Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read

The Ripper of Waterloo Road – Jon Bondeson #20booksofsummer

Non-Fiction
4*s


In 1838 a high-class prostitute, Eliza Grimwood, took a French-speaking gentleman home to her shared lodgings. The following morning Eliza was found with her throat cut and her abdomen slashed. Her fellow housemates, who included her boyfriend William Hubbard had not heard a sound except a single yap from her pet dog.

Jon Bondeson is a crime historian with more than twenty books to his name and he starts by setting the stage, describing London at the early time of Queen Victoria’s reign. He gives special attention to the Waterloo Bridge and the perception of prostitute demonstrating the prurient interest from the public and the different classes of ‘working women.’ We also get a whistle-stop tour of the most notable murder of the time including the Ratcliffe murder and that of Hannah Brown by James Greenacre and Sarah Gale. This is a book packed full of information with references to sources and lots of pictures of the subjects and not confined to those in the penny dreadfuls of the time. In fact the illustrations that are present on many of the pages bring to life the points the author is making with perfect placement, something I much prefer to those books that confine these to the centre pages.


As Eliza and the mysterious French speaker had arranged to meet at The Strand we are treated to some of the plays that may have been showing on that fateful night of Friday 26 May 1838, sadly it is not possible to know what was on the bill of this small but packed theatre that night. Eliza and her ‘guest’ alighted a Hansom cab which took them back to Waterloo Road but who the man was has never quite been established.

Inspector Charles Frederick Field was called to the scene, a former actor he had been one of the first officers of the New Police when it formed in 1829. Jon Bondeson takes a pause to enlighten his readers to other crimes that this, probably the best-known Policeman in London encountered over the course of his career. There is no doubt that life in the force at that time was hard but the crime were not investigated in quite the isolation as I perhaps thought. First came the inquest.

 

Waterloo Road – 3 June 1838

In true melodramatic fashion the inquest was given the run-around by local characters either not giving the information they held or alternatively throwing suspicion in all direction so that even the most trivial of facts became obscured. All of which kept the news flowing with Charles Dickens taking such a keen interest Nancy of Oliver Twist fame is believed to have been inspired by poor Eliza Grimwood.

Of course a true-crime begs to be solved even all these years later and with the help of Inspector Field’s diary, which is perfectly preserved, along with newspaper articles and other contemporary offerings, Jon Bondeson is sure he has found the culprit and it seems to me that he provides a very compelling argument for his case. Of course as in the case with all these types of crime, despite even the most in-depth, and the author studied this crime over a decade prior to this book being written, can’t ever give us a conclusive answer and sadly no court of law will pronounce its judgement.

For lovers of Victorian true crime The Ripper of Waterloo Road gives a comprehensive examination not only of the crimes committed but wider commentary on the life and times without allowing itself to get into too wide a discourse which would make the book far too unwieldy.

The Ripper of Waterloo Road was my twelfth read in my 20 Books of Summer 2017 Challenge.

First Published UK: 13 January 2017
Publisher: The History Press
No of Pages: 288
Genre: Non-Fiction – True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US 

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read

The Spider and the Fly – Claudia Rowe #20booksofsummer

Non-Fiction
4*s

This is an unusual blend of crime fiction and memoir which may be part of a current trend that is emerging as I note The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich employs the same mix. We meet the author Claudia who, with almost a sense of shame, initially sets out to write a journalistic piece on the serial killer, Kendall Francoise, who murdered eight women in Poughkeepsie, New York and kept their bodies in his parent’s loft.

At first determined to keep her boundaries fixed she writes using a post office box as an address and asks some questions of her killer – but Kendall isn’t so keen to share and the correspondence is as much a game of cat and mouse as the spider and the fly. It turns out that Kendall wants to hear Claudia’s secrets as much as she wants to know his

“Well, well, Claudia. Can I call you Claudia? I’ll have to give it to you, when confronted at least you’re honest, as honest as any reporter. . . . You want to go into the depths of my mind and into my past. I want a peek into yours. It is only fair, isn’t it?”— Kendall Francois

The conversation via letters lasted for four years while Kendall was incarcerated before his life sentence was passed in 2000. I’ll be honest that very little of what Claudia set to discover about Kendall or his family, who lived amongst the larvae casings dropping down into their somewhat grotty home, was realised. This isn’t a book to read if you want to hear the killer’s thoughts about his crimes, it is rather a character study of a man who is determined to be in control, and the latter probably goes in some way to explain why those eight women met their ends at his hands in the two short years from 1996 to 1998.

Claudia is an equal enigma as what she is trying to understand about herself is far more nebulous. She seems to be persistently concerned about her obsession with Kendall and wants to find the reason why. It isn’t overly clear from the book whether she makes peace with her younger self or not, but I hope so.

The style of writing had me fooled at times, it reads like a novel despite being non-fiction and although for much of the book, the truth remains elusive and the correspondence teases as if more of substance will be revealed if Claudia can ask just the right question, or maybe give just the right amount of herself to the killer to mull over while he sits in prison, I found it gripping. It is equally as tense as any novel, just as readable as many a psychological thriller, so much so I had to remind myself that this man committed a terrible crime and eight poor women lost their lives because of him.

What the book does show through its two different main characters and their families is that outward appearances can disguise something far darker and if you have lived in this dual world, as Claudia herself did, then trying to understand the darkness can become an obsession.

“He had no special knowledge or preternatural charm. He was what I’d made him.”

This is another worthy addition to my true crime shelf and was the eleventh read for my 20 Books of Summer 2017 Challenge.

First Published UK: 24 January 2017
Publisher: Dey Street Books
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Non-Fiction – True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US 

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (August 16)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I am (about to start) reading The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase, published last month this tale set in the Cotswolds in 1959 and promises mystery aplenty.

Blurb

Nineteen fifty-nine. The four Wilde sisters, Isla, Violet, Maggie and Dot, are spending the summer in the Cotswolds, at Applecote Manor. Affectionately called the Wildlings, the sisters are exceptionally close, yet this year there’s a sense of nostalgia. Things are changing.

Except for Applecote itself, a house that seems frozen in time. The sisters haven’t been there in five years; not since their cousin Audrey mysteriously vanished.

But as they discover Applecote’s dark secrets and new temptations, the sisters begin to grow apart. Until the night everything spirals out of control and the Wildlings form a bond far thicker than blood . . . NetGalley

I have just finished another historical novel also set in the 1950s this time Dublin is the setting for The Judge’s Wife by Ann O’Loughlin.

Blurb

Can a love last forever?
When Emma returns to Dublin to put her estranged father’s affairs in order, she begins to piece together the story of his life and that of Grace, the mother she never knew. She knows her father as the judge – as stern and distant at home as he was in the courtroom. But as she goes through his personal effects, Emma begins to find clues about her mother that shock her profoundly.
A tale of enduring love and scandal that begins in 1950s Dublin and unravels across decades and continents, digging up long-buried family secrets along the way, The Judge’s Wife asks whether love really can last forever. Amazon

Next up I’m moving a little further back in time with the non-fiction book Stranger in the House by Julie Summers

Blurb

From 1945, more than four million British servicemen were demobbed and sent home after the most destructive war in history. Damaged by fighting, imprisonment or simply separation from their loved ones, these men returned to a Britain that had changed in their absence.

In Stranger in the House, Julie Summers tells the women’s story, interviewing over a hundred women who were on the receiving end of demobilisation: the mothers, wives, sisters, who had to deal with an injured, emotionally-damaged relative; those who assumed their fiancés had died only to find them reappearing after they had married another; women who had illegitimate children following a wartime affair as well as those whose steadfast optimism was rewarded with a delightful reunion.

Many of the tales are moving, some are desperately sad, others are full of humour but all provide a fascinating account of how war altered ordinary women’s lives forever. Amazon

I’m not quite sure how I have such history orientated reading this week – poor spreadsheet planning methinks but I do spy some crime coming up after this little lot!

What do you think? Any of these take your fancy? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (August 15)

First Chapter
Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

My opening this week comes from Each Little Lie by Tom Bale which was published on 29 June 2017 and is currently available for the kindle at a bargain price.

Blurb

One split second decision and you could lose your child forever…

When single mother Jen Cornish sees her neighbour’s keys on the footpath outside her home, she has no idea the simple good deed of returning them will end in her fighting for her life – and that of her son, Charlie.

Soon, Jen is arrested for a crime committed in her neighbour’s house, and the police have damning evidence. Jen wonders, is she losing her mind, or is she being framed?

Desperate to clear her name, Jen must untangle a chilling web of lies, and there’s only one suspect on her list: her ex, Charlie’s father. But someone is watching her every move – and it isn’t just Jen who is in danger.

They’re watching her child too.

Can Jen uncover the dark truth before it’s too late? Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

1

He’d crossed her path before, but today was different. There was a flash of light as the man hurried across the patch of grass at the front of her property; Jen caught the glint of sunlight on metal, the sense of something falling.

For most of August he’d been running later than normal, which made her wonder if his schedule, like hers, was influenced by the school holidays. As usual he was carrying a couple of his mysterious boxes, cradling them awkwardly in both arms, as if the contents were precious rather than heavy.

I think that’s an opener that begs a few questions already so I’m looking forward to reading more. What about you?

Are you tempted to keep reading?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Did You See Melody? – Sophie Hannah

Psychological Thriller
5*s

When you pick up one of Sophie Hannah’s books, I’ve learnt it is best to expect the unexpected and she’s done it again, I was gripped by the mystery of the seven year old’s disappearance seven years ago, a disappearance that had gripped America from the start.

As to be expected from this hugely talented author we have characters that are so memorable you’ll want to send them a Christmas card, or at perhaps cross them off the list, because,  some of them aren’t very nice at all!

Cara Burrows has booked herself into a five star hotel in Arizona, miles from her husband and two teenage children, simply leaving a note to tell them she will be back on 24 October. It takes a while for the reader to understand how this seemingly nice woman could take such an action, or perhaps more importantly why. Patience is key, Sophie Hannah starts with a mystery which demands an answer but she makes her readers wait for them, but fear not, the answers are all given in good time. Cara arrives at Swallowtail resort late at night and is booked in by the receptionist. She makes her way to the room, only to find that it is already occupied by a father and daughter who she disturbs from their sleep. The receptionist is deeply apologetic and finds her a new room.

Staying at the hotel at the same time as Cara is an elderly lady who has ‘seen’ Melody at the resort each time she has stayed there. Melody was a girl who was all over the news and excerpts from talk shows before the culprits were arrested are included in the novel. This platform is useful for discussing the very different ways that crimes are handled by the media in the UK and the US. In the US the talk show host Bonnie Juror is able to shout her beliefs from her chat show without threat of perverting the course of justice, something that simply would never happen in the UK, although of course it doesn’t stop individuals speculating when we see the sadly all too familiar media statements from grieving families.

With Cara needing a bit of displacement activity she makes a very reserved British bond with two fellow sun lounger inhabitants, a mother and daughter both of whom had me in stitches with their brilliant one-liners with the differences in approach between the two nations accurately portrayed. Anyway between them they educate Cara on the full Melody story and encourage her growing suspicion that Melody is still alive and on the resort.

Taken in parts this story is completely unbelievable but I really didn’t mind, the journey was so entertaining, the commentary that underlines the storyline on a number of different subjects is true which allowed me to believe in the right circumstances with a good handful of coincidences thrown in that this could be true…

This is the perfect summer read although if you are staying in a less than palatial resort you may experience some envy, with brilliant characters, each one is so superbly drawn (and coloured in) with a fair bit of drama to ensure that a soothing massage I required by the time you turn that brilliant last page.

Thank you to the publishers Hodder & Stoughton who allowed me to read this book ahead of publication on 24 August 2017 – this unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 24 August 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US 

Culver Valley Series
1. Little Face
2. Hurting Distance
3. The Point of Rescue
4. The Other Half Lives
5. A Room Swept White
6. Lasting Damage
7. A Kind of Cruel
8. The Carrier
9. The Telling Error
10. The Narrow Bed

 

Standalone Books

A Game for all the Family

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (August 13)

Weekly Wrap Up

No domestic goddess this week I’m afraid – in fact not a great deal of anything by way of other news so I’ll crack on with the book news.

This Week on the Blog

The week started with my review of The House by Simon Lelic which was awarded the full five stars and is one of my favourite books of the year so far.

My excerpt post came from The Lying Game by Ruth Ware, one of the many books that I’ve failed to get to yet!

This Week in Books featured the authors Sophie Hannah, John Boyne and Margaret Atwood.

My second review of the week was for The Island by Victoria Hislop which is mainly set on the island of Spinalonga, a former leper colony.

On Friday I celebrated my fourth blog birthday which just served to remind me how fast time can pass by when you’re having fun!

I finished off the week with my review of Broken Heart by Tim Weaver which should be read with the understanding that I read this book when times were really tough but that didn’t stop the author’s fine writing shining through.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colquhoun which recreates the story of Florence Maybrick, a Liverpool lady who in 1889 who was suspected of poisoning her husband. The first portion of the book gives a sympathetic portrait of Florence Maybrick backed up with historical documents but it was the switch at the end when the evidence is examined from another perspective which most impressed me. Did Florence murder her husband? Well you need to read this book and see what you think.

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover

Blurb

In the summer of 1889, young Southern belle Florence Maybrick stood trial for the alleged arsenic poisoning of her much older husband, Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick.

‘The Maybrick Mystery’ had all the makings of a sensation: a pretty, flirtatious young girl; resentful, gossiping servants; rumours of gambling and debt; and torrid mutual infidelity. The case cracked the varnish of Victorian respectability, shocking and exciting the public in equal measure as they clambered to read the latest revelations of Florence’s past and glimpse her likeness in Madame Tussaud’s.

Florence’s fate was fiercely debated in the courtroom, on the front pages of the newspapers and in parlours and backyards across the country. Did she poison her husband? Was her previous infidelity proof of murderous intentions? Was James’ own habit of self-medicating to blame for his demise?

Historian Kate Colquhoun recounts an utterly absorbing tale of addiction, deception and adultery that keeps you asking to the very last page, did she kill him? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

I’m very excited to have been given a copy of Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell which will be published on 30 August 2017. This is the prequel to the trilogy the author’s Dublin trilogy.

Blurb

For Detective Bunny McGarry, life is complicated, and it is about to get more so.

It’s 1999 and his hard won reputation amongst Dublin’s criminal fraternity, for being a massive pain the backside, is unfortunately shared by his bosses. His partner has a career-threatening gambling problem and, oh yeah, Bunny’s finally been given a crack at the big time. He’s set the task of bringing down the most skilled and ruthless armed robbery gang in Irish history. So the last thing he needs in his life is yet another complication.

Her name is Simone. She is smart, funny, talented and, well, complicated. When her shocking past turns up to threaten her and Bunny’s chance at a future, things get very complicated indeed. If the choice is upholding the law or protecting those he loves, which way will the big fella turn? http://whitehairedirishman.com

I have a copy of Give Me the Child by Mel McGrath which was published on 27 July 2017 and the reviews I’ve read are great.

Blurb

An unexpected visitor.

Dr Cat Lupo aches for another child, despite the psychosis which marked her first pregnancy. So when Ruby Winter, a small girl in need of help, arrives in the middle of the night, it seems like fate.

A devastating secret.

But as the events behind Ruby’s arrival emerge – her mother’s death, her connection to Cat – Cat questions whether her decision to help Ruby has put her own daughter at risk.

Do we get the children we deserve?

Cat’s research tells her there’s no such thing as evil. Her history tells her she’s paranoid. But her instincts tell her different. And as the police fight to control a sudden spate of riots raging across the capital, Cat faces a race against time of her own… NetGalley

And as a huge surprise I have been granted my wish to receive a copy of Bad Girls from History by Dee Gordon which will be published on 30 September 2017.

Blurb

You wont be familiar with every one of the huge array of women featured in these pages, but all, familiar or not, leave unanswered questions behind them. The range is extensive, as was the research, with its insight into the lives and minds of women in different centuries, different countries, with diverse cultures and backgrounds, from the poverty stricken to royalty. Mistresses, murderers, smugglers, pirates, prostitutes and fanatics with hearts and souls that feature every shade of black (and grey!). From Cleopatra to Ruth Ellis, from Boudicca to Bonnie Parker, from Lady Caroline Lamb to Moll Cutpurse, from Jezebel to Ava Gardner.

Less familiar names include Mary Jeffries, the Victorian brothel-keeper, Belle Starr, the American gambler and horse thief, La Voisin, the seventeenth-century Queen of all Witches in France but these are random names, to illustrate the variety of the content in store for all those interested in women who defy law and order, for whatever reason.

The risque, the adventurous and the outrageous, the downright nasty and the downright desperate all human (female!) life is here. From the lower stratas of society to the aristocracy, class is not a common denominator. Wicked? Misunderstood? Nave? Foolish? Predatory? Manipulative? Or just out of their time? Read and decide. NetGalley

And I have bought a copy of Trial of Passion by William Deverell after reading the fantastic Spotlight Post by one of my trusted book advisors, Margot of Confessions of a Mystery Novelist… If you haven’t visited Margot’s blog I highly recommend it.

Blurb

Arthur Beauchamp, one of Vancouver’s most heralded criminal lawyers, has moved to a quiet island off the British Columbia coast. He’s trying to recover from a marriage gone sour, but his retirement is interrupted by his former law partners — they want Arthur to take charge of the defence trial of Jonathan O’Donnell, the acting dean of the law school.

O’Donnell has been accused of rape by one of his students, Kimberley Martin, a smart but arrogant woman who is engaged to a rich businessman. If convicted, O’Donnell understands that his career will implode; he believes that only Arthur Beauchamp can save his professional life. After much pleading, Beauchamp agrees to handle the case. He is drawn into a complex legal situation dealing with gender and sex, while his personal life takes a provocative turn as well.

A courtroom drama ensues, with unpredictable twists and bizarre events. Amazon

tbr-watch

What have you added to your shelves this week? What do you think of my finds?

Since my last post I’ve read 3 books and gained 4!
The current total is therefore 179
Physical Books – 101
Kindle Books – 61
NetGalley Books – 17

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read

Broken Heart – Tim Weaver #20booksofsummer

Crime Fiction
3*s

A car-park in Somerset is the scene of the disappearance of Linda Korin who drove in one day, left her car and was never seen again. The police investigate but are unable to come up with a satisfactory query of what happened the most likely explanation is that she went into the sea, a theory that doesn’t really stack up as the tide was out at the time her car is captured on CCTV going into the car park. After months with no news Linda’s sister in America asks David Raker to take on the case.

Tim Weaver has produced something quite special with this series, Broken Heart being the seventh book. We have crime fiction but the focus is on missing people rather than dead bodies and in doing so often uncovers tales which are mulit-layered and unusual. Here we have a woman in her sixties, and although she is beautiful having been a former model and actress in second-rate horror movies, she is not the typical crime fiction victim.

The story had me engaged, from the start I was trying to work out how the facts presented could be, you see this is one author that doesn’t ‘cheat.’ There is no trying to gloss over incontrovertible facts by having random witnesses lying for no good reason all the many problems to solve, and there are lots within this novel, are unravelled fairly. After a skype meeting with Linda’s sister, Wendy Fisher he begins to look at her early life with her husband who had been a famous film director until he was exiled from Hollywood to Spain for being a communist.

Having read and been engaged in the lives of the subjects, as well as fully entertained by David Raker himself in the previous books I found this one veered perhaps down a too convoluted path for me although I am mindful that due to events in my personal life I wasn’t perhaps in the right frame of mind for any book at this time. So my observations are that there was more violence in this episode than the previous books in the series and the expose into film making was fascinating but perhaps a little bit too ‘nerdy’ for those of us who aren’t as thrilled by the subject as Tim Weaver as a result the endless playing of sections of a film, a director obsessed by his star and lost copies of films made years previously which included fairly lengthy explanations of how originals need to be stored to keep them from deteriorating slowed the pace down for me. If you have a love of old Hollywood movies, especially those naff horror ones, then you will love this aspect. What is not in doubt that there is a complicated mystery to be solved and my sleuthing didn’t even come close.

Ultimately although the storyline was inspired by the film world, underneath, as in all good books this is about people and you don’t have to have an interest in the parts to be interested in how others behave.

Broken Heart was my tenth read in my 20 Books of Summer 2017  Challenge.

First Published UK: 28 July 2016
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 528
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US 

Posted in Uncategorized

Cleopatra Loves Books is Four Today

Yes it is four years ago today that I took the plunge and started this little blog, at that time not having any idea how big the book blogging community was, and it’s grown since then!

My blog was, and still is, a place for me to record reviews for all the books I finish and since I’ve been blogging and interacting with all of you lovely people my TBR has grown from a modest pile of books by my bed and a few unread ones on my kindle to an enormous mountain, but one that is full of books that I’ve purchased because of YOU. This means when the book apocalypse comes, I will be ready, all prepared with enough books to keep me going for the foreseeable, and if I should run out I have my lovely bookshelves full of the books I’ve kept (and there are a fair few) because I might want to read them again.

I really can’t believe I’ve been writing my reviews and posting memes for four whole years and again, although I didn’t expect to find so many lovely people to read them, YOU have certainly made this something that I do – everyone knows that I blog about books (yes, those people I know in ‘real’ life) and it is a pleasure, so much so I can’t remember what I possibly did with all the time I now spend tapping away on my laptop – my keyboard no longer has all of its letters I am minus S, M, N & V, but luckily I touch type so that hasn’t foiled me!

Thank you for interacting with me, sending me recommendations and books and being all round lovely people!

My birthday post traditionally looks at the reviews I’ve written that have proved most popular – any excuse for a few stats so without further ado…

So now to the facts and figures:

This is my 1,318th post over the four year period, although it should be said that the posts that go back to the beginning of 2013 were those I’d previously posted on Amazon for that year having been reviewing on there since 2010.

The top five reviews on my blog over its entire life are… dum dum dum… in reverse order:

Disclaimer by Renee Knight from April 2015
The Sixth Window by Rachel Abbott from January 2017
He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly from February 2017
Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbott from March 2014
The Book of You Claire Kendal from February 2014

The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot not just one but two of Rachel Abbott’s books here which I’m delighted about as she is a fellow Channel Islander residing on the island of Alderney.

The top five reviews on my blog over the last year, again in reverse order are:

The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer from February 2017
Painkiller by NJ Fountain from January 2017
Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham from March 2017
The Sixth Window by Rachel Abbott from January 2017
He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly from February 2017

 

 
Of course I don’t just write reviews I participate in memes, tags and the yearly Reading Bingo in December where I look back over my books that have made an impact (or merely just fill one of the squares) which fear not, will be back again later this year.

This year I’ve joined in Jo’s The Six in Six where you can see some of my favourite reads from the first half of this year and Put a Book on the Map will be back in the autumn so if you have read a book that you’d like to see featured, please let me know.

Thanks for a wonderful four years and I hope to continue to entertain you with my dark reading habits even more for a little while to come yet.

 

 

 

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Island – Victoria Hislop #20booksofsummer

Historical Fiction
5*s

I chose The Island because I visited the now abandoned leper colony on the island of Spinalonga last year on my holiday to Crete. What I didn’t expect was the story that is set on that island to grab me quite so much.

Alexis Fielding is on the brink of making the biggest decision of her life and almost as a distraction fixates on the mystery of her mother’s life, her childhood that she refused to talk about. All through her childhood Sofia had received letters with Greek stamps on intermittently though Alexis’s childhood but when she is visiting Greece with her long-standing boyfriend she tells her mother that she would visit the place where Sofia had grown up, Plaka and Sofia relented and gave her a letter to give to her old friend.

                                           Plaka

The story that follows spans decades from before the Second World War and a good part of it is set on the leper colony on Spinalonga where sufferers of leprosy were sent, away from their friends and family to stop the spread of the disease. What I’d never realised before visiting Spinalonga and reading The Island, was that sufferers could and often did live for years, the trajectory of the disease not being predictable until the end which to be honest sounds pretty horrific.

 

                                     Approach to Spinalonga

This is a saga of a story though, and has all the required elements of love, betrayal, secrets and at its heart family. The story swings backwards and forwards from the little village of Plaka where life is simple to the bigger towns where research was going on to find a cure for the dreadful disease, a search which was suspended when the war became the fight that the whole of Greece was focussed on.

Spinalonga doctors, priest, and inmates

The story is told through Fontini’s retelling of the events spanning years to Alexis and the story centres around Maria Petrakis, a young teacher who may have caught Leprosy from one of her pupils. Maria was sent to Spinalonga along with the ten year old boy, leaving her father and her younger sister behind. But Spinalonga wasn’t the bleak place you might suppose. Continued pressure on the great and the good of Crete meant that those living there were able to make the place into a small community complete with market day and supported by twice weekly deliveries of goods from Plakka. With letters and regular visits from a doctor who was willing to take the risk of contracting leprosy the inhabitants get news from the world outside, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to put yourselves into the shoes of those who lived in the little houses on the island of their exile.

               Some of the houses on Spinalonga

Victoria Hislop weaves a fantastic tale around a family based on the history of an island which must have held so many equally involved stories and so vivid was Maria’s story that I had to remind myself continually that this was a work of fiction but despite that, now many weeks after reading The Island Maria’s story lingers in my mind. For those of you who haven’t yet read this book I’m pleased to report that despite the subject matter the book comes to the perfect ending.

The Island was my ninth read of my 20 Books of Summer  Challenge 2017

First Published UK: February 2005
Publisher: Headline 
No of Pages: 480
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US 

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (August 9)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I really need to ramp up my reading (and reviewing) to try and complete the 20 Books of Summer 2017 before the deadline – it’s going to be tight!!

At the moment I a reading Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah a favourite author of mine and whose books never fail to surprise me. Did You See Melody? will be published on 24 August 2017.



Blurb

Pushed to breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.

A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.

Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life? Amazon

I’ve just finished The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne which was a brilliant read and one from my list of books that have been sat on the TBR for what seems like forever.

‘Some things are just sitting there, minding their own business, waiting to be discovered. Like America. And other things are probably better off left alone’

Nine-year-old Bruno has a lot of things on his mind. Who is the ‘Fury’? Why did he make them leave their nice home in Berlin to go to ‘Out-With’ ? And who are all the sad people in striped pyjamas on the other side of the fence? The grown-ups won’t explain so Bruno decides there is only one thing for it – he will have to explore this place alone. What he discovers is a new friend. A boy with the very same birthday. A boy in striped pyjamas. But why can’t they ever play together? Amazon

Next up I am going to read Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood which although I’m really looking forward to reading it, I am wondering why or how I managed to pick books with so many pages for the reading challenge – deep breath for what promises to be 560 pages of pure joy!

Blurb

Sometimes I whisper it over to myself: Murderess. Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt along the floor.’
Grace Marks. Female fiend? Femme fatale? Or weak and unwilling victim?
Around the true story of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the 1840s, Margaret Atwood has created an extraordinarily potent tale of sexuality, cruelty and mystery. Amazon

So that’s my reading week – What are you reading? Do share in the comments box below!