April Mini Reviews

Better late than never right?

"This happened back in March of 2010, when the Philadelphia train station still had the kind of information board that clickety-clacked as the various gate assignments rolled up. Serena drew stood directly in front of it, gazing intently at the listing for the next train to Baltimore."

Title: French Braid
Author: Anne Tyler
ISBN: 9781784744632
Imprint: Chatto & Windus
Published: 29th March 2022
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 244

Both French Braid and Elizabeth Finch are examples of two iconic, much-loved authors writing a story in the way they know best. If you love Anne Tyler, and if you love Julian Barnes, then you will love these new books by them. They are brimful of their trademark themes and characters. This is a good thing. When Tyler and Barnes hit their stride, as a reader the pleasure lies in simply sitting back and going along for the ride.

Character driven stories about memory, perception and history are another thing Tyler & Barnes share. Tyler does this within intergenerational family dramas, while Barnes tackles the topic in an intellectual, literary way as one of his characters, from an older vantage point, reflects on their life.

The reward in reading Tyler is when her protagonist finally reveals that moment, usually a childhood one, where a certain event has scarred/changed/influenced their entire a life in a way completely unintended by the rest of the family.

For Barnes, that moment is weighed down with history – when his protagonist finally shows us how history and memory is still affecting our everyday, modern lives. Elizabeth Finch is novella length and a quick read, but the middle section about Julian the Apostate will probably test even the most devoted Barnes fan.

I thoroughly enjoyed them both as I was reading them.

"She stood before us, without notes, books or nerves. The lectern was occupied by her handbag. She looked around, smiled, was still, and began."


Title: Elizabeth Finch
Author: Julian Barnes
ISBN: 978187333932
Imprint: Jonathan Cape
Published: 12th April 2022
Format: Hardback
Pages: 181

Digging For Richard III found it’s way onto my April reading schedule thanks to reading The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey last month. I had become fascinated by how Richard III’s reputation had been revised by some historians and devotees in the Richard III Society.

This ended up being more of a skim read, as Pitts spent a lot of time outlining all the legal and administrative hurdles that had to be jumped to begin the dig in the first place. the final chapter on what they found and what it meant was the most interesting part. The remains clearly showed a man suffering from severe scoliosis of the spine with several wounds that could have caused his death.

DNA analysis proved it was indeed Richard III and the post mortem indicated that a number of the wounds may have been inflicted not long after the one that caused his death.

What happened to his two nephews, the two princes in the tower, still remains unknown.

'What we are about to tell you is truly astonishing.'
On 4 February 2013, a team from the University of Leicester delivered its verdict to a mesmerised press room, watched by media studios around the world: they had found the remains of Richard III, one of the most disputed monarchs in British history.

Title: Digging For Richard III: How Archaeology Found the King
Author: Mike Pitts
ISBN: 9780500292020
Imprint: Thames & Hudson
Published: 5th November 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 248

Indira Naidoo is an Australian writer, journalist, former ABC TV news anchor and now a radio presenter on ABC Local Radio. The Space Between the Stars is a gentle tribute to her sister who took her own life. What could have been a heart-breaking read, was instead an exploration of how to find solace after such a deep loss.

For Naidoo it was nature. Even living in the middle of a large city, she was able to find nature spots that provided her with comfort and places to heal. Especially one large fig tree that became her guardian as she grieved.

She interweaves these natural discoveries with family stories about growing up with her sisters. The Space Between the Stars is light on the trauma and reflects Naidoo’s approach to life – one of positive engagement with the world, and the importance of connection and hope.

I’ve never experienced grief like this, and those who’ve gone through several griefs say each one is unique in its own way. Surviving one does not necessarily prepare you for surviving the next. What I do know is that confronting your grief is better done sooner rather than later. It will haunt you otherwise. Don’t be afraid of your grief. Its magnitude only reflects the depth of your love for what you have lost. You can’t grieve unless you have loved. And loving is a good thing.

"This is a story of love and loss - and the joy that can be found just around the corner."


Title: The Space Between the Stars
Author: Indira Naidoo
ISBN: 9781922351616
Imprint: Murdoch Books
Published: March 2022
Format: Hardback
Pages: 208
  • This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.

19 thoughts on “April Mini Reviews

  1. I often listen to Indira Naidoo on the ABC on weekend nights when I can’t sleep. Such a wonderful and talented woman. It is sad this happened to her. I’ve still not read Anne Tyler yet I know so many who have and enjoyed her. I’d not heard of this book but familiar with many others. I probably even have one on my shelves.

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    1. We had an author talk with Indira about her book at work. The youtube video has not been put up yet, but when it does it will be here – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1kpI6m98uJhICioqqV_ykQ/videos – if you have time to watch/listen to it.

      Anne Tyler’s books are ‘interior’ books as I notice everyone seems to be saying now. I love them, but not everyone feels the same way (see Liz @Adventures in Reading Anne Tyler project from 2021 – https://librofulltime.wordpress.com/about/anne-tyler-re-read-project-2021/)

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    1. Oh that would have been very exciting to be in Leicester at the time. I remember hearing about it at the time, I would like to watch the tv doco about it, if I can ever source it over here or on one of the streaming services we have.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the mini-review format and have been using it more lately, too. Both the Anne Tyler and Julian Barnes are on my to read list. I’ve only read a couple of Barnes books, but have managed to read almost everything Tyler has written… always enjoy reading her!

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    1. I think Covid and lockdowns, taught many of us city dwellers the value of our local parks and nature reserves as a place of solace. I already knew where they all were and spent time there before, and now after, lockdown, so I’m rather glad they are not so busy now!

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  3. Naidoo’s book sounds beautiful, I might have to track that down. The Richard III book sounds good too! I’ve always been tickled that they got permission to do this tiny little dig and found RIII practically right off.

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  4. Sounds like you found some good reads this month! I love the quote from Anne Tyler. When I was a young woman I often travelled in and out of NY’s Penn Station which had one of those clackity departure boards. I loved the sound it made and the history of it.

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  5. i think I would have found the Richard 3 book frustrating if so much of it was taken up by all the administrative/legal barriers. I’d just want to know how did they find what they suspected was his burial place, how did they locate him and then prove it was indeed him.

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