The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Widely regarded as a modern classic, The Stone Diaries is the story of one woman’s life; that of Daisy Goodwill Flett, a seemingly ordinary woman born in Canada in 1905. Beautifully written and deeply compassionate, it follows Daisy’s life through marriage, widowhood, motherhood, and old age, as she charts her own path alongside that of an unsettled century. A subtle but affective portrait of an everywoman reflecting on an unconventional life, this multi-award winning story deals with everyday issues of existence with an extraordinary vibrancy and irresistible flair.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this novel and it didn’t take me long to realise that I had never read anything like it before and it would be a long time before I would again. 

It starts in 1905 when Daisy is born and steadily covers all of her life and a short period after her death. She doesn’t have an overly exciting life, just a normal one but it was fascinating to see how she coped with love, loss and family life. She sees a lot of change during her long life. Both wars and Kennedy’s assassination are mentioned but only briefly. None had a huge impact on her and those she knows.

It’s not just her version of history you see. Her children, friends and brief associates also have their voice and I found that I learned more about Daisy from them rather than her. Some had more of an impact than others, in particular her mother in law who did make me smile initially but I also saw a venomous streak.

One of my favourite parts which didn’t really include her was when her father in law, Magnus, returned to his roots. It showed how just one of the many who crossed the seas yearned for their former life.

It’s often witty, often sad but what stands out is this is just a normal life. 

When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

They need him to remember. He wants to forget.

1918. 
In the last week of the First World War, a uniformed soldier is arrested in Durham Cathedral. When questioned, it becomes clear he has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there.

The soldier is given the name Adam and transferred to a rehabilitation home. His doctor James is determined to recover who this man once was. But Adam doesn’t want to remember. Unwilling to relive the trauma of war, Adam has locked his memory away, seemingly for good.

When a newspaper publishes a feature about Adam, three women come forward, each claiming that he is someone she lost in the war. But does he believe any of these women? Or is there another family out there waiting for him to come home?

Based on true events, When I Come Home Again is a deeply moving and powerful story of a nation’s outpouring of grief, and the search for hope in the aftermath of war.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Whilst I have read books about the impact of war before I have never read one that concerns those who are desperate for answers. Either from those who need to remember who they are or the loved ones who need to know what happened to their son, husband or brother. And both were equally heartbreaking.

When Adam is arrested after vandalism at Durham Cathedral he has no knowledge of his identity. All those around him know is that he was a serving soldier from the war. In a bid to help him he is transferred to a place of care in Westmorland. As a way of identifying him they go public but are unprepared for how many turn up to lay their claim on Adam. They filter it down to three and start the long and often upsetting process of trying to work out if any of them are related. I spent most of this novel trying to decide who I wanted to have the happy ending. 

Adam isn’t the only one who has issues, James, his doctor also had a bad war and struggles to talk about it. Both appeared to have suffered similar experiences but cope in different ways and also have different reactions to certain environments. Whilst Adam finds solace in the local woods, it a nightmare for James. 

This novel was at times extremely upsetting, especially towards the end. But it also shows a method of coping, even if it looked strange to others. It made me think about how many thousands of families had no idea what happened to their loved ones and I had no idea how I would even begin to cope if I was in the same situation.

I loved the Westmorland setting, the tranquility made a welcome change from a city based novel.  I think that it was the only type of setting that a book such as this could work in with the way that Adam could feel at ease with the nature around him, totally different from what happened in the woods during the war.

V For Victory by Lissa Evans – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

It’s late 1944. Hitler’s rockets are slamming down on London with vicious regularity and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. Allied victory is on its way, but it’s bloody well dragging its feet.

In a large house next to Hampstead Heath, Vee Sedge is just about scraping by, with a herd of lodgers to feed, and her young charge Noel ( almost fifteen ) to clothe and educate. When she witnesses a road accident and finds herself in court, the repercussions are both unexpectedly marvellous and potentially disastrous – disastrous because Vee is not actually the person she’s pretending to be, and neither is Noel.

The end of the war won’t just mean peace, but discovery…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Having enjoyed the previous books in this series, Crooked Heart and Old Baggage, I was looking forward to catching up with Noel, Vee, Winnie and also meeting up with some new characters. Many fascinating people feature in this novel and all try their hardest to cope with living in a war battered London.

It takes place during the last year of the war. Noel is fifteen, is doing well in his studies and is starting to develop feelings for a friend, Genevieve. Winnie is a warden,  brave, funny, patient with her twin sister despite feeling hurt and frustration and uncertain how to feel about the husband she barely knew who was a POW. Vee is battling on, trying to feed a house full of people, maintain a sense of humour and look after Noel. Her friendship with Mario was good for her, and seeing how the house benefited from that friendship was lovely to read. I loved seeing the enjoyment that peanut butter and Florida orange juice brought.

The hardships, the rations, the bombings are all described perfectly and show how Londoners suffered. But this isn’t a depressing novel. Yes, there is sadness, especially towards the end, but there is also plenty of humour. Especially from Noel and Winnie, my two favourite characters in the book.

Whilst I feel this will probably be the last book in the series I would love to see it continue. With the strength of the characters, even the minor ones, there is definitely potential for this series to carry on into the 50s and 60s.

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

It is 1950. In a devastating moment of clarity, Margery Benson abandons her dead-end job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. 
Enid Pretty, in her unlikely pink travel suit, is not the companion Margery had in mind. And yet together they will be drawn into an adventure that will exceed every expectation. They will risk everything, break all the rules, and at the top of a red mountain, discover their best selves.

This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. After loving meeting Harold Fry I had a feeling that I would enjoy Miss Benson’s Beetle. I wasn’t prepared for how much. These characters made me laugh, cry and feel warm inside. This feeling started from the very beginning when Margery was listening to her father talk about the beetle when her life changed forever.

Margery and Enid have nothing in common initially. They don’t really argue, just don’t understand each other. But as their very long voyage across the oceans continue they start to get a little closer and become a little more tolerant of each other. Margery even starts to accept being called Marge. Whilst Margery is an open book, lonely, pragmatic and determined to find her beetle Enid is the opposite. A good time girl, but one who has a secret. Most of this secret is revealed in newspaper reports that appear at times throughout the novel. I admit, I did fear for her throughout the novel, hoping that she could stay safe. The way that Margery and Enid became close friends was lovely to read. When you could see how much they relied on each other and accepted that whilst they had little in common they had a true friendship. 

Another more sinister character was always hovering in the background. Mundic, ex POW, aggrieved over being denied the job as Margery’s assistant has followed them to New Caledonia, determined to make her see her error. Damaged by his war experience, needy and increasingly erratic and you could almost see him fall apart. Because it is only five years after the war you get a real sense of his vulnerability and anger. It was difficult to dislike somebody who was so raw.

This book would be wonderful if made into a film or TV drama. Just thinking about who the actors could be added to my enjoyment of this novel.

The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Decades of spiralling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. Ordinary infections are untreatable, and a scratch from a pet can kill. A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms’ … hospitals where no one ever gets well.

Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything. Because Kate is not the only secret that her mother is hiding. Someone else is looking for her, too.

Sweeping from an all-too-real modern Britain to a pre-crisis South Africa, The Waiting Rooms is epic in scope, richly populated with unforgettable characters, and a tense, haunting vision of a future that is only a few mutations away.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The first thing that crossed my mind when I picked up this book was how the author felt that it was to be published in the midst of a world wide pandemic. A little strange, I’m sure. It certainly felt strange to read. Especially at first, when you read about the precautions the characters had to take to avoid infection. What should have been fiction has turned into reality. The mask wearing and avoiding contact is starting to feel like it’s always been that way.

The three separate stories of life before the crisis, during and after are fascinating, as are the characters Mary, Lily and Kate. All suffering in their own way, all feeling guilt for what they have had to do. Whilst liking all of them it was Lily who I liked the most and felt more sympathy for. I can’t imagine how the thought of approaching seventy years old is that terrifying. I appreciated her sadness at friends disappearing suddenly, her reliance on her carer Anne and her desire to get to know Kate. I felt a lot of sadness reading her very lonely story.

The ending was one I woke up thinking about. I had managed to miss the connection to the story initially, it was one that came to me during the night. Obviously I can’t say what but I wonder if other readers feel the same.

I didn’t find the novel as intimidating as I imagined. It’s clever, we all know that the resistance to antibiotics is growing. But it’s also a thriller and a tale about a small group of people who have to cope the best way they can. Just wonderful.