Rebecca Miller came up with a brilliant premise for a story with ‘The Private Lives of Pippa Lee’, that idea was a story of a married woman in her early fifties with a dark past moving into a retirement village with her 80 year old husband. What could be a better idea? I had visions of a woman causing a stir amongst all the others and creating havoc whilst we learnt the secrets of her past. This isn’t what you get despite the blurb, reviews and hype (as its part of Richard and Judy and everyone is talking about her famous husband and father). What you do get is a very interesting story of a woman at a strange point in her life that is reflecting on her past.
The book starts just after she has moved with her husband Herb as he wants the quieter life and wants to maximise the money he can leave Pippa when he dies. In offering her some stability he also makes her feel old before her time and causes her to have a sort of breakdown through the form of sleep walking, cooking and driving. We then find out all about the life she lived before.
I felt a little let down with her back story, at points it became unbelievable and the fact that her husband knew of her past as he met her during her rebellious phase (there’s major complications in their meeting) so to me her past was only secret to her children. That was a running theme within the story though mother-daughter relationships, Pippa has an awkward relationship with her mother, and while she has a great relationship with her son, she has an awful one with her daughter.
I enjoyed her more when coming back to her current life and she started to rebel in her pottery class. There was also some possible interest in her book group which she went to once where she met various characters who were then never mentioned again. I think the book could have done with being a bit longer so you really got a feel of her personality now and the relationship with her husband, neighbours and if she actually had any friends.
All in all it’s a good book, a slight opportunity missed, but enjoyable and you can read it in one sitting. I would call this ‘The Secret Past of Pippa Lee’ as to be honest she hasn’t had that many dark previous private lives, just a bit of a rebellious phase.
For the last week and a half I have been lost in Victorian London and it’s been fabulous. I have one man to thank for this and that’s Michel Faber. ‘The Crimson Petal & The White’ comes highly hyped and recommended as a modern classic and for once I think this is a title that deserves the praise.
The tale is based around Sugar, a prostitute and the brothels and back alleys she frequents at the beginning to the upper classes she climbs too. Firstly I must say she is a fantastic heroine, she isn’t the prettiest prostitute in the land but she is certainly the most favoured. She’s intelligent, witty and certainly has her wits about her. It tells of her meeting William Rackham, a Perfumery Owner, and all that befalls them and a host of wonderful characters during Sugar’s rise.
I have to say I am not the best with long books, I love reading them but find them daunting however this book draws you in from the first lines. ‘Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them.’ It’s compared on several sites to a Dickensian masterpiece, having not read on of Dickens novels (the shame) yet I cannot compare the two authors. I can say that Michel Faber writes with a fantastic descriptive prose and makes his background characters (such as Mrs Castaway) as fascinating and interesting as the main.
I think what I loved about this was for a historical novel it was real. In fact in some parts quite graphic, I found it quite odd to think my Gran had read these words and that my mother is currently reading them, I’m not sure if some of the language will be discussed in upcoming phone calls. It’s not a book for prudes, or maybe actually it should be. From reading past historical novels not from the original era this had a real heart in comparison. Faber doesn’t try to be really clever by intertwining royalty or well known names (other than Pear’s) or using the powerful tool of hindsight to make him seem a clever writer. He simply uses the Victorian world he has clearly researched in depth to create a fantastic landscape in which his characters inhabit.
Are there any negatives? Not really, I did find some of the occasional business/perfumery descriptions a tad too much and wanted to skim them, I didn’t. Also the end… I didn’t want the book to finish. I have now fortunately remembered that I did a swap for ‘Apple’ Faber’s collection of tales from the characters after ‘The Crimson Petal & The Rose’ part of me wants to dive straight in, however I shall restrain myself and leave Sugar where she is, plus ‘Mister Pip’ has been sat tempting me on the top of my to read pile for a while now.