A BOY MADE OF BLOCKS – Keith Stuart
The Boy Made of Blocks is about a father struggling to build a connection with his autistic son. It is based on the author’s own experience and it is beautifully written. Alex, in his early 30’s suddenly finds his life falling apart when his wife asks him to move out and he gets retrenched. Alex has never really understood, nor taken the time to understand his 8-year-old son who is high on the autism spectrum. Their interactions and activities together end in tantrums and frustration for both father and son. Now he finds himself with the chance to get to know Sam deeply and they end up bonding over a computer game, Minecraft, which helps Sam open up to his father and find a place in his life for himself.
I was expecting a story more like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, but this book is solely written from the perspective of the father, Alex, which I did prefer. You can tell that the author has first-hand experience with autism. I loved the very honest portrayal of life with an autistic child, both the highs and the lows and the toll it takes on Alex’s marriage (having left most of the difficult parenting to his wife, Jody).
A Boy Made of Blocks is masterful, and will probably bring you to tears. Even if you don’t have experience with autism this is a valuable read about forgiveness, friendship and family.
THE LAST TUDOR – Philippa Gregory
Philippa Gregory, for those unfamiliar with her work, has written many books about the Plantagenet and Tudor periods of English history, perhaps her best known being The Other Boleyn Girl which was made into a movie with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johannsen. Her books are excellently researched with a full bibliography published at the end of each novel. I have been a long-time fan of her books, and have become deeply interested in the period she covers and the people who are the subjects of her novels. I was very excited to hear about her new release The Last Tudors.
The book is about the three Grey sisters, the most well-known being Lady Jane Grey who was crowned queen of England for nine days before being arrested and beheaded by her cousin, Queen Mary. I have read little about her sisters, Katherine and Mary and in fact did not even know they existed before this book. They too, had quite tragic lives, being persecuted on a whim by Queen Elizabeth, also their cousin.
I really enjoyed learning more about these sisters and understanding how frightening it must have been to live under a totalitarian regime where one ruler can do as she pleases and everyone must blindly obey. Unfortunately, other than that, this is not one of my favourite Philipps Gregory novels. I feel that she has perhaps already covered the most interesting events of the time which make for better stories.
This book is very slow moving, largely because not much happens when you are imprisoned in the Tower for years on end. That said, my fascination with the Tudors guaranteed that I would finish the book and I will continue to read anything else Philippa Gregory writes. The Last Tudor is recommended for long-time fans of the author and genre. For those new to her books, I would suggest starting off with one of her other books such as The Other Boleyn Girl or The Boleyn Inheritance, or check out www.philippagregory.com to read about all her other novels.
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