The Boy from Boskowice

What makes a good man bad? Nature or nurture?

This is the extraordinary story of the author’s father, a Holocaust survivor who left a trail of pain and secrets in his wake.

Vicky Unwin had always known her father – an erstwhile intelligence officer and respected United Nations diplomat – was Czech, but it was not until a stranger turned up on her doorstep that she discovered he was also Jewish.

So began a quest to discover the truth about his past – one that perhaps would help answer the niggling doubts she had always had about her ‘perfect’ dad. Finally persuading him to allow her to open a closely-guarded cache of family books and papers, Vicky discovered the identity of her grandfather: the tormented author and diplomat Hermann Ungar, hugely controversial both in life and in death, who was a protégé and possible lover of Thomas Mann, and a friend of Berthold Brecht and Stefan Zweig. How much of her father’s child was Vicky – and how much of his father’s child was he?

As Vicky worked to uncover deeply-buried family secrets, she would find herself slowly unpicking the lingering power of ‘survivor guilt’ on the generations that followed the Holocaust, and would learn, via a deathbed confession, of the existence of a previously unknown sister.

Together, the sisters attempt to come to terms with what had made their father into the deeply flawed, complex, yet charismatic man he had always been, journeying together through grief and heartache towards forgiveness.

grey wooden door on grey brick wall

The Boy From Boskowice is one of the most thought provoking and affecting books that I’ve ever blogged about and I’m so glad I got the chance to review it and share it with other readers as it’s an important read that will resonate wth a great many readers who find out that their parents and grandparents’ lives are far different than the ones you’ve imagined them leading. Its context is the holocaust where thousands of people across the world lost everything,  fled their homes and went through unimaginable suffering at the hands of the Nazis and in the midst of it all, the untold suffering that this has wreaked on so many thousands more survivors and their families’ lives.

open gray wooden door

This unforgettable and affecting read allows us an unforgettable insight into the lives of Vicky Unwins’ ancestors experience that she had no idea about – covering immense suffering with moments of light – all stored in a hidden cache of long lost letters and papers that allow us to see at close hand the devastating impact the terror and privations that they endured had on their lives and the lives of their familes too.

History is brought vividly to life as a place full of people just trying to survive, we gain insights into her grandfather’s relationships with famous historical figures as well as see the more ordinary aspects of his and her father’s lives brought to life for us across the years. The impact and historical echo of suffering and ‘survivors’ guilt’ is painted extremely vividly an at times this is a challenging read, but the overall impact is well worth it for the insight it gives us into the complexities of human realtionships and the sacrifices that had to be made that we have absolutely no comprehension of in these less dangerous times.

metal bar

The people in this book spring to life from the page and remain with you for a long time after you’ve finished–  it’s impossible to close the final page of this book and  not feel a strong sense of sadness and loss at all these characters had to endure -as you know the entire time you are reading that this is only the story of one family and you can imagine the many thousands of families who went trough similar suffering and loss. The power of the narrative with its simple lyrical words to convey such powerful truths is an important part of why this book stuck with me and why I really think that you should read it too. I can’t forget their emotional as well as their literal struggle to survive and the impact of the choices they made is something that is brought so vividly to life for us upon the page. Vicky Unwin is a sensitive and reflective narrator who opens up her family album for us and allows us an insight into an imoprtant part of history that should never be forgotten.

pile of assorted-color leather shoes

This is an important read and I can’t recommend it highly enough – I love the fact that I’m reviewing it during the week of Holocaust Memorial Day and I hope that it will allow its readers a different insight into this period than the one we are already familiar with. This is not an easy read, but it’s a very important one and it’s one that I unreservedly recommend.

Buy yourself a copy here and make sure that you follow the rest of the tour to hear the thoughts of our other bloggers on this timely and important blog tour

The Boy from Boskovice: A Father's Secret Life by [Vicky Unwin]

The Boy from Boskovice tells the compelling story of a daughter’s quest to find out the disturbing truth of who her own father really was … This is an intimate narrative, cleverly woven, which sees the author courageously coming to terms with her father’s legacy.’ Sarah Helm, author of A Life in Secrets

‘Vicky Unwin has written a personal history which highlights our very current, global concerns with identity and our place in the world. It is an intimate exploration of family – and the damage that can be passed from every generation to the next. A fascinating read, filled with secrets and suspense.’ JoAnne Richards, prize-winning South African author of The Innocence of Roast Chicken –This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Writer On The Shelf

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Vicky Unwin

Vicky Unwin has had a long career in both book and newspaper publishing, centred round her African roots, and is currently the chair of Wasafiri Magazine and a Caine Prize Council member. Her first book, Love and War in the WRNS, a collection of her mother’s letters home during the Second World War, was published by History Press in June 2015. She has always been fascinated by family secrets and began researching the story behind The Boy from Boskovice shortly before her father’s death in 2012.

Vicky writes extensively about living with cancer at healthylivingwithcancer.co, and is a Trustee of Transform Drug Policy Foundation campaigning for the decriminalisation of drugs after losing her daughter to a ketamine overdose in 2011.

My Best Friend’s Murder

There are so many ways to kill a friendship . . .

You’re lying, sprawled at the bottom of the stairs, legs bent, arms wide.
And while this could be a tragic accident, if anyone’s got a motive to hurt you, it’s me.

Bec and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives. They have been through a lot together – from the death of Bec’s mother to the birth of Izzy’s daughter. But there’s a darker side to their friendship, and once it has been exposed, there is no turning back.

So when Izzy’s body is found, Bec knows that if the police decide to look for a killer, she will be the prime suspect. Because those closest to you are the ones who can hurt you the most . . .

The Rumour meets The Holiday in this compulsive thriller with a toxic friendship at its heart that keeps you in the dark until the final breathless pages.

Why you will love My Best Friend’s Murder . . .

Friend and Fiend have only one letter keeping them apart and thos page turning novel will make you think about the thin line between friends and frenemies in a compulsively readable and enjoyable winter read that is as twisty as any book you’ve read on the subject of friedship gone bad…

My Best Friend's Murder

This book begins at the end – so we are not as much reading a ‘whodunnit’ as a ‘whydunnit’ and spend the novel looking backwards at how things managed to accelerate towards this dramatic grand finale.  If you love domestic noir, you’ll absolutely love the way this starts to unravel as we think about the way that toxic friendships work and the way that opening yourself up can sometimes leave you wide open to situations that may be more dangerous than you’ve ever anticipated.

My Best Friend's Murder

Izzy is the woman who seems on the surface to have it all – the lifestyle the dreamed of as teenagers with the Amex to match. Bec is a fantastically drawn character, too and we soon come to realise that there’s no innocent party here – they’re both totally lacking moral scruples but all the better characters for it!  The plot zips along at a cracking pace and some of their escapades make you – if not quite admire some of their moves – certainly be impressed by their imagination as they battle for the place as the real ‘top dog’ in their relationship…

My Best Friend's Murder

I’d actually love to see it on screen and will be dragging people along with me to see Bec and Izzy slug it out in the flesh! Polly Phillips’ resourcefulness and limitless imagination will certainly keep you entertained as you make your way through this novel – all too quickly, I might add. We have all met people like this – whether it’s at the school gates or at an interminable childrens’ party so you’ll be wincing in recognition at seeing some of their traits magnifired here,

You know that I hate spoilers so I’ve tried hard to avoid mentioning exactly how this situation escalated to this dramatic conclusion – but suffice to say, there’s never a dull moment as there is not much to choose between them in terms of who might be able to claim the moral high ground and I found it to be the perfect escapist read from everything that is going on at the moment.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for sending me this book to review for the blog tour – I absolutely love taking part in Random Things tours and enjoyed reading what the other bloggers thought too. If you haven’t bought yourself a copy yet, you can grab a copy here and while away an afternoon or two in the company of these two pretty loose women!

Why you will love My Best Friend’s Murder . . .

‘A totally gripping, dark and delicious read and a perfect representation of a toxic friendship’ GYTHA LODGE, author of Watching from the Dark

‘Pacy, stylishly-executed and brimming with tension. This book captures frenemies in a truly terrifying way!’ JO SPAIN, author of Dirty Little Secrets

‘Twists until the last page . . . I guarantee you won’t put it down until you’re left questioning who’s truly innocent . . . and who’s not’ GINA LaMANNA, author ofThree Single Wives

‘A pacy page turner that kept me up long past my bedtime’ HELEN RUSSELL, author of Gone Viking

‘I devoured this taut and thrilling tale of murder and toxic friendship, reading between my fingers as the tension cranked up and unable to put it aside until I’d read the final shocking twist’ VICTORIA SELMAN, author of Snakes and Ladders

‘A page-turner to be reckoned with. The toxic friendship between Bec and Izzy is so well-crafted; the women’s journey like a steam train about to derail. I raced through the book at record-speed, and couldn’t wait to find out who would finally crack, who would die, and who would ultimately be responsible’ JESSICA JARLVI, author of What Did I Do?

Writer On The Shelf

Polly Phillips

Polly Phillips currently lives in Australia, although she is originally from the UK. My Best Friend’s Murder won the Montegrappa Writing Prize at the Emirates Literature Festival in 2019. Polly has worked as a journalist in Australia, Dubai, Denmark and the UK. My Best Friend’s Murder is her debut novel. Please do have a look at the other stops on the blog tour. 

The Shape of Darkness Blog Tour

Wicked deeds require the cover of darkness…

A struggling silhouette artist in Victorian Bath seeks out a renowned child spirit medium in order to speak to the dead – and to try and identify their killers – in this beguiling new tale from Laura Purcell.

Silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another…

Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them. But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…

What secrets lie hidden in the darkness?

I was so happy to be reunited with Laura Purcell’s writing this month after falling for her delicious take on contemporary gothic within three paragraphs of The Silent Companions and I couldn’t wait to see what was awaiting me in The Shape of Darkness after devouring The Corset and Bone China equally as feverishly. I am very grateful to be joining the blog tour and I have to say that I am able to say unequivocally that Laura Purcell is a writer who you always think can’t get any better – until you read her next book. The Shape of Darkness is everything I need in a winter read and I’m sure already that this will feature in my top 10 books of this year – and it’s only January.

Gothic is my favourite genre and Laura Purcell is a writer who you know that you are in safe hands with as soon as you turn the first page. She’s a writer at the top of her game and the genuine sense of creeping unease you feel when you enter Agnes’ world and find that her just as her name is literally Darker, so too is the path that you are being taken down as you enter the grimy backstreets of Bristol and feel the sense of menace and danger surrounding her. Once you enter these streets and walk them alongside Agnes, you will soon begin to fall under this hypnotically seductive novel’s spell and start to feel the ominous atmosphere permeate your reading experience as you start to explore the mysterious deaths alongside child medium Pearl and her sister Myrtle whose relationship with the mystery and the truth behind events is – in true Purcell style – never as straightforward as you might think on the surface…

If you are turned off by darkness then this is perhaps not the book for you, and definitely don’t say that you haven’t been warned. If it’s not enough of a giveaway that I read this book late into the night with one eye on the landing light and another on the page, then don’t say you haven’t been warned If you are looking for something to remind yourself of the goodness inherent within human nature, you’ve come to the wrong place – but my goodness, this is a marvellously dark and deviously delightful read.

We are lured into the narrative and totally fall under the spell of these characters’ determination to try and get to the bottom of the links between these mysterious deaths meeting a whole cast of characters along the way that are all equally vividly written and add a fascinating historical insight into what life was like during this period for a whole cross section of the population. I find this a fascinating period in history where we are just on the cusp of science and technology taking the place of supersitition and traditional practices and we see the way that this impacts those whose livelihoods were impacted by the ‘progress’ that society was making. Books that involve mediumship in any shape ir form have always fascinated me and this book is no exception – it manages to be eerily credible whilst being nerve shreddingly creepy at the same time and I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw shapes in the darkness in their own homes whilst reading this fascinating and addictive novel.

What Laura Purcell is always so successful at is presenting us with people who are never straightforward and make us think about the truth behind what’s happening in such a multi-layered and compelling way. I would love to see this one of her novels in particular on the big screen and think it would lend itself to a cinematic adaptation that would bring its characters and twists and turns to life just as Agnes does with her subjects through her silhouette creations.

grayscale photo of concrete wall with hole

Purcell is a talented and original writer whose characters spring off the page and come to life for you as you try and work out what makes them tick and remember that even though this story is fictional, we are being allowed an opportunity to time travel and experience this part of hisory for ourselves, in glorious technicolour. Agnes’ character is unforgettable – she is a woman in a time where your gender dictated your worth and only by subverting the roles that have been allocated to you can you hope to find a path that allows you to exercise freedoms that we take for granted nowadays.

But don’t think for a second that we’re only looking backwards at history in this novel – Laura Purcell also asks us to take a long hard look at ourselves and think about what we are actually capable of as we read and the notion of judge not, lest ye be judged pervades this entire novel. as we consider what we might have done in the circumstances and what decisions we might have made if we were dropped into this very different world.

cathedral during daytime

The Shape of Darkness is a superb blend of skilful plotting with an unforgettable cast of characters that I’ll be recommending to everyone. It stands out to me due to its deft hand at manipulating our emotions and our sense of moral navigation and the way it keeps us constantly reflective about humanity and the depths we are capable of as we are reading and there is no letting up in the gothic chills and looming sense of dread. I absolutely loved it and it’s definitely left me desperate for my next Spooky Purcell fix and hoping that I don’t have to wait too long for it!

woman holding her face in dark room

Buy yourself a copy of this fantastic and unique read here, you definitely won’t regret it.

Writer On The Shelf

Laura Purcell

Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs.


 Her first novel for Raven Books, The Silent Companions, was a Radio 2 and Zoe Ball ITV Book Club pick and was the winner of the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award, while her subsequent books – The Corset and Bone China – established Laura as the queen of the sophisticated, and spooky, page-turner.

The Sanatorium Blog Tour

The Sanatorium

You won’t want to leave…until you can’t.

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in…

This winter you are invited to the sanatorium

I absolutely love a book set in hotels, where I can imagine checking in alongside all the characters and working out which of the residents are to be trusted and which ones have arrived with a few skeletons in their luggage! I also love books set in other countries at the moment since we are not able to literally travel abroad – and Sarah Pearse has done an amazing job of letting me pack my bags and arrive at Le Sommet alongside her characters – this exciting and atmospheric read drew me in from the very first paragraph and held me captivated by its setting and genius levels of tension until its very final page.

There’s nothing more likely to spoil your trip to an exclusive spa resort than a disappearance and a sense that this is only the start of it – and this thriller certainly gets your pulse racing almost right from the start. When Will and Elin book their exclusive Swiss getaway, they were definitely not planning on the body count rising as the temperature fell. As the snow clouds gather, so too do the dark shadows of Elin’s past and we begin to wonder whether there is more to Laure’s disappearance than mets the eye. I just could not put this clever, atmospheric and gripping read down once I’d started and I’m so grateful to #RandomThingsTours Anne Cater for inviting me to participate in this blog tour – as this book was definitely right up my street!

I love immersing myself in a book over a weekend and not looking up apart from to pour myself a gin and imagine that I’m touching down on the runway and travelling there myself – and this book answered the brief perfectly. It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel as all the threads of this mystery were so assuredly woven together and the tension level never let up as we begin to wonder just how many ghosts from the past are going to emerge as the novel unfolds.

YOU WONT WANT TO LEAVE UNTIL YOU CANT

I feel like you can totally surrender to this reading experience and travel to Le Sommet right alongside Will and Elin I really felt like I could imagine this stunning building with a mysterious past for myself and and found it very difficult to detach myself from this immersive reading experience that allowed me to plunge into the setting and experience the unsettling atmosphere right alongside them. We’ve all visited old buildings that seem to reverberate with echoes of the past and this is no exception – it’s this, coupled with the mysterious events surrounding Sam’s death and her fractured relationship with brother Isaac that made you feel like you really were living through these events alongside Elin. It was so tense at times that I could literally feel the hairs rising up on the back of my neck and every time I stopped reading it, I just couldn’t wait to get back to it.

snow covered mountain

I kept imagining myself lured back to Le Sommet, trying to navigate the truth for myself and wondering who was going to be the next casualty of the austere beauty of this mountain retreat as the snow fell harder. It’s difficult to imagine any sense of escape from the hall of mirrors that you feel trapped in alongside Elin. The plot is so cleverly constructed with false leads and echoes that connect, yet mislead that you’ll be addictedly turning the pages like me long unto the night. It’s a book to be devoured in great big gulps as you won’t be able to rear yourself away and I’d absolutely love to see this on screen – it’d bring a new dimension to the idea of feeling ‘chills’ and the setting would be incredible to see on the screen in real life!

Even though this ‘holiday’ was about as far removed from a relaxing spa break as you can get, I still imagined myself packing my bags and heading off to this exclusive Swiss getaway myself – it was a wonderful opportunity to escape from everything that’s so unsettling at the moment …and once you’re immersed in this smorgasbord of tension, you’ll not be able to think of anything else except how you’re going to solve it before the final chapter!

The sanatorium / hotel
Le Sommet

I really loved the way that Sarah Pearse draws the reader in and keeps you guessing alongside the characters and attempt to understand what exactly is going on as well as understand exactly how the two narrative voices intersect as ‘facts’ become tangled together and questions arise as to who exactly we can trust as we try andnavigate the deft twists and turns of the plot. The way that these two elements of the narrative interconnect and collide with one another was one of my favourite things about this book and it certainly does a fine job of not allowing you to put it down as it gives you a solid case of ‘one more chapter’

river surrounded by mountain in nature photography

This was a absolutely first class debut read– and if you’re feeling absolutely fed up being stuck at home and want something to forget about what’s going on in the world –  then this would be perfect, it’s so immersive! The sense of tension never lets up as you try and stay one step ahead – I hate giving spoilers so you’ll just have to buy it for yourself to find out how the secrets of the past and the events of the snow storm collide with deadly consequences. If you love a locked-room mystery for modern times that will absolutely keep you gripped then you’ll really love The Sanatorium and  should treat yourself to a copy

Thank you so much to Anne Cater & Random Things Tours for aways recommending such great reads. I love being part of the blogging community with so many other fantastic book lovers and being able to share my views on the books I’ve loved is an absolute pleasure. I’ve featured this book in my Winter Reads column in 17 Degrees magazine and can’t wait to see the review in print too, as soon as lockdown is over!

snow mountaints

Buy yourself a copy here and follow the tour to see what the other bloggers thought too

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The Sanatorium is an absolutely splendid Gothic thriller.’ A. J. Finn
‘Wow . . . So atmospheric, clever and compulsive.’ Claire Douglas
‘A tense and seriously chilling page-turner.’ Emma Curtis
‘Everything you could want in a thriller.’ Simon Lelic
‘Dark, suspenseful and downright chilling, The Sanatorium is a triumph.’ Sally Hepworth
‘A chillingly vivid thriller in a fantastic setting.’ T M Logan

Writer On The Shelf

Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands.

After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains and still has a home in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel.

Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium.

Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.

You can find Sarah on Twitter @SarahVPearse and Instagram @sarahpearseauthor

The River Reflects #BlogTour #LoveBooksGroup

We become like the river reflected, both light and dark. Struggling artist Sylvia is offered an unusual commission by the mysterious Victor, acting on behalf of a secret sponsor, who wants to engage her for a year to produce art depicting the Holocaust.

She accepts the project on trust and discovers an enigmatic thirteen-year-old girl Nina, who becomes her model and pupil.As the months pass, Sylvia begins to unravel the truth about Victor, the secret sponsor and Nina, while unearthing more about history and identity than she was ever prepared for.

A family drama that champions the structures and beliefs that underpin a civilised society, The River Reflects faces the darkest shadows of human nature. With the Thames winding relentlessly through this compelling story, Sylvia, Victor, Nina and those around them progress from fear and isolation to seek love and fortitude and the redemptive power of the human spirit.

This book definitely did not disappoint, it grabbed me and pulled me right into the story even when it was a hard read at times due to the dark twists and turns that the naraytive follows like the Thames which flows at the heart of the story . I was really intrigued by the premise of the book: that we get to hear about events from such a unique perspective and this really added to the story for me – where there is an intangible and dreamlike atmosphere running through the entire story making the tale ebb and flow and the events and ideas sweep over you as you read.

I absolutely loved the unique and mysteriousatmosphere of this novel and definitely found it quite addictive. It was intriguing to imagine myself in Sylvia’s shoes and inhabiting a life where which your choices and influences are subject to external forces and the character of Victor mysteriously looming over all like a forebvoding leitmotif added another unforgettable dimension to this hypnotically told tale.

body of water

This novel presents Sylvia and Nina’s tale in a fresh original way which makes the story linger at the edges of our consciousness even when we aren’t reading it. Both of these characters feel very much like real people – rather than mechanisms to explore ideas and concepts – which I’ve often found in novels which want to represent something that happened in the past. This is a really unique novel which has to be experienced to truly realise how absorbing and special it is.

I am in awe of his atmospheric writing that makes you feel like you’ve had the opportunity to live these experiences. Mark Godfrey is a talented and original writer – it’s hard to talk about this novel and let you feel how unique its voice is, so I’ll just need to tell you that you must read it for yourself. It’s not one of these ‘keep looking for the big twist’ stories that people are getting a little bored of now. It is a story filled with skilful description and perceptive characterisation that add up to its sense of atmosphere and your relationship with the characters builds and builds as you experience the challenges and constraints of their circumstances and everything that they have to go through as a result of this voyage into the unknown…

architectural photography of White House

The River Reflects asks us to think about the way that our personalities evolve through, because of and despite of all our experiences and doesn’t allow us to dismiss these characters as merely fictional – The bleakness of the tale and some of the ideas behind it as a real sense of the darkness and light within humanity and because it’s so immersive I found its difficulties very rewarding and couldn’t stop thinking about the rhythm of its narrative and the way that Victor haunted my thoughts even when I wasn’t reading the book.

This is a book that I know I’ll be recommending to lots of readers as I was totally immersed in its characters, its pace and the way it really made me think. I can’t wait to see what Mark Godfrey does next. The idea that life can be a lot darker than you might think on the surface and I think that this would make an excellent Book Group read as it would be sure to provoke lots and lots of discussion and comment and make you think about the prose itself rather than merely discussing the next plot point, a beautifully written book that remains with you and that I’ll definutely return to and re read some sections of it as I enjoyed the writing so much

Buy yourself a copy and discover this hypnotically realised story for yourself

green trees beside river during daytime

Writer On The Shelf

Mark Godfrey was born in Chiswick, London and brought up in west London and Cheshire. He lives in Heaton Moor, Stockport. He is an award-winning short story writer.

The River Reflects is his first novel.

Mark  Godfrey
Mark Godfrey

Rachel Wesson – A Baby on the Doorstep Blog Tour

Virginia, 1934: In the middle of the night, he crept through the bushes, thankful for the darkness, for the clouds covering the stars. Tenderly, he opened his bag, lifting the small bundle out. With tears in his eyes, he held her tight, not wanting to let her go. But he had no choice––it was the only way. “This is your new home, little one. You’ll be safe here.”

Distant rumblings of conflict in Europe have reached even the secluded, snow-dusted mountains of Virginia, where Lauren Greenwood faces a battle of her own. The Great Depression is crippling America, leaving millions of its victims without shoes on their feet and clothes on their backs. Hope House––the orphanage Lauren runs––is suffering more than ever.

The one thing Lauren is not short of is love. But with just a handful of dollars to her name, every day is a struggle to feed the orphans and keep a roof over their heads.

Yet she refuses to give up. When a baby is left on the porch, Lauren welcomes her with open arms. The abandoned new-born, Maisie, is left with a crumpled letter––her parents begging Lauren to look after the girl and promising to return for her one day. Lauren refuses to allow another child to fall prey to the Depression, and vows to provide little Maisie with the love and protection of a mother.

But when the debt collectors come calling, threatening to shut down the orphanage, Lauren runs out of hope. Any day now the children could be thrown onto the frozen streets, where survival is impossible.

With tragedy just around the corner, how can she ever reunite Maisie with her parents? And if she doesn’t manage to save the orphans, how will she live with herself?

A totally heartbreaking tale with a beautiful and hopeful message––when all else fails, love can save the day. Fans of Before We Were YoursThe Orphan Train and Diney Costeloe will be swept away by this emotional and totally gripping historical page-turner.

Today I’m delighted to take my stop on the Blog Tour for A Baby on the Doorstep by Rachel Wesson. Thanks so much to Bookouture and NetGalley for the invitation.

A Baby on the Doorstep is a heart-wrenching story about helplessness, kindness, and endurance.

It’s great to have the opportunity to read and review this amazing book that I might never have encountered without being a bookblogger 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. I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with these charaters at Hope House and it was just the thing to take me miles away from the current talks of viral load and home learning, to escape to 1934 Virginia and see hardship suffering and separation in quite a different context.

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 Lauren and its setting provided me with lots of food for thought and a fair few hours researching this period and location online after I’d finished the book. I mean, if we can’t literally travel at the momemt, there’s nothing to stop us from time travelling or travelling through other people’s expreriences too…

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 Lauren & Becky’s stories more than matched up to its gorgeous cover. One of my favourite things was the relationship between Lauren and abandoned baby Maisie, and how their encounters allowed  for a glimmer of hopwe for joy and happiness in the midst of the privations and loss throughout the novel and in these times themselves. It’s a real strength of the novel that despite the difficult circumstances the characters in this novel remain absolutely believable and Rachel Wessonhas you absolutely rooting for them and hopeful that there might be a happy ending for at least some of these characters.

A Baby On the Doorstep  is a very well researched period read that had me totally engrossed and allowed me to escape fully from current events that are going on at the moment too. The fact that we are able to see a fictional representation of serious events such as the depression and the holocaust brings these events vividly to life and allows us to empathise fully with the thousands of other real people, represented by Wesson’s characters too.

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 poverty, female friendship and survival are absolutely pitch perfect and will resonate with so many readers. Lauren and Becky are such strong characters and their strength that they draw from one another in their determination to provide a better life for these childrenn amid the dual stormclouds of the depression and the holocaust is very evocatively drawn.

You cannot failed to be moved by the plights of these characters and their experiences and if you love a well written, moving and realistically drawn period read then you should definitely order yourself a copy straight away

child and parent hands photography

Writer On The Shelf

Rachel Wesson was born in Kilkenny, Ireland but considers herself to be from the capital, Dublin as that’s where she spent most of her life. Her dad brought Rachel and her two sisters out every Saturday to give their mother a break. He took them to the library and for ice-cream after. It took a long time for her sisters to forgive her for the hours she spent choosing her books!


She grew up driving everyone nuts asking them questions about what they did during the War or what side they were on in the 1916 rising etc. Finally her Granny told her to write her stories down so people would get the pleasure of reading them. In fact what Granny meant was everyone would get some peace while Rachel was busy writing!


When not writing, or annoying relatives, Rachel was reading. Her report cards from school commented on her love of reading especially when she should have been learning. Seems you can’t read Great Expectations in Maths. After a doomed love affair and an unpleasant bank raid during which she defended herself with a tea tray, she headed to London for a couple of years. (There is a reason she doesn’t write romance!).

She never intended staying but a chance meeting with the man of her dreams put paid to any return to Ireland. Having spent most of her career in the City, she decided something was missing. Working in the City is great but it’s a young person’s dream. Having three children you never see isn’t good for anyone. So she packed in the job and started writing. Thanks to her amazing readers, that writing turned into a career far more exciting and rewarding than any other.


Rachel lives in Surrey with her husband and three children, two boys and a girl. When not reading, writing or watching films for “research” purposes, Rachel likes to hang out with her family. She also travels regularly back home – in fact she should have shares in BA and Aerlingus

Advent

Winter, 1904, and feisty twenty-one-year old Ellen has been summoned back from her new life in Hoboken, New Jersey, to the family farm on windswept Gower, in a last bid to prevent the impending death of her alcoholic father. 

On her return, she finds the family in disarray.  Ailing William is gambling away large swathes of Thomas land; frustrated Eleanor is mourning the husband she once knew; and Ellen’s younger twin brothers face difficult choices.

Ellen, tasked with putting her family’s lives in order, finds herself battling one impossible decision after another.  Resourceful, passionate, and forthright, can she remain in Gower, where being female still brings with it so many limitations?  Can she endure being so close to her lost love?  Will she choose home and duty, or excitement and opportunity across the Atlantic?

I absolutely love the books published by Honno, the small Welsh publishing imprint that promotes women’s voices and I am delighted to be sharing my stop on the blog tour today, talking about a book that I feel will appeal to lots of my booksish friends. It’s an original, moving and engaging read and I’m urging you to go online and order yourself a copy today.

I raced through this book over last week’s snowy weekend, and can’t stop thinking about it and its characters long after finishing it. I was whisked away to Hoboken with Ellen and felt like I was right there beside her as she travelled back to the Gower peninsula and witnessed the ripples that go right through her family as if I was a member of it myself. I loved the way we are able to meet the struggling members of her family and see what they are going through and feel her connections to them, even as she is feeling the pull to move out away and beyond her roots – which makes the decision she is faced with even more difficult to bear witness to.

rainbow under cloudy sky

Advent is an evocative, beautiful and pitch perfect rendering of the push and pull of home that I can really identify with. I strongly connected with Chris Guthrie from Scottish novel ‘Sunset Song’ and feel that Advent capptures the same sense of inner conflict wonderfully. The beauty of the writing and the strength of the characterisation are in perfect harmony throughout the novel and rendered me almost speechless at times as I felt that some scenes were just so poignantly and perfectly captured. Ellen is such a compelling character and her struggles with these feelings that she struggles with internally feel a million miles away from today’s culture of open empathy and ‘it’s good to talk’

Ellen has to deal with the feeling of being so connected with her homeland yet possessed by a fierce yearning to explore new opportunities and excitement on the horizons beond Wales in the New World and everything that this entails. It ncapsulates the Welsh word ‘hireath’ perfectly – the intense longing for your home of the past, that has to remain there and yet you can never return to. It is totally heartbreaking to see the impact of this inner conflict on Ellen herself, but it is all the more poignant to see the struggles of her family to understand her situation and realise that there are freedoms in Hoboken that Ellen knows she will have to surrender if she stays at home – and relationships and connections that se know will have to be severed if she makes the decision to return.

green grass near body of water during daytime

Advent captured my heart and let me feel like I’d spent real time with its characters, feeling their emotions and walking a mile in their shoes and this book goes one step further in making me feel like I’d lived these experiences as I read. I empathised with Ellen’s paralysis and guilt, feeling like whatever decision she made there was no way to have everything that she wanted and no solution that did not mean that she was having to give things up that even the thought of was absolutely unbearable. Jane Fraser’s sensitivity to the culture and the landscape she is describing is perhaps what reminded me of Sunset Song and in this time of lockdown it’s given me an overwhelming urge to explore the beauty of the Gowr for myslf one day and walk a mile in Ellen’s footsteps thining of all that she would be leaving behind if she chose to return to America.

Advent is a beautifully rendered portrait of emigration and the longing for home that paints a vivid picture of the way that our choices are never as simple as just the choice between staying and going. I haven’t been this emotional about a novel for a long time – the last time it was this powerful was when I read Shuggie Bain and I know that this book will definitely stay with me for just as long due to its beauty, its anguish and its refusal to gloss over the genuine pain that thousands of emigrants had to face and live with. If you don’t have at least a lump in your throat at some point when reading this novel, check that you don’t actually have a heart of stone because some moments described here are far far to difficult to bear…I’d like to thank Anne Cater for the blog tour invite and can’t wait to see what Jane Fraser does next – buy yourself a copy here but stock up on some tissues first, you have been warned…

Writer On The Shelf

Jane Fraser Her debut novel, Advent , is published by Honno, the UK’s longest-standingindependent women’s press, in January 2021. Her first collection of short fiction, The South Westerlies was published by Salt, the UK’s foremost independent publisher of literary fiction, in 2019.

You can follow the author on Twitter at @jfraserwriter

Keeper Blog Tour

He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes.
Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide.

But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.

Will you listen to them?

An addictive literary page-turner about a crime as shocking as it is commonplace, KEEPER will leave you reeling long after the final page is turned

So many bloggers and a massive social media presence means that if you’ve not heard of this book, where have you been?

Am happy to report that in this case, this hype was wholly deserved and I tore through this in record speed – and not just because I wanted to get the review in on time – but because I simply could NOT put it down.

I’m so happy to be part of the blog tour and it’s such an honour when you’ve loved a book so much that you want to shout from the rooftops about it to all the booklovers you know!

One of the things I loved about this book is that just when you think you know exactly where you are, Jessica Moor provides her readers with the perfect blend of an intriguing literary tale and tense thriller and I was definitely at her mercy as I zipped through this book. She certainly is a deft plotter and as readers, we are definitely given lots of opportunities to think in many different ways about big issues such as feminism, the way we connect with people in the modern world and even domestic abuse throughout this gripping and twisty read – it was just the book I needed to detatch totally from what’s going on around us and totally lose myself in this gripping and original tale.

The clever structure of the past and the present being alternated allows us a real inight into the lasting damage that domestic abuse can wreak on people’s lives anbd as we get to know Katie we can see how much these events have impacted on her and her attitude to the world. I was so caught up in this intriguing tale and have been telling everyone about it – I loved the originality of Jessica’s voice and the fresh contemporary look at the way that the idea of a victim can be very far from the reality of domestic abuse in a ‘lived’ sense.

I really fell Katie and I think that as well as all the women I know would love this book, I’d be tempted to ask the men I know to read it too. Katie is surrounded by people whose stories contain pain but should never be dismissed as mere victims. Letting men have an insight into their world and thinking about the way that some of these actions can impact on people is such a compelling reason to recommend Keeper

All I wanted to do was reach through the pages and let some of them know they were doing a great job at times in the most challenging of circumstances. Even though the subject matter of Keeper can be dark and difficult at times – there are moments where you feel like you are also being given an insight into the resilience of the human spirit and how some people can go through so much and still come out fighting.

Jessica Moor has created an intelligent, original and addictive read: I  really did stay up way too late  to finish it.  I absolutely loved the fact that it was just as strong on character as it was on plot as there are so many thrillers out there with very two-dimensional characters that are hard to care about and that really detracts from the reading experience for me.  I have a ‘no spoiler’ policy so you’re just going to have to read #Keeper for yourself to find out all the reasons why I loved it so much

This novel comes unhesitatingly recommended by me. It’s a  pageturner in every sense of the word and it’s definitely one that I’m certain will be on lots of people’s ‘best of the year’ list at the end of 2021 – and it’s only January so that’ll tell you how much I was gripped by it…

Buy yourself a copy here and read it before everyone else does. It’s definitely even better than the hype that’s growing around it and if you’re heading into isolation, beg borrow or steal a copy to take with you!

Jess Moor’s debut novel made me want to shout out in anger — Val McDermid

Jess Moor is a new young writer I believe in. She has plenty to say that’s political and necessary. And she can tell a story — Jeanette Winterson

Still have a Girl on the Train-shaped hole in your life? Add KEEPER to your list Moor’s debut is a feminist whoddunitSunday Times STYLE

Tense, beautiful and lyrical. Everyone should read this book — Sara Collins, author of ‘The Confessions of Frannie Langton’

literary thriller, KEEPER is a compelling, tense and pacy read, The Observer, 10 Best Debut Novelists of 2020

Keeper is wickedly paced and utterly chilling, making space for the interior lives of its victims and their gradually shrinking worlds, all the while exposing the failures of the systems that are supposed to protect them. As compulsive as it is heartbreaking — Rosie Price, author of ‘What Red Was’

Reading Keeper is a visceral experience … cleverly reminding us that for some women simply existing in a man’s world is more dangerous than anything else — Araminta Hall, author of ‘Our Kind of Cruelty’