The Trick To Time By Kit De Waal – A Review

Publisher: Viking

Publication Date: 29th March 2018

When I saw this one available for request on Netgalley I knew I had to have a bash at being approved. I read and loved My Name Is Leon sometime last year so I was really excited to read more of Kit De Waal’s work.

Luckily I was indeed approved and set to reading as soon as I could. Now if I’m honest I found this one somewhat of a slow starter for me. I think maybe this could be attributed to the fact I was reading a couple of other books at the time and life was crazy busy so I wasn’t dedicating the time it deserved.

However once I hit my stride this swiftly became the kind of book I wanted to hide from my family to go and finish reading (come on, we all have books like those right?). Bad mother and wife right here folks!

This story has a dual timeline narrative which is always a massive plus point for me. I enjoy discovering slowly how the sum of little events or even one significant event in a persons past shapes their life and makes them the person they are in the present day.

Mona is our protagonist. In the present day she’s a woman who has just turned sixty. She lives alone by the sea and owns a toy shop. She specialises in handmade wooden dolls which she makes all the outfits for. She also, with the assistance of the local carpenter, has a sideline in very special dolls.

She is a well liked and well respected lady, with friends within the local community and a very structured, settled life.

However mona is hiding her own heartbreak from the past. We flit back in time to firstly her childhood in Ireland, the loss of her mother when she was very young and the subsequent relationship she had with her father. We then learn about Mona’s early adulthood and her move to Birmingham where she meets William who quickly becomes the love of her life.

William and Mona’s relationship is so beautiful. I really enjoyed reading about how it flourished, the quick seamless ease with which they fell in love, dreamed about their future and made a home together.

When a catastrophic event occurs, their relationship is well and truly tested and Mona has to quickly become master of her own future. She has to make some heart wrenching decisions and is forced to become a strong minded capable young woman.

This is such an emotional story, with strong themes of loss, grief, loneliness and heartbreak. However there are also strong threads of love and friendship. Of determination and resilience.

The characters are all so well written. Even if they appear briefly in the story, they appear fully formed and well rounded. My particular favourites were William’s aunties whom he dubs Famine and Pestilence. I could imagine them in my minds eye, bustling Irish Aunties, taking charge.

This book is one I would thoroughly recommend, it’s a heartbreaker and heartwarmer in equal measure. Kit De Waal is such a fabulous writer, I know that I will always devour anything she reads.

Get your hands on this ASAP if you know what’s good for you!

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xxx

Advertisements

Trafficked Girl by Zoe Patterson – A Review

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: 22nd March 2018

With the recent prevalence in the news of sex trafficking and grooming of underage girls for sex, I felt it was important that I read Zoe’s story to maybe help me understand how on earth this kind of thing can happen and yet still go unchallenged by the authorities.

Right from the first chapter, this book pulled no punches, and rightly so. It can often be difficult to be confronted by the bare facts of abuse cases such as Zoe’s. She unflinchingly takes us right back to being 4 years old and the sheer tirade of abuse, both physical and mental that she suffered at the hands of her mother. The person who is supposed to love you unconditionally and do everything in their power to keep you safe.

What do you do when this person becomes your tormentor, your abuser and your every waking nightmare? Zoe does not shy away from the details of the abuse. Forced to sit for hours on end in the middle of her bedroom floor, alone and with no entertainment. Forbidden to even move or touch any of her toys. Being purposefully denied access to a potty or toilet in order that she soil herself and be punished for it. The agonising wait for the next brutal, unprovoked physical attack, where her mother would fly into rages and beat her head against the floor. The helplessness and loneliness when her own father and brothers refused to defend her or intervene.

Why did her mother love her brothers and not her? What had she done wrong to deserve such vile treatment.

We then hear about Zoe’s life within the care system after life at home became just to unbearable and at the age of 13 she was taken into a local care home for vulnerable children. Zoe, hoping to be free of her nightmare life at home unwittingly entered a whole new world of abuse and pain.

Sold and trafficked to men in the surrounding area for sex against her will, Zoe found herself even more alone and lost. Let down dramatically by the adults in the care system who were there to support and look after her and also shockingly the police who ultimately let what was happening to her go unchallenged. I really was stunned at the multitude of missed opportunities that the adults in the care system had to help Zoe and rescue her from such a terrible life. She reached out so many times, even leaving notes in her room at the home detailing the car reg or the address of the man she had been taken to just incase she didn’t return. How awful is that? Incomprehensible.

Through pain, torment, abuse, loneliness, alcoholism and self harm we follow Zoe’s story up to her early twenties where she ultimately fights back and takes control of her own life and her future.

This book is heartbreaking stuff and I read it with a building knot of anxiety in my stomach and a sense of utter disbelief that these kinds of horrific events could happen to a young girl and not be dealt with. That people were not held accountable for their mistakes in Zoe’s care and brought to justice.

Not an easy read by any means but a very important and compelling one and I’m glad Zoe was given a voice to tell her horrific story.

Gritty and raw but concluding with such an empowering and positive message, Zoe’s story most definitely needs to be heard.

Thank you to Rosie Margesson and HarperCollins for the advanced proof copy.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat. Xx

Member Of The Family by Dianne Lake – A Review

Published by: HarperCollins

Publication Date: 8th March 2018

I’ll admit from the off that non-fiction is not usually my thing. It has to be something pretty special to gain and keep my attention.

Luckily Member Of The Family did just that, in an almost voyeuristic ‘I’m horrified but can’t look away’ kind of way.

Dianne Lake became one of the acolytes of Charles Manson, probably one of the most infamous cult leaders in criminal history. At the impressionable age of 14 Dianne became one of ‘Charlie’s Girls’, infact she was the youngest member of the group known as the ‘Family’.

Through a haze of drugs, acid trips and coercion Dianne became well and truly embroiled and brain washed by enigmatic Charlie. Ultimately the indoctrination into this way of life led to murder and Dianne finds herself the key witness in the trial against the murderers, helping to see that justice is done and finally releasing herself to live a normal life and put the past behind her.

Right from the off this book grabbed my interest. Written in such an engaging way, it’s as if Dianne is sitting in front of you recounting the events of her life in a down to earth, accessible manner. She had a very dubious upbringing. A creative, often unhappy and unsatisfied with his lot father and a mother who could be both loving and cold and distant with confusing regularity. Through abuse, poverty, adultery and lack of stability, Dianne’s childhood is a troublesome one. When her parents take up the drug induced ‘hippy’ counter culture lifestyle Dianne is taken along for the ride and immersed in her parents ‘creative’ open minded world.

When they eventually become less and less interested in Dianne and her welfare, she finds herself cast adrift and making her own way in the world whilst ultimately longing for her parents to show her some interest, impose some rules in her life and provide her with the stability she craves.

When Dianne eventually drifts into the path of Charles Manson she is showered with attention and adoration by a man who dazzles her and makes her feel special.

The ensuing chaotic lifestyle in the grips of a dangerous man and his controlling ways is gripping and all consuming.

I really enjoyed this book but it feels wrong to say that in some ways. This isn’t fiction, it’s someone’s real life and real horrors. I have a daughter and although she is years younger I couldn’t help but drawn some comparisons and think about how I would feel if his was happening to her.

Utterly compelling and heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting, this book is perfect for anyone interested in true crime. Dianne’s memories of her life in the free love era of the swinging sixties is fascinating. The level of detail with which she relays her memories is engaging and thought provoking. I would thoroughly recommend reading Dianne’s story, it is definitely one which needs to be heard.

Special thanks to HarperCollins and Rosie Margesson for the proof copy.

See you soon

Bookish Chat xx

Bitter By Francesca Jakobi – A Review

Publisher: Wienfeld & Nicholson

Publication Date: 8th March 2018

Now it’s times like these that I really adore and see the value of social media. Without Twitter I can’t guarantee that this book would have made it into the realms of my radar. As it happens, I was scrolling my Twitter timeline one day and saw a picture of this beautiful proof. I NEEDED it in my life and my clutches and said so there and then. The author, the lovely Francesca Jakobi approached me and asked if I would like to review the book. Hell to the yes! And hey presto a mere few days later I had a copy in my hands. And stunning it is too!

Set in the 1960’s, we meet Gilda (I love that name!), a woman who has led quite a tough life which eventually leads to her having to make the ultimate sacrifice and walk away from her son, Reuben.

The story starts as Reuben has just married Alice, a petite blonde of which Gilda does not approve. She is terribly jealous of her sons relationship with his new wife, especially as their own relationship is extremely strained, if not completely fractured.

Gilda finds herself becoming slightly obsessed with Alice, observing events from the periphery of her sons life. Following Alice to work, letting herself into their home when they aren’t there and constructing ‘accidental’ meetings in the street.

We also flit back in time in alternate chapters, right back to Gilda’s childhood, her relationship with her sister and her distant parents. Right through her two main relationships and the birth of Reuben.

These chapters really allowed me to understand Gilda and the events which had shaped her personality. At the start I did wonder what her issue was, however the dips back in time made me sympathise with Gilda and the situation she finds herself in. Trying her utmost to forge some sort of satisfying relationship with Reuben, who for his own reasons is very distant with Gilda. Choosing instead to live in a perfect bubble with his wife, whom he adores.

The strap line on the book is:

‘He says she taught him how to love; that she taught him what love could be. And I can’t look at him because he didn’t learn about love from me’

This is because when Reuben was a small child, Gilda struggled to bond fully with him for various reasons. Taking to her bed for days, even weeks at a time and not involving herself in his life.

It’s quite hard to read at times, the palpable loneliness and desperation of Gilda (in both time periods) is heartbreaking. I found myself rooting for her so much, I wanted her to be happy finally.

I found the relationship between Gilda and Alice so heartwarming. Alice is such a lovely character, thoughtful, inclusive and desperately trying to build bridges between the man she loves and the mother he struggles to feel love for.

The character of Gilda is so superbly written, she has real depth and is fully rounded, a real flesh and blood character. She is someone who will stay with me for a long time. Not all of the characters in this book are likeable, in fact I didn’t really warm to Reuben despite the various tough times he’d been through in his life too.

Overall I can safely say I loved this book. The writing is superb and the short, succinct chapters keep the momentum going. If you’re after an action packed story, then this probably won’t be for you but I loved the slow burn of getting to know the developing characters, it’s not always necessary to be dragged along in the thick of an action packed plot. Halfway through I reached for my phone to google whether the author had written anything else because I was ready to snap up her whole back catalogue. Alas (for me) this was the authors debut novel. I’m going to have to wait patiently for more superb work (oh I do hope there’s more!)

(And just as a side note, the author Francesca Jakobi is lovely too!)

I recommend that you get yourself a copy of this book and let Gilda into your heart! You won’t regret it.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xxxx

What Floats My Bookish Boat?

Listen folks, I’ll level with you, I’ve had a pretty substantial mug of hazelnut coffee this morning after a month abstaining from caffeine and I’m feeling quite buzzed.

I’ve been thinking of writing some bookish content outside of just book reviews a lot recently but thinking about it doesn’t get it done does it? Well it turns out caffeine is the conduit between thought and action so here I am today, brandishing my notebook and getting my creative content thang on.

I thought I would kick off with a post about the kinds of storylines, characters, tropes I enjoy in my books. What determines whether I’ll reach for a book when I read the blurb. What will instantly hook me in and make me think ‘that’s a bit of me that’.

I thought I’d do it in list form (because who doesn’t love a snappy, succinct list when we all lead busy lives?) and I’m giving examples where I can so that maybe you might be inspired to pick up some of these books if you haven’t already read them.

So let’s get crackalackin!

  • Historical Fiction – now not so long ago I would have balked at the idea of reading historical fiction and in some cases I still would veer away. I like my HF (I’m abbreviating, lazy) dark and seedy NOT romantic in any way. Also I don’t enjoy travelling too far back in time, if I see a date in the early 1700’s on a blurb that will immediately put me right off (I know, soooo fickle). My favourite historical period has to be the Victorian era. It will come as no surprise that one of my all time favourite books is The Crimson Petal And The White by Michel Faber. Bawdy, seedy and a right Victorian romp (and yes I’m always wanging on about it *eye roll*)

  • Piggy backing on the HF theme I also enjoy a book involving asylums, the mental health of women and how this was dealt with back in the day, and how depression/anxiety was referred to as ‘hysteria’ or an ‘attack of the vapours’. Most often treated with water therapy or the administering of laudanum or simply commiting women to asylums and leaving them to rot. This theme is tackled in The Crimson Petal And The White with the brilliant character of Agnes and again perfectly in the super short story The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Bodies Of Water by V H Leslie perfectly explains the water therapy element with a supernatural twist.

 

  • Unreliable narrators – I love being spun a yarn. Can I trust this person and what they are telling me. I love trying to second guess them but equally enjoy when I get it completely wrong and am shocked by a twist. A perfect example of this which springs immediately to mind is The Woman In The Window by A J Finn which I reviewed here. I think I may do a whole post dedicated to my favourite unreliable narrators soon so watch this space.

  • Dual Timeline Narratives – I love a dual timeline narrative, especially when it centres around one family in different decades or one particular house. I loved The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson Ellis but I have to say I preferred the narrative that went back in time as opposed to the modern day storyline. It always better when both narratives draw you in and you have no preference. I also like a supernatural twist which is portrayed marvellously in the brilliant The Stopped Heart by Julie Myerson. When two worlds overlap like an overlay of time. One house, two families, decades apart but so close to each other and separated seemingly by the thinnest of veils. I adore this book. There are almost too many fabulous dual timeline books and as I sit here, more and more are rushing into my mind so forgive me the next sentence/mind dump…..The Vanishing Of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase, The House Of Birds by Morgan McCarthy, Your Blue Eyed Boy by Helen Dunmore, Fell by Jenn Ashworth (fabulous), Bitter by Francesca Jakobi (review to follow this week, another fabulous 5 star read), Honour Thy Father by Lesley Glaister….. I could go on but I won’t. Man I really love the dual timelines don’t I?!

  • The Unravelling Of Characters – that’s the best way I could put this! I enjoy seeing a character trying desperately to keep it together and appear ‘normal’ to those around them whilst ultimately slowly unravelling mentally. Perfect examples? David Kelsey in This Sweet Sicknes by Patricia Highsmith, Annie in Jenn Ashworth’s A Kind Of Intimacy and William Hemming in P S Hogan’s The Intruder.

  • Isolation. – I enjoy a story involving someone trying to escape a past life or choosing to live in isolation. The one that springs to the forefront of my mind is the twisty turny I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes also gripped me with the hiding from a previous life trope. That book often comes back into my head, insidious, tense and gripping. The isolation of the lighthouse/island life portrayed in The Light Between Oceans also had me enthralled, (it also had me bawling my chuffing eyes out but we’ll gloss over that one!

 

  • Sea Myths – quite simply, mermaids, selkies, sea people etc etc. The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar……I need say no more. The Secrets Of The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford and Elijah’s Mermaid by Essie Fox also spring to mind. Also this reminds me I still need to get my hands on a copy of Sealskin by Sue Bristow…..

 

 

  • The concealing of homosexuality – it still blows my tiny mind that homosexuality was illegal not that bloody long ago really….I’ve read some real eye opening, heart rending books based in this ignorant era. The marvellous Tin Man by Sarah Winman, The Haunting Of Henry Twist by Rebecca F John, The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne (fave!) and A Mans World by Rupert Smith. I find it fascinating the lengths people went to to conceal their true sexuality. The ‘treatment’ and attempted ‘straightening out’ was just heart breaking. It’s a subject I find intriguing.

  • Creepy Gothic Shizzle – kinda speaks for itself, but give me a creepy old house, a hint of the supernatural and I’m in heaven. Think The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. Just perfect.

  • Creepy shenanigans behind closed doors – I’ll do my best to explain this one. I love a book which tells the story of a family behind closed doors, they more often than not appear ‘normal’ to the outside world but have some very dark goings on behind the net curtains. The author who for me nails this perfectly is Lesley Glaister. Her novels make the ordinary extraordinary and that’s what I love. The concealing of secrets, skeletons in the closet etc. If this is also your bag I recommend Honour Thy Father by Lesley Glaister and The Visitors by Catherine Burns.

So does that little list give you an insight into my reading tastes? If you can think of any recommendations that fall into any of the categories above then please do let me know, I’m all ears.

I’ve included links to any reviews of the books I’ve mentioned, why not check those out and show a gal some love.

See you all soon.

Bookish Chat

Xxx