on March 20, 2018 :
This is the first book I read by this author. To be honest, I wasn't even really sure what to expect. I'm not much of a literary fiction enthusiast, so I went in feeling pretty lukewarm about the material.
I have to say this book far, far exceeded my expectations! First, by the writing style. I always feel frustrated that I'm a slow reader, but for once I was actually glad for it, because not only is this writer's command of the English language flawless, but he makes it look utterly effortless to write this well! If anyone looked at it from a purely stylistic standpoint, they'd be hard put to find any flaws. But that wasn't even the most exciting part for me! I found such an endearing character in 13-yr-old Violet Tickham, who's so sentimental about a French pen pal she meets for the first time, Albert, and her feelings for him. If that was all, she would have been such a bore just a short way into the story, but Violet just so happens to be wickedly funny with her creative, scathing insults in her interior thoughts, usually directed at her diabolical sister Tabitha, or her obnoxious classmate, Annabelle, which made me burst out laughing several times throughout the entire book. And not only that, there's actually a story, a PLOT, unlike many literary fiction out there, the kind they make you read in school but which is boring as hell.
But the best part about this this book is the ending. It completely blindsided me, and it's not an ending you could possibly expect, in my opinion, no matter how closely you paid attention throughout the story.
There is a disclaimer from the author about the French parts in the book, and I have to reiterate it in my own words: If you don't know one lick of French, don't worry, the story will not be ruined, I promise. Skip the French portions, like I did. It's probably better if you do. But please, please, please read this book! Read it slowly, like I did, and you won't be sorry.
(reviewed 13 days after purchase)
on March 5, 2018 :
From the creator of Home Economics for Girls comes another episode in the life of the beleaguered Violet Tickham. This time, Violet is encountering the joys and tragedies of First Love.
It's a great big roller coaster of a book. The opening section had me literally screaming with laughter; one of Wright's particular strengths is his lightness of touch, and the schoolgirl French and schoolboy English were so beautifully done, so completely authentic and at the same time hilarious, that I found myself slowing right down to a crawl, to savour every sentence.
It's not all mad hilarity, though; there's a darkness in this book, with hints dropped throughout foreshadowing the terrible disappointment that is in store for Violet, although nothing, I think, could prepare the reader for what actually happens. Very much in evidence is also Wright's masterful command of language, and this is given free rein in the lyrical passages where first love meets Nature. Some of it is so beautiful it will bring tears to your eyes.
Never let it be thought, though, that this writer could allow himself to descend into sloppy sentiment. A constant leaven of sharp humour bubbles through the work like yeast in a bun, and with much the same effect. I particularly loved the sly tribute to Geoffrey Willans, in which Violet's school's brother school is St Custard's.
The ending is tragic, in the traditional sense of the word, and this, too, is handled with elan and the sure lightness of touch that distinguishes the capital W writer. I cannot recommend this writer enough.
(reviewed 5 days after purchase)