Books

The Cottingley Secret – Hazel Gaynor

Do you know the story of the Cottingley Fairies? I did, but actually knew very little – my knowledge almost being summed up in a couple of sentences and nothing more.

This book takes me deep into the story, but put all your prior knowledge and assumption aside, this is a tale of two girls.

Frances Griffiths comes to stay with her Aunt and Uncle and cousin Elise Wright in Cottingley, whilst her father is at war – the year is 1917.

There are myths, local stories of some sort of presence that has been seen at the beck, at the bottom of Elise’s garden mean that Frances is drawn there.

When the fairies are captured by photograph – it astounds some and for others they are nonplussed by the event. When a leading author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle takes up the story Elsie and Frances are drawn into a world which is no longer in their control.

100 years later, it is 2017 and Olivia finds an old manuscript when she is left her grandfather’s book shop. It takes her on a journey to heal her heart, find her place in the world and also to Cottingley where the events of the past seem to have something to do with Olivia and the present.

THis is a wonderful dual narrative novel which has mystical qualities in both storylines which interweave. I was entranced by the present day story and of course Olivia’s world of working in a bookshop is any avid readers dream. I was surprised at the story of Frances and Elise and learnt a lot – but one of the overriding things this story has left me with – is why it was taken to the nations hearts so much, why did people claim quite clearly that this was no hoax in any way. War does many things to many people. The loss that was felt and the belief that perhaps there is something out there.

A skilful fairy story weaved by a skilful storyteller.

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

The Cottingley Secret is out now. 

By Elsie Wright (1901–1988)
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Books

The Mistress of Pennington’s – Rachel Brimble

As 2018 is the year we celebrate 100 years of (some) women getting the vote this book shows the battles and strength that women go to find a place in a man’s world.

We are taken to Bath in this tale, think Royal Crescent and Jane Austen bonnets – but it is 1910 and times are moving forward.

Elizabeth Pennington is the sole heir to her father’s department store. However she is immediately at a disadvantage – she is a women and unmarried.

Her ideas are seen as fanciful and have no place in a store that is for the upper echelons of society. You could not possible have working middle class folk selecting items to wear breathing the same air as those who have nothing to do all day apart from shop and take tea.

But of course times were changing and Elizabeth has a vision.

So does Joseph Carter. He wants to get his gloves into the most famous shop in Bath and get them bought by everyone. Joseph is trying to do good for everyone after the loss of his wife. He can see his future could well lie at Pennington’s but Elizabeth’s father has other ideas.

As two families come together, secrets that were once hidden are exposed.

This saga takes you right through the doors of the department stores of history and how such places began and made their name in the world. Think Harrods, Fortnum and Mason and John Lewis. But it also gives you the more personal side of the work that they did to keep their place within an ever-changing market.

I enjoyed the glimpse of life but I got somewhat bored of the tedium of Elizabeth and Joseph’s potential relationship as it ambled along much to slowly for my liking. It was if the author couldn’t decide what was the more important part of the storyline – the development of the store or their relationship which meant neither got the proper attention.

It was an enjoyable book and if you are looking for a historical saga with a strong determined female lead then this book will suffice, but I think you might be left disappointed at the end.

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

The Mistress of Pennington’s is out now.

Books

The Housekeeper’s Daughter – Rosie Meddon

War is coming.

It is going to bring changes to Kate Bratton whose life is already planned for her, to be a maid, marry the gardener and have children for the cycle to start all over again, just like her own mother.

When the Russell family arrive at Woodicombe House, Kate is surprisingly elevated to position of ladies maid to Naomi Russell and whilst it is not her ideal job, it means she is exposed to thoughts and ideals of others and the handsome Ned, Naomi’s twin brother.

A friendship deepens between Kate and Naomi as they are both trying to avoid the paths that have been laid out for them.

War might be coming but it is secrets which is going to be the undoing of the Russell family and it seems that Kate is going to suffer as well.

Which is the safer option to follow the path or break out on your own?

I found this book slow in parts and I admit to skim reading quite a bit until the plot got going in the last third of the book. There was too much made of nothing I felt to pad the book out and the characters other than probably Kate and her family were rather too flat.  I have read better saga’s.

If you like historical fiction and don’t mind being taken on a slow stroll through a story then this book is ideal for you. I would be intrigued a to how the saga continues, I am assumed by the marketing that their will be more than one book but I am not sure if I would want to read it.

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

The Housekeeper’s Daughter is out now. 

Books

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Society – Mary Ann Shaffer

One from the archives – I wrote this review, long before I had this blog and reread the book this year (2018) in preparation of seeing the film adaptation.

There is so much to say about this book, and I am sure a lot of it has been said already. This was an impulse buy after being intrigued by the title and the cover and I was not disappointed.

The main character Juliet Ashton is an author who after having her daily column (from Spectator) of observations from the Second World War is made into a book and taken on its promotional tour, she seeks another topic to write about. Her biography of Anne Bronte not being quite as successful as she would like to have hoped.

Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a resident of Guernsey, the only place that the Germans occupied during WW2. What then starts is series of correspondence backwards and forwards as you discover what happened to Dawsey and the members of the very quickly started `Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ who used it as something much bigger during the occupation. Their books helped them escape many of the hardships that had to endure, lack of food, lack of fuel and lack of freedom. Books they saw as their way of escapism into another world, a world where they learnt something and shared it with others. What books and reading to me is all about, sharing and enjoying.

We are introduced by Juliet to her publisher Sidney Stark, a childhood friend of Juliet’s and also his sister, Sophie who has kept in contact with her. Juliet shares her fondness and subsequent love of the people of Guernsey and we begin to discover what really happened on the small island. The islanders tell us their story and fill in all the gaps in between of other characters stories. Isola, Amelia and Eben all take Juliet to their hearts and welcome her on her visit to Guernsey.

The idea of the book for Juliet to write is obvious to all but Juliet – the biography of Elizabeth, the quick thinking founder member of the society, who was punished for committing something some saw as wrong, falling in love with a German. Elizabeth was sent away leaving her child behind to be looked after by the Society in a communal sort of way. This is the person all the members of the society mention, this is the lady whose daughter Kit, Juliet befriends and eventually falls in love as only a mother can. Can Juliet bring some stability to this child’s life?

As mentioned by previous reviewers this book is written as forms of correspondence, letters and telegrams and I somewhat approached this element of the book cautiously, however I embraced it entirely and thought it was a beautiful way to actual construct a book and I was completely hooked by letter 2. Don’t ask me how but it works.

You can curl up with this book and join the society and the residents of Guernsey very easily in my opinion, and this is a beautiful book where you learn what really happens. Something that inspires you to read more about the occupation but also about how wonderful books can be to everyone whoever they are.

As for the film:

I was interested in how you get a book made up of correspondence onto screen. It did work, of course there are changes to make it cinematic but I felt it captured the essence of the book which was the main thing. Sadly none of the filming was done in Guernsey and it had a few false starts, leads and directors but it is a joyous film to watch.

Jottings · Witterings

June Roundup

So there went June in a blaze of heat and potential glory for football depending on your outlook – mine being a non football one!

I am rather chuffed with the reading I have done in the last month, even six months that of course means July is the time to post our Six in Six – I do hope you can join me and please spread the word so we can get a few more this year!

So let me get on with what I have read……. Lily Graham – The Island Villa was a different read from her previous novels but it was really good and took me away, abroad without having to set foot on a plane! A proper summer read.

Talking of Summer you can’t beat a bit of gossip so why not indulge in Kat French – A Summer Scandal about an abandoned pier which is brought back to life by its new owner – but it will not be all kiss me quick hats and candy floss!

Catching up on authors previous work and not wanting to read parts of stories – led be to hold on and read the whole of Cathy Bramley – The Lemon Tree Cafe she is fast becoming a favourite author and I think now is the time to publish her stories as a whole from the start!

I caught up with the lovely saga of Nancy Revell – Shipyard Girls in Love and I am thrilled to learn that there is more to come in this series of books.

Yet again the kindle was used considerably in June – damn that netgalley I say but I make a concerted effort to read actual books, because I do love holding them – which is why I went to Jenny Colgan – The Summer Seaside Kitchen bought on a whim because I had actually bought the second in this series – I hate to read things out-of-order. Which led me to discover Jenny Colgan – A Very Distant Shore a QuickReads novel with the characters I had grown to love in the first book – which led me to immediately picking up the second and reading it as June finishes and then to be delighted to hear that there will be a Christmas one too! I love to be able to consume books like this and get lost in another place.

A.J. Pearce – Dear Mrs Bird had been in the press and across social media and not wanting to miss out, I purchased the hardcover copy of this. What a wonderful gem of a book which will take a place on my shelf and without a doubt be reread. There is something so gentle about this book which is caught up in the middle of the bombing in London during the Second World War.

I went back to the First World War with Rosie Meddon – The Housekeeper’s Daughter. An author I do not know and whilst the book was not particularly strong it did hold some intrigue and picked up but I am not sure if I would read the next book. There are a lot of books I have waiting to be read.

One that had been sitting around for a while was Hazel Gaynor – The Cottingley Secret. I had read a previous novel by this author and was enchanted. I was bound to be with this one – it contains fairies of course. I knew of the story but this fictionalised it and perhaps makes you think.

That was June, over my target in terms of books read for my 2018 goal – and enjoying the football because that means more reading as nothing on the TV! It also means less knitting – too hot!

Books

The Island Villa – Lily Graham

Charlotte’s husband has died not unexpectedly and when he was getting his estate in order, he purchased a villa in Formentera, one of the Balearic Islands.

It was most unexpected for Charlotte and as she is struggling to deal with the death of her husband, she now finds she has this villa.

But the villa is special.

The villa used to belong to Charlotte’s grandmother. Her wonderful husband has left her a piece of the past so perhaps she can heal in the future.

This book has a dual narrative and I was taken back to 1718 where two sisters on the island of Formentera have to take in a wounded man. No one must know that he is there and if they do they must lie about who he is.

Of course the two narratives have a connection and as Charlotte learns so much about her own family background and makes new friends she can see a future forming ahead of her.

For the two sisters, some three hundred years ago. Secrets are the cause of so much pain and anguish and secret love is going to tear apart a family. I felt so much for these characters and it was an interesting part of history that i knew nothing about and has meant I have now read more. I admit to not even knowing the island existed.

I think this is a very different book from the others I have read by this author and I am not sure if this is a one-off or a change in direction permanently. It would matter neither way as all her books and great reads.

I rarely say a book should be longer but bizarrely it would have worked for this particular storyline, I simply wanted to know more. Think of the dual narrative works of Kate Morton or Lucinda Riley, books you can lose yourself in. I did lose myself in this book because I was transported to the island and the sun, the sea, the heat what more could you ask for in a summer read?

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

The Island Villa is published 29th June.

 

 

 

 

Books

A Shot in the Dark – Lynne Truss

I am always on the lookout for interesting reads and especially books which have a historical element to them and so this murder mystery book set in the late 1950s and in Brighton sounded just the thing to take me away from all the nice fluffy reading I have been doing.

Inspector Steine is head of the local police department in a place where he says no crime is committed. . The Inspector is still dining out on the fact that a mere seven years previous he took the glory for two rival gangs who managed to all kill each other. Clearly there cannot be anymore crime in Brighton.

Sergeant Brunswick is desperate to be able to solve a crime and to go undercover to do this. He is thwarted at every turn by Steine.

Constable Twitten is a young whippersnapper who is being moved from police station to police station, not because he is no good but because he is too good. A stint in Brighton seems to the be the last resort.

Of course there needs to a crime – and so there is – now keep up at the back…..a hated theatre critic shot dead in his theatre seat whilst just about to reveal something about a crime he was victim of some years previous. A strong woman who escapes prison, a phrenologist who is not what he seems, a red-headed opinion poll lady, stolen jewels, dead actors and of course a murderer.

As I reflect back this was somewhat of a humorous novel, but for me it was somewhat lacking the humour simply didn’t work for me. The change in tone of the writing felt I was treated as rather foolish and couldn’t possibly understand what was happening without clear direction from the author so I was told what to think. That may well have been the intention but for me I rather make up my own mind about these things.

Towards the denouement it became rather ludicrous, that an Inspector so inept could continue and get away with what he had done, with no spark of conscience. The constable had the answers but was in no position to convince anyone of the truth and so much was left unsaid.

This was not the book I thought it was going to be and I was left rather disappointed and unsatisfied. However, it may well be a book that many other people will enjoy – so it is worth a try if you like murder mystery novels.

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

A Shot in the Dark is out on 28 June.