Fair Play by Tove Jansson

902743Jonna and Mari are artists. They live together, sort of, and have for twenty or thirty years.  I say sort of because their apartments are at opposite ends of the top floor of an old building, connected by an empty attic space.  When they are working, they stay in their own homes.  When they aren’t working, they spend their time in Jonna’s apartment watching American movies (Fair Play is set in Finland) and avoiding the world or in a small cabin owned by Mari on a small island with no other inhabitants, still avoiding the world.  Sometimes, they travel, taking long trips to other countries.

Occasionally, they have visitors or meet new people who they seem to attach themselves to rather than become friends with.  Whilst excited by the new additions, each time it seems to upset the balance of their lives, the routine of their non-routine world.  There is Mari’s old boyfriend for example, who says he’s going to come camping on the island then doesn’t show up, and the young artist Jonna befriends and feeds food normally set aside for Mari until one day she doesn’t turn up anymore and Mari, who had felt like she no longer belonged, is welcome into the flat again.

Told in short chapters that are linear timewise but do not necessarily follow each other immediately, Fair Play gives snapshots into lives less ordinary than mine.  As an outsider, getting a glimpse of this world, I struggled to understand it and get a real sense of time and place.  The seeming lack of direction, the misunderstandings that were never discussed – I wondered whether I was missing something and kept going back on myself.  Then I read that Fair Play was based on Tove Jansson’s own long-term relationship and, knowing this, I started to feel like I was getting not so much a work of fiction but a glimpse of her real life and started enjoying it more as a result (though not sure why, perhaps I was no longer looking for a big idea?).

With this in mind, I found it interesting though not compelling and I did like the style of writing.  It was sparse and simple and seemed (at least to my untrained eye) well translated.  I think the problem was I wanted more, I’m just not sure more of what.  More of a story maybe and definitely more pages – this was billed as a novel but was only 84 pages long.  When it ended I felt disappointed and slightly cheated.  Which is a shame because I don’t think this was a bad book and I think other people would really like it.  It just wasn’t for me.

Emma

The Bed I Made by Lucie Whitehouse

7575266Well, it had to happen. After not reading a book I didn’t like in all of October, barely a week into November and I found one that did nothing for me. And I’m even more disappointed because I had high hopes.

The reason, I had read Lucie Whitehouse’s Before We Met earlier this year and really liked it – the pace, the plotting, and the characters – and had hoped for more of the same. Sadly, it was not to be.

The Bed I Made is slow from start to finish, only picking up the pace in the last 60 or so pages, way too late for me to care I’m afraid. Lucie Whitehouse tries, and early on nearly succeeds in building up the tension, creating a career girl (Kate) who meets a too perfect man (Richard), only to discover he isn’t anywhere near what she thinks he is.

I spent the first few chapters wanting to know just what Richard was up to and why. The problem is that once Kate figures it out and heads to a bolt hole all Richard has is email and text. It just doesn’t a good bad guy make. I needed more. I needed twists, turns, and danger. Not Kate being mildly concerned but – inexplicably to me – unable to tell her best friend why.

All that said, and disappointments aired, this isn’t a badly written book. Lucie Whitehouse does a good job setting the scene and describing the island Kate has retreated to and the people who inhabit it. She has a nice, easy to read style, that keeps you turning pages. It is a shame the story didn’t do the same – meaning (no surprise) this one wasn’t for me…sorry!

Emma

Take Me Home by Daniela Sacerdoti

Title: Take Me Home Author: Daniela Sacerdoti Genre: Fiction, Romance Source: Library Rating: Not for Me (3 out of 5) After spending the night with the man of her dreams (Alex), Inary wakes up to the news that her sister, Emily, is dying. It’s something she has always known was coming but never wanted to really consider. Before rushing to […]