Category Archives: Mary Swan

The Boys in the Trees – Mary Swan

It always amazes me when a book intrigues me, then bores me, then intrigues me again. In most cases you could give the book up when it gets to that mid point and you are a bit lost and you don’t really care what is going to happen and in some cases I would but ‘The Boys in the Trees’ was a NTTVBG book and like any book group I try my damnedest to finish a book of and I think in the case of Mary Swan’s first book it was worth it.

‘The Boys in the Trees’ is less a fictional account of a specific dark event in a small town/village but more the ripples that are left in peoples lives after that event. William Heath arrive in the fictional Canadian town of Emden after the death of most of their children (and possibly some other more secret events) in their previous life in the UK. The Heaths believe that this will be a wonderful new start and that they can begin life again. However this isn’t the case and an event of awful proportions happens to the family that affects the whole of the town. This isn’t the main story in fact it’s using this as the backdrop that Mary Swan’s debut novel looks into the lives of some of the villagers as the dreadful event and its effects ripple through the community affecting differing people in differing ways.

You might all be thinking ‘that’s a bit vague’ but really it needs to be not to ruin anything for those of you who are yet to read the book (mind you if you have read the synopsis on Amazon you will know, ha). Now before any of you do read this, I should really explain in more detail why I had rather a rollercoaster relationship with this book. The opening ‘prologue’ simply called ‘Before’ read in some ways like a slightly melodramatic thriller which to me didn’t match the books cover at all and so I read on and learned some of the Heaths life before Canada through Naomi, Williams wife, with chemical measurements interspersed which confused me a little. Then suddenly I was catapulted into the world of Alice a teacher of the Heaths daughter Rachel. Then I got put into several other narrations getting slightly more lost along the way and becoming a little vexed with the book yet Swan’s rather beautiful prose kept me going to a degree and the fact I had invested so much time into the first half and a bit I needed to read on.

Thank goodness I did because actually the last chapter of the book completely saved the whole thing for me. Written by Eaton, a friend of one of the Heaths children, this chapter (which I won’t say too much about) both utterly captivated me and shocked me all in one go. You see sometimes a book can be worth reading just for that last chapter or 30 pages and this for me was the case with ‘The Boys in the Trees’. Did I love it, not really! Would I recommend it to other people to read, quite possibly! An odd state of events to find myself in considering I was thinking of giving up half way but for me it was all about that last chapter, which if had simply been a short story would possibly be one of the best short stories I have ever read.

Interesting that I felt that way as after finishing the book and giving it some space I read the ‘Q&A’ with the author at the back and it appears Mary Swan started this whole book when she wanted to right a short story which became the last chapter. I think I might have to look up her short story collection as if each one is as good as, or possibly even better, than that last chapter it must be quite a remarkable collection. You can see the full discussion that was had at the last NTTVBG here, this I have to say would be a marvellous ‘face-to-face’ book group choice as I can imagine it would have people quite divided.

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Don’t forget to join us for the next NTTVBG title ‘A Short Gentleman’ by Jon Carter which Kirsty will be holding at Other Stories, a book I will admit I voted for because of the cover alone!.

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Filed under Mary Swan, Not The TV Book Group, Review

Not The TV Book Group… The List

So if you guessed that the short list of books for the Not The TV Book Group might include; a Vampire with amnesia, a girl turning into glass, an environmental data collector in post-war France and Virginia Woolf… then well done you! If you hadn’t guessed that intriguing combination then you will be as surprised as Kim, Kirsty, Lynne and myself were after a ‘meeting of minds’ that started at 12pm and finished at about 3pm.

Yes finally we have come up with what we hope will be eight unusual and interesting reads for us all to discuss over 8 Sundays in the next 18 weeks – we decided to take out bank holiday weekends – each one of us inviting you round to our blogs to have a good old chat, maybe some banter and possibly some heated debate. Enough of me waffling on, you just want to know what the books are so without further ado…

I hope you will agree it’s a rather eclectic mixture of genres, authors, stories and publishers and one that you will all want to join in with as we have all very much had you in mind whilst doing this. We have held of starting the first read too soon so you can get to your library, a book store (new or old) or any online places of note to get copies and we really hope you join in. In case you are wondering why I have put links to a certain site on, its just so you can see covers and blurbs etc not because we are affiliated with it, just so you know.

How did I choose from so many books? Well I read maybe the first 20 pages of almost any book that fitted the criteria (out in last five years, hadn’t already written about etc, etc) and then looked at what was a bit different, what would make for good discussion and what would also be readable to more than just me but might take you slightly off the beaten bookish tracks. I then whittled them down till I got four books that matched all that criteria and yet were all very different. I have to say I am really quite pleased as my two favorites were the ones that got chosen from my final four.

I have been hankering after Ali Shaw’s ‘The Girl with the Glass Feet’ ever since I heard the title, which sounds a bit random but it’s the truth. The fact that it has been described as a modern adult fairytale and frankly it was almost  job done. Then reading the synopsis I was sold 100%. It also helped that I won this very recently from the lovely Gaskella as it was a book I had been hankering after for ages, it isn’t physically in the building yet but is on its way!

A mysterious metamorphosis has taken hold of Ida MacLaird – she is slowly turning into glass. Fragile and determined to find a cure, she returns to the strange, enchanted island where she believes the transformation began, in search of reclusive Henry Fuwa, the one man who might just be able to help…Instead she meets Midas Crook, and another transformation begins: as Midas helps Ida come to terms with her condition, they fall in love. What they need most is time – and time is slipping away fast.

Neil Barlett is an author who has quite a cult following but I don’t personally think that he has had enough attention. ‘Skin Lane’ is his third book and is described as a “taut little psycho-shocker” by none other than Will Self an author I really enjoy. I also liked the idea of a thriller being thrown in the mix and it sounds like this will be thrilling and creepy.

At 47, Mr. F’s working life on London’s Skin Lane is one governed by calm, precision and routine. So, when he starts to have frightening, recurring nightmares, he does his best to ignore them. The images that appear in his dream are disturbing – Mr. F can’t for the life of him think where they have come from. After all, he’s a perfectly ordinary middle-aged man. As London’s crooked backstreets begin to swelter in the long, hot summer of 1967, Mr. F’s nightmare becomes an obsession. A chance encounter adds a face to the body that nightly haunts him, and the torments of his sweat-drenched nights lead him – and the reader – deeper into a terrifying labyrinth of rage, desire and shame.”

Do pop and see Dovegreyreader, Kimbofo and Other Stories to find out which were their choices and how they chose them – they will probably be more insightful than me as I feel utterly shattered! Book short listing is fun though tiring, who’d have known? What were the other two… I can’t say I might need them for series two if this one goes well!

I will be posting a new page tomorrow morning with the list, all their covers and their blurbs, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Oh, I have only just realized that both my final chosen books were Costa Award Nominee’s, I am hoping that is a good sign!?! I hope you will be joining in be it here or there or for the whole run. I am now off to have a bookish break; I am truly booked out and so will hand over to you, what do you make of my choices, and of course the list as a whole?

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Filed under Ali Shaw, Jennifer Johnston, Jon Canter, Mary Swan, Neil Bartlett, Not The TV Book Group, Octavia E. Butler, Philippe Claudel, Susan Sellers