A Long Petal of the Sea: Book Review

It was with little hope that I applied to NetGalley to read a pre-release copy of Isabel Allende’s latest book “A Long Petal of the Sea”.

Isabel Allende

As a huge fan of her work, I coveted the book but I doubted my chances. Ideally, NetGalley want 80% of books delivered to be reviewed —let’s say my stats are nowhere near this figure. In the early days as a member, I happily clicked on new books, then failed to find the time to either read or review.

Against all expectations, I was accepted to review “A Long Petal of the Sea”. I was overjoyed and that same evening started the book. Wow! I had no idea the emotional and intellectual journey ahead in this most remarkable of books.

Normally, I do not include the blurbs of books, however, considering the wide scope of “A Long Petal of the Sea” it makes sense to first introduce its premise. Surprisingly, there is a very different blurb for the Amazon in America. Here is the UK book description:

“That September 2, 1939, the day of the Spanish exiles’ splendid arrival in Chile, the Second World War broke out in Europe.

Victor Dalmau is a young doctor when he is caught up in the Spanish Civil War, a tragedy that leaves his life – and the fate of his country – forever changed. Together with his sister-in-law, the pianist Roser Bruguera, he is forced out of his beloved Barcelona and into exile.

When opportunity to seek refuge in Chile arises, they take it, boarding a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda to the promised ‘long petal of sea and wine and snow’ over the seas. There, they find themselves enmeshed in a rich web of characters who come together in love and tragedy over the course of four generations, destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world.”

M/S Winnipeg

Spoiler Alert: In order to write a comprehensive review I have included some elements from the book that could be considered as ‘spoilers’. I feel my review here barely begins to hint at its magnificence and any details will in no way affect any later rewarding read.

My Review

“A Long Petal of the Sea” is an incredible literary novel. It is effectively divided into three parts, each one representative of a different country and time era in which Victor and Roser find themselves.

The story starts dramatically in the midst of the Spanish Civil War as Victor finds himself holding the heart of a fallen soldier, which he massages back to life. His vision of working within cardiology is set from this moment.

The first part of the book is captivating, heartbreaking, emotional. It’s epic, yet often tender and personal as the reader is introduced to the various characters, especially, Roser, Victor and his brother Guillem.

At times in this first section the story is interspersed with succinct history ‘lessons’ about the Spanish Civil War which are equally fascinating and horrifying. As Roser and Victor’s mother are forced to join the half million refugees walking to France from Spain I felt deep shock. How had I never heard of this mass exodus – The Retreat. A retreat which killed thousands, both en route and later in appalling conditions in camps in France.

Pablo Neruda

Once in France Victor and Roser are among the lucky two thousand accepted onboard the rescue ship M/S Winnipeg chartered by the famous Chilean Nobel-prize winning poet and politician Pablo Neruda. Throughout the book, Pablo Neruda’s poems are quoted at the beginning of chapters, his words reflecting his belief in humanity, his love for his country.

Once in Chile the writing style is transformed. From the stark description of the terror in Spain, which at times left the main protagonists feeling remote from the reader, the attention moves alongside Victor and Roser as they build a new life in their adopted country.

Here they find warmth, comfort and opportunity. Whilst Victor works in a bar to fund his medical training, Roser continues piano playing, increasingly at a higher level. Their lives become interlinked with a Chilean family whose son Felipe was a young diplomat and welcomed them to Chile on their arrival. Felipe’s sister, Ofelia de Solar immediately catches Victor’s eye.

One of my concerns as I read about the book was that it would skip from one generation to next with just a brief time in each. Rather Isabel Allende has skilfully woven generations of history through the eyes of the two main characters and their friends. This is inspired and as they live through each new trauma or coup, it’s as if we experience it ourselves.

The sweeping story of the book is captivating and I found myself transported across the globe to a country about which I knew nothing. As Victor and Roser both become successful in their chosen careers, as their son Marcel happily grows up as a Chilean, the threat from Pinochet is increasing.

After the coup, Victor blithely and naively feels invulnerable. Until the day he is denounced by a neighbour whom he had helped many times. Once more, nearly forty years after leaving Spain, he finds himself being tortured in cells, taken to a work camp and almost starved to death. It is with Roser’s determination, courage and perseverance to find him over eleven months coupled with the fortuitous near-death of the camp commander that saves Victor’s life.

Once he is freed, the couple flee to Venezuela who is welcoming all refugees from Chile.

Throughout the book, the themes of hope, exile and belonging are thoroughly explored … topics that personally touch the author and reflect her life. As a young Chilean her grandfather fled Spain during the civil war, and years later she too found refuge in Venezuela.

Once again in exile, Roser’s inner and positive spirit helps them to rebuild their lives. The melancholy that often overcomes Victor fails to do so on this occasion and their relationship enters a new level. The epic nature of the book has never felt more intimate and close, the political events of the countries are sweeping, the horrors perpetrated in Chile unimaginable yet there is love and life in their new adopted country.

Victor’s and Roser’s years of exile in Venezuela is brought to an end when a list of those free to return to Chile is published. Victor’s name is on the list and on the advice of their son, they return to a country that has and is still suffering terribly under the regime of Pinochet. Against the odds, they forge a new life, one which flourishes as Pinochet dies and the country slowly reverts to democracy.

As the book headed towards a heartfelt and compelling conclusion I found myself reading slower, not wanting to leave the book, its story, characters.

This is a stunning historical literary novel and one I cannot recommend highly enough. It is a book I will never forget and one I feel that changed me.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publication date: 21st January 2020

Genre: Historical fiction, literary fiction

To purchase: Amazon UK Amazon US or at any bookshops.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Book Fair – New Book on the Shelves – #Children 3-6 – Oskar’s Quest by Annika Perry – Illustrated by Gabrielle Vickery

I’m elated that my new release ‘Oskar’s Quest’ is featured on Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord Blog Magazine today. As you can understand I was keen to share here on my blog; please click on the link to read the full feature and to comment!

Many thanks!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Delighted to share the news of Annika Perry’s new release. A delightful children’s book, perfect for 3 – 6 year olds – Oskar’s Quest.

About the book

Oskar is afraid of adventures. Yet one day he finds himself on a mysterious island which needs his help.Join Oskar on this unexpected and magnificent quest, where he finds not only courage but so much more…“It’s light, extremely enjoyable and very gripping.” Esther Chilton – author & editor.Perfect for ages 3 to 6.

One of the early reviews for the book

Bette A. Stevens 5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Picture Book! December 2, 2019

I received an ARC of this delightful book from the author. In this beautifully illustrated children’s book, author Annika Perry captures the importance of caring for others, overcoming fears and making new friends. Young children are sure to relate as a fearful Oskar steps out of his comfort…

View original post 265 more words

OSKAR’S QUEST #NewBook

It’s here! I am overjoyed to announce the release of my latest book!

UPDATE: NOW ALSO OUT ON KINDLE with optional pop-up text boxes … links are below.

Oskar is afraid of adventures. Yet one day he finds himself on a mysterious island which needs his help.

Join Oskar on this unexpected and magnificent quest, where he finds not only courage but so much more …

“It’s light, extremely enjoyable and very gripping.” Esther Chilton, author & editor

The first review is already in and thank you so much to Bette A. Stevens who read a pre-release copy of Oskar’s Quest.

“In this beautifully illustrated children’s book, author Annika Perry captures the importance of caring for others, overcoming fears and making new friends.

 Young children are sure to relate as a fearful Oskar steps out of his comfort zone and embarks on a perilous journey in an effort to save a beautiful songbird and return happiness to an island where he’s been stranded during a fierce storm.

I loved the author’s generous use of onomatopoeia to paint memorable word pictures for little readers and listeners. PLIP-PLOP, FLASH, BANG—the story’s excitement builds.

Delightful!” ~Bette A. Stevens, Maine author

Oskar’s Quest is suitable for children aged 3 – 6, although I would like to say there is no upper limit to enjoying any book!

To Purchase Oskar’s Quest:

PAPERBACK AMAZON UK

KINDLE AMAZON UK

PAPERBACK AMAZON US

KINDLE AMAZON US

Also available in:

PAPERBACK: CA DE  FR  ES  IT  JP 

KINDLE: CA AU IN DE FR ES IT JP NL MX

Format: Paperback & Kindle ebook

Book Size (Paperback): 210 x 210 mm (8 1/4” x 8 1/4”)

Publisher: Klippor Press

A CITY’S FESTIVE TRANSFORMATION

I’ve been wary of anything that describes itself as a Winter Wonderland after my first foray to such a themed event over ten years ago. Then my family and I ended up wandering around a few sad small shacks of glitter in a mud pit of fields!

When friends suggested I join them at the Winter Wonderland in Nottingham recently I hesitated, and said I’d think about it. In other words I needed to check it out online first!

Yeah! No mud or fields in sight! Rather the website promised a glittering array of lights, bars, and over 70 stalls! The largest such event in the Midlands.

On the day of our arrival, we headed to centre of town and just as dusk fell around four I was struck first by the colourful Christmas tree lights.

As we approached the main square the cacophony of voices hit us, one moment the quiet city centre streets, then magically transported to a fairy-tale Christmas market. The crowd was deep and slow-moving, not that I minded in the least as I spun around, scanning the festivities.

There was a large ice-rink, a helter-skelter, carousel and toboggan ride! Plus much more! Food stalls served dishes from across Europe and of course, there were the bars galore, including an ice-bar!

Photo from https://www.visit-nottinghamshire.co.uk/

The market stalls offered a variety of goods including jewellery, ornaments, art and fashion. As it was a cold night I bought myself a hat. The first bobble hat I’ve had since a child and it felt snug and warm on my head! My friends laughed at my acquisition – good-naturedly, I hope!

Although we were sorely tempted by the drinks on offer we had another destination in mind, ‘The Alchemist’ cocktail bar. How could we resist their tantalising sales pitch:

“We’re masters in the dark arts of molecular mixology and demons in the kitchen. Our mixologists create every cocktail with an obsessive eye for detail, presented in vessels orchestrated to add a devilish dash of theatre, they bedazzle, bewitch and set the scene for everything we do.”

I was enraptured by the artistry of the staff, magicians of wondrous concoction, mine a smoking mixture which could not be rested on the table until the vapours subsided. Only then was I allowed to pour it into the specially prepared glass! I had a SMOKEY NUMBER 2 which consisted of a heady selection of ‘Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum, Winter Sugars, Apple, Smoke, Cinnamon. Hard To Put Down’. I can asssure you I only had the one drink, here I’m holding my friend’s flask as well.

I loved every wicked and fiery sip! Let’s just say there wasn’t a second one!

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating this Thursday! Happy First Advent to those who mark the day on Sunday. Above all else wishing everyone a joyful and peaceful time before Christmas!

Note: Unless stated all photos are ©Annika Perry.

THE LITTLE BOOKS

One of my favourite outings as a young girl was just an hours drive from home.

Nestled in a valley on the West Yorkshire moors, Haworth is an idyllic village, always bustling with visitors. On the top of the Main Street, a misnomer for the rambling cobbled lane, was the house of our regular pilgrimage. The Parsonage was for over forty years the home to Patrick Brontë and his family and later turned into a museum.

In silenced awe, I wandered around the rooms in which they lived, worked, wrote. I gasped at the exhibits, incredible to believe these were their actual writings. The rooms used by the Brontë family are largely unchanged and filled with a collection of furniture, clothes and personal possessions. One display particularly held me in reverential hush … the little books! Absolutely tiny – each the size of a small matchbox! How could they fit so much in these!

One set was produced by Charlotte Brontë in 1830 for her toy soldiers and featured an imaginary world created by the family called Glass Town. Aged 14 she wrote six (all sequenced) of these little books called “The Young Men’s Magazine”. They all included stories and advertisements in Charlotte’s own hand. Today five are still in existence, of which until recently the Brontë Society held four. Earlier this week they acquired the fifth through fundraising for the price of £666,790:- (approx. $860,825:-)

Over 1,000 people pledged money to help buy the book, including the illustrious and gifted actress, Judi Dench. Born in York, she is president of the Brontë Society and she captures the inherent spirit of the books perfectly.

“These tiny manuscripts are like a magical doorway into the imaginary worlds they inhabited, and also hint at their ambition to become published authors.”

Now living in the South East of England my journey to the Brontë Parsonage will take over five hours, yet this is a visit I look forward to making next year. Once there I imagine the young me and present me reunited as we stand in awed respect, admiring all five of the little books, in wonder at these young minds and hearts set on writing!

Note: All photos from Google.

Introducing Oskar!

It’s a scenario many of us have experienced in our lives.

A young child in bed, restless and not at all keen on this falling asleep lark! Being awake is so much more exciting!

Over a couple of years, when my son had difficulty letting go of his awake self, I started to make up stories to help him drift asleep.

One of these was Oskar’s Quest, which was created and developed over many weeks. It became a firm favourite at home.

As my boy grew up, oh, so quickly, the regular bedtime story of Oskar’s Quest was no longer requested nor required. Before I forgot any part of his adventures my mother advised me to write it all down. Who knew when it would be needed in the future; where it could lead?

Mothers are always right! Last year I revisited my children’s story and I was smitten once again. Anew I found myself captivated by Oskar and his Quest. Maybe others would feel the same, I wondered. I even dared to hope!

Yet, with many years of writing experience, I realised the story needed work. I set at redrafting and editing this lengthy tale to one more suitable for publication. Finally, with the aid of a talented illustrator, the book was ready!

I’m so thrilled and elated to present Oskar to you all and for you to have an opportunity to take part in his adventures. I will be posting much more about Oskar’s Quest, its cover, blurb and release date in the near future!

May Oskar soon make many new friends with children and adults alike, all keen to follow him on his exciting quest and in the process find a bit more of themselves.

YOUR BOOK BY DECREE

The British Library wants my book! It’s official! There again they want a copy of every newly published work; be it a book, manuscript or music score.

It was only recently I learned that this esteemed institution requires publishers, by law, to forward a copy of any new publications. Legal Deposit was established in 1662 and since 2013, it now includes digital as well as print publications. Publishers, which also means authors who self-publish, must send their book to the British Library.

The King’s Library

What exactly is Legal Deposit:

“The legal deposit libraries work together to ensure the long term preservation of UK publications, both in print and digital form. They are collected systematically. They ensure that publications are held securely and that they can be discovered and accessed by readers within the legal deposit libraries as well as being preserved for the use of future generations.”

With pride, I pop a copy of “The Storyteller Speaks” in the post to them. I imagine it joining the 170 million items there. These are stored on shelving stretching on 746 km over fourteen floors.

The present British Library at St. Pancreas was only completed towards the end of the last century and it’s a building of beauty and function.

Humanities Reading Room

It is home to eleven reading rooms including ones for Rare Books, Manuscripts and Maps! Amongst its collections are materials ranging from Magna Carta to Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebook, from today’s newspapers to websites. For those interested in music there are over seven million recordings from 19th-century wax cylinders recordings to CDs.

Furthermore, a separate building on a 44-acre site in Boston Spa in Yorkshire houses around 70% of the Library’s print collection which accounts for over 80 million items.

Legal deposit is not restricted to only the British Library in London. A further five national libraries can insist on copies being forwarded by the publishers to them. These are the National Libraries of Scotland, Wales and Trinity College Dublin, as well as Cambridge University Library and Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Have you heard of Legal Deposit before? Have you sent your book to the British Library? For readers not in the UK, I wonder if there is a similar requirement in your county? Can’t wait to find out more from you all!

What’s in a Name?: Book Review

Shakespeare said it so well, didn’t he? Or did he?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Even as a sixteen-year-old studying ‘Romeo and Juliet’ I had quibbles with this assertion. Although I understood the particular references for this play, I felt, and still do, that our given names carry a certain ponderance. With our names we have a responsibility to our ancestors, to ourselves. Behind each there is a story.

With these thoughts swirling in my mind, I approached Sally Cronin’s book with deep interest. I couldn’t wait to read it. In these fictional short stories she explores the lives of twenty named individuals. This first volume which I’m reviewing here included names from ‘A’ to ‘J’. I was enthralled by the concept of the book, the names in alphabetical order, male and female.

It’s been a while since I read a book of short stories and often I find that my brain needs to change gear, to adapt to the different mode of storytelling.

With ‘What’s in a Name?’ I did not need to make any such adjustments. I slipped seamlessly into the book and once I started I couldn’t stop! Each separate story pulling me into the next.

Each is centred around one person. This is all the stories have in common. The themes vary from gentle reunions, relationships which have gone awry whether in friendships, marriage, siblings or between parent and child, from war to a violent abusive marriage. The versatility of subject matter is astonishing.

Equally wide-ranging are the various time eras, often spanning thirty or more years seamlessly within the stories. In one the gap is from the very beginning of humans to modern-day as early man Brynyar is reflected later in the story in modern-day ‘Brian’.

Throughout, Sally captures the reader’s attention from the very first sentence, immediately transporting the reader to the setting. I found myself immersed, the tiniest of detail settling me into the story. Furthermore, and I’m not sure how she does it, Sally sketches such an intimate picture of the characters I felt they were my friends, neighbours. I fell for them, some I adored, a couple rightly angered me and I cheered as one was arrested. The stories never felt rushed, the writing flowing with ease and complete on their own. More than a few times however I longed to read more about their lives, to stay with the characters longer and I could easily imagine a novel from some of them.

Throughout, Sally writes in the third person but at no stage does this create a sense of distance, rather the close portrayals of every day people come powerfully across. Effortlessly she explores people in all stages of life. A few stories feature children and ‘Grace’ had me tear-eyed as the five-year-old girl struggled with loneliness in the orphanage once her best friend was adopted. Could Father Christmas make all the difference?

All the endings are wonderfully surprising, with delightfully unexpected twists. Some were brilliantly audacious, where else would one find an assassin featuring alongside stories including a ballerina and a tortoise? Some stories left me chuckling, others were heartbreakingly sad about loss, and others about fateful revenge.

‘What’s in a Name?’ is a highly rewarding and engaging read which I finished over two afternoons. It’s a book I highly recommend and I’m sure you will come away answering the question in the title of the book with a resounding ‘Everything is in a Name!”

Although I was sad to finish this first volume, I’m looking forward to reading Volume 2 of ‘What’s in a Name?’ which is already on my Kindle!

Rating:        5 out of 5 stars

Available:    Amazon US  $ 3.79 (Kindle) Amazon UK £2.95 (Kindle)

Publisher: Moyhill Publishing

As well as a wonderful writer in her own right many of you will know about the superb work Sally carries out in promoting books for authors, helping in marketing via her blog, Smorgasbord Blog Magazine, and social media. She has become an indispensable and good friend of authors here on WordPress. What is probably less known is how she found herself here. Learn more on her about page here.

Contact details for Sally Cronin:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.cronin
LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ie/cronin1423/

MYSTERY OF SAILS

Recently a dear friend who was moving house gave me four magnificent sailing ship prints and their majesty astounded me. The first of these is the Brig Fride of Göteborg seen above.

The sight of sailing ships is always awe-inspiring. This is true even of pictures featuring them and they evoke an uplifting sense of wonder and adventure.

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” — William Faulkner

As always, I wanted to know a bit of the story behind them? Who painted them? I headed to the trusty internet to learn about the artist behind paintings such as the Clipper Ship Challenger pictured above.

However, this time the web failed me and the mystery of sails began.

“Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.” — Kahlil Gibran

I could find the prints for auction at one auction house in Sweden. Two of the prints seems to be connected to two different artists: Peter Christian Holm (1823 – 1888) for the steamboat and Signe Marin for the Brig.

Here the trail went cold! I would be intrigued if anyone could shed anymore light on the history of these paintings.

Meanwhile, my mind wondered towards the pull of the ocean, its reverential hold upon us all. Writers not only find it a source of inspiration and rejuvenation but also cannot help but note down the power of this vast expanse. Perhaps even when aboard boats such as the Three-mast Barque Gefion pictured above.

“If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.” ― Rachel Carson

I decided to seek out ocean-related sayings and here the internet proved much more willing. I’ve chosen four from authors whose books are some of my favourites.

The last of the four ship prints is the Steamship Gustaf Adolf pictured here.

Finally, do you have any favourite quotations, poetry or songs related to the ocean? Please feel free to share here and if possible I look forward to collating these in a separate post. For all writers, if you have written a piece based around the seas please include it in the comments or link to your post! I look forward to a discussion all about the ocean!

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” — Louisa May Alcott

SEA PRAYER: A Book Review

On 2nd September 2015 an image flashed around the world that saddened and horrified us all. A young boy, later identified as Alan Kurdi, lay motionless on a pristine beach in Turkey, the dawn sun glowing around him. He was dead. During his three young years he knew only war in Syria; a war his parents fled to find safety. The photo of Alan touched everyone and inspired, nay, I would say, drove one famous writer to pen a short book, Sea Prayer.

Within Khaled Hosseini’s Sea Prayer the words and illustrations are intrinsically linked, creating a wondrous work of art.

The first page starts as a letter (quasi-eulogy) to the narrator’s son, Marwan, and it recalls the beauty of life in Homs. The father describes his childhood when he had woken “to the stirrings of olive trees in the breeze/to the bleating of your grandmother’s goat”.

Tender, colourful watercolours by Dan Williams accompany the story. On one page the vibrant red of poppies match the red of his wife’s coat, as she holds her son’s hand wandering through a field.

It’s a time of peace, tranquillity, harmony. In the old city there was “a mosque for us Muslims,/a church for our Christian neighbours,/and a grand souk for us all”.

Soon this life of normality is transformed into one “like some long-dissolved rumour”.

As war approaches the watercolours darken, greys, blacks, browns dominate. These are more powerful than ever, conveying the despair and sense of hopelessness. As the illustrations change, so does the language for a few pages, the short staccato sentences echoing the weapons.

“The skies spitting bombs.
Starvation.
Burials.”

Marwan’s childhood is one where he has learned “dark blood is better news/than bright.” His bathing places are not the idyllic creeks of his father’s youth, rather that of bomb craters. This is not a childhood.

As the family join thousands of other refugees fleeing their country I find myself physically pained, the long march pictured across two pages, no words necessary.

Father and son find themselves on a beach with many others where they stand “in the glow of this three-quarter moon”. Here the father makes his promise: “Nothing bad will happen.”

A hollow promise as the father recognises more than ever “How powerless I am to protect you from it.”

The book ends with the beauty of sunlight across a soft morning beach. A new day, a new beginning, new hope.

Three certainties not afforded to all.

This is a book I’ve read many times, each occasion more tear-eyed than before. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, emotional. It is a testament to the human spirit, to love and compassion within every one of us.

Throughout Khaled Hosseini writes with flair and skill, the poetic prose magically drawing the reader into the story. It’s deceptively simple, almost a lullaby in the gentlest of tones telling the cruellest of truths.

If you come to Sea Prayer expecting a lengthy literary novel such as his brilliant The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns or And The Mountains Echoed you will probably be disappointed.

If you expect to catch the sublime gifted language and story to remember for all time by this renowned author, you are in for a treat.

This is a book that crosses all genres, it’s for children, for adults, for humanity — it’s a precious gift to hold it within one’s hands and heart. Everyone who reads it will be, as I was, humbled by its message told on behalf of all refugees who endure so much but whose voices are seldom heard.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars.

AVAILABLE: From bookshops, libraries, online such as Amazon UK and Amazon US

PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Books