That's right, a bumper edition!
I've managed to find plenty of time to read this Christmas holiday - in coffee shops, at home, at other people's house, at the doctor's surgery... it's been a real literary break! To me, taking time out to sit down, phone away and distraction-free, and throw yourself into a book is complete bliss. If there happens to be good coffee or cosy pyjamas involved then even better.
So over the past two weeks I've managed to read two books. Quite a feat for me; I'm a slow reader and usually struggle to find the time to read without falling asleep after a paragraph!
Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller.
This modern classic, published in 2003, has been in my reading pile for months. It tells the story of Sheba and Barbara - both teachers in a London comprehensive school. The novel is narrated by Barbara, in fact it is her diary account of the scandal surrounding Sheba's relationship with a fifteen year old pupil. Yes, Sheba, an art teacher in her early forties begins an illicit affair with one of her pupils, despite being married and having children of her own... oh and it being hugely legally and morally wrong! Barbara doesn't find out for some time and when she does is horrified - but has a weird fascination and admiration for Sheba, perhaps explaining why she doesn't tell the school.
This book is excellent; incredibly well written, engaging and pacey. I found the whole topic fascinating and actually really difficult to read, as a teacher myself. Barbara's obsession with Sheba is captivating and Heller manages to make her appear really quite unhinged - it's creepy. I thought the fact that Sheba, a female teacher, seduced a male pupil an interesting topic. Had it been the other way round - a male teacher having an affair with a female pupil - I think the book would have read very differently. Double standards maybe? Something interesting to think about, anyway!
Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt.
Little Girl Gone is Alexandra Burt's first novel - given the title you may have guessed this was another in the series from Gillian Flynn. No such luck! Estelle Paradise (what a choice of name) has no memory of how she is in her current state; in hospital after being in an apparent car accident. Oh, and missing an ear. She soon understands that her daughter (Mia) is missing, and she is suspect number one. It becomes apparent that when Estelle discovered her baby is missing, she failed to report it to the police - hence her becoming their chief suspect of kidnap... or murder.
This book was an odd one, and I actually found it really difficult to follow! It's unclear whether or not Estelle is mentally stable - which I know is the point of the book - but when Estelle is finding out the details of Mia's disappearance I just couldn't keep up. Is her account reliable? Is she lying? Or can't she remember? This was, I assume, to help paint the picture of her mental state, but it just didn't work for me. The ending is Hollywood movie ridiculous, but satisfying that the 'what happened' became clear.
It reminded me of other memory loss stories; Before I Go To Sleep (SJ Watson), Remember Me (Sophie Kinsella), Still Alice (Lisa Genova)... and the like. An okay read, but overly long in my opinion and difficult to follow.