Friday, 19 September 2014

Book Review: Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Sycamore Row by John Grisham
He will make them pay...

This book came as part of my anniversary extravaganza of new books from James but, to be honest, I wasn't sure about it.  The last Grisham book I read left me feeling cold and I didn't want this to be a repeat.

That said, I was excited as I really enjoyed A Time To Kill and as this is the sequel, I was intrigued to see where Grisham would take the story next.  As it happens this is not really related to the first book, other than it featuring the same lawyer, Jake Brigance, and having a fair few references to the trial.

The story begins a few years after the success of the murder trial in A Time To Kill and we discover that Jake is down on his luck.  During A Time To Kill, the Klan burn down Jake's home, forcing his family to flee and when this story begins, they are still living in rented accommodation, fighting with the insurance company for the money they need to rebuild their house.  Work has almost all but dried up for Jake as well and as idealistic as ever he is simply counting the hours and waiting for his next 'big break'.

Then one day a local, old, rich, white man called Seth Hubbard, hangs himself.  The day before he commits suicide, Seth rewrites his will, cutting out his ex-wives and children and leaving the vast majority of his fortune (which measures in the millions) to his black housekeeper, Lettie.

Jake has never met Seth but receives a copy of the will in the post, with instructions from Seth to fight to defend the new will and see that his wishes are followed.  

Therein follows a battle between Seth's children, who bring in the big city lawyers, against Jake who must prove that Seth wasn't out of his mind or pressurised into changing his will by Lettie.

It's the typical David and Goliath style story which Grisham favours and is full of his usual tricks and turns.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and found that I had no idea where Grisham was going to take the story.  The courtroom scenes are as grand as ever and I loved Judge Atlee; he was just perfect as the no-nonsense judge from the Deep South. 

Criticisms would be that in places Grisham waded through a lot of unnecessary peripheral stuff, such as the over the top reminders that Jake and his wife don't keep alcohol in the house, even to the point where they reprimand a guest who brings them a bottle of fact, weirdly, Grisham referred to alcohol pretty much all the way through the story which I found to be a nuisance at the end, 'okay we get it, they like a drink!' and I had a few eyes glazed over moments but it didn't take away from the story too much and overall this was much more typical of a good Grisham book than some of his other recent work has been.

Overall, I would recommend this to any Grisham fan.  It gets top marks from me.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Dreaded P's of Being A School Parent

I have been the mother of a child going to school now for a whole year and I am hoping that I'm not alone with the feelings of trepidation which took over the first week that Meg went back.

I was actually torn between tearing my hair out wishing the six week holidays would hurry up and end because I was fast running out of ways to entertain my two errant children and the knowledge that with the school year comes a whole heap of horror fun and games.

Please tell me I'm not alone in this?

I have to admit that I'm not the most organised when it comes to forms and things but seriously, are schools trying to kill off the trees single-handedly?  I cleverly signed up to receive the school's weekly newsletter by email and yet Meg still comes trotting out each Tuesday bearing the paper version in her hand.  It never gets read and usually ends up in a heap in the footwell of the car.  Of course, it's rather handy when I realise I've forgotten the date of something and can't find the original email.  I like to think of it as my own little filing system.

Add into that the little scraps of paper such as the 'Bug busting' form we get at least once a month (nits is a whole other issue!), the various clubs and gangs that are advertised as well as the lovely creative pictures my daughter draws on a daily basis and I could honestly start my own recycling factory.

Oh, and of course now that my darling daughter is in Year One we also have a homework folder which comes home once a week, complete with yet more paper!

What I would like to do to said pile of paper!

I hate the playground.  I really do.  I never know where to stand and I accidentally sat on the bench used by a faction of mothers of which I am not a part last week.  I still have the heat burns from their eyes to remind me of my error.

Why is it so cliquey?  I thought I had finished with all of that when I left school!  Clearly not.  Mummies of the world, learn to smile.  Seriously.

Well, not really, but you know what I mean.  Those bugs and germs which have previously been off infecting other people suddenly make their way back into your lives.  Eli has only attended his preschool for six days in total and he has already got a cold.


And don't even get me started on the issue of nits.  We have so far dodged this bullet but I do get the impression there is a large timer hanging over our heads.  It's only a matter of time.  I just know it.  Either that or I don't wash my kids hair enough.  I'll leave that for you to decide.

Evil germs be gone.

Packed Lunches
I was so so pleased when I realised that I didn't need to make Meg a packed lunch any more.   Thank you Government!  No more warring with the school over why I can't send my child in with a chocolate biscuit without her being ostracised by the dinner ladies.

Unfortunately, Eli still has to take a packed lunch so I have yet another year of worrying that the teachers are going to be assessing my parenting skills by the quality and quantity of food I send him in with.  When I get into a flap about having enough options squeezed into the lunch box my husband likes to point out that once upon a time, school packed lunches were about ham sandwiches (cut into squares!) and a packet of crisps.  Maybe a penguin bar if it was your lucky day.  He's so medieval.

I cannot be the only one who is afflicted by a fleeting moment of panic as I pull up to the school gates and wonder if there is something I have forgotten.  Look, there's a Grandparent accompanying that child into school...oh no!  Is it 'Bring Your Grandparent To School Day'?!

No...just me then?

When I was at school I would have been mortified if I had forgotten that it was 'such and such' day and turned up unequipped and that fear has clearly not gone away.  Now I worry about it on Meg's behalf.  Of course there was that day last year when she was the only child who turned up in school uniform and not her own clothes, so perhaps the fear is justified!

Do you have any back to school dreads?  I'd love to hear them!

All images courtesy of