Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Foreign Fruit by Jojo Moyes and other jazz

Foreign Fruit
Coronet
Fiction
483 pages (Chunkster!)

'Henry, you're being deliberately obtuse. I'm sure Guy's family are perfectly fine. I just think . . . his upbringing sounds . . . a little unusual, that's all.'

'Susan, he's a fine young man. He has no tics, no obvious deformities, his father is extremely wealthy, and he wants to take our troublesome young flibbertigibbet off our hands. As far as I'm concerned he could have been brought up playing the bongo drums and eating human heads.'

Mrs. Holden hadn't known whether to laugh or be appalled. It was so hard to gauge Henry's sense of humour sometimes.

On the Wednesday, however, Ellie's run of unusually amenable behaviour came to an abrupt end. She woke at a quarter to five and refused to be put back to sleep so that by nine Daisy was cross-eyed with exhaustion, and at a loss as to how to keep her fractious infant happy. It rained, dark, load-bearing clouds scudded across the sky, leaving them confined to the house, the shrubs outside bowing under the weight of the wind. Below them, the sea churned, murky grey and restless, a forbidding vista designed to quell any romantic illusions about the British coastline.

*Warning: I'm going to gush about this book. I just am. You have been warned.*

Foreign Fruit is a tale of two loves, fifty years apart. Set mostly in a coastal English town called Merham (with small bits in London), the story begins in the 1950s. Merham is a small village where everyone knows everyone else's business and all are expected to know their place. Lottie Swift is a former evacuee who has grown up with the Holden family, returning to live with them after her mother showed little interest in keeping her when WWII ended. She and Celia Holden are best friends - Lottie a subdued young lady who helps out around the house and watches the younger children, Celia a wilder, more carefree girl.

On the edge of a cliff in Merham sits a sprawling Art Deco house called Arcadia, which has been uninhabited for many years. When a group of bohemians move in, the local citizens are suspicious of their behavior. But, Lottie and Celia are drawn to the house and its mysterious blend of inhabitants. Their arrival in Merham stirs up the sleepy town and leads to a series of events that will not be forgotten.

Fast-forward to present day London, where Daisy Parsons is left to fend for herself when her boyfriend, Daniel, decides he can't cope with the unexpected stress of parenting and disappears. Worn out and fast depleting her funds, Daisy is forced to make some major changes in her life and heads to Merham to take on the task of decorating Arcadia, which has been sold to a club owner and is in need of major renovation. As Daisy adjusts to her new life as a single parent, her path crosses that of a feisty elderly Merham resident and their lives become intertwined in unexpected ways.

The cover blurb on this book is extremely vague and as I read Foreign Fruit it became apparent why there was little detail. There's a deliberate intermingling of the two stories set 50 years apart; and, to say much at all would potentially give away some of the surprises. So, let me say this . . . I usually dislike saga-oriented books. I loved this book. Often, the characters tire me when a book is long and detailed. I thought every detail was necessary or fitting and didn't want to say "goodbye" to the characters in Foreign Fruit. As I closed the book, I thought, "This is the first time I think I've ever been able to look at a cover and rattle off the names of the people pictured. Lottie, Celia, Adeline, Frances, Daisy and Camille." Six women shown only as skirts and shoes - and every one made such an impression on me that they're still with me several days after I closed the book. And, yet, everything was beautifully and perfectly wrapped up so that I didn't feel like the story needed to go on any further.

The writing itself is not what I would call brilliant, but stunning craftsmanship is worthless without a great story and the story totally swept me away. See, I told you I was going to gush. I don't even remember if there was any graphic se*. Weird! If there was, even that must not have gone on beyond what I considered necessary. There was one portion that jarred me. When the first section ends and the reader is thrown 50 years into the future, it's somewhat abrupt. There was suddenly a whole new set of characters to adjust to; it took me a while before I began to untangle things and enjoy myself as the author spilled the past into the present. When she did, I smiled and sometimes caught my breath . . . twice, my eyes filled with tears. The story flowed quickly and certainly did not feel like a long read.

My only other complaint - and that for which I must deduct half a point - is that the author used one event as an obvious device and then dropped it: in this case, a severe arm injury that was described as extraordinarily painful (requiring stitches and painkillers). And yet, somehow, the character, Daisy, was immediately able to haul her baby around with her arm in a sling without any complaint or explanation as to how she coped. Very irritating and the only time I felt that I, as a reader, was yanked from the flow.

4.5/5 - sometimes sweet, occasionally funny, and moving women's fiction

Just finished: Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Capt. Ted W. Lawson (WWII memoir) and it was gripping. I'll try to get to that review, tomorrow, but . . .

I've got so much to do. Ever feel totally overwhelmed by all the things to be done around your home, all the tasks people expect you to do and trying to balance the necessary, boring adult crap with the creative endeavors that are tugging at you? Well, honestly, I ditched a lot of that necessary stuff, today. I can't get out of picking up my child from school and hauling him to his two swim practices but I can delay moving the laundry to the dryer and vacuuming the floor. And, honestly, I just had to because . . .

Brown apparently makes excellent camouflage. While I was outdoors - specifically, hauling the trash cans in from the curb because it was garbage day - I discovered that the wildlife was ignoring me. I've been trying to make myself invisible for weeks and, suddenly, a lizard was displaying in front of me, a brown thrasher (which I've recently learned to identify - my guide says they're related to mockingbirds but more "retiring and secretive") was chirping loudly in the brush beside our driveway and neither was disturbed by my presence in the slightest. I'm guessing it's because I was wearing neck-to-ankles brown. I ran to get the camera and snapped away. The lighting was perfect. It should have been Wahoo Tuesday. Still, I worked hard to get this photo:

Loading that photo onto the computer was like opening a Christmas present. The brown thrasher chirp is almost a bark and this fellow's little beak moved so lightning-fast that it took quite a number of frames before I managed to capture him with his mouth open. Isn't he beautiful?

I think I'll take a photo of my latest acquisitions, tomorrow, rather than list them. I've gotten a pretty little pile of used books from Paperback Swap, this week, and I splurged on an insect-identification guide, today.

I've officially reached my Chunkster Challenge goal to read 4 books in 6 months. At least, I think that's what my goal was. But, I'm going to continue. The most important book on that list is still Great Expectations. I'm determined to read a Dickens before the end of June.

I suppose I should move that load of wet laundry, now. Hope everyone else had a terrific Tuesday!

19 comments:

  1. Wonderful bird photo! Must have taken some patience... Can't wait to see your new acquisitions; I tried to do the same this week but have come to the conclusion that I need a better camera than the $6 keychain digital gimmick I have now :)

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  2. You have the ability to make books that I would NEVER consider reading sound interesting! I would never even think of reading that book if I saw it on a shelf, but you made it sound really good :D

    Gah, I hate that overwhelming feeling of way too much to do. I usually end up just doing none of it when it gets to that point :p

    Beautiful picture of that bird! You and your camouflage...haha..it seems to work well, you get the great pics!

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  3. Melanie,

    Thanks. Yes, it took some patience to get that photo. His little beak moved so darned fast!! Fortunately, I do often have the option to goof when the wildlife compels me to do so.

    Yep, might be time for you to invest in a new camera! :) Before I got my nice digital, I had a pretty good 35mm for many years and it actually broke while I was in England. I was really surprised at how well the disposable cameras worked (I think I bought a dozen of them - I was in Oxford, England when my camera died!!!), so that's always an option until you find the right camera for your needs.

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  4. Chris,

    That is exactly what I think about your reviews! Thanks. :)

    Wow, you and I are far too much alike. I also tend to just shut down when I'm overwhelmed. You know, I'm being a goofball, right now. I've got to get the laundry folded. It tends to snowball, if you know what I mean. :)

    Thank you. This is really the first time the wildlife has totally ignored me, like that. I'm tempted to go buy a brown wardrobe. LOL

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  5. Where do I start? The review, the picture? The picture, the review. Both awesome. The cover on that book makes me want to leave it sitting right there on the shelf. Your review makes me want to pick it up right now.

    Have you tried selling your pictures to magazines, calendars, etc. I have no idea about any of that stuff, but you definitely take some good shots. I'll bet they are worth money.

    For what it's worth, I'm glad you let the laundry sit, because that picture is so worth it.

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  6. You can start anywhere you'd like, Booklogged. :)

    I thought the cover was a pretty when I saw it. But, when I read the comment saying I'd adore it if I liked Chocolat, I put it back. Chocolat was not a favorite. It's really much lighter but more emotional - not like Chocolat at all (apart from having one character whose family imports fruit), if you count that. I'm so glad I went back to the store and flipped through it, again (it was on the bargain rack at B & N).

    As to the photography, no. I've thought about getting the Photographer's Market and giving it a shot. My husband's kind of discouraging, though. He says the moment photography (or anything else) ceases to be a hobby, I start to hate it. Which is true, but still. Nobody's going to pay me to do the laundry and watch lizards, otherwise. :)

    Thank you. :)

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  7. I've never seen nor heard of that book. But you make it sound so interesting. I'm going to look for it.

    Love the picture of the bird. I think that's that type of bird that has built a nest in a tree near our porch for the past few years. Our dog Maggie loves watching the nest, but the mother bird doesn't like Maggie. She's come down a few times and pecked at her. We call them Maggie birds - they have a very distinctive chirp.

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  8. That's a gorgeous photo! He looks a little intimidating, actually. lol

    I hadn't heard of Foreign Fruit...definitely sounds like a winner.

    Andi

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  9. Lynne,

    Foreign Fruit was an impulse purchase - one I just happened across on the bargain racks at B & N. I hadn't heard of it, either, although I have another book by that author languishing on my shelf (it's just been moved to a more convenient place).

    I can imagine the bird wouldn't like your dog. :) They're noisy things, aren't they? But, pretty. How cool to have one nesting near your porch! Apparently, they're really common and I've just had my head buried in the sand, forever. Huh. I'll look forward to your thoughts if you read Foreign Fruit!

    Andi,

    It must be those yellow eyes. LOL I like them, but they are a little scary if you look too hard.

    You might want to flip through Foreign Fruit before deciding. It's a little soap opera-ish - not sure it's quite your thing but it really snagged me. :)

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  10. Hmmm...never heard of this book. Probably never would have even picked it up. But man, you make it sound good!!

    I'm overwhelmed by my house all the time. 5 people in one place with 2 dogs just seem to make such a mess. So much laundry and dishes. It NEVER ends!

    And...BTW. I Loved Great Expectations!! There are a few really dull spots, but the story is just wonderful!

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  11. Hello! Your review of Foreign Fruit was so engrossing! You have whetted my appetite. I wonder if my B&N has it on the clearance shelf. Hmmmm.

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  12. Stephanie,

    Thanks. Gosh, everyone seems to like the review so much that I hope it's not disappointing to read the actual book! LOL

    Exactly how I feel. Sometimes I just cave in for a while; nobody really likes it when I don't get around to the laundry and dishes but I've yet to see my inaction light enough of a spark that anyone else became suddenly willing to wash his own underwear. Baffling.

    Oh, good. I liked what I read of Great Expectations, but I kept having to back up and reread because I was balancing several books at once and finally decided to hold on it till there was time to focus on one book. Think that will ever happen?

    Tara,

    Thanks. There was quite a pile of Foreign Fruit at our B & N, so it's worth dropping by to see if they have a copy. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do, if you locate a copy!

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  13. The bird photo was so cute. You'd love the birds here in Korea. I saw two cranes up north last summer. Beautiful.

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  14. Bybee,

    Thank you. I'm sure I'd have a field day photographing Korean birds, were I to end up in Korea!

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  15. Well done! If only birds and animals would just sit still while we take pictures of them!! Would be so much easier! :P

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  16. So true, Nat!

    Both that thrusher and the lizard were hopping around quite a bit. They didn't let me inhibit them, in any way. LOL

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  17. I read a book by Jojo Moyes not too long ago and really enjoyed that one too. I must get another one...maybe even this one....from the library!

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  18. Foreign Fruit sounds just my cuppa tea! I'll see if I can mooch it over at Bookmooch (I've accumulated quite a few points!).

    AWESOME picture!! Isn't it thrilling to open up those files and see a great shot? I also like the black and white speckly bird you have in your sidebar. What is it??

    I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed these days, too. I still love my job, but need to figure out how to find a balance at home with all my usual chores, exercising, blogging, reading, etc.

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  19. Marg,

    Which Jojo Moyes book did you read? I'll have to go look at your blog; I must have missed your review. Foreign Fruit was so fun that I'm really hoping to sneak in the other Moyes on my shelf, soon.

    Les,

    I'm just now trying to mooch my first book. LOL I thought about you - I really think you'd like Foreign Fruit, although I have no idea quite why I think that.

    Thank you, yes, it really is like opening a present when I load my photos and get a truly good one. Such fun! The B&W guy is a black-and-white warbler. They're tree clingers and very, very fast. He was zipping around that tree with only brief stops to dig for bugs and he even walked on it upside-down. He was so cute!

    I know what you mean about balance. I've been really overwhelmed, lately, with all of Will's activities and David's absence. Just as I was getting excited about walking at the YMCA's new track, the swim team went and switched pools on me. Sigh.

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