Books

The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker – Joanna Nell

Mrs Henry Parker is the wife of a retired ship’s doctor she has spent most of her life at sea. She spends her days wandering the ship as if it is her home and her nights dressed up to the nines and entertaining the very  revolving round of fellow passengers of tales of her past adventures.

But Henry seems to have gone missing and Mrs Parker sets out with her ‘Finding Henry’ shoes to search the vast liner she is on.

However through this search she makes new friends and finds herself reminiscing about the past voyages while experiencing some new adventures.

The trouble is the new adventures are not memorable, but the events of meeting Henry on that first voyage, her nursing training and other poignant events are as clear as if they happened yesterday.

Mrs Parker cannot understand why everyone is so poorly dressed at breakfast, why she is in a colouring class, gambling in a casino, dancing in a nightclub and with mysterious injuries and what seems like the endless pursuit by the people in blue pyjamas and Tuesday’s child. Amongst the muddle of Mrs Parker’s brain it all makes sense.

All the time she is looking for Henry.

This voyage of Mrs Henry Parker has to come to an end and I was surprised by the twist it took, I had already made my mind up about that had happened to Henry and I was wrong. I am so glad I was.

Some might find this book uncomfortable, tragic in a way that such a thing was allowed to go on. But the author’s insightful research and reading of someone who was suffering with senility was dealt with sympathy and kindness. It might have seemed a strange place to set such a story and how events unfolded, but I have heard first hand that this story is not in fact unique.

This is a wonderful second book from Joanna Nell and she has insightfully captured a rather difficult topic well and shown how important memories are and that we need to make so many of them.

Poignant and thoughtful this book will stay with me for a while yet. If you were a fan of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry or the story of Queenie Hennessy then you will enjoy this quiet book with so much to tell.

 

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker is published on 24 September. 

It was not until I got to the end of the book that I realised that had to be some insider knowledge and it seems some of the incidents were based on reality. 

Read here to get some background on the author and her latest novel. 

I also recommend her first novel The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village which I read reviewed last year. 

Books

The Mitford Scandal – Jessica Fellowes

It is 1928 – Diana Mitford has turned eighteen and she has the whole world and society at her feet. The Guinness’ are holding a glamorous party where you need to be seen.

It is 1928 – Louisa Cannon is at the glamourous party too, not wanting to be seen as she supplements her meagre income as a seamstress with work as a maid at these parties.

On that fateful night many things happen-

A maid plunges to her death.

Bryan Guinness proposes to Diana Mitford and she accepts.

The maid’s death is recorded as an accident.

Diana and Bryan marry and embark on a honeymoon in Paris. But Diana wants to take Louisa Cannon away with her as her ladies maid. Louisa not keen but seemingly always drawn to the Mitford sisters as they grow agrees.

In Paris they are not alone, all societies up and coming people and some not so, including Evelyn Waugh as well as Diana’s own sister Nancy, still not yet married are also there.

Then another death occurs and Louisa cannot help that although two years have past since the death of that maid, there is something familiar about it.

Back in London, Guy Sullivan, now a Detective Sergeant is looking into the possible disappearance of a maid who was also at the party in 1928. His investigations take him to Paris as well. Is there a possibility of a link.

The third in the series, which combines fascinating fact with fiction – the murders luckily are all fiction but a number of the events covered in the book are based in truth, which is why I enjoy them immensely and the fascination keeps me hooked right to the end.

A captivating book which concentrates on Diana, the third Mitford sister, all of them are mentioned and Nancy and Pamela the two elder are more prominent than the younger ones. But this book really sees the character of Louisa Cannon our main protagonist in this series develop into a stronger character. Her detective and reasoning skills are developing as is her relationship with Guy Sullivan.

The book is well plotted, well written and totally in keeping with what you would expect from a Golden Age Mystery – I am sure at some point Poirot is going to appear!

I look forward to the next in this series and cannot wait to be totally immersed in this true and fictional world that Jessica Fellowes has wonderfully created. If they could be adapted into the small or even big screen I think it would be wonderful!

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Mitford Scandal is published on 24 September

The first two in the series are available now:

The Mitford Murders (Nancy Mitford)

Bright Young Dead (Pamela Mitford)

 

Books

Bone China – Laura Purcell

 

Louise Pinecroft is now alone with only her father, her siblings and her mother have been consumed by the horror that is consumption.

Raised at her father’s side and having absorbed and gained the medical knowledge he has she embarks on a rather interesting experiment for consumptives who are incarcerated in prison.

All in a cave beneath their home on the Cornish cliffs, Louise Pinecroft starts to feel uncomfortable by the presence of the men and of the stories that their maid, Creeda begins to tell of little people.

The little people are out to steal others for their realm. The thought is disturbing, the premise intriguing but for me it did not have the chilling effect I think it was meant to have.

Hester Why arrives to nurse Louise Pinecroft, some forty years later who is virtually mute, reclusive and partially paralysed. Hester is escaping her past and wants to forget what went before, however it seems the strange goings on with Louise Pinecroft and the still ever present maid Creeda starts to worry Hester.

The threat of the little people still abounds. Added to this is the room full of Bone China where you find Louise Pinecroft permanently seated. The pattern of the china – Willow has its basis in fairy stories and is full of romance. Are the patterns changing, is this the work of the little people or some other dark force at work?

The books descriptions of the china, of the Cornish coastline and the journey of Hester Why stand out for me as well written and constructed. However the plot was just too fanciful for me and I was certainly not frightened or chilled by it. My logical and rational mind took over and I was not swept away as some readers might be.

Interesting none the less but I think perhaps it was lost on me. I did finish it as there were some strong elements within the book I enjoyed, the relationship between Hester and the curate as well as Louise and the prisoners, it was the other wordly element which put me off.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read the book. 

Bone China is published on the 19th September.

Books · Jottings

Parish Notices

Happy September readers!

As you might have gathered the nights are drawing in and the days are getting shorter and I have gone back to work and there is now only 14 weeks out of the 16 weeks left before I get another holiday. Not that I am counting.

So what has been happening – do check out how many books I managed to read in August. Think that might be a record!

The Christmas reading has started and I have finished the first two books listed below – reviews will feature on this blog of course, but you will have to wait until nearer the publication date.

A Perfect Cornish Christmas – Phillipa Ashley – Published 31 October

Christmas in Cornwall is just around the corner…

But after last Christmas revealed a shocking family secret, Scarlett’s hardly feeling merry and bright. All she wants this Christmas is to know who her real father is.

So Scarlett heads to the little Cornish town of Porthmellow, where she believes the truth of her birth is hidden. She just didn’t bargain on being drawn into the Christmas festival preparations – or meeting Jude Penberth, whose charm threatens to complicate life further.

Everything will come to a head at Porthmellow’s Christmas Festival … But can Scarlett have the perfect Christmas this year, or are there more surprises on the way?

The Christmas Invitation – Trisha Ashley – Published 31 October 

A brilliant new Christmas novel from the Sunday Times bestselling Trisha Ashley will more than satisfy romantic comedy fans looking for the perfect festive read.

If you are a follower on Twitter then you might have seen the launch this week

The Gift of Happiness – Holly Martin is going to be arriving on 25th October.

I have also had another invitation to another Christmas

Starlight over Bluebell Castle – Sarah Bennett will be turning up on 4th November.

Just in case you want even more Christmas then

The Christmas Wish List – Heidi Swain will be out on 3rd October. Plus do check out her blog where you can find all about the 2020 novel too!

Ok – enough Christmas I hear you cry.

There are some other cracking reads out there and I draw your attention to For Emily – Katherine Slee 

This is a quiet tale of grief and rediscovery of a life seemingly lost and one that has been lived through words and pictures which have come alive as Emily goes on this mystery tour – but where will it end?

The writing is carefully constructed, the use of birds is a unique way of creating chapters and sections all linked in with the beautiful drawings described.

In my opinion a sleeper of a debut novel which is going to take people by surprise and will undoubtedly become a hit. It was a hit with me.

I also draw your attention to my Instagram account if you are that way inclined. (Can now be seen on this blog) Last year I started a project of taking pictures of things during the week and posting a collage every Sunday – to give a snapshot. Good, bad and everything in between, friends, family, meaningful, humour, colour, craft, food, books basically whatever has caught my eye. I have kept it up, even when I only had two pictures to add one week! I am not just about books and reading, though of course that is a great part of my life – but I know I don’t have the time to blog about everything that I want to so this has become a great way of recording.

So that is what has been happening round these parts – anything to tell me?

*Please note that I receive nothing from the authors for talking about their books – all I do is pass on some recommendations which might interest you.  

Books

Another Woman’s Husband – Gill Paul

Royalty has always fascinated me and more so historical royalty, whether in the recent past or further back. I can recall asking my grandmother what it was like in 1936 when the King abdicated – she recalls it being an awful time and that it was just all so wrong and that Wallis woman had a lot to answer for.

The same as I can recall sitting with my grandmother and mother when we watched the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981.

Fast forward to 1997 and the horrific accident which changed the world, royalty and perhaps history forever.

In this we mix the real with the fiction and it blends so well.

In 1997, Paris, a tunnel, a couple, Alex and Rachel, recently engaged seem to be stuck in traffic. An accident is up ahead. The events of that night put Alex and Rachel’s relationship through a test as Alex is obsessed about the theories of the death of Princess Diana and starts to push away Rachel.

Rachel is facing a test of her own, as her own business suffers a setback. But it seems the aftermath of the death is around everyone and Rachel is drawn back to the past.

Mary and Wallis beamce friends in Summer Camp in 1911 and their friendship stood the test of time until the end. Wallis was the more confident of the two, who used this to disguise her background and her real problems. Mary went along in her shadow, relinquishing friendships, loves and even the closeness of her family due to the friendship with this woman called Wallis.

This book taught me a lot about Wallis, about her first marriage was and the reasoning behind her second marriage and the almost game that was played with her “Peter Pan” – it was very much all a fantasy for Wallis and as soon as her obsession was over, the next toy needed to be played with. It seems to me though, that in the end her actions were her undoing, she was left with only one toy to play with.

It makes you stop and think about what if? What if in both storylines? The Wallis Simpson one for me was much stronger and well researched, I wanted to get to the end to then find out how much was true (the vast majority, even in some cases down to what was spoken) to how much was conjecture – a lot in terms of conversations where there was no evidence available.

The more modern plotline did jar me slightly I think because it was so recent and the perhaps setting of the characters who were in such close proximity to the final moments made it a bit more macabre. That aside it did have some interesting elements, especially as it tied back to the Mary and Wallis story and that perhaps we did not need the reminder of the death. For me I would like to have seen a different way of handling the events.

However this was really a fascinating book and littered with names in history who fascinate me and was brought together with a compelling storyline. Just how I like my historical fiction.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

Another Woman’s Husband is out now. 

Books

The Long Call – Ann Cleeves

You could say we have enough detectives to be reading about and there is no need for a new one. How wrong you can be as Ann Cleeves introduces us to Matthew Venn in this the first of a new series.

We have moved South and West from Vera and Jimmy Perez stomping ground, to North Devon with Matthew Venn, his Sergeant single mum Jen Rafferty who has escaped a violent marriage and golden boy Ross seems to have got himself caught in a trap of currying favour with a more senior policeman.

Of course we learn all of this as we go through the book.  One might say it is conjecture a mere filling in of pages but actually the characters of these detectives show you how the case can be brought to a close.

A man is found dead on a beach.

The beach is near where Matthew lives with his husband, Jonstahon.

Turns out the man went to the Woodyard Centre where Jonathan is manager.

Then an attendee of the centre goes missing.

Can they all be linked together or is it just a coincidence that everything seems to come back to the Woodyard and the deaths and abductions are just a byproduct.

What is exactly going on?

If you have never read a detective story before (why not?) this would be an ideal place to start. The plot and the pace of the novel show you how it all works, the reasons behind the actions of the criminals but the detectives as well. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, this book shows you how it works when it goes right and obviously wrong.

You are absorbed in the place, the descriptions are so easy to visualise and you can feel yourself there amongst everyone. The choice of relationship for the main detective to have and the introduction of Down Syndrome characters brings another layer to this book. If you think you were getting the stereotypical characters and plot be prepared for something else.

A great start to a series of books which I hope will keep us all entertained and enthralled for many years to come.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Long Call is out now. 

Books

For Emily – Katherine Slee

Renowned children’s author Catriona Robinson has dedicated all her books to the people that have meant something to her during her life.

Her granddaughter Emily, one of the dedicatees has never given it much thought until the death of her grandmother.

Catriona became Emily’s life when a tragic accident robbed her of her beloved parents and for a while the ability to walk, talk and function as a human being.

Now seemingly alone in the world, a final task from her grandmother is to go and search out all those that have had books dedicated to them. Popularity of Catriona means that no one wants to believe there is no more stories to come and the trip suddenly becomes a quest for a lost manuscript, the final story, the one that has yet to be published.

The only person that can discover any of this is Emily. But since her accident, Emily exists in a very small world, near the cottage in Norfolk, not conversing with anyone and seeking solace in the illustrations she did for her Grandmothers work but also in the birds she starts to draw after her grandmother dies.

However, it seems this legacy has to be fulfilled and Emily has to break down barriers and step outside what she knows.

This is a quiet tale of grief and rediscovery of a life seemingly lost and one that has been lived through words and pictures which have come alive as Emily goes on this mystery tour – but where will it end?

The writing is carefully constructed, the use of birds is a unique way of creating chapters and sections all linked in with the beautiful drawings described.

In my opinion a sleeper of a debut novel which is going to take people by surprise and will undoubtedly become a hit. It was a hit with me.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

For Emily is out now.