A Week in Paris – Rachel Hore

Historical Fiction 4*'s

Historical Fiction
4*’s

Rachel Hore has produced another complex and historically accurate tale set in the iconic capital city of France where just the mention of the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile gives the readers a visual hook for the rest of this turbulent tale of a young woman facing seemingly insurmountable situations purely by virtue of the time and place she is living in.

Fay is an accomplished violinist who first travels to Paris during her teens and despite her mother, Kitty’s reservations, she relents and lets her daughter go. While there Fay has a frightening incidence of deja vue which disturbs her because she knows she has never visited France before.

Years later her mother’s sadness over the death of Fay’s father at times appear to overwhelm her and this is only compounded now that Fay has left home and is on the verge of travelling to Paris once again, this time as a second violinist in an orchestra for a week long event. With her early life shrouded in mystery Fay is shocked when she is given the task of visiting the convent where her mother had stayed when she was a pupil at the conservatoire in Paris and she seizes the opportunity to find out more about her mother and her own childhood.

With most of the story set in Paris, in 1961 and earlier during World War II Rachel Hore has written an intertwined tale, Fay’s ‘present’ is narrated by herself as she begins to trace her mother’s footsteps while Kitty’s story is told mainly through the eyes of an old friend Nathalie which brings to life the reality of living in Paris during the troubled years of the war years.

I really enjoyed Kitty’s story, it was easy to lose myself in this part of the story and believe the events as they were described my only criticism was that this central story didn’t start until quite a way through the book but once it began I almost resented returning to Fay’s present day story. In addition to the fascinating story of Kitty’s life there is an element of romance told in keeping with the time period the women live in. The theme of friendship is strong in Kitty’s story with the need to know who could be trusted imperative when living under the rule of the Germans but for friendship is on the periphery of her story as she begins to uncover the truth about her early life which is very different to the story she has been told by her mother, it is up to the reader to judge if this was the right decision to make.

I love historical fiction particularly those stories where the past has an impact on later generations but only when they are researched and written in a believable way; Rachel Hore achieves this and at the same time bought to life a time and place that is far removed from my own. I admired the young Kitty and by the end of the book understood why when we first meet her she is in hospital following a ‘nervous breakdown.’ Fay was a more elusive character and as is often the case in these dual time-line stories, had the lesser storyline although the story in the past became her story too. I would recommend this book to lovers of well-written historical fiction.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Simon & Schuster UK for allowing me to read this book in return for my honest review. A Week in Paris will be published on 9 October 2014 perfectly timed for reading while wrapped up in the warm as the nights draw in.

Over the years I have read and enjoyed each one Rachel Hore’s previous books and if you look closely at the header of this blog you will see some of the copies sat upon my bookshelf – my favourite is The Glass Painters Daughter, a book that I still remember in detail despite last reading it quite a few years ago.

Previous books by Rachel Hore

The Dream House
Kate stumbles upon the house of her dreams, a beautiful place, full of memories, it is tantalizingly out of her reach. Its owner is the frail elderly Agnes, whose story – as it unravels – echoes so much of Kate’s own. And Kate comes to realize how uncertain and unsettling even a life built on dreams can be – wherever you are, at whatever time you are living and whoever you are with.

The Memory Garden

When Patrick finds some old paintings in an attic,he and Mel investigate the identity of the artist, they are drawn into an extraordinary tale of illicit passion and thwarted ambition from a century ago, a tale that resonates in their own lives. But how long can Mel’s idyll last before reality breaks in and everything is threatened?

The Glass Painter’s Daughter

Zac accept a beguiling commission – to restore a shattered glass picture of an exquisite angel belonging to a local church. As they reassemble the dazzling shards of coloured glass, they uncover an extraordinary love story from the Victorian past, sparked by the window’s creation. Slowly, Fran begins to see her own reflection in its themes of passion, tragedy and redemption. Fran’s journey will lead her on a search for the truth about her mother, through mysteries of past times and the anguish of unrequited love, to reconciliation and renewal.

A Place of Secrets

As Jude untangles Wickham’s tragic story, she discovers threatening links to the present. What have Summer’s nightmares to do with Starbrough folly, the eerie crumbling tower in the forest from which Wickham and his adopted daughter Esther once viewed the night sky? With the help of Euan, a local naturalist, Jude searches for answers in the wild, haunting splendour of the Norfolk woods. Dare she leave behind the sadness in her own life, and learn to love again?

A Gathering Storm
Beatrice’s story is a powerful tale of courage and betrayal, spanning from Cornwall to London, and Occupied France, in which friendship and love are tested, and the ramifications reach down the generations.
And, as Lucy listens to the tales of the past, she learns a secret that will change everything she has ever known…


The Silent Tide


When Emily Gordon, editor at a London publishing house, commissions an account of great English novelist Hugh Morton, she finds herself steering a tricky path between Morton’s formidable widow, Jacqueline, who’s determined to protect his secrets, and the biographer, charming and ambitious Joel Richards. But someone is sending Emily mysterious missives about Hugh Morton’s past and she discovers a buried story that simply has to be told

2 Comments

Filed under Books I have read

WWW Wednesday (October 1)

WWW Wednesday green

Hosted by Miz B at Should be Reading

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading, and thoroughly absorbed by A Week in Paris by Rachel Hore, a dual time-line novel

A Week in Paris

Blurb

The streets of Paris hide a dark past…
September, 1937. Kitty Travers enrols at the Conservatoire on the banks of the Seine to pursue her dream of becoming a concert pianist. But then war breaks out and the city of light falls into shadow.
Nearly twenty-five years later, Fay Knox, a talented young violinist, visits Paris on tour with her orchestra. She barely knows the city, so why does it feel so familiar? Soon touches of memory become something stronger, and she realises her connection with these streets runs deeper than she ever expected.
As Fay traces the past, with only an address in an old rucksack to help her, she discovers dark secrets hidden years ago, secrets that cause her to question who she is and where she belongs…
A compelling story of war, secrets, family and enduring love. Amazon

Revealing a totally different set of secrets was my recent read, This Little Piggy by Bea Davenport. This crime novel from written from the point of view of a local journalist during the miner’s strike in 1984.
Click on the book cover to read my review

This Little Piggy

Next I am going to read Hide and Seek by Amy Bird which has been published in three parts, the first being free on kindle.

Hide and Seek

Blurb

Nobody’s life is ever perfect. Families tell lies. People keep secrets. But the life which Will and Ellie Spears have built together is as perfect as it’s possible to be.
Until one day something is let slip. A discovery is made. And all of a sudden Ellie and Will’s life falls down, as acceptance gives way to an obsessive search for answers. Families tell lies. People keep secrets. But sometimes the truth is much more dangerous. NetGalley

What are you reading this week? Please share in the comments below.

12 Comments

Filed under Weekly Posts

Teaser Tuesday (September 30)

Kindle,jpg

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from A Week In Paris by Rachel Hore

A Week in Paris

Blurb

1961: Born on the day that WW2 broke out, 21-year-old Fay Knox cannot remember her early childhood in London, before she moved to a Norfolk village with her mother, Kitty. Though she has seen a photograph of her father, she does not recall him either. He died, she was told, in an air raid, and their house destroyed along with all their possessions. Why then, on a visit to Paris on tour with her orchestra, does a strange series of events suggest that she spent the war there instead? There is only one clue to follow, an address on the luggage label of an old canvas satchel. But will the truth hurt or heal?
1937: Eugene Knox, a young American doctor, catches sight of 19-year-old Kitty Travers on the day she arrives in Paris, and cannot get her out of his mind. She has come to study the piano at the famed Conservatoire, and lodges at a convent near Notre Dame. Eugene and Kitty will fall in love, marry and have a daughter, but France’s humiliating defeat by Germany is not far behind, and the little family must suffer life under Nazi occupation. Some Parisians keep their heads down and survive, others collaborate with the enemy while others resist. The different actions of Eugene, Kitty and their friends will have devastating consequences that echo down the generations. NetGalley

My Teaser

Everything rang true. But if Mme Ramond was telling the truth, that made her mother dishonest and she didn’t like to think about that. And yet… if her mother was hiding secrets maybe it was for a good reason.
‘I do trust you, yes,’ she said simply.

 PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!

38 Comments

Filed under Weekly Posts

This Little Piggy – Bea Davenport

Crime Fiction 4*'s

Crime Fiction
4*’s

This is the second book I’ve read this year that is set during the miner’s strike in 1984, the first being Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas and it is odd to think that this is the first big news story that I was really aware of as a teenager and it is now history!

In This Little Piggy the backdrop of the miner’s strike is ever-present on the Sweetmeadows Estate where many of the men are striking miners, and those that have broken the strike are derided in public and hounded in private. The police are wary of the residents for this very reason but they have no choice but to become involved when baby James is found dead near the bins but they struggle to find a motive let alone a suspect for the killing of a baby.

Claire Jackson is a reporter on the local paper and having lost out on the chief reporter’s job has recently been assigned to the outlying district covering Sweetmeadows estate and colliery and she is quickly outperforming her colleagues ringing in copy from telephone boxes as the stories keep tumbling out. During her time getting to know the residents in a bid to get the next story she comes across nine year old Amy who has an interesting story to tell about the day of the murder. Claire soon becomes worried about Amy whose mother is seemingly absent for much of the time and with Amy having ambitions to be a reporter she soon takes far more responsibility for her than she should or is wise.

I liked Claire despite wincing at some of the choices she makes along the way and her sidekick Joe was on of a selection of strong secondary characters in this book. The plotting was good with a number of elements woven throughout the hunt for the murderer which never strayed far from the time the book was set in. Bea Davenport managed to set the time period very well without overburdening us with a multitude of references, those that were included were well-placed and felt natural. I did guess what had happened although I had doubts whether my hunch was correct until we were almost upon the denouement of this particular drama.

On the whole this was a very believable if somewhat unexpectedly creepy read with the story told entirely from Claire’s journalistic perspective which included her back story as well as the ongoing dramas at the newspaper. This made a refreshing change from the detective’s viewpoint which gives the reader a chance to see and hear far more from those who are on the periphery of the investigation, although nonetheless effected by it, than is usual.

I have a copy of Bea Davenport’s novel In Too Deep on my kindle and I won’t be waiting too long to read this one now.

I’d like to thank the publishers Legend Press for allowing me to read this book in return for my honest review. This Little Piggy will be published on 1 October 2014

15 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon – Linda Newbery

Contemporary Fiction 4*'s

Contemporary Fiction
4*’s

I have to admit I was drawn to this book by the beautiful cover and the intriguing title and these window dressings weren’t false advertising; this well-written novel is told in a narrative that goes backwards and forwards over time slowly revealing an astonishing array of secrets and lies that span decades.

Thirteen year old Anna left her sister, Rose, who she was in awe of to go out because she was bored. It was a Wednesday afternoon in the summer holiday and when she returned eighteen year old Rose had gone, left without a trace leaving Anna with the image of how she had left her reading under a pear tree. The weaving narrative uncovers the truths, half-truths and outright lies that underpin this family, remarkable for their normality, as they struggle to cope with her disappearance. Not knowing what happened to Rose has changed them all and twenty years on, Anna who is trying to live up to her idolisation of Rose decides to track some of her friends in an attempt to find out what happened.

The narrative starts with Anna but it also picks up her mother, Sandra’s story, from the sixties giving this book an unexpected twist with parallels between the two tales that twist around each other revealing another piece of information which adds more detail to the picture being painted. For me the details, were incredibly visual, the writing easy to lose yourself in as the revelations tumbled out the reader understands more about the complexities of the family bonds but gently done so that I didn’t feel that the sheer quantity of issues seemed unrealistic.

This was an absorbing read, which delivers far more than the blurb may suggest with some powerful insights into the bonds that both hold families together and those that can cast members adrift. The wide range of time periods covered were exceptionally well handled with the changes in society clear without the author feeling the need to ‘over-explain’ the details. This is the kind of read I enjoy, one where the author has confidence in the reader to exercise their own reasoning to understand the actions of their characters. The visual characteristic of the book was underpinned by the artistic endeavours of both Rose and Anna, with the heart-breaking description of Anna’s A Level composition of missing people almost undoing me as a symbol of her yearning for her sister’s return.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Doubleday for allowing me to read this book in return for my honest review A Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon was published on 14 August 2014 in the UK although it is available on kindle in the US too.

19 Comments

Filed under Books I have read

Friday Finds (September 26)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS

Despite life being extremely hectic over the last couple of weeks I have still managed to acquire a few more good looking reads!

From NetGalley I have a copy of Hide and Seek by Amy Bird

Hide and Seek

Blurb

Nobody’s life is ever perfect. Families tell lies. People keep secrets. But the life which Will and Ellie Spears have built together is as perfect as it’s possible to be.
Until one day something is let slip. A discovery is made. And all of a sudden Ellie and Will’s life falls down, as acceptance gives way to an obsessive search for answers. Families tell lies. People keep secrets. But sometimes the truth is much more dangerous. NetGalley

I was kindly given a copy of Murder She Floats by Stephen Kaminski after I read and reviewed Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk by the same author.

Murder She Floats

Blurb

A suicide note found in a locked room. A shard of glass buried in a scoop of whipped potatoes. A pickle jar filled with poisonous spiders. Precious jewels yanked off of a woman’s neck but left at her feet. It’s just a week in the life of Damon Lassard when he boards The Vitamin of the Seas with his charismatic mother for a ‘relaxing’ Caribbean cruise.
After Damon’s acerbic dining companion is found floating alongside the ship and local police rule the death a suicide, the loveable amateur sleuth is left to find the killer himself. He encounters seductive sirens, cunning con artists, and fascinating family members en route to solving not only the murder but a handful of clever capers as well. Goodreads

and I also successfully begged for a copy of Good Girls Don’t Die by Isabelle Grey after enjoying both the author’s previous books Out of Sight and The Bad Mother.
Good Girls Don't Die

Blurb

You’d know if someone close to you was capable of lethal violence, right?
Dead wrong.
Accused of grassing up a fellow officer and driven brutally out of home and job, Grace Fisher is thankful to survive some dark times and find haven with the Major Investigation Team in Essex.
One female student is missing, last seen at a popular bar in Colchester. When a second student, also out drinking, is murdered and left grotesquely posed, the case becomes headline news.
Someone is leaking disturbing details to a tabloid crime reporter. Is it the killer? Or a detective close to the case?
With another victim, and under siege by the media, the murder enquiry hits a dead end. The review team brought in to shake things up is headed by Grace’s old DCI. Who is going to listen to her now. Goodreads

Finally after reading several good reviews of the Amy Lane Mysteries I bagged myself a bargain kindle copy of the first in the series, Binary Witness by Rosie Claverton

Binary Witness
Blurb

Police detectives rely on Amy Lane to track the digital debris of their most elusive criminals—when she’s not in the throes of a panic attack. After two students disappear in Cardiff, Amy uncovers photographic evidence that they’ve been murdered. From the safety of her computer, she looks through the city’s digital eyes to trace the steps of a killer.
Amy’s investigation requires footwork, however, and the agoraphobic genius can’t hack it alone. She turns to her newly-hired cleaner, ex-con Jason Carr. Jason is fascinated by both Amy and the work, and can’t refuse even when she sends him into situations that risk returning him to prison.
The killer strikes again and again, and Amy and Jason are the only investigators closing in on him. But Amy’s psyche is cracking under the strain, and Jason’s past is catching up with him. To stop the next murder, they must hold their unconventional partnership together at any cost. Amazon

What have you found to read this week?

24 Comments

Filed under Weekly Posts

WWW Wednesday (September 24)

WWW Wednesday green

Hosted by Miz B at Should be Reading

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon by Linda Newbery which is proving to be an absorbing read.

Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon

Blurb

It was the day when everything stopped.
At quarter past two on a hot afternoon in August, Anna’s beautiful, headstrong elder sister Rose disappears.
Twenty years later, Anna still doesn’t know whether Rose is alive or dead. In her early thirties now, she sees her future unfolding – with sensible, serious Martin and a grown-up, steady job – and finds herself wondering if this is what she really wants.
Unable to take control of her life while the mystery of her sister’s disappearance remains unsolved, Anna begins to search for the truth: what did happen to Rose that summer’s day? Amazon

I recently finished Murder on the Orient Express by the wonderful Agatha Christie
Click on the cover to read my review

Murder on the Orient Express

Next I am going to read This Little Piggy by Bea Davenport

This Little Piggy

Blurb

It’€™s the summer of 1984 and there is a sense of unease on the troubled Sweetmeadows estate. The residents are in shock after the suspicious death of a baby and tension is growing due to the ongoing miners’€™ strike. Journalist Clare Jackson follows the story as police bungle the inquiry and struggle to contain the escalating violence. Haunted by a personal trauma she can’t face up to, Clare is shadowed by nine-year-old Amy, a bright but neglected little girl who seems to know more about the incident than she’€™s letting on. As the days go on and the killer is not found, Clare ignores warnings not to get too close to her stories and, in doing so, puts her own life in jeopardy. NetGalley

What are you reading this week?

24 Comments

Filed under Weekly Posts

Teaser Tuesday (September 23)

 

Tuesday Teaser

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

My teaser this week is from Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon by Linda Newbery

Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon

Blurb

It was the day when everything stopped…
At quarter past two on a hot afternoon in August, Anna’s beautiful, headstrong elder sister Rose disappears.
Twenty years later, Anna still doesn’t know whether Rose is alive or dead. In her early thirties now, she sees her future unfolding – with sensible, serious Martin and a grown-up, steady job – and finds herself wondering if this is what she really wants.
Unable to take control of her life while the mystery of her sister’s disappearance remains unsolved, Anna begins to search for the truth: what did happen to Rose that summer’s day? NetGalley

My Teaser

In bed Anna propped herself up, reading Forever, her library book, anticipating drama and the earful Rose would get when she turned up. Eventually she turned off her light. It was a way of hastening Rose’s return; when she woke up it would be morning, Rose would be asleep in her room, an no-one would remember why they’d been so worried.

Interested?

Please leave the link to your teaser in the comments below

56 Comments

Filed under Weekly Posts

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

Crime Fiction 5*'s

Crime Fiction
5*’s

I recently picked up a 1972 edition of Murder on the Orient Express at a book sale for the princely sum of 50p and then spent a very pleasant time reading this, one of Agatha Christie’s most famous novels for the first time in years.

Reading a book when you know what happens, particularly when that book is from the mystery genre, may seem a little bizarre but what I’m realising is that I now notice nuances that perhaps evaded me before I immersed myself in crime fiction and so there was plenty to keep me amused on this fascinating journey, mine being more successful than the Orient Express’s as I didn’t encounter any snow-drifts.

This book was originally published as a novel in 1934 following Christie’s trip on the train where she noted down all the details required to perfectly recreate the scene, yes the placing of the lock on the interconnecting doors was researched to that level of detail! Christie used the real life disappearance of the abduction of Charles Lindbergh’s son as inspiration for the plot indicating that the Queen of Crime relied on real criminals to recreate in fiction, something that some commentators complain that it is disrespectful for our contemporary authors to do.
Anyway back to the plot, a closed room (or train) mystery featuring Poirot who just happens to be on the Orient Express on his way back to London from Istanbul to deal with an urgent matter, after all travelling days on a train was the response to something urgent in the 1930’s. Once aboard the train which is unusually full for the time of year Poirot is approached by a Mr Ratchett who tells him that his life is being threatened and he needs protection. Poirot having taken a dislike to the man while at the hotel in Istanbul declines to take on the job stating ‘I do not like your face Mr Ratchett. On the second night of the journey Mr Ratchett is stabbed to death and since the train is stuck in a snow-drift the Yugoslavian Police are unable to attend so it falls upon dear old Poirot to carry out the investigation.

The plot is peppered with clues and the characters each drawn to enhance the differences of culture and class so that the reader is easily able to follow the various suspects and their actions so that while the amateur sleuth is pitted against the far superior little grey cells of Poirot they still have a chance to solve the mystery, and what a mystery it is!

I love this book the plot is ingenious, the pace fast and the victim a man who is despised by all so not a moments sorrow is wasted upon the deceased instead the pleasurable seeking the clues and fitting them together into a fitting scenario but best of all is the ending where with all the travellers are called to the fine dining car as Poirot outlines two possibilities of what could conceivably explain what happened in carriage number 2, and I can’t imagine a more perfect finale.

Which is your favourite Agatha Christie novel?

47 Comments

Filed under Books I have read

The Dark Meadow – Andrea Maria Schenkel

Crime Fiction 5*'s

Crime Fiction
5*’s

This slim novel packs a mighty punch which is going to linger in this reader’s mind with some powerful issues covered under the guise of a murder mystery.

The story is told eighteen years after the death of Afra and her young son in a small German village when a stranger turns up in a tavern, drunk he has an old cutting from a newspaper about the crime provoking memories of what happened on that day when the storm clouds rolled in on the washing hanging in the cottager’s yard.

Afra had returned to her catholic parent’s home in post-war Germany years after she left as a 14 year old girl, she had no choice, her employer’s had thrown her out for having relations with a Frenchman and so with she returns to a house which slowly fills with anger. When her pregnancy becomes apparent her father, Johann, is resentful of the shame she has bought on him and his wife Theres and suspects both his daughter and his wife of hiding things from him as his dementia takes hold. When the police are called, Johann confesses and the case is closed.

So what is the book about? Where is the mystery? The story is told by recreating the day of the murder from different viewpoints, including Afra’s to build layer upon layer until the whole picture is clear. These multiple narratives range from Police Officers who visited the scene of crime remembering the events of years before, to Afra’s unwanted suitor, to the itinerant salesmen who passed through the village and the shame that Afra’s parents felt about their illegitimate grandson Albert and the ever pressing need for money to cover the cost of two extra mouths to feed. As the day is reconstructed piece by piece despite the evidence being provided as fact with no excitable emotions or race to find the killer that our crime fiction is usually full of, this incredibly powerful novel that made this reader think about the crime committed in terms of the lives it affected and sheer pointlessness far more than those action-packed thrillers ever do.

This is a nuanced and dark tale, based upon a real story in Andrea Maria Schenkel’s native Germany. If the names hadn’t been foreign I would have forgotten that this wasn’t originally written in English so seamless was Andrea Bell’s translation. It is unsurprising given the depth of this novel that Shenkel has won critical acclaim of a literary nature in Germany for this book. I’m pleased to hear that this is her fourth novel and I will be seeking out her earlier work to see if that packs as mighty a punch as this one does.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Quercus for allowing me to have a copy of this book to read in return for this honest review and to Liz Loves Books whose interview with the author led me to seek this fantastic read out.

12 Comments

Filed under Books I have read