Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

2017: 45
4 of 5 stars
Published January 2013

Don Tillman is a professor of genetics and he really knows his business. He’s single, 40,  and does not make friends easily. In fact, he only has two, and one of those is an elderly lady who is now in a senior citizen home. He has decided, however, that it’s time he finds a wife and in order to screen the candidates properly, comes up with a long and detailed questionnaire to filter out all unsuitable candidates.

Enter Rosie. Sent to him by his other friend, Gene, Rosie is most certainly unsuitable but she’s mainly there to ask his help in finding her biological father. The Wife Project is set aside for The Father Project and they spend a lot of time together. Don is not your ordinary man and has challenges. He’s very clearly living with Asperger’s Syndrome though doesn’t realize it in spite of having conducted lectures in the subject on Gene’s behalf. I think Rosie probably picked up on it early because she’s a PHD in psychology and would recognize the symptoms but it’s never raised as an issue. Don is who he is. Don’s methodical methods and expertise are just what Rosie needs.

You can see that he’s starting to find her appealing but since he doesn’t consider her a wife candidate, just a friend, and he doesn’t think he’s capable of the emotion of love, he continually says or does the wrong thing, having no clue about how to read emotions or situations. Love isn’t logical and Don is lost at sea when it comes to things like that and yet, and yet, he seems to be a lot happier around Rosie than without her.  The story is fun and light hearted and it’s a feel-good book. You get exasperated when Don yet again gets it wrong, you wait with anticipation to see if he gets it right. You want to tell them both not to give up. You sigh with satisfaction at the end.

Review: Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

2017: 38
3.5 of 5 stars
Published July 2016

Three couples got together for an afternoon barbeque. Something happened that changed everything and it’s now two months later. Relationships are irrevocably changed. Can their relationships and friendships survive? All six adults are still alive so it wasn’t a death but like another book by Moriarty, Big Little Lies, we don’t find out what happened until near the end with the rest of the story told with flashbacks.

Three couples, all with seemingly good marriages. Old friends mixing with new ones.This is a character study that teases the reader about the event in question, not a thriller, or whodunnit and I have to say it does get a bit tedious after awhile. There’s no threatening villain. You pretty much assume that someone said or did or saw something that had a huge impact on the others because those friends that are still talking to each other in the present aren’t on easy terms and all three relationships seem to have been affected.

Did someone get roaring drunk and let a secret out of the closet? Was there serious flirting involved? These were all things that went around in my head as I read the book and every time they teased you about something happening on the day of the barbeque, I got more and more annoyed but I still had to finish the book to find out what it was, even if it was going to be a “Is that all?” reaction. So the event happened a little past the halfway mark and the real importance of it was the after effect on all of the characters. Guilt is powerful, especially when it stirs up old resentments and stirs up the past in other ways. Even then, there were things that were not revealed completely and these were fed into the plot in drips and drabs through to the end of the book, some extra twists and revelations about the event in question. There was one other little twist, unrelated to “the event” as well that was interesting though not especially surprising considering the long term dynamic between the two people involved.

I like character based stories and while they can be a bit slow moving, I like finding out the background of them all and how it affects the dynamic of the group as a whole. That part of the book was quite good. It was only the vague part, the teasing part and the ongoing sense of a piece of the puzzle missing that was a bit annoying.

Review: Purity by Jonathan Franzen

2017: 24
4.5  of 5 stars
Published September 2015

The description of Purity revolves around a young woman, Purity aka Pip and Andreas Wolf, a German media “leak” mogul but really, the book has less to do with Pip than it does Andreas and a lot more to do with a few other characters, too. Pip is the star at the beginning of the tale. Saddled with a lot of student debt, Pip is working in a crap job and living in a crap flophouse. Pip is still tangled in her mother’s apron strings though she’s trying to work her way out of it. She meets Annagret, a German woman who persuades her into contacting Andreas Wolf, the force behind a Wikileaks-like internet exposee company based in Bolivia. She’s decided to go but we don’t get to that just yet. We flip over to Andreas Wolf.

We hear about his life in Communist East Germany, his love for Annagret, his love/hate relationship with his mother (this is turning into a common theme here) and father. He’s got a secret that he carries and now his reputation will be ruined if it ever comes out. Only one person knows about it, a journalist called Tom. The focus then flips over to Tom and Leila.

Tom is running an online news service out of Denver and has a girlfriend, Leila, who is married to a disabled novelist. We hear about her as she’s investigating a story. Pip makes an appearance again finally and is taken on as an apprentice, getting involved with Tom and Leila’s lives. Now, we finally go to Pip’s experiences in Bolivia where Pip ends up going to work with the Sunshine Project for awhile, ultimately getting involved with the magnetic Wolf who has promised to help her find out who her father is because her mother has always refused to tell her. Over to Tom, now and Tom’s relationship with Anabelle, his ex-wife who disappeared abruptly many years ago becomes the next section of the book. Tom also has issues with his mother as Anabelle has with her father.

The focus then flips back over to Andreas. Back to Andreas again, to backtrack a bit for his early life with Annagret and his perspective on some things that we’ve already seen with Pip in Bolivia before all the various streams get tied together and secrets get outed at the end.

So, the book isn’t really about Purity as such though her story starts and ends it. It’s a lot more about everyone else, where Purity is more of a catalyst than anything else. There’s also the definition of the word Purity which seems to be thematic through the book though metaphors in books tend to sail over my unless it’s made blatantly obvious. I don’t like thinking about themes and influences when I read, preferring to enjoy the story for what it is. And I did enjoy this story. The oft-used phrase “richly descriptive” or similar really does apply here. Each main character’s development and history is crafted and woven like a tapestry where the whole of it comes together to make the big picture. Everyone is connected in some way even if it isn’t evident at first. And when the connection is finally made, it’s a true “Ah!” moment and you keep reading and waiting for the next one.

All of the characters are flawed and nobody is a hero/heroine. People’s basic characteristics don’t really change and everyone has secrets and regrets, just like real life. Lies can and will adversely affect your life and the lives of others in your path and maybe you can find a way to redemption or a way to shake off the negative impact that your parents’ actions had and do something better with your life. Purity is a nice, long, chunky book that you can immerse yourself in.

Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

2017: 23
4 of 5 Stars
Published July 2014

Kindergarden is a dangerous place, both for the children and the parents. It brings out the worst in people, especially all the parents with their rivalries and cliques. Rumours, lies, and great leaps to conclusions cause more headaches and upset than you would think.

Jane has brought her 5 year old son, Ziggy, to live in a small town by the sea where he’s about to start kindergarden. On the way to the Orientation Day for the kids starting school for the first time, she meets Madeleine who is just turning 40, with a teenager and two smaller children, one of whom is Chloe and who is starting kindergarten. Madeleine has turned her ankle on the way back to her car while berating a teenager for texting and driving and Jane drives her and the two younger children to school. Madeleine then fills Jane in on all the cliques and politics among the school mothers. Later that morning, as the children are leaving school, the daughter of a rich, career woman, Renata, accuses Ziggy of choking her and things for Ziggy and Jane get off to a bad start.

Through the school year, there are more accusations, escalated by unfounded rumours. Madeleine is dealing with her teenage daughter’s relationship with her father and father’s new, seemingly perfect wife, Bonnie. Madeleine still harbours a lot of anger and resentment towards her ex husband even though she’s now happily remarried herself. Her friend, Celeste also becomes a friend of Jane. Celeste and her husband, Perry, have two 5 year old twin boys who have also started school and Celeste also has a secret. Perry hits her. Jane has a secret to do with Ziggy’s father. Eventually, you just know, all the secrets are going to come blasting out of the closet and it isn’t going to be pretty.

The book opens on the night of a school fund raiser where someone has died. The rest of the book traces to path to this night from the orientation day at school to the fund raiser. Added on are excerpts from interviews with the other parents where you can clearly see which ones believe all the rumours and which ones have probably started the rumours. The police are trying to get to the bottom of the death but are not having a lot of luck. Of course the truth to the murder/death is going to come out as well.

I liked the book quite a bit. It is definitely soap opera but I like soap operas. The plot wriggles along the twisty path, placing hints and a bit of cryptic vagueness along the way to see if we can figure out a couple of the twists and then who has been killed and why. I didn’t figure it out. I usually never do with these things (unless it’s blatantly obvious) so I’m usually pleasantly surprised and wonder why I didn’t see it coming.  I liked the main characters, despised the ones I was supposed to and plan to read more by this author.

The book has been filmed as an HBO series currently airing so I wanted to read it along with watching the series. I know there’s going to be differences but now, reading the book, it’s completely cast in my head by the actors I’ve seen in the various parts! The series has been moved from the outskirts of Sydney, Australia (the book) to the California coastline and I think it’s been cast quite well.