My Week in Books – 29th January 2023

MyWeekinBooksOn What Cathy Read Next last week

Monday – I shared my review of A Winter Grave by Peter May as part of the blog tour

Tuesday – This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was New-To-Me Authors I Discovered in 2022.

Wednesday – As always WWW Wednesday is a weekly opportunity to share what I’ve just read, what I’m currently reading and what I plan to read next… and to take a peek at what others are reading. 

Frday – I shared my review of The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh. 

Saturday – I published my review of The Echo Chamber by John Boyne.

New arrivals

River Sing Me HomeRiver Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer (Headline)

We whisper the names of the ones we love like the words of a song.That was the taste of freedom to us, those names on our lips.

Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane and Mercy.

These are the names of her children. The five who survived, only to be sold to other plantations. The faces Rachel cannot forget.

It’s 1834, and the law says her people are now free. But for Rachel freedom means finding her children, even if the truth is more than she can bear.

With fear snapping at her heels, Rachel keeps moving. From sunrise to sunset, through the cane fields of Barbados to the forests of British Guiana and on to Trinidad, to the dangerous river and the open sea.

Only once she knows their stories can she rest.

Only then can she finally find home.

Butler to the WorldButler to the World by Oliver Bullough (Profile)

How did Britain become the servant of the world’s most powerful and corrupt men?

From accepting multi-million pound tips from Russian oligarchs, to the offshore tax havens, meet Butler Britain…

In his Sunday Times-bestselling expose, Oliver Bullough reveals how the UK took up its position at the elbow of the worst people on Earth: the oligarchs, kleptocrats and gangsters. Though the UK prides itself on values of fair play and the rule of law, few countries do more to frustrate global anti-corruption efforts. From the murky origins of tax havens and gambling centres in the British Virgin Islands and Gibraltar to the influence of oligarchs in the British establishment, Butler to the World is the story of how we became a nation of Jeeveses – and how it doesn’t have to be this way.

Cut AdriftCut Adrift by Jane Jesmond (eARC, Verve Books)

Risk everything, trust no one.

Jen Shaw is climbing in the mountains near Alajar, Spain. And it’s nothing to do with the fact that an old acquaintance suggested that she meet him there…

But when things don’t go as planned and her brother calls to voice concerns over the whereabouts of their mother, Morwenna, Jen finds herself travelling to a refugee camp on the south coast of Malta.

Free-spirited and unpredictable as ever, Morwenna is working with a small NGO, helping her Libyan friend, Nahla, seek asylum for her family. Jen is instantly out of her depth, surrounded by stories of unimaginable suffering and increasing tensions within the camp.

Within hours of Jen’s arrival, Nahla is killed in suspicious circumstances, and Jen and Morwenna find themselves responsible for the safety of her daughters. But what if the safest option is to leave on a smuggler’s boat?

On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • My Five Favourite January 2023 Reads
  • Q&A/Extract: In the Shadows of Castles by G.K. Holloway
  • #6Degrees of Separation


#BookReview The Echo Chamber by John Boyne

The Echo ChamberAbout the Book

What a thing of wonder a mobile phone is. Six ounces of metal, glass and plastic, fashioned into a sleek, shiny, precious object. At once a gateway to other worlds – and a treacherous weapon in the hands of the unwary.

The Cleverley family live a gilded life, little realising how precarious their privilege is, just one tweet away from disaster. They are various degrees of catastrophe waiting to happen.

Together they will go on a journey of discovery through the jungle of the modern living, where carefully curated reputations can be destroyed in an instant. Along the way, they will learn how volatile, how outraged, how unforgiving the world can be when you step from the prescribed path.

Format: Paperback (528 pages)    Publisher: Penguin
Publication date: 12th May 2022 Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Find The Echo Chamber on Goodreads

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My Review

John Boyne is one of the authors on my list for my Backlist Burrow reading challenge so it was serendipitous that The Echo Chamber was the book chosen for discussion at my book club this month. As is often the case, the book divided opinion with some club members finding it lacking in nuance or simply unable to put up with the unlikeable characters. However, quite a few of us – including myself – found it hilarious and very enjoyable.

I don’t believe The Echo Chamber is intended to be an in-depth exploration of the impact of social media. To me, it’s a satire in which the author pokes fun at various aspects of the modern age such as the rise of social media influencers, the scourge of online trolling and our growing dependence on electronic devices. It can also be seen as his response to the abuse he himself suffered on social media which saw him leave Twitter.  The book’s epigraph includes this quote by John Ronson from his book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. ‘The snowflake never needs to feel responsible for the avalanche’.

To my mind, the members of the Cleverley family are clearly designed to be caricatures representing the worst of modern day society.  George, the head of the family, is a popular TV personality – or in his own words ‘a national treasure’. Although he believes himself to be liberal-minded he gets into a series of scrapes through his use of distinctly non-PC language on Twitter and in a broadcast interview.

George’s wife, Beverley is a celebrated – or so she would like to think – author of romantic fiction who employs a ghost to do the hard work of actually writing her books. She gets some of the funniest lines in the book. For example, she proudly recalls one of  her readers commenting on a recent book, ‘She said it reminded her of Wolf Hall. Just without all the boring historical bits’.

George and Beverley’s daughter, Elizabeth represents the nasty side of social media. She is addicted to her phone, suffers panic attacks when separated from it and is intent on increasing her followers on Twitter by any means possible.  At one point, whilst taking a break from trolling celebrities, she even engages in an argument with herself on Twitter.  What may be the greatest moment of her life comes when she gains that elusive blue tick on her Twitter account but disappointment soon follows.

My favourite character was the Cleverley’s eldest son, Nelson, who finds it easier to interact with other people when dressed in a uniform. His experiment with speed dating is one of the funniest scenes in the book. Other memorable characters are Pylyp, a Ukranian dancer, and his pet tortoise named after a Ukranian folk hero.

Each member of the family eventually finds themselves in hot water in a variety of bizarre ways and all of them are brought down to earth with a bump.

The Echo Chamber is certainly very different from the only other book I’ve read by John Boyne, All The Broken Places, although a glance at his backlist demonstrates the great variety in his writing. It’s rare a book makes me laugh out loud but The Echo Chamber did. In fact, I like to imagine John Boyne chuckling away to himself whilst writing certain scenes.  At over 500 pages, I did feel it ran out of steam a bit towards the end but it’s wickedly funny – with the emphasis on  ‘wicked’.

In three words: Funny, entertaining, satirical

John BoyneAbout the Author

John Boyne is the author of thirteen novels for adults, six for younger readers and a collection of short stories. His 2006 novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and has been adapted for cinema, theatre, ballet and opera. His many international bestsellers include The Heart’s Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky. He has won three Irish Book Awards, along with a host of other international literary prizes. His novels are published in over fifty languages. (Photo: Goodreads author page)

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