Bamboo Heart by Ann Bennett #BookReview

B Heart

Bamboo Heart has been waiting on my Kindle for a little while. I loved Bamboo Island and I found Bamboo Road really moving but I was worried that this, the first book of the Bamboo Trilogy might be very upsetting. Indeed, the Prologue takes us straight to a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp in 1943, where Tom Ellis has been incarcerated in a narrow individual earth lock-up. He keeps his spirits up by thinking of the girl he left in Penang.

The book moves on to London in 1986 where Laura Ellis, Tom’s daughter returns from Paris to see her father, who is sick. A successful city lawyer, she is dissatisfied with her life and worried about the actions of her boyfriend, Luke. Finding a photo of a young woman with oriental features, named Joy de Souza, Laura decides to travel to Thailand to learn more about her father’s wartime experiences and then on to Penang where he may have met Joy.

The book takes us back to pre-war London where Tom, also unhappy with his life, had decided to travel out east to manage workers on a rubber plantation. He becomes part of the expat community, but he also meets a local teacher who becomes very important to him. His easy-going life is suddenly changed by the approach of the Japanese, when he must become a soldier, but he becomes a captive in Singapore and is taken to the Death Railway.

The book reveals the suffering of so many soldiers and the repercussions in their lives post war. Laura’s experiences in Thailand and Penang are also life-changing but in a positive way. This is a challenging but fascinating story of the tragedy of war but hope for the future.

My interview about the Bamboo Trilogy is here  The book is available on Amazon UK

 

The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Lover's Portrait

American Art History student Zelda Richardson loves her life in Amsterdam, but entrance into the Master’s course in Museum Studies depends on her performance as an intern at the Amsterdam Historical Museum. She is asked to work on an online project to restore 1500 paintings stolen by the Nazis during World War Two to their rightful owners or descendants but she is not welcomed onto the project by the stiff, unfriendly Huub Konijn, senior curator at the Jewish Historical Museum, who designed the website.

But not content with her editing role, Zelda uses her previous web design experience to brighten up the front page, with her own choice of paintings, in an animation. Despite Huub’s criticism, one of these paintings, Irises, triggers a claimant almost instantly. Rita Brouwer, a large, jolly American woman claims it was painted for her elderly sister, but as Zelda begins to warm to this lady, another claimant turns up. Karen O’Neil is an unpleasant socialite, accompanied by her German lawyer, Konrad Heider. She has paperwork listing the painting in the Gallery of her grandfather, Arjan van Heemsvliet.

In parallel with events in 2015, we read about how many valuable paintings belonging to Dutch Jews were hidden in 1942 by Arjan and his friend, picture framer, Philip Verbeet who was Rita’s father. But both men disappeared and the location of the paintings is still unknown. We know more than Zelda about whom she should trust but part of the mystery is concealed until the end and Zelda’s impetuous, proactive investigation leads her into danger and thrilling action.

The novel gives a detailed account of the large quantity of art that was stolen and how rightful ownership is carefully researched, which of necessity slows down the first part of the story, but there is also a compelling mystery which makes the rest of book a real page turner. Zelda is a determined young woman who stumbles into predicaments because of her desire to reveal the truth and the other characters also have convincing motives and characteristics. A great read.

I have since discovered that this is the second book about Zelda, so I am now looking forward to reading Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery, Book one in the series.

The Lover’s Portrait can be purchased at Amazon UK or Amazon US

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Past Meets Present at Clandon Park

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.

Return to the Little French Guest House (La Cour des roses #2) by Helen Pollard #FridayRead #bookreview

Blue skies, new love, and a glass of Bordeaux . . . what could possibly go wrong?

Return

In January, I decided to chase away the winter blues by reading Helen Pollard’s “Little French Guesthouse.”  Now on a sunny Spring break I have picked up “Return to the Little French Guest House.” It was a delight to join heroine Emmy as she began her new job as Rupert’s right hand woman.  Filled with enthusiasm and great ideas she relished the task of putting the Guest House on the map, starting her own online business and developing her budding relationship with charming Anglo-French solicitor, Alain.  But it is not all plain sailing.  A critical review by a vindictive travel blogger instigates cancellations, a major booking for a large family was never recorded by Rupert’s wife, Gloria, and both she and Emmy’s ex-partner Nathan are still causing trouble.

However Emmy does manage to spend time with new friend Sophie visiting chateaux and nearby towns and she becomes closer to Rupert’s friends, especially Jonathan, who is beginning to feel his advancing age.  It is a warm community, always willing to help each other out and most of the guests enjoy their holidays immensely.  Once Alain returns from Paris, he and Emmy grow closer but will their previous relationships cause them grief?

There are some very humorous scenes occurring in the guest house and delightful repartee around Rupert’s dinner table.  Combining these scenes with lovely descriptive passages and the romantic experiences of a likeable heroine, make this an entertaining follow-up not to be missed by those who read the first book.

You can find Return to the Little French Guest House at Amazon UK

My review of the original Little French Guest House is here

Helen Pollard

As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading, so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.

She still prefers fictional worlds to real life, believes characterisation is the key to a successful book, and enjoys infusing her writing with humour and heart.

Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

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 Little French Guest House by Helen Pollard #TuesdayBookBlog

 

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The Little French Guesthouse is recommended as a perfect feel good summer holiday read and I am sure it would be, but it is also a warming ray of sunshine to read on dull winter days. Starting dramatically when the heroine Emmy finds her partner, Nathan, in flagrante with the wife of the guest house owner, we are plunged into her dilemma as she deals with the fall out. As Nathan runs off with Gloria, Emmy decides to stay on at the guest house helping Rupert, the owner, to deal with new guests.

The hard work and beautiful sunshine help Emmy to come to terms with her predicament and she soon makes friends with locals and ex-pats in the area. Surprisingly, her love life also improves as she encounters muscular, handsome Ryan, the gardener and Alain, a slightly annoying but intriguing accountant. She dreads returning to England where she will have to sort out the mess of working and owning a flat with love-rat, Nathan.

In many ways, this is an ideal read in January as we share Emmy’s experience of deciding where her life should go now. She is 31, her relationship has broken down and she has been in a rut. But she can’t stay on holiday for ever. Decisions about her career and future must be made. Inevitably I will soon be dipping into the follow up book Return to the Little French Guesthouse.

The Little French Guest House is available at Amazon UK  and Amazon US

Primary Sources from the 20th century: Reviews of “Notes on Voyage” and “Zeppelin Letters” by David Ransom

David Ransom is an amateur historian with specialist interests which have drawn him towards fascinating sources.  These two books reveal a diary and the letters of people who were alive in interesting times.

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Notes on Voyage is the diary of John Lynn and his family as they travel to Australia in 1911 to start a new life.  David Ransom has put the diary in its historical context and gives us information about the Lynn family, but it is John Lynn’s voice who speaks to us through his adventure.

The long voyage round South Africa, not stopping until they first reached Australia, must have been very wearing.  I have made this voyage myself, but with stops en route to relieve the monotony.  But the passengers and crew came up with many ideas to occupy themselves such as chess, music and football.  They watched flying fish and battleships and on the hottest nights slept on deck or indulged in pillow fights.  They endured a frightening hurricane and a mutiny by some of the crew.

This book is an opportunity to share the experiences of a hopeful and likeable family as they bravely set out over a hundred years ago.

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Zeppelin Letters takes us to the Home Front during World War One, as we share the experiences of Londoners of the time, through the letters they wrote. We read of the horror and fear when the Zeppelins, and later planes, came to bomb the city and gain understanding of the difficulties people had, finding food and going about their everyday lives. I was surprised to discover how much disruptive and fatal bombing there was during a war when there were no air-raid shelters.

 
The letter writers were Maud Norris, George Vernon Hatch and Irene Magraw. Maud wrote to her brother, who was in New Zealand; George Hatch worked in an office during the day and volunteered at a searchlight station for the Civil Defence; Irene, who was married to a clergyman, wrote chatty letters to her mother.

 
Irene’s letters, including details about her little dog, Smut, and baby Betty are the liveliest to read, but the combination of different viewpoints alongside official reports give a vivid picture of the dramatic events from 1915 to 1917. This is a must read for anyone interested in social history and particularly of wartime London. I very much enjoyed it.

Notes on Voyage can be found here and  Zeppelin Letters is also available at Amazon UK

David Ransom

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David Ransom was born in Brighton, UK. He served an apprenticeship as a compositor in the days of hot metal printing, trained as a Monotype keyboard operator, and eventually moved on to Apple computers and magazine design.

He has always had a fascination with history and has a varied collection of miscellaneous items related to Pitcairn Island, the New Zealand Shipping Company, and the history of photography. Occasionally some of these areas come together, and it is as a result of these fortunate links that he aims to produce books for the Kindle.

His next book will cover the New Zealand Shipping Company’s “Remuera” and its connection with Pitcairn Island.