Beneath A Burning Sky

This was just the perfect book for a cold and wintry Easter holiday! Set in the warmth of Egypt towards the end of the 19th-century, I soon found myself basking in the heat of the rich descriptions of Alexandria of 1891 as the city was brought vividly to life. Quickly I found myself immersed in not only the wonderfully exotic locations, which are lavishly described but I also found myself wrapped up in the lives and drama of the characters.

The first of these is a new arrival to Alexandria. Although born in the city, Olivia left fifteen years earlier following the tragic death of her parents. Her paternal grandmother, who always resented her mother, sought revenge by abandoning her youngest granddaughter in a lonely and uncaring convent school in England, whilst raising Olivia’s sister, Clara herself.

At last the two sisters are reunited in their beloved city; both married to two men linked through their business. Olivia has effectively been coerced into a marriage with Alistair Sheldon, despite her misgivings … fears soon to be proved all too real. Generally disliked by those around him, few would believe the depth of Alistair’s cruel and violent nature. In contrast Clara’s marriage to Jeremy is happier, safer with two young sons, however she is distracted and distraught.

Secrets abound within the idyllic city and within all the relationships and soon Olivia too has to hide her close friendship to a certain Captain Edward Bertram (Teddy) who lodges in their house. The attraction between the two is palpable and intense although Olivia will not allow herself to act on her feelings.

The pivotal moment in the book is the sudden disappearance of Clara. As the book counts up the days thereafter, the intrigue only deepens and embroils everyone – apart from Olivia who desperately wants to find her sister. Ostensibly the novel is told through the third-person point of view, but obliquely from Olivia’s, thereby ensuring the reader feels her pain, confusion, fear. Just as Olivia attempts to unravel the mystery with the investigative help of Teddy, her friends and the police, so the reader seeks comprehension of the myriad of events.

Olivia’s strong spirit and determination grows as the dramatic and heart-wrenching story unfurls with secrets overflowing and for some reason seems to revolve around the ‘accidental’ death of a local mother. Everything seems to be connected but how?

Furthermore, the undercurrent of revolution permeates throughout the book and the historical elements are skilfully interwoven with the fictional.

The final tense chapters are spell-binding and relentless. I highly recommend this superb novel.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.img_0621

Rating:        4 out of 5 stars

Publisher:  Sphere (Imprint of Little, Brown)

Price:        Amazon US  $ 13.99 (paperback) $ 4.05 (Kindle)

                 Amazon UK  £ 7.26 (paperback)  £ 2.99 (Kindle)

85 thoughts on “BENEATH A BURNING SKY

  1. This sounded to be a captivating read Annika, and I am sure it was perfect for the Easter Break which was none too weather friendly if I remember..
    Happy to say it has improved since then..
    I wish I had more hours in my day at the moment to read.. I usually open a book when curled up in bed, but I have been sleeping like a baby as soon as my head touches the pillow.. All good!.. 🙂
    Trying my best at catching up a little here and there on WP for a couple of hours each day.. Getting there slowly.. 🙂
    Hope you are all well Annika.. Soon be the next big holiday in May.. Time is flying faster than ever..
    Sending love and well wishes your way… Hugs Sue xx ❤

    1. Sue, thank you so much for your lovely comment. Easter in the UK was dreadful, luckily I was in Sweden where it was very cold and snowy to start with but we were blessed with sun the whole time apart from one day! No TV, computers etc so LOTS of wonderful reading time – heavenly! I must admit that once home again, I struggle to fit much in – despite good intentions. Sleeping soundly sounds blessed and is precious – never mind about the reading for now. I agree that time seems to zoom by and can’t believe it’s half-term already … next couple of months we are off on university tours for October ’19 – Yikes! Hoping you have a restful stress-free week – perfect gardening weather at last! Love & hugs xxx ❤️🌸

  2. Wow! With this kind of book review and recommendation, I absolutely must read this book. Thanks for adding to my to be read list, Annika. 😆 i’m still fantasizing that there is a way to live on a planet with eight days a week not seven. 😳

    1. Pam, you’ll have to let me on the secret of the 8-day-week when you work it out – and of course it’s only for reading!! 😀 A terrific book for vacations … hope you are jettig off somewhere amazing soon. hugs xxx

  3. Great review, Annika! I’m very intrigued by this book. I’m drawn to the suspenseful aspects of the story. The grandmother is despicable. Those girls were her son’s children too! I love that the setting is in Egypt. Congrats to Jenny!😁

    1. Vashti, I too was disturbed by the grandmother and at first wondered if she was overblown in characterisation but very soon the reason for her behaviour was made clear – although still unrational! I love the occasional foreign setting of a book – armchair travel in place and time is a wonderful experience if done well – which it is here! Enjoy if you have a chance to read. xx

    1. Always a pleasure to share books, Clare… thank you so much for reading and enjoying the review! It was a perfect weekend and a good start to the week! Warmest wishes to you. 🌺🌻

    1. Oh, the grandmother is extraordinarily horrid and features a little later in the book … wonderfully portrayed and I thought it must have been fun to write her! An absorbing and intense read, Robbie … it flew by too quickly!

  4. This sounds like a fascinating read, Annika, from your wonderful review. I may have to add it to my wish list for a vacation time read. Lovely descriptions of the setting and characters! Hugs xx

    1. Janice, it is a wonderful holiday read and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did – I wanted to give a feel for the whole book without giving too much away. I’d love to know what you make of it if you have a chance. Hope you’re having a lovely start to the week! hugs xx🌼🌻

    1. Christy, when I started writing reviews for my blog I had to make an extra effort not to reveal too much of the story but still be interesting … I’m glad there weren’t any spoilers and that you liked the review so much. Oh, this is a wonderful escapist read; so much so that when I looked up I was confused to see the snow outside, feel the cold when heading out! 😀

  5. Mike

    Another very interesting book review Annika, as always. It has certainly got me interested and it’s another book on my ever increasing “to read” list.


    1. Thank you so much, Mike … I’m glad it’s grabbed your interest. 😀 Good reviews should hold the reader’s interest and give them a chance to make an informed choice. Enjoy if you have a chance to read!

    1. I know, Julie … I almost feel guilty as I’m imagining everyone’s (including mine) burgeoning TBR list! 😀 This was perfect holiday read when you have an opportunity to immerse yourself totally in another world created by the book! Edits…did someone mention Edits…what’s that?! Have fun with the work and happy reading in between! 😀

  6. Great review, Annika! Now I know at least one of the books that kept you good company on the Easter holidays. 😉Looking forward to other reviews as well.

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! 😀 I read a lot – the first review of Days of Wonder was a few weeks ago! I’m sure you’d love that book. As I don’t want to overdo book reviews on my blog I won’t be writing about all my holiday reads but posting periodically. Happy Reading, my friend! hugs xx

  7. You paint a beautiful picture of this enticing book Annika. I’m bookmarking it for that same kind of ‘take me away’ read. But I won’t be reading it until I’ve read yours! ❤

    1. 😀😀 Ahh…that’s sweet of you to say so! ❤️ I hope you enjoy both books when you have a chance to read them! Many thanks for reading the review and your lovely comment. xx

  8. Sounds like a goodie. 🙂 🙂 I like an exotic location and a good story and this seems to have both. Thanks for the recommend, Annika. It was distinctly cool here today but we had a ramble through the bluebell woods at Durham. They were looking great. 🙂

    1. Exotic in the middle of cold Spring is bound to work a treat, but the story and characters are compelling and so well written!

      Ahh…bluebell wood in Durham sounds perfect. I love these and have memories of magical walks through bluebell woods in Yorkshire as young…the sense of mystery was intense. I do hope you write a post with lots of photos! Cool and rainy day here but had fun meeting a debut author on her book signing tour in Colchester – we had a long ‘writerly’ chat. And of course bought her book!! 😀

  9. I was first introduced to Alexandria as a teenager when I read Lawrence Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet,” Annika. The books and Alexandria captured my imagination as few books and places ever have. From your review, it seems like Ashcroft has also done a good job of capturing the city as well. –Curt

    1. Wow! These must have been incredible books to have stayed with you, Curt. Have you ever had a chance to visit Alexandria on your travels? How did it live up to the books? I recognised the name Durrell, from his brother Gerald … I didn’t realise his brother Lawrence (who always was the writer) became so famous and successful – I now want to take a closer look at these ‘Alexandria Quartet’ books.

      1. No, I’ve never made it to Alexandria, or Egypt, Annika. I have been on Corfu where Durrell lived. I would highly recommend the Quartet. Now mind you, the books were among the first serious literature I read, but they totally transported me. –Curt

        1. Corfu was an incredible island and we visited many times when I was a child, becoming good friends with the people in a small village on the coast. I know some places became huge resorts later but I hope it never lost its special sense of self.

  10. I love lavish descriptions of setting, of historic times. This book sounds wonderful. How difficult life has been in the past when children were like chattel, all decisions made for them. It took a responsible caretaker and that wasn’t always around.

    1. Jacqui, the descriptions are wonderfully vivid and alluring and are the backdrop to a terrific exciting story. It took a little bit to get my head around the fact that Olivia had very little say in her life and only through this marriage did a chance to see her sister open up. However, within this world she is independant and rebels in her own little ways … gradually growing more confident and free. An alien world for us today.

    1. How true, Brigid … we’re blessed with easy access to so many wonderful books but it can be overwhelming! 😀 It’s a speical treat to take time out on a holiday and immerse oneself in a totally different world!

  11. Thanks for the recommendation, Annika. I love reading books that take place in other lands, especially those that transport me there. This sounds interesting and “spell-binding and relentless” is a great hook. Happy Reading, my friend.

    1. Diana, with this book I WAS in Alexandria -and I nearly had to shake myself when I stopped reading and returned to reality – that of the cold and snow in Sweden! Luckily I had the chance to immerse myself for an hour or two at a time in the novel … the best kind of reading!

      Wishing you a wonderful break with your folk and a brilliant 4-generation gathering! It will be amazing…hugs xxx❤️🌻

      1. I thought so from your review. Amazingly cool. I’m at the airport, waiting for the folks. It’s going to be weird being off-line for so long (though I’ll pop in when I can). “See” you soon. 🙂

  12. Thanks for this descriptive and wonderful review, Annika. I have to agree with others’ comments that the cover alone is enticing. I’ll add it to my list. Big hugs, and have a wonderful weekend! ❤🌷

    1. Lauren, after reading yours and others commets I sat back and studied the cover – it is SO well done – centred, pulling us in along with the lady, bordered by the trees and sky, the colours exotic and warm. Not wonder it’s such a hit! Luckily the book delivers and is as enticing as the cover. Happy you have another one for your list – no doubt very long but if you are ever away for a break this is perfect! Wishing you a lovely weekend too. hugs xx🌼🌸

    1. Tina, the onderfully lush and inviting cover attracted me to the book in the first place (am I allowed to say this?!). I’m so glad you enjoyed the review … a book packed with so much detail, characters and plot, it was more a matter of controlling my description of it! Happy Weekend, my friend! 🌺🌻

    1. Barbara, I can’t believe the quality of books available on NetGalley – they are a treat to read and review. I went through a period of taking on too many, when other committments took my time – I’m beginning to make inroads on the backlog! A joy to read and review, so I’m not complaining! 😃

  13. I love the cover though they say never judge a book by its cover but it always gives the first impression, at least to me.
    Annika, your review reads like a story, the intrigues are fascinating, the setting quite different and the plot seems to be holding a suspense. Thanks for a lovely review. Your recommendation would be honored dear friend. Have a wonderful weekend.

    1. Balroop, we are but human and the first impression of a cover cannot fail to make and impact! I was drawn to this and the title right away, then hooked by the blurb. Ahh… thank you so much for your kind words about my reviews … it was easy to make this read like a story -I just tried to reign myself in and not reveal too much about the book! Thank you, I’m having a wonderful weekend – just back from meeting a debut novelist who was doing a book signing in a bookshops – a lovely lady and we had a long ‘writerly’ chat. Tonight the Eurovision Song Contest, so regular family TV night – intense and lots of silly fun! Happy Weekend to you too! hugs xx

    1. Thank you so much, Jina! 😃The title caught my attention and after reading the blurb I knew this was a book for me – the tense and taut sense of intriuge is carried through to the very end!

    1. Jan, it is a captivating title and with the cover ensures the casual passerby will pause and pick it up!😀 Ingriguing is definitely the word for the storyline – it’s great when a book surprises the reader regarding the events and its direction!

    1. I know…are there just so many more great books being published or is it that we are ever more aware of them?! 😀 Enjoy if you have a chance to read. Wishing you a lovely weekend, Jennifer! 🌺🌻

  14. Annika, this is such a vivid and strong review. I agree with all your beautiful words as I have
    read he book very recently and my reaction is like yours. I highly recommend this book with its
    amazing story, fascinating setting and a storyline that doesn’t for a second slacken.
    There are many words like..spellbound, enthralling etc. All of them fit.

    1. Yeah! 😀 Miriam, it’s lovely to come across someone who has already read a book I’ve reviewed and I love your words too – definitely spellbinding and enthralling! I’ve checked out the author’s website and her second book is now out so I might give that a go too … joining me? xxx 🌸🌼

  15. What a great cover! And your review has me intrigued. The time period is a favorite of mine, and the exotic locale sounds highly appealing. Thanks for sharing, Annika!

    1. Mae, this is not a time period I usually read so it was brand new to me, but so fascinating. All the elements blended beautifully together to create a seamless intense book. Enjoy if you have a chance to read. Happy Weekend, my friend! xx

    1. Jill, I’m so happy you enjoyed the review and think this is a book you’d love. Ohh… the cover is lush and exotic … just like the book! Wishing you a lovely weekend, my friend! A very speical one for you over in the States, I understand. ❤️

    1. The characters are terrific … a great variety and brilliantly written! Oh yes, NetGalley is great – just one problem – there are SO MANY fantastic books to choose from and at one stage I downloaded so many I’ve yet to catch up! Happy Weekend, Jena! 🌸

  16. Great review, Annika. Sounds like the locale descriptions really struck you. The family drama is compelling, and tossing in a mystery too? Seems like there’s a lot there to like. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Staci, I think the location struck me specially since I read this at Easter in Sweden when night temperatures reached minus 15 degrees centigrade! It was as if the Egyptian heat radiated from the Kindle! 😀 The book has everything which is unusual these days – an unusual but hugely successful combination. Many thanks for reading and your lovely comment! Happy Weekend! xx

    1. It definitely is, Holly! 😀 Reading your excellent about page I think this is a book you’d enjoy! Many thanks for the visit and comment – lovely to meet you here on WP!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s