Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Silent Hours – Cesca Major

Historical Fiction 4*s
Historical Fiction
4*s

Told in the main by three distinct voices; Adeline who is mute, living in a convent in France in 1952, she’s been there for eight years, never speaking out aloud in all that time. Sebastian is a Jew working in his father’s bank in France, unable to fight in the war due to his limp. One day in the market square he meets Isabelle or perhaps Isabelle in her Olive coat notices the young man dancing with a younger girl, left out by her friends. We get to hear from Isabelle through her letters to her brother Paul who is away fighting in the War, the household a quieter more anxious home without him there. Lastly we have the voice of Tristan, a nine-year old boy whose family have relocated from Paris and reside in the same small village.

This small village is not yet occupied by the Germans and the anxiety about if and when that might happen pervades the book illustrating the uncertainty that coloured everything. With few young men left behind the older generation fret and try to plan, particularly those who are ordered to wear the yellow stars on their sleeves.

All of the narrators speak in the first person present tense which doesn’t normally present any problems for me, but I did feel that perhaps the early part of the book would have felt a little smoother if at least one of the narrators had been in a different tense. As it was, the reader is in the dark for quite some time about the links between the characters, which of course the author intended, as this meant that the revelation was all the more potent.

This was a powerful story, made all the more poignant because it has its heart in a real-life event that took place during World War II and I can absolutely see why the author felt it was only right to put that story at the centre of a tale which is part love story but more a reflection of what life in wartime was really like. I have now read a couple of books set in France during the war as well as a huge amount set in England, throughout them all there is the human spirit which keeps the characters putting one foot in front of the other coupled with a huge amount of uncertainty on how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, whether that be at home, in a temporary home or fighting for freedom. It is impossible not to be moved by stories set during this time period, all the more so when those stories are told by characters who you can not only picture but imagine them living their lives in such terrible times.

This book’s real power is in its ending, when all the links between the lives reveal themselves in their entirety and any pretence at cosiness is completely banished. So while I may have struggled at first with the seemingly disparate pieces of information while in between the lines the foundation to the story was being laid, the finale more than made up for the earlier confusion. I’d got to know the main characters, had some sympathy for them all, although I have to confess Tristan was a particularly irritating child in a way only a nine-year old can be. As different events occur during the book it amazed me how each one found courage, and even though with the hindsight of time you could see those on the periphery to the story working to their own agenda, The Silent Hours appeared to accurately create a time and place that I am thankful I did not live through.

First Published UK: 5 November 2015
Publisher: Corvus
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Historical Fiction – WWII
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (November 30)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lipsyy 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

At the moment I am reading The Silent Hours by Cesca Major, an epic tale set in wartime France. I’m loving this historical novel and having a chance to be completely involved with the wonderful characters.

The Silent Hours

You can read an excerpt and the synopsis in yesterday’s post.

I’ve gone a bit off-piste this week as I’ve just finished My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal, a touching story and compassionate tale about a nine year old boy separated from his mother and baby brother. Set in the UK in the 1980s, this book also provided a healthy dollop of nostalgia.

My Name is Leon

Blurb

A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you’d least expect to find one.
Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not. As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.
Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we manage to find our way home. NetGalley

Never fear though the dark side of life is never far from view, and next up I have Blood Wedding by Pierre Lemaitre

Blood Wedding

Blurb

A gripping standalone psychological thriller about marriage, manipulation and murder by the internationally bestselling author of Alex

Sophie is haunted by the things she can’t remember – and visions from the past she will never forget.

One morning, she wakes to find that the little boy in her care is dead. She has no memory of what happened. And whatever the truth, her side of the story is no match for the evidence piled against her.

Her only hiding place is in a new identity. A new life, with a man she has met online.

But Sophie is not the only one keeping secrets . . . NetGalley


What are you reading this week? Do share your links and thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (November 29)

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 paragraph this week comes from The Silent Hours by Cesca Major

The Silent Hours

Blurb

An epic, sweeping tale set in wartime France, The Silent Hours follows three people whose lives are bound together, before war tears them apart:
Adeline, a mute who takes refuge in a convent, haunted by memories of her past;
Sebastian, a young Jewish banker whose love for the beautiful Isabelle will change the course of his life dramatically;
Tristin, a nine-year-old boy, whose family moves from Paris to settle in a village that is seemingly untouched by war.
Beautifully wrought, utterly compelling and with a shocking true story at its core, The Silent Hours is an unforgettable portrayal of love and loss. Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

ADELINE

1952, St Cecilia Nunnery, south-west France

They are talking in hushed voices through the grille in the door. Sister Marguerite has a distinctive southern accent and, even when she is trying to speak quietly, her words seem to echo off the thick stone of the corridor walls with an energy for which she is often chastised.
‘She said something,’ she insists, pleading with her listener.
‘Marguerite, we’ve discussed this before…’ The voice sighs.
From my bed I tilt my head to catch a glimpse of its owner: Sister Constance. Although her voice is firm, it doesn’t fit her face. The woman seems to have aged twenty year in a fraction of that time. Her watery eye are practically hidden in the folds of her face her lips are thing and cracked. Even from this distance I can see the veins in her hands, the large blue lines protruding from her skin look like the great rivers on a map of France.

Yes, I’m moving away from murder and mayhem this week to an epic as I fancied a change of genre, place and time period.

So… would you keep reading? Please leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (January 9)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared.

Oh dear, oh dear… With that Amazon voucher burning a hole in my pocket it was inevitable that there would be some new acquisitions so I hatched a cunning plan; I would order books before the New Year in order to start afresh… what I didn’t bargain for was that I didn’t complete the process so when I next switched on my laptop there were three books waiting to be purchased in my basket.

Book one is one I’ve wanted for such a long time – I loved Sliding Doors and this is a book that explores the same premise and was published in paperback on 31 December 2015: The Versions of Us by Laura Barnnett

The Versions of Us

Blurb

What if you had said yes? The moments that change everything… One Day meets Sliding Doors in this outstanding debut that is causing a buzz across the publishing world
Some moments can change your life for ever. Have you ever wondered, what if…?
A man is walking down a country lane. A woman, cycling towards him, swerves to avoid a dog. On that moment, their future hinges. There are three possible outcomes, three small decisions that could determine the rest of their life.
Eva and Jim are nineteen and students at Cambridge when their paths first cross in 1958. And then there is David, Eva’s then-lover, an ambitious actor who loves Eva deeply. The Versions of Us follows the three different courses their lives could take following this first meeting. Lives filled with love, betrayal, ambition but through it all is a deep connection that endures whatever fate might throw at them.
The Versions of Us explores the idea that there are moments when our lives might have turned out differently, the tiny factors or decisions that could determine our fate, and the precarious nature of the foundations upon which we build our lives. It is also a story about the nature of love and how it grows, changes and evolves as we go through the vagaries of life. Goodreads

Silent Hours by Cesca Major has received rave reviews around the blogosphere including being featured on Bookaholic Confessions 15 Best Books of 2015, so I just had to have a copy too.

The Silent Hours

Blurb

An epic, sweeping tale of love and loss inspired by heartrending true events in the Unoccupied Zone of wartime France.
The Silent Hours follows three people whose lives are bound together, before war tears them apart:
Adeline, a mute who takes refuge in a convent, haunted by memories of her past;
Sebastian, a young Jewish banker whose love for the beautiful Isabelle will change the course of his life dramatically;
Tristin, a nine-year-old boy, whose family moves from Paris to settle in a village that is seemingly untouched by war.
Beautifully wrought, utterly compelling and with a shocking true story at its core, The Silent Hours is an unforgettable portrayal of love and loss. Goodreads

And finally after falling in love with The Go-Between last year I have a copy of The Shrimp and the Anemone by L.P. Hartley despite it having the shortest synopsis I’ve ever come across, I’m assured it is brilliant.

The Shrimp and the Anemone

Blurb

An evocative account of a childhood summer spent beside the sea in Norfolk by brother and sister, Eustace and Hilda. Amazon

Lastly I was delighted to open a mystery parcel on Wednesday, for once my protestations that I hadn’t bought or asked for this book was actually true! Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary is going to be published on 7th April 2016. If this is anything like as good as Someone Else’s Skin and No Other of the Darkness this will be a fabulous read.

Tastes Like Fear

Blurb

You’ll never be out of Harm’s way
The young girl who causes the fatal car crash disappears from the scene.
A runaway who doesn’t want to be found, she only wants to go home.
To the one man who understands her.
Gives her shelter.
Just as he gives shelter to the other lost girls who live in his house.
He’s the head of her new family.
He’s Harm.
DI Marnie Rome has faced many dangerous criminals but she has never come up against a man like Harm. She thinks that she knows families, their secrets and their fault lines. But as she begins investigating the girl’s disappearance nothing can prepare her for what she’s about to face.
Because when Harm’s family is threatened, everything tastes like fear… Goodreads

TBR WATCH
Since my last count I have read 2 books, and gained 5 (one doesn’t have any details to share with you all yet), leading to a grand total of 174 books!
86 physical books
74 e-books
14 books on NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?