Monthly Archives: August 2012

Mrs Harris Goes to Moscow- Paul Gallico

What happens when Ada Harris, an interfering cockney char lady with a heart of gold, finds out that her employer is hopelessly in love with a Russian girl he has been parted from? An adventure of course! When the old lady heads to Moscow on a package tour with her trusty friend Mrs Butterfield there are run ins with the KGB, meetings with ambassadors from both nations and a cameo appearance from Prince Philip. But can Mrs Harris save the day and make sure that love conquers all?

I really enjoyed this short-but-sweet, old-fashioned romp of a novel from Paul Gallico, acclaimed author of The Snow Goose. I hadn’t realised that I’d heard of his Mrs Harris series (of which this is the fourth and final book) before buying this book which I picked up as pot luck because I loved the cover of the re-editioned Bloomsbury copy. It was only upon reading the book I realised that I had actually seen a ballet adaptation of the first novel, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, on television years and years ago. Weird, huh?

If you’re going on holiday to Moscow, and want a holiday read set in Russia but can’t face the length of any of the Russian classics, I think this would make a great light read.

Gioconda- Lucille Turner

Lucille Turner’s debut novel Gioconda imagines the untold story of Leonardo da Vinci, the original Renaissance Man, from his upbringing as the bastard child of a notary, through his training as an artist, fleshing out the facts of history to explain why the Mona Lisa, or La Gioconda, was never delivered to the family who commissioned it and was instead inherited by one of Leonardo da Vinci’s pupils upon his death.

The novel is fluidly written, with few historical markers making it hard for the reader to judge at exactly which point in history the narrative occurs which aids the author in condensing the events of what is potentially a fifty year period into a relatively short novel, and allows the reader to focus on the polymath’s genius rather than on incident. For me, that’s where the difficulty of this beautifully written novel lies, the author seems to be trying to force a love story out of a true story which is already brilliant. For me, the intrigue in this novel was learning about Leonardo’s dissections and studies which were considered heretical and very dangerous- his relationship with Lisa seemed almost incidental. His character was too focussed on his work and too rational to make the desire to paint Lisa convincing, or the ending of the novel, which links back to the opening chapter, satisfactory. The Leonardo of the opening chapter and the Leonardo of the rest of the book seemed like two very different characters.

Gioconda is a good read, but not a great read. The strength of the novel lies in colourful descriptions of da Vinci’s artistic and scientific works. So while Turner’s attempts to convince me of a relationship between Leonardo and Lisa may not have been wholly successful, I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for a really nice edition of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks.

Nine Uses for an Ex-Boyfriend- Sarra Manning

I was feeling pretty down towards the end of this week, so looking for a light, easy read to cheer me up, I picked up Nine Uses for an Ex-Boyfriend by Sarah Manning.

I know that Chick Lit is a pretty controversial term these days- for me it’s less a term denoting fiction written by women as fiction written by former women’s interest magazine editors who’ve put Cosmopolitan in a food processor and baked the pulp into a novel… But controversy aside, this book sits smack bang in the middle of the Chick Lit genre. Hope is a twenty-six year old teacher, who thinks that life is going pretty well and that her biggest worry is throwing a decent dinner party, until she finds her boyfriend of thirteen years kissing her best friend and has to decide what to do…

The book in itself was okay, if you like lukewarm characters who can’t make their minds up, but really not my cup of tea.The on again, off again relationship was irritating, scenes repeating over and over again. It wouldn’t normally be a book I’d bother writing a blog entry about, but I think it deserves some kind of award for the most misleading blurb and book title ever. I still can see where the title came from but it doesn’t reflect the contents of the book, and the teaser “Does true love forgive and forget? Or does it get mad… and get even?” is completely misleading. I thought there’d be a pleasantly twisted tale of revenge. But really? There was no revenge whatsoever and most of the novel consisted of the heroine busying herself with forgiving and forgetting.

If the contents had matched the title and teaser, this might have been an interesting book, but they didn’t and it wasn’t.