Jonna 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.
Well, 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!
Title: Take Me Home
Author: Daniela Sacerdoti
Genre: Fiction, Romance
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 Scotland to be with Emily and her brother Logan, Inary just has time to tell Alex their night together was a huge mistake.
It’s not because she doesn’t love him but because the last man she gave her heart to broke it and she has promised herself never again. There’s more to the break up than meets the eye though, it’s just Inary can’t bear to tell Alex the truth. Instead she heads to Scotland and sits by her sister whilst she dies.
It all sounds a bit tragic so far and yet – for me – what should have been full of emotion wasn’t at all. Instead, Emily’s death just seemed like a way to get to the main parts of the story, Inary’s visions and her rather weak love “will they won’t they” affair with Alex. The latter mainly took place by text and email and fell completely flat for me. The story around the visions was much stronger and more interesting and I wish it had been the main focus of the book.
Instead it had to compete not only with Alex but with Inary being pursued by a handsome American, trying to rebuild her relationship with her brother who drank too much, and with the fact Inary had lost her voice. Confused? I was. Just as I settled into one storyline, another came along.
Adding to my confusion was how the story was told – primarily through Inary but also Alex and her brother Logan. There was no rhyme or reason to when they joined the conversation and not that much difference in their voices. For me, it all became a blur.
You can probably tell by now, I won’t be recommending this one to people. A shame really because I really liked the author’s first book. This doesn’t mean I’m right though. Others on Goodreads raved and cried over this book. Maybe more of a love it or hate it one?