Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

Turning for Home – Barney Norris #BlogTour #BookReview

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

A Grandfather on his eightieth birthday and his grand-daughter a mere quarter of a century old are the figureheads for the talented Barney Norris’s latest book, Turning For Home but don’t be mislead this is far deeper than the conventional birthday gathering where memories are both revived and made.

Robert Shawcross is eighty and despite the loss of his wife the year before he is holding his annual birthday party, the one Hattie his wife instigated when he was forty, originally conceived as an opportunity for the scattered family to gather. The party itself has diminished over the last few years with the decline in the older family members but Hattie’s sister Laura has taken up the baton and is there preparing the food for the gathering.

Robert is moved to reflect on his life, a civil servant he spent much of his time in Belfast and was there at the time of the Enniskellen bombing on Remembrance Sunday in 1987. A bomb which killed many civilians, missing the British Troops it was planned to kill. The reflection of this time is prompted by the arrest of the Sinn Fein Leader in 2014, the news hitting the press just before Robert’s big party. The Boston Tapes were recordings of interviews carried out with Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries between 2001 and 2006 on the understanding that they would not be published until the interviewee was dead, what it seems no-one had appreciated was that these men could implicate those still living, leading to the arrest of Gerry Adams following a police probe.

So we have real life events based on the ‘Troubles’ with both the Enniskellen bombing and the Boston Tapes but Barney Norris chooses smaller more intimate stories against this gigantic backdrop. We have Robert’s story, the part he thinks he played in the negotiations towards peace along with recognition that he was one small cog in a whole bigger wheel, told alongside his Grand-daughter, Kate’s tale whose far shorter life hasn’t been without its own struggles. Her story is less clear to begin with but with incremental revelations we see a young woman who had much to live for until tragedy struck and her life derailed leading to a spell in hospital. Kate’s story is of loss and of her search for something that perhaps will never materialise. This is a story of families who never really know the truth about each other and individuals who struggle with the gaps between the truth and hope.

And I think perhaps it’s very human as well. Isn’t the life of any person made up of the telling of two tales, after all? People live in the space between the realities of their lives and the hopes they have for them.

This is a deeply poignant book, as books about characters nearing the end of their life are bound to be in some respects but it also has a message of hope. That just because the space between reality and dreams is wider than we’d like shouldn’t stop us from trying. Kate’s story is painful to read at times but worth persevering with, seeming just as relevant to this reader as the wider canvas that is its backdrop.

Barney Norris gives us both stories, interspersed with extracts from the Boston tapes, with lyrical prose and real depth. The struggles the two character’s face being unique to them but the language used will strike a chord as it charts the rise and fall of human emotions that are common to all of our lives.

A fantastic tale of betrayal, of love and hope and all the great emotions we ride throughout our lifetimes bought down in scale reflected through two people’s eyes, hearts and minds.

I’d like to thank the publishers Transworld who allowed me to read a copy of Turning for Home before publication on 11 January 2018, a book I was keen to read having thoroughly enjoyed Barney Norris’s debut novel Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain as well as Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and of course the author, Barney Norris.

First Published UK: 11 January 2018
Publisher: Transworld Books
No of Pages:272
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Don’t forget to catch the other stops on the Turning For Home Blog Tour which runs until 17 January 2018!

Posted in Uncategorized

Books I Picked Up On A Whim

lyThe Top Ten Tuesday list chosen by the wonderful The Broke and the Bookish this week was for the ten books that bloggers had picked up on a whim, this led me to ponder not only those books but how the way I chose books has changed over the years.

As a child it was easy, I had the school library, the local library and kind relations who supplied books that they’d enjoyed as children and so I probably have the full quotient of children’s classics under my belt. Aside from that I was lucky in that many kindly teachers recommended books and to be honest, I was the sort of child that would read anything, cornflake packets included!

It was as I graduated from the children’s section of the library that things became more complicated. Our local library at the time simply shelved all fiction alphabetically and so my reading became dictated by my whims. In those days before the internet there were precious few places to find out about books which did not dominate the best-seller list, and if I’m honest I miss those days of wandering around the library or bookshop shelves looking for something appealing.  And this continued pretty much to the millennium although the library in Jersey used a variety of ways to point eager readers in the right direction, including a one week loan for new releases – something that always caused great anxiety – would I get through the book in time, there would be nothing worse than getting within reach of the ending only to have to return the precious book for others to read!

Library image

These days, I rarely chose a book without it being recommended to me, either by a fiercely knowing search engine on Amazon or Goodreads, or by one of the hugely knowledgeable book bloggers out there who suggest all sorts of hidden treasures to me!

And of course I now have reviews at my fingertips to ensure I am making a wise choice, never forgetting that even the less glowing reviews can point towards something that will please me. In those far flung times there were professional reviews in the newspapers which I did look at but many of these seemed a bit rarefied for my tastes, I just wanted a jolly good story. So I’d look at the shelves, read the book jackets and decide if this might be the book for me… and this way I found many writers who have remained firm favourites to this day.

Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster

Shadow Baby

Blurb

Born in Carlisle in 1887, brought up in a children’s home and by reluctant relatives, Evie, with her wild hair and unassuming ways, seems a quiet, undemanding child.
Shona, born almost seventy years later, is headstrong and striking. She grows up in comfort and security in Scotland, the only child of doting parents. But there are, as she discovers, unanswered questions about her past.
The two girls have only one thing in common: both were abandoned as babies by their mothers. Different times, different circumstances, but these two girls grow up sharing the same obsession. Each sets out to stalk and then haunt her natural mother. Both mothers dread disclosure; both daughters seek emotional compensation and, ultimately, revenge.

Not only did I love this book but rattled my way through her entire back-catalogue, my most recent read being The Unknown Bridesmaid. Sadly Margaret Forster passed away earlier this year but I still have her a large collection of her books on my shelf.

My crime fiction reads at this time were led by whatever was showing on TV at the time and in this way I was introduced to all the greats; Morse, Wexford, Dalziel and Pascoe and Frost. All of these men grace my shelves to this day. However it was after reading Wexford that I discovered the more psychological reads provided in the books written by Ruth Rendell under the name Barbara Vine. This in turn led to me reading so much in this genre before it gained its current popularity. Asta’s Book remains one of my favourite reads of all time combining my love of history with a study of the psyche.

Astas Book

Blurb

1905. Asta and her husband Rasmus have come to east London from Denmark with their two sons. With Rasmus constantly away on business, Asta keeps loneliness and isolation at bay by writing her diary. These diaries, published over seventy years later, reveal themselves to be more than a mere journal, for they seem to hold the key to an unsolved murder, to the quest for a missing child and to the enigma surrounding Asta’s daughter, Swanny. It falls to Asta’s granddaughter Ann to unearth the buried secrets of nearly a century before. Amazon

Barbara Vine’s most recent book The Child’s Child was reviewed by Cleopatra Loves Books back in 2014

More recently I picked up The Mistress’s Revenge by Tamar Cohen on a whim as it was unlike the book choices I usually made at that time, and I’m so glad I did. This book had me howl with laughter and gasp in surprise as the book took a slightly darker turn.

The Mistresses Revenge

Blurb

Never have an affair with anyone who has less to lose than you. And – never underestimate the wrath of a woman scorned.
For five years, Sally and Clive have been lost in a passionate affair. Now he has dumped her, to devote himself to his wife and family, and Sally is left in freefall. It starts with a casual stroll past his house, and popping into the brasserie where his son works. Then Sally starts following Clive’s wife and daughter on Facebook. But that’s alright isn’t it? I mean they are perfectly normal things to do. Aren’t they? Not since Fatal Attraction has the fallout from an illicit affair been exposed in such a sharp, darkly funny and disturbing way.
The Mistress’s Revenge is a truly exciting fiction debut. After all, who doesn’t know a normal, perfectly sane woman who has gone a little crazy when her heart was broken?

Tamar now writes under the name Tammy, but the quality of her books hasn’t diminished, rather it has just got even better, her latest offering When She Was Bad is sure to resonate to all office workers!

Now this may sound planned but I had already written this post when I found out yesterday that Transworld Books have signed a six figure book deal with Tammy for three books, the first due out in Spring 2017; All Fall Down is set in an asylum! Even better TV rights for When She Was Bad are currently at auction. That is one whim that sounds as though it will be providing me with good books to read for some time to come!

 

I think with these three books alone, I have proved that picking up a book on a whim can lead to a whole treasure trove of books.

What book have you picked up on a whim that you are eternally grateful for?