The Child by Fiona Barton – Review.

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About the Book

When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.

For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.

And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

The Child’s story will be told.

My Review

Sometimes it pays to persevere with a novel. At first, I struggled with The Child, I couldn’t form an attachment to any of the narrators, even though the tale did intrigue me. But suddenly it grabbed me and I was hooked.
Kate, who is the journalist who featured in the authors previous book The Widow, is back and keen to get a story to attach to the child’s bones that were found on a building site. Along with a photographer and a trainee she starts to delve. The changing methods of journalism were demonstrated well, how online 24-hour news has had a significant impact on printed news and the affect that it has had on jobs.
The narrative switches between four narrators. One of them was Kate who I liked a lot more in this novel, she came across as much more compassionate and less of a newshound. Out of the other three, one was utterly repulsive. Cruel, selfish and bitter just about begins to cover it. I won’t reveal their name but will leave you to make your own mind up.
My favourite character was Joe, the trainee. I hadn’t expected him to be so trustworthy and keen to help and he was quite refreshing with his ability to charm those around him. I hope that both Kate and Joe will appear in future novels together.
It’s a different type of crime novel, it focuses more on how the media approach an investigation rather than the police and once I put aside my feelings towards journalism I enjoyed it.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received

This Family Of Things by Alison Jameson – Review.

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About the Book

On his way back up from the yard Bird had seen something white and round – a girl who had curled herself into a ball. Lifting her was like retrieving a ball of newspaper from out of the grass or an empty crisp bag that someone had flung over the ditch. She seemed to lack the bones and meat and muscle of real people. She felt as if she was filled with feathers.

On the day Midge Connors comes hurtling into Bird Keegan’s life, she flings open his small, quiet world. He and his two sisters, Olive and Margaret, have lived in the same isolated community all their lives, each one more alone than the others can know.

Taking in damaged, sharp-edged Midge, Bird invites the scorn of his neighbours and siblings. And as they slowly mend each other, family bonds – and the tie of the land – begin to weigh down on their tentative relationship. Can it survive the misunderstandings, contempt and violence of others?

A poignant and powerful study of the emotional lives of three siblings and the girl who breaks through their solitude.

My Review

This Family Of Things is a novel that focuses mainly on two families in a small town in Ireland. Midge comes from an abusive family, all her brothers and sisters have left home and are not in touch. Bird, Margaret and Olive are siblings who run a farm nearby. When Bird finds Midge late at night all their lives change.
I haven’t read much Irish fiction but the books that I have read I have enjoyed. I like the humour and the approach to life that you never seem to see in novels set elsewhere. I found though, that I didn’t get into this immediately. I think this was mainly because I was only reading a bit at a time. Once I could read it in bigger chunks I enjoyed it a lot more.
All the characters were different, even Bird and his sisters had little in common. All coped with their various problems in different ways and none could be judged with how they chose to live their lives. I did struggle though with the way I felt about Midge until the second half of the novel.
Set in Ireland and Oregon, I preferred the Irish setting. The way the villagers communicated with each other was magical, if not always likeable. A combination of compassion, ridicule, denial, fear and sarcasm that all felt natural.
A different type of novel from my usual crime fiction but it was a welcome one. Recommended.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys – Review.

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About the Book

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.

By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.

My Review

Lily has the chance of a lifetime travelling to Australia via an assisted package scheme. She is devastated at leaving her family, her father was badly injured in WW1 AND WW2 is a growing threat. But she knows that the best way of moving forward after a recent tragedy is to try and rebuild her life in new surroundings.
She soon makes friends onboard, some of them are on the same deck as her even though they are from a different background to her. She also makes friends with Eliza and Max, who are from a completely different world and Maria a young Austrian Jew who, because of the political situation has more reason than most to run away. But everybody is running from something and as the Orantes makes its long journey to Australia the secrets are slowly revealed.
I would never have thought I would read a crime novel that would take place in such a magical setting but Rachel Rhys has proved me wrong. The life on the upper deck with its balls and banquets and affluence of the first-class existence compared with the claustrophobic setting on lower levels. The tourist class deck where Lily shares a cramped cabin with two other women and the people she must dine with. And then the lower levels where the Jews and the Italians are practically hidden away.
I felt as thrilled as Lily and her friends at visiting new countries, all of which seems a normal activity now but in 1939 for a young woman it would have felt like a dream. I could sense the wonder at the beauty and the also the intimidation that she felt at times.
I was desperate to know the identity of the woman who was escorted from the Orantes in the prologue and shocked by the reveal. This was one secret that I didn’t work out.
Rachel Rhys is a pseudonym for a highly-respected author who I have never read. I plan to change that soon.
With thanks to Alison Barrow for the copy received.

The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace.

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About the Book

She’s been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she’s waited in station lost property for someone to claim her. It’s been sixteen years, but she’s still hopeful.

In the meantime, there are mysteries to solve: secret tunnels under the station, a suitcase that may have belonged to the Beatles, the roman soldier who appears at the same time every day with his packed lunch. Not to mention the stuffed monkey that someone keeps misplacing.

But there is one mystery Martha cannot solve. And now the authorities have found out about the girl in lost property. Time is running out – if Martha can’t discover who she really is, she will lose everything..

My Review

I first became aware of this novel earlier in the year from another blogger review that coincided with seeing a flyer on a visit to a Liverpool bookshop about an event that was taking place with the author. I was a week early for the event, the book still hadn’t been published and I put it to the back of my mind after a bit of grumbling. But on my most recent visit to the same bookshop I came away with a signed copy of the book.
What a buy! This novel is one of the best books I have ever read. I warmed to Martha, Elisabeth, William and George from the moment I met them. I loved the Liverpool humour and loyalty that appeared on nearly every page. It was a joy to read a novel where a character could put aside any revulsion they felt about appearance and offer the hand of friendship.
I had to remind myself that the novel was set in the 1970s and not modern day. William was still a young man and the war wasn’t that long ago. Attitudes were different, illegitimacy would have been more taboo than it is now and shame would have been more common. I loved the references to the Devil, all his children and their pets and how Mother used them as threat against Martha who did very well to survive the brainwashing and outbreaks of violence.
If you fancy a read that restores your faith in humanity in this often cruel world then you won’t go wrong with this. Beautiful and magical.

A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker.

 

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Paris, 1939: The pavement rumbles with the footfall of Nazi soldiers marching along the Champs Elysees. A young writer, recently arrived from Ireland to make his mark, smokes one last cigarette with his lover before the city they know is torn apart. Soon, he will put his own life and those of his loved ones in mortal danger by joining the Resistance…

Spies, artists, deprivation, danger and passion: this is a story of life at the edges of human experience, and of how one man came to translate it all into art.

My Review:

A Country Road, A Tree is one of the most convincing novels that I have read that shows the suffering experienced during WW2. It takes place in France and is based on the life of Samuel Beckett. At no point in the novel is the main character named although other characters are.
I knew nothing at all about Samuel Beckett and I had no idea when I started reading that the novel was based on him. I noticed a couple of reviews that mentioned it was in the Author’s note which my proof copy did not have. So for me the novel was just about people struggling to survive the war years experiencing hunger, danger, loss and betrayal alongside devotion and lifelong friendship.
At times it was difficult to read, there is no glamorizing of events here. You read about overcrowded railway stations with not enough trains. People moving across France with the possessions that they can carry. They are hungry, dreaming about what they would like to eat most whilst others who aren’t as worried are feeding their dogs black market ham. When friends are taken away by police they decide that they have to do more to help and get involved with the resistance.
It wasn’t all gloom. The relationship between the characters in the novel, especially Samuel and Suzanne was lovely to read. I felt that they were devoted to each other but at times she felt frustrated by him especially when he gave away much needed items or placed them in danger.
Completely different to Longbourn, the previous novel but one that I enjoyed a lot more and I would like to thank Alison Barrow for my proof copy received.