#BookReview A PERFECT EXPLANATION by ELEANOR ANSTRUTHER #LibraryLoveChallenge

The Observer: Fiction to look out for in 2019

Exploring themes of ownership and abandonment, Eleanor Anstruther’s debut is a fictionalised account of the true story of Enid Campbell (1892–1964), granddaughter of the 8th Duke of Argyll.

Interweaving one significant day in 1964 with a decade during the interwar period, A Perfect Explanation gets to the heart of what it is to be bound by gender, heritage and tradition, to fight, to lose, to fight again. In a world of privilege, truth remains the same; there are no heroes and villains, only people misunderstood. Here, in the pages of this extraordinary book where the unspoken is conveyed with vivid simplicity, lies a story that will leave you reeling.

published by Salt Publishing

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK

Publisher Website

hive.co.uk

whsmith

MY REVIEW

This is a book based on the author’s own grandmother, and wow what a story! I listened to the audio version, alongside reading the paperback, and found it to be utterly compelling – it’s heartbreaking, tragic and left me feeling torn as to who to side with as each story was revealed over different timelines. It just goes to show how messy families can be, especially when there’s money and standing to be thought of.

The art of compassion and understanding seemed to be long forgotten by many of the characters as they faced really troubling times, and the least of their worries seemed to be the concern for the children involved. They became a by product of the battle of wills between some very powerful individuals who were dealing with their own emotional turmoil, but had very little support to get through it.

The story is told from a couple of perspectives over the timelines and I found this such a brilliant way of seeing the story evolve – from Enid being in a home feeling so bitter towards life awaiting a visit from her daughter, to Enid looking back to her past as she dealt with her own less than compassionate family and how that affected her in how she dealt with wedded life and motherhood. They say what we see shapes, and this is clearly demonstrated in this book.

And at the heart of the story are the children, especially poor Fagus who had medical issues but nobody knew how to deal with him and he had such a tragic life with little care. The anger and resentment from his brother and sister too who were also pushed aside by those they trusted was clearly felt too and brilliantly portrayed throughout. Their indifference to their mother in her later life was understandable but you could just see history repeating itself over and over.

I had so many mixed emotions towards Enid – she had such a sad life surrounded by people who clearly didn’t understand her post natal depression, and was expected to live a life she just didn’t want for the sake of the family. It was a brilliant portrayal of family dynamics, the mother/daughter relationships and a real battle of wills with nobody seemingly prepared to be more understanding towards one another and do the best for the children.

The audio version was a wonderful listen – beautifully narrated and brought the characters to life perfectly. 

★★★★★

#BlogTour #BookReview A HOME FROM HOME by VERONICA HENRY #AHomeFromHome #RandomThingsTours

A huge delight to be part of the Blog Tour for A HOME FROM HOME by VERONICA HENRY today to share my thoughts.  Thank you so much to the author, publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for the copy of the book and letting me be part of it all!

ABOUT THE BOOK

 Sunshine, cider and family secrets…

Dragonfly Farm has been a home and a haven for generations of Melchiors – arch rivals to the Culbones, the wealthy family who live the other side of the river. Life there is dictated by the seasons and cider-making, and everyone falls under its spell.

For cousins Tabitha and Georgia, it has always been a home from home. When a tragedy befalls their beloved great-uncle Matthew, it seems the place where they’ve always belonged might now belong to them…

But the will reveals that a third of the farm has also been left to a total stranger. Gabriel Culbone has no idea why he’s been included, or what his connection to the farm – or the Melchiors – can be.

As the first apples start to fall for the cider harvest, will Dragonfly Farm begin to give up its secrets?

A Home from Home is the very best of Veronica Henry’s storytelling – gorgeous scenes you wish you could step into, a cast of characters who feel like friends, and an irresistibly feel-good family drama crossing three generations.

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Discover Veronica Henry – your favourite authors’ favourite author:

‘Wise, insightful, beautifully written. A delicious treat of a book’ Milly Johnson

‘An utter delight’ Jill Mansell

‘Truly blissful escapism’ Lucy Diamond

‘A heart-warming, triumphant story combined with Veronica’s sublime writing – the perfect mix!’ Cathy Bramley

‘A beautiful book. Warm, emotional and full of hope’ Sarah Morgan

‘Veronica Henry has such a deft hand with families and their complications’ Katie Fforde

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK

hive.co.uk

WHSmith

Author Website

MY REVIEW

As a huge fan of Veronica Henry I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of this book, and it has been an absolute treat to read from start to finish.  Dragonfly Farm is the perfect setting for a story full of drama, love, tragedy and tons of family secrets to be revealed.

There’s a great cast of characters in A HOME FROM HOME.  At the centre is Tabitha – a hard-working woman who seems to be able to turn her hand to most things and has happily lived at Dragonfly Farm for a number of years with her great uncle Matthew, and the pride they take in the place and the family business is lear for all to see.

When he passes, Tabitha and her cousin Georgia are shocked to find out that Matthew has left a third of the farm to a complete stranger to them –  Gabriel Culbone.  Hearing the surname has them even more shocked as there has always been ‘beef’ between the Culbones and the Melchiors, and the revelations that soon follow send shockwaves through both families.

To his credit Gabriel is as in the dark as Tabitha and Georgia as to his connection to this Farm.  He’s an artisan knife-maker and just looking to do the best for his family and beloved daughter, so the girls are concerned that he’ll want to sell his share and they could lose the farm they hold so dear to their hearts.

The story then jumps back and forth to look back at the family over different time periods and to find out the truth of what happened over the years to cause the rifts and to shed light on the future for Dragonfly Farm.

With a wide range of characters there are so many avenues for the author to explore and you get some really enthralling storylines to follow, especially from the past and I loved the different emotions you went through reading their stories.  

 A truly charming book, and one I adored!!

★★★★★

#BookReview The Other Half of August Hope by Joanna Glen

ABOUT THE BOOK

Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in.

At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.
 
And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.

When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown. She’s determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?

published by The Borough Press

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £8.97

hive.co.uk  £10.29

whsmith  £9.35

MY REVIEW

A book to break your heart while filling you with joy! Not an easy task to complete but this story manages it effortlessly!

It takes a lot for a book to evoke such emotions but you cannot have a character like Augusta and not fall in love with her and feel for her at every turn. She’s a twin but so unlike her sister Julia – born a day apart! – and her ‘quirkiness’ often causes her parents not to ‘get’ her and blatantly prefer her sister Julia.

Augusta is a thinker – she loves words, she loves learning and she’s never happy just to settle. Her parents run the local uniform shop and are part of the neighbourhood watch – they live life very simply and they don’t like change, which makes them unable to understand Augusta and her outlook as she wants to explore and see new things.

We also get to hear the story of Parfait whose homeland is Burundi and he tells of his struggles day to day, and how he dreams of escaping to a better life. His story is so heartbreaking and really puts into perspective the day to day struggles we think we have a tough time dealing with. 

The 2 stories work so well alongside one another – they are fairly similar in character that they’re always dreaming of better things and never feeling settled but living in very different worlds and dealing with very different obstacles.

As the years go by, Augusta and her issues of trying to fit in never go away and the internal/external struggles are so brilliantly portrayed. Dealing with new experiences like going to University, growing up and growing further apart from her family – it all brings new challenges to Augusta.

My heart broke a number of times during this book as certain events just took my breath away with how they were portrayed. It cleverly shows how fate can destroy or repair a life and how the link between people can be so profound and I just found it to be such an emotional read that I hope more people pick it up and get to love Augusta as much as I did!

★★★★★

#BookReview The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens

About the book

The Winds of Heaven is a 1955 novel about ‘a widow, rising sixty, with no particular gifts or skills, shunted from one to the other of her more or less unwilling daughters on perpetual uneasy visits, with no prospect of her life getting anything but worse’ (Afterword). One daughter is the socially ambitious Miriam living in commuter belt with her barrister husband and children; one is Eva, an aspiring actress in love with a married man; and the third is Anne, married to a rough but kindly Bedfordshire smallholder who is the only one who treats Louise with more than merely dutiful sympathy. The one relation with whom she has any empathy is her grandchild.

Publisher  – Persephone Books

Purchase Links

Persephone Books

Amazon UK

My Review

Another exquisite read from the Persephone stable that is full of drama, some ghastly characters and wonderful observations on the quirks and idiosyncrasies of families.

You cannot help but empathise with the main character Louise. Left penniless and homeless when her over-controlling husband passes away, she is left to rely on the ‘charity’ of her 3 daughters who each have her stay with them in turn for short bursts, before she spends each winter in a guest house on the Isle of Wight. But far from being a caring family, the daughters all see time with their mother as a burden and she’s often left feeling in the way. You do wonder how such a woman brought up 3 quite ungrateful daughters, who all seem to take after their father in the way they look down on their mother.

There are bright lights in her life though – her granddaughter Ellen has the same outlook on life as Louise, and they are very similar and always thrive in each others’ company. And then Louise meets a kind stranger, who shows genuine interest in her and it’s lovely to see this friendship blossom as she is treated like a human being for the first time in a very long time.

Louise is such a calming character, despite those around her treating her so harshly, and you often wish she’d just tell her daughters exactly what she thinks of them! She often blames herself too for their behaviour. The sisters are all so wrapped up in their own existence that they fail to see life from the point of view of their mother and I think that resonates even now with some aspects of society.

Desperate to read more now from Monica Dickens.

                                                      ㆝㆝㆝

The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans #BookReview

THE BLURB

The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans is the spellbinding new novel from the Top 5 Sunday Times bestselling author of A Place for Usand The Butterfly Summer. Fans of Kate Morton’s The Lake House or Santa Montefiore will delight in this book. 

Harriet Evans is ‘perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Maeve Binchy’ Best

Tony and Althea Wilde. Glamorous, argumentative … adulterous to the core.

They were my parents, actors known by everyone. They gave our lives love and colour in a house by the sea – the house that sheltered my orphaned father when he was a boy.

But the summer Mads arrived changed everything. She too had been abandoned and my father understood why. We Wildflowers took her in.

My father was my hero, he gave us a golden childhood, but the past was always going to catch up with him … it comes for us all, sooner or later.

This is my story. I am Cordelia Wilde. A singer without a voice. A daughter without a father. Let me take you inside.

Publisher – Headline

Publication Date – 5th April 2018

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Purchase Links

 

Amazon UK   

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MY REVIEW

If you are looking for an epic family drama, full of scandal, regrets and dark secrets then you need this book in your life!  The author has created an astonishing family who seem to live an extremely privileged life but when you look behind the facade, it is often no more than a nightmare.

The Wilde family are an acting dynasty.  Tony and Althea are, on paper, a golden couple, with successful careers but, behind closed doors, they are two quite selfish individuals who seem to accept infidelity on both sides as long as it makes the other person happy! Mixed up in this are their two children, Cordelia and Ben, who witness the moods, the long absences, the cheating – no wonder they end up a little messed up too!  The family have a holiday home ‘The Borsky’ that used to have such warm and wonderful memories for them all, but that has been tainted over the years and through this book we get to look back at a number of times in their lives and put together the pieces of just what damage the dark secrets end up causing.

When I first started reading this I was a little concerned that I found I had no sympathy with the parents as they were so wrapped up in themselves, that it made them difficult to empathise with.  But as the different chapters in their lives were revealed, I became more involved with them as you got to understand them, their pasts and how they turned out the way they did!  And that goes for Cordelia and Ben too. 

The character of Madeleine was an extremely fascinating element of the whole story!  She was obsessed with the family and would make notes of their every move whenever the family moved into the neighbourhood for the summer,and Cordelia and Ben were reluctant to befriend this strange little girl from the neigbourhood, but they soon found they got used to her being around and it was a distraction from the drama in their own home, so she became more involved in their lives.

The switching of timelines was a little confusing to begin with, as was the number of characters, but I soon became swept up in all the different threads – there are lots! – that it all just blended in and created an extraordinary drama playing out on the pages.  It often turned quite dark too and this just added to the impact that every secret revealed had on the family members.  

It is a difficult book to sum up properly without revealing too much, but I found it to be totally enthralling and an exquisite look at a very dysfunctional family trying to come to terms with some very disturbing pasts.  Highly recommeded!!

Extremely grateful to the publisher for sending an advanced copy of this my way. 

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The Antipodeans by Greg McGee #BookReview #historicalfiction

THE BLURB

Three Generations. Two Continents. One Forgotten Secret.

 

2014Clare and her father travel to Venice from New Zealand. She is fleeing a broken marriage, he is in failing health and wants to return one last time to the place where, as a young man, he spent happy years as a rugby player and coach. While exploring Venice, Clare discovers there is more to her father’s motives for returning than she realised and time may be running out for him to put old demons to rest.

1942Joe and Harry, two Kiwi POWs in Italy, manage to escape their captors, largely due to the help of a sympathetic Italian family who shelter them on their farm. Soon they are fighting alongside the partisans in the mountains, but both men have formed a bond with Donatella, the daughter of the family, a bond that will have dramatic repercussions decades later.

The Antipodeans is a novel of epic proportions where families from opposite ends of the earth discover a legacy of love and blood and betrayal.

‘Like a Venetian Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. You won’t want to put it down.’ – Simon Edge, author of The Hopkins Conundrum

‘Hugely evocative’ – Sarah Franklin, author of Shelter

 

Publisher Lightning Books

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Greg McGee is an award-winning New Zealand playwright, television screenwriter, novelist, and biographer.

A promising young rugby player, McGee became a Junior All Black and All Blacks trialist. He graduated from law school, then in 1980 his first play, Foreskin’s Lament, debuted. Centred around rugby, this play became iconic in New Zealand and garnered McGee popular acclaim.

He is a successful screenwriter, writing based-on-true story dramatisations and mini-series based on the Erebus disaster and the infamous Lange Government, as well as contributing to several popular television shows (Marlin Bay, Street Legal, Orange Roughies). He also penned the screenplay for Old Scores, a rugby-based feature film.

As a novelist, McGee first wrote under the pseudonym Alix Bosco, winning the prestigious Ngaio Marsh Award for his debut, CUT & RUN. He also wrote All Blacks captain Richie McCaw’s biography, one of the bestselling New Zealand books of recent years.

 

MY REVIEW

Extremely thankful to Lightning Books who made me aware of this book as they knew I loved historical reads – and this was a captivating and compelling story that I’m extremely glad to have had the pleasure of reading.

Mainly set over 2 timelines; 2014 – Clare and her father go to Venice as her father is dying and he wants to revisit his past, while Clare is escaping her present. 1942 – 2 Kiwi POW’s are helped out by an Italian family who hide them from their captors and they become part of the community during their stay. You wonder how the timelines are linked and what has really prompted the trip to Venice now and it is fascinating as the past is revealed and secrets are uncovered leading to Clare finding out so much more about her father than she ever thought possible.

The dual timeline works so well in this story – the present storyline has so many layers to it from the father trying to make sense of his past, alongside Clare dealing with escaping her cheating ex and the let downs she has suffered over the years. When her father is taken ill whilst in Venice, she is then faced with even more revelations that rock her. Her father kept diaries of his time as a rugby coach in Italy and whilst at times I did find these a little confusing as they centred around politics of the time and featured a lot of names, the details soon all came together to help things slot into place and make things clearer.

And the story line throughout the war years was a complex mix of life on the run, the brutal reality of times of war and the relationships built up between soldiers and those they sought shelter with.

This book was such a quality mix of history, family bonds, secrets, loves and lies and I can see why this book was such a big hit in New Zealand where it spent almost a year on the bestseller chart. The short, snappy chapters really helped with the pace of the story as I found myself not wanting to put it down once I’d started it, and for a book of nearly 450 pages that is quite a feat!! I enjoyed the bond between Clare and her father, and the time they spent in Italy was quite a journey for both of them and brought so vividly to life by the author. As were the war years and the horrors that the soldiers witnessed and how they survived by pulling together and relying on the kindness of strangers.

Cannot recommend this highly enough as an absorbing read that will stay with me for some time!

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah #bookreview

THE BLURB

Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature

Published by; St Martin’s Press

BUYING LINKS

Amazon UK

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

Book Depository

 

MY REVIEW

I was extremely delighted to read an early copy of this via the Jellybooks app so I am forever grateful to them for letting me lose myself in another epic story from Kristin Hannah!  I ADORE The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and it is one of my most favourite books EVER – if you’ve not picked it up yet then please do!! – so I had high expectations for The Great Alone and was hoping it would tug at my heartstrings as The Nightingale did.  And I did enjoy it but found it not quite living up to previous work and that’s probably down to me expecting way too much! I still found it to be a totally absorbing read, full of emotion, full of tragedy and hope but just found the ending a little rushed which did disappoint.

It’s a story of Leni growing up in the 1970’s and having to move to Alaska with her family as they try and start a new life together after her father returns from the Vietnam War a much changed man.  It is hard not to feel so much sympathy for Leni, as she’s forced to move to the middle of nowhere with parents who are extremely toxic – to each other and Leni.  There’s a lot of violence in the relationship and a lot of drink too and you understand why Leni often detaches herself from that environment.  When they first move they think that the new lifestyle has changed Ernt, but as the darker days draw in then his personality switches back again and Leni and her mother are left living in fear again, and unable to find an escape from him.

The wider community which they find themselves in do offer some hope to Leni and her mother though, and through them they start to see a glimmer of hope and strength in learning to stand on their own two feet. Never easy though with a character as dominant as Ernt in the background.

We then follow Leni and her story over a number of years and it was good to see her try and follow her dreams in some ways, although tragedy is always never too far away from her as she tries to better herself and find a way out and to have a ‘normal’ life.

This wasn’t as emotionally charged for me to read as The Nightingale, but it still made for a captivating read.