#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. 

★★★★★

#20booksofsummer #bookreview Book 2 – He Wants by Alison Moore

I’m on a roll!  And that roll appears to be completely ignoring my original list and being swayed by things I find in the library for this reading challenge!!! I think I need to avoid the library for a while and get back to my original plan!! But it’s another one off the ‘little’ side of my challenge – this one is 192 pages long – and was a totally absorbing read!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Lewis Sullivan, an RE teacher at a secondary school, is approaching retirement when he wonders for the first time whether he ought to have chosen a more dramatic career. He lives in a village in the Midlands, less than a mile from the house in which he grew up. He always imagined living by the sea. His grown-up daughter visits every day, bringing soup. He does not want soup. He frequents his second-favourite pub, where he can get half a shandy, a speciality sausage and a bit of company.
When an old friend appears on the scene, Lewis finds his routine and comfortable life shaken up


Published by Salt Publishing

MY REVIEW

This book went where I didn’t expect it to go, and that’s what made reading it so memorable and an enthralling reading experience.

It’s a fairly simple story centred around Lewis, a retired RE teacher who has lived his life doing the opposite of how he imagined things would turn out. Since he’s been a widower he still feels bound by routine and unable to live the life he dreamed of.

His daughter lives nearby and brings him soup everyday, despite the fact he never eats it, and she brings her own complexities to the relationship with her father.

He spends many hours looking back, at the things he regrets, the missed opportunities and it’s only when an old school friend appears back in his life, that his rebellious streak shows itself and he starts to live life a little dangerously and throws caution to the wind to see if the life he had always dreamed of would bring him the joy he craved.

The attention to the little details throughout really make this short novel sparkle and I found it to be so touching and enchanting.

★★★★

#BookReview Haverscroft by S.A.Harris #bookblogger #Haverscroft

ABOUT THE BOOK

‘An atmospherically creepy ghost story that keeps you guessing till the end! Sally Harris is one to watch.’ —Angela Clarke, Sunday Times Bestselling Author.

Kate Keeling leaves all she knows and moves to Haverscroft House in an attempt to salvage her marriage. Little does she realise, Haverscroft’s dark secrets will drive her to question her sanity, her husband and fatally engulf her family unless she can stop the past repeating itself. Can Kate keep her children safe and escape Haverscroft in time, even if it will end her marriage?

Haverscroft is a gripping and chilling dark tale, a modern ghost story that will keep you turning its pages late into the night.

PUBLISHED BY SALT

PURCHASE LINKS

Publisher Website

hive.co.uk

WHSmith

MY REVIEW

A classic ghost story with a modern twist – and I loved every single scary, creepy moment of it all!!! Every noise I now hear in the house has me worried…..

Kate is married to Mark, and with their 2 children they move to Haverscroft in what seems to be a bid to save their marriage and start afresh in a new village. But Kate is increasingly spending more time alone with the children in their new home, as Mark is busy living away during the week with work, and her state of mind appears to be unravelling as she’s starting to see things, hear things, smell things… it is a figment of her imagination or is their new home genuinely haunted and trying to force them out.

The relationship between Kate and Mark is at the centre of this story and brilliantly looks into suspicions, mental health and how parents can play off against one another to look the good guy in the eyes of their children. With Mark away, Kate is troubled by him not answering the phone when she tries to call so that is setting off her doubts on his actual whereabouts. Their new home has always had a strange and unsettling feeling to her and the children and the more time they spend in there, the more that feeling intensifies – and the question of what is in the locked attic doesn’t help matters! The previous owner, Mrs Havers, had to move out because of her health but is keen to talk to Kate about the house and the longer the story goes on, the more you understand why she is so keen to share her thoughts to the new owners and as Kate delves more into the past of the house and local area the more she becomes driven and obsessed with finding out the truth about so many things.

The contributions from the children were some of the most chilling aspects for me! The things they talk about and that they see really add that edge to the ghost story and I think if I was living there I would have run out after a couple of days!! With history repeating itself you really just lose yourself in wondering what terrifying moments await them all.

I loved the setting and the pace of this story. The fear didn’t let up and the questions and doubts about Kate and her frame of mind played so well along the children and their perception of what was happening. This house full of dark secrets really had me petrified and I can’t wait to see what the author has in store for us with her next book!!

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#BookReview Too Many Magpies by Elizabeth Baines

About the book

Can we believe in magic and spells? Can we put our faith in science?

A young mother married to a scientist fears for her children’s safety as the natural world around her becomes ever more uncertain. Until, that is, she meets a charismatic stranger who seems to offer a different kind of power… But is he a saviour or a frightening danger? And, as her life is overturned, what is happening to her children whom she vowed to keep safe? Why is her son Danny now acting so strangely? 

In this haunting, urgent and timely novel, Elizabeth Baines brings her customary searing insight to the problems of sorting our rational from our irrational fears and of bringing children into a newly precarious world. In prose that spins its own spell she exposes our hidden desires and the scientific and magical modes of thinking which have got us to where we are now.

Published by Salt Publishing

Purchase Links

Salt Publishing

MY REVIEW

I found this to be a hypnotic and haunting little read that shines a light on the pressure of modern life and motherhood – can you really have it all? It seems not if the experiences of the mother in this book is anything to go by!

It’s a story of a mother with young children who has lived a very controlled ‘safe’ life with her scientist husband who sees life in very black and white terms, and is loathe to trust the world he lives in. They grow their own food, limit the sugar their children eat and he latches on to scientific reports as if they are gospel. 

when she meets a stranger in a park he’s the total opposite of her husband. Has lived his life doing things you’re told not to, and his attitude sparks a change in her and her outlook on the world. She begins to resent the homelife she has, sneaking around to meet up with this man and becomes even more anxious about all the decisions she has ever made, especially when it comes to the children.

I raced through this book as it just pulls you in to share the experiences of this woman as she struggles with the conflicts in her life. It also shows the impact of PND on this woman and how a simple decision can become so difficult and life becomes too intense. Questioning everything you’ve ever done and ever thought! There is no magic spell to achieving the perfect life and you just have to do what you can.

It is beautifully written, mixes reality with magical realism perfectly and has a big impact for a little story!

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#BookReview Death and the Seaside by Alison Moore

ABOUT THE BOOK

With an abandoned degree behind her and a thirtieth birthday approaching, amateur writer Bonnie Falls moves out of her parents’ home into a nearby flat. Her landlady, Sylvia Slythe, takes an interest in Bonnie, encouraging her to finish one of her stories, in which a young woman moves to the seaside, where she comes under strange influences. As summer approaches, Sylvia suggests to Bonnie that, as neither of them has anyone else to go on holiday with, they should go away together – to the seaside, perhaps.

The new novel from the author of the Man Booker-shortlisted The Lighthouse is a tense and moreish confection of semiotics, suggestibility and creative writing with real psychological depth and, in Bonnie Falls and Sylvia Slythe, two unforgettable characters.

Publisher – Salt Publishing

Paperback, 176 pages

Purchase Links

Amazon UK

Salt Publishing

Hive.co.uk

MY REVIEW

For the first half of this book I was really unsure of it! It just wasn’t going anywhere…. And then boom! It all clicked into place and I couldn’t get enough of it! A very cleverly written book with such a dark undercurrent, that is quite unsettling to read and it quietly pulls you into the menacing world created within.

Bonnie is a pretty unremarkable character – she is kind of resigned to a quiet life, she’s a worrier and full of self doubt and receives very little praise from her parents or those around her, and her only way of escaping is to write. She has created a story based on a character called Susan and the book dips in and out of the chapters she has written and the lines start blurring between Bonnie and Susan and you wonder if fiction is fact, or vice versa! When she becomes friends with her landlady, Sylvia, she finally receives some positive interaction with another human being, as Syliva encourages her to finish writing her novel and is very interested in creating the right atmosphere for Bonnie to get into character. Bonnie is also plagued by notes containing the word ‘Jump’ on them and you start to get glimpses into her mind where she prefers to be in rooms on the ground floor and what drove her to have episodes in her childhood where she jumps off piers she visits – all very bizarre.

I loved the way the creepy factor gets increased as the story goes on. You always have a rather unpleasant feeling about what is happening around Bonnie and her writing, and especially the way she is treated by people she comes into contact with. The pace is slow which did take a while for me to come to terms with, but it made sense by the end of why I think the author approached telling the story this way!

I listened to the audio version of this and really enjoyed the way the story was told, especially the second half!

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