Claire McGowan – I Know You

Claire McGowan – I Know You

When teenager Casey Adams leaves for Los Angeles, she hopes that her job as a nanny with a Hollywood film maker will be the first step in a career. Yet, David is hardly at home and his wife Abby is not only frustrated as she does not get any acting offers anymore but also totally unable to cope with her two kids, 5-year-old Madison and baby Carson. All is left to Casey who herself struggles with the tasks being young and unexperienced with kids. Things develop in the worst imaginable way ending in a family drama. Twenty years later in England, Rachel finds herself accused of the murder of her boy-friend’s wife. All evidence is against her, why did she run when she accidentally stumbled over the body in the woods and not call the police? Rachel has a reason to stay away from murder as she knows how death row feels.

Claire McGowan has created another highly suspenseful and complex psychological thriller. Casey’s and Rachel’s story alternate, it only takes a couple of pages to realise how they are linked and why the two plot lines are connected over such a long time and two quite unalike places. Both murder cases are interesting to follow even though they could hardly be more different and the fact that there is a common ground gives it a little extra of suspense.

It is easy to comprehend Casey’s feeling of exhaustion as she is not really prepared for her job as a nanny. Working for a glamorous family sounded great only on paper, reality hits her hard, but she has a good heart and tries to do what is best for the kids. It takes some time for her to understand the underlying mechanics of the family, that David and Abby’s relationship is going down the plughole and that all she can do is make sure the kids are all right. Until they aren’t anymore. Being accused of multiple murder, nobody wants to believe her, that is the hardest part of the story because you can easily empathise with her despair in telling them about her innocence without being heard. Yet, there are some gaps in her story and the question is looming if she can actually be believed.

Rachel on the other hand, is a lot stronger but nevertheless also a prime suspect whom everybody turns their back to when the police start to question her. She is also alone and tries to prove her innocence. It is obvious that somebody tries to frame her, the big question is just: who would want to do such a thing and why?

A great read that I totally adored. Two wonderful protagonists who are multifaceted in their character traits and a suspenseful plot which brilliantly links the two stories.

Alexandra Kleeman – Something New Under the Sun

Alexandra Kleeman – SOmething New Under the Sun

Patrick Hamlin leaves the east coast when his novel is turned into a film. This promises to be his big breakthrough, especially since Cassidy Carter is going to play the lead role. The young film and internet star is sure to attract a great audience. But from the start, Patrick has the sensation that strange things are going on. First, the bunch of youngsters who should care for him but do not seem to have a clue about the job and also Brenda and Jay who hardly show an interest in the film they are about to produce. That life on the west coast differs from his eastern home does not surprise Patrick, yet the extent is astonishing since people heavily rely on a product called WAT-R instead of the ordinary water he knows. At the beginning, he is just annoyed by all the things which seem to go wrong and Cassidy’s diva attitude, however, after a couple of days, the hints that there is something really going on behind the scenes are hard to ignore anymore and thus, Patrick starts to investigate.

Alexandra Kleeman‘s novel is the perfect read of the moment. Many people around the globe are unsure about what to believe and convinced that there is some kind of deep going conspiracy the ordinary people cannot see and therefore are just figures in a game without realising it. The ecological crisis with water shortage and raging wildfires in California is another aspect she cleverly incorporates into the plot.

The reader, together with Patrick, tries to make sense of the things he experiences in California while his wife and daughter at home seems to have fallen prey to a strange cult which goes into the complete opposite rejecting all modern technology and focussing on basic needs and a reduced life on a farm outside town. While worrying about his family, Patrick cannot see clear and lacks support in his mixed feelings about the incidents on the film set.

Cassidy is first presented in a way you would expect a young superstar to behave. However, her personality turns out to differ heavily from the public egocentric diva image thus revealing one of the few critically thinking and actually caring people.

Even though the idea behind the plot is great and alluring, it was hard for me to really indulge in the novel. Yet, I liked Kleeman’s style of writing and will surely look out to read more of her.

Anne Enright – Actress [dt. Die Schauspielerin]

Anne Enright – Actress [dt. Die Schauspielerin]

Norah erinnert sich an ihre Mutter Katherine O’Dell, eine legendäre, jedoch inzwischen verstorbene Schauspielerin. Sie zeichnet das Leben des jungen Mädchens aus Irland nach, das es an die Londoner Theater und bis nach Hollywood schaffte, den größten Ruhm jedoch durch den Mordanschlag auf den Produzenten Boyd O‘Neill erlangte. Katherine lebte für die Bühne und den schönen Schein, das reale Leben spielte bei ihr immer nur die zweite Rolle, wie auch ihre Tochter, der sie nie verriet, wer ihr Vater war und die in jungen Jahren bei ihren Männerbekanntschaften sich auch des Eindrucks nicht erwehren konnte, dass diese mehr Interesse an der schillernden Mutter als an der blassen Tochter hatten.  Ein Leben wie im Rausch, das ein tragisches Ende nahm. Doch wie konnte es so weit kommen?

Die Autorin selbst hat das Hörbuch eingesprochen, was oft ein Wagnis ist, aber Anne Enright hat eine wundervolle Stimme, der man gerne folgt und die hervorragend zu Norah passt. Mal verbittert, mal traurig, oft bewundernd aber letztlich überwiegend mit dem Gefühl, dem Menschen, der ihr am nächsten Stand nicht wirklich nahegekommen zu sein.

Katherine war eine öffentliche Figur, die die Rollen, in die sie beruflich schlüpfte, perfekt umsetzte. Aber auch in ihrem Privatleben hatte sie unzählige Gesichter und wechselte zwischen den Rollen, die sie selbst erschaffen hatte. Ein Leben als Performance, was unweigerlich eine Distanz zur Tochter schaffte, dieser aber in dem fiktiven Rückblick auch erlaubt einen neutralen und nicht durch Emotionen vorgezeichneten Blick auf das Leben der Mutter zu werfen. Als Schriftstellerin ist sie auch prädestiniert, die unzähligen Facetten angemessen wiederzugeben. Gleichzeitig wird die Biografie aber auch zu einer Analyse der Mutter-Tochter-Beziehung, die quasi auf den Kopf gestellt ist: die Tochter ist die realistische, nachdenkliche, die nicht spontan agiert und sich permanent um die Mutter sorgt.

Anne Enright ist eine klassische Erzählerin, die eine durchdacht konstruierte Geschichte erschaffen hat, die insbesondere als Hörbuch neben den Worten auch ganz viel von dem transportiert, was in den Figuren vor sich geht.

Scott O’Connor – A Perfect Universe

scott-oconnor-a-perfect-universe
Scott O’Connor – A Perfect Universe

“A Perfect Universe“ is a collection of ten stories all set in California, yet not the Hollywood California of stars and success, but the part where life is a bit sadder and less full of hopes. It’s about a young man buried under a building which had crumbled, a business woman hated by the other clients in a coffee shop, a relationship which ended and does not provide solace anymore, a woman’s preparation for a big day which ends in a disappointment, a girl hearing voices, a class of men trying to control their emotions and others. Scott O’Connor provides a huge variety of topics, yet all taken right from life. His characters are not the rich and famous, not the especially talented or gifted. It’s the average boy and girl or their grown-up version.

As always in collections of stories, you like some more and others less. I cannot really say why this is the case, since it’s neither due to the topic nor the protagonist that I prefer some. The first one, “Hold On” got me immediately. The man waiting to be rescued, finding comfort and hope in the woman’s voice who is reading out their names, thus signalling them that they are not forgotten but searched for. His anger when the mayor decides to give up and the joy of surviving after all – you could easily feel the emotional rollercoaster Robert went through.

“Interstellar Space” also caught me, but this time there isn’t much hope, it’s a really melancholy story of schizophrenia. Her slowly deteriorating condition is sad to read. She seemed to be bright, joyful and lively and suddenly her mind decides to play tricks on her and have her finished in a hospital, locked-up in her body and the world outside shut out.

One which made me ruminate a bit was “The Plagiarist”. I often wonder if there can be indeed something completely new that can be written or if not rather all has already been said somehow. How can today’s works actually be “original”? There are some plot concepts that you can easily recognize, phrases that have been used again and again – so, what is invented and what is rather copied?