Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

I’m having trouble reading again, nothing is quite striking my fancy. I’m still in the middle of Half a Yellow Sun, but it’s taking longer to read than I expected.I was recommended this book by a work colleague.

So, to take a break from Adichie I decided to read The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig, which I was recommended by a work colleague.

‘They were born together and they will die together. One strong Alpha twin and one mutated Omega; the only thing they share is the moment of their death.

The Omegas live in segregation, cast out by their families as soon as their mutation becomes clear. Forced to live apart, they are ruthlessly oppressed by their Alpha counterparts.

The Alphas are the elite. Once their weaker twin has been cast aside, they’re free to live in privilege and safety, their Omega twin far from their thoughts. Cass and Zach are both perfect on the outside: no missing limbs, no visible Omega mutation. But Cass has a secret: one that Zach will stop at nothing to expose.’ GoodReads.

The concept of Alpha/Omega, especially as a reflection of how society can other the disabled, racially different or mentally ill, was a very interesting topic. It needs further development but was an interesting way to approach a post-apocalyptic world. I wondered at the beginning if it may also be a comment on power and the ills modern technology, but this element was not pushed in the way I expected.

Set a few hundred years after a nuclear disaster, Alpha and Omega twins split the world. One healthy and able to reproduce, the other deformed or ill and unable to have children. The Alpha’s are held in high regard while the Omega’s the are reviled, punished for being different. There is one tenuous tie between them: should one die, so will the other.

Cassandra and Zach, Omega and Alpha respectively, are interesting characters though I would have liked to have seen more of Zach (and generally more character development). I never disliked any of the characters, and I liked that Cass remained undefined by the elements of romance. However, by the time Cassandra meets Kip, a fellow Omega…, and they run from Alpha incarceration, I was bored. The plot was long, and I quickly found myself wishing it would get to the point a sooner than it was ready to.

To wit, as entertaining as The Fire Sermon was, I would really like to encounter a YA Dystopian that doesn’t flow as follows:

  1. Discrimination/segregation etc..
  2. Protagonist bucks trend
  3. Protagonist encounters danger
  4. Protagonist gains sidekick (possible romantic interest)
  5. Protagonist finds new land that turns their world on its head
  6. Death
  7. Peace

That is, assuming this is a YA novel? From the writing, and plot, I thought it was even though Cass and Zach are in their early 20s by the end of the novel.

Regardless of my experience, I do recommend reading The Fire Sermon. The premise and strong female protagonist are worth the experience.

Audio Books and Adaptations

Ever since I began – and finished – listening to Serial, I’ve become somewhat fond of audio-books, podcasts and adaptations.

I never much listened to them before  – other than the bookie kind of my fellow bloggers – but they’ve become a rather comforting indulgence. There is something rather soothing about being read or spoken to (without the discomfort of the person actually being there [introvert problems]).

Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Drama is a favourite, I’ve gorged on their dramas and adaptations recently. And book wise I’ve been listening to Jane Austen adaptations. Mansfield Park and Persuasion, to be specific. I had listened to an adaptation of Mansfield Park on Woman’s Hour a few months back, which I bought, and I then found a version Amanda Root was in as Fanny Price and I had to buy that as well.

Amanda Root plays, for those who do not know, Anne Elliot in BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Persuasion. It’s also my favourite Austen novel. Thus Amanda Root is holy and all I want to be. She also narrates an abridged version of Persuasion, which I am now listening to. Then I’ll probably listen to her narrating Jane Eyre…., sadly after that I will have expired her Classic narrations. Which I imagine will be a rather difficult time for me.

Of the adaptations of novels I have not read, I’ve not finished any wanting to read the novel. So, with few exceptions (I’m looking at you LotR), I won’t be buying any audio-books of novels I may someday read. I think I shall try and reserve audio-books for my most loved novels. Maybe I should buy Parade’s End next?

What are your favourite audio books or audio-adaptations?

Image is by Angie K (check out the rest of her pictures, she seems pretty awesome).

Review: Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Girl on the Train has been floating abouts the periphery of my life for a few weeks. It’s been a hit amongst fellow bloggers and I’ve heard it’s garnered success over the pond. I wasn’t planning on reading it. Anything described as the ‘next Gone Girl’ wasn’t going to excite me. Yet, Friday arrived and I felt the need for a book I could fall into for a few hours, so I bought it.

‘Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?’ GoodReads.

I feel indifferent to Girl on the Train. It wasn’t badly written or uninteresting, I liked the characters and I liked the mystery. I don’t understand the Gone Girl comparison, other than it having a twist it was a different tale altogether. Perhaps the unreliable narrators lead to them being compared.

I definitely preferred it to Gone Girl.

There is a twist to the story, you’ll probably guess it from the beginning. However, because of that twist I’m not going to discuss the plot. There is nothing worse that a spoiled twist.

The characters are wonderful, each so unlike the other. Rachel is a broken alcoholic, directionless. Megan has constantly been running from life before settling down with her husband. And then there is Anna, the coldest of the three women. Rachel struggles with her drinking as she clings to the investigation of Megan’s murder – a center for which to focus her existence.

None of these women are perfect, which gave the book its edge. Rachel, Anna and Megan each had their own issues, their own flaws. Each are ignoring the problems in their lives but distracting themselves with something else. Whether that be a child, alcohol or sex.

The characters made the story worth reading.

Moral of the story? Just because you fantasize about what people are like, based on what you see, doesn’t mean you’re right.

Have you read Girl on the Train? Did you feel the same as I did (despite enjoying it)? Or more excited?