This début novel came out in hardback last year and I was luckily enough to be sent a copy to read.
A boat washes up on the shore of a remote lighthouse keeper’s island. It holds a dead man and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision. They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.
It was excellent and is excellent and was a memorable book of 2012. My review can be found here.
Now it is out in paperback and also been chosen as a Summer 2013 Richard and Judy choice it is going to be a memorable book of 2013 as well.
Richard and Judy’s Review – “One of the most beautifully written books either of us has read in a long time. The Light Between Oceans tells the poignant story of a young married couple stationed entirely by themselves on a remote lighthouse off the Australian coast just after WW1. They are deeply in love, but shattered when she miscarries their baby. The extraordinary event that follows is part-tragedy, part miracle, and it will change their lives forever.”
Therefore I am giving away a paperback copy of this book (thank you to the publishers) and if you want the chance to get your hands on a copy then please leave a comment below and I will pick a name out of the hat on the 21 June. Only open to those in the UK, due to postage costs.
It has been a while since I have mentioned any crafty type stuff on the blog, but I have been beavering away and have rather got back the knitting bug. I started with a Mermaid which I wanted to knit and challenge myself, as I normally stick to squares, blankets and scarfs – nothing difficult.
I then got this fancy idea that I wanted to knit a swimmer – using the basis of one of the patterns that came from the same designer Jean Greenhowe as the mermaid – it started well, and I thought I was getting somewhere, but I knew something was wrong…
The body was just not long enough – I followed the pattern, but it still was not looking right. I tried to knit freestyle a swimming costume, but it went disastrously wrong and I was rather disheartened – I can’ really knit off pattern using my own designs and patterns as my mum can do. So I decided to seek mums advice…. she was all for taking the arms off and unpicking it and then knitting a longer body….
I left her to this massacre – this photo amuses me no end and rather apparently frightened my dad. Exploding people. She did knit it back with a longer body, but I had lost heart with it, and it is currently languishing with some knitted pink pants that mum did as well, in a bag along with the arms slung in and is all abandoned.
I knew I had to go back to a pattern – I can follow a pattern – I am an organised person and I like to know what I am doing, where I am going and the end result. I decided on a witch! Mermaid to swimmer, to witch is rather a large leap but there you go. I thought I would be daring and not go with the colours they did for the pattern. I like to live life on the edge!
So with my wool selected, off I went from this:
The pins are just for placement… to this
I just love the purple hair!
To the final finished doll, complete with broom:
I am secretly rather pleased and I love the uniqueness of it as well. I chose purple, because it is a favourite colour of mine and I had the variegated wool because I had been using it to help my neighbours little girl to knit. Although I was unsure of how to answer her question of – how do they colour it like that? Kids ask lots of questions, like firing bullets from a gun, I am not used to it.
So there you go, mission accomplished – but now I have got the bug, and this person does not have separate legs, it is a knitted tube and you stitch the legs after, so she cannot stand up independently. Oh but I have access (mum of course) to the designers other leaflets and some of them do stand up.
Oh look there is a maid and a cleaner – that would fit well with my book club’s choice One Pair of Hands by Monica Dickens – perhaps I will knit all the members one………….
This book club was the anniversary edition! It was a whole year since we first got together and from Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier we have come right round to Monica. Monica Dickens and her memoir – One Pair of Hands.
It was a book which I think everyone enjoyed. It made most of us laugh. K was amazed at her complete inability to cook despite saying she could whip up a soufflé at the drop of a hat. W mentions the amount of crockery she was breaking, and as L said, it was probably costing her more in replacements than in wages. K – she was good at doing nothing and getting all the work done by everyone else, even the Hoover sales man who kept coming back to see Monica and doing a lot of washing up! Perhaps that was to save even more plates being broken?
It was a humourous book, that we all agreed was well written but there was no story – and as C says but not in a detrimental way quite a forgettable book. At times you thought that you were going to get a bit of a story happening, especially when an ex boyfriend shows up – but you turn the page and nothing. Just the next lurching and messy disaster in the kitchen to get through. A book that was a pleasant diversion and made a change but it would have been nice we decided if we had more descriptions of the houses she worked in, their structure, layout, the furnishing and more about the other servants she encountered too.
As I said, Monica was playing at being a servant, she felt that those ‘downstairs;’ were having more fun than she was. But the fundamental difference being when she was bored with it, she could go back ‘upstairs’. All of us if we had a choice would certainly like to lie ‘upstairs’! Working downstairs would have been a long hard slog, especially if we had someone who had his finger permanently on the bell summoning us, and if this meant entering that rather smelly room, where Mr Parrish was languishing or perhaps that is festering in bed! Made W cringe! L as a dog owner, was rather aware of what would happen when Mr Parrish dog was given the failed crème brulee, it was going to come back at some point.Although written well, K says it was not quite up to her great grandfather’s standard of writing, but I suppose that would be a lot to live up to and the constant comparison pressure would be a headache.
One Pair of Feet, Monica’s experiences at being a nurse during the Second World War is being reissued in December and whilst I don’t think there would be a rush from all of us to buy and read it, there is a perverse interest in whether she treats patients the same way as cooking!
It really did not matter if you had not finished the book, as there was no ending or twist to spoil it. A book which you can pick up and put down and know exactly where you were.
So there you go, a whole year of book club and I am so pleased that it has kept momentum, despite illness, holiday and life getting in the way, we have read a great variety of books and everyone is enjoying it which is the key thing and we have lined up at least the next four books as well. It certainly helps with having questions, prepared and I have a standard set which I can use for books which don’t necessarily have questions so that helps discussion. This book I don’t think could even fulfil those questions, but that is the type of book that it was – a memoir perhaps makes a difference to the way discussion can go?
I will endeavour to try and continue to write the reports on my book club, as it is great way to consolidate all that we talk about and I hope if you read my blog you are enjoying it too.
It is always worth remembering that those left behind during the Second World War were fighting their own wars. Wars on the home front as well as personal wars and in Rosie Goodwin’s new book, this is very much the case for the three main characters.
The most privileged and snobby of girls that you may ever wish to meet is Annabelle, who has had everything and suddenly the war changes that and rather than wait for it to be delivered to her she is going to have to go out and work for it and work hard for it in very trying circumstances. She finds some resolve from deep inside her.
Lucy is trying to hold a family together. She has a sister who is socially awkward and a brother in the army. With no parents, she is very reluctant to ask for help and it is only through kindly neighbours and her friends that she can start to forge a life for herself. Sadly though, the past is still with her and she cannot shake it off. But comfort can be found in many different ways.
Dotty has nothing to lose, as she starts out in the world of work. She had nothing to start off with. An orphan girl who spent all her youth in a orphanage is very much aware of surviving whatever is thrown at you. But her skill as a storyteller and the imagination she retreats into opens doors for her that would perhaps have otherwise remained firmly closed. But some doors are opened to reveal the past and what she once knew is changed.
These three girls strike up an unlikely friendship as they begin to work at the department store Owen Owen in Coventry. And whilst, Annabelle groans about the lack of silk stockings and the fact she has to carry her gas mask everywhere, Lucy is worried about her brother in the army and the news from the front and Dotty is rather shy and unsure of herself and the outside world. War begins to have a very hard effect on the city of Coventry.
When the department store they work in is bombed and nothing remains, the girls have to start again and this time, they all forge different paths whilst trying to maintain their friendship. They need their friendship, it is this that is going to get them through some very dark days of the war as well as the dark days of the past as everything is shaken up and settles in very different ways for all of them.
This is an enchanting book which had me absorbed from the beginning, the way the department store setting brought the girls together and it was some time before the war really started to effect them. If you know your history you will know that Coventry suffered one of the most severe raids of the Second World War. Reading the book I knew where this was building up to and I had no idea of the devastating effect it would have on the city, the three main characters and also the storyline as well as me the reader. Rosie Goodwin captured the raid well and brought it emotionally to life for me. This was a book where I could see where the author could take us, and at points she did go there but there was a lot of unexpected occurrences and events and I enjoyed the book much for it.
Good characters, good setting, good writing, a good read.
Thank you to the publisher Canvas for giving me the opportunity to read this book.
It has been a long while since I have read what many people call aga sagas – and this book also very much reminded me of the Maureen Lee novels that I read. If this is the calibre of the authors writing then I will be back for more. In fact I now have a sudden desire to dig out any novel on my shelf like this and start reading them.
Monica thinks those downstairs have more fun than she does in her life upstairs so she wants to find out if this is true. In some ways she is conducting an experiment as she embarks on a life as a cook-general. Her decision is simply laughed at by her family and they seem to tolerate her rather mad scheme of going out to work.
And Monica does go out to work as a cook-general, she does the cooking rather by luck than by skill.
The cleaning by only moving the dust around from one place to the other and around the static items.
Taking dogs out simply involves letting them out of the door in the vain hope that they come back.
Serving at dinner to listen in on the conversations.
Running the household accounts mainly from her own money and wages as she seems to go through a lot of eggs, especially for Crème Brulee, then the eggs went through the dog quickly!
Avoiding ‘upstairs’ boyfriends from the past whilst she is playing at being downstairs.
Answering an enormous amount of bells being run as she speeds from downstairs to upstairs, often changing uniform as she goes.
The washing up, when there is crockery to be washed up and that she has not previously broken.
To having fun, mainly by enlisting anyone that happens to cross her path to enable her to get away with doing half of these tasks!
And when Monica has had enough or a term at a place comes to an end, she has the luxury of retreating back to her ‘upstairs’ life.
None of this is fantasy, although I am sure some is elaborated for literary effect but Monica Dickens uses this book, written over 70 years ago, to chronicle the humorous events of her foray into the working life of the working classes. It was the beginning of the 1930s and there is still very much the class divide. The First World War has had an impact but the Second is a few years off yet to make the largest change to life in domestic service and women working. Monica is bored, with the life she is leading and wants to do something even though financially she has no need to, the result of which is this book.
This book is well written and I think describes life in service well. But it is worth remembering that this is a snap shot of around 18 months in the late 1930s and although you could say Monica was perhaps playing at the role, she does it with such aplomb and good humour that you start to believe that she was born into the life….that is until she agrees to do a dish she has no idea how to make and breaks the dish she wants to serve it on……
This was a pleasant diversion of my reading and I am glad I have read it. It did make me laugh in many places, especially when she was fed up with everything she just quit to the way she roped in the man selling Hoovers to help her with things like the washing up! It harks back to an age where someone came very day to your door to see what you wanted from the baker, the milkman, the grocer. We can still have such things delivered to our doors – but it is all done so impersonally with a click of a button on the website of the shop that sells the bread, the milk, the groceries.
This book was reissued with a new cover, because of the fascination with all things upstairs and downstairs, because of the programme of the same name and of course Downton Abbey. I am glad because I would never have come across the book if it was not for that and also hearing Katherine McMahon recommend it at last years Guildford Book Festival. Her experience as a nurse are written down in One Pair of Feet which is being reissue by Virago Modern Classics in December 2013.
It was also my book club book for May and I will be reporting about that on another post.
Mirabelle Bevan, is bored it must be said. Her life during the Second World War was slightly more exciting even though it was from a desk within the Secret Service and her lover was also to be found there when not on secret missions. But the end of the war changes a lot of things and it is now 1951, Mirabelle’s lover is now dead and she has moved to Brighton where she has taken up an administration role within a debt collection agency. Life is very every day and humdrum.
But then unexpectedly a case comes into the agency that suddenly stirs the past interest of Mirabelle and perhaps her skills can be put to use once again. Mirabelle takes on the case in the absence of her boss. It seems simple enough a man from London needs to get some money back from a women recently moved to Brighton. But suddenly it is far from simple and Mirabelle finds herself embroiled in the London underworld, with prostitutes living it up in the Grand Hotel and the money changing hands at the race track. And where exactly has her boss got to?
Sara Sheridan captures 1950s post war Britain,very well, rationing was still in force, rebuilding the cities was a slow process, memories were still fresh in the way some had been treated by the Nazis. Combining this with the well created characters, even those that were no longer with us, such as Mirabelle’s married lover still give a strong impact to the story as a whole. Sheridan is not afraid of introducing Vesta Churchill, a young black woman who works along the corridor from Mirabelle into the story, not just to become her side kick for future novels but also the difficulty a black female was having to cope with the prejudice of 1950s Britain. This may well be a crime novel but it is very much a social history novel at the same time. I look forward to seeing what Mirabelle and Vesta get up to.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this is another one of those cosy crime novels that has hit the bookshelves. I thought that, but actually it is a lot darker than that and while it has the same components – strong female characters and historical setting it does not hold back on some of the more graphic scenes, when describing the crimes of the past as well as those of the plot. Using London and Brighton as bases,m it takes us away from that cosy village or country setting that we are perhaps used to?
I enjoyed this book, and I have previously read another of her novels The Secret Mandarin, and I felt that that particular plot got slightly lost on plot and characters and I admit to being reluctant to picking up another one of her novels. I do like it when I am wrong and surprised by the author. I looked forward to reading her next Mirabelle Bevan novel – London Calling.
A is for Antiques Roadshow. It is coming to The Royal Marines Museum in a couple of weeks and I am off with some mugs/cups that my late Nan had, which I chose to keep. I don’t think they are worth much, but I can always live in hope. Plus might see Fiona Bruce too. Though I won’t tell Elaine at Random Jottings, who is not overly keen on her tv presence!
B is for Bank Holidays – we have two in May. I do love a four-day week!
C is for Canasta. One particular friend has got the rest of us into playing this rather long but thoroughly enjoyable card game – it has become addictive. And nights and afternoon’s out are based around us playing a few hands.
D is for Diet. The last time I did one of these posts, D was for diet then – it still is. So perhaps the next letter down should be glossed over?
E is for eating out. I have been once to The Fish Factory at Littlehampton with friends, last year. Recently I went with my parents, and it was just as good. They liked it to and the choice of fish is wonderful, the chips delicious, the cheesecake for pudding divine and the portions ENORMOUS!
F is for future things to look forward to. London trip to include Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Masons. Another Spa break, weekend away with the girls on the Isle of Wight. Readers Day at Winchester. Portsmouth Bookfest.
G is for Rosie Goodwin. I have never read any of her books before and was sent her latest Home Front Girls to read. I loved it, and it reminded me very much of the novels and sagas of Maureen Lee.
H is for habits. It takes three weeks to break one apparently. I need to break the going down the biscuit aisle and buying biscuits and eating them all habit. It might help with the diet Jo! It worked this week – only 2 weeks to go then.
I is for Inferno – Dan Brown’s Inferno to be precise. It seems to have rather a mixed bag of reviews, page turning but not going to set fire to the literary world! As I still have The Lost Symbol to read, I think I might refrain from buying this one!
J is for Maggie Joel I have been sent The Second-Last Woman in England to read and review and she will be featuring on my blog towards the end of June.
K is for knitting. I have done a few characters lately, and have pictures on my iPad which I have now put into a post. Look out for them coming soon.
L is for Lego. I am a huge fan and if I had the room, it would all be out and built as it was when I was a kid. Then we had the space and I had a whole town set out, complete with train track that went round the perimeter. But in the interim I do have a wonderful shop that I was bought a couple of years ago for Christmas. When I opened this huge box, the sheer pleasure on my face apparently upset my dad, he could see the child in me still! It is still made, it took me a couple of days and despite the dust I love looking at it. I am coveting one of the new exclusives ‘Palace Cinema’ but in the interim, I spotted this book Brick City – a Lego lovers dream – I bought it because it was half price in WHSmiths but if I had the money, the space and the Lego bricks…..
M is for Money back from the gas man. I overpaid the last 6 months and did not use as much gas. It has been cold, for a lot longer than normal. But I love cosying up on the sofa or under the duvet with an extra blanket or two – and knitting invariably keeps you warm and saves money it turns out too.
N is for Nexus the new computer system at work. Don’t you just love a new computer system with a wire that goes into the wall but is nowhere near the computer and trails right across the office and is fixed down with black masking tape! To resolve it I was allowed to buy a longer cable – I went for pink. So what – I work in an office full of men.
O is for Offer. Work this one out if you will – 1 x 500g tub of Cottage Cheese is £1.90. 1 x 250g tub of Cottage Cheese is £1.45. That in itself is rather a rip off – then add in the buy 2 of the 250g tubs for £2.50 So that is £2.50 for 500g or £1.90 for 500g. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.
P is for Pointless. The tea time programme on BBC1 is entertaining and informative. Both Richard Osman and Alexander Armstrong make me laugh – and people really do not know stuff!
Q is for Quentin. Caroline Quentin and her National Parks TV programme. She has been in Scotland, Wales and in her final programme into the New Forest. Her delivery and enthusiasm for all she does is rather good and the humour underlying is subtle as well. I have only caught the odd one or two of her Cornwall shows but I hope she does more discovering Britain programmes soon. It is what makes our country so unique.
R is for Running. I have been sneaking in a few little and short runs. But I really think running is not for me. Shin splints, despite proper footwear leave me aching too much. I am not getting the adrenalin kick that I do from this as I do from swimming, Body Pump, Zumba and even walking. I am a walker not a runner.
S is for Sunday Roasts. Whether it be Chicken, Beef, Pork or Gammon. (I don’t like lamb) you can’t beat a roast with all the trimmings, surprisingly even though I rarely cook one. I decamp to my parents every Sunday where one is probably 99% guaranteed. And amazingly all cooked the slimming way too – and you could not tell. Well perhaps the lack of crispy potatoes but apart from that.
T is for Transworld. One of the lovely publishing houses that send me books galore and the chance to read books I would have avoided in a bookshop.
U is for Uniform. New company (currently same job!) but now I have to wear a fetching black and white spotty scarf! Along with the white shirt and black skirt that I have been wearing for aeons!
V is for Vesta Churchill. A character in Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan (review coming soon). A young black female in Fifties Britain. An interesting idea which the author I am sure will develop as the series goes along.
W is for Winter it is still with us.
X is for X back swimming costumes – the stringy variety – I hate you! Give me a proper back if you will and something that does not get tangled up and tries to garrote me half way through a swim. I have now disposed of all said garments. Mind you what can you do with swimming costumes when the lyrca has gone on them other than throw them in the bin?
Y is for Yes there are some things repeated on this list, compared to my last one back in March! Not intentional, but I have just gone back and looked – funny how certain stuff stays in your conscience.
Z is for Zips. If you watched the Great British Sewing Bee then you will know putting in a zip is a difficult yet clever thing. When you spot a knitting pattern that has one in, I tink it is best to avoid it!
Thanks for persevering to the end. It felt like lately that I had not really been here on the blog, despite the book reviews and so I wanted to rectify that. I am here and in the coming days, weeks, months; there will be some knitting posts, there will be some book reviews and I also have a couple of books to giveaway – so there will be that too. Do pop by whenever you can, I really do appreciate it.
How can a quick read give you characters that get right under your skin from about the second or third page in? Well this quick read can.
Jane makes the rather rash decision to move to the other side of the world to speed up her chances of getting a husband – apparently in one town in the Australian outback there is a shortage of women. Jane’s sister, Anthea, the one that got right under my skin, with her self-righteous attitude and oh so perfect life and boyfriend thinks Jane has lost her mind.
But Jane goes, and so Anthea follows to make sure that Jane is not going to make the biggest mistake of her life. What she did not realise was that perhaps Andrea is the one making mistakes and that when you are least expecting it, something happens to make you see exactly what love is supposed to be about.
This is the first Kathy Lette I have read and I really enjoyed it as the characters were likable and unlikable in equal measures and there was enough to keep me interested and to keep reading. I was a bit unsure about the Tsunami in the Outback but I just went with it, and assumed that it was the case and these things did happen out there. It just made the romantic story-line that bit more exciting! I will certainly pick up one of the author’s full length novels in the future.
This book was sent to me from the lovely people at Quick Reads. If you do not know about Quick Reads then please take a look here.
I am perhaps not one of the key target people that Quick Reads is aimed at people who read very little and think that reading is boring and not for them. I read a lot and find reading much more pleasurable than watching the goggle box – well most of the time! But it has introduced me to Kathy Lette – I have never read any of her novels before, now I have read this one, I will not be afraid of picking up one of her others, in fact I know there is a review copy sitting on the pile at home so to me Quick Reads has done its job!
To be honest, I thought this was going to be a very formulaic romance story, of the boy meets girl, they marry, he disappears and then he reappears and everything will be all right with the world. How wrong I was, and how much I had judged the book based on cover, and the blurb on the back. This is far more than a formulaic novel – in fact I would even put it in the thriller genre if I was having to pigeon-hole books, which I dislike doing.
Gina, has a whirlwind romance and marries within a year Rex, after she met him the park. This is “the one” Gina tells everyone, and whilst she thought she would never know when she had found him – she suddenly realises that she has found him and that when you know you know.
However, this bubble that Gina has created with Rex and that has pushed away family and friends to the outskirts of her life is about to burst.
Rex goes missing.
Gina wants to find him. Gina knows he is still alive. She has the utmost belief in their relationship and that Rex will return.
But as the days turn into weeks, turn into months, Rex is still missing and Gina keeps trying, but as she tries to find out where he is, she discovers a completely different man to the one she married.
Did Gina really know the man she married? Was she so wrapped up in finding the one, that she missed the vital clues about his personality?
You have to keep turning the page, as whilst Gina discovers more about Rex as we do as readers, Gina discovers a lot more about herself and her ability to survive in a very different world to the one she dreamed of.
Through all the heartache over Rex, Gina finds the ache of heart is actually for someone else.
This is a really gripping novel, and one that had me engaged from the beginning. I felt for Gina, she had a tough time, and it really was heartbreaking to see hope slip from someone’s eyes not just in losing the physical person but also in the belief you had about someone being completely shattered. A women’s fiction book with a bit more meat and a little less fluff!
Thank you to the publisher for sending this to me for review. Plus second thanks go to Dot from Dot Scribbles who enthused about the book that I had to pick it up and see what all the fuss was about – she was right in her enthusiasm.
Polly Williams is not an author I have encountered before, but if her work is of a similar vein to what I have just read then I will certainly look out for her other novels.
Miss Marple has stepped away St Mary Mead and has branched out with her sleuthing skills abroad. Of course she is meant to be there for a rest at the insistence and expense of her nephew Raymond West. But where Miss Marple goes there is bound to be the odd body or two. But all she meets are a rather interesting collection of people. A rather highly strung wife and worrying husband who run the hotel, couples who seem to have an interest in tropical birds and walking, a vicar and his rather gossipy sister, a crotchety old man who is confined to a wheelchair with an assistant and a male nurse to attend to his every need and an old Major, still living his early army days with the stories he likes telling to anyone that will listen.
One of those people happens to be Miss Marple and when, Major Palgrave confides in her that he has a photograph of a murderer and that perhaps that person is on the same island as them – her interest is piqued. But then Major Palgrave can say no more to help her as the following day he is found dead, natural causes and no-one seems very perturbed at his death. Apart from two people, Miss Marple and the crotchety old man; Mr Rafiel. Although not always is Mr Rafiel as right as he may think “In this assumption, as Miss Marple could have told him, he was wrong. But she forbore to contest his statement. Gentlemen, she knew, did not like to be put right in their facts.” Between the two of them they dissect and put back together what they think is the right version of events. But will they be able to get to the bottom of it before anyone else seemingly dies of natural causes?
I think this is not one of Christie’s stronger Miss Marple stories, it has the red herrings and the twists of plot but actually somehow if you take Miss Marple out of her normal setting – traditional English villages or seaside towns it rendered it slightly less believable for me.
I fancied some Christie and I know this is being remade (I think actually already filmed) for the ITV series of Marple with Julia McKenzie so I wanted it fresh in my memory for when it is eventually broadcast. I remember the Joan Hickson one and had a vague recollection of whodunnit but was not 100%.
Not one of the better books for me but I think this was to do with reading it on my kindle – an American version where they had changed the name of Mr Rafiel to Mr Rafter and that some of the text was missing. I had a quick late night call to my mum to dig her book out so I could check and make sure I had not missed anything – it was a rather vital bit in explaining the relationship between some of the characters. What also struck me was some of the descriptions of the natives – I don’t think you could get away with writing this nowadays?
“They’ve both worked like blacks, though that’s an odd term to use out here, for blacks don’t work themselves to death at all, so far as I can see. Was looking at a fellow shinning up a coconut tree to get his breakfast, then he goes to sleep for the rest of the day. Nice life.”