A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier #TuesdayBookBlog

Violet is 38.

The First World War took everything from her. Her brother, her fiancé – and her future. She is now considered a ‘surplus woman’.

But Violet is also fiercely independent and determined. Escaping her suffocating mother, she moves to Winchester to start a new life –a change that will require courage, resilience and acts of quiet rebellion. And when whispers of another world war surface, she must live with a secret that could change everything…

My Review

I was aware of the generation of women robbed of husbands or partners by the First World War, but I hadn’t thought about their lives looking after dependent relations or surviving on a pittance. Moving to Winchester, her job as a typist helps Violet to be independent but the low pay barely covers her rent in a ladies’ boarding house, leaving very little to pay for food. Despite this she makes new friends, becoming one of the “broderers” making kneelers for the cathedral. Although totally inexperienced she is guided by the designer and organiser of the project, Louisa Pesel. Louisa was the real President of the Embroiderers’ Guild and the kneelers can still be seen in Winchester Cathedral today.

Violet also meets two of the bell ringers and one of them, Arthur, invites her to watch the team from inside the tower. These two projects and the relationships she develops put meaning into her life, so she is scarcely aware of the approaching doom as they hear of Hitler’s rise to power.  The story deals with the topics of same sex partners and the dependence women have on a patriarchal society but it also includes descriptions of the medieval streets of Winchester and the beautiful surrounding countryside. The story is a slow burner about a brave, intelligent woman finding fulfilment and a future. I enjoyed reading about a unique part of the 20th century and how different characters adapted to change.

A Single Thread at Amazon UK

An introduction to Burning Bright another book by Tracy Chevalier

Runaway by Peter May #BookReview #FridayReads

FIVE DREAMS OF FAME

Glasgow, 1965. Jack Mackay dares not imagine a life of predictability and routine. The headstrong seventeen-year-old has one thing on his mind – London – and successfully convinces his four friends, and fellow band mates, to join him in abandoning their homes to pursue a goal of musical stardom.

FIVE DECADES OF FEAR

Glasgow, 2015. Jack Mackay dares not look back on a life of failure and mediocrity. The heavy-hearted sixty-seven-year old is still haunted by the cruel fate that befell him and his friends some fifty years before, and how he did and did not act when it mattered most – a memory he has run from all his adult life.

London, 2015. A man lies dead in a bedsit. His killer looks on, remorseless. What started with five teenagers five decades before will now be finished.

My Review

It is 2015 and Jack sets out for London on a road journey paralleling the one he made when he left Glasgow in 1965 with the members of his teenage rock group. During both journeys mistakes are made and the travellers get into trouble. But this time Jack takes his bright but lethargic grandson as driver. Will he ruin his life or seize new opportunities?

They may have exciting adventures but the stories in each era are mainly depressing. Despite being of a similar age to Jack I did not enjoy his portrayal of either era. Something does not ring true in the sordid tale although it would work more successfully as a drama on film. Unexpectedly there is a cheering, satisfactory conclusion but this was not the book I expected from the amazing writer of the Lewis Trilogy.

Runaway on Amazon UK

My review of The Black House the first book of The Lewis Trilogy

Lifted by Water (Razor’s Edge Chronicles Book 3) by Celine Jeanjean #NewRelease

If I tell you I have magic, you’re probably going to expect all kinds of impressive displays, like fireballs and moving things with my mind.

Yeah, I still can’t do that. That’s why I’m a barber to the supernatural rather than any kind of magical badass. And now that the supernaturals have come out in public, things are getting seriously interesting.

Especially when one of my regulars goes missing. I’m never one to stand on the sidelines when a friend’s in trouble, so of course I go looking for him. You’d be amazed how quickly I can get in over my head. And given my weak magic, it’s definitely not a comfortable position.

Please note that this is book 3 of a continuous series. The author recommends that you start with book 1, Touched by Magic.

My Review

There are two parallel threads in this episode of Apiya’s story. One is her confusion over whether to seek out her birth mother. She is very close to her adoptive parents, she is nervous about what she might discover and yet she would like to know why she has been “touched” by magic. The main narrative is yet another dangerous adventure when once again she tries to go solo to find a missing friend. As you might expect she will find herself involved once more with the charismatic Sarroch. Is there a hint of romance or are they connected by her unknown parentage? 

This continuing story set on an exotic Asian island populated by a mixture of ordinary Mundanes and magical Mayaks yet set in a technologically advanced society still intrigues and offers more revelations in future novels.

Lifted by Water on Amazon UK

My review of Touched by Magic

Celine Jeanjean is a nomadic writer who roams the world laptop in hand, having adventures and then telling stories inspired by those adventures. Kind of like a digital storytelling wanderer.  Her stories feature complex but flawed characters, lots of quirkiness, snappy banter, and richly imagined worlds.  If you’re ready to escape to new worlds and make new book friends, go to http://celinejeanjean.com/freebook/ to grab yourself some exclusive, free novellas.

The Lake Pavilion by Ann Bennett #NewRelease

India 1935: Amelia Collins, a missionary’s daughter, left destitute by the death of her parents, leaves their home in the Himalayan foothills to find work in Darjeeling. There she meets District Officer Reginald Holden, a powerful older man, who spirits her away from poverty and prejudice to start a new life as his wife in Ganpur. 

Amelia soon forms a bond with Reginald’s young son, Arthur, and resumes missionary work in the villages around Ganpur. There, she discovers a pavilion on a lake where the wives of maharajahs once bathed, now abandoned and cloaked in mystery.   

When the Indian independence movement flares in Ganpur and Reginald struggles to contain it, Amelia’s world begins to fall apart as she uncovers the shattering truths he has been keeping from her.   

Decades later, when Kate Hamilton inherits a rambling country house from her great aunt Amelia, she returns to the village in Buckinghamshire that she left as a teenager in 1944. Sorting through long-hidden papers, she begins to unearth Amelia’s secrets from her years in British India.   

But Kate is harbouring a secret of her own – a devastating betrayal from that last summer of the war. She has lived in the shadow of that day ever since, but Kate is convinced that unlocking the truth about Amelia’s Indian past will hold the key to her own future…   

My Review

Kate Hamilton is a successful London architect but there is no-one special in her life. As she returns to the village where she spent her early teens, for the funeral of her Great Aunt Amelia, she recalls the summer of 1944 when she and her best friend Joan, cycling round the lanes during their summer holiday, discovered a secret, and everything went wrong.  But Kate has inherited Amelia’s house so she must stay there until she has put it up for sale.

Finding private papers belonging to Amelia, Kate discovers a little of her aunt’s previous life in India in 1935.  As she meets her aunt’s old friends, we enter Amelia’s world after both her missionary parents died in the Himalayan foothills.  Penniless and spurned by the English residents of Darjeeling, she is helped by Reginald Holden, a District Officer from Ganpur. Seeing him as a father figure she is surprised when he asks her to marry him. The fact that he has a young motherless son, convinces her that she has a worthwhile role to play.

Ann Bennett paints a vivid picture of the contrasting worlds in India in the 1930s. While there are protests in the cities by Indians wanting independence, women in the countryside are forced to abandon their girl babies because of economic necessity. Meanwhile the British men enjoy hunting parties, and their wives have idle lives with many servants.

In 1970, Kate has met her old friend, Joan, now a downtrodden housewife with several children, and she is anxious to restore their friendship. Discovering more about Amelia’s tragic life in India, helps Kate to face up to her own actions as a teenager and perhaps to move on to a more fulfilling life in the future. A thought provoking, fascinating time-slip story.

The Lake Pavilion on Amazon UK

My review of The Orphan House by Ann Bennett also set in India and England.

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