Wouldn’t our existence be monotonous and bland if we didn’t share our lives, thoughts, events and experiences? Sharing with family and friends is at the core of living and so it is with books.
Finishing a book I am always keen to talk about it with a person close to me, chatting away about the story, the characters development and the emotions evoked. At times (not nearly often enough!) I take a step further and with joy review the book and as a writer, I fully appreciate what this means to fellow authors.
Personally, I treasure every single review! I’m uplifted and heartened by this precious gift of time and energy. This is true for one recent review for my book “The Storyteller Speaks” and within a few paragraphs it delivered a positive punch to my spirits. It is an incredible feeling when someone is deeply touched and affected by one’s work and a terrific boost to one’s writely self. I promise that being mentioned in the same sentence with the outstanding Alice Munro has not gone to my head!
“The Storyteller Speaks” is a beautifully written book of timeless stories, poetry and flash fiction.
Annika Perry writes a carefully constructed, powerful, multi-layered story. She skilfully foreshadows events and a life less than ordinary.
Annika Perry has the gift of a true story teller. She engages the reader to emotionally connect with the characters and stories: My heart aches for an inconsolable child. I have an unexpected visceral reaction to an accident. I am transported to the exact moment in time where I hear the silence. I realize courage can come in many colours. I am moved by the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
“The Storyteller Speaks” reminds me of the powerful stories written by Alice Munro. They are stories that never leave me. The words forever change me. I continue to savour these stories, of ordinary people living a remarkable life. I highly recommend “The Storyteller Speaks.”
Review by Erica Henault on Goodreads
Many thanks to Erica for her review and in the time I’ve known her I value her warm friendship, honesty and humour. Her love of life, family and friends shines through her wonderful and inspirational blog at Behind the Scenery ‘Grateful for the Present Moment’. Do take a closer look at her posts as they brim with her passion of ‘… sharing new perspectives with each other and learning from each other … always observing and paying attention, especially to the lessons that begin in whispers, lessons that get louder and louder.’
“Infinitely more important than sharing one’s material wealth is sharing the wealth of ourselves our time and energy, our passion and commitment, and, above all, our love.” William Simon
*Quote from Erica Henault’s review of “The Storyteller Speaks”.
“The Storyteller Speaks” is available to purchase on all Amazon websites including Amazon UK and Amazon US as well as directly from myself for an autographed copy of the book!
Just imagine … no delete key! To be typing away with no way of erasing one’s words. Where force is needed on each letter, the loud clickety-clack echoing around the room.
Some will have learnt to type on the old-fashioned ribbon typewriters, whilst for others they are an alien concept. How can one manage without autocorrect, cut, copy and paste!?
Forget the modern contraptions and imagine an antique typewriter set on a lone table. In a bookshop. Paper rolled into place. People approach and can write a sentence or two on it. What would this be?
Where’s the power button?
what is the password?
Just such a scenario developed as part of a community project in a bookshop which opened in 2013 in Michigan and the results are beautifully collated in the book ‘Notes from a Public Typewriter’.
A joint owner of the bookshop, Michael Gustafson, whose love for typewriters stemmed from inheriting his grandfather’s beloved 1930s Smith Corono, first imagined a great new American novel would be co-written by hundreds of people.
He couldn’t have been more wrong! Yet the messages are more than he could ever have predicted and they offer a unique insight into the human psyche as the anonymity allows people to bare their souls.
I’m scared I’ll spend half my life deciding what to do with it and the other half regretting that choice.
They provide glimpses into other’s lives, their marriage proposals, relationship breakups, love, loss, addiction, joy, worries over school, college. Some cut straight to the question of our human existence.
The hardest thing about loving someone so broken is you might fall to pieces yourself.
Some are funny and intimate.
i love it when you talk typewriter to me.
Others are sweet and poignant.
I raced the snowflakes to see who would fall first.
Of course the novelty of a typewriter features often as one young writer shows.
If I had to write a five-paragraph essay on this thing, I would withdraw from middle school.
The purpose of life in all it’s facets is captured in a few profound sentences.
Life, like this typewriter, has no backspace. Type strongly and don’t look back.
Every evening Michael Gustafson would collect the reams of A4 papers, read the messages and cut them out, placing some on The Wall of Fame. Fame that grew as news of the bookshop’s unusual activity became more widely known.
In 2015 an artist, Oliver Uberti, was commissioned to paint fifteen of the messages on the brickwork outside the shop and it is now one of the most photographed locations in Ann Arbor.
‘Notes from a Public Typewriter’ is a wonderful and inspiring collation of messages, some even resembling flash fiction, many incredibly poetic in nature, beautifully presented in a smaller hardback form. A sense of harmony is achieved as the disparate notes are put into various sections, first describing the initial set up of the bookshop along with his wife, Hilary, in Ann Arbor and then concentrating on different themes of the notes, providing glimpses of occasions and people in the bookshop.
The notes themselves are presented unedited in typewriter fonts along with all their spelling errors etc. They are raw, honest, beguiling, addictive.
It is a profound book, it is hilarious, it is life!
we are all stories in the end
It has become one of my firm favourites this year and a book I’ve recommended to many already!
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Publisher: Scribe UK / Grand Central Publishing (US)
‘A Home for Her Daughter’ is a beautiful, heartwarming and tender romance that does not shy away from tackling deeper and more serious topics such as loss, guilt and marital abuse.
Jill has a knack of drawing the reader immediately into the story as the two main protagonists meet up to listen to the reading of a will at the local lawyer’s office in Whispering Slopes.
Drew Brenner has been a recluse following the loss of his wife and young daughter; struggling to carry on in life as he feels responsible for their deaths.
Meanwhile, childhood sweetheart, Janie Capello, has newly returned to the town after she finally found the courage to leave her violent ex-husband. Will she ever be able to trust a man again? Her vulnerability and lack of confidence are palpable.
Janie inherits a house, money and a camp, a place she loved to visit as young. However, the caveat is that she works with Drew to prepare to open within a month!
As the scene is set, Jill skilfully propels the story forward whilst at the same time filling in seamlessly events from their past lives. Her writing is self-assured, confident and gentle.
The book is part of the Love Inspired Inspirational Romance who offer books with ‘uplifting stories of faith, forgiveness and hope.’ As such it is not surprising Janie and Drew both turn to God with their prayers, although both have had reason to question events in their own lives.
Whilst Janie and Drew are wonderfully portrayed and immediately come to life for the reader, it is Janie’s seven-year-old daughter, Riley who steals the show and is the core of the novel. With bundles of cuteness and charisma she charms her way into our hearts, her wisdom profound and of course with her guiding hand Drew and Janie find themselves drawn to each other.
Will it be enough though or will their past experiences intervene and become a barrier for their love? Although the end is never in doubt in this genre of books, Jill creates an original modern-day twist on romantic endings!
Finally, many thanks for Jill for the gift of her latest book, a most welcome present during these troubled times. My review here is my honest and impartial reflections about the book.
NOTE: The above book review was originally planned to be posted early September however life took a different turn! A family member was seriously hurt in an accident and in the midst of all the trauma of that and the current world situation I found myself unable and also lacking in time for WP. Thankfully all is now well with my family and I’m looking forward to joining you, my friends, here on WordPress, catching up on blogs and finding some normality in these most abnormal of times. It’s wonderful to be able to return to blogging after the three month hiatus.
Philippa (known as Pepper to her friends) has lived her whole life in the picturesque coastal town of Aldeburgh in the East of England. A life numbed by grief following the accidental death of her sister Bethan two decades ago; a life only partly lived as Pepper has given up her dreams of travel and ambition to become a professional artist. Instead, she has sought refuge in teaching art through her own community project ‘Arts For All’. Outside of work, she socialises with a few close friends and her mother. A mother whose remote distant existence has been defined by her younger daughter’s death and no one, not even Pepper can find a way through to her.
Into this world Pepper’s older and feisty friend, Josephine, cajoles her to come along on a trip to Lisbon to try and discover what happened to Josephine’s first and true love, Jorge. What Pepper does not realise is that Josephine’s invitation becomes the catalyst which alters her entire life.
Wow! As the pair arrive in Lisbon the novel truly takes off and luckily this is only the first of five trips abroad that Philippa ends up making.
Lisbon is described in glorious lush technicolour detail, capturing the mesmerising beauty of the city and its people. The author paints a vivid image of the capital, the serenity palpable through the wonderful and magical depiction. I felt transported to Lisbon (and later the other destinations); yet I must reinforce that at no stage is the energy and ease of the narrative sacrificed for the sake of the locations.
Travel is so much more than sightseeing and this is the case for Pepper who finds herself transformed through her travels and experiences. First, in Lisbon she meets a German named Finn and the two of them seem destined to be together. As the story moves back to Aldeburgh, then to Hamburg, Barcelona and Guernsey, Pepper finds increasing creativity and freedom within herself as she faces the guilt of moving forward with her life, both personally and artistically.
“Guilt that her own pain did not run deep enough, that she dared to hope for elation in the wake of tragedy.”
Excerpt from ‘Hello, Again’.
Romance is interwoven throughout the book and interestingly played out across the various generations. Whilst the love interest between Pepper and Finn dominate, her enigmatic friend Simon becomes a frequent presence in her life. The romantic life of Josephine and even that of her mother and father also are explored with sensitivity and warmth.
Through this powerful portrayal of love, loss and friendship I found myself drawn ever deeper into the lives of all the characters, hooked by their tangled romantic encounters and I cheered along as they found a life beyond sadness. Nothing is predictable and the continual surprises ensure this is a rewarding, thoughtful and entertaining book.
Finally, a note to myself! How has this author not been on my radar! ‘Hello, Again’ is Isabella Broom’s eighth book and I now look forward to catching up with some of her previous works. I think I’ve got my summer reading sorted!
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.
Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge nine days before the 1980s began and studied Media Arts in London before a 12-year stint at heat magazine.
Always happiest when she’s off on an adventure, Isabelle now travels all over the world seeking out settings for her escapist fiction novels, as well as making the annual pilgrimage to her second home – the Greek island of Zakynthos.
Currently based in Suffolk, where she shares a cottage with her two dogs and approximately 467 spiders, Isabelle fits her writing around a busy freelance career and tries her best not to be crushed to oblivion under her ever-growing pile of to-be-read books.
They say a picture paints a thousand words and with this in mind I’m overjoyed to share some photos of a young lady enjoying my children’s book “Oskar’s Quest”.
However, words still play a huge role and I’m very happy to include the following five-star review of the book by Erica, the girl’s grandmother and best friend!
“Oskar’s Quest” is a beautifully illustrated book sharing a message of courage, kindness and friendship. Annika Perry has a gift for writing up, not down to children. Even very young children are attentive, curious and observant. My four year old Granddaughter and I love reading “Oskar’s Quest!” My Granddaughter has already memorized parts of this book, especially the sound effects. She loves following “Oskar,” the blue bird, and “Maya,” the golden bird, throughout the story. Often a key to an engaging children’s book is how the adult also enjoys reading the book over and over and over again. I highly recommend “Oskar’s Quest!”
Many thanks to Erica not only for this wonderful review, but also for the permission to use the photographs of Abby. The copyright of these is held by Erica.
I have only known Erica a few months here on WP and already value her as a kind and thoughtful friend. Although not a reviewer before she quickly understood how important and key reviews are to a writer.
An inspirational person, her posts are always a joy to read, touching on adventures, travels, family and nature! She is also humble and almost by accident I learnt of her travel writing, love of running, taking part in Half Corked Marathon and Great Walk of 63.5 km. Do take a look at her blog Behind The Scenery.
Finally, I am elated to announce the first foreign language version of “Oskar’s Quest”. The translator, Marion Roberts, worked tirelessly to translate my children’s book … working wonders with text and especially the popular albeit tricky sound effect/onomatopoeic words!
Heartfelt thanks to David Cronin for formatting the latest version of my book and I appreciate all his work – without his help it would not be here! As simple as that!
Below is a picture of my favourite teddy, Minky, as he’s enjoying “Oskar’s Abenteuer”. Luckily he’s fluent in German having accompanied me on my studies at the Karl-Marx University in Leipzig and University of Tübingen. (btw. ‘Abenteuer’ means ‘Adventure’)
These days I read a far wider variety of genres and it’s my joy to share the reviews of these two contrasting books – I hope you enjoy the eclectic mix!
“A Mother for His Twins” by Jill Weatherholt
The past and present collide to create the perfect scenario for this superb and engrossing romantic novel. Schoolteacher Joy Kelliher, who is single and has no children, one day welcomes two new students into her class, two boys who are the twin sons of her high school sweetheart Nick Capello.
Fourteen years earlier he disappeared without warning on the evening of one of their dates. An evening that led to a catastrophic experience for Joy. Nick has returned to his hometown following the death of his wife and he is not just suffering from grief. His life is lived under a veil of guilt.
As the boys are introduced into her class, it turns out that Nick will be a fellow teacher at the school and is also seeking the position of the school principal, a job Joy has coveted for many years, particularly as her father was principal at the same school.
Finally, the next morning Joy wakens to see Nick and his sons moving in next door.
Her world has suddenly and dramatically been turned upside down. Where before there was certainty and security there is now questions, regret, renewed heartbreak. However, the past attraction and closeness between Nick and Joy emerges time and again, her flustered flirtation in contrast to her professional self. Nick likewise is torn between his affection for Joy, wanting to repair a wrong, with his ambition to become school principal, a position he needs not only for his career but as a form of redemption.
Jill Weatherholt weaves with skill the links of the past and present, gently unravelling past events as they are revealed to Joy and Nick in turn. Both have secrets that they have held onto and which are difficult to share, particularly as Joy still does not trust Nick.
The narrative unfolds through the close third person of the two main protagonists, ensuring the reader feels empathy with each, knowing their secrets, inner turmoil and thoughts.
Throughout, the book explores profound themes such as forgiveness, trust, jealousy, faith, acceptance of one’s life, guilt and regret. Only when there has been reconciliation in all these areas is a life of love possible.
I was hooked from the very first page and Joy’s and Nick’s story won an instant place in my heart!
“Speak Flapper: Slang of the 1920s” by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
Who knew a dictionary could be so much fun?! ‘Speak Flapper’ is no ordinary dictionary however, rather a delightful and informative collection of slang from the 1920s.
The author was inspired to collate her specialist knowledge of words from the era following her novels set in the infamous Jazz Age. I’m so glad she took this leap of faith!
I enjoyed immensely not only reading the meaning behind the words and phrases but also the insight the book offered into life at the time. It gives a brief commentary on the social history of the era including about the people, films, inventions, relationships, alcohol, literature, clothes and crime … and so much more.
As each new letter of the alphabet is introduced Teagan reveals a snippet of history and wow, I was in awe of the creativity of the time. From automobiles to Kellogg’s Rice Krispies, from hats to phonographs, from washing machines to G-men!
I was surprised how many words were familiar to me and that I had no idea they stemmed from one hundred years ago. For instance ‘heebie-jeebies’, ‘Real McCoy’ and ‘Oops’ comes from then.
Some phrases surprised me by being similar to Cockney Rhyme, ‘Adam and Eve’ is ‘believe’ for instance. The language was wonderfully colourful and vibrant. ‘Lemon Squeezer’, ‘Caterpillar’s Kimono’, ‘Giggle Water’ give just a hint of some unusual words. When I meet a bore in future I will (mentally) refer to them as a ‘Gimlet’ … a terrific word! Some words were amusingly incongruous to their actual meaning, ‘peanut’ referring to a bomb!
Reflecting on our present-day language I wonder if it isn’t rather dull and bland in comparison to a century ago, whether a sense of daring and imagination is absent?
I can highly recommend this whimsical look at the Roaring Twenties and although I can’t yet speak fluent flapper, I’m a lot closer to it! ‘Speak Flapper’ really is the ‘cat’s pajamas’!
Many will know how much I enjoy writing book reviews on my blog and it’s a delight to share ‘Elisabeth’s Lists’ as featured today on Sally’s blog as part of her ‘Posts from your Archives’. If you’re not a follower of her blog, you’re missing out on a treat! Do take a look around and perhaps you have a couple of posts to submit yourself for the series.
Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post: New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020
This is the second postby author Annika Perry and is a book review for Elisabeth’s ListsbyLulah Ellender
Elisabeth’s Lists: A Book Review
My signed copy of Elisabeth’s Lists: A Family Story by Lulah Ellender
There is a word in Japan for unread books left to pile up around one – tsundoku! I’m guilty of a few tsundoku collections of books; ones bought with well-meaning and tingling anticipation. Somehow they become unintentionally forgotten and lay precariously balanced with other books, dangling over the edge of shelves.
Often treasures of literature are hidden among these and this is the case for one such book which…
After a lifetime of New Year’s resolutions … and often failing to keep them, these last years I’ve steered away from making any.
However, one aspect of blogging weighs heavily upon me, my failure to review as many books as I would like, particularly indie-published ones. If my TBR pile was a real heap of books they would fill a room, I fear; luckily many are kept safe on my Kindle, hidden from immediate sight but never forgotten. I’m determined to share these books with you on my blog, a couple every month and I am happy to start with the two below.
Ironically, these are paperbacks, one a poetry book kindly gifted to me by Bette A. Stevens. The other by Mary Smith caught my interest as an unusual factual book about her local town.
“My Maine: Haiku through the Seasons” by Bette A. Stevens
‘My Maine’ is a gem of a poetry book celebrating the state of Maine through 150 haikus. Bette A. Stevens captures the essence and heart of Maine with wonderful and evocative poetry that flows easily from one to the next.
Divided into four seasons each page is accompanied by a photograph taken by the poet, all stunning, reflecting the brimming beauty of her words. I am in awe how the poet has not only managed to bring alive the grandeur of the landscape, its mountains, pine trees and lakes but also writes with skill and a sense of humour about the minutiae of life in the state!
The writer’s keen observation of life is evident throughout and her passion for nature and the wildlife is extraordinary and she conveys this to the reader with exemplary skill.
This is a book I treasure and which I’ve read many times. I’m absolutely captivated by the ‘story’ of Maine, a state I feel I can now rightly call, every so slightly, ‘My Maine’!
Whilst reviewing the book I jotted down many of my favourite haikus. Here are just a couple to tempt you!
“Firewoods heaped high Mesmerizing hearth aglow Cozy reading nook.”
Bette A. Stevens
“Silently – Snowfalls Reign over field and forest Supremely sovereign.”
“A-Z of Dumfries: Place-People-History” by Mary Smith & Keith Kirk
In her latest book Mary Smith, along with fellow writer Keith Kirk, takes the reader on a fascinating and absorbing alphabetical tour of her local town, Dumfries. Situated in the South West of Scotland, people have lived in the area for at least 3,000 years and it has been the home to many including the famous poet Robert Burns. Through the 26 letters of the alphabet, the book explores the places, people and history of Dumfries and it offers incredible insight to a town that I fear is often overlooked.
Some of the entries depict traumatic events as the reader learns about Robert Burns’ wife Jean Armour, who had nine children but only three survived her. Superb details and plenty of colour photographs ensured that I was hooked by the various entries and I immediately felt as if I had myself visited amongst other places Robert Burns museum and the world’s oldest working Camera Obscura.
I am astounded by the level of research and the momentous task of collecting all the information, collating and writing the book. It is presented in a skilled yet easily accessible and entertaining manner. The reader is captivated by both the larger historical events and people as well as ordinary objects such as fountains and parks, all with their own unique story.
As I finished the book I felt as if I’d travelled around Dumfries and seen its gems for myself … and I hope to do so in the future. I will be a highly informed visitor as a result of this book! Meanwhile, it has made me intrigued about my town, which I know I take for granted and I am now eager to learn more about it!
I hope you’ve enjoy reading these reviews which I intend to become a regular monthly feature. Have you read any of these? Are you tempted by the reviews to look at any closer. As always, I look forward to your comments & discussion.
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”.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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!
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.