I was recently sent two books by the lovely people at Penguin Books and today, I’m sharing my thoughts on them!
Love is Blind
What the book is about…
Love is Blind is William Boyd’s sweeping, heart-stopping new novel. Set at the end of the 19th century, it follows the fortunes of Brodie Moncur, a young Scottish musician, about to embark on the story of his life.
When Brodie is offered a job in Paris, he seizes the chance to flee Edinburgh and his tyrannical clergyman father, and begin a wildly different new chapter in his life. In Paris, a fateful encounter with a famous pianist irrevocably changes his future – and sparks an obsessive love affair with a beautiful Russian soprano, Lika Blum. Moving from Paris to St Petersburg to Edinburgh and back again, Brodie’s love for Lika and its dangerous consequences pursue him around Europe and beyond, during an era of overwhelming change as the nineteenth century becomes the twentieth.
Love is Blind is a tale of dizzying passion and brutal revenge; of artistic endeavour and the illusions it creates; of all the possibilities that life can offer, and how cruelly they can be snatched away. At once an intimate portrait of one man’s life and an expansive exploration of the beginning of the twentieth century, Love is Blind is a masterly new novel from one of Britain’s best loved storytellers.
What I thought of it…
I struggled to summarise how I feel about this one. I neither loved it nor hated it. I felt apathetic towards both the protagonist and the love story. I didn’t mind the writing at first but it did become a bit too wordy as it went on. It took a lot of concentration, especially with the inclusion of all the French and Russian names and phrases.
Considering this is historical fiction, I was surprised by the amount of swearing and lude sexual descriptions that were included. Coupled with a few other minor things that felt inconsistent with the time period, I felt frustrated on a number of occasions.
Obviously, I loved all the talk of pianos but, sadly, this was really just a device to move the story between locations. It felt like a bit of a geography lesson at times. The plot itself was very weak and if I had to describe to someone what this book is about, I would struggle to think of much to say!
Overall, this was fairly bland and I feel like I will forget about it rather quickly.
I rated this book 3 stars.
The Silence of the Girls
What the book is about…
The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman: Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman watches and waits for the war’s outcome: Briseis. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.
When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position to observe the two men driving the Greek forces in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate, not only of Briseis’s people, but also of the ancient world at large.
Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war–the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead–all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis’s perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker’s latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives–and it is nothing short of magnificent.
What I thought of it…
I initially picked this up to read a couple of months ago but found it hard to get into. I’m really glad that I put it down and came back to it at a later point because I found it much more accessible and gripping on my second try!
It feels strange to say I enjoyed this, when it really is about the atrocities of war, so instead I’ll say that I found it a powerful and visceral read. Barker created some really strong imagery and captured the harsh realities of these women in some truly harrowing scenes. Briseis had a very compelling narrative voice and I sympathised with her enormously.
I’ve never read The Iliad but I’m intrigued now after this excellent feminist reimagining.
I rated this book 4 stars.
Have you read either of these books? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! x