Most Anticipated Reads Of 2019

Cor blimey guvnor! There’s some right corkin’ fiction coming our way in 2019 and no mistake!

I have been extremely fortunate to have already read several 2019 releases (reviews to follow closer to their publication dates in the new year!), and I have a nice little stack of proofs ready and raring for after we’ve popped our last party popper, supped our last glass of our favourite tipple, swallowed our last mouthful of cheese and declared Happy New Year!

I thought I would just take this opportunity to highlight some books that I am particularly looking forward to next year.  I always enjoy reading other peoples posts about this subject because it’s always nice to come across books you might not have necessarily encountered.

These are books that I am lucky enough to have proofs of already with large publicity campaigns and muchos chat over on the socials, OR books I have encountered whist having a lovely quiet little peruse of publisher catalogues on my lunchhour.

Now this list of 12 books is by no means exhaustive, but if I mention EVERY SINGLE BOOK I’m pumped for next year we could be here until Christmas 2019! These are the books that have piqued my interest, or given me the book tingles…..or basically just books I have been staring at dewey eyed…..possibly stroking them a little……

Wait, ignore that bit. Too creepy. *ahem*

I will talk about them in publication date order and if I actually have a proof copy the image will be my own, If I haven’t got a copy the image will be pilfered from t’internet. I  don’t usually do the old ‘copy and paste’ with blurbs but it will save us all a lot of time if I do in this case, rather than trying to tell you about them in my own words when I haven’t read them yet!

Ok?

Onwards with the books:

 

Slack-Tide by Elanor Dymott – Jonathan Cape: 17/1/19

The Blurb:

It is four years since the loss of a child broke her marriage, and Elizabeth is fiercely protective of her independence. She meets Robert – exuberant, generous, apparently care-free – and they fall in love with breath-taking speed.

Slack-tide tracks the ebbs and flows of the affair: passionate, coercive, intensely sexual. When you’ve known lasting love and lost it, what price will you pay to find it again?

I read and absolutely loved Silver And Salt by the same author.  I also have Every Contact Leaves A Trace on my shelves too.  This one sounds compelling and I have read a couple of books this year surrounding the subject of coercive relationships and found them fascinating.

 

The Familiars by Stacey Halls – Bonnier Zaffre – 7/12/19

The Blurb:

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong. 

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye? 

Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake. 

I am drawn to this one firstly because it’s historical fiction and we all know I love me a bit of that, but also because I believe it has links to the Pendle Witch Trials, although I could be wrong….. I think I’m going to enjoy finding out.

 

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold – Transworld – 28/2/19

The Blurb:

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers. 
What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women.

For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that ‘the Ripper’ preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria, but of poverty, homelessness and rampant misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time – but their greatest misfortune was to be born a woman.

I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with Jack The Ripper and this sounds amazing! I never even realised that he murdered women who were not prostitutes.  I think this one is going to be fantastic.

 

The Dollmaker by Nina Allan – Riverrun – 4/4/19

The Blurb:

Stitch by perfect stitch, Andrew Garvie makes exquisite dolls in the finest antique style. Like him, they are diminutive, but graceful, unique and with surprising depths. Perhaps that’s why he answers the enigmatic personal ad in his collector’s magazine.

Letter by letter, Bramber Winters reveals more of her strange, sheltered life in an institution on Bodmin Moor, and the terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped; and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.

On his journey through the old towns of England he reads the fairytales of Ewa Chaplin – potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice – to remain alone with their painful pasts or break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.

This one has had quite a large publicity campaign, the cover is just beautiful and I can’t wait to get started!

 

Dignity by Alys Conran – W&N – 4/4/19

The Blurb:

Magda lives alone in her a huge house by the sea. A former scientist with a bad temper and a good dose of old fashioned British pride, she does not need help from anyone – despite her derelict house and her body’s many betrayals. With her sharp tongue, she gets through carers at a rate of knots.

Until Susheela arrives.

And Susheela, it turns out, is in even more trouble than Magda. Still reeling from the recent death of her mum and trying to prop up her heartbroken dad, she finds herself falling for Ewan, a beautiful, fragile young man recovering from the brutal experience of war.

The two women – seemingly separated by class, culture and time – strike up an unlikely and sometimes uneasy friendship. Magda’s no-nonsense approach to life turns out to be an unexpected source of strength for Susheela; and Susheela’s Bengali heritage brings back memories of Magda’s childhood in colonial India, a time filled with servants and privilege, and terrible secrets.

Those memories slowly bring back to life the tragic figure of Magda’s mother, Evelyn, once a warm hearted, and free-spirited school teacher in rural England who had her innocent optimism ground away by a controlling husband and the misery of being a respectable member of the Raj’s ruling class – with devastating consequences.

I think Magda sounds like quite a character and the relationship between an elderly person and their carer can be a tricky one! I’m very much looking forward to this one.

 

Good Day? by Vesna Main – Salt – 15/4/19

The Blurb:

This novel-within-a-novel charts the writing of a story about Richard and Anna, a middle-aged professional couple, who face the biggest crisis of their twenty-five-year marriage when he admits seeing prostitutes. The text unfolds through a dialogue between Anna, the writer, and her husband, Richard, the reader.

As the story of Richard and Anna progresses, the tension between them increases and, on several occasions, they stop speaking to each other. The writer’s novel compels them to examine their own marriage.

Gradually the differences between the characters in the novel on the one hand and the reader and the writer on the other appear to diminish to the point where we begin to wonder whether the reader, like Richard, pays for sex, and whether the writer, like her female protagonist, is coping with the situation by having several lovers.

I like the idea of a ‘novel within a novel’ aspect of this one, I also like books which deal with the intricacies and intimacies of a marriage.

 

Crushed by Kate Hamer – Faber & Faber – 2/5/19

The Blurb:

Phoebe stands on Pulteney Bridge, tights gashed from toe to thigh. The shock of mangled metal and blood-stained walls flashes through her mind as she tries to cover her face so she won’t be recognised. It wouldn’t do to be spotted looking like this. She’s missing a shoe. She feels sick.

Phoebe thought murder and murder happened. Thoughts are just thoughts, they said. Now she knows they were wrong.

At home, Phoebe arranges the scissors and knives so they point toward her mother’s room. She is exhausted, making sure there’s no trace of herself – not a single hair, not even her scent – left anywhere in the house. She must not let her thoughts unravel, because if they do, there’s no telling who might be caught in the crossfire, and Phoebe will have to live with the consequences.

I have read and loved Kate Hamer’s other books, particularly The Doll Funeral which has pride of place on my forever shelf.  So as you can imagine I am excited for this one!

 

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal – Picador -2/5/19

The Blurb:

London. 1850. The Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and among the crowd watching the spectacle two people meet. For Iris, an aspiring artist, it is the encounter of a moment – forgotten seconds later, but for Silas, a collector entranced by the strange and beautiful, that meeting marks a new beginning.

When Iris is asked to model for pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly her world begins to expand, to become a place of art and love.

But Silas has only thought of one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening . . .

There’s a bit of a doll theme next year! London 1850……..that’s all I need to know!

 

What Red Was by Sophie Price – Harvill Secker – 9/5/19

The Blurb:

Through their four years at university, Kate and Max are inseparable. For him, she breaks her solitude; for her, he leaves his busy circles behind. But loving Max means knowing his family, the wealthy Rippons, all generosity, social ease and quiet repression. Theirs is not Kate’s world. At their London home, just after graduation, her life is shattered apart in a bedroom while a party goes on downstairs.

This one sounds like it could be a tough read.  Potentially a very harrowing subject but I am not one to shy away from that.

 

Haverscroft by S.A Harris – Salt – 15/5/19

The Blurb:

Kate Keeling leaves all she knows and moves to Haverscroft House in an attempt to salvage her marriage. Little does she realise, Haverscroft’s dark secrets will drive her to question her sanity, her husband and fatally engulf her family unless she can stop the past repeating itself. Can Kate keep her children safe and escape Haverscroft in time, even if it will end her marriage?

Haverscroft is a gripping and chilling dark tale, a modern ghost story that will keep you turning its pages late into the night.

A house with dark secrets that make you question your sanity?! sign me up!

 

Supper Club by Lara Williams – Hamish Hamilton – 4/7/19

The Blurb:

Twenty-nine year old Roberta has spent her whole life hungry – until the day she invents Supper Club. Supper Club is a secret society for hungry women. Women who are sick of bad men and bad sex, of hinted expectations to talk less, take less, be less. So they gather after dark and feast until they are sick. They drink and dance and roar. And, month by month, their bodies expand. At the centre of the Supper Club stands Roberta – cynical yet anxious, precocious and lost. She is seeking the answer to a simple question: if you feed a starving woman, what will she grow into? This is a story about the hunger that never goes away. And it is a story about the people who make us what we are – who lead us astray and ultimately save us. You look hungry. Join the club.

I think this sounds amazing! As a foodie myself (ie ‘greedy’) I’m interested to see what this one is all about!

 

Fish House by Edward Carey – Gallic Belgravia – 11/7/19

The Blurb:

A brilliant re-telling of the Pinocchio story, in the voice of his ‘father’, the carpenter Gepetto – from inside the enormous sea creature that has swallowed him.

Whatttt?!?! how unique does this one sound! I LOVED Little by Edward Carey and have very high hopes for this one.  I believe it also has illustrations as with Little.  Gorgeous!

 

So there we have it! My apologies for the blurb heavy text but I feel it’s better that you get to see what the books are all about for yourselves rather than me trying to ever so succinctly sum them up for you.

I hope maybe you’ve seen some titles you might not have heard about yet and please do let me know what your most anticipated books of 2019 are!

See you all soon.

 

Bookish Chat xxx

 

 

 

 

 

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Top Reads Of 2018

Here we have it folks!

My best reads of 2018.  I’m aware that we all do these posts differently.  Some of use only include books that have already been published in 2018, some of us include any book we’ve read in 2018 regardless of whether it has been published yet.  Some of us do top 5, some of us do Top 10, some of us do as many as we chuffin’ well like!

So what i’m going to do is my Top 10 Books  of 2018 which have already been published and include a bonus 2 which will be published in 2019, something to look forward to eh?

For clarification I’m not doing a rundown of 10-1.  They are all amazing books and I cannot spend the time agonising over which one deserves which spot.  Just take it as read that all of the books mentioned are awesome!

I thought it might me an arduous task to select these 10 books but as it turns out it was quite easy.  I scrolled through my Goodreads and knew instantly which ones I should pick……the ones that give you ‘the feeling’ when you see their title or cover.  You know what I mean, I know you do.

So without any further ado (I’m sure we’ve all still got copious amounts of cheese and crackers to polish off right?!), lets get into the books….

Bitter by Francesca Jakobi – W&N

Aside from having a beautiful cover this book is amazing. My review is Here. Bitter is a book that I have recommended to so many other people and is a book I will continue to recommend. In fact I’ve never seen a negative review or even an ambivalent review. Only ever good things. It also helps that the author Francesca Jakobi is lovely. When an author is appreciative of what us book bloggers do that goes a long way.

Call Of The Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks – Doubleday

I was on the blog tour for this book and I am so glad I was! It may have passed me by otherwise and that would have been a travesty. My review is here. If you want an atmospheric dual timeline narrative then you need this book in your life. I believe it’s being republished by Tim House Books in January as The Orphan Of Salt Winds.

The Weaning by Hannah Vincent – Salt

I love Salt Publishing books and I went online to browse what books they had for their #justonebook campaign. I bought The Weaning based on the synopsis alone, I’d not heard anyone talking about it. It BLEW ME AWAY. Honestly I raced through it. My review is here.

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson – Jonathan Cape

This is a book I made no secret of adoring. I waxed lyrical allllll over Twitter and to be honest I was a little disappointed that Daisy Johnson didn’t win the Manbooker. I say ‘a little disappointed’ I think I threatened to flip tables if she didn’t win…..my review is here

Help The Witch by Tom Cox – Unbound

I credit this book with sparking my recent love of short story collections. Creepy, insidious, dark and gothic…..BUT also humorous and quirky. It was a perfect autumn/winter read and my review is here.

 

 Eggshells by Catriona Lally – The Borough Press

This book was an absolute treat. Vivian is probably one of my favourite ever characters in a book. Quirky, humorous but also heartbreaking. Everyone needs to let Vivian into their hearts. My review is here.

The Corset by Laura Purcell – Raven Books

This book is a perfect specimen of dark and gothic historical fiction. That’s it. End of story. Review here

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller – Fig Tree

Just including this book in this post makes me want to go back and re-read it. Another book I would comfortably recommend to anyone. My review is here.

Little by Edward Carey – Gallic Belgravia

This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before. An absolute treat. I fell in love with Little and her bravery. The writing paired with the stunning illustrations make this book and absolute gem of literature. My review is here

Swan song by Kelleigh Greenberg Jephcott – Hutchinson

Not only is this book stunningly beautiful it’s an amazing tale. Charting the relationships between Truman Capote and his ‘Swans’. It’s glamourous, delicious and tantalising. My review is here.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry – Serpents Tail

I was so excited about this book and I was right to be. A dark, chilling, insidiously creepy triumph. My review is here.

I cannot end this post without a couple of ‘honourable mentions’ of sorts. There are 2 books which have not yet been published which blew me away and I feel I have to mention them here so that you can have them on your radar for next year.

Adéle by Leila Slimani – Faber & Faber

This darkly sexual novel had me gripped. I adored Lullaby and Adèle is just as compelling. I’m excited for the buzz that will surely surround this book. It’s due to be published in February 2019.

Things In Jars by Jess Kidd – Canongate

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you’ll know already that I have NOT SHUT UP about this book. It is just perfect! It’s published in April 2019 and I will champion it and recommend it and ADORE it always.

So there we have it!

Let me know if you’ve read and loved these books too.

What a year eh?!

See you all soon!

Bookish Chat xx

 

 

Bookish Chat About: Bathtime Reading in 2019

I have a plan.

A 2019 bathtime reading plan.

We all have one right?

Right?

No? Just me then.  Hear me out….

I have recently developed a liking for short story collections. This has not always been the case but I have found that being involved in a couple of short story collection blog tours has piqued my interest.  I recently wrote a blog post about the short story collections I have acquired, which you can check out here, and they all now have their little section on my bookshelf.

The problem is this, I am always currently reading at least 2 novels at any one time and this makes it difficult to reach for a short story when spare time to read is sparse as it is.

My plan, going forward into 2019 is to only read short stories in the bath.

Genius!

I have a bath more or less every day (I shower on the non-bath days so there’s no need to panic that I’m a Smelly Nelly!).  I figure that if I limit bathtime reading to short stories I will then be giving the short stories and their authors the dedicated time they derserve.

Brace yourselves some Einsteinian mathematics.

I currently have in my possession 12 short story collections. There are 5 more collections that I omitted from my original short story post and these are:

Josh Denslow – Not Everyone Is Special

And….

They have in total 163 stories within them that I haven’t yet read. If we allocate 1 short story per bath as a minimum, it should take me 23 and a bit weeks to read them all.

This however doesn’t take into account any new collections I may acquire…..and I have my beady eye on THESE BEAUTIES:

Treats by Lara Williams – Freight

AND

A Selfie As Big As The Ritz by Lara Williams – Flatiron

So I think I will have to check in with you lot after say 3 months to see how I’m getting on.

Sounds like a plan to me kids!

I’ve been trying to think of a snappy title for this venture but the best I can come up with is A Scrub And A Short Story…………..nah.

See you all soon.

Bookish Chat xxx

Bookish Chat About: Negative Reviews: Should you keep your mouth shut?….

We’ve all been there.

You’re pumped for a book that you’ve seen all over the socials. It has a humongous publicity campaign, all the people who’s book opinions you value are waxing lyrical about it and YOU CAN’T WAIT!

You finally get it in your grubby mitts and you hunker down and begin to read…..

Ok, so maybe it’s just off to a bad start but you know it’s about to get good!…..it has to…..

You’ll give it a few more pages because surely it’s about to blow your socks off!…..

Any minute now……

Maybe the end will blow you away!……

Erm……..was THAT it?!

The End.

What was all the hoo-ha about?

Perplexing.

When I asked on twitter recently if an unpopular opinion post had any place the resounding answer was yes! Now I don’t know if you guys are just hovering waiting to see which books I’ll bash……which super popular smash hits I’ll deride BUT if you are then you’ll be disappointed.

I WILL of course mention the books I didn’t enjoy at the end of this post so if you’re all about instant gratification you can scroll down and get to the big reveal. But I won’t be providing hugely in-depth reviews of them, nor will I be tearing them apart. If however you don’t mind me waffling for a bit, strap in!

When I read a book I love I immediately want to write the review and share the book excitement. Shout it from the rooftops and hope that maybe other bookish folk will join me. Conversely, when I’ve not enjoyed a book, I will close it quietly, put it into the charity shop pile and forget about it. This does of course mean that I rarely, if ever, write negative reviews for my blog.

I can see that this might mean that from the outside it might look like I love ALL the books I read but that’s really not the case. I just find it easy to write about the books I’ve enjoyed. I feel like it’s a waste of my efforts to write about something I’ve not loved. I have precious little free time as it is, I work full time and have two children (and a husband, let’s not forget him!) and if I’m sitting down to write something, I want it to be positive and hopefully a catalyst for someone to head to a book they maybe might not have considered.

Don’t get me wrong, if there is an element of a book I’ve read that I didn’t enjoy I will of course make reference to it in my review but overall if a book has been reviewed on my blog then it’s a safe assumption that I’ve enjoyed it. I think going forward into 2019 I will endeavour to write reviews regardless of whether I’ve enjoyed a book or not. What are your thoughts on this? Not allllll the time of course, but maybe just throw in a few negative Nancy curveballs?

Whilst I appreciate that negative reviews can be helpful in steering us away from wasting our time with a book. I also don’t want to fall into the trap of putting someone off a book completely without giving it a go. As we all know, we can’t all like the same books. The world would be proper dullsville if we did. But I do find myself absorbing the opinions of the booktubers/bloggers I respect the opinions of and maybe putting off a book I was excited to get to based on their negativity towards it.

What can I say? I’m heavily influenced people!

The problem this year with me goes beyond just writing a negative review. Way beyond! I’ve found a handful of books I’ve read this year I’ve really not enjoyed and I have kept my trap fairly shut about it on Twitter and on here for fear of retribution. I didn’t want to have to go into hiding based on my book opinions!

So it’s difficult when the books you really didn’t like are the ones EVERYONE is raving about! The ones your bookish influencers are extolling the virtues of ON THE DAILY, the ones winning Book Of The Year awards (massive hint there for the Columbo’s and Miss Marples amongst you).

I enjoy the conversations that happen when a book divides opinion, but there’s usually a fairly equal division. So when you feel like you’re the only one being the Negative Nelly it can be a lonely old place and far too daunting to stick your head above the parapet and say ‘well actually I didn’t like it’.

Today kids, I am going to stick my head above that bloody parapet, be brave and stand by my decisions.

As I said at the start I am not going to tear into any books, I am merely divesting myself of my dirty book secrets, by which I mean naming the popular books I haven’t enjoyed. Maybe then I’ll feel cleansed.

DEEP BREATH.

HERE GOES:

First up we have Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss.

I cannot tell you how much I was looking forward to this book after reading and loving Night Waking and The Tidal Zone. However I just didn’t quite get this one. I found it instantly forgettable. In fact I can barely remember what went on as I’m writing this.  It is a super short book but it felt like a struggle to reach the climax. I think part of my disappointment with this book was that I had expected it to be more creepy.  I’d heard there was the voice of a ‘bog girl’ when in reality we hear barely anything from her.  I think her narrative appears once at the beginning or very sporadically at any rate, but I may be remembering that incorrectly…Sarah Moss can write, and I usually love her writing style but the dialogue ran into the normal prose and I didn’t find it a comfortable read in that respect.  Overall it was not a hit for me.

Next up we have Peach by Emma Glass and interestingly I wrote a review of this early on in my blogging history which whilst not being hugely negative was a different kind of review for me.  Go check it out here  This book made me feel like I’d somehow ‘failed’ as a reader in some way.  I felt like I just wasn’t clever enough to ‘get it’ yet everyone around me was! As I mention in the review Emma Glass is a great writer but the strange characters in this story were a step too far for my reading tastes.

Then we have Crudo by Olivia Laing. I will say that I loved the cover of this book! It’s extremely eye catching. However the contents were not for me! I felt like every current affairs topic had been shoehorned into the story and I just didn’t gel with the narrator.

And finally……

Possibly the two books I’m most afraid of mentioning.

Brace yourselves.

Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends and Normal People were not to my liking at all. I read them both fully although I did consider DNF’ing Normal People. I just don’t feel I enjoy or identify with the millennial voice. I thought that Marianne and Connell’s story in Normal People hinged tenuously on the smallest of miscommunications and I couldn’t decide if that was genius or irritating. In the end I plumped for irritating I’m afraid. I didn’t like that there was no clear differentiation of dialogue and found some of the minutiae of explanations a little dull. The smallest of actions explained to the nth degree. Conversations With Friends just didn’t grab my attention I’m afraid. I found the characters a little pretentious and the storyline didn’t grip me, it is certainly not a book that sticks in my memory. I am not sure I will ever be a Rooney fan but I am open minded and will try her work again in the future.

So there we have it! I hope we can still be bookish pals?!

I am super cautious about publishing this post but I think we’re all adult enough to understand that we won’t all like the same authors and the same types of books. Life would be very dull if we did!

PLEASE PLEASE bear in mind that if you see someone commenting that they didn’t enjoy a book, this doesn’t mean YOU won’t! Please give books a try and form your own opinions. It makes for very interesting bookish conversations and that’s what it’s all about!

Anyway, that’s all for me on the subject. Please do get in touch with your thoughts (if you’re still talking to me!).

Love you.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xxx

House Of Glass By Susan Fletcher – A Review

Publisher: Virago

Publication Date: 1st November 2018

Clara Waterfield is born with a disease which makes her bones very brittle along with various other medical problems.

Clara is cosseted by her mother and step father, who wrap her up in cotton wool, keep her inside the house and away from danger. But Clara feels isolated and claustrophobic and yearns to experience the outside world. She’s feisty and occasionally rails against her parents, either becoming sullen or throwing wild fits of temper.

When Clara’s beloved mother dies, Clara begins to venture out into the world and starts to become a regular visitor of Kew Gardens, a place her mother used to often frequent. Clara strikes up a friendship with one of the employees there and begins to learn the skill of tending to the exotic plants and their needs.

When a mysterious letter arrives at Kew from a Mr Fox asking for help in installing his own plant filled glasshouse on his estate, Clara is the woman for the job. A chance to see more of the world, gain some independence and put her newly acquired skills into practice.

Clara arrives at Shadowbrook to meet the housekeeper, maids and gardener but is told Mr Fox is not at home and nobody really knows when he’ll return. Nobody is to venture near his rooms on the upper floor aside from housekeeper Mrs Bale but Clara has an inquisitive nature….

There are mysterious goings on at Shadowbrook which the staff are convinced are supernatural. Possibly linked with the previous family who owned the property and one family member in particular, the troubled Veronique.

Who’s footsteps can Clara hear outside her room at night? Why do freshly cut flowers wither and die when brought into the house. Who would carve chunks out of Mrs Bales bedroom door?…Clara is determined to find out and is initially sceptical that the goings on are paranormal, convinced there must be a perfectly reasonable explanation.

Clara in her quest for answers, draws on the stories and knowledge of members of staff at Shadowbrook, the people in the village and their opinions on the previous tenants of the house.

When Clara eventually meets the aloof Mr Fox who also appears to believe a spirit to be at work in his house, she starts to wonder herself what malevolent force could possibly be at play in Shadowbrook.

Clara is such a feisty character. A bold and strong female at a time pre-WW1 when women were not supposed to be so outspoken.

She is often called bold and forthright by the Shadowbrook staff and news of her tenacious, plain speaking character soon travels down into the village. She is determined and brave and seeks to not only to find the truth but to also overcome her physical barriers. She’s one of those female protagonists that you know will stay with you.

The strands of mystery in this story are perfectly and expertly woven. The tension is built up steadily within the atmospheric setting of Shadowbrook. I mean who doesn’t love a haunted old house right?!

Towards the end of this book there are several plot reveals that have you reeling a little and veering from one to the next! It’s quite a rollercoaster ride!

Set against a pre war back drop, this story is compelling, and so much more than the usual haunted house trope. There are distinct feminist themes running throughout, and our heroine Clara is the driving force for the voices of strong women.

There are an abundance of fascinating characters, Mrs Bale, Kit and the ever absent Mr Fox. Each with their own stories to tell of Shadowbrook and it’s perceived inhabitants.

This is a perfect winter read even though it is set during the summer. The setting of a large country house lends itself well to a winters evening read, snuggled up under a blanket, joining Clara on her quest for the truth.

I would thoroughly recommend it.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

See you soon

Bookish Chat xxx

Once Upon A River By Diane Setterfield – A Review

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: 17th January 2019

As atmospheric openers to a story go, this one is up there with the best. I read this book over a series of dark, wet, cold autumn evenings and I can’t think of a more perfect setting. So settle down with a blanket and pour yourself a flagon of ale (I’ve no idea, ignore me) and I’ll tell you all about this brilliant book….

London, late 1800’s and there are any number of Inns along the Thames to drink in. However each Inn has its own specialty shall we say….if it’s music you’re after head down to The Red Lion, if gambling’s your penchant then it’s The Stag that you need and if brawling is in your bones then you need a visit to The Plough. If however, you are in need of a story, a tale to pass a lonely mid winters evening then The Swan is the place for you……

The Swan is best known for its tall tales and attention stealing stories. Both landlord and regulars alike have a fondness for spinning a good yarn. But one night the need for a story is cut short when in through the door bursts a story of their very own, playing out in front of their wide inebriated eyes….

When a tall injured stranger appears at the Inn carrying a girl in his arms, the landlady of The Swan, Margot Ockwell has to act fast. With the poor girl in the mans arms clearly no longer living she is taken into an adjoining room whilst the man has his injuries tended to by local nurse Rita Sunday. When Rita performs checks on the young child, drawing on her medical knowledge, she feels instinctively that something isn’t right. Although the child has no pulse and isn’t breathing, Rita can’t help but feel that her body is too perfect. No signs of injury, and none of the usual signs of death by drowning, despite the girl being soaked through and stinking of the river.

When the child opens her eyes, swivels her neck and begins to breathe, Rita calls her medical knowledge into question and The patrons of The Swan have their own miracle story to tell…..

So it was after the impossible event, and the hour of the first puzzling and wondering, came the various departures from The Swan and the first of the tellings. But finally, while the night was still dark, everybody at last was in bed and the story settled like sediment in the minds of them all, witnesses, tellers, listeners. The only sleepless one was the child herself, who, at the heart of the tale, breathed the seconds lightly in and lightly out, as she gazed into the darkness and listened to the sound of the river as it rushed by….

The story of how the man William Daunt a photographer, and the as yet unknown girl unfolds from there. Several people come forward to lay claim on the young child for various reasons and the mystery of exactly who she is and which family she belongs to entrances the locals.

Meanwhile nurse Rita is still troubled by her initial assessment of the apparently dead girl and how on earth she can now be a living breathing creature.

We find out the histories of the families laying claim to the girl. Is she the daughter of the Vaughans, the grandchild of the Armstrong’s or the sister of Lily White?….Henry Daunt, Rita Sunday and the landlady of The Swan also feel an affiliation with the child. She seems to have a strange effect on everybody, including the patrons of the inn and her inability to tell anyone who she is and where’s she’s been makes her all the more mysterious.

This book is such a perfect autumn read. Steeped in mystery and intrigue based on real old fashioned folklore. The river Thames is almost like a character in itself.

I love thinking back to a time when the simplest of everyday occurrences as we know them now, were explained by way of stories and myths. The things that people believed in and held true are fascinating. This whole story is interweaved with separate stories, fairytales, folklore and the like.

It has a mystical and slightly supernatural edge which keeps you off kilter. Not all is as it seems, and isn’t that what makes a great story?

The characters in this book are fascinating. Each of them with their own worries and troubles but all of them connected, however tenuously to the young girl. There are a couple of very strong male characters who I adored. Henry Daunt and Mr Armstrong are perfect gentlemen and their relationships with the women in their lives are beautiful.

Of course not all of the characters are so lovely, and that’s what makes for such a compelling read.

Steeped in mystery and intrigue, this story sweeps you along with the current of the river. Beautiful prose and a privilege to read. I will most certainly be heading to Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale very soon.

Thank you as always to the publisher for the review copy and to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this amazing blog tour.

See you soon

Bookish Chat xx