The Good People by Hannah Kent – Book Review.

Title: The Good People

Author: Hannah Kent

Rating: 4/5

Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Gothic, Literary, Irish Fiction


As a reviewer with Irish roots, I’ve always been drawn to tales set in the Emerald Isle. After visiting Ireland a few times, and exploring the Ring of Kerry and the mountains around Dingle, there is a clear sense of ancient magic and wilderness that just oozes from this beautiful country.

So when I was skipping through my Kindle feed (yes I read on the Kindle half the time. With my newest handbag being a Chanel Jumbo, I find it much easier to carry a small Kindle around rather than a beefy paperback), I stumbled upon The Good People by Hannah Kent and immediately got sucked into the story.

crohane21

Set in a valley in County Kerry, Ireland, The Good People intertwines folklore, religion, and science in this female-led narrative which is heavily based on their belief of ‘The Good People’ – fairies and creatures that live and cause illness/misfortune to people.

When Nóra’s husband Martin dies and leaves her a bereft widow in the rural community of Crohane, misfortune seems to fall across the valley like a toxin. The cows don’t milk, the crops keep failing and a stillborn baby is delivered, all to the horror of the local population. And fingers and rumours are drawn towards Nóra’s house, as she hides a terrible secret. Her grandson, Micheál – a once thriving boy – has been delivered back to Nóra after the death of her daughter. But much has changed with the boy. The child is unable to walk, speak or even properly communicate, which baffles Nóra as she struggles to bond or care for the boy that was apparently her grandson. However, it is soon suggested that the real Micheál was stolen away by ‘The Good People’, who left a fairy-child – a changling – in their midst. So, it is up to Nóra, her hired help Mary, and the local wisewoman Nance Roche, to sort out the changling child once and for all. But with a new priest in town who disapproves of this so-called heresy over the plight of what he considers to be an ill child, time is running out for these three women.

I’ve found with Kent’s writing that she enjoys writing about female-led stories in which turmoil is mixed in with a dose of reality, as this and her other novel Burial Rites, all deal with stories that have a basis in fact. The worries about ‘The Good People’ were held by Irish people at this time, as were the conflicts that the Church had with these almost pagan ideas. For me as a reader, I enjoyed the sense that what I reading wasn’t all fantasy and from the author’s imagination. It gave it a sense of realism.

What I enjoyed about The Good People was the feeling that Kent managed to draw upon. As the village is set in a closeted community in a rural area of Ireland, there is a real sense of isolation and claustrophobia throughout the text. It felt as though the reader was invading upon something that was very private. With the use of Gaelic words too, and a very apt vocabulary, Kent really goes that extra mile to bring the reader deeper into the Irish landscape.

The characters were all well-written too. The women all had deep layers of conflict, personal history, and individuality that made them all very unique to the story. I enjoyed how radically different some characters felt from the others too, as it presented each situation in a unique way as we read it. What Kent also doesn’t do – a strength here – is give a clear answer to the riddle of Micheál. The reader is left wondering whether a priest, a doctor or Nance’s influence would’ve solved the riddle, or what he actually is. This leaves a good ambiguity to the text which makes it memorable after the first read.

This novel was my first introduction to Kent as a writer, and I’ve happily purchased the rest of her books.

A fast-paced, enjoyable dive into the world of rural, pagan Ireland.

Advertisements

The Book of Dust (La Belle Sauvage) by Philip Pullman – Book Review.

Title: La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust Volume One)

Author: Philip Pullman

Rating: 4.5/5

Genre: High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult


It has been decades in the making and has garnered legions and legions of new fans every week. In the world of YA fiction, this was going to be a revolutionary event. One that we, as readers of the original trilogy, had grown up adoring and clamouring for. And finally, a  few weeks ago, Philip Pullman’s long-awaited addition to His Dark Materials world was finally published, and I jumped at the chance to get it a day before the actual publication date (it’s handy to know people in the publishing industry).

And here is my official review for La Belle Sauvage: Volume One of The Book of Dust. 

Set 10 years before the start of Northern Lights, La Belle Sauvage follows the tale of the incredibly likable Malcolm Polstead and his daemon Asta and how he came to become acquainted with the heroic Lord Asriel, a baby Lyra Belacqua and help set the course of His Dark Materials. After living a quiet and relatively peaceful life in his parents’ pub, The Trout, on the outskirts of Oxford, Malcolm’s life soon turns upside down when a baby is snuck into the convent and put into the care of the nuns. It is then up to Malcolm to help shield this baby from the nefarious powers which want to cause harm to the child, and the lengths that he will go to protect Lyra.

Like with its predecessors, La Belle Sauvage is heavily influenced by Christian ideology and Biblical stories. Towards the end of the novel, there is an event that is very reminiscent of the Great Flood, and there is also an overlying story arc where the world that Malcolm lives in is controlled by ‘The Magisterium’ – known commonly as The Church. Fans of Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy will be familiar with this type of world-building, but I also don’t think it provides too much confusion for standalone reading. That is one thing I must stress about this book. La Belle Sauvage (despite being another piece of the world of Lyra’s world) doesn’t need the contextual read of Pullman’s other novels. It has strength and understanding on its own. The novel also deals with bigotry, persecution and the League of St Alexander – a group that is remarkably similar to the Hitler Youth and Orwell’s 1984. 

For me, this novel had its strengths in the first two-thirds of the story. I feel that with the introduction of giants, river gods and fairies in the last third/flood scenes, it became a bit too ‘Studio Ghibli’ for me to digest. I felt that if he had introduced them earlier, it wouldn’t have been so jarring. (Side Note: I love Studio Ghibli, but I feel that it doesn’t blend well when you push them into Pullman’s world without any backstory.)

Once again, the character writing is fantastic. Malcolm is a singularly brilliant and complex character. One so driven by his need to protect Lyra, that he is willing to leave his family and deliver her back to her father. However, we do see moments of struggle with him, which the reader see him for what he is: a mature and conscientious eleven-year-old. The other characters, like the plucky Alice really come into their own as the novel progresses and Malcolm gets to know her. Fans of the original series will also be happy to see the return of Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter.

A return to the captivating world of His Dark Materials, La Belle Sauvage feels a bit like coming home. We, as fans of the original series, will love the journey back into the world where humans have daemons (visceral pieces of their soul living as animals) and new readers will be transported to a universe that is so unlike anything they’ve ever read before. With a perfect blend of new material and old favourites, I can’t wait for the next installment!

To buy the book.

Amazon

Waterstones61nfod0p2al-_sx322_bo1204203200_

How I got a FREE piece of Louis Vuitton Luggage.

First things first — this is a completely true story. I’m not sure how, or why I was lucky enough to get this, but I did. So I can’t say this is a foolproof system or not. But this is my experience in the Nice and Florence boutiques of Louis Vuitton, and how I somehowmanaged to get a free piece of Louis Vuitton luggage.


 

Backstory

 

In May this year, my mother and I took our annual holiday together and instead of choosing a cultural city break as we normally pick, we decided to go on our first cruise. On this cruise, I knew it was the perfect time to add to my Louis Vuitton collection and had saved up enough money to buy my Jeanne Wallet (my full review on this is up on my blog here)

I found out that in our first port of call, which was Villefranche-Sur-Mer, there are direct train links to Nice, and Mother and I decided that this is where we wanted to spend the day. There was also a Louis Vuitton in Nice, and I thought to buy a French piece of Louis Vuitton on the French Riviera would be so chic.

The Nice Boutique.

 

So off we went on a day of sight-seeing. Nice was a lovely city albeit slightly overcast on the day. But we wanted to stretch our legs and walk along the famous promenade. One of our first ports of call was Louis Vuitton however, and upon entry to the Avenue de Suède boutique, we were helped by a lovely sales assistant who helped me find my exact wallet and pay for it very smoothly.

From what I gather, the Nice Louis Vuitton is over two floors and has everything from Ready-to-Wear Women’s and Men’s fashion, leather goods, perfume and books, along with a personalisation service. The shop was very clean and well-stocked, but did get very busy as downstairs can feel overwhelming if you’ve got quite a few people milling around. I didn’t venture upstairs, so I can’t comment if it goes back or out any further.

The Luggage Tag Story

 

This is the part of the story where I’ve got to mention that this cruise coincided with my birthday. And after not knowing what to get me whilst in the UK, my mother asked me if there was anything I wanted on the cruise.

And after deciding that picking an excursion on the cruise (these day trips tend to run quite pricey when they are organised by the ship itself) I also asked for a Louis Vuitton Luggage Tag. I had lusted after a luggage tag for a while after seeing a few people carrying personalised ones on their Speedy’s and thought it looked so classy against the Monogram print, and after scouring purse forums, I’ve found out that the best thing to do was just ask in the boutiques if they stocked them.

IMG_4288

So, my Mother and I asked the manager of the Nice boutique whether or not there was the possibility of buying a luggage tag from them. I had read that the luggage tags range from about £40-£100 (dependant on shop/source/size) and we were willing to buy one then and there.

The manager initially said no, but eventually disclosed that they may have them in tomorrow. However, as the cruise ship was departing for Italy the day after, there wasn’t a possibility that we could go back. So we explained that we would be in Florence the day after, and would have to leave it.

He then told us that we could certainly go and ask in the Florence boutique, as they may have something they could offer. My mother and I thanked him and left the Louis Vuitton boutique to enjoy the rest of the day in the South of France.

The Florence Boutique.

The next day we arrived in the beautiful city of Florence. After my birthday-present guided tour, we were allowed a few hours to grab some food and go exploring the historical streets before the coach took us back to the cruise ship.

My mother and I had a leisurely stroll around the city before making our way towards Louis Vuitton. To be honest, at this point, I didn’t care if I got anything. I didn’t want to make this whole trip about ‘Alice hitting up every Louis  Vuitton she comes across’. This was going to be our last shot.

Unlike in Nice, where I was carrying my Speedy and looking all glam, I had dressed down for the hot Italian weather and wasn’t every carrying my new wallet. (I like getting insurance on them before taking them out anywhere).

But we walked into Piazza degli Strozzi boutique like we owned the entire company. We, first of all, talked to a very helpful sales assistant who, after listening to our query, got the store manager. The manager was incredibly helpful and told us to wait a few minutes. He disappeared out the back, and after about ten minutes of us walking around the shop, he came back and led us upstairs. We were given water before sitting down with us and saying that he had luggage tags, and wanted to know would I like them personalised.

At this point I was stunned. I assumed that we wouldn’t get anywhere, and my only chance of getting a luggage tag would be through buying a huge piece of luggage or suitcase in the future.

(In retrospect, I think the manager had phoned up the Nice shop to confirm who we were, and that we had, in fact, bought something from Louis Vuitton the day before).

He showed us the different size lettering and fonts etc, before taking my initials down and having them take to be hot-stamped.

The whole process took about ten minutes, and I was thrilled when it came back.

But then it came down to payment. He put the luggage tag in its own little box and bag, and when I said ‘so, where do I pay? How much for it?’ (If it was more than I was expecting, I would’ve gone half or more with Mum. I genuinely had no idea how much it would cost) but he just dismissed us and said ‘No no. Free. A gift.’

I was beyond stunned.

So, here I was. Dressed down like sweaty English tourist, and walking out of Louis Vuitton, clutching my luggage tag and not having to spend a penny that day.

And from the minute I got on the boat, the luggage tag has sat proudly on my Speedy.

IMG_4325

But like I said, this is my experience. One that I still can’t understand or really know why it happened that way. Is that commonplace in Louis Vuitton? Do they think I was someone special? Who knows.

If anybody has any questions/queries about this, then please don’t hesitate to let me know.

What I’m Reading Wednesday – 1st November.

Lately I’ve been a little uninspired with blogging, so I’ve decided to do a What I’m Reading series. This is a brief update on me as a reader, and I’d love if you guys answered it with me.

1: What have you finished reading.

2: What are you currently reading.

3: What will you read next.


1: What have you finished reading?

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman – review coming soon!

The Good People by Hannah Kent – review also coming soon!

2: What are you currently reading?

Burial Rights by Hannah Kent

81ll9ankowl

Currently really enjoying it. I’ve never read a book set in Iceland before, and I’m loving finding out about different cultures and worlds.

3: What will you read next?

Anno Dracula – One Thousand Monsters by Kim Newman. (One of my favourite series and I can’t wait to read this on holiday)

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (I’m seeing Hamilton in April next year, so I want to clue myself up as much as I can before then)

 

Happy Hump Day everyone ♥

-Alice