Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

When the Sky Fell Apart – Caroline Lea

Historical Fiction 4*s
Historical Fiction
4*s

One June day just two weeks after those who had decided to evacuate had left on a boat to the mainland, the sky in Jersey was ablaze, the Germans were bombing and poor Clement Hacquoil, the local butcher is set alight. Watching from the side-lines is ten-year old Claudine whose own father has left the island to fight the war against the Nazis.

This shocking opening sets a scene that is only two believable with the author using the German bombs as a way of introducing some of the main characters that populate this often heart-breaking tale. Dr Carter is an English doctor who if he’d followed the orders should have departed on the boat but is needed on an island which still has a sizeable population left. Edith is an older local woman who is on hand to help the injured butcher with her knowledge of plants which can help the sick and the injured. The locals under Edith’s watchful eye remove Clement from the beach and take him to the hospital but he is too sick to attempt to leave on the last boat out of the island before the German soldiers arrive.

Jersey was under German occupation for five long years. Years where food was short, the remote location and the sheer number of German soldiers which meant that there simply wasn’t enough food to go around. This shortage is mentioned regularly throughout the book in a number of ways including the variety of hot drinks and dishes the islanders made in place of their pre-war favourites; acorn coffee anyone? Potato peel pie? Mmm…

In When the Sky Fell Apart the Commandment in charge of the island is a real brute who has the local population and his own men jumping to ever changing rules. Of course in reality the rules were long, and often petty designed to stop the islanders seeking to defend themselves whilst the Germans busied themselves with the help of the prisoners of war to fortify the island with bunkers, tunnels and sea walls that are still evident today.

So while the story is based on a historical event that left a long shadow, the book is peopled by those of the author’s imagination. And she has created a really good cast. The key members being Maurice, a man with a sick wife, Edith the local healer, Dr Carter and Claudine who all see the war and the occupying soldiers through the prism of their own war years. The characters are varied, at different stages of their lives and all battling their own personal battles because of even a war didn’t stop all other battles small and large that people face in life. I liked all the characters because each one had their good points, and at times not so good. The shifting alliances underlining what people need to do to survive in extreme circumstances. This really is a book where the human element is as strong as the true events that it is depicting and I found both elements equally compelling.

While the years of the war roll by we get to see the personal battles and the way our key characters interact with each other and their neighbours on the island and with so much to engage the reader, the book avoided that mid-book slump that historical novels can be particularly susceptible to. I think it helps that the author was born and bred in Jersey with the local names rolling off the tongue, or perhaps that should be page!

Some of the events this book is based upon are very familiar to me and have also been captured in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society but the story itself is far more than historical events, this is a book where I cared about the characters and willed them to have the best war years possible, and hope that when it was all over, their post year lives were spent in tranquillity.

I’d like to thank the publicist FMcM Associates for sending me a copy of When the Sky Fell Apart ahead of the paperback publication.

First Published UK: 24 February 2017
Publisher: Text Publishing Company
No of Pages:  360
Genre: Historical Fiction – WWII
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (January 29)

Weekly Wrap Up

This Week on the Blog

On Monday I awarded five stars in my review for the psychological thriller Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch, a masterpiece of plotting and misdirection. Her Husband’s Lover starts with a car crash and the death of Louisa Williams’ husband and children.

My excerpt post on Tuesday was from a standalone book Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham which sounds like it will be a very interesting read.

This Week in Books had me spotlight my upcoming read, a book that I’ve owned since September 2015; The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This book is widely perceived to be one of the important pieces of feminist literature, first published in 1892.

On Thursday I hosted an Author Post by Caimh McDonnell as part of the blog tour for The Day That Never Comes, where Caimh talks about the inspiration for the book.

My review on Friday was for the much hyped Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough complete with the hashtag WTFthatending. I was thoroughly entertained and gripped by this psychological novel.

Yesterday my final review of the week was for The Day That Never Comes by Caimh McDonnell, a mixture of crime and humour.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths, the eighth book in the Ruth Galloway series. In this novel the theme of Madonna runs strongly through the investigation into the death of a hospital patient found wearing a blue nightgown.

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

The Woman in Blue

Blurb

A vision of the Virgin Mary foreshadows a string of cold-blooded murders, revealing a dark current of religious fanaticism in an old medieval town.

Known as England’s Nazareth, the medieval town of Little Walsingham is famous for religious apparitions. So when Ruth Galloway’s druid friend Cathbad sees a woman in a white dress and a dark blue cloak standing alone in the local cemetery one night, he takes her as a vision of the Virgin Mary. But then a woman wrapped in blue cloth is found dead the next day, and Ruth’s old friend Hilary, an Anglican priest, receives a series of hateful, threatening letters. Could these crimes be connected? When one of Hilary’s fellow female priests is murdered just before Little Walsingham’s annual Good Friday Passion Play, Ruth, Cathbad, and DCI Harry Nelson must team up to find the killer before he strikes again. Amazon

Stacking The Shelves

Let’s just say that I’ve been keeping our good old postie busy this week delivering books!

First to arrive was The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff which will be published with a huge number of other books on my pile on 23 February 2017.

the-orphans-tale

Blurb

In Nazi-occupied Holland, seventeen-year-old Noa snatches a baby from a train bound for the concentration camps, fleeing with him into the snowy wilderness surrounding the train tracks.
Passing through the woods is a German circus – a troupe of waifs and strays, led by the infamous Herr Neuroff. They agree to take in Noa and the baby, on one condition: to earn her keep, Noa must master the flying trapeze – under the tutorage of mysterious aerialist, Astrid.
Soaring high above the crowds, Noa and Astrid must learn to trust one another…or plummet. But with the threat of war closing in, loyalty can become the most dangerous trait of all. Amazon

And then another wartime novel When the Sky Fell Apart by Caroline Lea which will be published in paperback on 2 March 2017. I couldn’t resist this one because after bemoaning the fact that there are no books set in Jersey where I live, here’s another one.

when-the-sky-fell-apart

Blurb

Jersey, June 1940: it starts with the burning man on the beach just after the bombs land, obliterating the last shred of hope that Hitler will avert his attention from the Channel Islands. Within weeks, 12,000 German troops land on the Jersey beaches, heralding a new era of occupation.

For 10-year-old Claudine, it means a re-education under German rule, and as she befriends one of the soldiers, she inadvertently opens the gateway to a more sinister influence in her home with devastating consequences.

For Maurice, a local fisherman, it means protecting his wife at all costs. He has heard the whispers from France of what the occupiers do to invalids like Marthe and he is determined to keep them away from her – even if it means endangering his own life.

Edith, the island’s unofficial homeopath, is a Jerriais through to her bones. She sees her duty as caring for those who need her in their darkest time, but even she can’t save everyone, no matter how hard she tries.

And as for English doctor Tim Carter – on the arrival of the brutal Commandant, he becomes the subject of a terrifying regime that causes the Jersey locals to brand him a traitor, unaware of the torment he suffers in an effort to save them. Amazon

From the remainder of my Christmas voucher I bought a copy of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, another book I feel as an avid crime reader, I really should have read before now!

in-cold-blood
Blurb

The chilling true crime ‘non-fiction novel’ that made Truman Capote’s name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative published in Penguin Modern Classics.
Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote’s comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human. Amazon

And the final pennies were spent on Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham. A book that I first came across on Fiction Fan’s Book Reviews in April 2014 – and it’s been on the wishlist ever since but since I read Harriet Said by Beryl Bainbridge which was inspired by this crime, I thought it time that I read this one too.

anne-perry-and-the-murder-of-the-century

Blurb

On June 22, 1954, teenage friends Juliet Hulme better known as bestselling mystery writer Anne Perry and Pauline Parker went for a walk in a New Zealand park with Pauline s mother, Honora. Half an hour later, the girls returned alone, claiming that Pauline s mother had had an accident. But when Honora Parker was found in a pool of blood with the brick used to bludgeon her to death close at hand, Juliet and Pauline were quickly arrested, and later confessed to the killing. Their motive? A plan to escape to the United States to become writers, and Honora s determination to keep them apart. Their incredible story made shocking headlines around the world and would provide the subject for Peter Jackson s Academy Award nominated film, Heavenly Creatures.
A sensational trial followed, with speculations about the nature of the girls relationship and possible insanity playing a key role. Among other things, Parker and Hulme were suspected of lesbianism, which was widely considered to be a mental illness at the time. This mesmerizing book offers a brilliant account of the crime and ensuing trial and shares dramatic revelations about the fates of the young women after their release from prison. With penetrating insight, this thorough analysis applies modern psychology to analyze the shocking murder that remains one of the most interesting cases of all time. Amazon

In addition to those lovelies I was approved on NetGalley for See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

see-what-i-have-done

Blurb

Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Or did she?

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling. NetGalley

 

Have you read any of these? Do you want to?

 

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read a total of 4 books but gained 5 new ones making the grand total of 190
Physical Books – 111
Kindle Books – 67
NetGalley Books – 12