Sunday, January 25, 2009

Good Holiday Read – The Forgotten Garden

Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden is a good fun holiday read. A page turner with good mix of romance, fairytale and mystery. Bit like Dianne Setterfield's The Thirteen Tale, but perhaps not as successful as Morton’s book tried to cover too much ground in terms of all these different elements.

Reading it made me think of the way authors use the narrative device of alternating timelines for each chapter. Morton uses this device to drive the narrative, but I found at some points in the book it was done a little too obviously and with a real lack of subtleness.

I was sorely disappointed in Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Queen, which alternates between three different narrators. I just couldn’t get into it. Call me old fashion but where is the story telling skill involved?

One author who is does the alternating timelines/chapter device brilliantly is Frederick Forsyth. In his books the narrative often swing back and forth between timeframes, but he uses this device with such skill and subtlety. Forsyth builds his narrative the connections between these different time frames in such a deliberate and carefully crafted manner.

Just finished Icon which is a masterclass in story telling.


scp said...

I felt the same way about The Other Queen and PG's last few books - where she's just alternates between narrators. The one about Catherine Howard/Anne of Cleves was a little like that. I also found it a little too Mills and Boons. I mean maybe Mary was all cutesy with her jailer, but I was cringing a bit throughout those exchanges. Another thing about PG is that she comes across as really anti-Anne Boleyn/Elizabeth camp. Still, I always pick up her latest book because I'll read any historic fiction re: tudor family!

There are few books where alternating timelines work well. Amy Tan does it well. Or perhaps because it's "ethnic" fiction, one just accepts that the writer will go back in time to another era, where people spoke in another accent.

I enjoyed The shifting fog/House at Riverton. I like Victorian gothic novels/murder mysteries.

scp said...
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Book Boy said...

hey scp, yeah i'm pretty much done my PG's stage - and you are right somtimes a bit too mills and boons.

BTW, what did u think of the movie - Other Boleyn Girl?

I just saw the Tudor TV series too - now how over the top is that!!

scp said...

I'm v. keen on watching the Tudor TV series. Where can you get a copy of that in Australia?
I enjoy the Richard Starkey docos that were show on the ABC.
RE: The OBG - the film, I wasn't a big fan of it because I'm a bit of a purist. Also found it difficult to believe Eric Bana was H8, Scarlett Mary and NP Anne. Though I thought NP was v. good in it. The best thing about the film. AB was a more sympathetic character in the film than in the book. I've always been a bit of an AB fan (brainwashing in early history class @ English pro-Anglican school). I found the incest charge a bit offensive - prob. due to the early brainwashing at primary school. Though I found this alternative reading of the charges v. interesting.

Did you watch the BBC version? I liked that better than the film version.

Though I am often disappointed by PG books, I still buy them. I even have her collection of short stories - I don't like them, but I guess I got sucked into brand recognition. (THe SS are not historic fiction).

tseen said...

I've never read any PG books, but may bookmooch one to see what it's like. Out of all of them, which would you recommend as the best read? _The Virgin's Lover_?

I've been hanging out to see the Tudor series, too. I'm a big Jonathan Rhys-Meyers fan, ever since _Bend it like Beckham_ (this also being the only film in which Keira Knightley didn't give me hives...).

Book Boy said...

I got my copy of Tudor TV series from local video ezy store - which seems to be stocking a lot of tv series now.

Be interested to know what you think - for me Jonathan Rhys Meyers overacts just a tad too much. But stellar cast - Jeremy Northam and Sam Neil.

Didn't watch the BBC version - will look for it at video store but prob tad too specalist for local video ezy!

Book Boy said...

hey tseen, i'd recommend ither the Virgin's Lover or The Other Boleyn Girl.

Gotta say didn't make it past The Queen's Fool and The Other Queen!