Reviews: e-book and audiobook fiction - Fifty Shades of Grey, love poems and a debut novel
One Night, Markovitch
by Ayelet G
War, anti-Semitism, arranged marriages and women desperate for divorce do not sound like your ordinary Valentine's Day fare. But One Night, Markovitch, the debut novel by Israeli screenwriter Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, is no ordinary story. For one thing, the premise is inspired by real events. A group of men travel by sea from Palestine to Europe to meet a group of Jewish women. A series of marriages, chosen largely at random, will ensue, allowing the women to escape a continent that would soon be torn apart by war and the Holocaust. The arrangement causes no end of woe, by turns comic and melancholy. The gorgeous but reserved Bella Zeigerman is paired with Yaacov Markovitch, a man who defines nondescription and who promptly falls head over heels. A series of deliciously funny criss-crossing plots navigate the second world war and the final days of the British Mandate in Israel-Palestine. An extraordinary first novel that entertains, challenges and moves with effortless grace.
Poetry Please: Love Poems
Faber and Faber
It's nearly Valentine's Day, so expect "spontaneous" buying of pre-wrapped roses, endless boxes of chocolates and restaurants stuffed full of couples on awkward dates. The cynic in me could do with this short, diverse but comprehensive anthology of love poetry collected by the BBC. Many of the genre's classic lines are on show. So we have Robert Burns' "My luve is like a red, red Rose", WH Auden's "Lay your sleeping head", Shakespeare's "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day" and Lord Byron's "She walks in beauty like the night". What is refreshing is the choice of some poems that cover emotions other than outright ecstasy. Philip Larkin's inclusion will raise eyebrows, not least because one poem ( An Arundel Tomb) is about love memorialised, while another ( Talking in Bed) is about the half-truths lovers tell each other. Fleur Adcock's Against Coupling is even more sceptical: "I write in praise of the solitary act." Whether you are jaded or hopelessly in love, there is something here for you.
Fifty Shades of Grey
by EL James
(read by Becca Battoe)
"I inhale sharply. Vanilla sex? 'Come, let's have a bath.' He leans down and kisses me. My heart leaps and desire pools way down low… way down there." To be honest, it has been nice to have a rest from the Fifty Shades froth of a couple of years ago. Not content with foisting her own terrible prose upon us, Ms James inspired a hordes of imitators (and a few precursors) who clogged up the bookshops with groans, moans and whiplash. It was fun as far as it went. But like the impressive Christian Grey, it went on and on and on. Or as his innocent young love-puppet might have put it: "It's so big and growing." Sadly, this isn't a reference to the novel's audience. Instead it's Anasatasia cooing about Christian's "erection… above the water line". Quite how Becca Battoe reads this with a straight face is beyond me. To be fair, she doesn't sound like she is paying attention, arriving at most sentences with a little leap of her intonation. I'll leave the last word to Anastasia: "It's too erotic. I'm going to combust." One can only hope.