Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The One I Was – Eliza Graham

Historical Fiction
4*s

Eliza Graham is one of those authors we simply don’t hear enough about in my opinion as each and every one of her historical novels is not only a joy to read they also have a real feeling of authenticity about them no doubt from the careful research that she undertakes.

The One I Was is split between the past and the present. In the present Rosamund Hunter is returning to a house she knows from years ago, Fairfleet. Rosamund has great memories of the old house but she is also wary of letting her potential employer know that she knows the place.

So what job is Rosamund applying for? A nurse for a man dying of cancer who wants to remain in his own home. There is a housekeeper and the potential for other medical professionals to come on board and help as the patient’s condition worsens and it seems like she’s a good fit for the household.

Her patient is Benny Gault. He is a successful man, one who originally arrived in England as part of the kindertransport in 1938 when he was just eleven-years-old. Benny lived at Fairfleet as it was home cum school for him and a few other boys who made the journey and were adopted by Lord and Lady Dorner.

The story is told in the main in the present tense by Rosamund and in the past by Benny and there are some distressing scenes as might be expected given the nature of the job Rosamund has undertaken.

That said, this aspect is softly done with enough ‘truth’ that it doesn’t feel whitewashed but not so raw that it becomes far too distressing to read. This isn’t a straight dual time-line novel as the scenes that we see are those throughout Benny’s life and we are aware of the connection between our two main protagonists from the off.

There are a number of strands to the story, the most poignant of all is that Benny remembers his friend Rudi Lange as he was when he last saw him in a secluded area shortly before he made the trip that was to change his life beyond belief.

I have to admit that I preferred Benny’s story but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of drama for Rosamund, particularly when an unwanted visitor comes to call at Fairfleet.

The author tackles this aspect of the war without drama, one of the reasons why I enjoy her books so much. The characters don’t tend to have an overblown sense of their own importance and so I find their stories all the more believable. Harriet Dorner flies planes, a female pilot would surely have had plenty to boast about but she doesn’t although her excitement comes through it does so without being muddied by any feeling that she’s boasting.

There are some moral questions that are posed within the book and although some of the reveals weren’t the surprise that they may have been intended to be, that didn’t stop me enjoying the journey through the years.

First Published UK: 21 April 2015
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Another Day Gone – Eliza Graham

Historical Fiction 5*s
Historical Fiction
5*s

I chose this book purely based on the author, back in 2010 I read a book called Jubilee which has proved to be one that I have carried with me ever since so I leapt at the chance to read an advance copy of this one. When preparing my weekly excerpt post, I was instantly drawn into the tale of a bomb going off in Coventry, shortly before the start of World War II, and promptly read the first three chapters before getting back to the job in hand.

So did the rest of the book live up to the opening – of course it did, I loved this story which is full of secrets, shame and consequences that rippled down the years.

The main part of this story is set in 2005 Sara is caught up in the London bombing, her partner is away working, out of reach in a jungle, and so she seeks comfort in her childhood home on the banks of the Thames. Her grandfather died a few years back but the house has never been sold because Sarah’s elder sister Polly, who will share the proceeds, has been missing for over ten years. Bridie the family housekeeper, the girls’ nanny has moved into a care home and the house feels empty and a little neglected but far safer to Sara than the scenes she has fled. Sara and Polly had a secure loving upbringing with their Grandfather and Bridie after the death of their parents, when both were too small to remember them and although the house was a little isolated the two sisters were really close until Polly began to draw away.

But in the beginning there was a bomb, set in Coventry which killed some and maimed others, a young girl who witnessed a man with the bicycle shortly before it exploded, and gave evidence in court which led to the only sentence given for such an act, death. This is the story of the repercussions and the retribution that would follow, spawning in its wake lies and half-truths as well as the stain of shame in a time where being able to hold your head high was the most important commodity the poor had.

Eliza Graham spins this multi-stranded tale with a deft and confident touch, the periodic details sprinkled sparingly, but there nonetheless, giving colour to the key time periods of 1939, the early 1990s and 2005. The characters are distinct and realistic in form. Be warned though, this is no magic wand story, the author has under-lined the realism by not giving everyone a happy ever after, what she does instead is give them the truth, a story that at times it can be hard to comprehend from a distance, a time where standards and expectations were unforgivingly imposed by the community and the church.

I really enjoy books about consequences that occur far later than the initial act, decision or mistake but to pull this type of story off, you need great characters, ones whose behaviour and actions are recognisable as realistic, given the circumstances, at any point in the story. Eliza Graham has this absolutely nailed. I was transfixed and reached that stage of reading where I wanted to know the ending but simultaneously wanted to stay with the characters, for just a little bit longer.

I’d like to thank the publishers Lake Union Publishing for allowing me to read a copy of Another Day Gone ahead of publication on 22 November 2016. This review is my unbiased thanks to them, and of course, Eliza Graham for her fantastic story.

First Published UK: 22 November 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Historical Fiction (1939-2005)
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Accidental Life of Greg Millar – Aimee Alexander

Contemporary Fiction 4*s
Contemporary Fiction
4*s

This was a different kind of read for me, a book about families overcoming adversity with more than a few secrets to muddy the waters.

The Accidental Life of Greg Millar is told in the first person present tense by Lucy Arigho, a graphic designer. A young woman mourning the death of her fiancé and struggling to come to terms with the fact that the life she imagined has gone. Then she meets Greg Millar through the course of her work. He is a crime fiction writer who is full of zest for life. Greg and Lucy bond over their respective losses, Greg’s wife died in childbirth five years previously and since then Greg has raised their two children, Toby and Rachel with the help of his live-in nanny Hilary.

The first part of the book was a fairly light look at an emerging love affair with Lucy infected by Greg’s outlook on life. When a rapid engagement followed I was beginning to think that it may well be overly saccharine for my tastes but when the family and Lucy decamped to France for the summer their lives took a much darker turn. Not least because Rachel at ten had taken firmly against Lucy and certainly wasn’t amenable to the thought of her becoming a firm fixture – Lucy meanwhile has taken her older sister Gayle’s advice and is frantically reading books on becoming a step-parent.

Once the book moved on from the somewhat superficial beginning there was lots to become interested in although the focus remained on relationships of all shapes and sizes, there were other big issues to be explored although at times I felt that Lucy was impossibly naïve at times and other characters had clearly been living in a bubble, this was a minor point which didn’t detract from the overall plot.

I don’t often get overly-emotional by the books I read but this one did see a sneaky tear or two roll down my cheeks as the story moved towards its grand finale indicating that the author had done her job well. She made me care about this family from Dublin with the scenes concerning the children very well executed. Toby being younger was a typical little boy although I didn’t feel the author was quite as diligent at charting his growth as she was with Rachel who right from the start came across as a genuine girl growing up without her mother, a young girl who looked out for her much younger brother and who enjoyed the adoration shown by Gayle’s younger sons. We see Rachel mature and become part of the solution in the trials that the family faces but Toby remained the cosseted baby, an image that any self-respecting young boy would object to!

This book, despite not depicting any murders or crimes held my attention with its somewhat darker take on the boy meets girl storyline, a book that had enough issues so that I genuinely wanted to know how the story would pan out and I’m glad to say it definitely ended on a high-note.

I’d like to thank the author, Aimee Alexander for giving me a copy of The Accidental Life of Greg Millar for review purposes. This unbiased review is my thank you to her.