Lauren Oyler – Fake Accounts

Lauren Oyler – Fake Accounts

When the unnamed narrator seizes the chance to snoop through her boyfriend’s phone – which he normally does not let out of his sight – she discovers that he has a large Instagram account on which he spreads conspiracy theories. She is confused but admittedly, she was already thinking about splitting up and now she’s got a good reason. However, her plan – telling him after returning from the women’s march against Trump – fails totally because when she’s still in Washington, his mother informs her of his fatal bike accident. Even though she already was detached emotionally, this hits her hard and literally throws her out of her life. She quits her job and travels to Berlin, the city where they first met and where she hopes to find out what she expects from life and what she actually wants to do professionally.

Lauren Oyler’s novel is a portrait of a somehow lost generation who lives a double life: one in the real world, where many of them are lost and orbiting around aimlessly, and one in the online world, where they can create an idea of themselves, a person they would like to be and play a role according to their likes. Yet, the more followers they generate, the more narcissistic they become and inevitably, the fake life in the world-wide web has an impact on reality, too. Slowly, they also start to create fake personalities there and increasingly lack the necessary authenticity and sincerity it needs to have serious relationship with others.

The narrator lives such a life in both spheres at the same time, her job involves roaming the net for good stories she can re-use and pimp for the magazine she works at. After leaving her old life behind and moving to Europe, she does not even start to create a new life in Berlin, neither does she try to learn German nor does she really make acquaintances. She dates people she gets to know online simply to tell each one a different story about who she is – she successfully transfers the possibility of a fake online account into real life. However, this does not make her any happier.

In a certain way, this is funny and ironic since it is so much over the top that it cannot be real. But is it really? Are people still able to make a distinction between the two? And which consequences does this have for us? We are all aware of how photos can be photoshopped, how information online can be embellished or simply wrong and we pay attention when we are approached by someone online whom we don’t know. In real life however, don’t we expect that people tell us the truth at least to a certain extent? And especially in a relationship, aren’t sincerity and truthfulness necessary foundations to build trust in each other?

An interesting study in how far our online behaviour may fire back – not something we can really wish for. Even though the tone is light and often funny, is leaves you somehow with a bad aftertaste.

Annabel Lyon – Consent

Annabel Lyon – Consent

Saskia and Jenny are twins but only equal in looks, their personalities could hardly differ more. Where Saskia is diligent and studious, Jenny enjoys life at the fullest and is always looking for some more thrill. Only a car accident in which she is seriously injured can put an end to her posh and impulsive lifestyle and brings the sisters back together. Mattie and Sara are sisters, too, the first with an intellectual disability, the second striving for academic success and the life she knows from stylish magazines. The latter sister pair, too, moves apart only to be forced together by fate again. Looking for reasons behind the tragic events, Saskia and Sara recognise that there is an unexpected link between them which goes far beyond the parallels of their sisterhoods.

I totally adored the first half on Annabel Lyon’s novel. Showing four young women emancipating themselves, developing personalities and ideas of who they want to be and how they want to live their life was wonderful to read. Even though the parallels show quite from the start, they are two quite unique sets of siblings which do have complicated but nevertheless deep bonds. Especially when Saskia and Sara come to the critical points in their sisters’ lives, they themselves are hit to the core, too, and have to make far-going decisions which also deeply impact their own lives. Throughout the novel, we see a great elaboration of characters with very authentic nuances and facets.

The second half did not convince me that much which, I assume, was mainly due to the fact that the central aspect of the relationships between the sisters was lost by then. Even though here the link between the two pairs was established and some secrets revealed, I found it lacked a bit of depths.

I found the title quite interestingly chosen, very often, “consent” is immediately associated with relationships and intercourse, but in the novel, however, also other aspects, e.g. to what extent the sisters approve of each other’s choices and decisions is explored. Especially Saskia investigates her sister’s life and by walking in her shoes, detects new sides of herself.

Emily Houghton – Before I Saw You

Emily Houghton – Before I Saw You

After a fire at her work place seriously injured her, Alice finds herself in St Francis’s Hospital in a very poor state. She does not even want to look in the mirror for fear of what she might see, and she definitely does not want others to see the monster she has become. Thus, the patients in her ward have to live with the voice coming from behind the drawn curtains. At first, she refuses contact but over the time she realises that old Mr Petersen and especially Alfie Mack next to her are likable people who make staying in hospital a lot more acceptable. Alfie is the good soul of their small community, always funny and entertaining, spreading warmth and hope. At night, however, he is haunted by the accident which made him lose his leg and all the negative emotions he pushes back during daylight. Slowly, the two of them bond, yet, without ever seeing each other.

Emily Houghton tells the story of two people who have to go through a very hard time: the lives they had have ceased to exist from one second to the next and now, they find themselves in a kind of void between before and after. Quite naturally, sharing the similar experiences makes them bond easily, on the other hand, how can you open up to another person and make new friends or even more when you haven’t come to grips with your own situation, yet? The author gives her characters the time they need to adjust and to stretch out a hand.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Even though there is a lot of sadness due to the accidents the characters had to go through and the hardship they have to endure while healing, the plot is full of love and care which makes you believe in the good in mankind and – of course – in love. Beautifully narrated by highlighting the anxieties and thoughts Alice and Alfie go through which again and again keep them from doing what should be done but which is simply a hurdle too high to take at that moment. What I liked most was the fact that Alice and Alfie fell in love other without seeing each other, they can surely say that it is the character that counts and which attracted them.

A heart-warming story providing hope and confidence when life seems to be too hard to endure.

Laurence Peyrin – Les jours brûlants

laurence peyrin les jours brûlants
Laurence Peyrin – Les jours brûlants

Joanne mène la vie typique d’une épouse et mère dans la petite ville de Modesto dans les années 70. Son mari Thomas travaille comme médecin et elle s’occupe des enfants et du ménage. Mais un jour, un incident bouleverse toute sa vie : un agresseur lui fait tomber de son vélo et vole son sac. Elle n’a pas de graves blessures mais le fait d’être devenu victime l’empêche de retourner dans la vie et de se sentir à l’aise. Quand Thomas lui refuse plus de médicaments, elle boit de l’alcool, puis, son comportement change : au supermarché, elle échange les chariots et prépare les dîners avec ce que d’autres personnes ont voulu acheter pour sentir un peu la normalité qu’elle-même ne retrouve plus. Un jour, après une phrase de trop de Thomas, elle se voit confrontée à une décision : ou elle se suicide ou elle recommence avec une autre vie. C’est ainsi que la nouvelle Joanne naît : à Las Vegas, derrière un comptoir d’un bar comme la reine des cocktails.

Laurence Peyrin raconte l’histoire d’une personne qui est déracinée violemment de sa vie. C’est un incident inférieur, plutôt une chose pour s’énerver et se fâcher, mais rien d’important. Pour Joanne, au contraire, c’est un moment décisif, quoique saine physiquement, son esprit et son caractère changent profondément. C’est la peur de devenir victime une deuxième fois, l’impression de ne pas être comprise, la recherche de n’importe quoi pour arrêter les pensées de tourner en rond et pour oublier cette journée fatale.

Mais l’auteur raconte aussi l’histoire de personnes qui montrent de la bienfaisance, qui ne jugent pas et qui ne posent pas trop de questions, mais qui sont là pour les autres et qui les acceptent comme ils viennent. Au Bunny Bunny, Joanne est un personnage sans passé mais pour qui il y a un présent et peut-être un avenir qu’elle crée elle-même. Une famille composée de personnes en fuite, mais une sorte de famille avec des règles strictes qui donnent de l’orientation pour ceux perdus dans la vie.

Il y ce slogan fameux « What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas » pour attirer les visiteurs avec la promesse que leurs secrets seront bien cachés là-bas, mais ce sont aussi les âmes perdues qui s’y retrouvent. Une ville artificielle qui offre la possibilité de s’inventer de nouveau – et d’oublier d’où on vient.

J’ai bien aimé ce roman plein de compassion qui offre beaucoup à réfléchir.

John Marrs – The Passengers

John Marrs – The Passengers

“Who in their right mind would want to send someone to their death?”

Cadman read the tablet he held

“Approximately two hundred thousand people so far – and that’s based only on what’s trending on Twitter.”

When mental nurse Libby is called into a jury to decide on accidents caused by self-drive cars, she is astonished since she never kept her position on those a secret. Having witnessed an evil crash, she is absolutely against handing over control to AI. But she never expected the outcome of her jury session, nobody in there would ever have expected this. Soon after they started, the system is taken over by a Hacker claiming to have taken over eight self-drive cars and threatening to have them collide in two and a half hours. The jury has the chance to save one of them, should they not comply with his rules, he would immediately kill one after the other. But not only the jury would be there to judge, also the world outside could be part of the show and have their vote via social media. It’s the show of the year and the prize is high: it’s your life and you aren’t even asked if you want to take part in it.

John Marrs’ thriller really caught me by surprise and left a deep impression. Not only is the story masterly crafted with many unexpected twists and turns, no, it also mirrors our own behaviour in many different ways thus making you flinch at times because you recognise yourself and feel ashamed soon after. It surely is an absolute must-read for everybody using any kind of technology.

I hardly know where to begin with this novel. There are so many topics and layers that don’t make it easy to find a beginning. First of all, the setting of this evil game. Forcing people to make a decision over life and death is not just unfair, it is impossible. Yet, given no other way out, the jury has to come to a decision based on the information they have and only later do they find out that core aspects have been omitted which cast a completely different light on the person they have just sentenced to death. As a reader, you follow their verdict and often agree – running into the open knife just like they did. All passengers have something evil they hide, but the world isn’t simply black and white and only the whole picture provides you with what you would have needed to know before coming to a final decision. Too often we come to a conclusion fat too soon before we know all we should.

Second, the role of technology in our life surely should be questioned a lot more. The self-drive cars could definitely help to ease the situation in frequently gridlocked cities, on the other hand: what’s the price we pay for this? Providing more from the novel would spoil the fun, but as could be assumed, there is much more behind that we undeniably should think about before welcoming all technological advances. Also the role of social media should be seen a lot more critical than we do at the moment. Marrs goes so far as to give Twitter a vote – without anybody knowing who or what is behind it.

The protagonists also are very interesting in their own ways. Not just Libby, but also the passengers and of course Jack Larsson, the minister, are carefully drawn and offer a lot questionable traits of character.

I am totally flashed by this ambitious novel for which I am actually lacking the words to honour it.

Christine Desrousseaux – En attendant la neige

Christine Desrousseaux – En attendant la neige

Après un accident de voiture, Véra se retrouve au coma. Quand elle se réveille, elle n’a aucune mémoire de ce qui s’est passé. Elle décide de quitter l’hôpital pour passer quelques jours retirée dans un chalet d’un ami au Jura. L’hiver approche déjà et elle sait que soudain la neige va tomber et elle devra quitter son refuge. Quand elle s’effondre dans la forêt, elle fait la connaissance d’un voisin mystérieux : Andreas Ballmer. Il est venu au Jura pour chercher Laura et lui aussi a l’impression que les habitants du village voisin sont plutôt hostiles. Vient la neige, viennent aussi les secrets bien cachés. C’est non seulement la mémoire de Véra qui en a caché quelques-uns, mais aussi Andreas et d’autres du village. Et ils sont prêts à faire tout pour les laisser cachés.

« En attendant la neige » commence plutôt tranquillement, d’abord, j’avais l’impression qu’il s’agisse d’un roman psychologique dans lequel une femme se met à penser sur la vie et de prendre des décisions en ce qui concerne son avenir. Mais, c’est vite que de petits trucs se passent qui sont un peu étranges et qu’on ne peut pas situer facilement : la jeune femme, a-t-elle subi de plus graves blessures crâniales qu’on ne supposait au début ? A un certain point, le roman devient un policier et le suspense s’installe et on veut bien savoir ce qui s’est passé pendant l’accident de Véra, mais aussi qui est cette fameuse Laura et quelle est sa relation avec Andreas.

J’ai bien aimé le style de Christine Desrousseaux, quoique ce soir un policier, le ton est plutôt doux et mélancolique. Les deux personnages principaux sont intéressants et ils ont une histoire qu’ils révèlent peu à peu et qui les fait apparaître humain et authentique. La fin ouverte était un peu surprenante, mais je la trouvais appropriée néanmoins.

Richard Lawson – All we can do is wait

Richard Lawson – All we can do is wait

An awful accident brings a bunch of teenager together in the waiting area of a hospital: a Boston bridge collapsed during busy traffic and now they are waiting for news. Scott is afraid that his girlfriend Aimee might be amongst the dead. Skyler was on the telephone with her sister when Kate suddenly broke away. Jason and Alex fear the worst about their parents who were on the way to Alexa’s school. And Morgan already knows that her father is not alive anymore. While they are condemned to wait in the sterile area without any information, they all recall the last couple of months, what they went through with the loved ones, the good sides and the bad ones. But sharing this feeling of utmost anxiety also brings out things which were long buried and in the morning, they are not the same anymore.

“All we can do is wait” has the classic drama setting: all characters in one place, waiting for the moment when they are either relieved or their biggest fear is confirmed. There is nothing they can do to change the situation, they have to sit and wait for the verdict. No matter what they wish or pray for, their fate is already sealed but they do not know about it.

Richard Lawson makes his young protagonists alternate in the narration. Each chapter is dedicated to one of them and slowly their lives unfold. Thus, we are not constantly in the situation of extreme stress in the waiting room, but look back also on happy moments full of joy and love. But the sword of Damocles of looming over them all the time and inevitable we return to the hospital.

The story is full of emotion, positive and negative ones, and the author created authentic and lovable characters who are credible in their fears and hopes. They already show whom they are going to be in a couple of years and yet, they are still adolescents with great hopes and wishes. Apart from this, there is obviously a lot of suspense because you just want to know what happened to their friends, sister and parents. This just makes you read on and on and on. I really loved the novel even though it is a rather melancholy story that is told.