Fault Lines by Emily Itami

This month’s ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club’ pick is ‘Fault Lines’. A book which was shortlisted for ‘The Costa First Novel Award’. This, and I know I say it a lot, is not a book I would have picked up without the book club.

A piece of contemporary fiction, this tells the story of Mizuki, living in Tokyo with her family. With two young children and her hard-working husband, who does not seem to be around or present all too often, she is living the life of a housewife. A life that many may envy her for, as she has a nice city-centre apartment and appears to want for nothing. Yet, Mizuki does want something: she wants more; she wants to feel alive and thinks maybe there would be more to life if she had made different decisions along the way. And when she meets Kiyoshi, she gets a glimpse of another life, and events lead her to having to make some decisions about what exactly she wants in life.

I found this an easy read and well-written, nothing too taxing, but it is not a favourite read of mine. I did not feel attached to any of the characters and, rather than feeling involved as a reader, I simply felt like an observer of events. And, do not get me wrong, these events seemed perfectly feasible, but it just did not have me all the invested in what is happening – I was not too fussed which path Mizuki chose.

This does not mean that I would not read any other books by Emily Itami, as her writing style is lovely, and I would like to see where she went next with her books.

I Give It A Year by Helen Whitaker

This month’s choice from ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club’ was ‘I Give It A Year’ by Helen Whitaker.

This was a beautiful read in January. Iris has discovered that her husband has been having an affair and, as a result, they decided that they will give the relationship a year before making any final decisions. Now, I realise that may sound like a strange concept to be a perfect January read; however, it really is. As Iris works her way through the year, she goes on a real journey of self-discovery. She finds out a lot about who she has become and how her different realtionships have developed – even though she may have missed it or did not realise it. After Iris’ challenging year, she comes out with a new-found confidence but also a better understanding of the world around her and the people she shares it with.

It is quite an emotional read at points, and I think it will be a different emotional read for each reader, as it tackles quite a range of subjects. For me, personally, I found the dementia stroyline a real tear-jerker. However, for others, it may be one of the different relationship threads.

Yet, this is a really enjoyable book that presents a wonderful study of relationships and character, with a wonderfully strong female lead. It has been a joy to discover a new author at the start of a new year – and can not wait until book club.

The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu

November’s pick of ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club’ from the fantastic ‘The Book Taster’, was ‘The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney’ by Okechukwu Nzelu. And I absolutely loved this book, reading it in one weekend.

This the the debut novel from the pen of Okechukwu Nzelu, and I thought it was such a fantastic story and so readable. This book has a range of characters whose lives are entwined as they are all on a voyage of discovery about themselves, their identity and their place in the world. Nnenna has never met her father, and as she is reaching her late teens and thinking about moving out into the world, away from home, she starts to think it is time to find out more about her heritage. This impacts many of the relationships around her and lets us find out about the past, as her mother tackles this changing relationship too.

However, this novel does not just tackle identity, but also so many other key issues, such as mental health and racism.

It is an absolutely fascinating book and really had me thinking about all of the things that shape us and our beliefs. And sometimes how that leads us to make some tough decisions.

Nzelu is a talented writer with clearly a lot that he wants to share with the world. I would love to read more from him, especially if it happend to be the story of Maurice or Jonathan (just an idea – haha!).

So, if you want to discover a new author with so much to share, this is the book for you.

The Heatwave by Kate Riordan

This month’s ‘Tasting Notes Book Club‘ pick was ‘The Heatwave’. This was not what I was expecting, and was a prime example of not judging a book by its cover.

By looking at this book, I thought it was going to be a ‘summer read’. Something easy and gentle to enjoy as the summer draws to an end. However, this book is so much more. This is a sophisticated and stylish thriller – you will be hooked as soon as you start, because the mysterious atmosphere is generated almost immediately.

Set during a heatwave in France, Sylvie returns to a family house in the south. She is keen to sell the house and, with it, hopefully leave painful memories in the past. The question is – what exactly did happen to Elodie? What is the past that Sylvie is trying to forget?

Told between the past and the story’s present, there is an excellent slow pace to the tale that builds suspense and mystery. In fact, you feel as though you are in the south of France enjoying the slower pace of life in the summer. Although, it feels there is always an element of threat hanging over the tale in its present and its past.

I think this is a book that I could have easily overlooked if I had not been part of the ‘Tasting Notes Book Club’ – so, that is another reason why book clubs are such a fantastic idea. If you are looking for an atmospheric thriller as summer fades, this is the book for you!

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle

Oh Wow!

Why have I left it so long to pick up a book by Mike Gayle?

I decided that I would have a go at taking part in the ‘The Book Taster – Book Club‘ this month, and the chosen book was ‘All the Lonely People’ by Mike Gayle.

This is a book with a great collection of characters but, most importantly, a really key message about our society – past and present. I am not sure I have ever read a book that has hit me in the heart from the moment I started.

Hubert Bird is a wonderful character; he reminded me of my own grandparents, but sadly he is lonely, even if he does not realise it. Yet, as we follow Hubert’s journey, past and present, he begins with those he encounters along the way to tackle loneliness – and not just his own. However, this is not the only topic tackled in this book. It really addresses major social issues that we may wish were in the past, such as racism and the Windrush Scandal, but that we know we should address and tackle every day. Also, just as you think Mike Gayle can not throw another emotinal curve-ball at you, he does – happy or sad.

This is probably one of my books of the year. Although, at points, I was reading it through tears because of some personal experiences, it was still a great read.

Mike Gayle writes beautifully and all his characters are so engaging. I feel that I have some catching up to do on his previous books. This was an excellent choice for the first month of ‘The Book Taster – Book Club’.