Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Peacock Summer – Hannah Richell

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

An old lady, an older house and peacocks! That alone was tantalising enough for me want to know more, and just look at that stunning cover! So I’m delighted to say this story didn’t disappoint at all, in fact it took me off to a mysterious manor with secrets at its heart.

Maggie is summoned back to her sojourn in Australia to the news that her Grandmother Lillian Oberon has been admitted to hospital. Seeing her beloved Grandmother, the woman who has raised her since she was tiny, begging to be allowed to spend the rest of her days at Cloudesley, her home in the Chiltern Hills, Maggie resolves to be on hand. No matter that what happened before her flight to Australia has made her something of a person non grata in the village of Cloud Green. She’s shocked to find a house has deteriorated further in her absence and is now in dire need of some monetary input, money it appears that simply isn’t available. But a promise is a promise…

As Lillian recovers back at home her mind continually returns to memories of the year 1955 when as a young bride she was dealing with the night terrors, and worse, that her husband Charles suffered with. The entrance of a young artist Jack Fincher brings colour into her life as he spends the summer turning the old nursery into a jewellery box of a room with his Trompe-l’œil designed to show off the treasures of Cloudesley to their best advantage.

For some reason the start to my summer reading has involved quite a few books detailing domestic violence of various degrees and in various time periods and this belongs firmly in that bracket. Lillian is a second wife who believes, or is made to believe that she is inferior to the first. Charles has rages bought on perhaps by the war but Lillian, as is commonly the case, is trapped. Even though by this time divorce was possible Lillian feels compelled to look after Albie, Charles’s son and to ensure that the private care given to her sister is continued. It isn’t always fear that keep those binds so tight. This aspect gives what could otherwise be considered a light read, a darker edge and pleasingly a different angle to this dual time-line read (something that I think makes for the perfect escape to the past whilst keeping the present in focus.)

Maggie’s story whilst more recognisable in many aspects also touches on the darker side. Albie her father has been inconsistent and there is that shadowy event that hasn’t been forgotten, least of all by her.

Not only is this an original tale, full of splendour and visual effects, it is also peopled by those characters that you wish you could meet in real-life. I admired Lillian, wanted to see Jack’s creations and had a certain amount of respect of Maggie’s determination. This is a book where you feel the plotting has been meticulously carried out with none of false tension created by devices clearly planted to spin the mystery out. Yes, I know these are often necessary but it is lovely not to be jolted away from the story with them planted conveniently at the end of each chapter.

I can’t leave this review without admiring the ending, more than that I can’t say without spoiling the book for other readers…

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Orion who allowed me to read an advance copy of The Peacock Summer. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the hugely talented Hannah Richell.

First Published UK: 28 June 2018
Publisher: Orion
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (April 1)

Happy Easter Sunday to you all, I do hope you’re enjoying plenty of chocolate!

 

I’m using the long weekend to get a bit more reading squeezed in after the distractions of recent weeks.

This Week on the Blog

My week started with my review of A Trick to Time by Kit de Waal, a touching, yet never mawkish. This tale of a doll-maker in Birmingham was brim-full of wonderful characters.

On Tuesday I was on the blog tour for Twin Truths by Shelan Rodger, my post included a piece by the author about our fascination with twins as well as my review for this surprisingly deep book.

This Week in Books really highlighted my aim to read the remaining books on my shelf to be published on Thursday 5 April 2018 featuring Claire McGowan, Vicky Newham and Liz Nugent.

My next review was for a book with letters written to a magazine agony aunt in 1943 – Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce was historical fiction with a difference.

Our House by Louise Candlish received the full five stars in my review. I was amazed at the ease I was drawn into Fiona’s life told via a podcast in which she explains how her house was sold from under her feet. Brilliant!

I returned to crime fiction for my final review of the week. I have followed Claire McGowan’s Paula Maguire series set on the border between Northern and Southern Ireland from the start, and in The Killing House we were treated to the brilliant conclusion to the story arc.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading A Time for Silence by Thorne Moore which is mainly set in Pembrokeshire, Wales. When Lorna finds the farmhouse that her grandparents lived in at the time of World War II, she is shocked to discover that her grandfather had been killed by person, or persons unknown. To distract herself from the grief at the loss of a close friend she decides to find out all she can, but perhaps it would have been better never to have known? This is a book that so accurately evokes a time eloquently capturing the unwritten rules that governed generations which from a contemporary point of view are almost impossible to comprehend. Sarah has no such compunction eager to knock down the walls of silence that have covered up the wrongful death of John and changed the course of the family as they moved away from Pembrokeshire.

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

Blurb

When Sarah, struggling to get over tragedy, stumbles across her grandparents’ ruined farm, it feels as if the house has been waiting for her. She is drawn to their apparently idyllic way of life and starts to look into her family history. Only to learn that her grandfather, Jack, was murdered.

Why has nobody told her? Sarah becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Gwen and Jack. But are there some family stories that should never be told? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Well last week I confirmed that I had spent my three book tokens gained from reading ten books this year from my own shelves and here’s what I bought.

I have Famous Trials I and II by Harry Hodge in their smart green penguin jackets which I bought from World of Books – expect to see more of these creeping onto my bookshelf.

Blurb

Descriptions of four famous murder trials that took place in Great Britain and were famous in their day: Madeleine Smith, whose innocence or guilt has never been solved; Oscar Slater, who was first declared guilty and later proved innocent, with the help of famous figures such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Hawley Harvey Crippen, a seemingly mild-mannered man who murdered his wife and brutally destroyed her body; and William Palmer, a man from a respectable Victorian family with a taste for the racetrack and murder.

The facts of the four cases and their trials can be found in other places; the pleasure of this little book is in the elegant prose used to retell those facts. Goodreads

Blurb

The four trials recorded in this book are particularly compelling, partly because of the wealth of forensic skills they demonstrate and partly because of the successful piecing together of scanty evidence.

Herbert Armstrong’s generosity with arsenic aroused suspicion as to the true cause of his wife’s death. Field and Gray were two bumbling, inept murderers who failed even to receive the mercy the jury requested. George Smith invented numerous identities and married, deserted or murdered for money, while Ronald True was mentally deranged besides being dangerous and greedy. Goodreads

I also treated myself to a copy of Mrs Woolf and the Servants: The Hidden Heart of Domestic Service by Alison Light after being so impressed with her research into her own family tree and the resultant book Common People.

Blurb

Loathing, anger, shame – and deep affection: Virginia Woolf’s relationship with her servants was central to her life. Like thousands of her fellow Britons she relied on live-in domestics for the most intimate of daily tasks. Her cook and parlour maid relieved her of the burden of housework and without them she might never have become a writer. But unlike many of her contemporaries Virginia Woolf was frequently tormented by her dependence on servants. Uniquely, she explored her violent, often vicious, feelings in her diaries, novels and essays. What, the reader might well wonder, was it like for the servants to live with a mistress who so hated giving her orders, and who could be generous and hostile by turns?

Through the prism of the writer’s life and work, Alison Light explores the volatile, emotional territory which is the hidden history of domestic service. Compared to most employers in Britain between the wars, Leonard and Virginia Woolf were free and easy. Life in the Bloomsbury circle of writers and artists was often fun. Yet despite being liberal in outlook, these were also households where the differences in upbringing and education were acute: employers and servants were still ‘us’ and ‘them’. The women who worked for the Woolfs, like other domestic servants, have usually been relegated to the margins of history, yet unearthing their lives reveals fascinating stories: of Sophie Farrell, the Victorian cook and ‘family treasure’, who ended her days in a London bed-sit; Lottie Hope, the parlour maid, a foundling, who’d been left on a doorstep like a parcel; and Nellie Boxall, the Woolfs’ cook, who was finally dismissed after sixteen years of rows and reconciliations, only to find herself a more glamorous job.

Mrs Woolf and the Servants is a riveting and highly original study of one of Britain’s greatest literary modernists. Ultimately, though, it is also a moving and eloquent testimony to the ways in which individual creativity always needs the support of others. Amazo

From NetGalley, which I need to give up until next Lent, I have been approved to read a copy of The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell, with one of the most stunning of covers. But it wasn’t only the cover that drew me in, I adored this author’s book The Shadow Year as well as her previous book The Secrets of the Tides. The Peacock Summer will be published on 28 June 2018.

Blurb

If she could reach back through the years and warn the person she once was, what would she say? … What would she say to the ghosts who now inhabit her days? So many of those she has loved are now nothing but dust and memory.’

At twenty-six, Lillian feels trapped by life. Her marriage to Charles Oberon has not turned out the way she expected it would. To her it seems she is just another object captured within the walls of Cloudesley, her husband’s beautiful manor house tucked away high in the Chiltern Hills. But, with a young step-son and a sister to care for, Lillian accepts there is no way out for her. Then Charles makes an arrangement with an enigmatic artist visiting their home and his presence will unbalance everything she thought she knew and understood.

Maggie Oberon ran from the hurt and resentment she caused. Half a world away, in Australia, it was easier to forget, to pretend she didn’t care. But when her elderly grandmother, Lillian, falls ill she must head back to Cloudesley. Forced to face her past, Maggie fights to hold herself and her family’s legacy together as she learns that all she thought was real, all that she held so close, was never as it seemed.

Two summers, decades apart.

Two women whose lives are forever entwined.
And a house that holds the dark secrets that could free them both. Amazon

What have you found to read this week?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have read 3 books and since I have gained 4 so my TBR has risen to a total of  188
Physical Books – 113
Kindle Books – 54
NetGalley Books –21

I have banked absolutely no book tokens this week and spent 3 so I’m just 1/3 books in credit!