neal and Jack looking for a “hip” time.
This wasn’t a bad book, but I’m not sure I’ll be jumping at a chance to read Litt again. This book did seem a bit random to me. Can people really live their lives as though they are stuck in a decade that they weren’t even born in? There were definitely elements of the book I found unbelieveable – like Mary and Jack’s trip to America. There were areas of the book that made me uncomfortable. In Brighton Mary loses all inhibitions and partakes in a threesome that is watched. I didn’t like reading that at all.

I think this could be used as a social study however. One could use this to look at behaviour, what influences people and how beliefs can shape someone’s life.

I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I found they all bugged me. Mary was desperate to fit in, Jack was trying to be “cool” and “hip” and Neal I felt just needed to grow a backbone. If I’m going to be honest, although this wasn’t an awful book and I did read it in a day, I only finished it because I was reading it for my dissertation. As I sit and think about this book I’m not overly excited by the memory of it. It will be a book I will probably have forgotten about in a few months.

2/5

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Cloths of heaven

Synopsis from Myriad Publishers:

West Africa in the early 1990s. Isabel Redmond is tiring of her iconoclastic husband’s penchant for pendulous black breasts; the High Commissioner and his wife Fenella are both enjoying illicit affairs; an old English judge is wandering through the scrub following a tribe of Fulani herdsmen; Bob Newpin is about to make a killing in timeshares; and just what Father Seamus is up to is anyone’s guess.

Enter new diplomat Daniel Maddison on his first posting abroad. Rebelling against the endless rounds of cocktail parties, golf and gossip, he finds himself drawn to people and places that lie way beyond the experience of his High Commission colleagues – and specifically to the dusty warehouse in the heart of the city where a thin white woman is silently measuring out lengths of brightly coloured cloth.

In this assured début about loneliness and passion in Africa, Sue Eckstein enthrals with a deliciously intricate plot, compelling characters and razor-sharp dialogue.

Eckstein, in her début novel, transports us to life in West Africa in the 1990s. We meet Daniel, who is experiencing his first international posting as a British diplomat. But life is more play than work. There are plenty of parties, many affairs, mysterious women and an entrepreneur who wants to build time shares in the “real Africa”. This is not the life he expected when he was posted here. This is life that is full of gossip and racism, not politics.

This was an interesting novel that I enjoyed. It looks at life in West Africa for the British diplomats out there. There is an eclectic group of people to learn about – in fact one of the problems I found with this book were the sheer number of characters. I found myself forgetting who some people were as I read the book. However, there were a few I liked. Such as Isobel, a lovely lady with a husband with a slightly disturbing hobby; Daniel, who seemed to genuinely care for people – he seemed like someone you would want to have around; and Father Seamus, who just made me chuckle as he went around in shirts with the Pope on.

Eckstein states in the back of the book that this is purely fictional, and that is how I read this book. As I was not concerned about how accurate the story and events were I was not disappointed with the novel. It is a bit disjointed but there is one main storyline, in which Daniel investigates the mysterious Rachel, with which every storyline eventually links up with. Each character and their part of the unfolding story is explored, giving the book greater depth.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and it did not take me long to read it. I found myself wanting to know what happened, and although there were aspects of the book I didn’t like they didn’t completely spoil the book. This is a good debut novel.

8/10

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