Although we've been on the road for almost a week now we've still found time to do a bit of reading and get to a film so here are a few words on what I've enjoyed recently.
It would be ridiculous for an unpublished writer like me to give this novel anything less than five stars as it is a work of literary genius that I expect to see nominated and shortlisted for countless prizes. Written in the voice of its protagonist Louise (or Lulu or any one of a number of aliases that she acquires in her extremely eventful life) Mountains Of The Moon records her troubled childhood, adolescence and young adulthood in a series of flashbacks that jump sometimes apparently at random from period to period.
The brilliance of the book is in the storyteller's exceptional use of language; turn to almost any page at random and you will find beautiful images "our legs cut through stripes of sunshine", "the corridor is dark, wooden, fitted together like a puzzle". One of my favourite authors Caroline Smailes writes with this artistic flair and Louise's use of "flip flop" to describe her walking echoes the narrator in Smailes' Like Bees To Honey and makes me wonder if I. J. Kay is also a fan.
The development of the voice from child to teenager to young woman is expertly done - the vocabulary expands, the words become more properly formed and sentences more coherent and logical as she grows up. In short I can only admire the author's skill in creating this novel.
Having said all that, I have to say that the novel did fall down for me on the story. As I said above, it is the story of a troubled life; our protagonist is from a broken home and she is hardened to life although she has a softer side and yearns to visit Africa's Mountains Of The Moon and the Masai Mara (places she has learned about from her beloved Granddad's book and recreated in her childhood on wasteland near her home). I had problems in finding certain scenes credible. I won't spoil the book for you but these included an adolescent period in an institution, an encounter with a taxi driver and an incident with a horse. I can cope with one or two things in a book causing a raised eyebrow but I did feel that there were a few too many times that the author stretched my credulity.
Don't let this put you off reading it though. As a piece of art it is truly a tour de force.
I like to think that I've a broad range of tastes; I'm equally at home with La Boheme as I am with an episode of X Factor and Mel Sherratt's Somewhere To Hide is Coronation St to Mountains Of The Moon's Othello. Following on from her highly successful Taunting The Dead - a police thriller set in Stoke On Trent, Somewhere To Hide has been described by the author as "Grit Lit" and I think that's a very good description.
The somewhere to hide of the title is both a derelict pub where the novel opens as a psycho predator instals himself waiting for a date with his destiny in August and a safe house for young women run by the matronly and amiable Cathy. She takes in teenage runaways Jess and Becky and battered wife Liz and the novel charts their experiences on the notorious Mitchell estate in an anonymous city somewhere in northern England in the time running up to the aforementioned date with destiny.
Mel Sherratt writes in good plain English which is compelling to read and she has the rare knack of making the reader want to turn the page. There's an element of chick-lit in there with the customary girly get togethers complete with pillow throwing, wine drinking and appreciating a fine pair of male buttocks. There is an underlying love story in the background as well as the story of several troubled lives as the younger girls are dragged into a seedy underworld, Liz is stalked by her battered husband and Cathy lives with a harrowing secret looming over her.
It's a very good read and certainly five star entertainment as the story builds into an explosive climax.