Book review: Lion (originally called A Long Way Home) by Saroo Brierley

The book:

Lion (originally called A Long Way Home) by Saroo Brierley
Originally published in 2013
Pages: 272

My copy: Paperback


The blurb:

At only five years old, Saroo Brierley got lost on a train in India. Unable to read or write or recall the name of his hometown or even his own last name, he survived alone for weeks on the rough streets of Calcutta before ultimately being transferred to an agency and adopted by a couple in Australia.

Despite his gratitude, Brierley always wondered about his origins. Eventually, with the advent of Google Earth, he had the opportunity to look for the needle in a haystack he once called home, and pore over satellite images for landmarks he might recognize or mathematical equations that might further narrow down the labyrinthine map of India. One day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for and set off to find his family.

My thoughts…

I heard about this book a few years back and added it to my wishlist – then pretty much forgot about it until the film Lion came out recently, and it clicked that this was a film adaptation of the same book. I ended up seeing the film first, and really enjoying it, so decided to finally purchase the book it was based on.

If you know anything at all about this story, then you pretty much know what happens in the book – and having seen the film there were obviously no surprises here for me! But I still enjoyed reading it. Five-year-old Saroo finds himself lost on the streets of India after inadvertently boarding a train that took him hours across the country. He finds himself in a place where no-one speaks his language and no-one seems to want to help him get home. This book tells Saroo’s story.

Saroo is a sympathetic character and I particularly enjoyed the stories of him living on the streets aged just five – I think these were also the strongest parts of the film adaptation too. It is incredible how he manages to keep his wits about him – and it seems almost unbelievable that he got through those tough weeks and months. Reading these sections, I did find it hard to believe at times that Saroo could remember so much from such a young age – but his memories were obviously incredibly accurate as we find out later in the book.

Years later, Saroo decides it is time to find out where home really is. The way he meticulously and methodically searches for the place he grew up using Google Earth is incredible and very impressive. I think seeing the film first actually increased my appreciation of what Saroo actually did as I could really visualise the painstaking hours spent searching and searching for a needle in a haystack.

One of my favourite parts of the book were the amazing photos in the middle which show Saroo as a young boy, and at the end when he returns to India. These added so much to the story for me.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a quick read and it doesn’t get bogged down in detail or emotion – instead it just presents you with a really incredible story. It’s very moving and I loved the little surprises that cropped up – such as finding out about Saroo’s real name, and the town he grew up in, towards the end of the book.

Whether you have or haven’t seen the film, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading about people who fulfil their dreams against all the odds.

My rating: 8 out of 10

This Week In Books – 22 March 2017

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This meme was set up by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Here is what I am reading now, then and next!

Now…

As you’ll know if you spotted yesterday’s Tuesday Teaser, I’m reading The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield. It follows a very dysfunctional family as they gather together following the death of one of the older members. I’m over halfway through now and really enjoying it. Here’s the blurb…

It’s 1956 and Samuel Lake, a handsome preacher, is voted out of his ministry by yet another congregation, disappointed by his relentless pleas for them to live more charitable lives. Out of options and out of pocket, Samuel and his family are forced to move in with their Arkansas in-laws, the rambunctious Moses clan.

At first they thrive in the unruly sea of relatives – Willa, Samuel’s wife, runs the bar for Grandma Calla, while the boys, Noble and Bienville, run riot through the surrounding countryside. But when Swan, their formidable but loveable 11-year-old tomboy, crosses the path of neighbour Raz Ballenger, things take a turn for the worse.

Raz Ballenger, horse trainer, is a man who rules both his family and his animals through terror. Used to instant obedience, he is insulted when Swan leaps to his son’s defence, an act that sets a whole chain of unexpected and terrible events into motion…

Then…

As mentioned last week, I was planning to read Lion by Saroo Brierley. Unlike most of the books I say I’m going to read next in this post, I did actually get round to this one, and I really enjoyed it – my review will be posted here tomorrow so watch this space!

I also read Swimming Home by Mary-Rose Maccoll, which told the story of a young girl in the 1920s who loves swimming on the Australian island where she grows up, but finds herself lost and alone when her father dies and she ends up living with a hardworking aunt in London. I liked this novel a lot, but did feel that there was perhaps too much going on at times. 

Next…


I have so many books on my Kindle, including loads of NetGalley proofs, so I really need to get back into my eBooks and start getting through some! One I actually paid for recently was The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engle, which I’ve heard a lot about and am really looking forward to. I was also accepted by NetGalley to read The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill – I have enjoyed the author’s other books so hope this one lives up to expectations!

What are you reading now, then and next?

Teaser Tuesday – 21 March 2017

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by the Should Be Reading blog.

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If you fancy joining in, here’s how…
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Today’s teaser comes from The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield. This was one of those mysterious novels that had been on my Amazon wishlist for ages, but I have no idea when or why I added it. But I bought it a few months back and have finally made a start, and so far, so good. 

Here are a few sentences from p27 of the book…

“All at once, she knew what was about to happen, just as surely as if a voice had come out of the sky and told her. She took a quick step toward the door. “Daddy!” she cried out, loud and clear, but not one soul heard her say it, because the gunshot was as loud as a big clap of thunder.”

If you’ve published a teaser today, feel free to link to it here!

Book review: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

The book:

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Published by Quirk Books in 2011
Pages: 368

My copy: Library


The blurb:


A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow impossible though it seems they may still be alive.

My thoughts…

This novel has been on my wishlist for absolute ages, and when I spotted it in the library near work I decided it was high time to give it a go. Our narrator is Jacob, a young boy who adores his grandfather and the stories of his childhood. Jacob’s grandfather grew up in a children’s home full of magical characters – a point he proves by showing Jacob photographic evidence, which is also reproduced throughout the novel.

I found the start of this novel compelling, and I liked the way in which Jacob became increasingly cynical about his grandfather’s fantastical stories as he grew older. In general I took to the character a lot. He is a bit of a loner, and a geek, but really quite funny and endearing in many ways too. 

Around a third of the way into the book, Jacob’s grandfather dies in mysterious circumstances and the action moves to Wales as a devastated Jacob travels with his father and goes to find out more about the children’s home his grandfather has told him so much about. This is when things start to get increasingly strange…

There is definitely something really unique about this book, and the use of photos throughout gave it a different dimension. I was interested to read that these are all real photos that the author had dug up and that the story was built around them, rather than the other way round. I did feel that sometimes the story felt a little contrived as the author tries to fit a photo into the narrative, and this did distract me a little, but overall I thought their use added an interesting edge to the novel.

I have to be honest at this stage and say that I don’t think this novel was really for me. I do enjoy YA literature in the main, but this went too far into the realm of magic and fantasy for me and although I did enjoy many aspects of the book, it was definitely too far out of my personal comfort zone! While this can often be a good thing, in this case it was definitely all the confirmation I need that the fantasy genre is not my thing!

So although my rating reflects my own personal enjoyment of the book, I do have to stress that I think it is probably a fantastic book of its genre. The characters are well developed and it is often funny as well as dark, and the balance of these factors seemed perfect. The added element of the photos gave the book a creepy edge and I really enjoyed looking at this quirky old images alongside the story.

My rating: 6 out of 10

Book review: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The book:

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Published by Pan in 2013
Pages: 608

My copy: Secondhand paperback

 

The blurb:

1961: On a sweltering summer’s day, while her family picnics by the stream on their Suffolk farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel hides out in her childhood tree house dreaming of a boy called Billy, a move to London, and the bright future she can’t wait to seize. But before the idyllic afternoon is over, Laurel will have witnessed a shocking crime that changes everything.

2011: Now a much-loved actress, Laurel finds herself overwhelmed by shades of the past. Haunted by memories, and the mystery of what she saw that day, she returns to her family home and begins to piece together a secret history. A tale of three strangers from vastly different worlds – Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy – who are brought together by chance in wartime London and whose lives become fiercely and fatefully entwined.

My thoughts…

I am often put off by books that are hundreds of pages long, but despite the size of this novel, I found that I whizzed through it in just a few days. At the very start, we are plunged into a great family mystery and follow Laurel as she tries to work out what happened with her mother Dorothy on that summer day back in 1961…

The book flits about a lot between 1941, 1961 and 2011 – this allows the reader to slowly piece together everything that has happened and to find out more about the main characters Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy. I must admit I did find it frustrating every time we came back to the present day as I was so absorbed with the story unfolding during the war. But the novel was cleverly structured, and the parallels between Laurel uncovering the truth alongside the reader did work well in the main. I liked the depictions of wartime London and the way in which the relationships between the three key characters unfold, and in many unexpected ways. The characters aren’t always as straightforward as they might at first appear, and again I think this worked really well and I did feel that, by the end, I had a very complete picture of the three main protagonists.  

The author drops in lots of clues and hints as we read the novel, and I had a lot of excellent theories and was convinced I knew precisely what was going to happen to the characters. Needless to say, I was completely wrong! The twist at the end did come as a surprise, and was cleverly done.

I did find the sections set in the present day a little less interesting – although some of the ways in which Laurel picked up clues to what had happened did add to the overall mystery of the story.

Overall I did really enjoy this book, and it is definitely one that needs to be read in large chunks so you can keep up with where you are and what is happening. The twist was unexpected but worked well, and it’s definitely encouraged me to read The Forgotten Garden by the same author, which I have had on my bookshelf unread for many years!

My rating: 8 out of 10

This Week In Books – 15 March 2017

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This meme was set up by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Here is what I am reading now, then and next!

Now…


51CjX33VFBL._AC_US218_I have finally made a start on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, which has been on my wishlist for absolutely ages. I’m only about 40 pages in and enjoying it so far – although it’s definitely a bit different! Here is the blurb…

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.
 
A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow impossible though it seems they may still be alive.

Then…

If you spotted my Tuesday Teaser yesterday, you will know I was busy reading The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, which as planned I finished last night.  I enjoyed this book a lot, and although I had a lot of theories at to what was going to happen, I was proved wrong pretty much every step of the way! I’ll post a review later this week.

I recently read and enjoyed The Lifeboat by Charlotte Roganyou can see my review here. Last week I also read The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester, which tells the story of two twins who are completely devoted to each other, but whose lives fall apart when their father falls from a cliff when they are 18. This was a quirky, unusual read which I did enjoy in the main, although the characters weren’t particularly likeable!

Next…

41Q5R5WNRRL._AC_US218_51A7cevtrgL._AC_US218_Last weekend I went to see the film Lion, which I really enjoyed and would definitely recommend – but be sure to pack some tissues! The film is based on a true story and the book the film was based on, originally called A Long Way Home, had been on my wishlist for a long time, and seeing the film finally prompted me to buy it. So I’ll be reading that soon. 

I also finally got my hands on Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin – I have loved the other books of hers that I have read so I’m looking forward to reading this one. 

If you’ve posted about your recent reads, feel free to link to it here! 

Teaser Tuesday – 14 March 2017

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by the Should Be Reading blog.

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If you fancy joining in, here’s how…
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

I have been working my way through The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, which I started this weekend and I am hoping to finish later today. It’s an intriguing tale that flits back and forth from the 1940s to the present day, and follows Laurel as she tries to uncover the mystery surrounding her mother, and a terrible event Laurel witnessed when she was 16.

Here is a paragraph taken from early on in the book, which directly follows the event Laurel has witnessed…

“There were two other men in the room, a balding fellow on the sofa and a young man by the window taking notes. Policemen, she realized. Of course they were policemen. Something terrible had happened. The white sheet in the sunny garden.”

If you’ve published a teaser today, feel free to link to it here!