Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was troubled. Elodie is dead.
Sylvie hasn’t been back to her crumbling French family home in years. Not since the death of her eldest daughter Elodie.
Every corner of the old house feels haunted by memories of her – memories she has tried to forget.
But as temperatures rise, and forest fires rage through the French countryside, a long-buried family secret is about to come to light.
Because there’s something Sylvie’s been hiding about what really happened to Elodie that summer.
And it could change everything.
Oh how I loved this book!
It had all the ingredients I like in a novel. A tense psychological thriller, a buried past, sun, heat and the South Of France. What a great book to loose yourself in at the moment.
I was whisked off to the building heat and tensions of a heatwave gripping The South of France as we follow Sylvie, as she heads back to France, to her old family home after receiving a letter to say there has been some damage to the empty property after a small fire. Born and raised in France, Sylvie has been living in London for over 10 years, seemingly leaving home after traumatic events. Needing to take her daughter with her she reluctantly heads off with a view to sort things out and finally put the house on the market, where it can be sold and finally gotten rid of once and for all.
As we enter the house and dust off its cobwebs so too do we learn, via flashbacks, of the mysteries that surround Sylvie’s first daughter Elodie, a brilliantly created character. The fear, pain and love that Sylvie experienced back then is wonderfully written along with the day to day happenings, some compellingly mysterious, that take place as we stay at La Reverie. Evocative and captivating, tiny details in the narrative superbly evoke time and place with wonderful characters and the gradual build of tension throughout the book.
We slowly learn of the story that surrounds Elodie and read the reactions of both family and locals as the truths begin to surface. Like the summer fires that surround the village, enclosing in on the house, so does the past and bringing with it it’s present danger.
Wonderful smaller characters add even more to the novel, bringing with then their own perspectives and past actions.
I don’t want to give any more of the story line away and spoil it for another reader but I was utterly absorbed in this book and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. A sultry thriller that also had a wonderful dose of the french sun and way of life. This has definitely gone into my top five reads of the year so far. Loved it!!!
It’s my stop on the blog tour today for Frances Evesham’s new book in the Exham-on-Sea Murder Mysteries series, Murder at the Gorge. Thanks so much to the publisher BoldWood Books and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my digital copy and spot on the tour. Not only do I have a review but also an extract from the e book for you to read……Enjoy!
Sand blew fiercely across Exham on Sea beach, slicing into any intrepid walker brave enough to venture out. Max Ramshore shivered, despite the padded jacket he’d zipped right up to his chin. The late-November wind from the sea always found the slightest chink in his clothing. He pulled his beanie lower over his forehead and made a mental note to buy a warmer scarf.
In summer, the eight miles of sand were a delight, the air tangy with ozone and fish and chips, and the beach dotted with cheerful holidaymakers eating ice cream, balancing small children on obliging, mild-tempered donkeys, and helping to build sandcastles.
In winter, the seafront belonged once more to the locals.
Max and Libby were determined, today, to reach the wooden Low Lighthouse. ‘I have mixed feelings when I walk here,’ Libby said. She pointed. ‘Look, that’s where I found the first body, lying against one of the wooden legs. It still sends shivers down my spine to remember poor Susie, slumped there like a sack of coal. At least her murder brought us together.’
‘Ramshore and Forest, detectives extraordinaire,’ Max teased.
‘Forest and Ramshore,’ Libby insisted, as she always did. No wonder they’d never agreed on a letterhead or logo for their private investigation business, even though it now took up almost as much time as producing her famous cakes and chocolates.
Libby stood by Max’s side, watching the two dogs cavorting in the sand. She had a smile on her lips. That smile was almost constant, these days.
Max forgot the cold seeping into his neck, and counted his blessings.
In almost two weeks, they’d be married.
Bear, Max’s huge, now rather elderly, Carpathian sheepdog decided an interesting morsel lay just beneath the sand under the lighthouse and dug furiously with giant paws, sand flying in every direction.
‘Watch out,’ Max shouted, too late, as sand hit him squarely in the left eye. Blinking furiously, trying not to rub the eye, he staggered upwind of Bear just as Shipley, his springer spaniel, dropped a stick twice his own size at Max’s feet.
Max’s curse was lost in Shipley’s excited barking and Libby’s shout of laughter. She retrieved the stick and threw it for Shipley to chase.
‘Come here,’ she told Max, ‘let me wash the sand out of your eye.’
His back to the wind, Max let her dribble bottled water from her rucksack into his eye and scrub around it with a tissue. She’d never make a nurse, but he decided the embrace that followed was worth the pain.
‘I shall enjoy married life if you look after me like that,’ he murmured. ‘You’re a useful person to have around.’
‘For the first aid or the cooking?’
‘Both. I’m expecting to sample every single one of the cake recipes in your “Baking at the Beach” books.’
Libby pulled back a little to look into his face, ducking as the breeze hurled more sand their way. ‘Baking at the Beach is a great title, but not a sensible activity in November,’ she admitted.
‘You can call book three, Baking in a nice warm kitchen.’
She laughed. How he loved that sound; a proper, deep chortle. His ex-wife had laughed with an affected noise designed, he was sure, to sound like tinkling bells.
He took Libby’s arm, whistling for the dogs. Shipley, who’d recently undergone strict retraining, returned at once, but Bear went on digging.
‘Do you think he’s getting deaf?’ Libby asked. ‘He used to come when I called, but lately he’s been ignoring me.’
Max studied Bear. ‘Hard to say. He’s not as young as he used to be and I’ve noticed he limps a little. Rheumatism, maybe.’
Libby was frowning. ‘I know twelve is old for a Carpathian, but I can’t imagine life without him. Maybe he needs a visit to the vet? To be checked out?’
‘I’ll take him, if you’ll please agree we can go home now and get out of this wind?’
The wind blew them back to Max’s Land Rover, parked near the jetty, in half the time it had taken them to reach the lighthouse.
Murder at the Gorge
A joke? A prank? Or something more sinister?
When the Exham-on-Sea residents are targeted by anonymous emails containing apparently harmless nursery rhymes, no one knows whether to laugh or shudder until an unexplained death touches the town.
Libby Forest, baker, chocolatier and Exham’s very own resident private investigator, alongside her partner Max Ramshore, set out to solve the puzzle before more people die. But when Max’s ex-wife arrives on the scene, ahead of Max and Libby’s long-awaited nuptials, things go from bad to worse.
With the town and their relationship under threat, Max and Libby need the help of the Exham History Society if they’re going to find the nursery rhyme killer in time.
Murder at the Gorge is the seventh in a series of Exham-on-Sea Murder Mysteries set at the small English seaside town full of quirky characters, sea air, and gossip.
If you love Agatha Christie-style mysteries, cosy crime, clever dogs and cake, then you’ll love these intriguing whodunnits.
When several people in the village receive e mails containing nursery rhymes, everyone just thinks it’s spam or a prank. But when Max & Libby find out the two cases they have started to look into also received them, it’s not looking so innocent after all!
But with the opening of a new cafe and their upcoming wedding to organise, things become strained and stress starts to build.
This was a lovely quick read with some delightful characters. Max and Libby are wonderfully described and I adored the inclusion of Max’s two dogs Shipley and Bear. This is a village mystery type read but with Max’s expertise in fraud and computers, and their contacts to the local police force, there is also a modern, more practical story running through it. I also liked the way the novel addresses Libby and Max’s relationship and the ups and downs of what is a second marriage in later years for both of them.
The many references to Libby’s chocolate making and baking, I must admit, had me reaching for the biscuit barrel a number of times whilst reading this book! Oh well, another few pounds added to the ever growing lockdown weight gain.
A lovely village crime story with a modern twist. I look forward to ‘munching’ my way through the other six now!
Frances Evesham is the author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea Murder Mysteries set in her home county of Somerset. In her spare time, she collects poison recipes and other ways of dispatching her unfortunate victims. She likes to cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other, her head full of murder―fictional only.
Huge thanks to Alexia Thomaidis of Viking Books for my gorgeous copy of Mr Wilder & Me for review.
Published by Viking Books and out now!
In the heady summer of 1977, a naïve young woman called Calista sets out from Athens to venture into the wider world. On a Greek island that has been turned into a film set, she finds herself working for the famed Hollywood director Billy Wilder, about whom she knows almost nothing. But the time she spends in this glamorous, unfamiliar new life will change her for good.
While Calista is thrilled with her new adventure, Wilder himself is living with the realisation that his star may be on the wane. Rebuffed by Hollywood, he has financed his new film with German money, and when Calista follows him to Munich for the shooting of further scenes, she finds herself joining him on a journey of memory into the dark heart of his family history.
In a novel that is at once a tender coming-of-age story and an intimate portrait of one of cinema’s most intriguing figures, Jonathan Coe turns his gaze on the nature of time and fame, of family and the treacherous lure of nostalgia. When the world is catapulting towards change, do you hold on for dear life or decide it’s time to let go?
Starting off in the present day, but mainly set in the seventies, we follow our main protagonist Calista Frangopoulou, as she sets off to the USA, to backpack around the country for a number of weeks. Meeting and befriending a fellow young traveller, she finds herself having dinner with Billy Wilder and Iz Diamond, (Mr Wilder being an old acquaintance of the father of Calista’s travelling companion). However her new friend deserts her for a young man she has recently meet who is due to fly home, so Calista is left to enjoy an evening of good food, enlightening conversation and a little too much alcohol.
The film director and his wife see her safely back to their apartment to spend the night on the sofa. However a connection has been made, and when Mr Wilder is due to start filming in Greece, for his new film Fedora, he is in need of an interpreter and Calista who speaks Greek, English, French and German finds herself with a job offer and on her way to Corfu.
On the Greek island we follow Calista as she works on set, meeting film stars, journalists and learning her way around this new and exciting world of film. We also learn about the determination behind the making of the film as we learn of the career and life of Mr Wilder and the things that have made him the man he is now.
I enjoyed reading this story and enjoyed being whisked off into Calista’s new and unexpected coming of age adventure and follow her over a number of years, as she becomes more comfortable in her new surroundings. I liked reading the scenes featuring ‘real life’ film stars of the day, plus learning of the ever changing world of Hollywood.
Finding the crew in Munich the book takes a little turn, as it recounts Billy’s past and time before and after his first move to the US. Having no knowledge of the director before reading this book, I found the factual elements of the story and the inclusion of the many real life actors and films mentioned very interesting. I also found the author’s use of a film script to explain and tell the part of the book which deals with WWII a quick and easy to understand method to portray Billy’s experiences, yet keeping it vivid and sympathetic.
Billy uses Clarista, towards the end of the story, as a listening ear. Someone more removed from the film industry perhaps, making it easier for him to express his true feelings. I found this a little unlikely, not just because of the age gap, but also as they don’t really know each other that well. However, I did like the growing friendship she seems to make with Iz, as she begins to work closer with him. The parts where Billy describes the changing faces of Hollywood and the new incoming directors I loved. Plus the inclusion of Mr Pacino.
I haven’t actually read any of this authors books before, so I went into this one with no preconceptions as to what I was hoping to get from the novel. I think this worked here. For me this story had similarities to a work by William Boyd, one of my favourite authors, so I enjoyed the writing style and pitch of the story very much. I will definately look into reading the author’s other books now.
Set across two continents, Tiger is a sweeping story of survival and redeeming love that plunges the reader into one of the world’s last wildernesses with blistering authenticity.
Frieda is a primatologist, sensitive and solitary, until a violent attack shatters her ordered world. In her new role as a zookeeper, she confronts a very different ward: an injured wild tiger.
Deep in the Siberian taiga, Tomas, a Russian conservationist, fears that the natural order has toppled. The king tiger has been killed by poachers and a spectacular tigress now patrols his vast territory as her own.
In a winter of treacherous competition, the path of the tigress and her cub crosses with an Udeghe huntress and her daughter. Vengeance must follow, and the fates of both tigers and people are transformed.
Learning of her tiger’s past offers Frieda the chance of freedom. Faced with the savage forces of nature, she must trust to her instinct and, like the tiger, find a way to live in the world.
A wonderfully researched and thoughtful novel, bringing together four different stories all linked together by the majestic Siberian Tiger.
The first story is that of Frieda, which I really enjoyed a lot. A Primatologist working with Bonobo monkeys, we read of her struggle with medication addiction after suffering a head injury during an attack in London. She loses her job and ends up in Devon working in a slightly eccentric zoo, with some very eccentric people, looking after a Siberian Tiger called Luna.
In a very noticeable contrast we jump to Siberia where we meet Tomas a Russian conservationist and learn about The King tiger and the Countess and her cubs. Beautifully told with wonderful descriptions of life out in these parts.
Next we meet Edit a member of the Udeghe people, we learn about her husband, daughter and of her feelings for her need to escape. I think I enjoyed this story the most. The characters were superbly written and the atmosphere and descriptions of the wilderness were engrossing.
We also hear from the countess tiger herself which wonderfully loops the story of her hunt for food with her cubs to the parts of her story we have already heard. Lastly the book finishes in some of the characters actually coming together bound by their common love for the tigers.
I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would. It is a novel but so much more and written in a very different way to other things I have read recently. I very much enjoyed the contrast between each story. It was like eating a 6 course meal where each dish was completely different in flavour from the one before and had the taste buds jumping from one delicious treat to another. The earthiness of the zoo, the clean modernity of the research unit and the ice coldness of the snow coupled with the bloody catches of Edit’s and the Countess’ hunting made for a heady and fantastic mix.
I loved the fact that it also had me constantly reaching for my phone. No not for twitter but to google snippets of information about Tigers, Bonobos, The Udeghe people, even Putin! Learning things I didn’t know due to the wonderful research that has gone into writing about the Tigers and their landscape.
I also very much liked the similarities in each story like the misfits brought together in the zoo with the men living on the remote conservation camp. The survival of Edit and Zina in their hut with Freida’s survival to live in the real world and the Tiger’s hunting to survive. And of course the many challengers and changes each and everyone of the characters will experience along the way.
Tiger is published in hardback by Quercus on May 2nd. Many thanks to NetGalley for my advanced copy.
Thanks so much to Alexia Thomaidis from Vikings Books for sending me a copy of the new paperback Olive,Again by Elizabeth Strout.
Olive, Again follows the blunt, contradictory yet deeply loveable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life as she comes to terms with the changes – sometimes welcome, sometimes not – in her own existence and in those around her.
Olive adjusts to her new life with her second husband, challenges her estranged son and his family to accept him, experiences loss and loneliness, witnesses the triumphs and heartbreaks of her friends and neighbours in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine – and, finally, opens herself to new lessons about life.
Olive, Again is the second book by Elizabeth Strout which follows the prickly, ruthlessly honest and to the point Olive Kitteridge as we re-visit her in her home town Crosby, Maine and now find her married to her second husband Jack.
This is almost like a collection of very short stories, spanning a number of years, which either feature Olive as the main character, or are about someone she knows or lives in the same town. Sometimes Olive makes a small appearance sometimes not. But they are all written with the most brilliantly observed look at peoples thoughts, lives and emotions.
What I liked about this book is the inclusion of older people. Strout really gets under the skin of this older generation and their stories are both raw, sad, enlightening and humorous. They are written with real compassion and honesty which makes them all very real stories yet set very much in a normal days existence. Other characters featured in the book are from all ages and the author does a marvellous job at portraying both the young, middle aged and old.
I enjoyed the chapters which featured Olive. She is so abrupt and to the point, at times appearing rude, but at the same time I couldn’t help but smile at her. She is surprisingly good however, at understanding peoples feelings (though not so much her family) and her direct manner can sometimes actually be a comfort to those she is talking to. I found the chapter about Suzanne very moving and indeed a lot of the stories of the characters lives do seem very sad and traumatic, but maybe as they are about different individuals, it leaves you with short sharp hits of sadness plus Olive’s comic ways lighten the mood throughout. Each of the stories are very quick to get into, all have a different topic but at the same time a connection to Olive and the town where she lives. I did feel however that nearly everyone mentioned has affairs….really?? Do we need so many??
This book is a unique and tender look at relationships, getting on and getting older, making mistakes and how to live with them. A thoughtful read.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher to read and review. I am also an affiliated member of bookshop.
England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex where she is to photograph the contents of the house for auction.
She learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, and that the lady of the house has asked those who gathered back then to come together once more to recreate the evening.
When a mysterious child appears on the grounds, Louisa finds herself compelled to investigate and becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house. Gradually, she unravels the long-held secrets of the inhabitants and what really happened thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with that of Clewer Hall’s.
Set mainly in 1925, The Clewer family are selling up to raise much needed funds for a move to India. Once a rich family, with the lady of the house once well known for her soirees , which were often featured in the society pages and her husband a collector, they hire a photographer to photograph the house and it’s contents for the sales brochure.
The photographer they choose is Louisa Drew. Having already lost her first husband in the war and her twin boys in the Spanish Flu, Louisa is already experienced in grief. Now married to Edwin and expecting again, the extra income will be much appreciated even though she knows Edwin will disapprove of her working.
However, from her bosses demeaner, Louisa senses there is something uneasy about this offer of employment. Surely her boss wouldn’t give her a commission which would put her in harms way! Louisa wonders what secrets Clewer Hall holds.
This was a really suspenseful, creepy and tension fuelled read. I thought all the characters were well drawn and the sinister Clewer Hall wonderfully described. The two time periods are well portrayed and wonderfully entwined, with the post war loss of loved ones and the gothic, spooky interest of spiritualism of the Victorian era, they made a good combination.
I liked the main character of Louisa her grief and pain, coupled with her determination and want to carry on working after the war are well written and shape her character, making her a fully rounded character to read. The others in the story, with their creepy ways and distance manner add so well to the story. As mentions the hall is wonderfully described and is a big part of the story.
The twists and turns of the mystery of the house keep the story moving along and the chapters taking place in the earlier years slot in neatly and don’t interrupt the flow for the reader.
I enjoy a book when it includes a real life character within it’s fictional tale and the author uses Sir Arthur Conan Doyle here, with his well known interest in spiritualism, but without it being overbearing or taking over the main plot of the book.
An enjoyable read which suited the Halloween weekend well.
The author has also written crime novels under the name of Sarah Ward and I will check these out. There is also an enjoyable interview by Spookfest Gothic Panel over on YouTube with 2 other authors which is worth a watch.
I read my own copy of this book over the Halloween weekend and please note I am an affiliated member of bookshop.org should you click on the above link.
Thanks so much to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for my invite onto the blog tour and to the author for my copy of the book.
Series This series follows amateur sleuths Major Alasdair Charters and the Honourable Melissa Charters as they inadvertently muddle their way through many investigations but always arrive at the truth. Alasdair was blinded in the First World War and uses his special skills to gain ‘insight’ into the crimes. The Honourable Melissa, who likes to think she is a socialist, has a large family and set of friends who always seem to run into problems. The books are set both in England and abroad. Having a husband who is blind, author Vicki Goldie likes to explore perceptions about this disability and push the boundaries.
Book In 1923 flushed with the success of their last sleuthing escapade Major Alasdair Charters, a blind WW1 veteran and former intelligence officer and his aristocratic wife The Honourable Melissa, accept an invitation to a country house party on Somerset Levels in Winter. There they find a dysfunctional family all living in a huge old house on a hill. Overnight the storm brings with it the flood waters and the house becomes surrounded and cut off from the rescue just as a murderer begins to stalk the residents. An exciting murder mystery in the Golden Age tradition. Will our sleuths discover hidden secrets and unmask the murderer before anymore else is killed?
Set in the winter of 1923, this country house mystery features the Honourable Melissa Charters and her husband, a war veteran previously in the Secret Intelligence Service and blinded in active service, Major Charles Charters. They have been invited by Melissa’s friend Davinia Gauntlet to her remote but large house in Somerset. The book opens with a fantastic description of them arriving by train, while a large storm grows outside. Hurried off the train at the station, they must make it to the house before the water levels rise and they are cut off from their destination.
On arrival, along with Thomas their Valet and Sheba, Charles’ guide dog, the reader along with Melissa and Charles are introduced to the household and guests also staying that weekend. (A helpful list is included at the start of the book).
Daviinia has also asked her friend to visit for another reason. In the previous book, Blind Witness, Charles and Melissa become amateur sleuths and solve the murders that take place at Melissa’s aunt and uncle’s house in the New Forest and Davinia wants them to put their skills to use once more and look into the death of her grandmother. However, it’s not long before there is more than one death to contend with and as the moat surrounding the house becomes flooded, they are cut off from the village and a proper locked room, golden age murder mystery begins.
This book is very evocative of it’s setting and everything from the house’s decorations, to clothes worn by Melissa, to food prepared by the chef add greatly to the feel of this novel. With many time specific refences this series of books have been well researched.
The author’s own husband is blind and her personal experience of this is evident in her writing. She uses Charles’ blindness in the novel to great effect by having Melissa explain many things to him, like room layout and silent nods of agreement, thus allowing the reader to learn of these things at exactly the same time and with great detail. The difficulties this causes Charles and also the ways he is learning to overcome them are thoughtfully explained and make him a slightly different kind of fictional detective.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vicki lives in Poole Dorset with her blind physiotherapist husband. She has a lifelong fascination with the Art Deco period and with books of the Golden Age of Crime. This led her to envision a series featuring a blind detective set in the 1920s. Blind Pool is the second in the series. She is a co-pioneer for a reading charity Read Easy Bournemouth and volunteers at The Russell Cotes Museum in Bournemouth. She is currently writing book three in the series Blind Haven set in Bournemouth.
As it’s Halloween soon I thought I would re post my review from last year for #Haverscroft by @salharris1 Great read for this time of year! @saltpublishing #recommendedread
Loved this book! Published last year by Salt Publishing It was a 2019 top ten read for me.
Kate Keeling leaves all she knows and moves to Haverscroft House in an attempt to salvage her marriage. Little does she realise, Haverscroft’s dark secrets will drive her to question her sanity, her husband and fatally engulf her family unless she can stop the past repeating itself. Can Kate keep her children safe and escape Haverscroft in time, even if it will end her marriage?
This story takes elements from the supernatural, thriller, domestic noir, psychological suspense genres and mixes them altogether to give you a great spooky, suspenseful read that I didn’t want to put down. Add a basket full of wonderfully detailed and believable characters, a great story and some brilliant writing and I’ve ended with a top read for this year.
Kate, our main character, and her family have moved from London to a small village in the Suffolk/Essex area of East Anglia. Their new home is to be Haverscroft House, a large old house that appears to hold many secrets. Kate has recently suffered a breakdown and is possibly still suffering from her mental health problems. Kate is clearly not all together that keen on the move and the rest of the family are still tip toeing around her keen not to trigger a worsening in her mental health. There appears to be pressure on the marriage and the fact that Mark, her husband, is still working in London and spends most of the week away isn’t helping the family settle in.
As soon as the book begins the atmosphere surrounding Haverscroft is evident and is wonderfully described by the author. In fact her writing skills, in giving great in depth feeling for the characters in the book, the house and the village dynamics, is so subtle yet full of detail that your ability to become instantly adsorbed in the story is a fantastic part of the book. You could indeed read this all in one go, and if you can, go for it, as it’s full of such suspense and ghostly goings on that it makes a gripping read.
I loved the way that not only is this a great ghost story but so much more besides. The mystery aspect linking the house to the other villagers, the story behind Kate and Marks marriage and the historical story to the house makes for a full and well rounded story. Kate and her mental heath issues have you questioning if she is a reliable narrator, Mark and his evolving attitude towards Kate make you question his behaviour throughout the entire book and the other spooky goings on in the house all add so much.
I decided to save it to read over Halloween and the darker, colder nights were a perfect time to read it! I live very close to the area where Haverscroft is set and was dying to know if Weldon was based on a single particular place! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from Sally.
Thanks so much to the publisher Bluemoose Books for my proof copy of East Coast Road to read and review. I’m wanting to read more books set in East Anglia and along the east coast and this one definitely fitted the bill.
East Coast Road is published November 26th.
As university term gives way to the summer break Jen is plagued by dark memories and the only person there for her is her cousin – a cousin that no one else can see – together they embark on a journey that changes Jen and her world forever. ‘Haunting, shape-shifting and tense, ‘East Coast Road’ takes the reader on a thrilling quest which challenges our preconceptions. Chilvers is a master storyteller and she guides us through the complexities of devotion, faith, tenderness, grief and desire, all set against the rugged coastal edges of north east England.’ – HELEN MORT
I’ve been looking for more books to read which are set on the east coast of England, so when I saw Bluemoose Books posting about this forthcoming release, it sounded just the kind of read I was looking for. I guess the clue was in the title!
I’d not read any of this author’s work before so didn’t know what to expect in writing style or story line, however the synopsis sounding intriguing, so I was looking forward to giving it a try.
Well, I’m so glad I did! What an interesting and absorbing read. Different to anything I’ve read recently this was a marvellous mix of different elements from the supernatural ,to historical influences, to physiological drama. Full of subtle but oh so effective descriptive narrative and a storyline that had me questioning, at times, what on earth was going on! (in a good way). I really felt I was on a truly unpredictable quest up and down the east coast.
We meet young Jen who is from Ely in Cambridgeshire and studying at York University. She has parents back in Ely, a brother called Danny, plus her friend Rebecca and a new boyfriend Finn at uni. She loves to read and wonderfully intertwined into the narratives are books/stories that Jen has read or reading now.
Jen likes to visit the Cathedrals and churches at both Ely and York and early on in the book we hear of her visiting the statue of St Etheldreda. In 657AD St. Etheldreda, a princess of Anglia and Queen of Northumbria, fled from St Abbs in Scotland to Ely Catherdral in Cambridgeshire, a journey of around 500 miles. In 2015, funded by the Arts Council, the author followed in her footsteps and walked the same distance in five stages, as research for East Coast Road, and it is this story that the author wonderfully blends into the storyline.
Jen comes across as a slightly delicate individual at the beginning of the book and there is a sense that something bad has occurred in her recent past. It is through the people she meets during the summer vacation and the journey she takes, that we learn more about her and her family. The countryside and coast from Scotland, all the way down to Ely, are wonderfully evoked as to are the brilliant cast of characters that we meet along the way. It’s a slightly difficult novel to review, not only because it’s mix of genre, but also because this book plays wonderful ‘tricks’ with the reader and to know more of the plot would destroy this for anyone yet to have read it.
For me the novel had a wonderful dream like and atmospheric feel to it. Characters from past and present mingle together in what turns out to be a really powerful and emotive read written in a very original way.
I’m a huge fan of William Boyd’s books, so when I learnt that there was a new one coming out, I quickly pre-ordered it and eagerly anticipated it’s arrival.
William Boyd writes quite varied books in terms of time, setting and storyline. One of the things I love about them. This one is a fairly recent time setting as it’s set in the year 1968 and is based around three characters, who are all linked in some way, to the filming of a movie in Brighton on the south coast.
Most people live their real, most interesting life under the cover of secrecy. Anton Chekhov
A producer. A novelist. An actress.
It is summer in 1968, the year of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. There are riots in Paris and the Vietnam War is out of control. While the world is reeling our three characters are involved in making a Swingin’ Sixties movie in sunny Brighton.
All are leading secret lives. Elfrida is drowning her writer’s block in vodka; Talbot, coping with the daily dysfunction of making a film, is hiding something in a secret apartment; and the glamorous Anny is wondering why the CIA is suddenly so interested in her.
But the show must go on and, as it does, the trio’s private worlds begin to take over their public ones. Pressures build inexorably – someone’s going to crack. Or maybe they all will.
From one of Britain’s best loved writers comes an exhilarating, tender novel that asks the vital questions: what makes life worth living? And what do you do if you find it isn’t?
Summer 1968 and we are in Brighton, along with the three main characters Talbot, Anny and Elfrida who make up the trio of the book. Filming is taking place for the ridiculously titled Emily Bracegirdle’s Extremely Useful Ladder to the Moon and as we follow them around during the days of filming, we learn of their ‘inner selves’ and their ‘real’ lives.
Talbot Kydd. Film Producer, Ex military, married with a grown up son but hiding his sexuality.
Anny Vikland. American Film actress, a young, rising star who’s ex husband, a freedom fighter, is currently being chased by the FBI. She seeks love from all the wrong kind of men and calm from a bottle of Equanil.
Elfrida Wing. Wife of the film’s director Reggie. An author, once hailed as the next Virginia Wolf who’s only thing she has written in the last 10 years is a long list of titles for books she could have written if she wasn’t suffering from writer’s block and an addiction to alcohol.
With the backdrop of Paris riots, the Vietnam War and a changing world we follow these characters outside the safe but stressful day to day goings on of the film industry and wait to see if and how they will survive.
I found this an enjoyable read, with some lovely comic touches and subtle but effective nods to the era in question. Not as in depth perhaps as many of his other novels, I still found myself immersed in the story and with many of the characters vivid to me from the very beginning. I particularly liked the character of Elfrida, with her comic touches and her plain talking. Clearly ill and with an addiction to alcohol I couldn’t help but feel for her and loved her ‘bottle of Sarsons’.
I loved reading of the background goings on to the making of the film and the problematic situations that arise which Talbot then has to deal with.
Lately when I’ve read novels where the stories of different characters are told, it ends with them being drawn together at the end with their connection becoming known. Here however, their connection is at the start of the book, with the filming of the movie, and as we read along and learn about their personal lives, we see them diverge and watch as their stories take on very different paths. For me, this gave the book a feel of three separate short stories, all interesting but with a feel very much of their own. Yet another different style from this talented author.
I have found a number of interviews online to promote the book, Daunt books and one with the fabulous Tamsin Greig, which are very insightful and I would recommend. I felt watching these and learning of the authors inspiration for the novel gave me a better understand for the book.
The book also features on the next Sky Arts Book Club over on Facebook so will definitely give that a watch.
One summer’s evening, two men meet up in a Dublin restaurant.
Old friends, now married and with grown-up children, their lives have taken seemingly similar paths. But Joe has a secret he has to tell Davy, and Davy, a grief he wants to keep from Joe. Both are not the men they used to be.
Neither Davy nor Joe know what the night has in store, but as two pints turns to three, then five, and the men set out to revisit the haunts of their youth, the ghosts of Dublin entwine around them. Their first buoyant forays into adulthood, the pubs, the parties, broken hearts and bungled affairs, as well as the memories of what eventually drove them apart.
As the two friends try to reconcile their versions of the past over the course of one night, Love offers up a delightfully comic, yet moving portrait of the many forms love can take throughout our lives.
Roddy Doyle’s Love is about just that. The word in the title.
Davy is back in Dublin having moved to London when he married. He and Joe, a friend from his youth, meet up as they’ve clearly done through the years. Time has estranged them; they have a superficial understanding of each others lives and now find themselves approaching sixty with grown families. It seems they meet up out of politeness, the friendship apparently running on empty, Davy suggests this will be the last time he’ll come to back to Dublin, to meet Joe. This time though, as the story emerges, they both have secrets they’ll share. It all starts when they agree to have “one more” which leads them on an odyssey through their youth.
The book is written in Doyle’s usual style, it’s almost entirely dialogue between the two men with Davy filling in some details as the narrator, offering some context of their relationship as they move from dinner to a crawl through Dublin’s pubs. It moves along at a fair pace and twists and turns.
There are regular humour and laughs, and plenty of the local vernacular, but this is a serious story of how men become friends and why those friendships endure, it deals with the often different viewpoints two people can have of the same memory and the difference in perception of where power lies in all relationships.
The dialogue is authentic and conforms to the adage that men struggle to talk about their feelings, Joe spends most of the book trying to explain why he’s left his wife, the cause coming from the glory days of Davy and Joe’s almost forgotten youth, while frustrating Davy with his inaccurate and often confused words and half-hearted justifications.
The story winds along as they move from pub to pub, the two drifting together and apart, but never far apart to call it a night. We spend most of the book exploring Joe’s story but it’s when Davy’s reasons for being in Dublin come out that the bonds formed so long ago, around special places and special people, that the book finally settles on the meaning of the word in the title.
Another good read from this best selling author.
Thank you to the publisher for my advanced copy via Netgalley. Love was released October 15th 2020.