Mixed Summer Reading

A twofer today…

Yeah! Everyone Is Still Alive by Cathy Rentzenbrink

After loving Cathy Rentzenbrink’s heartbreaking but witty memoir The Last Act of Love, (and having her semi-memoir Dear Reader on my shelves which I hope to get to in my 20 Books of Summer 21), I was always going to be interested in reading her first novel – but with slight trepidation, as it would appear to be aimed at the commercial market and I don’t read much of that. However, I enjoyed Dawn French’s Women’s Prize longlisted Because of You earlier this year, and being au fait with Rentzenbrink’s writing skills, I crossed my fingers.

I needn’t have worried, because Everyone Is Still Alive is full of wit and wisdom about grief, moving house, work, marriage, parenting and motherhood, with nods towards TV’s Motherland school-gate mums. It lacked a little bite perhaps, but was really enjoyable and a great summer read – give me more. (8.5/10)

Read my full review at Shiny HERE.

Source: Review copy – thank you! Cathy Rentzenbrink, Everyone Is Still Alive (Phoenix) 291 pages, hardback.

BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link (free UK P&P)

A bit meh! The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle

Remember the film Dead Calm with Nicole Kidman? Notable for being an Australian three-hander set on an ocean-going yacht. Well this psychological thriller by NZ author Rose Carlyle also has a yacht on the ocean, and twins!

Not just any kind of twins though. Summer and Iris are that extremely rare phenomenon–mirror twins–Iris’s organs mirror Summer’s–her heart isn’t where it should be! Iris has always felt inferior to her older perfect sister, despite them being otherwise identical. Summer has a husband, Seychellois Adam, and a ready-made family in Adam’s young son Tarquin (yes!) by his first wife (who died). Adam and Summer also bought Bathsheba, the twins’ late father’s yacht, and they’re living on it. This is despite sailing being the thing that Iris did with her father, never Summer: the yacht should be hers.

When she gets a phone call from Summer in Thailand, saying that their child needs an operation, asking her to sail the yacht to the Seychelles with Adam, as their Thai licence for it had run out, Iris is very keen to help and flies out to discover she’ll be crewing with Summer not Adam, and Summer confides that she’s pregnant. The conditions of their father’s will leaves the entirety of his millions to whichever of his offspring marries and has a child first. It’s going to turn into a race–of course it is–the eldest of the twins’ younger half-siblings by his second wife is about to turn 18.

Where we have mirror twins, there’ll be one good, one bad; one rich, one poor; and there’ll be impersonation of course, probably involving sex with the other one’s partner. I know this because I read Mad by Chloe Esposito, which was wise-cracking good fun (even if that book’s sequel Bad was too OTT). Where we have a boat, someone will go overboard–you know it’s going to happen! Where we have a will with conditions, there’ll be major shenanigans in the family. This thriller has all of this in spades.

I feel really guilty about not loving this thriller, especially because the publisher sent it out with a lovely box of summer goodies (thank you!). However, I felt I’d heard it all before. Iris was such a grudge-filled downer for most of the book, and I didn’t care about any of the characters bar bit-player younger brother Ben who was interesting but didn’t get enough time. The many plot twists got more and more ridiculous, and I found it rather humourless.

There was one thing I really liked though–the yacht–I could do with one of those! (5.5/10)

Source: Review copy – thank you! Rose Carlyle, The Girl in the Mirror (Corvus) paperback, 362 pages.

BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link (free UK P&P)

14 thoughts on “Mixed Summer Reading

  1. Liz Dexter says:

    Oh no! I don’t think all mirror twins have their innards opposite, as my best friend has them (and they’re 21 so we’d know by now!). They did have their first tooth come in in the same place on opposite sides, though!

  2. Laura says:

    I thought The Last Act of Love was so incredibly moving. I heard Rentzenbrink talk about Everyone Is Still Alive a while back and although it does sound good, I am a bit tired of books about motherhood at the moment.

  3. Rebecca Foster says:

    I have the Rentzenbrink on order from the library and I’m looking forward to it. I’m expecting it to be fairly light, which is perfect for summer reading.

  4. JacquiWine says:

    As frustrating as it might seem, I think we need to read the occasional ‘meh’ book to make the really good stuff stand out! Glad to hear that you enjoyed the Rentzenbrink so much – it sounds nicely balanced in terms of tone.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      You’re absolutely right Jacqui. Most people probably do, but few blog about the less good reading experiences. The occasional less good thriller makes for a great palate cleanser, I find.

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