Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Recently Read: The Birds, the Bees and Other Secrets

The Birds, the Bees and Other Secrets
by Frances Garrood (2008)

I first came across Frances Garrood as blogger rather than as author of (three) novels. I’d been following her blog for a good while before I got round to reading one of her books just recently (delayed among other things by indecision which of them to start with).

I think this might be the first time I’ve read a novel written by someone I already (sort of) know. I’m not sure if (or how) this affects the reading experience, but I suppose it could.

On top of that it’s already been some weeks since I finished the book; and not having found the time to write down my thoughts immediately does not make it any easier to write a review.

Here’s part of the synopsis from the author’s own website www. :

“It is the early Sixties, and thirteen-year old Cassandra Fitzpatrick is growing up in a household full of waifs and strays and general misfits. Despite her unorthodox home life, however, she is generally content – until something happens to her that turns her life upside-down. Cass’ unhappiness deepens when she wins a scholarship to boarding school and is torn away from all she knows and loves – especially her adored, if wildly unconventional, mother. In time, Cass begins to settle down, but accustomed though she is to her mother’s eccentricities, even she is not prepared for the announcement Mrs Fitzpatrick is about to make. Years later, as her beloved mother lies dying from cancer, the adult Cass is reassessing the experiences, good and bad, that have made her who she is. ---”

Frances has chosen the first person narrative for this book, which means the story is told from Cassandra’s perspective. As I started to think about this, though, I found that I had to go back and check, just to make sure. The thing is (I think) that although I found the book well written and interesting, and also evoking some memories of my own, at the same time I had a bit of a struggle to identify with most of the situations described. So rather than “entering” into Cassandra’s narrative, I think I sort of remained an “observer”, or listener.

Thinking back on the story a few weeks afterwards, it’s still the differences that stand out to me.  At the same time, though, perhaps this in itself says something about the power of the author’s story-telling. Because if a book makes the reader think about his/her own life, trying to find comparable patterns (even if they may be hard to find), it has no doubt made an impact, and become something more than just light entertainment.


  1. i like entering into the people and the story better than observing... since i read mostly murder mysteries i do hope i don't find any comparisons to my life.. LOL...

    1. "Entering" too deeply into a murder mystery sounds like a risky business, indeed :)

  2. This looks kind of like a classic coming of age story, with intresting things along the way.

    1. You probably hit the nail there, Ginny. Now why couldn't I think of a nice straight-forward sum-up like that instead of getting all tangled up in perspectives and things?

  3. Like you, Monica, I first "knew" Frances from her blog before buying and reading her books. I read them in the order in which they were published, which means "Dead Ernest" came first.
    If you like, you can read my review of "The Bees..." here:

    Yes, I do think it makes a tiny bit of a difference when we read something written by someone we (sort of) know.

    1. I've read your reviews of Frances' books in the past, Meike - and GB's too. And reread them before writing this post (which may not have been the best order in which to do things as reading other reviews first can make it harder sometimes to find one's own angle). The reason I started with this book and not one of the others was a discussion I had with Frances on her blog some weeks ago as she herself was "pushing" a bit extra for this one. (I'll probably get round to the others too sooner or later.)

  4. I enjoyed Frances's books although I think there was only one where I could identify with some of the situations. I'm not sure that is important in enjoying a book though. I will always remember why I started reading Frances's books - the first sentences of Dead Ernest.


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