Audio Blog Tour – The Book of Longings

SMK audio blog tour


Ana is a very unusual young woman for her time. From a very young age, she has been interested in reading, writing and learning – pursuits deemed, not only unnecessary for a female but most unseemly for a girl who should be thinking just of marriage and motherhood.

But Ana’s position as the only child of head scribe to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, has put her in the privileged position of being able to study as much as her disapproving mother will allow and she spends the precious moments she devotes to her beloved studies copying the words of the matriarchs of the scriptures onto scrolls that she keeps in a chest in her room.
Ana is rebellious at heart and wants more than the life her parents have marked out for her, and she is encouraged by her aunt Yaltha – herself a woman of learning and unconventional notions. So when she meets the young Jesus, his ideas and passion call to her, and she longs to be free of the marriage contract her parents have arranged to further their ambitions.
Yaltha emboldens Ana to express her inner desires in prayer. Ana wants to be “a voice” and to be free to choose her own fate in this world, and her life is about to change in ways she could never have imagined – for Ana is about to become the wife of Jesus of Nazareth.
An extraordinary story set in the first century about a woman who finds her voice and her destiny, from the celebrated number one New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings
The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd, Sue Monk Kidd books, The Secret Life of Bees

In her mesmerizing fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd takes an audacious approach to history and brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family with ties to the ruler of Galilee, she is rebellious and ambitious, with a brilliant mind and a daring spirit. She engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes narratives about neglected and silenced women. Ana is expected to marry an older widower, a prospect that horrifies her. An encounter with eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything.

Their marriage evolves with love and conflict, humour and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, and their mother, Mary. Ana’s pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to Rome’s occupation of Israel, partially led by her brother, Judas. She is sustained by her fearless aunt Yaltha, who harbours a compelling secret. When Ana commits a brazen act that puts her in peril, she flees to Alexandria, where startling revelations and greater dangers unfold, and she finds refuge in unexpected surroundings. Ana determines her fate during a stunning convergence of events considered among the most impactful in human history.

Grounded in meticulous research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus’s life that focuses on his humanity, The Book of Longings is an inspiring, unforgettable account of one woman’s bold struggle to realize the passion and potential inside her while living in a time, place and culture devised to silence her. It is a triumph of storytelling both timely and timeless, from a masterful writer at the height of her powers.

The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd, Sue Monk Kidd books
As part of the Audio Blog Tour for The Book of Longings, I am honoured to be able to bring you the opportunity to listen to Part Five of the first section of the fabulous audiobook version

Headline Books · The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd, read by Mozhan Marnò – Part 5


See the poster below for the fabulous bloggers who are hosting the other parts and buy the book to get the full wonderful experience.
SMK audio blog tour
Thank you to Caitlin Raynor  Publicity Director of Headline and Tinder Press for gifting me a copy of this fabulous book, in return for an honest review.

Writer On The Shelf

“You are about to meet Ana, a brilliant and rebellious young woman in the first century who becomes the wife of Jesus. Living in a time when women are marginalized and largely unheard within the histories of men, she struggles to realize her passion and potential and to have a voice. Remarkably, the story has relevance even today, women still struggle for greater empowerment. The quest for one’s voice, one’s bravery, one’s freedom, one’s largeness is timeless”
– Sue Monk Kidd

The Gossip’s Choice

Gossip's Choice

“Call The Midwife for the 17th Century” 

Lucie Smith is a respected midwife who is married to Jacob, the town apothecary. They live happily together at the shop with the sign of the Three Doves. But sixteen-sixty-five proves a troublesome year for the couple.

Lucie is called to a birth at the local Manor House and Jacob objects to her involvement with their former opponents in the English Civil Wars. Their only-surviving son Simon flees plague-ridden London for his country hometown, only to argue with his father. Lucie also has to manage her husband’s fury at the news of their loyal housemaid’s unplanned pregnancy and its repercussions.

The year draws to a close with the first-ever accusation of malpractice against Lucie, which could see her lose her midwifery licence, or even face ex-communication.

I am so excited to welcome you today to my stop on the blog tour on this gorgeous sunny Friday for another fabulous historical novel –  The Gossip’s Choice by Sara Read 

Thank you to Kelly and LoveBookstours for giving me the opportunity to read and review this amazing book that I might never have encountered without her. It’s one of my favourite things about blogging that I’ve serendipitously encountered so many fantastic books and authors to write about and share them with other book lovers too.

selective focus photography of person holding baby's feet

These characters in this book absolutely spring to life and I defy you not to be moved by some of their predicaments. It’s not just a great piece of fiction though – it is a thought provoking and intelligent piece of writing that poses some big questions about motherhood, love and loss that would make it a perfect book club choice once the lockdown is over. I absolutely loved the character of Lucie and its civil war setting provided me with lots of food for thought and a fair few hours researching this period online after I’d finished the book.

Infant's feet being held by a woman's hand with painted and manicured hands resting on a gray blanket

I really did get caught up in this book. They do say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but Lucie’s story more than matched up to its gorgeous cover. One of my favourite things was the relationship between Lucie and the women she attends, and how their encounters allowed  for a real trust to develop amidst all the lies, speculation and deception in the novel and in these times themselves. Its a real strength of the novel that despite the drama and twists and turns  the characters in this novel remain absolutely down to earth and realistic and has you rooting for them as the pace heats up and things look pretty uncertain for them.

The Gossip’s Choice is a stunningly researched period read that had me totally captivated. It’s a moving and powerful evocation of life from a very different world as far as women are concerned, yet so many of its reflections on identity and motherhood are absolutely timeless and will resonate with so many readers.

child and parent hands photography

The Gossip’s Choice is available to buy now – here’s the link 

Check out what these other talented bloggers have to say about it on the Love Books Tour 

Gossip's Choice

Writer On The Shelf

Sara Read

Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her research is in the cultural representations of women, bodies and health in the early modern era.

She has published widely in this area with her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England being published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013.

She is a member of the organising committee of the Women’s Studies Group, 1558-1837 and recently co-edited a special collection produced to celebrate the group’s 30th anniversary.

She is also the co-editor of the popular Early Modern Medicine blog. With founding editor Dr Jennifer Evans, Sara wrote a book about health and disease in this era Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740 (Pen and Sword 2017).

Sara regularly writes for history magazines such as Discover Your Ancestors and History Today. In 2017 she published an article ‘My Ancestor was a Midwife’ tracing the history of the midwifery profession for Who Do You Think You Are? magazine in 2017. She has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Freethinking programme and is often to be heard on BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Radio WM.


Thunder Girls final banner

Chrissie, Roxanne, Carly and Anita, an eighties pop sensation outselling and out-classing their competition. Until it all comes to an abrupt end and three of their careers are over, and so is their friendship.

Thirty years later, their old record label wants the band back together for a huge money-making concert. But the wounds are deep and some need this gig more than others.

In those decades apart life was far from the dream they were living as members of The Thunder Girls. Breakdowns, bankruptcy, addiction and divorce have been a constant part of their lives. They’ve been to hell and back, and some are still there.

Can the past be laid to rest for a price, or is there more to this reunion than any of them could possibly know? Whilst they all hunger for a taste of success a second time around, someone is plotting their downfall in the deadliest way possible . .

The Thunder Girls, Melanie Blake, Jackie Collins

If you love a novel you can really get caught up in that will make you think about its characters long after you’ve finished reading it, then The Thunder Girls might be your next favourite read. I’m always a sucker for any book that’s got the slightest connection to the 80’s and I was really drawn in by the story of this book and what a word-of-mouth sensation it’s become.  I love books that transport me in time and place and I read this across a sunny Scottish weekend – totally losing myself in the glamour, nostalgia and excess of this fantastic pageturner of a read.

The Thunder Girls’ deft contrast between ‘now’ and ‘then’  is a clever device that allows you to draw parallels and see the differences between their relationships across time and miles as the stories of Chrissie, Roxanne Carly & Anita unfold, drawing you into the drama and tangled relationships of both stages in their lives and allowing you to get caught up in both. This narrative device was very more-ish and several nights kept me up much later than I’d intended with a real sense of ‘just one more chapter’. It made me remember all those nights staying up too late to read the latest Judith Kranz or Danielle Steele as a teenager – or being able to binge on hours of Alexis Carrington versus Krystle and all those EPIC frocks…

The Thunder Girls, Melanie Blake, Jackie Collins

The word blockbuster doesn’t get bandied around very often these days but this is a wholly deserved compliment, it’s blend of a gripping and exciting plot and skilful characterisation combine to draw you into a story bursting with drama and the combination of nostalgia and reality are used to strong effect. Melanie Blake has a deft and distinct turn of phrase and recreates this era so very skilfully in order to make the 80’s come back come to life in these pages. This is a decadent  and satisfying read, where you never want it to end. I was so excited to hear that there was a play and am already thinking about how I can possibly get to see it after the lockdown is over.

I enjoyed the authentic 80’s atmosphere and the addictive sense that you are part of the drama as we follow events to their explosive conclusion. It’s hard to write about The Thunder Girls with no spoilers, but I’ve tried really hard as this is a book that you really need to experience for yourself. There have been lots of comparisons to legends like Jilly Cooper, Shirley Conran & Jackie Collins and it’s easy to see why – there is that same glamorous and fast-paced quality that really makes you effortlessly fall under this novel’s spell. It’s the perfect antidote to current times and I’m telling all my friends what a tonic it has been.

The Thunder Girls, Melanie Blake, Jackie Collins

If you want a hugely enjoyable and addictive read that both plunges you into the drama and asks you to think for yourself and trusts you to come to your own conclusions about subjects such as friendship, loyalty and revenge,  you’ll love this book and I know a few book-loving friends who are definitely going to be pinching it from me once we are out of this lockdown. I’d like to thank Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour, Buy yourself a copy and grab yourself some of the 80s nostalgia for yourself

Jackie Collins for a new generation. The Thunder Girls is a blockbuster novel, filled with obsession, addiction, betrayal and revenge, that charts the rise and fall of an 80s girl band from Melanie Blake, a true insider of the music business.

Perfect for fans of Tasmina Perry and Daisy Jones and The SixSoon to be a nationwide play with an all star cast.

Writer On The Shelf

At fifteen years old Melanie Blake was told by her high school career advisers that her decision to do work experience at a local record shop was an ‘embarrassment and a clear example that she wouldn’t go far in life or her career’. They were wrong. By twenty-one she was working at the BBC’s iconic Top of the Pops show and by twenty-seven she had built a reputation as one of the UK’s leading music and entertainment managers, with her own agency and a roster of award-winning artists who had sold more than 100 million records.

After a decade at the top, Melanie decided to manage a smaller client list and concentrate on her other passion, writing – first as a columnist for a national newspaper, then as a playwright and now as a novelist. They say write about what you know, and having lived and breathed every aspect of the music and entertainment industry, in The Thunder Girls she certainly has.

Twitter @MelanieBlakeUK  

Sisters of Berlin

Sisters of Berlin (1)

BERLIN 2019.

Berlin 2014. The 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, and the city is gearing up for a celebration of unity and liberation. But, beneath the surface, are those for whom the divisions and allegiances of the past remain close to home.
In her hushed and leafy corner of Berlin, Nina’s life is a comfortable, conventional one– until her younger sister Marie, a free-spirited writer, is attacked and left for dead.
For Nina, Marie’s brutal demise – and that of her unborn child – tips her own carefully controlled life into a nightmare. Stonewalled by official incompetence and subterfuge,

Nina begins to realise that her sister’s past and the secrets of the once-divided city are connected in unimaginable ways. As she seeks out justice for Marie, Nina becomes caught in a tangle of obsessions, lies and hidden truths that threatens to destroy her marriage, her livelihood and all that she holds dear.

Sisters of Berlin, Juliet Conlin

Juliet Conlin is on of the most underrated writers going at the minute – if you haven’t discovered her yet and this is your introduction to her writing then you are definitely in for a treat. She has a PhD in Psychology, and it shows – though she wears her learning lightly. This gripping, fascinating and compelling read never feels like a lecture or a series of facts in search of a story – it makes you think deeply about a wide range of topical issues whilst keeping you absolutely wrapped in its narrative and it is definitely one of  Conlin’s strengths as a writer that we never feel as if her research has merely found its way into a novel.

Berlin lighted free standing signage during night time

Having enjoyed The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner so much, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Sisters of Berlin as I love her writing ; I vividly remember the wall coming down in my first year at university so I was intrigued by both the premise and the setting of this novel.


I hate spoilers, so I don’t want to dwell too long on the plot of Sisters of Berlin – suffice to say that the skilful way that Conlin weaves the death of Marie on a personal level with the veils of secrecy drawn by the authorities surrounding her death is superbly done and remains convincing throughout. I know at times it can feel like the fictional world is saturated with mysterious deaths and disappearances –  but this is a pleasing diversion from the herd where the political and the personal collide to give an extremely satisfying and rich reading experience with hints, clues and diversions peppered throughout the chapters to keep you firmly on your toes.

Brandenburg Gate, Germany


I loved the way that this novel wove many threads together – a convincing detective story, a consideration of politial and personal divisions and their impact on society, an examination of sibling love, devotion and secrecy and the impact that the love we have for our families can have on our lives in a much wider way than we might have anticipated

I also enjoyed the references to Berlin itself  throughout the novel that definitely made me resolve to read more texts set in Europe this year and hone my travel itineraries for when we finally emerge, blinking, from this wretched lockdown.

Berlin Cathedral , Berlin

Sisters Of Berlin is definitely one of those novels that stays with you long after closing its final page and one that I will definitely be recommending to my friends – it packs a powerful emotional punch; educates just as much as it entertains and makes you wish that you could step into the world of Nina and see her Berlin for yourself.

If you enjoy an immersive and intelligent will ask you to think about your own attitudes and examine the way that you think about your own complex interconnections and relationships then you will love this book as much as I did.

I can’t wait to see what Juliet Conlin does next. I’m very grateful to be opening the blog your with a fabulous bunch of bloggers today and you should definitely follow the tour and hear what they have to say about this wonderfully satisfying read

Sisters of Berlin (1)

Buy yourself a copy and Support an Independent publishing company below:

Writer On The Shelf

Juliet Conlin

Juliet Conlin was born in London and grew up in England and Germany. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and a PhD in Psychology from the University of Durham.

She works as a writer and translator and lives with her family in Berlin. Her novels include The Fractured Man (Cargo, 2013), The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days (Black & White, 2017), The Lives Before Us (Black & White, 2019).

Subscribe to Juliet’s newsletter, NOTES FROM BERLIN,


Black & White Publishing was founded in 1999 by Managing Director Campbell Brown and Publishing Director Alison McBride. Since then, the business has grown into one of Scotland’s leading independent publishers with over 300 books in print across a variety of genres.

Committed to publishing the best books from the most talented writers in the UK and beyond, some of our bestselling authors include Daniela Sacerdoti,  James Robertson, Estelle Maskame, Nick Alexander, Richard Gordon, Alex Norton, Millie Gray, Sally Magnusson and Tony Black. We produce an extensive range of titles, including general non-fiction, biography, sport and humour, as well as selected fiction, young adult and children’s books.

This year, we’ve started an exciting new alliance with PGUK who now provide sales representation for our titles, and GBS continue to distribute our books. Our eBooks are distributed by Faber Factory. Over recent years, our range of fiction has grown following recent eBook successes such as Daniela Sacerdoti’s Glen Avich series, which has sold nearly a million copies to date.

These new alliances and our e-book successes are helping us shape and develop the list in new ways to bring more exciting new titles to both local and global markets.


The Prisoners Wife




1944, Czechoslovakia. In the dead of night a farm girl and a British soldier creep through abandoned villages.

They were never meant to meet, let alone fall in love. But when Prisoner of War Bill is brought to work on Izabela’s family farm, their chemistry is inescapable. Before they can be torn apart forever, they marry in secret and go on the run. Their only hope for safety is to reach Izabela’s father and brother who are fighting deep in the countryside as partisans. But when their luck runs out, they are delivered straight into the hands of the enemy: the Nazis.

Still refusing to separate, they have prepared for this moment. Izabela’s hair has been shorn and she wears men’s clothing, posing as an escaped and mute British soldier.

The secret lovers are transported to a Nazi POW camp deep in German territory, and if Izabela is discovered, a fate far worse than death awaits both her and Bill. It will require the help of their fellow POWs to maintain their deception, and all their love, devotion and strength to withstand the trials to come. Because should they fail, Izabella and Bill will have put far more than just themselves in danger…

metal bar

Based on a true story, and researched extensively by the author on location in Eastern Europe, this is a story that takes the reader deep into a rarely-explored side of the Second World War

The Prisoners Wife  is one of the most moving and memorable books about WWII I’ve ever read and I’m delighted to be sharing my review today on the final day of the blog tour.  It gives a voice to the disenfranchised and desolate and allows us a real insight into the many thousands of people across the world who suffered unbearable horrors as they fled their homes to seek safety and ended up in a hell beyond anything they could have imagined.

The Prisoners Wife allows us an unforgettable insight into the lives of Izabela and Bill, whilst we see at close hand the devastating impact the war has had on their lives  All of the peace, security and love a young married couple could hope for is decimated by the war and their dangerous journey begins.

The prisoner's wife


The characters that you meet in this book remain in your memory for a long time after you’ve finished turning the pages. It’s such an epic story that I feel like it’s impossible to close this book and not feel a strong connection to these characters as you know that all the time you are reading it that there are thousands of Bill and Izabels right now on their own journeys and going through their own terrifying experiences – and that even though the war is long over, the world is undoubtedly full of real stories like this that are still happening and we should never forget that.

The universality of their story never erodes the sense that these are real people whose lives we are getting an insight into and their tale is an extremely moving one  – which is an important part of why I really think that you should read it too.  I can’t forget their emotional as well as their literal journey and found it incredibly moving to hear about the lengths they went to and the amount that they endured to remain together.

The prisoner's wife

This is an important read and I can’t recommend it highly enough. A powerful insight into how much people are prepared to go through in order to remain together if they love one another – it’s a book that contains a great deal of heartwarming moments, despite its setting and i felt humbled to be able to share their story and so glad that Maggie Brookes was able to share it with us.  Make sure that you get yourself a copy so that you can read about the way that Bill and Izabel endured so much to remain together, you won’t be able to put it down.

Buy yourself a copy here

The prisoner's wife

‘Deeply moving and compelling … an epic journey not only across war-torn countries but deep into the heart of what it is to be human. A heart-rending story beautifully told.’ JUDITH ALLNAT, author of The Poet’s Wife and The Silk Factory

Heart-wrenching and heart-warming in equal measure, The Prisoner’s Wife is an unputdownable novel … finely crafted, atmospheric, often nail-biting.’ BEN KANE, author of The Eagles of Rome series

‘A story of danger, fear, determination and the redemptive power of love in war-torn Europe. It is a story that Hemingway might have envied.’ JULIET GARDINER, author of Wartime: Britain 1939 to 1945 and The Blitz: The British Under Attack.

A gripping novel that explores the question of how much the human body, and the human spirit, can endure for the sake of love. The wealth of authentic detail makes it feel like a memoir … I feel enriched to have read it.’ GILL PAUL, author of The Lost Daughter and The Secret Wife

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Writer On The Shelf


Maggie Brookes is an ex-journalist and BBC TV documentary producer, turned poet and novelist. She’s also an associate professor at Middlesex University, and an advisory fellow of the Royal Literary Fund.

The Prisoner’s Wife is based on a true story told to her in a lift, by a World War II prisoner of war. Maggie visited Czechoslovakia, Poland and Germany as part of her research for the book, uncovering largely forgotten aspects of the war. Although the story can be harrowing at times, it’s also about the power of friendship and of love.

You Will Be Safe Here – Blog Tour


A beautiful and heart-breaking story set in South Africa where two mothers – a century apart – must fight for their sons, unaware their fates are inextricably linked.

Orange Free State, 1901. At the height of the Boer War, Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred can only watch as the British burn their farm. The polite invaders cart them off to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp promising you will be safe here.

Johannesburg, 2010. Sixteen-year-old Willem is an outsider who just wants to be left alone with his Harry Potter books and Britney, his beloved pug. Worried he’s turning out soft, his Ma and her new boyfriend send him to New Dawn Safari Camp, where they ‘make men out of boys.’ Guaranteed.

The red earth of the veldt keeps countless secrets whether beaten by the blistering sun or stretching out beneath starlit stillness. But no secret can stay buried forever

You Will Be Safe Here, Damian Barr

You Will be Safe Here, is one of the most moving and memorable books I’ve ever read and even though it’s only April, I know that it’s going to be one of my favourite reads of 2020,  It gives a voice to the disenfranchised and desolate and allows us a real insight into the many thousands of people whose lives have been blighted by intolerance and hatred – both in the past and even now, in the present day we cannot turn a blind eye to the way that masculine ‘expectations’ are still causing misery for thousands

Damian Barr’s debut novel  allows us an unforgettable insight into the lives of fa diverse group of characters, who span both time and geographical location and asks us to think about the fact that there is more that connects them than separates their circumstances.  Sarah Van Der Watt’s Boer War diary gives a moving and shocking insight into the brutality and inhumane circumstances of something many people might never have heard of – the British concentration camps that were established in South Africa.

You Will Be Safe Here, Damian Barr

We also follow a more contemporary story of  privation and suffering when we meet Willem who is packed off to New Dawn – a modern-day camp set up to turn boys into men. The contrasts and parallels are beautifully depicted – allowing readers the chance to step into both narratives and experience them for themselves – considering the very human impact of treating human beings as commodities and the lifelong suffering that ensues when humanity is disregarded in this way.

You Will Be Safe Here, Damian Barr

The characters in this book spring to life from the page and remain in your heart long after you’ve finished–  it’s impossible to close the final page of this book and  not feel a strong connection to these characters as you know that all the time you are reading it that there are thousands of people right now suffering because of a loss of their human rights or suffering because they too have ben judged and found wanting for being a ‘moffie’ Even though this book is fictional, it undoubtedly shines a light on thousands of these real stories that are still happening, all over the world and sometimes right on your very doorstep.


You Will Be Safe Here, Damian Barr



The power of the narrative with its simple lyrical words to convey such powerful truths is an important part of why this novel has stuck with me and why I really think that you should read it too. The book it reminds me of in terms of my engagement with it is The Kite Runner and just like that book, these characters are very much still alive in my mind and I can’t forget their emotional as well as their literal journey.

Claims of paedophile ring at Scots boarding school aired at ...

My school was built to educate the hundreds of Scottish boys who were left orphaned at the end of the Boer war – and I think that’s one of the reasons that I felt such a strong emotional connection with the book and why it struck such a chord with me. It made me think back over history about other lost boys, lost for a whole myriad of reasons and think about how little the world has changed in terms of tolerance and humanity in some ways, even now…

This is an important read and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I am so grateful to be part of the blog tour and for being given the opportunity to let other people know why I think they should read this moving and astonishing tale about humanity. Thanks so much to Anne Cater for the invite – I’ve loved reading the other #RandomThings Bloggers thoughts about this epic read and could not wait to take my place on the tour today!

You should definitely buy yourself a copy and immerse yourself in this unforgettable and emotional read. it’s definitely one that you won’t be able to forget. I absolutely adored Maggie and Me and yet I loved this even more – can’t wait to see what Motherwell’s finest produces next. Gaun yersel’ Damian!


There is pain on these pages and poetry too. I left this book bruised yet somehow better for it (TAYARI JONES, WINNER OF THE WOMEN’S PRIZE OBSERVER BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

Lean, beautiful prose . It pulls you in, breaks your heart and then ultimately repairs it (JOJO MOYES OBSERVER BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

A searing debut (THE TIMES)

A stunning dissection of human barbarism . It tells a story so powerful and upsetting that it’s a wonderful reminder of how fiction can illuminate the indignities visited upon those the world has mistreated and then forgotten (JOHN BOYNE IRISH TIMES)

This is a book that tilts the world, showing how the actions of the past can never be fully escaped by the present (STYLIST)

Barr’s writing has a lightness of touch and warm humour which makes it easy to root for him … His life has become a triumph (OBSERVER)

Packs a hefty emotional punch … Extraordinary (BIG ISSUE) On The Shelf  

Damian Barr Author Pic

 Damian Barr is an award-winning writer and columnist. Maggie & Me, his memoir about coming of age and coming out in Thatcher’s Britain, was a BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’, Sunday Times ‘Memoir of the Year’ and won the Paddy Power Political Books ‘Satire’ Award and Stonewall Writer of the Year Award.

Damian writes columns for the Big Issue and High Life and often appears on BBC Radio 4. He is creator and host of his own Literary Salon that premieres work from established and emerging writers. You Will Be Safe Here is his debut novel.


Damian’s Website:

Twitter: @Damian_Barr

Lit Salon on Instagram: @damianbarrliterarysalon

The Authenticity Project

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A story about connection, community, and the kindness of strangers.
Six strangers with one universal thing in common: their lives aren’t always what they make them out to be.

What would happen if they told the truth instead?

Julian Jessop is tired of hiding the deep loneliness he feels. So he begins The Authenticity Project – a small green notebook containing the truth about his life.

Leaving the notebook on a table in his friendly neighbourhood café, Julian never expects Monica, the owner, to track him down after finding it. Or that she’ll be inspired to write down her own story.

Little do they realize that such small acts of honesty hold the power to impact all those who discover the notebook and change their lives completely.

The Authenticity Project

Reading this book uninterrupted for an entire day whilst stretching out on a sunbed looking out over a stunning Greek bay was my intention  –  I had mentally earmarked it for my Easter break In Rhodes as soon as it landed on my doormat. Being a busy teacher, it isn’t often that I get to indulge myself by spending a whole day reading a book from cover to cover .

Unfortunately the lockdown ate into my plans for a Greek idyll – but The Authenticity Project soon swept me away from my feelings of disappointment, anxiety and worry – proving to be worth its weight in gold for a springtime heartwarming read and it’s one I can’t wait to shout about in my book column as soon as it goes to print. Thanks so much to Anne Cater for doing me the honour of allowing me to finish off the blog tour , and if you haven’t already, I’d definitely recommend you take a look at the blogposts from my fellow #RandomThingsBloggers and their thoughts on this incredible feel-good read.

This book is everything that a read of the year should be – warm-hearted, filled with characters that you both believe in and care about and wonderfully written. Julian’s loneliness is brought vividly to life and we see the full effect it wreaks on him as everyone else’s life goes on around him, seemingly oblivious to his suffering.

The diverse and wonderfully realistic characters are brought to life just as delightfully as you could ever wish for and there are plenty of one-liners that you’ll be absolutely dying to share. I absolutely loved the character of  Julian who leaves his infamous green notebook in Monica’s cafe, saying “Everyone lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth?” He’s inscribed ‘The Authenticity Project’ on the cover, hoping that Monica, the café’s owner will eventually find it, which she does, and the rest – as they say – is history…


The Authenticity Project has exactly the right balance – you are absolutely rooting for these characters – despite their interesting, diverse and unusual life choices  – I mean we’ve all experienced challenges in our lives and – but how many of us get the experience of having to challenge the way we’ve always seen ourselves and given the chance to change the direction of our entire lives – just when we need it most?

flat lay photography of coffee in teacup near plate of sliced cake


This charming, feel-good novel is sure to provoke much discussion if it’s chosen for your book group. I can’t wait to lend it to my mum to read so that I could talk it over with someone who I know will love it just as much as I have. You’ll end up finishing this book feeling like you know these characters as actual people in your life and that’s the highest compliment you can really give to a book; I really loved it and I’m going to be recommending it to everyone as it’s such a special and lovely book.

The Authenticity Project

As a general rule, I’d avoid a book that people were calling ‘heartwarming’ but The Authenticity Project is heartwarming in the very best way.  It deals with transformation and hope not by talking about the way these lives aren’t fulfilled– but by allowing us to see how much happier these characters deserve to be, if only they give themselves the chance. It is written with sensitivity, intelligence and a wonderfully warm sense of humour and I can’t wait to read more by Clare Pooley

If any of us are lucky enough to get abroad this summer, this is the perfect book to pack – it not only packs an emotional punch, it will also make you laugh so hard at times that you’ll spill your afternoon cocktail. I *might* know someone who actually did  in their own garden last week in the sunshine. And – if we are still on lockdown, I can think of few books that will fill your heart and allow you to escape from this strange and unfamiliar situation for a few hours with a cast of characters you’ll absolutely fall for, hook line and sinker…

Buy yourself a copy here, you definitely won’t regret it:

The Authenticity Project

I loved The Authenticity Project. It has such an intriguing premise, wonderful characters and is utterly truthful about the lies that we all tell. It’s a clever, uplifting book that entertains and makes you think., Sophie Kinsella

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Original, engaging and unforgettable.’, Sunday Times bestselling author, Sarah Morgan

Beautifully written, thought provoking and uplifting, The Authenticity Project is a warm and endearing tale about truth, friendship and the power of connection. Pooley’s characters will stay with you long after you turn the final page. It was a joy to read., Mike Gayle

It’s full of life’s truths, funny, poignant and ultimately uplifting. I thoroughly enjoyed it., Fanny Blake

I loved The Authenticity Project. I powered through it and it was such a joy. It gave me that warm fuzzy feeling that I’ve so missed (since the days of Love Actually etc). It really reminded me of those classic Richard Curtis films… Fab characters and just the right amount of romance, humour and weepy moments., Rachel Marks

The Authenticity Project

Writer On The Shelf

Clare Pooley

Clare Pooley graduated from Cambridge and spent twenty years in the heady world of advertising before becoming a full-time mum. She is the author of the hugely popular blog, Mummy was a Secret Drinker, under the pseudonym ‘Sober Mummy’ and her memoir, The Sober Diaries was published by Hodder in 2017 to critical acclaim.
Her blog has had over two million hits and she recently gave a TEDx talk titled Making Sober Less Shameful. Clare’s debut novel The Authenticity Project is inspired by the time Clare spent in advertising, a world where the line between authenticity and fiction is constantly blurred, and by her own experience of exposing truth about her seemingly perfect life in her memoir.