Saturday, 12 January 2019


The French Girl, by Lexie Elliott.


           Ten years before this story opens, six Oxford university students spend a carefree, booze-and-love-fuelled week in a farmhouse in the French region of Dordogne.  The weather is perfect and so is the farmhouse, which belongs to the parents of Theo, one of the students – it even has a swimming pool, and a very attractive young neighbour, Severine, who avails herself of the pool whenever she wishes:  they are neighbours, non?  And this is what good neighbours do.
            Unfortunately, the happy week is ruined on the last night by a screaming argument and the break-up of a relationship:  the next morning everyone suffers multiple hangovers and a silent, sulky drive back to damp and dirty London and the real world.  Narrator Kate Channing is in pieces, for her romance with aristocratic Seb has ended, partly, she is sure, because of her humble northern origins;  her very best friend Lara is still entwined with Seb’s cousin Tom but that won’t last long;  she has more oomph than she knows what to do with and it needs to be shared around;  Theo of the red hair and uncontrollable blushes (not to mention his inability to tan properly) shocks them all by joining the army, and Caro – smart, spiteful, clever Caro is preparing herself for a stellar legal career:  she will leave them all trailing in her wake. 
            And what of the French girl, Severine, whom no-one gave further thought to as they left?  Apparently, she disappeared after taking the bus to the nearest village, never to be seen again:  oh dear, never mind.  Everyone must move on.
            Until a French detective visits London after a decade to interview all those staying at the farmhouse at the time of Severine’s disappearance:  her cold case has been re-opened for her body has been found in a sealed well on the farmhouse property.  She has been murdered and he has many awkward questions for those who saw her on the last night of her life – and -  quelle horreur! – he seems to regard Kate, now on the brink of success in the corporate world, as his prime suspect.
            It is hard to believe that this is Ms Elliott’s debut novel, for she writes with an easy assurance that most first novelists would furiously envy:  there are no holes in the plot;  the action is fast and furious, and there is a legal end I didn’t see coming – she demonstrates very cleverly the extent that the law can protect and defend everyone, including the criminals.  FIVE STARS.
           

Wednesday, 2 January 2019


JULIA’S TOP TWENTY-ONE!

Hi everyone – it’s that time of year again when all the ’best-of’ lists come out – well, mine would have been posted earlier, except that Christmas intervened.  Anyway, I have read some mighty books this year and hope that you will feel inspired to read some on the list, too.  They are not in any order of preference;  every title has its own great appeal:  happy reading!  (Search by Author.)

1          Sing, Unburied, Sing. By Jesmyn Ward

2          Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout

3          A Long way From Home, by Peter Carey

4          The Woman in the Window, by A. J. Finn

5          Finding Audrey, by Sophie Kinsella                Young Adults

6          The Unquiet Grave, by Sharyn McCrumb

7          The Book of Dust, by Philip Pullman              Young Adults

8          Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
            By Gail Honeyman

9          Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard                     Young Adults

10       Glass Sword, by Victoria Aveyard                   Young Adults

11       The Twelve Mile Straight, by Eleanor
            Henderson

12       Radio Boy, by Christian O’Connell                  Junior Fiction

13       Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

14       Clockdance, by Anne Tyler

15       Anyone for Seconds? By Laurie Graham

16       Children of Blood and Bone,
 by Tomi Adeyemi                                                 Young Adults

17       Preservation, by Jock Serong

18       Apostle Lodge, by Paul Mendelson

19       The Book of Essie, by Meghan MacLean Weir

20       The Survival Game, by Nicky Singer               Young Adults

21       Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver

And, (drum roll, fanfare of trumpets!) on behalf of all the other volunteers (there are lots of us) and staff of our great library at Te Takeretanga-o-Kura-Haupo in Levin, we wish you all a most happy and healthy 2019.  (And let’s hope the weather perks up.)