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Hayley C

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A stunning and moving novel!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-06-19

The Blue Bench is a novel following four characters in the aftermath of the first world war. Edward and William have returned from the front but they are forever changed by what they have been through. Catherine and Evelyn are two young women keen to get on with their lives. The book is about their journeys as they each try to look to the future. The novel is predominantly told from the perspectives of Edward and Evelyn but all four of these characters feature all the way through.

The Blue Bench opens with a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which for the people concerned is an annual pilgrimage. The book then goes back in time to 1920 when we meet Edward, William, Catherine and Evelyn. It is such a beautiful and moving novel. It is a melancholy book but there are moments of lightness to balance the dark. It’s a meandering story that follows these four characters as they each try to build a life for themselves in the new world they find themselves in post war.

Edward was the character I was most fascinated by. He has suffered an horrendous facial injury in the war and has to wear an uncomfortable tin mask. He suffers great pain and requires more and more painkillers to get any kind of relief and this leads to him procuring these medications by whatever means necessary. I felt such sympathy for him as he struggles. I have no idea what it is to go to war but I do know what it’s like to have an obvious disability and to suffer with chronic pain, Paul Marriner captures this so well. Edward is a wonderful pianist, he enjoys playing piano and it seems to take him out of his real life for a while. People really enjoy his playing but it still is shocking to some of his audiences when they see his face; it’s as if the beauty of his playing is somehow cancelled out for people by the injury to his face. There is always something of a distance around Edward, even when his closest friend William is with him, it’s as if he can no longer allow himself to fully engage with people and life. I could feel his loneliness even when he was with people. I was rooting for him all the way through the novel and was hoping that he would beat the odds and find some happiness and calm in his life.

William is different to Edward, he’s more outgoing and a bit of a ladies’ man but he does have a caring side to him. He looks out for Edward, and tries to keep his mood buoyed up. Catherine and Evelyn are great characters too. I loved their friendship and the way they supported and encouraged each other. It’s so wonderful to find a novel where there are female characters who have each other’s backs, I really enjoyed reading about their growing friendship and seeing where life took them.

I very much appreciated how real events and people were interwoven into this novel, particularly the way the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier came to be. I found these parts of the novel incredibly moving. I knew about the unknown soldier but to see the story of this brought to life in this story gave me goosebumps. It’s a real gift to write a work of fiction but to bring in real elements of history and make you feel as if you were there, to give you a new understanding of just how much something mattered.

I listened to The Blue Bench on audio book and the narrater, Colleen MacMahon, is wonderful. The pacing of the book was just right and she struck the right tone for the nature of the novel. She really made this book a joy to listen to and I will definitely be looking out for more audio books narrated by her. The audio is nineteen and a half hours long but it was one of those books that I was loving so much that I just didn’t want it to end.

I felt really quite bereft on finishing this novel. I loved every minute that I spent listening to it and I miss the characters. I still find myself wondering about them, they became so real to me. The Blue Bench is an incredible novel and one I won’t forget. It is a melancholy read, there is pain and sadness running through it but there is also fun and laughter and love – the novel may be set just after the Great War but the themes are universal and timeless in many respects. It’s a true reflection on how life is and I adored it beyond words. This will be one of those rare books that I will re-read in the future because I loved it so very much. I recommend this to everyone, it really is a stunning novel!

1 person found this helpful

Fast-Paced, Gripping & a Great Start to the Series

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-06-16

I was thrilled to be offered the chance to review the audio version of this novel. I listen to a lot of audio books but I don’t usually review them, this is the first! I find it easy to follow audio books but have to admit that I’ve never listened to a crime/thriller novel before as I worried it would be harder to keep track of the characters.

I loved listening to this novel. The narrater, Jan Cramer, has done a brilliant job of bringing great characters to life. She does a different voice for each character and this made the novel so easy to follow, I soon knew which voice belonged to which character and could relax and enjoy listening to the novel.

The novel as a whole is great – it kept me engrossed and I found that when I stopped listening for the day I was couldn’t wait to get back to it. I found Erika Foster really interesting as a character and although she falls into the trope of troubled detective to a degree, it didn’t feel like a stereotype. Her character, and what she had been through, felt completely believable and the way she was coping felt very realistic and that was a refreshing change from a lot of crime/detective novels.

I found the whodunnit element very good too – I only worked out who the killer was shortly before it was revealed and I think that was the point the reader is supposed to realise. I loved that I hadn’t been able to work out who it was earlier – I had my suspicions at various points in the book but I wasn’t sure.

The novel itself is a brilliant start to a new series and I’ll absolutely by buying the next book. I’ll also definitely look out for audio books narrated by Jan Cramer in the future.

If anyone reading this review has never listened to an audio book before or, like me, was put off listening to a crime novel in case it’s harder to follow as an audio book then please consider this one. The characters are so well written that you can tell them apart plus Jan Cramer’s narration is such that all the voices sound different from each other so you very quickly know who’s speaking. It’s a brilliant audio book all round.

I rated this audio book 4.5 out of 5 and I’m very much looking forward to reading, or listening to, the next book in the series.

I received a complementary copy of this audiobook from Audible via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl in the Ice is published by Bookouture. It’s out now and available in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats.

8 people found this helpful

Great novel with brilliant narration!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 20-07-15

Where does The Woman Who Stole My Life rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is one of my favourite audiobooks of all the ones I've listened to. Aoife McMahon's narration really enhanced the book, her voice was perfect and even though I was listening while recovering from an operation I could distinguish the characters very well and her voice was so warm.

What other book might you compare The Woman Who Stole My Life to, and why?

I would compare this book to Lucy Diamond's The day we disappeared because they're both novels which would expected to be chick lit but actually they are way more than that. The both have a bit of a twist/mystery in the story and the characters are so well developed. If you loved this book you may also loved anything by Cecelia Ahern.

Have you listened to any of Aoife McMahon’s other performances? How does this one compare?

This was the first book I've listened to that has been narrated by Aoife McMahon but I will now look out for more books narrated by her, I'm definitely now a fan.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I chose this book and started listening without knowing anything about it in advance as I love Marian Keyes book so just trust it would be good. Weirdly, I listened to this book while recovering from surgery that was to try and help my neurological symptoms so as the book went on and the main character went through her illness it was particularly moving to me. I think anyone would sympathise with being trapped in some way though, even if they haven't experience it within their own body.

Any additional comments?

I've been a fan on Marian Keyes since I first read a novel by her many years ago and I've since read everything she's written. I have to admit to being disappointed with her last book The Mystery of Mercy Close but I'm so happy to say that The Woman who Stole my Life is Marian Keyes back on form!