Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Mother-In-Law – Sally Hepworth

Psychological Thriller
4*s

There is possibly no relationship more prone to problems than that between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law so perhaps the fact that the unexpected death of Diana, the matriarch of a wealthy family, brings that relationship under examination.

The story is set in the author’s home territory of Australia, near Melbourne although she has lived around the world. Diana is a woman who expects a lot from her two children Oliver and Antoinette, not least that they don’t depend on their parents for money to fund their adult lives. This is unsurprising since Diana’s work is with women’s health, specifically that of migrants who have travelled across the world with nothing to secure their futures and are pregnant in their new home and in need of support. The lives of her two children who have been given every advantage perhaps don’t qualify for the same level of support.

On the whole I found this an intriguing read, more women’s fiction perhaps than genuine mystery although how Diana died is the central plot. We learn about Lucy, Oliver’s wife and the way her relationship with Diana was forged through the past sections of the novel, the present sections are relating to the investigation into Diana’s death and the reactions of those who were part of her life at the time. I felt that one of the book’s biggest strengths is that it illustrates how the early relationship between Lucy and Diana grew around the early misunderstandings and resentments between the pair. The holding onto stories that illustrate a character trait are huge in any family where harmony is hard to come by, and the story of the necklace lent to Lucy on her wedding day symbolises how it is very hard to switch onto the right foot once something has become a matter of a grudge in the form of a tale held up for examination at key points of stress.

As a reader my point of view on all the characters also matured as we read more about the past with the author being brave enough to challenge some conventional wisdom through using one or more of her characters as a mouthpiece. It is no secret that I’m fond of books that make me challenge my own views and it is easy to think that there is no place in commercial fiction for that kind of improvement; I disagree and so it would seem does Sally Hepworth. Overall though we are lucky enough to have an author who understands that her task is to entertain the readers, and that is done in spades. I said earlier that this struck me perhaps more as women’s fiction than a thriller but, the author does keep the suspense alive until the end. I definitely found this to be quite an addictive read as I needed to know whether my suspicions were correct and although perhaps some of the lesser characters could have been a little bit more rounded, the central ones will probably stay with me for quite some time.

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton who allowed me to read a copy of The Mother-In-Law; this unbiased review is my thanks to them, and the author Sally Hepworth for a thoroughly entertaining read.

First Published UK: 23 April 2019
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Family Next Door – Sally Hepworth

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

I’m a nosy person, one of my favourite occupations is imagine the lives of the people that live in the houses I pass on my way home. In a different age I suspect I would have been very much like my grandmother watching the comings and goings in the street. So it is unsurprising that I was drawn to this novel set in Melbourne following the lives of the people living on a cul-de-sac, Pleasant Court.

The neighbourhood includes a mother who left her daughter in a park, but three years on, Essie now has her mother Barbara close at hand as she has moved into a house on Pleasant Close too. The two women meet up regularly and Barbara is besotted with her grand-daughters. But Essie longs for a close friend, the neighbours wave and smile but they are not the type to pop in and out of each other’s houses. Then Isabelle rents the house which has been empty following a fire. Where she came from and what she does, and even her sexuality is a bit of a mystery.

In another house Angie’s real-estate business is going well, her two sons are enamoured with their X-Box and her husband is a photographer. He is gorgeous and handy in the home and yes, sometimes he is too interested in everyone else but Angie knows she is lucky. Fran is less obviously happy obsessively pounding the streets following the birth of her second daughter. What is she running from?

It is very hot, the neighbours are struggling to keep cool and Isabelle’s interest in the neighbours and their children is a bit intense.

Sally Hepworth has created a book that suits nosy people down to the ground. All of the characters are shockingly realistic with the dialogue pitch-perfect. There is a real knack to dovetailing interactions between the characters and their private thoughts and this author knows just how to make it work without resorting to the obvious sarcastic tone that many authors use to get around that gap between the public and private personas.

If the characterisation is spot-on the plot also swings gracefully over the bar. I thought I knew which direction the book was going in, I was resoundingly wrong and although the author did lead us down a path, the realisation wasn’t born from a left-field twist, the author went for a far subtler, and as a result, far more realistic swivel.

There are plenty of secrets to be uncovered which changes everything on Pleasant Close over the course of a summer and the resultant scenarios are on the whole things that you will have seen and no doubt had long intense conversations about. Despite the key storyline being unusual ultimately this book is about a variety of relationships which acknowledges that each one is different and often they can be complicated and of course that sometimes there are no easy answers. Whilst this book isn’t ‘heavy’ it does more than wrapping everything up in a pretty bow.

The overall result was a satisfying one. I felt for the characters when various secrets were revealed which meant that I had to seriously blink back those tears having stupidly decided that this would be a nice gentle book to read on a train. Sorry to the bemused man who sat opposite me!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Hodder & Stoughton who allowed me to read The Family Next Door ahead of publication in the UK today. This unbiased review is my thanks to them, and the author Sally Hepworth for a thoroughly absorbing read.

First Published UK: 22 March 2018
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (March 14)

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

At the moment I am reading Twin Truths by Shelan Rodger which will be published on 15 March 2018.

Blurb

What is the truth? And how do you recognise it when you hear it?

Jenny and Pippa are twins. Like many twins they often know what the other is thinking. They complete each other.

When Pippa disappears Jenny is left to face the world alone, as she tries to find out what happened to her other half. But the truth, for Jenny, can be a slippery thing. Amazon

The last book I finished was Common People: The History of An English Family by Alison Light a fascinating non-fiction read that looks at social history through the lives of one family.

Blurb

Family history is a massive phenomenon of our times but what are we after when we go in search of our ancestors?

Beginning with her grandparents, Alison Light moves between the present and the past, in an extraordinary series of journeys over two centuries, across Britain and beyond.

Epic in scope and deep in feeling, Common People is a family history but also a new kind of public history, following the lives of the migrants who travelled the country looking for work. Original and eloquent, it is a timely rethinking of who the English were – but ultimately it reflects on history itself, and on our constant need to know who went before us and what we owe them. Amazon

Next I am planning on reading The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth which is out on 22 March 2018.

Blurb

How much do we really know our neighbours?

The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbours, and children play in the street.

Isabelle Heatherington doesn’t fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon captures the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.

But Ange, Fran and Essie have their own secrets to hide. Like the reason behind Ange’s compulsion to control every aspect of her life. Or why Fran won’t let her sweet, gentle husband near her new baby. Or why, three years ago, Essie took her daughter to the park and returned home without her.

As their obsession with their new neighbour grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread – and they’re about to find out that when you look at something too closely, you’ll see things you never wanted to see. NetGalley

What do you think? Any of these take your fancy? Please let me know in the comments box below.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Things We Keep – Sally Hepworth

Contemporary Fiction 4*s
Contemporary Fiction
4*s

The synopsis to The Things We Keep had me intrigued with a tale of a young woman, Anna Forster, struck down with early on-set dementia. It was also an opportunity to try and widen my reading in 2016, I love crime fiction but I do occasionally need a change.
Immediately on starting this novel I was pleased to see that although the subject matter is grim, the author has injected a fair amount of humour which also gave me a real sense of who Anna was, far more than a diagnosis that’s for sure.

Anna moves into an assisted-living facility where many of the residents are considerably older than she is, all except one Luke who is afflicted with frontotemporal dementia which affects his speech and language skills and the two become close.

We also meet Eve, a formerly wealthy woman who takes a job at the home as a cook and cleaner because it is one way to keep her daughter Clementine at her school. Both these characters are a delight but I particularly warmed to Clementine who at aged just seven, is forced to adapt to a whole new way of life. With a mean girl in her class needling her this is something of a struggle! This felt like an accurate portrayal of a newly single mother desperate to do her best for her young daughter but juggling this with her own change of circumstance, never better witnessed than at the school gates.

While there is a moral dilemma at the heart of the book which had me questioning my viewpoint by putting myself in to different character’s shoes, the characters are the ones who made this book for me, and not just the main ones. There are lots of touching moments from the elderly married couple who are inseparable to the old man who is grumpy and the one who saves a seat for his wife, dead for fifty years. Despite being at the end of their life, the author gives a sense of something more than a bunch of people with nothing to offer, the wisdom that they offer each other and the main protagonists was a joy to read.

I was drawn easily and effortlessly drawn into the world at Rosalind House which we get to view in the present, from when Eve joins the staff, and the year before. This device sets up the situation which underpins the moral dilemma and gives us a real sense of how fast Anna is deteriorating. In the beginning she occasionally substitutes words when she can’t remember the right one – sleeping clothes for pyjamas, by the end of the book there are more substituted words than the right ones, a clever use of language which avoids endless repetition explaining how bad things have got.

All in all this was an engaging, touching and thoughtful book which could easily have descended into a well of sadness, but instead, made every point you’d expect but often with the lightest of touches.

I’d like to thank the publishers St Martin’s Press for my copy of this book for reviewing. The Things We Keep will be published on 19 January 2016.

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week In Books (January 13)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lypsyy 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

Alongside the TBR Reduction plan I am making an effort to read some of the older items that are lurking on it – these are usually in kindle format so I have started The Siren by Alison Bruce which was purchased on 29 July 2012 soon after I read the first in this series featuring DC Goodhew, Cambridge Blue. The choice was also prompted by the fact that I have the sixth in the series, The Promise, from NetGalley to read soon!

The Siren

Blurb

All it took was one small item on the regional news for Kimberly Guyver and Rachel Golinski to know that their old life was catching up with them. They wondered how they’d been naïve enough to think it wouldn’t. They hoped they still had a chance to leave it behind – just one more time – but within hours, Rachel’s home is burning and Kimberly’s young son, Riley, is missing.
DC Goodhew begins to sift through their lives, and starts to uncover an unsettling picture of deceit, murder and accelerating danger. Kimberly seems distraught but also defensive and uncooperative. Is it fear and mistrust of the police which are putting her son at risk, or darker motivations?
With Riley’s life in peril, Goodhew needs Kimberly to make choices, but she has to understand, the one thing she cannot afford is another mistake. Amazon

So that’s the something old, now for the something new…

I have just finished The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

The Things We Keep

See yesterday’s post for the synopsis and a taster from this book

And next I’m going to read one from ‘I should have read this ages ago’ pile; Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Buriel Rites

Blurb

A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.
Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.
Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.
Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others? Amazon

What are you reading this week? Please leave your links in the comments section below

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (January 12)

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.

This week the opener comes from The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth and due to be published on 19 January 2016.

The Things We Keep

Blurb

Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there’s just one another resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.
When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna’s and Luke’s families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them. NetGalley

~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

Chapter 1
Anna

Fifteen months ago…

No one trusts anything I say. If I point out, for example, that the toast is burning or that it’s time for the six o’clock news, people marvel. How about that? It is time for the six o’clock news. Well done, Anna. Maybe if I were eighty-eight instead of thirty-eight, I wouldn’t care. Then again, maybe I would. As a new resident of Rosalind House, an assisted-living facility for senior citizens, I’m having a new appreciation for the hardships of the elderly.

Note this excerpt comes from a proof edition of The Things We Keep

So what do you think? Do you want to know more?

If you have an opening to share, please leave your link in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (October 24)

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.

This week I am starting with a bit of history – Dead Centre by Joan Lock with a fictional murder in Trafalgar Square in 1887.

Dead Centre

Blurb

1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
Trafalgar Square. London.
Unrest has been building for days, the unemployed gathering daily to protest and nightly to sleep.
The police are exhausted by extra duty; blamed for failing to do more to prevent the disorder, they grow increasingly bitter about the protesters’ accusations of brutality.
When a prominent member of one of the new socialist organisations is found dead at the foot of Nelson’s Column, it only adds more fuel to the protesters’ fire.
DI Best and Constable Roberts must juggle competing priorities as they search for the killer and attempt to manage the Trafalgar Square situation.
To make matters worse, Best catches a glimpse of Stark, a man guilty of murder in Whitechapel — the only witness to the crime is Florence Bagnall, Roberts’s fiancé.
As tensions rise and time begins to run out, Best realises that something terrible is about to happen…and that he may be powerless to stop it. NetGalley

I also have a copy of The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth which magically appeared on my reading shelf because I clicked on the invitation – not a book I would usually have chosen but I’m going to give it a go.

The Things We Keep

Blurb

Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there’s just one another resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.
When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna’s and Luke’s families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them. NetGalley

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan came courtesy of Bloomsbury, this book will be published on 12 January 2016.

Beside Myself

Blurb

Beside Myself is a literary thriller about identical twins, Ellie and Helen, who swap places aged six. At first it is just a game, but then Ellie refuses to swap back. Forced into her new identity, Helen develops a host of behavioural problems, delinquency and chronic instability. With their lives diverging sharply, one twin headed for stardom and the other locked in a spiral of addiction and mental illness, how will the deception ever be uncovered? Exploring questions of identity, selfhood, and how other people’s expectations affect human behaviour, this novel is as gripping as it is psychologically complex. Goodreads

And finally Midas PR sent me a book that I’m really looking forward to reading; The Hidden Legacy by G.J. Minett which is being published in eBook format on 5 November 2015.

The Hidden Legacy

Blurb

1966. A horrifying crime at a secondary school, with devastating consequences for all involved.
2008. A life-changing gift, if only the recipient can work out why . . .
Recently divorced and with two young children, Ellen Sutherland is up to her elbows in professional and personal stress. When she’s invited to travel all the way to Cheltenham to hear the content of an old woman’s will, she’s far from convinced the journey will be worthwhile.
But when she arrives, the news is astounding. Eudora Nash has left Ellen a beautiful cottage worth an amount of money that could turn her life around. There’s just one problem – Ellen has never even heard of Eudora Nash.
Her curiosity piqued, Ellen and her friend Kate travel to the West Country in search of answers. But they are not the only ones interested in the cottage, and Ellen little imagines how much she has to learn about her past . . .
Graham Minett’s debut novel, The Hidden Legacy, is a powerful and suspenseful tale exploring a mysterious and sinister past. Amazon

Today is the day of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Book Sale here in Jersey, so it is likely that there may, just possibly, be more books added to my shelf before the day is done.

What have you found to read this week? Do share!