Literary Challenge 2017 #8 A novel you have read twice


As part of the Literary Challenge 2017, this time Hillingdon Libraries staff review novels that they have read twice. Why reading a book twice? What is your personal record?

We read and review fiction books on a set theme every month, for you.

1. The Vows of Silence by Susan Hill

19168646It may seem strange to re-read a crime novel as, surely, one knows ‘who did it’, but this series by Susan Hill featuring DCI Simon Serrailler is definitely worth revisiting. These books are so much more than crime novels; one gets completely absorbed in the Serrailler family. Although the crime in each book is complete in each book the family story continues throughout the series, so not only are you turning the pages to find out how the crime is solved, but you can’t wait to read the next book to find out what is happening in the family and see how the characters develop. This book is actually the fourth in the series and, whilst I would recommend starting with the first, in my opinion this is one of the most gripping. Serrailler must stop the serial killer who is targeting women in the cathedral town of Lafferton, at the same time dealing with tragedy in his own family. Susan Hill does not flinch from making bad things happen to good people. You will want to read the next book!

5 out of 5 stars. Carol – Northwood Library

2. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

coverNot only have I read this twice, I’ve read it about seven times. I seem to exist in two states – ‘just finished The Crimson Petal and the White’ or ‘ready to re-read The Crimson Petal and the White’. It’s over 800 pages, and details the rise of Sugar, a Victorian prostitute living in London who aspires to a better, more comfortable way to exist. It’s often reviewed as the novel Dickens could not have published (it won’t spare your blushes) but it’s also a postmodern take on the Victorian novel. Told in the first person, with a narrator who leads you in then abandons you, it’s absolutely compelling. Despite all the pungent sex, it’s fair to consider this a feminist novel as Sugar takes on the patriarchy and seems to succeed. There’s a great host of supporting characters and enough plots to fill another 3 books. I love it. (And if you want to know more about some of the stories and characters, Michel Faber has written a book of short stories that fill in some gaps.)

5 out of 5 stars. Darren – Uxbridge Library

3. The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Hours‘The Hours’ is the only novel I have read three times. I am sure I read some collections of short stories as a teenager many times, but this is the only full length novel that I have read more than twice. And I will probably read it again. Michael Cunningham wrote a story so dense and rich and filled with complex characters and their lives that, since the first reading, I thought it somehow mirrors the complexity of real life. It also includes an amount of indelible paragraphs, and this is part of its charm. The author famously wanted to write a book based on ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ by Virginia Woolf. Within this frame, the lives of three women mirror each other across space and time. One of them is Woolf herself. All in a moment of crisis, all linked by a pattern of cross references and correlations. I think of ‘Cloud Atlas’ by David Mitchell as a sort of expanded ‘The Hours’… The moments which mirror ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ are so many that they almost force you to read Virginia Woolf’s novel again, or in parallel, which is a good thing in itself. I loved the Hollywood film made out of this novel, which features Meryl Streep, mentioned in the first chapter. ‘The Hours’ also won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. What can I add? Please borrow it from your local library and read it, possibly twice.

6 out of 5 stars. Federico – Northwood Library

Have you read any of these books? Have you ever read a novel more than twice? You can borrow all these books from our catalogue. Thanks for reading!



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