Sunday, 29 December 2013

Mrs Sinclairs Suitcase - Louise Walters



From the publisher's blurb via Lovereading.... 

Forgive me, Dorothea, for I cannot forgive you. What you do, to this child, to this child's mother, it is wrong...Roberta likes to collect the letters and postcards she finds in second-hand books. When her father gives her some of her grandmother's belongings, she finds a baffling letter from the grandfather she never knew - dated after he supposedly died in the war. Dorothy is unhappily married to Albert, who is away at war. When an aeroplane crashes in the field behind her house she meets Squadron Leader Jan Pietrykowski, and as their bond deepens she dares to hope she might find happiness. But fate has other plans for them both, and soon she is hiding a secret so momentous that its shockwaves will touch her granddaughter many years later..

My thoughts 
Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase is packed full of secrets and deceptions. I wept my way through this deeply moving story of loss and soul searching, with a soggy tissue clutched in my palm.

It’s a dual time narrative (which I must admit I have a special fondness for, possibly as I can never decide whether I most love historical fiction or contemporary) Told from the modern day perspective of Roberta, whom I didn’t really warm to and the second world war era events in the life of Dorothy with whom I felt an immense kinship.

Present day, Roberta is a spinster, living with her cat in an apartment and working in a lovely independent bookshop “Old and New” by day, sorting through collections of collectable old books, she collects old letters found in second hand books. There aren’t many readers who won’t envy her this job, I do !
In one old book amongst a pile donated by her terminally ill father she discovers a mysterious letter addressed to Dorothea – her grandmother, still alive but over 100 years old and living in a nursing home, increasingly confused and frail. This communique, signed by Roberta’s grandfather and dated almost a year later than the date she understands he died, confuses her and grabs her imagination.
We are then transported back in time to the exceptionally emotional story of Dorothy, a young wife living near an airfield in WW2 her life suffused with loss, the death of her newborn son, an event that is set to affect her future actions and have consequences that transcend generations. Her husband away at war, she takes in 2 landgirls and when one day a plane crashes into the field behind her house, this accident leads her to meet Jan a young Polish airman, destined to play a big part in the story.

I had huge empathy for Dorothy and her story, although very bleak at times and sad, is gripping and compelling, you’ll be swept away by her emotions, feeling her trauma and passion right to the end of the book and I can understand why she makes some difficult choices and decisions and above all why she keeps things hidden, although I was actually traumatized that the one thing I hoped for above all, never materializes. You’ll know what I mean when you read the book.
Roberta, however is a less sympathetic character, I found her clandestine relationship with a married man she seems to care little for, rather distasteful and her aloofness and choice to avoid relationships although it becomes very apparent and very understandable why she is like this I did want to take her by the shoulders at several points and shake her!

I really enjoyed this story which is so much more than a romance it’s an intergenerational look at the way women’s lives are shaped by the men in them, even in their absence. Make sure you have a tissue handy when you read it. I feel this may appeal to anyone who enjoyed “The Guernsey Literary and potato peel pie society” or “The postmistress”


Huge thanks to Lovereading for my advance copy.

Buy your copy here  due for publication in February.

Monday, 23 December 2013

My top 20 books of 2013

It's that time of year when I look back at the books I've read and reviewed and choose my top 10. However I've read so many great new books this year I found it too hard to narrow down to just 10 so this year I've chosen a top 20.

Out of these I notice a similarity to last years top 10 reads in that they include one by Stephen King, one by Jojo Moyes and the majority are by female authors they're a mix of psychological thrillers, family dramas and romance.

I set myself a reading target of 80 books but have only managed 71 so far I think it'll be 72 by the end of 2013 as I'm nearing the end of another.

Here are the best of 2013 as far as I'm concerned - most of these come very highly recommended.

One of the best was
The Playdate - Louise Millar an excellent twisty thriller.



The boy that never was - Karen Perry

The Boy That Never WasThe Boy That Never Was by Karen Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This beguiling and believable story, about the lives of a couple Harry and his wife Robin, both artists who begin their married life living a bohemian lifestyle in Tangiers. The birth of the baby boy Dillon, whom they both adore, only serves to cement their relationship, until the unthinkable happens and in a moment of ill judgement their world turns upside down when an earthquake strikes taking their beloved 3 year old from them and as the cracks appear in Tangiers so do the cracks begin to form in their loving relationship.

Told in first person in the 2 voices and differing viewpoints of Harry, then Robin, we see the very different ways this loss has affected them both and back in Ireland, secrets and past misdemeanors haunt both of them in contrasting ways. Both racked by guilt they are unable to accept the loss of Dillon and Harry especially finds it impossible to believe his little boy is actually dead. Drowning his sorrows in an alcoholic haze, he believes Dillon is still alive and when he spots a boy whom he believes is the dead child he begins to lose his grasp on reality.

We are swept along by the excellent storytelling and layer upon layer of buried transgressions which build up to a horrifying climax.

This is a taut and rather unnerving book, the characters are somewhat flawed which initially I excused because of their grief but gradually reveals itself to be part of their personalities.

Making you wonder how you would react in similar situations, I found it a very enjoyable read and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a family drama with a tense psychological twist or two.

I was surprised and a little taken aback by the ending and without giving anything away there was one aspect of it I must admit I don't really understand. An excellent novel which I can highly recommend.

I think it might appeal to anyone who enjoyed The Playdate or Sister

I received a free e-version of this soon to be published title from Netgalley.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Other Typist - Suzanne Rindell

The Other TypistThe Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this via Netgalley and finished reading it last night.

Set in prohibition era America it conjures up a descriptive historic atmosphere of speakeasies, bootleg alcohol and life on the fringes of polite society.

Narrated by Rose, a typist in a police precinct, dealing daily with hardened criminals, who tells us the story of how she became involved with Odalie the other typist who comes to work at the same precinct. Rose is a plain girl, who tells us of her upbringing in an orphanage and her rather bland life which seems to take on new colour and meaning as Odalie enters it. Bright, lively and modern, Odalie is everything Rose is not and an unlikely and quite disturbing friendship develops between the 2 girls which is destined to end disastrously.

Rose is an unreliable narrator and we soon begin to wonder at a few of her actions and, as she begins to reveal that she is reading us the story from her own journal, in the presence of a doctor we wonder what is going to happen to her as she gets sucked from her job on the right side of the law to a shady nightlife in illegal gin palaces and parties

There are lots of twists and turns in the story, and I found the story compelling, dark and gripping, however I did find the conclusion rather confusing, had to go back and read it twice and am still not completely sure exactly what was being inferred. Nevertheless its a fabulous story, set in a fascinating period and will be loved by readers who like a dark and convoluted tale.