Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Featuring Tom Rob Smith and Jodi Picoult

By Lynn Willoughby

The Farm ~ Tom Rob Smith

This novel opens with a phone call to Daniel, from his mother in Sweden. She has just left the insane asylum where her husband had her committed. She is on her way to London to see Daniel.

No sooner does he hang up the phone when he gets a call (you guessed it), from his father, telling Daniel not to believe a word his mother says. His father is on his way to London!

Who would you believe in a family crisis, your mother or your father???

Daniel’s parents had retired to Sweden, his mother’s homeland. They bought a small farm and planned to live an idyllic life in the picturesque countryside among isolated farms. But Tilde know there is something rotten in the state of Scandi. As she produces evidence to Daniel and describes their time in Sweden, to convince him of her sanity, there are stories within stories. She is certain her husband, Chris, has been corrupted by their new neighbour, Hakan, a powerful farmer who has the entire community under his thumb. He does everything in his power to embarrass Tilde and to isolate her.

Is Chris part of Hakan’s initiated group who sexually exploit young women? Is Chris complicit in the cover up of Mia’s murder?

There are tales that spiral into new narratives, there are flashback to Tilde’s childhood, there is a lot of symbolism regarding trolls, the winter and then the spring solstice celebrations, the food, and most of all the total winter isolation.

This was an interesting thriller, but not really as exciting as it may seem. However, I did want to finish the book as I had no idea what the conclusion might be.

  • Child 44
  • The Second Speech
  • Agent 6

The Storyteller ~ Jodi Picoult

Grief support groups, like other support groups mean you hare and hopefully gain strength from others when they tell their story. For Sage Singer came the additional bonus of making an unexpected new friend.

Granted, he is elderly, but Sage is a loner in need of a friend. She is a baker who works alone through the night and sleeps during the day. Her disfigurement has sapped her confidence to the point where she can no longer tell if she works at night out of love for baking, or because she doesn’t want anyone to see her. But Josef Weber sees her and they begin to confide in each other until one terrible day when Josef bares a secret so horrific, Sage’s world is upended. Her values, her ethics and morals are tested.

Now, like Picoult’s other novels that I have read, this one tries to cover too much ground and there are too many coincidences. However, Josef’s confession does make Sage question her assumptions regarding her grandmother’s history. Her grandmother has vehemently shed her Jewish heritage. Sage has questioned her and comes away with nothing. Sage has also felt let down by her sisters and her judgements and expectations of them is re-examined.
We are never sure why Sage carries the grief and guilt about her mother’s death. We are never sure why Josef makes his extraordinary request of Sage. We are never sure why she is called Sage – with sisters Pepper and Saffron!!

It is a good story for the most part, but I found Minka’s storytelling unnecessary and very draggy. Maybe it was useful to wrap up the entire book and tie the bow neatly. I hate those endings!!

  • Lone Wolf
  • Her Sister’s Keeper

……….and many others

Who Knew?

The meals at Auschwitz usually consisted of imitation coffee in the morning, one litre of watery soup at lunch, where you might find a potato peel if you were lucky. In the evening each prisoner received a piece of black bread weighing 300 grams – sometimes with a tiny bit of marmalade, margarine or cheese.

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