Transcription by Kate Atkinson #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

transcription

 Transcription opens in 1981 when Juliet Armstrong is involved in an accident. As she lies on the ground, injured, her mind goes back to 1940 when she started work in the offices of MI5 and then to 1950 when she was a BBC schools programmes producer. A witty but unemotional protagonist she seems to be recounting events as they happened, but there are omissions, and can we really trust her testimony?

I loved this book, much preferring it to Life After Life. The story of how MI5 monitored Nazi sympathisers and the account of  the amoral social life of 1940 are fascinating. Juliet’s observations on a woman’s role, always making the tea but also sent out to risk her life on potentially dangerous missions without any training, reflect reality. At times, this novel made me laugh out loud, at others, it is tense and thrilling and always slightly puzzling. There are so many intriguing characters, from Peregrine Gibbons, so dapper but resisting her charms (Juliet’s naivety is believable) to Godfrey Talbot, the likeable double agent, via delightful Cyril, her hard-working companion in Dolphin Square and the tactless Daisy who is supposed to assist Juliet at the BBC.

As Juliet listens in to meetings between Godfrey and a group of fascist sympathisers her transcriptions are sketchy. Words are missing when the dog barks and we don’t have a complete picture of what is happening. This reflects Juliet’s story. She has the ability to lie easily, making her an effective spy and yet she cares deeply about the fate of a young maid who briefly helps her and who, like Juliet, is an orphan.

This is a deep novel with a light tone. It is interesting to read from the context of today’s politics and society. And if you are wondering, the flamingo on the cover is explained towards the end of the story. There has been criticism by some reviewers of the denouement in which we are told in a rapid summary how threads in the story linked and we learn more about Juliet’s motivation, but I am on the fence on this. It satisfied my queries but possibly could have been revealed more subtly. However, the texture and quality of the writing is so delightful I could happily read it all over again next week.

 Transcription is available atAmazon UK

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The Foundling’s Daughter by Ann Bennett #New Release #TuesdayBookBlog

Foundling

This is the story of three distinctive women from different generations. In 2010, Sarah Jennings, a successful restauranteur, is fleeing her husband of 15 years who has betrayed her trust, while back in the 1930s, through the words of her diary entries, we meet Anna Foster, a naïve bride of convenience in British India. Bridging these two characters is Connie Burroughs, an old lady in a nursing home who is concealing a terrible secret.

A mysterious tragedy is gradually revealed as a result of Sarah’s wish to buy Cedar Lodge which was part of the orphanage where her father started his life. Here Rev. Ezra Burrows, Connie’s father, commanded great respect from the local community and awe from the children, but he had left his previous career as a missionary in India, in disgrace. As Sarah copes with the rapid deterioration of her father’s death and the disintegration of her marriage, she becomes determined to discover more about her father’s early life. Helping out in a local restaurant she finds new happiness, but she is determined to help Connie who seems unable to escape the influence of Ezra Burrows, long after his death.

As Connie reads Anna’s diary entries, I found myself identifying with her plight and the impossible situation in which she found herself. All three women are vividly described, making this a compelling story to read. The suffocating colonial environment in which Anna suffers a loveless marriage contrasts clearly with the colour and vibrance of India and the threads of the plot are gradually drawn together in a very satisfying, believable conclusion which is both sad and fulfilling.

The Foundling’s Daughter is now available at Amazon UK

My interview with Ann Bennett about her Bamboo trilogy

A Village Affair by Julie Houston #NewRelease #TuesdayBookBlog

Village

Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy head at her local, idyllic village primary school, Little Acorns. So, the last thing she needs is her husband of twenty years being ‘outed’ at a village charity auction – he has been having an affair with one of her closest friends.

 As if that weren’t enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the forefront of a fight to ward off developers determined to concrete over the beautiful landscape.

 But through it all, the irresistible joy of her pupils, the reality of keeping her teenage children on the straight and narrow, her irrepressible family and friends, and the possibility of new love, mean what could have been the worst year ever, actually might be the best yet…

My Review

In A Village Affair we are first introduced to Cassie as a woman who, “has it all,” a handsome husband, two teenage children, good friends, a beautiful house and an exciting new job. But the plot is about to become far more interesting; husband Mark has betrayed her, and she finds herself challenged, both in her career and her personal life.  What makes this story such a pleasure to read is that both Cassandra Moonbeam, as her mother called her, and the author, have a great sense of humour.

We travel back in time to Cassie’s conception in 1976, discovering how different she is from her hippie mother. Paula, we meet grandfather, Norman, defending his beautiful meadow from developers and we enter the enchanting primary school with its diverse staff.  This is a character driven novel which engages the reader and you cannot help rooting for Cassie against impossible odds.

As a former primary school teacher, I was pleased with the accuracy of the present-day school and admired Cassie for her nurturing approach to her pupils.  Her friend, Fi, a farmer’s wife, was credible and likeable, but I wish the book had included a confrontation between Cassie and Tina, after her betrayal, to see how they both dealt with the situation. Mother, Paula, grandpa Norman and Latvian lolly-pop lady, Deimante, add great depth and interest to this lively story.

Julie Houston has blended romance, every day crises and light-hearted humour effectively, providing easy reading with realism.

A Village Affair is Available to purchase on Amazon UK

Julie Houston

Julie Houston

Julie lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire where her novels are set, and her only claims to fame are that she teaches part-time at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old junior school and her neighbour is ‘Chocolat’ author, Joanne Harris. After University, where she studied Education and English Literature, she taught for many years as a junior school teacher. As a newly qualified teacher, broke and paying off her first mortgage, she would spend every long summer holiday working on different Kibbutzim in Israel. After teaching for a few years she decided to go to New Zealand to work and taught in Auckland for a year before coming back to this country. She now teaches just two days a week, and still loves the buzz of teaching junior-aged children. She has been a magistrate for the past nineteen years, and, when not distracted by Ebay, Twitter and Ancestry, spends much of her time writing. Julie is married, has a twenty-four-year-old son and twenty-one-year-old daughter and a ridiculous Cockerpoo called Lincoln. She runs and swims because she’s been told it’s good for her, but would really prefer a glass of wine, a sun lounger and a jolly good book – preferably with Matthew Mcconaughay in attendance.

Legacy (Project Renova Book 4) by Terry Tyler #BookReview #NewRelease

Legacy

‘Out of all the death and destruction has come the freedom to be who we really are.’

A hundred years after the world was devastated by the bat fever virus, the UK is a country of agricultural communities where motherhood is seen as the ideal state for a woman, new beliefs have taken over from old religions, and the city of Blackthorn casts a threatening shadow over the north of England. Legacy travels backwards in time to link up with the characters from Tipping Point, Lindisfarne and UK2.

Seventeen-year-old Bree feels stifled by the restrictions of her village community, but finds a kindred spirit in Silas, a lone traveller searching for his roots. She, too, is looking for answers: the truth behind the mysterious death, forty years earlier, of her grandmother.

In 2050, Phoenix Northam’s one wish is to follow in the footsteps of his father, a great leader respected by all who knew him…or so his mother tells him.

In 2029, on a Danish island, Lottie is homesick for Lindisfarne; two years earlier, Alex Verlander and the kingpins of the Renova group believe they have escaped the second outbreak of bat fever just in time…

Book 4 of the Project Renova series rebuilds a broken country with no central government or law, where life is dangerous and people can simply disappear…but the post-Fall world is also one of possibility, of freedom and hope for the future.

 

My Review

I opened this book with great excitement to discover what had happened to the people I had read about in the earlier books of the Project Renova series but as the title Legacy suggests this novel has moved 100 years into the future to a time when society is made up chiefly of small farming communities, cooperating with local leaders in a simple life with which most people are satisfied.  But Bree, a 17-year-old girl, is not content with her life in the Five villages, where she is soon to be wed, in order to become a mother.  She is curious about her mother, Willow and her grandmother, Sky, who had both died when they were very young.  Only, Silas, one of the grocks, a travelling community, promises her freedom.

In part 2, we learn about Sky, who had lived in the busy northern city of Blackthorn.  Here she is living a life of leisure, as the wife of Byron, an important lieutenant to the governor, but her husband is impatient to become a father.  Remembering her early childhood on the island of Lindisfarne, she feels a misfit in this society of “haves” and “have-nots” and finally decides to make a break for freedom to help her sister-in-law Misty, who is frequently beaten by Sky’s brother, Red.  Aided by Luke, one of the guards, they set out, travelling as far and as fast as possible to escape Byron and Red.

Part 3 introduces us to Phoenix, son of Dexter Northam, whom we know so well from the earlier books and we see the effects of his mother’s upbringing. It was thrilling to meet Lottie once more, and finally returning to the story of Bree and Silas the threads of the legacy are drawn together.

The roles of motherhood and primitive religion in this future world are understandable, but the brave stand of individual women to establish an equal and free society is encouraging. Best of all, these are distinctive characters, likeable or awkward, seeking happiness, making mistakes and instigating dangerous adventures. An excellent conclusion to this unique series.

Find Legacy on Amazon UK

Read my Review of Tipping Point and An Interview with Lottie

Ignoring Gravity by Sandra Danby #FridayReads #BookReview

Ignoring Gravity

I came to this book having already read Connectedness, the second book in the Identity Detective series, but each book stands alone. This is the story of two sisters, Rose, an ambitious journalist and her younger sister, Lily, “happily” married and longing for a baby. Although written in the third person, Rose and Lily take it in turns to be the focus of a chapter and their uneasy relationship becomes further strained when they are clearing their mother’s belongings after her death. They discover a pile of old diaries and one seems to imply that Rose may have been adopted. This shocking revelation affects Rose’s ability to cope with everyday life as she is obsessed with finding the truth.

There are several strands to this novel. We are given a clear factual account of how to investigate your own adoption, there is a gradual romantic development and the whole book is centred on family relationships and women’s problems of fertility and unplanned pregnancy. The social health topics which Rose has to research for her articles, often mirror events in her life and she is a well-rounded likeable character. Lily, however is extremely annoying; her obsessive behaviour is driving her husband away but some of her actions are very entertaining.

Sandra Danby is an excellent writer who reveals her characters feelings and foibles effectively so that you are anxious to continue reading the interesting mystery of Rose’s birth and adoption.

Ignoring Gravity can be purchased at Amazon UK

My Review of the second book in this series Connectedness

Sandra Danby

Sandra

Author Sandra Danby lives in England and Spain. She turned her childhood love of stories into an English degree and became a journalist. She now writes fiction full-time. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published online and in anthologies. Her two novels – Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness – explore the themes of identity, family secrets and adoption reunion. Sandra is now writing Sweet Joy, third in the series, set in London during The Blitz.

As well as writing fiction, Sandra Danby is an avid reader. At her blog, she reviews the novels she reads plus non-fiction read for research purposes.  She is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, ‘Ignoring Gravity’ and ‘Connectedness’, Sandra is not adopted.

The Lost Letters by Sarah Mitchell #BookReview #RBRT

Lost

 What if keeping your loved ones safe meant never seeing them again?

Norfolk, 1940: Sylvia’s husband Howard has gone off to war, and she is struggling to raise her two children alone. Her only solace is her beach hut in Wells-Next-The-Sea, and her friendship with Connie, a woman she meets on the beach. The two women form a bond that will last a lifetime, and Sylvia tells Connie something that no-one else knows: about a secret lover… and a child.

Canada, present day: When Martha’s beloved father dies, he leaves her two things: a mysterious stash of letters to an English woman called ‘Catkins’ and directions to a beach hut in the English seaside town of Wells. Martha is at a painful crossroads in her own life, and seizes this chance for a trip to England – to discover more about her family’s past, and the identity of her father’s secret correspondent.

The tragedy of war brought heartbreaking choices for Sylvia. And a promise made between her and Connie has echoed down the years. For Martha, if she uncovers the truth, it could change everything…

My Review

Martha, overcomes her terror of flying in order to discover more about her father’s past. Having written about his life in Canada, he was about to return to his roots in East Anglia when he suddenly died. Martha also wants to see her estranged daughter, Janey, who is studying at Cambridge, but first she must solve the mystery of the beach hut he father had rented and the file of letters on his computer to someone called Catkins.

The novel takes us back to World War Two and a friendship between two young women, Sylvie and Connie.  Each is hiding a secret and their unexpected friendship gives them courage to take a bold decision.  We are shown a vivid picture of life in wartime Britain, where women had important roles doing their best for their country in the Women’s Voluntary Service, against a background of bombing and fear.  Relationships between men sent off to fight and their worried wives at home are severely strained and they can easily grow apart.

Martha is an engaging character, whose story, written in the present tense, involves us actively in her compelling adventure, while Sylvie, distanced by the past tense, makes us fear for her future happiness.  Threads are gradually gathered, connecting the women together and enabling Martha to forge a more positive future where she is reunited with her daughter and finally understands her father’s past.

The Lost Letters can be purchased at Amazon UK

S Mitchell

Sarah Mitchell

THE LOST LETTERS in my first novel, inspired by a visit to Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk, where there is a row of iconic beach huts. Some of them looked very old to me, and it made me wonder for how many generations they might have been in the same family and handed down over the years…

I didn’t become a writer until I was in my forties. I studied law and after that practised as a barrister in London for nearly 20 years. For a long while I wanted to write a novel – inspired by my mother who used to write children’s stories for a radio programme called ‘Listen with Mother’ – but it took me a long while to take the plunge and actually make the dream happen. As well as the beach huts, THE LOST LETTERS draws on the decision my grandparents almost made to evacuate my mother to Canada at the start of the Second World War. So much has changed since then, and yet so much – the bonds within a family – are the same. I wanted to explore that in my writing.

I now live back in Norfolk, where I grew up, with my husband and three almost-grown-up children. Norfolk is an extraordinary county and I feel incredibly lucky to live here. I hope THE LOST LETTERS captures a little bit of the beauty of Norfolk, as well as the horror and hardship of war.

You can follow Sarah Mitchell on Twitter at @SarahM_writer

The Memory Shop by Ella Griffin #BookReview

Memory

The most important things in life . . . are not things at all.

Nora is fleeing London for her childhood home in Dublin after her heart is suddenly torn apart. Back home, she learns she has inherited all of her grandmother’s worldly belongings – a feather shrug, a Tiffany mirror, a gold locket, and many more precious things besides.

With no means of keeping them, and not able to bear auctioning everything off, Nora decides to open The Memory Shop so each object is matched to a perfect new owner.

Soon Nora begins transforming the lives of those around her through the items she pairs them with, helping them find new happiness in unexpected ways. Now if she can only let go of her own past, she might just surprise herself . . .

An uplifting novel set in a charming Irish community, about love, family and finding your way.

My Review

There is something about Irish authors; concerns of the heart are paramount and despite sadness and mistreatment, goodness will out.  I was drawn to this book by the concept of inherited treasures being sold to the most appropriate new owner.

At first the novel reads like a set of short stories about different characters, such as widower Will and his unhappy daughter, or Caroline whose marriage is disintegrating, but gradually they link back to Nora, the heroine, who is determined to put her boyfriend’s betrayal behind her while she earns money for her unhappy mother, Alann.  Finding notes from her grandmother hidden among the precious items, she hopes to discover more about the estrangement between her mother and grandmother.

There are several tales of faithless, promiscuous men and yet there are also feel-good solutions for some of the couples.  The local community in this part of Dublin are, in the spirit of a popular film, almost too good to be true, but that did not diminish my pleasure in reading the book. Finally, the tragic revelation about Nora’s grandmother rooted this charming tale in reality.

The Memory Shop on Amazon UK

Ella Griffin

E Griffin

Ella Griffin was born in Dublin. She was an award-winning advertising copywriter before she took the leap into fiction. She has written four novels since 2011. She loves making readers laugh and cry (sometimes on the same page.) Ella lives with her husband in County Wicklow in Ireland.

You can find Ella at www.ellagriffin.com, Facebook/EllaGriffinAuthor and @EllaGriffin1