The Last Landlady

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Laura Thompson’s grandmother Violet was one of the great landladies. Born in a London pub, she became the first woman to be given a publican’s licence in her own name and, just as pubs defined her life, she seemed in many ways to embody their essence.

Laura spent part of her childhood in Violet’s Home Counties establishment, mesmerised by her gift for cultivating the mix of cosiness and glamour that defined the pub’s atmosphere, making it a unique reflection of the national character. Her memories of this time are just as intoxicating: beer and ash on the carpets in the morning, the deepening rhythms of mirth at night, the magical brightness of glass behind the bar…

Through them Laura traces the story of the English pub, asking why it has occupied such a treasured position in our culture. But even Violet, as she grew older, recognised that places like hers were a dying breed, and Laura also considers the precarious future they face. Part memoir, part social history, part elegy, The Last Landlady pays tribute to an extraordinary woman and the world she epitomised.

Shortlisted for Harper’s Bazaar Book of the Year 2019

GuardianSpectator and Mail on Sunday Book of the Year 2018

‘A lyrical portrait of a fast-vanishing way of life . . . Thompson is a terrific writer’ New Statesman

 

I knew that I was going to absolutely love this book. Memoir is one of my favourite genres and Laura Thompson is definitely a writer at the top of her game and I could not put this book down once I’d started it last Sunday. Thanks so much to Anne Cater who always picks such great books for me and hosts such fabulous tours. I’ve discovered so many amazing books through blogging and this is right up there amongst my favourites.

It was a ‘read right through until the end’ moment and I just loved having the time to plunge right in and savour this fabulous read.  It was the perfect book to take my mind off the hustle and bustle of 21st-century work and stress and travel back into a time gone by and read about this amazing life.  This really is a book with something for everyone. It’s a window into another era, recreated with charm, intelligence and a real sense of recording these truths for posterity. I could almost smell the beer and hear the characters as I turned the pages.

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Laura Tompson certainly has the spirit of the landlady in her veins as this book sings to you as you read and brings  Violet to life for you as her world is lovingly recreated in these pages.  Many of these characters’ personalities are brought vividly to life as we immerse ourselves in their rapidly changing lives and realise that having ‘regulars’ like these with such huge personalities and  quirks is something that really does seem to be ansign of a bygone age. Laura Thompson’s writing is as memorable as the characters she’s describing and many of her lines describing her grandmother stick in the mind as you read how she “learned to phrase her personality, as a singer phrases a lyric; she knew the power of withholding, and of brief conspiratorial bursts of charm”

I even went off looking for redoubtable pub landladies after reading the book as I loved the little snippets of stories and characters that I came across as I was reading about Violet. I loved this photo I found of Mrs Clarise Corbett posing proudly behind her bar and I raised a smile remembering Violet charmingly accepting drinks from her customers then tip it on the floor from her high stool behind the bar…

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This book has some absolutely killer lines – and that’s one of the things that made it such a perfect Sunday afternoon read. The fact that  Laura emphasises things for us by making us see the ordinary afresh is one of the things that I loved most about this book – “A proper pub is where one lives in the present tense…  a place in which drink is central but not all.’’ is also a sharp and incisive comment on the place of the pub in Britain’s social history – from gin palaces to coaching inns across our cultural story.  I think that so many people would enjoy this sweeping rumination on class, what makes people tick, leisure time and women who choose not to conform to the boundaries society has placed on them over the years.

If you love a book where you get caught up in both the writing and the subject matter you’ll love The Last Landlady. It’s warm and reflective in equal measure and really brings this ‘casual empress’ and mistress of all she surveys vividly to live through its pages in all her leopard-print glory. This is definitely a memoir where you end up wishing you’d met Violet for yourself and witnessing this force of nature in action. But it also works as a rich and satisfying slice of social history too, giving you an insight into the upheavals that have gone on in the way that we spend our leisure time and the changing nature of hostelries where nowadays mason jars and artfully distressed leather sofas have replaced the spit and sawdust past of the great British pub.

I ended up re-reading sections to myself for its observational exactitude as I found myself caught up in this vividly described world and going off to search for other characters like violet who sadly, it seems, are a dying breed. Non-fiction is definitely drawing me in this autumn and I’ll hopefully be sharing more of the memorable characters and places that I’ve ‘met’ through these reads as the month progresses

I totally recommend The Last landlady and think you should definitely buy yourself a copy  Laura Thompson is one of my favourite writers and if you haven’t read her Rex v Edith Thomson then you should also treat yourself to that as it’s one of my non-fiction reads of the decade.

Writer On The Shelf

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Laura Thompson attended stage school and at the age of sixteen won an exhibition to read English at Oxford. Her first book, THE DOGS: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF GREYHOUND RACING, won the Somerset Maugham Award. In her twenties, she wrote extensively about sport and published two books about horse racing: QUEST FOR GREATNESS, the story of her favourite racehorse Lammtarra, and NEWMARKET, a history of the town where she lived for some years.

In 2003 she wrote LIFE IN A COLD CLIMATE, a biography of Nancy Mitford, reissued by Head of Zeus in early 2015. This was followed by the first major biography of Agatha Christie for more than twenty years, which is published in the US by Pegasus in 2018. A DIFFERENT CLASS OF MURDER: THE STORY OF LORD LUCAN is also reissued in 2018, in a new edition containing previously excised information.

THE SIX, which tells the story of the Mitford sisters, became a New York Times bestseller in October 2016.

Among various TV appearances, she has presented a BBC4 film BACK TO THE BARRE, about her return to ballet in adulthood. She recently appeared in UKTV/ Netflix’s A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, about the relationship between Diana and Jessica Mitford, and this year is filming a documentary about the Orient Express.

She is a contributing editor to Town and Country magazine and writes for Harper’s Bazaar.

Along with the reissues, two new books will be published in 2018: REX V EDITH THOMPSON (Head of Zeus and Pegasus), a re-examination of the famous 1922 Thompson-Bywaters murder case.

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A Single Thread

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It is 1932, and the losses of the First World War are still keenly felt.

Violet Speedwell, mourning for both her fiancé and her brother and regarded by society as a ‘surplus woman’ unlikely to marry, resolves to escape her suffocating mother and strike out alone.

A new life awaits her in Winchester. Yes, it is one of draughty boarding-houses and sidelong glances at her naked ring finger from younger colleagues; but it is also a life gleaming with independence and opportunity. Violet falls in with the broderers, a disparate group of women charged with embroidering kneelers for the Cathedral, and is soon entwined in their lives and their secrets. As the almost unthinkable threat of a second Great War appears on the horizon Violet collects a few secrets of her own that could just change everything…

If you saw my #SpringReads Column earlier this year, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, especially one that’s set during this period. I absolutely love books that have real historical characters and events woven through them and often go off on a mammoth internet exploration session after finishing them as I get so caught up in the story. A Single Thread was right up my street and I have been in my absolute element immersing myself in Violet Speedwell’s adventures this month since Becca Bryant invited me onto the Blog Tour.

This is the latest novel by Tracy Chevalier and it just proves that her range is absolutely mindblowing – she can literally write about anything.  This is a fantastic read with every element of it absolutely pitch-perfect. I could not tear myself away from its fascinating insights into this generation of  ‘surplus women, and I have been recommending it to everyone since the moment I finished it.

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A Single Thread is a period novel that brings the experiences of these women vividly to life as it plunges us into the lives of the broderers so entirely that lots of the time I forgot that they were characters in a book as it felt like these were real people that I was getting to know. Tracy Chevalier’s USP is that she always manages to bring any period of history that she writes about expertly to life, and I was fascinated to read about the effort and research that goes into all of her novels – which makes sense as her impeccable research has ensured that you definitely feel like you are time-travelling into Violet’s world and experiencing events alongside her

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I actually saw this sign in London and I absolutely love it when my own world and the world of a book that I am reading coincide – it always feels serendipitous!  It was amazing to read a fictional account of these workers and ‘meet’ them through the pages. Violet and her fellow broderers really come to life on the page, with an extremely modern ‘take’ on equality and standing up for yourselves which made me determined to read further about the period and these women for myself after finishing the fictional version – I was hooked!

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Through Violet’s experiences, we are allowed an insight into the way that women’s lot as steadily changing – although not everyone agreed with these changes – which makes for intriguing reading. Spinster has always been a bit of an insult and it was fascinating to travel back in time and see these women as pioneers, rather than hapless victims who’d been left of ‘the shelf’ and then passively accepted their lot. As you will see, many of these characters are as far from passive as it is possible to be and their modern outlook is refreshing, surprising and downright heartening to read.

 

This is one of my reads of the year so far – you cannot fail to be drawn into this fully-realised historical world. If you adored The Girl With A Pearl Earring you’ll absolutely love this book and I cannot wait to see what my fellow historical novel buffs think about it.

A Single Thread is available now  – so waste no time and go out and grab yourself a copy as quickly as you can.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, take a look at what these other fantastic fellow bloggers think

 

 

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A Pair of Sharp Eyes Blog Tour

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Coronation hears of the murders before she even reaches the slave port of Bristol – six boys found with their throats slit. Horrified, she questions the locals’ readiness to blame the killings on Red John, a travelling-man few have actually seen. Coronation yearns to know more about the mystery.

But first she has to outsmart the bawds, thieves and rakes who prey on young girls like her: fresh from the countryside and desperate for work. When the murderer strikes shockingly close to Coronation, she schemes, eavesdrops and spies on all around her until the shameful truth is out.

I absolutely loved time travelling to Bristol with this exciting and atmospheric read It drew me in from the very first paragraph and held captivated by its setting and characters until its very final page.

The slave trade and its wider impact, a murder mystery and the seedy underside of a city and its inhabitants– were some of the many reasons that I was so drawn to A Pair of Sharp Eyes and why I’m so grateful to Kelly Lacey from Love Books Group for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

I love immersing myself in a fabulous historical read and I felt like I could totally surrender myself to this reading experience and spend a few days in a totally different world!  I really felt like I could imagine this vividly painted world and found it very difficult to detach myself from this immersive reading experience that allowed me to plunge back in time ad re-live this era for myself…

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Is anyone else like me and love to go online and immerse themselves in the period of the book that they’re loving, to try and really place themselves in the characters’ world? I love doing it and I found myself scrolling through pages and pages of tales of sugar lords, cutpurses and vagabonds and let my imagination run totally wild!Image result for bristol slave trade

It was lovely to lose myself in a fantastic historical read after a few months where I’ve been mostly reading contemporary writing and non-fiction.  It’s funny that I get into reading zones and I’m now on a real Historical Fiction mission and have been drawn to exploring Blood & Sugar in the same period and dealing with some of the same exciting themes and ideas.

The realistic characters and their situations in this exciting and fast-paced read allowed me to travel back in time with them through its pages.  I really loved the way that Kat Armstrong draws the reader in and keeps them connected with the twists and turns that beset Coronation as we see the way that choices were far more limited in that era and it is so easy to imagine why things were so uncertain and dangerous for so many women in this era. Image result for bristol slavery women

 

This was the perfect Autumn read for me – and if you’re NOT a teacher and manage to get away for a bit of September sunshine abroad,  then this would be a perfect book to pack and lose yourself in on the sun lounger, it’s so immersive!  If you love an epic read, with a real insight into another era with memorable and fascinating characters then you’ll really love A Pair Of Sharp Eyes and you should treat yourself to a copy – I mean, just LOOK at that gorgeous cover!

A Pair of Sharp Eyes by [Armstrong, Kat]

I absolutely loved this book and enjoyed the fact that I was savouring my journey to another time and place with Coronation and her memorable cast of characters and could really dedicate some serious hours of reading to it.  I enjoyed the feeling of being immersed in this perfectly realised world where I was constantly wondering what would happen next and where I’d end up in this fascinating read

Thank you so much to Kelly for aways recommending such great reads. Buy yourself a copy here and follow the tour to see what all of these great bloggers thought too

 

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Writer On The Shelf

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I  grew up in Bristol, or to be more precise in a village called Pill, which supplied the city with its pilots and still does. Every Saturday morning we would drive into Bristol over the Clifton Suspension Bridge to roam the bookshops and walk along the harbour to the Watershed, or to look at the SS Great Britain, then under restoration.

I read English at Oxford and became a lecturer after writing a doctoral thesis on eighteenth-century fiction. Having raised my three children, I studied for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester, and I was long listed for the Mslexia Novel Prize in 2017 for a manuscript based on my dissertation.

I live and work in North Essex, and I’m currently writing a sequel to my debut novel, A Pair of Sharp Eyes.

 

Writes about:

  • 18th Century

Living My Best Lie

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Recently dumped by her boyfriend of ten years, Bell is struggling to move on with her life – and surrender the fleecy pyjamas she’s been living in since January. Haunted by #blessed on social media, she can’t help but compare her life to those she follows online, wondering where she is going wrong . . .

In the world of social media, Millie is the successful online influencer @mi_bestlife. But in real life she’s just a regular single mum trying to make ends meet, while fending off the younger competition and tenacious internet trolls. Her Instagram feed is far more #BestLie than #BestLife, and soon Millie begins to wish her life was more like her filters.

It isn’t until Bell and Millie’s paths cross that they begin to realise what they’re both missing. Can Millie prove to Bell that life online isn’t always what it appears to be? And in return, can Millie learn that she needs to start living for the moment and not for the likes?

I fell for this book hook line & sinker. First of all – I bloody LOVE a catchy title and then the premise was one that totally appealed to me as a teacher who deals with the side effects of #FOMO and #LifeEnvy all of the time – I was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour and get the chance to read about Millie’s attempts to curate the life she’s always dreamed of – even if it doesn’t quite add up in reality.   I have talked about it to everyone at my Book Group and told people that they’d love to meet Millie and read about her misadventures. I  don’t think you have to work in social media  or be an influencer to connect with lots of the ideas in this book  and you’ll enjoy being made to think about the filters that are active in your own life!

 

I’d like to thank Anne Cater  for inviting me on the tour and recommend that you follow it and see what all the other fab bloggers had to say about this  very readable and relatable slice of social media madness and how they’ve connected with some of Millie’s misgivings themselves.

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Author Katie Marsh  has said that this book is “A fresh, funny take on Insta-life, full of warmth, wit and the kind of characters you miss when you reach the end’ ’ and I couldn’t agree more. Whether you connect with Bel’s situation of having to rebuild her life from scratch after ‘THE’ breakup or Millie feeling such pressure to show that she’s ‘having it all’ or El and Suz who are feeling like the reality of couple life doesn’t quite add up to the dream that we are so constantly ‘sold’ there is so much to connect with here.

I literally could not put this book down, I was so caught up in these characters’ lives and I’m sure you will be too. The combination of characters from single mum to singleton to unhappily together is something that everyone can identify with regardless of their own current ‘relationship status’  – there’s  a representation of all the things that we all struggle with in modern life – how to be ourselves in a world that’s always telling us that our plain old self just isn’t good enough.. It’s hard to feel like that – that your life is just waiting to begin and if only this one thing happened then everything else will just fall into place. Even if your dreams are a little bit different to these characters – there will still be much to connect with here in terms  ‘Why me’ when your life plan which seemed so logical, just never seems to pan out the way you expects it to…and by lord some of the characters here would be able to sympathise.

I loved the idea behind this book: that our lives as others ‘see them’ never really mirror the way we see ourselves and once the ‘lie’  is out there, it can be very hard to reconcile yourself with the hard facts of reality. There’s surely a lesson for all of us there as we see that these feelings are so common and lots of people struggle when the comparisons out there can seem so unattainable. The fact that Bell and Millie have these struggles opens the readers up to think about how to put your best social media feet forward in a more positive way and I think that’s one of the reasons that I liked this book so very much.

This is the kind of book you’ll be buying for all your friends and begging them to read as you will want to spend hours talking about your own online faux-pas, ‘hate-liking’ posts and feeling suddenly unsettled when you see a kitchen makeover that compounds your own belief that everyone in the world is better at ‘adulting’ than you!

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I think that you should definitely give this book a try and I think you’ll be hooked by Millie & Bel’s trials and tribulations.

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Buy yourself a copy here but remember – that life is for those real moments that take your breath away, rather than for the perfectly cropped and filtered cappuccino shot that you think will be bound to con people into overlooking that your hair’s full of dry shampoo, you have ripped your tights and you are spending the weekend pairing odd socks rather than out on a ‘date night’ with ‘this one’ feeling truly #blessed

 

Writer On The Shelf

 

Claire Frost grew up in Manchester, the middle of three sisters. She always wanted to do a job that involved writing, so after studying Classics at Bristol University she started working in magazines.

For the last 10 years she’s been at The Sun On Sunday’s Fabulous magazine, where she is Assistant Editor and also responsible for the title’s book reviews.

She can mostly be found at her desk buried under a teetering TBR pile.

The Man Who Saw Everything

‘The man who had nearly run me over had touched my hair, as if he were touching a statue or something without a heartbeat…’

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In 1988 Saul Adler (a narcissistic, young historian) is hit by a car on the Abbey Road. He is apparently fine; he gets up and goes to see his art student girlfriend, Jennifer Moreau. They have sex then break up, but not before she has photographed Saul crossing the same Abbey Road.

Saul leaves to study in communist East Berlin, two months before the Wall comes down. There he will encounter – significantly – both his assigned translator and his translator’s sister, who swears she has seen a jaguar prowling the city. He will fall in love and brood upon his difficult, authoritarian father. And he will befriend a hippy, Rainer, who may or may not be a Stasi agent, but will certainly return to haunt him in middle age.

Slipping slyly between time zones and leaving a spiralling trail, Deborah Levy’s electrifying The Man Who Saw Everything examines what we see and what we fail to see, the grave crime of carelessness, the weight of history and our ruinous attempts to shrug it off.

‘Levy writes on the high wire, unfalteringly’ Marina Warner

‘It’s clever, raw and doesn’t play by any rules’ Evening Standard

‘Intelligent and supple…a dizzying tale of life across time and borders’ FT

When the 2019 Booker Prize longlist tweets started to appear on my timeline, one of the covers that grabbed my attention the most was #TheManWhoSawEverything. It is a gorgeous book that really visually appealed to me; I love books that stand out and this one certainly did , it looked amazing in my #OnTheShelfie and it’s just as fascinating inside as the cover suggests. Deborah Levy is already a writer I gravitate towards as I absolutely loved Hot Milk and it definitely lived up to my high expectations.

The Man Who Saw Everything is one of those novels the character is just as important as the events which unfold and you will spend just as much time admiring the craftsmanship of the writing as you will thinking about the events that are unfolding.  Saul is one of those characters that say imprinted in your mind long after you’ve pulled yourself away from the book and I am not exaggerating when I say that he really felt real to me.  Eminent historian Saul Adler has been invited to East Berlin to do research on the GDR – bringing with him a rare prize – a tin of pineapple. As well as this, he is also bringing a recreation of the iconic Abbey Road cover but t he best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a’gley and a car accident puts paid to the completion of this project before Saul can manage to capture this image

The way that the novel then begins to unfold like a moibus strip – everything begins to loop back on itself in a way that defies the laws of physics but is unexpectedly satisfying to immerse yourself in and see where it takes you.   In that way, it really does seem to emulate the way that memory and recollection works – not in straight arrow pathway but in streams and eddies that tumble over each other or run concurrently – without ever being identical. The events are told and retold in different voices so that each person’s sense of reality is overlaid with the people around him in a way that always felt totally logical, even though it was a very different style than I’m used to.

This book reminded me of a piece of music, there are recurring ‘melodies’ and discords throughout the book but it all comes together with a pleasing sense of harmony. Themes such as memory and truth are revisited fleetingly and then returned to in such a way that even quite different parts of the novel resonate with each other to form a pleasing whole. I found myself returning to some sections and re-reading them at different times and responding to them in a slightly different way and that was something that I very much enjoyed about this novel.

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I hope that this will do well in the Booker and it being nominated will mean that people who might ordinarily not have picked it up expose themselves to something a little different and give it a try. It is not an easy or light read and definitely makes you think but as an English teacher I found myself thinking of all the ways that my classes could really discuss this and get drawn into such interesting discussions about the writing that I’m going to be recommending it to my senior classes. It’s really good as readers to be taken outwith your comfort zone and Levy undoubtedly asks us to think and respond for ourselves in this beautifully crafted and thought provoking novel. Thanks so much to Corinna and Viking Books for inviting me on the tour. Can’t wait to hear what the rest of the bloggers I follow thought about it too!

Buy yourself a copy here 

Writer On The Shelf

Deborah Levy is a British playwright, novelist and poet. She is the author of seven novels: Beautiful Mutants (1986); Swallowing Geography (1993); The Unloved (1994); Billy & Girl (1996); Swimming Home (2011); Hot Milk (2016) and the forthcoming The Man Who Saw Everything (2019).

Swimming Home was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012; Hot Milk was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016 and the Goldsmiths Prize 2016. Deborah is also the author of an acclaimed collection of short stories, Black Vodka (2013), and two ‘living autobiographies’, Things I Don’t Want To Know and The Cost of Living.

She has written for the Royal Shakespeare Company and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

 

Ask Again Yes Blog Tour

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A gripping and compassionate drama of two families linked by chance, love and tragedy

Gillam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhopes as their new neighbours.

Lonely Lena Gleeson wants a friend but Anne Stanhope – cold, elegant, unstable – wants to be left alone.

It’s left to their children – Lena’s youngest, Kate, and Anne’s only child, Peter – to find their way to one another. To form a friendship whose resilience and love will be almost broken by the fault line dividing both families, and by the terrible tragedy that will engulf them all.

A tragedy whose true origins only become clear many years later . . .

A story of love and redemption, faith and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. 

A story of how, if we’re lucky, the violence lurking beneath everyday life can be vanquished by the power of love.

The reason I adore being a bookblogger is that as no two books that I’m asked to review are ever the same. When I was invited onto the tour for #AskAgainYes I was really intrigued as I always like forming my own opinion about books that I’m hearing a real buzz about and then joining the conversation about them afterwards on my blog, it’s one of the best things about being a book blogger – being introduced to books that I’d never normally have picked up as well as hearing what all my other blogging friends thought too. It’s like a virtual book group where you are waiting every day to see what other people enjoyed about your book…

Family Love Tragedy Forgivness

I was really intrigued to read Ask Again Yes as  I love novels that deal with family relationships and how different generations interact and the complexities that lurk beneath the surfaces of most families’ lives.  As soon as this book arrived,  I wanted to open it up and find out how these family members’ lives would unfold and how these very ordinary lives would develop as the book progressed.   I loved the initial premise of a terrible experience unfolding for a pair of families living side by side which would allow us to see the repercussions and ramifications on all of these lives and I found this book totally engrossing once I’d started: I really wanted to get to the heart of their relationships and discover more about the impact of this and how the children would respond. Three Women

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the way that Mary Beth Keane’s novel allows us to see the reality of families and the complexity of relationships, rather than just the ‘happy ever after’ that we are so often presented with in fiction and I think that this is one of the things that I enjoyed most about this book. The way that individuals fall into their roles within families in the way that they interact with one another is exceptionally well-drawn and a testament to her skill as a writer that we really believe in their relationships with one another.

The way that she builds in the uncertainties about what’s really going on beneath the surface and slowly develops our understanding of what is going on in the heads of these characters is convincingly done and leads to you feeling like you can really start to understand them as people. Peter and Kate have such an interesting and well-drawn relationship and I’m looking forward to hearing what my sister thought of their response to the situation and the way it reverberates around their relationship and their pathway through life.Image result for ask again yes

 

The scenes where these family members are trying to deal with the ramifications of the situation and the impact of the fallout on their relationships have an incredibly realistic feel and the comparisons with Anne Tyler are definitely well deserved. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to immerse myself in the intricacies of this family’s life and found it really thought-provoking to immerse myself in their lives and spend time thinking about the way that real families interact and think about the fact that truth is very often much stranger than fiction.

Ask Again Yes is a fascinating and immersive read as it takes a genuine look at what we really mean by ‘family’ in a way that never feels ‘worthy’ or sermonising. It allows us a glance into a relationship where peoples’ needs are complex and real and dares us to ask ourselves what we might have lost along the way in our own lives. Its setting in blue-collar America, in a similar era to my own teenage years is another aspect that I really enjoyed and it really made me feel like I was able to immerse myself in events where the very ordinary-ness of the surroundings and the complexities of what is unfolding is deftly juxtaposed.Header

I always enjoy a book much more if I don’t read other people’s reviews before I read it myself – but I had heard lots of people saying it was a pretty challenging read and I do agree – at times it did feel pretty relentless. It was definitely a grower and I found myself thinking about these characters and the repercussions of this event whilst driving to work and getting on with household chores as they definitely felt real to me. I will definitely seek out more books by Mary Beth Keane and am keen to keep pushing myself to choose more novels ‘outwith my comfort zone’  in the second half of 2019.

Treat yourself to a copy here

Writer On The Shelf

 

Mary Beth Keane attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA. In 2011, she was named one of the National Book Foundation’s ‘5 Under 35,’ and in 2015 she was awarded a John S. Guggenheim fellowship for fiction writing. She currently lives in Pearl River, New York, with her husband and their two sons. She is the author of The Walking PeopleFever, and Ask Again, Yes.


Follow the bloggers on the #AskAgainYes blog tour!

AAY blog tour

The Love Child Blog Tour

unnamed (1).jpgA young mother’s sacrifice. A child’s desperate search for the truth . . .
London, 1917

When nineteen-year-old Alice Copeman becomes pregnant, she is forced by her father and stepmother to give up the baby.  She simply cannot be allowed to bring shame upon her family. But all Alice can think about is the small, kitten-like child she gave away, and she mourns the father, a young soldier, so beloved, who will never have the chance to know his daughter.
 
Edith and Philip Burns, a childless couple, yearn for a child of their own. When they secretly adopt a baby girl, Irene, their life together must surely be complete. Irene grows up knowing that she is different from other children, but no one will tell her the full truth.
 
Putting hopes of marriage and children behind her, Alice embarks upon a pioneering medical career, striving to make her way in a male-dominated world. Meanwhile, Irene struggles to define her own life, eventually leaving her Suffolk home to find work in London.
 
As two extraordinary stories intertwine across two decades, will secrets long-buried at last come to light?

I absolutely loved this moving and evocative read. It drew me in from the very first paragraph and held me in its spell right until the very final page.

A young mother in an impossible situation, a child in search of their history, a tender exploration of the  impact of loss – these are some of the many reasons that I was so drawn to The Love Child and why I’m so grateful to Anne Cater from #RandomThings Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

I love immersing myself in a fabulous historical read and I felt like I could totally surrender myself to this reading experience and luxuriate in it over a drizzly weekend at the end of the school summer holidays/  I really felt like I could imagine in Alice’s world and found it very difficult to detach myself from this poignant tale of loss and sacrifice that so many women have experienced across the decades.

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Is anyone else like me and love to go online and immerse themselves in the period of the book that they’re loving, to try and really place themselves in the characters’ world? I love doing it and I found myself scrolling through pages and pages of tales of wartime sweethearts, secret pregnancies and shameful whispers that lasted for generations.

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It was lovely to lose myself in a fantastic historical read after a summer travelling across Asia where I’ve been mostly reading contemporary writing and non-fiction.  It’s funny that I get drawn to books in waves, and after reading The Love Child  I’m now on a real Historical Fiction mission and have been drawn back to one of my comfort-reads –  The Cazalet novels –  set in the same period and dealing with secrets, fractured family dynamics and unspoken feelings, just like Rachel Hore’s novels.

The realistic characters and their vividly-depicted emotional journeys allowed me to travel back in time with them through its pages.  I really loved the way that Rachel Hore draws the reader in and keeps them connected with the characters’  journeys through love, despair and a sense of resignation as we see the way that choices were far more limited in that era and it is so easy to see why so many families bowed to convention and tried to mask the truth and bury what was inside their hearts.

I found myself wondering about Edith and Philip’s emotions as adoptive parents and thinking about their reasons for behaving in the way that they did – as well as considering how Irene’s life as an adopted child in a world where this was something shameful and hidden-away, was so different to successful adoptions in the twenty-first century.

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I loved the juxtaposition of the two stories as they interweave and coincide across the years. This was the perfect late-summer read – and if you’re NOT a teacher and manage to get away for a bit of September sunshine abroad,  then this would be am amazing addition to your beach bag. If you love an epic read, with emotionally resonant and compelling characters then you’ll really love The Lost Child – I was a huge fan growing up of my mum’s Rosamund Pilcher, Penny Vincenzi and Elizabeth Jane Howard and this novel fits in perfectly with their immersive tales of history, intrigue and family secrets.

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I absolutely loved this book and enjoyed the fact that I was savouring the final few days of my holiday and could really dedicate some serious hours of reading to it.  I enjoyed the feeling of being immersed in this perfectly realised world where unspoken secrets and heartbreaking decisions really tug at your heartstrings.

I got so lost in this story that I missed the train to the Edinburgh Book Festival – and immediately wanted my mum to read it too so we could have a long catch-up – I was  really excited to see that one of my favourite fellow-bloggers, Joanne from Portobello Book Blog   is on the blog tour soon and hope that in an up-and-coming  #BookBloggingBelles social, we’ll get the chance to talk about this poignant and emotional read.

Buy yourself a copy here

 

 

Writer On The Shelf

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An early childhood photograph shows me puzzling away at a Ladybird learn-to-read book. I was an early starter on the reading front but didn’t become a writer until I was a mum with three growing children. Indeed, if anyone had told the very young me that one day I’d be a published author I’d never have believed them.

My reading addiction got properly underway when I was five and our family moved from Surrey, England, where I was born, to live in Hong Kong because of my father’s job. I loved Hong Kong, but I also missed home, and one of the great excitements was receiving parcels of books from relatives in the UK. When the tropical heat got to me, which it often did, being red-haired with fair skin, I’d lie on my bed and lose myself in Enid Blyton, Black Beauty or the Chronicles of Narnia.

Back in an English primary school, aged eight, I was fortunate to have a teacher who read to the class every day, especially books by historical authors like Cynthia Harnett, Hilda Lewis and Rosemary Sutcliff. In this way, my love for tales about the past was born.

During my early teenage years I perused Jackie magazine and longed for romance, but instead fell in love with English literature. I tried Jane Austen and the Brontës, raided my grandfather’s bookshelf for Dickens and my local library for Virginia Woolf, George Orwell and Wilkie Collins. I owe a huge debt to the public library system and believe passionately that we should maintain it for future generations.

History is full of fascinating stories of how we came to be, and that’s why I chose it to study at Oxford University. After I graduated I had a brief flirtation with museum work, but eventually books won out again. I took a secretarial course and landed a junior position at Cassells Publishers in Westminster and knew at once I’d found a career where I felt totally at home. Three years of enjoyable dogsbodying later I emerged as a fledgling editor. It was then I landed my dream job: assistant editor at HarperCollins Publishers in the Fiction department! I worked there for many wonderful years, eventually becoming a senior editorial director and looking after my own stable of well-known names. As an editor I learned a great deal from my authors – about the craft of storytelling, how to develop strong characters and write good dialogue, all sorts of writerly tricks. I observed with admiration the huge amount of work that my authors put into their novels and, above all, I learned the discipline of editing and re-editing work, which even the best writers need to do.

My life, however, was about to change. During my time at HarperCollins, I’d met and married one of my authors, D.J. Taylor (David), and in due course, we had three lovely sons. In 2001 I gave up my job and we all moved from London to Norwich, my husband’s birthplace. Here it was that I finally gave in to the desire to write. I started with a short story, but it went on growing and became The Dream House. It was thrilling, but also nerve-wracking, to send it out into the world to find a publisher.

I’ve had nine novels published now, with the tenth, The Love Child, coming on 5th September 2019, all with the lovely team at Simon & Schuster UK through my agent, Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown. I also teach Publishing and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and review fiction. Norwich has recently become a UNESCO City of Literature – what better place can there be to live and work?