Books

A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls – Nancy Revell

I cannot believe we have reached book nine and it is coming up to 1943 for the Shipyard Girls that I have grown to love over the previous books. History tells us that the Second World War is taking a new path and I know as I read there is some momentous changes abound. It worries me that we could be near the end of this wonderful series.

But as ever I am taken into the lives of Rosie, head welder of her close knit team of women whose wish is to know that her husband Peter is alive and well. She also wishes Charlotte her younger sister would develop some interest in someone other than Lily.

Gloria and her young daughter Hope, wishes that her she could be reunited with the man she loves and that her daughter will actually see her father.

Dorothy and Angie, best friends in and out of work, wish that falling in love would be easy and that there should be no barrier to it.

Polly wishes for the safe arrival of her baby and that her husband, that she hasn’t seen since last Christmas gets to meet the most important person in their lives besides each other.

Bel wishes for what others have, Gloria and Polly especially, but something is preventing it all happening and it seems that she needs to close many door from her past before she can perhaps move forward with being a mother.

Helen, wishes that her mother and grandfather’s influence has not got so deep seated within her and that she would never be good enough for Dr Parker, their friendship it seems is all that there will be.

Pearl has no wish to relive the past but stumbling across it, she realises that she might be able to make her daughter Bel’s wish come true – to close the door on the past.

Along with other regular faces, this is a book packed with raw emotion. I was so incensed by the behaviour of Miriam, Helen’s mother that I had to put the book down. That said when the dénouement to a plot line that has been in development for many books comes to a head, I was almost out of my chair cheering on the main characters. The rollercoaster of emotions that Nancy Revell portrays in this book means it should come with a health warning.

At the heart and the core of all of the books, is the strength that these women have in taking on work, specifically and historically been the preserve of men, dealing with birth, death and everything in between. Love, laughter, tears and friendship everything you could want from this book and even your own life!

This series of books has not lost momentum and I am thrilled that they simply seem to get better and better. Perfect example of a well written historical saga for everyone to enjoy.

 

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read these books. 

A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls is out now.  

If you wish to read them all 

  1. The Shipyard Girls
  2. Shipyard Girls at War
  3. Secrets of the Shipyard Girls
  4. Shipyard Girls in Love
  5. Victory for the Shipyard Girls 
  6. Courage of the Shipyard Girls 
  7. Christmas with the Shipyard Girls
  8. Triumph of the Shipyard Girls 
  9. A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls

 

Books

The Diver and the Lover – Jeremy Vine

The background to this book is fascinating and I was intrigued by the presence of a well known painter, Salvador Dali and one his controversial pieces of art – Christ of Saint John of the Cross. A painting I knew nothing about, which forced me to look it up and to understand the background to it’s creation and subsequently it’s arrival in a Glasgow art gallery in the 1950s.

All of this is subsequently weaved into the book.

Ginny and Meredith, sisters have only just found each other when their father dies and Ginny discovers she has a half sister.

Meredith is traumatised by past experiences and is in an asylum. Ginny becomes her rescuer and with an ulterior motive vows to heal Meredith. This is what leads them to Spain, to Catalonia, where Meredith’s passion for art, is the path that Ginny sees can heal her.

With a famous artist in the area, it seems that Meredith can indulge in this passion. Ginny has her head turned by another passion and when these collide with the politics of the time and the execution of this famous painting, the book takes a somewhat nasty turn.

I wanted to like this book, but I found it descend into a bit of a muddle and mess but it had these brilliantly handled passages of prose which worked so well, especially the affects of the asylum on Meredith.  For me the rest of it did not fit together so well and I found myself skim reading just so I could see how it concluded.

I learnt a lot despite not enjoying the plot and for that I am grateful, but I was left disappointed overall.

 

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

The Diver and the Lover is out now. 

Books

V for Victory – Lissa Evans

Here we are taken back to the wonderful characters of Noel Bostock and Vee Sedge who we first got to know in Crooked Heart. For me you need prior knowledge and background of Noel and Vee and the circumstances that lead them to where they are now.

It is late 1944 – it is clear that war is coming to some sort of conclusion. However there is still the risk of death as the V2 rockets seem to be destroying an uncharted path through London.

Noel and Vee now live in a large house, Green Shutters, adjacent to Hampstead Heath. Vee takes in lodgers to keep roofs over heads and mouths to feed, but she is still not quite telling the truth to the world.

All of the lodgers are of varying occupations and differing personalities, and they are educating in their own way young Noel, now 15 instead of him attending school. But then Noel is also not quite telling the truth to the world either.

Both Noel and Vee are locked into the secrets of their past but it seems that events in the present are going to change everything.

The other strand of the novel is taken over to Winnie Crowther, who is a senior ARP warden. Married but having not seen her husband for the majority of the war, she simply exists until such times when the world will be righted again and she can live her life. Her twin sister, Avril on the other hand is as far removed from Winnie but when she uses Winnie’s life as an idea of a book, little does she realise what work her sister is actually doing until she experiences it for herself.

Winnie does meet Noel, there is a connection to the past, to Matilda Simpkin, the original owner of Green Shutters and Noel’s former godmother. Winnie knew Matilda. Winnie also knew someone else close to Noel and it seems all of these past lives are going to come crashing together in the final pages of the book.

Evans writing is unique and the books is unstructured which adds to it’s flow and narrative. When I found myself in the midst of an incident that ARP Winnie has to deal with, you could almost taste the brick dust. With just as much ease we are sat at the table in Green Shutters as an eclectic mix of people gather to see what food rations and Noel have created for supper.

The stories of Matilda Simpkin, Noel and Vee are brought to a conclusion in this novel and whilst there is enough information to understand all these people without having previously read the other novels. I appeal to any readers sense of completeness and read Old Baggage and Crooked Heart. You can then experience the great writing of Evans but also the wonderful characters for a lot longer.

A book worthy of any fans of historical fiction.

 

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

V for Victory is out now. 

Books

August Roundup

So what was your August like – as you planned? Or like most people’s taking it as it comes. As the world around us changes, pivots, tilts and decides what is going to happen next I have sought much solace from being at home, reading, crafting and just being. Luckily enough now I can go back swimming which has been an absolute balm to soothe and has helped my mental health no end. As I go back to work and wait to find out what happens in terms of hours and contracts I just hope that all the things that help me continue to do so.

August was a real mix of books and were just what was needed – Louise Candlish – The Disappearance of Emily Marr has been sat on my shelf for awhile and as I make some dents in these books I picked this one up. The first I have read by this author and it was different from perhaps what I am used to and was a great change, I must seek more of her work out. Sometime you need a book that finishes and you just don;t know what happens!

Of course when it comes to murder mystery you have to know what happens, otherwise what would be the point! The book you will no doubt see a lot of is Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club. Sadly the formatting on the advanced copy was poor and that did make it harder to read, but once I got over my fastidious and got into the book I was hooked. If you want a book that says everything about being British – then this is it.

Of course if you want fastidious then look no further than Hercule Poirot. I can accept a tribute to such a great character and a great author and I know there are some naysayers out there but Sophie Hannah – The Killings at Kingfisher Hall is an excellent novel and a great introduction to good old fashioned golden age murder mystery.

Sticking with the golden age theme then picking up Anthony Horowitz – Moonflower Murders which took be back to Atticus Pund and his author Alan Conway, it is a novel within a novel. And if you think that can’t possibly work – trust me it does.

A book with no definite chapters can be a troubling read – it can work and it can fail spectacularly and reminds me of a colleague who writes emails and notices in a stream of what I can only call verbal diarrhoea. However when it works it works brilliantly as it does with Lissa Evans – V for Victory. A book that takes you to the heart of the conclusion of the war on the home front and the devastation still be wrought across London.

If you want devastation then imagine not having enough hay to feed the animals for the next year, or enough lambs to be able to sell or breed. Imagine doing that miles from any where and with nine children in tow. Well known on the television for their programme on Channel 5. I picked up Amanda Owen – The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen – A Year in the Life of The Yorkshire Shepherdess and Amanda Owen – Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess as a treat for not having a holiday this year. Amazing, what a life and again there is many critical of her chosen life and the way she has decide to raise her children – but I feel that they will be more well rounded adults than many of their generation to come. Their playground is acres of land and if that is the only way you can enjoy the outdoors then I implore you to read the books and watch the programmes.

Books are a great place to escape to other places and what better than to experience Holly Martin – Autumn Skies over Ruby Falls who manages to always achieve this and throws in a big dollop of romance too. I am booked into visit Jewel Island again I hope.

I also want to go and stay in Christie Barlow – Starcross Manor or even the little B & B in Heartcross because I know I will be welcome and there will be plenty of people to catch up on and you can walk for miles, breathe the fresh air and reconnect with nature.

Of course it can be whatever season you wish but what better than a Katie Fforde – A Rose Petal Summer where I was taken from London to Scotland to France and all back again. I simply enjoy Katie’s novels and they are just like old friends, pick one up and you are immediately whisked away.

Talking of old friends what about when you have made a pact with your oldest friends that it is the three of you forever? What happens to Ruth Jones – Us Three life has a funny way of making it a lot harder than you imagined and perhaps only giving you things you can actually deal with. Some friendships are just not meant to be forever.

Friendship betrayal and forgiveness can lead to all sorts of disaster and even escaping to Helen Rolfe – The Little Cottage in Lantern Square can have consequences . When it threatens your whole world surly the answer is to confront it head on and not run away again?

I don’t think I was disappointed with any of these books they all proved to be the right books at the right time. Serendipitous you could say!

How was you August?

 

Books

The Hidden Wife – Joanna Rees

Vita Casey has made it to Paris after fleeing London and her brother.

She is trying to keep a low profile and becomes a dresser for the dancers in a cabaret club where her friend Nancy is performing. Always in Nancy’s shadow and seemingly picking up the pieces after her, Vita knows this is not the life she wants to lead in Paris.

Paris is where the fashion is and Vita’s life is about designing and creating clothes. Nancy’s life is one of late night parties, drink and drugs and it seems that Nancy is going to spiral down and Vita will not be able to help if she doesn’t do something more.

A chance meeting leads to Vita getting to venture behind the doors a Paris fashion house and she finds herself with the chance to finally get her designs out there and make a name for herself.

Back in Darton, England. Vita’s brother Clement has still not forgiven Vita for her actions and when his marriage throws up some interesting opportunities his new wife can see a way of the past being finally put behind them all.

Faces from the past come back to Vita and it doesn’t matter where she hides, someone will always find her – whether that be brothers, sister in laws, wives and long lost lovers.

So much is packed into the pages of this book, you get a real sense of the Paris of 1928, the lifestyle led by the up and coming ‘young things’. The live for this moment attitude and that money can buy anything, position, clothes, tables in clubs, yachts and women. Rees manages to remind the reader that actually not all lives were rich with wealth and position.

The book gives you plenty more questions to take you into the final part of the trilogy but I would strongly recommend you have read the first to really appreciate the story of this one.

Excellent historical fiction a must for all fans of this genre.

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

The Hidden Wife is out now. 

 

Books

Miss Benson’s Beetle – Rachel Joyce

There is something about Rachel Joyce stories, that have a quietness about them which stays with you for a very long time. I remember the beauty of her debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and I think this book captures the essence of that book, that new adventure not just for Joyce but for Harold Fry as well. This is a new adventure.

This time we meet Margery Benson, spinster, late forties who discovered an interest in a particular golden beetle. It was said to exist but no one had seen or even found it. This would be her work, but events took another path and she finds herself in a job she dislikes.

When a case of stolen boots, forces her to reevaluate her life she abandons everything and puts all she has into an expedition to find said golden beetle.

Enter Enid Pretty.

Pink Suit, bright yellow hair, pom poms on her shoes and clutching a red valise.

She is the last person you would expect to see Margery with but somehow they make it half way round the world to New Caledonia.  Sometimes together and sometimes apart but there is something about two unlikely people forming a friendship and it surviving.

Enid is everything Margery isn’t – a rule breaker, a chancer, a woman with secrets.

Margery is everything Enid isn’t – staid, organised, a woman with one chance to discover the beetle and leave her mark on the world.

This book is a journey of the impossible and believing in trying to do something is just as important as the end result, whether it be positive or negative. What has happened in the past is forgotten as these two unlikely women form a bond, a bond which has to suffer blood, toil, sweat and tears in equal measure from both of them.

There are ups and clearly a lot of downs on this quest, and not only do we glimpse a life of a entomologist but we see a life far away from home. It may seem the dawn of a new age in 1950/1951 but the echoes of both wars still resonate and they affect nearly everyone they come into contact with. Women have a very different role to play, there time has yet to come and perhaps Margery and Enid are just the beginning of the change. Who knows.

With detailed research clearly undertaken in terms of the landscape of New Caledonia as well as the research into all the insects and the treatment and recording of them, the book teaches you as well as gives you a story that you can believe in and characters you put your trust in.

A quiet book with a big impact. Rachel Joyce’s writing at her best in my humble opinion.

 

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

Miss Benson’s Beetle is published on 23rd July. 

 

Books

The Girl Behind the Gates – Brenda Davies

Nora is seventeen. Her whole life ahead of her. Bright and skilful. Her heart leads her to one night of passion and that leads to a baby.

In 2020, heads would hardly turn, families would pull together.

In 1939, the world was very different. The Mental Deficiency Act meant Nora could be committed to an asylum as a moral imbecile. She was a threat to herself and others for one act of passion.

This book is the story of Nora. Those facts are true and this book is the horrific harrowing tale of Nora’s treatment over a period of forty years.

When in the early eighties, Janet a psychiatrist, comes across Nora and finds she is still in hospital some forty years later and is heavily reliant on the institution she has been incarcerated in. Nora’s story brings something home to Janet and she takes a vested interest in Nora and not only her rehabilitation into living a independent life but also reconciling the treatment she suffered through no fault of her own.

This book is not for the fainthearted as the distressing scenes that are described will leave you washed out as you have been spun round a machine and left you exhausted. To think these things went on in my lifetime, in my parents. History in this case was not that long ago. Thank goodness, times have changed and treatment takes a very different path now.

But through all of the treatment, Nora remains a strong irrepressible character who started playing a game – a game to survive, which seems was common in these cases. The game has to come to an end though and this book is a tribute to not just Nora but all those who were incarcerated in such similar circumstances.

Beautifully and emotionally written it engages you from beginning to end. This is one if the best books I have read and for a debut novel should be up there with the best.

The book everyone must read. It will stay with you forever.

 

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

The Girl Behind the Gates is published on the 23 July. 

This is one of the best books I have read so far this year. 

Books

The Dublin Girls – Cathy Mansell

Dublin in the 1950s. Meet the Flynn girls.

Nell the eldest, training to be a nurse and with Liam her wonderfully caring and touching boyfriend in tow, she has her whole life set out before her.

Kate the middle child, bright and feisty, she should go far providing she finished her schooling.

Roisin, the youngest. Sickly and not flourishing.

When their mother dies, it is up to Nell to hold them all together.

Giving up nursing, working in a biscuit factory and trying to make any meagre earnings pay for the rent, the coal in their condemned tenements shows a harsh reality of life in 1950s Dublin,

When Roisin is admitted to the fever hospital and Kate decides she wants a better life, Nell finds she is struggling to keep everyone close. They only have each other and they really should stick together.

Nell vows to stay in Dublin until she can have all her sisters together with her again, with a heavy heart she sees Liam go to London to forge a new life. Will the sisters ever be reunited?

This book has everything you would want from a great read, characters, plot, setting, love, adversity, tragedy and heartache. There is a lot packed into the pages and if you have read Catherine Cookson novels in the past, then this book could easily be for you.

A wonderful example of historical fiction.

 

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

The Dublin Girls is published on the 23 July

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Six in Six 2020 – My Choices

Here are my choices for this years Six in Six – there is still time to join in and it is looking like a bumper year of blogs taking part!

Six Classic or Modern Mysteries

  1. Rachel Rhys – Dangerous Crossing
  2. Lucy Foley – The Hunting Party
  3. Sophie Hannah – The Mystery of the Three Quarters
  4. Agatha Christie  – A Murder is Announced
  5. Sara Sheridan – Highland Fling
  6. John Buchan – The Thirty Nine Steps

Six book covers that stand out

Six books I have enjoyed the most

  1. Brenda Davies – The Girl Behind the Gates
  2. Lucy Foley – The Hunting Party
  3. Sandi Toksvig – Between the Stops
  4. Ali McNamara – Kate and Clara’s Curious Craft Shop
  5. Katie Fforde – A Country Escape
  6. Veronica Henry – A Wedding at the Beach Hut

Six authors I read last year – but not so far this year

  1. Lucinda Riley
  2. Trisha Ashley
  3. Liz Fenwick
  4. Sarah Bennett
  5. Ann Cleeves
  6. Jessica Fellowes

Six books from the past that drew me back there

  1. Lorna Cook – The Forbidden Promise
  2. Nancy Revell – Triumph of the Shipyard Girls
  3. Jennifer Wells – The Lost Girls
  4. Jane Johnson – The Sea Gate
  5. Fern Britton – Daughters of Cornwall
  6. Jessie Burton – The Muse

Six books set in or near a beach

  1. Carole Matthews – Sunny Days and Sea Breezes
  2. Veronica Henry – A Wedding at the Beach Hut
  3. Heidi Swain – The Secret Seaside Escape
  4. Cathy Bramley – A Match Made in Devon
  5. Helen Pollard – The Little Shop in Cornwall
  6. Phillipa Ashley – A Perfect Cornish Escape

I think I am quite pleased with my choices and 2020 in terms of reading has been good. Of course some books fit in more than one category because they were great and worth reading. Some average books of course but lots that were above average, I hope the next six months is just as interesting!

As I said at the beginning – still time for you to join in!

 

Books

An Expert in Murder – Nicola Upson

This is the first Josephine Tey novel and having read her second first I thought I would go back to where it started.

Nicola Upson has come upon the idea of using a real life author as a character in this crime series. Tey is not used as the main solving character that falls to Detective inspector Archie Penrose, but Upson weaves in the relationship that Josephine Tey has with his family, and him as well and what all links them together.

Tey happens to bump into a fan of her work on the train south from Inverness, and they strike up an instant friendship for the duration of the journey. However, tragedy strikes when the young girl is found dead, some moments after having said goodbye to Josephine. In steps Archie Penrose and he begins to discover that the murderer has left a number of odd clue that seem to all relate back to Josephine and her(written under a pseudonym) current play running in the West End, Richard of Bordeaux.

We are taken into the wonderful age of the Thirties; the Great War still has memories for a number of people, despite the threat of something else brewing over on the continent. The theatre is beginning to take off and plays, actors and agents are all fighting for something spectacular to put on. However amongst all this joy, there are many harbouring secrets and lies and another death causes Penrose much heartache as he realises that maybe Tey is the intended victim all along. The outcome is probably not what you would expect despite having worked some of it, it still came as a slight surprise, now I think I may have missed a clue or two, or maybe it is just the strength of Upson’s writing which took me to the end of the story without working it out in the first few pages.

Thrilling and exciting story, with many lovely characters, Penrose’s cousin Lettie and Ronnie bring humour to the blackest of moments and fit in very nicely with the back story. There are some racier moments put yourself as if you were in reading this in the Thirties, homosexuality was still illegal, and there is no hint but directness about what is going on between some of the cast in the theatres. I am sure it would have made some question such a book, however we are reading this in the twenty first century and perhaps now look at things differently, with the knowledge that we now have.
Yes it has elements of Agatha Christie and the ilk – but so what. It is a different way of making the basic murder mystery genre work and I think successfully, certainly to keep me reading once I was gripped by the whole story.

This review was first published on Amazon in early 2010 and is featured on this blog as part of my look back at the last ten years of blogging.