Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan
|Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A fine blend of light-hearted, humorous characters and very serious events and revelations spins around the fifty year career of a seaside fortune teller. Success is written in the stars.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: April 2021|
|Publisher: Two Roads|
This book lets us discover several people in different stages of life in the early 1970s, all vaguely connected. So we have a bullied half-cast boy (as he would have been called then), a girl in a humdrum job wanting to become a singer, and chiefly, Imelda, the third generation of Madame Burova, Tarot-Reader, Palmist and Clairvoyant, to use her family's sea-front booth. The singer, the scryer and the sufferer's mother will all become staff at a revamped holiday camp, but just before then we see Imelda fly solo for the first time in the family stall. We also see her on her last day, fifty years later, in possession of a pair of letters that will change everything for a woman called Billie. Just who is she, and who delivered the secrets about her to Imelda, and why did it have to remain a secret all this time?
This is very much on the easy reading shelf, but is none the worse for it. Some of the light-hearted delights come from the evocation of the 1970s holiday camp, with the boss who can't keep his hands to himself, and the dubious acts that counted as variety talent in those days. Imelda fits really well into that, even though she is a real 'gypsy' (again, the language of the era) with real abilities, or, as the book has it, a vocation from which there was no vacation. But of course you also have the much more hard-hitting side of things, with the thread concerning the racism directed at the boy character.
Still, whatever heft you desire from these pages, the fact remains they are very entertaining, easily turned pages. It might have gone a little too much down the populist path at times – I demanded this from the Book Reviewing Gods knowing it was set in Brighton, but it might as well be Weston-Super-Mare, Skegvegas or even New Brighton for all the unique character the setting gives. The details of Billie's riding the Thameslink trains down to the south coast are universal.
And I certainly could be critical, or see fault in this, if I was disposed to. You really do have to be on board, however speedy the read is, for getting the truth delayed, hedged, delayed and swerved around time and again, even if the plot gives us much more cause and reason for that than countless other prevaricating novels. It's humour is always welcome, but the proper jokes, coming a little sparsely as they do, can feel forced on to the page somewhat. One grand-standing scene that resolves many people's issues in one fell swoop comes so suddenly after the problem comes to a head that it all felt inconsequential, as if we'd built up the theme of bigotry and 70s lack of PC-ness only to scar a line right through it.
But, as I say, there is a lot to like here. I thought the whole Tarot-reading would be a bit frothy, but I liked Imelda for the depth of her character, and even when we learn the duress the career might have put her under at times it's done very lightly. If you can take to the particular secret here – and I've seen other reviewers needlessly say what that is, where I think I've kept Billie's dilemma out of these paragraphs – then this will be a cosy, warm joy of a read. And the last handful of pages is pitch perfect. I really hope it's a success, and I can already foresee my partner thinking the same when she gets her hands on it. I don't need to be a tea-drinker (thank god; can't stand the stuff) or Tarot-reader to foretell many people loving this book. I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Cosy levity can also be had with The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, but seeing as almost everyone reading this seems to have bought that three times over, it kind of goes without saying.
You can read more book reviews or buy Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan at Amazon.com.
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