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The Oystercatcher Girl by Gabrielle Barnby

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Oyster catcher

The Oystercatcher Girl is set in the stark, windswept landscape of Orkney where Neolithic graves mark the ancient residents while the present-day community work hard and seek love and friendship. Returning for a heart-breaking funeral, Christine narrates her story and that of her sister, Lindsay, and her best friend, Tessa. For once, Lindsay, a tempestuous, unreliable personality, supports her sister as she mourns Robbie, the love of her life, who had married Tessa.

It is, therefore, a surprise to find Christine sharing her house with Tessa and her young daughter Jenna. Starting work in St Olaf’s primary school, she remembers her childhood, how she and Tessa became inseparable and how they marked the rhythm of the seasons such as Halloween and the November bonfires, as they grew up. But a teenage party changed everything. Secrets separated friends and inevitably Christine resented her troublesome sister.

Gabrielle Barnby writes in detail of everyday routine, of the beauty of the countryside or sordid appearance of a street and of the confusion Christine feels. Tessa appears to be an enigma; a butterfly or an oystercatcher, scampering with the tide. She gave up music on a whim, she shows little sign of grief for her husband and yet she is a caring mother. We see Robbie through the eyes of others and through a bundle of letters, which hint at the secrets we do not understand.

As the story progresses, Christine finds herself endangered by past deeds. Can she find contentment and a sense of belonging or will happiness be elusive? This literary, mindful novel has a spiritual quality and yet is firmly grounded in everyday predicaments of love, loss and secrets.

Gabrielle

Gabrielle Barnby

The longer I live in Orkney the more I have come to love the wild landscape and the lilting dialect, which stings the ear like the wind. This book was written over the last three years, it is set in Orkney, but I wanted to write about relationships in a way that spoke to everyone no matter where they live.

Christina’s story is about life and death, and the messy complications that increase rather than diminish as time goes by. The desire for perfection in herself and other people is in danger of leaving Christine isolated from everyone she loves. Ultimately, her journey to self-knowledge will be irrevocably linked with loss.

Gabrielle is a graduate of Oxford University where she studied Human Sciences and received a Phd for research into the molecular genetics of autism.
Gabrielle’s first collection The House with The Lilac Shutters and other stories was inspired by repeated summer visits to a small town at the base of the Pyrenees. She now lives in Orkney, where she is involved in writing groups, storytelling and creative workshops for children. A variety of her work, including poetry, has been published in anthologies and magazines.

‘I find joy in everyday happenings, give reverence to small moments that touch deeply and might otherwise pass by unremarked.’

You will find The Oystercatcher Girl at Amazon UK or at Amazon US

Voyager by Carl Rackman #Bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog

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Voyager

This style of novel is not my usual choice of genre but it’s always good to try entering a new environment and adapt to a faster paced narrative. And I am really glad I chose Carl Rackman’s second book.

From the Prologue when Brad talks to his fiancé by phone as she tries to escape from the second tower on 9/11 to the culmination of this thriller on the day of the Inauguration of a new President in 2017, this fast-moving thriller keeps you guessing. There are a number of significant characters to meet, including Brad, a member of an FBI counter-terrorism unit, Dr Callie Woolf, Project Manager of the Voyager Interstellar Mission and Matt, a British pilot who freelances for MI5. Brad soon finds himself in disgrace, Callie fears her project will be cancelled and Matt may lose his freedom.

The plot is complex and offers “alternative facts” and there are acronyms and details of the workings of NASA and US Security staff to come to grips with. The characters gradually fill out into believable personalities and each of them becomes increasingly endangered. And then we meet Mirage, a mysterious superwoman. Is she good or evil? Is the world about to be invaded by creatures from another world, or is there a conspiracy? This tautly constructed suspense novel kept me turning the pages and hoping that Brad and Callie would solve the mystery and survive all attempts on their lives.

Voyager is available on Amazon UK or Amazon US

You can find my review of Carl Rackman’s first novel, Irex here

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Past Meets Present at Clandon Park

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Today I am taking the challenge set by Becky of It Caught My Eye in Portugal to compare a photograph of the past with a recent one I have taken myself.

I have lived near to Clandon Park for 37 years and although I didn’t particularly admire the appearance of the outside architecture, I always felt at home walking around this National Trust property.  Inside as well as the Marble Entrance Hall, there were beautifully decorated rooms full of enchanting china.

When I first saw the smoke and flames of the house fire which caused so much destruction I was very sad and my more recent photos show that although the shell remains, the roof and much of the interior has been destroyed.  Now the NT are looking for an architect to oversee its rebuilding.  I am looking forward to a hopeful future for the House.

Clandon

 

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Please visit some of Becky’s #PastMeetsPresent Pages and maybe join in yourself.

Garden of Stars by Rose Alexander #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Garden of stars

Garden of Stars is a beautifully written novel, set in London and Portugal. It tells the tale of Sarah Lacey, who returns to Portugal in 2010 wondering whether she will be able to discover the love she had lost 20 years earlier. She has been given a journal by her great aunt, Inês Bretão, who though born in the Alentejo, had married an Englishman in 1934. At first Sarah thinks that the life story of Inês is meant to guide her own actions but she begins to realise that there is a mystery to solve.

But Sarah’s story is also one of love and loss. There is passion and romance and also the quandary of modern family life, of too much work, not enough money and lack of communication. At home, her husband Hugo is looking after her beloved daughters Honor and Rose. In Portugal she has the chance of rediscovering Scott, her first love.

For me, the delight of this book is the description of places in Portugal, both in the 1930s and the 21st century. We visit a cork farm, a vineyard, Lisbon, Estoril and Porto. Both Inês and Sarah love the light, the beauty and the people of Portugal and when Sarah is reunited with Scott, he sums up his feelings in this way.

He had managed to get hold of tickets to see one of Portugal’s most famous fado singers, knowing that Sarah shared his love of this traditional music that sang of saudade, of nostalgia, loss and longing.
“Memories are what make us hurt – we all have our own saudade. My saudade is about you, what I shared with you and lost. When you left without telling me why, you stole my life and my soul.
This is fado. There are no happy endings.”

I found the journal of Inês rather strange. At first she writes in intimate detail, expressing feelings not written for an audience, she writes of things she would not want her husband to read but later she explains little of her life. Only towards the end of the book do we understand why she has given this book to Sarah. Sarah is an easier character to identify with, as she deals with everyday life we can recognise.  Scott said, “There are no happy endings.” I recommend that you read the book to discover whether he was right or wrong.

Garden of Stars is available on Amazon here

The Separation by Dinah Jefferies #Bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog

Separation

This is a story about the separation of mothers and daughters told from opposite sides of the world by Lydia, a young mother abandoned in Malaya in 1955 and her daughter Emma lonely and unloved in England. Initially the main story is of Lydia’s journey during the Malayan Emergency through the dangers of jungle roads where insurgents may kill or kidnap locals or colonials alike. With little money, she searches for her missing husband and daughters gaining help from a mysterious stranger. Her story includes love and tragedy against the background of the steaming heat and lush growth of the countryside.

Lydia’s story is told in the third person, but we have no doubt about her feelings and emotions. Emma describes events in her own words. She is an independent eleven year old, traumatised by the sudden move to cold, drab England after her happy childhood in the tropics. No-one will tell her where her mother is and she misses her terribly. In addition she has to deal with an abusive adult and a harsh boarding school.

I identified strongly with this story, remembering 1950s England and having spent some of my teenage years in Malaya and Singapore. The authenticity of the settings is striking, but what captivates the reader is the passion and drama of the plot. There are mysteries to solve, scores to settle and happiness to hope for.

Dinah Jefferies is a talented writer who is able to give context and characterisation to a moving, thrilling plot. This was a book I read late into the night, not wanting to put it down. Highly recommended.

The Separation is available on Amazon here

D Jefferies

Dinah was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to England at the age of nine. In 1985, the sudden death of her fourteen year old son changed the course of her life, and deeply influenced her writing. Dinah drew on that experience, and on her own childhood spent in Malaya during the 1950s to write her debut novel, The Separation.

Now living in Gloucestershire with her husband and their Norfolk terrier, she spends her days writing, with time off with her grandchildren.

The Parody of Death by William Savage #RBRT #HistoricalFiction #MurderMystery

Parody of death

This is the third Ashmole Fox Georgian mystery, but the first I have read. This was no hindrance as Fox’s tastes and character are soon evident to the reader and indeed in this volume he seems to be on the cusp of a changes in his character being an aging man, over 30! Ashmole lives in Norwich, which in the 18th century was a vibrant city. A rich man with plenty of time on his hands, ostensibly a book seller, but leaving the day-to-day work to the reliable Mrs Crombie, he is becoming an expert at solving murder mysteries.

On this occasion the victim is Richard Logan, the unpopular Tower Captain of the United Norwich Ringers. The Bell Ringers were soon to play the famous “Bloody Peal” but will now be unable to achieve it without their Captain. Soon Fox finds several possible murderers and also mystery concerning Logan’s family and home affairs. Aided by young Charlie Dillon, a former urchin, he is able to make use of the street children and young whores, to spy on the suspects.

The unique character of William Savage’s books is the convincing detail he gives of 18th century life without in any way slowing down the narrative. For instance, we read that the talent of weavers to memorise pattern linked to physical movement made them particularly suited to change ringing in church bell towers, which was so popular at the time and Fox’s queries about the clothing worn by different classes of women produces a fascinating description of their varied attire from his maid-servant

There are a panoply of amusing characters such as the Calderwood sisters, whose lives running a Dame school have made them a fount of local gossip. As Ashmole sits before them, they talk as if he is not in the room,
“Young Ashmole always had nice manners”, Miss Hannah said.
“Nice manners but no morals whatsoever,” her sister replied, “especially in the matter of females.”

Savage has created a believable world of historical authority which I enjoyed dipping into and I thoroughly agree with the judicious decision he makes about the murder which might not have been possible in the present day.

You can find This Parody of Death at Amazon US  or Amazon UK

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve #BookReview

Mortal

This post-apocalyptic, steam-punk novel may be aimed at 11 to 16 year olds, but it appeals to all ages, male and female. This is the second time I have read “Mortal Engines” and I still relish every minute getting to know Hester Shaw, the girl disfigured by her parents’ killer and Tom Natsworthy, a loyal apprentice in the Guild of Historians who encounters Hester in alarming circumstances. We also meet heroic explorer Thaddeus Valentine and the frightening Shrike who has been brought back to life, an amalgam of flesh and metal. Yet both these characters have hidden depths.

 

Set in a world following the 60 minute war when major cities like London have to travel around the world on wheels preying on smaller towns and cities, their enemies belong to the Ant-Traction League who wish to stop this cruel, belligerent lifestyle.

 

Perhaps it is Philip Reeve’s previous occupation as an illustrator which makes his descriptions of transportation and multi-tiered cities so easy to visualise but I am looking forward to the promised filming of this novel and desperately hope it will meet my expectation.

 

Mortal Engines can be found on Amazon UK

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