Thursday, 27 November 2014

Girl on a Wire

Everything could end at any moment. The difference between life and death was one breath, one second, one act. And that meant that life was worth everything, every minute of every day
 
Interesting characters, a slow-building love story and a circus. What's not to like? 

Oh, but I do love me a good circus story. 

It's an excellent subject for a YA novel I think actually, the circus. Or it is, if you assume that all the young adults out there are like I was when I was a young adult myself (I am not one, now *sobsob*). 

I used to dream sometimes, when I was a teenager, of living in a circus, of an old gypsy style caravan (thanks for that Rumer Godden) and of bare feet and The Big Top and the trapeze and a boy with messy hair and a cheeky grin (there was an Enid Blyton book with a boy called Barney who'd grown up in a circus. He had a pet monkey. I think it all stemmed from that....)

This book is pretty much ^^ that. And you know what? It's so refreshing to read a book like this, that's so different to the other (much of it excellent) YA fiction that's out there right now. Kudos to Bond for taking an age old formula and making it new again. Kudos to Bond for taking us to the circus.

Jules Maroni is sixteen. And she's a high wire walker. She convinces her family to take on a role in the prestigious new Cirque American, despite it meaning they have to work alongside The Flying Garcias - a trapeze flying family who have been their rivals for over two decades. Jules wants to ignore all the drama and just focus on being the best high wire act the circus has ever seen, but even she can't ignore the bad luck that seems to be following her around since the move, and the mysterious objects believed to cause bad luck that seem to be following her wherever she goes. Remy Garcia - yep, of The Flying Garcias - seems like an unlikely ally, but he's the only one she's got.....

I was an upside-down rose, a suspended drop of blood, a floating ballerina. I was alone on the wire. I was whatever I felt like being

This book ticks all the boxes. I'm such a sucker for all that it is, with it's slow burning romance and it's well thought out characters and it's exploration of the sub-culture of the circus. It's gripping and exciting and interesting and fine the whole love story is a tad predictable (and do we need to discuss how the main characters are called Julieta and Romeo and come from rival families, or should we just go with it? Let's just go with it.) but Bond more than makes up for that with her ability to build up some honest to God dramatic tension that has you holding your breath and torn between not wanting to turn the page and not being able to do it fast enough. 

You can't help caring about all these kids; you can't help being afraid for them; and you can't help rooting for them (Dita, let me hug you, you darling), and there are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing  - some of them come from nowhere and leave you gasping - which kind of makes the ending fall somewhat flat. Always a shame when that happens is it not? That said, I was a little more 'is that it *sigh*' than 'OH MY GOD RAGE' at the end so don't let that put you off. S'a good book, I promise: the characters are excellent and can be related to, the story is real and honest and exciting and did I mention THE CIRCUS?



You throw caution to the wind, it may blow you away.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy



“It’s all very well for a man to set out of his front door and tell his friend to wait while he walks the length of England. It’s an entirely different kettle of fish when you are the woman at the other end.”



I’m not sure if I ever blogged about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, the rather wonderful story of a man who walks the length of England to visit an old friend who is dying. If I didn’t then I should have done, because Harold Fry’s story is intelligent and inspiring, moving and amusing and filled with a sense of hope. I loved it a whole lot and I have not a single qualm about telling everybody in the world to go read it.

I mention it now because I just finished Rachel Joyce’s latest novel.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey is a companion piece to Harold and tells the story from the other side.

Queenie Hennessey is in a hospice when she gets a letter from an old friend, Harold Fry. He’s coming to see her, he says, and he asks her to wait. Queenie doesn’t think she can wait, she is in the hospice to die after all, but Sister Mary Inconnue, gives her a reason to hang on; as she waits for Harold to walk from South Devon to the North East, with Sister Mary Inconnue’s help, Queenie begins to write to him.

This book is unbearably sad at times and it broke my heart into millions of tiny little pieces, but, at the same time it radiates that same sense of hope that I found when I was reading Harold.
It’s injected with a sense of humour that makes you huff out a laugh as your chest tightens, makes you smile as your eyes fill with tears and whilst the ending is (obviously) anything but happy, there’s a sense of satisfaction that Queenie’s life has gone full circle. The whole book from start to finish is nothing if not bittersweet: Queenie’s story; her memories of Harold; the other characters in the hospice with their own heartbreaking stories that bring a little colour to Queenie’s quiet life, it’s all so very very lovely and it all hurts, more and more as the book goes on. This book left my chest tight and my heart in my throat but I am so pleased that I got to know Queenie Hennessey.