#BookReview ESTUARY: Out from London to the sea by RACHEL LICHTENSTEIN #nonfiction #LibaryLoveChallenge

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Thames Estuary is one of the world’s great deltas, providing passage in and out of London for millennia. It is silted up with the memories and artefacts of past voyages. It is the habitat for an astonishing range of wildlife. And for the people who live and work on the estuary, it is a way of life unlike any other – one most would not trade for anything, despites its dangers.


Rachel Lichtenstein has travelled the length and breadth of the estuary many times and in many vessels, from hardy tug boats to stately pleasure cruisers to an inflatable dinghy. And during these crossing she has gathered an extraordinary chorus of voices: mudlarkers and fishermen, radio pirates and champion racers, the men who risk their lives out on the water and the women who wait on the shore.


From the acclaimed author of Brick Lane and Rodinsky’s Room, Estuary is a thoughtful and intimate portrait of a profoundly British place. With a clear eye and a sharp ear, Rachel Lichtenstein captures the essence of a community and an environment, examining how each has shaped and continues to shape the other.


PUBLISHED BY HAMISH HAMILTON


PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon

hive.co.uk

waterstones


MY REVIEW

Having lived next to the Estuary all my life, I found this to be a fascinating, illuminating and detailed look at the evolution of the Thames Estuary and all those who live by it or work on it. The folklore, the role it has played in history, the way that outsiders see Essex and how that differs from those who live there and just how much it has changed over the years.

Being a local I found it so easy to feel connected to the stories told by the author, and the places she visited as she travelled along the Estuary. She stopped off in numerous places to meet people who have lived or worked on the Thames and it was so interesting to hear them share their stories. She travelled on boats and walked alongside the estuary and that really helped her give you a real flavour of estuary life. The use of black and white photos was also really clever as it didn’t make the estuary out to be a glossy, colourful place as most of the time it isn’t!

There are more shipwrecks on the floor of the estuary per square foot than anywhere else along the UK coastline and I loved hearing the stories of those, especially of the London and the Montgomery and those who have dived down to see them. Having recently visited an exhibition of items from the London at the local museum I found these chapters to be most enlightening.

It’s a book I’ve learned so much from about the local area and found it to be brilliantly written and so absorbing to read.

★★★★★

#20BooksOfSummer Man With A Seagull on his Head by Harriet Paige #bookreview

Finally I’m back with another book finished off the list!  This was book 10 and another one from my ‘little’ list, where it’s under 200 pages.  I think that is 7 books read now from my ‘little’ list so I really need to up my game on the ‘large’ book front – if only there weren’t so many other books I need to read for blog tours and publication dates!!

And what a stunner of a book this was!  I don’t know if I connected to it more because it was set very locally to me, but I just found it to be so absorbing and touching!

A gull falls from the sky and strikes a council worker on the beach below. From that moment on he is obsessed, a crazed visionary depicting the scene and the unknown figure with in who filled his view at the moment of impact. The mysterious beauty of his creations draws others to him, but can they lay hold of that which possesses him? And what of his anonymous muse?

‘A bona fide gem. A book that would be a credit on any short list.’Guardian

PUBLISHED BY BlueMoose Books

PURCHASE LINKS

Publisher Website  £8.99

hive.co.uk  £6.25

WHSmith  £6.47

MY REVIEW

Quirky and poignant – my kind of book! And set in the south east corner of Essex that I know so well, this was a wonderfully touching little read that made a very hot afternoon fly by.

Centred around Ray Eccles who lives a quiet life in a quiet cul-de-sac in Southend On Sea, he’s a succesful artist but you’d never know it to see him. Happy to stay out of the limelight and keep to himself – but that all changes when he has a rather unfortunate incident on Shoebury East Beach with a seagull. Witnessed by one woman, he returns home from hospital with her face on his mind and starts his obsession with her that takes over his whole artistic outlook and sees him paint the same scene for 10 years.

The woman who saw the incident with the seagull has her own quiet life – working in a clothes shop, living a normal life but when the work of Ray Eccles becomes a huge success, she knows that the face he is painting is her. She doesn’t know how to feel about it and the struggle she faces is brilliantly portrayed.

The whole cast of charaters in this book are such a wonderful mix of the good and bad sides of humanity. The art studio owners who look upon Ray as their pet project when they take his work to London and have him move in with them, the local reporter from the Evening Echo trying to make her name with a breaking story, and especially Ray himself who never escapes his ‘oddball’ personna and seems happiest when he’s doing his own thing and not living by the rules of normal life.

I loved the touching and human side of the story and the familiarity of the places visited really brought this to life for me – any book that features Keddies is fine by me! It had a great mix of humour and tragedy, and the absurd side of the art world where anything seems to go if it has the right PR behind it, no matter the effect on the artist who was just trying to make sense of what happened to him and dealing with his grief and loneliness.

A stunning little book and one I’m very glad to have read!

★★★★

Strange Magic by Syd Moore – book review

THE BLURB

Rosie Strange doesn’t believe in ghosts or witches or magic. No, not at all. It’s no surprise therefore when she inherits the ramshackle Essex Witch Museum, her first thought is to take the money and run.

Still, the museum exerts a curious pull over Rosie. There’s the eccentric academic who bustles in to demand she help in a hunt for old bones, those of the notorious Ursula Cadence, a witch long since put to death. And there’s curator Sam Stone, a man about whom Rosie can’t decide if he’s tiresomely annoying or extremely captivating. It all adds up to looking like her plans to sell the museum might need to be delayed, just for a while.

Finding herself and Sam embroiled in a most peculiar centuries-old mystery, Rosie is quickly expelled from her comfort zone, where to her horror, the secrets of the past come with their own real, and all too present, danger as a strange magic threatens to envelope them all

Publication Date – 4th May 2017

Amazon UK  £8.99 paperback

Hive.co.uk – buy online and support your local bookstore    £7.45 paperback

MY REVIEW

Any book that has a link to Essex and witches instantly catches my eye, and the stunning cover also helped draw me towards this book and it has been a really enjoyable read and a little surprising too!  

This is the story of Rosie Strange who is an Essex girl and benefit fraud investigator, with very little interest in the world of Witchcraft! But her life plan changes somewhat when her Grandfather Septimus leaves her his beloved Essex Witch Museum.  Her family was never the closest so she knows very little of this side of the family and when she travels to visit the museum her plan is to sell it as soon as she can!

But while she is there, she is immediately swept along in the hunt for the bones of one of the most notorious ‘witches’ of the 16th century, Ursula Cadence.  Sam who is the curator of the Museum and a friend of Septimus is wary of Rosie to begin with but their relationship is allowed to progress nicely in this book as they are sent all over the country to track down the whereabouts of the remains of Ursula to try and help the young boy whose body appears to have been possessed by Thomas, the son of Ursula.

I really enjoyed the mix of humour, history and mystery in this story and there were a few moments to give you the chills as well!  There was a fascinating glimpse into the history of Witches in the county through Sam and the knowledge he brought to the ‘team’ and it has definitely made me more intrigued to read up even more about what happened during that period. Very pleased as well to know that this is the beginning of a series of books featuring these characters so will be watching out for the next installment!

This book has been inspired by Ursula Kemp who was tried in Essex in 1582 for witchcraft and hanged, and then the remains of 2 women were later found in a garden in St Osyth and became a tourist attraction, such is the appeal of the history of the witches of Essex.

The Witch Finder’s Sister by Beth Underdown – book review

THE BLURB

‘VIVID AND TERRIFYING’ Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train

The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six… 

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

‘A richly told and utterly compelling tale, with shades of Hilary Mantel‘ Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat

Anyone who liked Cecilia Ekback’s Wolf Winter is going to love this‘ Natasha Pulley, author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Beth Underdown grips us from the outset and won’t let go…at once a feminist parable and an old-fashioned, check-twice-under-the-bed thriller’ Patrick Gale, author of Notes from an Exhibition

‘A tense, surprising and elegantly-crafted novel‘ Ian McGuire, author of The North Water

‘Beth Underdown cleverly creates a compelling atmosphere of dread and claustrophobia… Even from the distance of nearly four hundred years, her Matthew Hopkins is a genuinely frightening monster’ Kate Riordan

Publication Date 2nd March 2017

Amazon UK

Hive.co.uk – buy online and support your local bookstore

MY REVIEW

As an Essex girl, born and bred, I’m always intrigued to read books set in the county so that got me interest in reading the blurb of this, along with the fact that it is loosely based on the real life character of  Matthew Hopkins ‘The Witchfinder General’ who is famous for his role in the killing of women in the 17th century around the region of Manningtree, who were thought to be witches. The fact that the evidence against those women – rumoured to be about 300 women in just under 3 years that were killed – was based mostly on rumours amongst villagers or even the fact that woman had a birthmark or mole – evidence enough for the witchfinders to condemn the women to hang.

In this book we follow the story of Alice, his sister, who in 1645 moved back to Manningtree to see her brother after the death of her husband. Her brother had always been strange and seen as different from a child, as he was badly burned in a fire as a child, but when Alice returns she notices a much darker side to his personality and learns of his life now as a witch finder and that he is killing women, but legally!.

Alice as a character in herself, is also an extremely interesting woman as she has dealt with much trauma in her life and her attempts to keep her brother from his quest is a brave one but a reckless one. He takes her out on his witch hunts to help with the ‘interrogation’ and it is quite harrowing to read of what he makes her do, and what the women under suspicion have to endure. She also begins to learn more of her recently deceased mother, and her father too which adds more depth to the story and shines some light on their troubled childhoods.

I really loved the pace of this book – it is a little slow at times, but that really helps the characters build and gives you a great insight to life at the time and in the surrounding areas which are wonderfully brought to life as his quest to hunt out more witches picks up pace. It never goes over the top and deals with subject matter in a calm and understated way.

It is fascinating to take a person from history and create a story around someone who there isn’t much known about his persona or personal life, and I think it works so well in this book to create an imagined storyline – it cleverly feels very real as the story picks up pace towards the end and I am now also inspired to read more about the Witch Trials and how this sad period of history was allowed to gather such pace.

A fascinating and well written debut and I look forward to reading more from the author in the future!  I will definitely be buying a copy of the beautiful hardback version to have on my bookshelves!

I received a copy of this via NetGalley and the publishers in return for a fair and honest review