Guest Review: Coming Home to Island House – Erica James

Coming Home to Island House

 

Coming Home to Island House

Erica James

Orion

ISBN: 9781409159605

Description:

The captivating new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Erica James.

It’s the summer of 1939, and after touring an unsettled Europe to promote her latest book, Romily Temple returns home to Island House and the love of her life, the charismatic Jack Devereux.

But when Jack falls ill, his estranged family are called home and given seven days to find a way to bury their resentments and come together.

With war now declared, each member of the family is reluctantly forced to accept their new stepmother and confront their own shortcomings. But can the habits of a lifetime be changed in one week? And can Romily, a woman who thrives on adventure, cope with the life that has been so unexpectedly thrust upon her?

 

Brenda’s Review:

Romily Temple returned home to Island House after her tour of Europe, where she was promoting her latest crime novel, to discover her new husband and greatest love, Jack Devereux, gravely ill. Jack’s best friend, lawyer Roddy Fitzwilliam was tasked with sending messages to Jack’s estranged family, calling them home, where Jack hoped to make amends for his mistakes of the past.

The necessity was that siblings Hope, Kit and Arthur, plus their cousin Allegra, were to spend a week together at Island House, getting to know one another once again, and to forgive the issues that had driven them all apart those many years ago. Could they do it? There would be a lot of adjusting to be done, and with war imminent, change was happening…

Romily was an adventurous spirit; probably one of the reasons Jack had fallen in love with her – but was she up to the sudden change in her life?

Beautifully written historical drama, Coming Home to Island House is my first by author Erica James, and won’t be my last! Set between August 1939 and December 1940, WWII impacted heavily on the characters, as well as past grievances, forgiveness and love. I was completely enthralled by this novel, which was both heartbreaking and heartwarming and I have no hesitation in recommending this 5 star read highly. I’d like to thank Maggie for the recommendation as well 🙂

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read and review.

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Guest Review: The Paris Seamstress – Natasha Lester

The Paris Seamstress

The Paris Seamstress

Natasha Lester

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9781760293963

Description:

How much will a young Parisian seamstress sacrifice to make her mark in the male-dominated world of 1940s New York fashion? From the bestselling author of A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD and HER MOTHER’S SECRET

1940. Parisian seamstress Estella Bissette is forced to flee France as the Germans advance. She is bound for Manhattan with a few francs, one suitcase, her sewing machine and a dream: to have her own atelier.

2015. Australian curator Fabienne Bissette journeys to the annual Met Gala for an exhibition of her beloved grandmother’s work – one of the world’s leading designers of ready-to-wear. But as Fabienne learns more about her grandmother’s past, she uncovers a story of tragedy, heartbreak and secrets – and the sacrifices made for love.

Crossing generations, society’s boundaries and international turmoil, THE PARIS SEAMSTRESS is the beguiling, transporting story of the special relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter as they attempt to heal the heartache of the past.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Estella Bissette was a seamstress, working with her mother at the atelier in Paris. It was all she had known, having grown up with a needle in her hand and her mother’s fashion by her side. But Germany’s approach on France in 1940 saw Estella flee the only home she’d known, heading to Manhattan on the SS Washington – the last American ship to leave French waters.

When Fabienne Bissette arrived in Manhattan from Sydney for the Gala of her grandmother, Estella’s work in 2015, she was once again shocked at how her grandmother had aged. Ninety-seven years of age, she was frail – but her strength of mind and love for her granddaughter shone through.

But the recent death of her father had made Fabienne realise there were things she didn’t know about her family history – about her grandmother’s past. Would Estella explain it all to Fabienne? Or was it destined to remain in the past?

The Paris Seamstress by Aussie author Natasha Lester is, in my humble opinion, this author’s best novel to date. Based on fact (some of the characters existed, as do the buildings, some of which are central to the story); I feel at a loss to voice my thoughts…

‘When you awaken in the morning’s hush I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die.’

What can I say? This is a deeply emotional book which is heartbreaking, while being filled with courage and love; of secrets that were necessary during the German occupation of France – I don’t think I have ever read a book so profound and which made me feel so much. An outstanding novel which just makes me say to the author – Bravo! A 5 star recommendation.

With grateful thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read and review.

Post Script: The Three of Us – Kim Lock

The Three of Us

The Three of Us

Kim Lock

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISABN: 9781743538647

 

Description:

A life lived in the shadows. A love that should never have been hidden.

 

In the small town of Gawler, South Australia, the tang of cut grass and eucalyptus mingles on the warm air. The neat houses perched under the big gum trees on Church Street have been home to many over the years. Years of sprinklers stuttering over clipped lawns, children playing behind low brick walls. Family barbecues. Gossipy neighbours. Arguments. Accidents. Births, deaths, marriages. This ordinary street has seen it all.

 

Until the arrival of newlyweds Thomas and Elsie Mullet. And when one day Elsie spies a face in the window of the silent house next door, nothing will ever be ordinary again…

 

In Kim Lock’s third novel of what really goes on behind closed doors, she weaves the tale of three people with one big secret; a story of fifty years of friendship, betrayal, loss and laughter in a heart-warming depiction of love against the odds.

 

“With great care and compassion for the lives and losses of human beings, Kim Lock artfully weaves a moving and surprising story of the simple complexity of relationships and how they shape us” Sophie Green, author of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.

 

 

My View:

Subtle, gentle and topical, this book has something to offer all discerning readers. It is a powerful love story, an optimistic read. It is also a historical novel, an Australian study of domestic life in the conservative suburbs in the 1960’s; a time that saw the middle class boom and the slow beginnings of the equal rights movement for women. Fifty years on and the author reminds us that there are still some barriers that need to be broken.

 

Kim Lock has cannily crafted a narrative that subtly exposes our prejudices and highlights some of the historical social injustices that have impacted and influenced Australian society.

 

This book has all the emotions though is not in any way melodramatic, subtleness is its strength.

 

Thought provoking scenarios and engaging, realistic characters dictate that this is a novel that will be revered, enjoyed and cherished.

 

 

Guest Review – Wolfsangel – Liza Perrat

 

Wolfsangel

Wolfsangel

Liza Perrat

Perrat Publishing

ISBN: 9782954168128

Description:

Seven decades after German troops march into her village, Céleste Roussel is still unable to assuage her guilt.

  1. German soldiers occupy provincial Lucie-sur-Vionne, and as the villagers pursue treacherous schemes to deceive and swindle the enemy, Céleste embarks on her own perilous mission as her passion for a Reich officer flourishes.

When her loved ones are deported to concentration camps, Céleste is drawn into the vortex of this monumental conflict, and the adventure and danger of French Resistance collaboration.

As she confronts the harrowing truths of the Second World War’s darkest years, Céleste is forced to choose: pursue her love for the German officer, or answer General de Gaulle’s call to fight for France.

Her fate suspended on the fraying thread of her will, Celeste gains strength from the angel talisman bequeathed to her through her lineage of healer kinswomen. But the decision she makes will shadow the remainder of her days.

A woman’s unforgettable journey to help liberate Occupied France, Wolfsangel is a stirring portrayal of the courage and resilience of the human mind, body and spirit.

 

Brenda’s Review:

The happiness that Céleste Roussel had taken for granted with her family on their farm had disappeared with the occupation of their small village of Lucie-sur-Vionne by German soldiers. Her father had been taken to a labour camp early in the occupation, so running the farm was left to Céleste, her mother and brother Patrick. He and his best friend Olivier quickly became part of the French Resistance, doing all they could to drive the Boche from their lives.

Céleste soon took the eye of a certain German officer, and found her feelings reciprocated. She knew it was wrong – the hatred felt toward the Boche was in them all. Her determination to assist the Resistance saw her embark on dangerous missions; all the while keeping her secret life hidden from all but a few. But the arrest and deportation of family members was the beginning of the end. Would the angel talisman which had been with generations of her family’s women, and now belonged to Céleste keep her safe? Would she ever see her family again?

Wolfsangel by Aussie author Liza Perrat is absolutely outstanding! The second in the Bone Angel series, nevertheless it can be read as a standalone. The Author’s Note at the end of the book was extremely interesting and shows, though it is complete fiction, Wolfsangel is based on a factual event which occurred on 10th June 1944. I didn’t think I could hear of more shocking atrocities committed by the Germans in WWII, but it seems I now have! Brilliantly written, and highly recommended. A 5 star read which will be in my top reads for 2018.

Guest Review: The Last Train – Sue Lawrence

The Last Train

The Last Train

Sue Lawrence

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760630867

 

Description:

At 7 p.m. on 28 December 1879, a violent storm batters the newly built iron rail bridge across the River Tay, close to the city of Dundee. Ann Craig is waiting for her husband, the owner of the largest local mill, to return home. From her window Ann sees a strange and terrible sight as the bridge collapses, and the lights of the train in which he is travelling plough down into the freezing river waters.

As Ann manages the grief and expectations of family and friends, amid a town mourning its loved ones, doubt is cast on whether Robert was on the train, after all. If not, where is he, and who is the mysterious woman who is first to be washed ashore?

In 2015, Fiona Craig wakes to find that her partner Pete, an Australian restaurateur, has cleared the couple’s bank account before abandoning his car at the local airport and disappearing. When the police discover his car is stolen, Fiona conducts her own investigation into Pete’s background, slowly uncovering dark secrets and strange parallels with the events of 1879.

 

Brenda’s Review:

What an outstanding opening! Ann Craig and her two children, Lizzie and James, were watching the storm through the window of their home in Dundee. They were also watching for husband and father, Robert Craig’s train to arrive – due at 7pm it would travel over the River Tay on the newly built rail bridge. The storm was a vicious, violent one – the lights of the train showed its imminent arrival, when suddenly those lights dipped and vanished as the bridge collapsed…

28th December 1879 was the night of the disaster on the River Tay, when many lives were lost. Ann and her children were steeped in grief, along with the whole town – trying to come to terms with the enormity of the catastrophe encompassed them all.

2015 and Fiona Craig was shocked to discover her partner of three years had disappeared; clearing out her savings account and abandoning his car at the airport. Pete was an Australian restaurateur and it seemed the upcoming review of his restaurant had spooked him. But why? Fiona had no idea – and her son Jamie was devastated by Pete’s disappearance.

As Fiona searched for answers about Pete, she also began an investigation into the accident over the River Tay all those years before. Her interest was initially for her job but gradually she was immersed in the past. What was the connection to her family? It seemed there were secrets everywhere…

The Last Train by Sue Lawrence is an excellent read! I thoroughly enjoyed it – set in two-time frames and told by Ann in 1879 and Fiona in 2015, I was totally engrossed. Subterfuge, intrigue, mystery and deceit – all rippled through The Last Train. Ann wasn’t a nice person! But she loved her children 😊 Highly recommended – a 5 star read.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my hardcopy to read and review.

Post Script: Her – Garry Disher

Her

Her

Garry Disher

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733638541

 

Description:

Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by . . .

 

Her name is scarcely known or remembered. All in all, she is worth less than the nine shillings and sixpence counted into her father’s hand. She bides her time. She does her work.

 

Way back in the corner of her mind is a thought she is almost too frightened to shine a light on: one day she will run away.

 

A dark and unsettling tale from the turn of the twentieth century by a master of Australian literature.

 

 

My View:

This is a very quick, very dark, very disturbing read, written with skill and flair. Underpinning the bleak narrative are themes of resilience, the importance of family – in its varied forms, of solidarity and of the female bonds that sustain life and offer hope in desperate situations.

 

Disher skilfully captures the essence of the times and the Australian locations succinctly – early 1900’s, rural backdrops, you can hear those banjos strumming “Deliverance” style in your head as you turn the pages, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uzae_SqbmDE  the poverty, the gloom, the desperation, the harsh conditions; the landscape ruling with a mean and spiteful fist, its fingers tightly clamped, strangling hope.

 

This is not what I would call an enjoyable read. This is however a remarkable, memorable, poignant and haunting read that I dare you to forget.

 

Guest Review : Her – Garry Disher

Her

Her

Garry Disher

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733638541

 

Description:

Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by . . .

Her name is scarcely known or remembered. All in all, she is worth less than the nine shillings and sixpence counted into her father’s hand. She bides her time. She does her work.

Way back in the corner of her mind is a thought she is almost too frightened to shine a light on: one day she will run away.

A dark and unsettling tale from the turn of the twentieth century by a master of Australian literature.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Three years old she was when the scrap man came and paid her father nine shillings and sixpence. She was chosen over the rest of her siblings; suddenly she belonged to the scrap man while memories of her family faded. Living in a dilapidated jumble of belongings, her name was You; there was Wife and Big Girl – all cowered when the scrap man was angry.

Seasonally the horse was harnessed to the cart and they ventured out to sell, buy, steal and trick – meandering across the countryside, remembering where not to go if they’d been shunted away last time. Whenever there was a pub nearby the scrap man drank their measly pennies until there wasn’t enough for food. Then he would fly into a rage and beat Wife.

Back at home Wife, Big Girl and You spent their time making things from scrap metal for their next trip through the countryside; while the scrap man drank and womanised. What would happen to the little family? Would You be able to escape? He’d always threatened to kill her if she tried…

Her by Aussie author Garry Disher is set in the bush near Bendigo in Victoria at the turn of the century and is a tale of utter despair, bitterness and how the nameless young women coped at the hands of one unscrupulous and evil man. This is completely different to anything the author has written before, and in my opinion he’s nailed it. A master at his craft, Garry Disher certainly knows how to weave a tale, and Her will stay with me for a long time. A highly recommended 5 star read.