Archives for women’s fiction

First Edition ‘The Age of Innocence’ by Edith Wharton #oldbooks #bookcovers

Published in 1920, The Age of Innocence was Edith Wharton’s twelfth novel and the one which would win her the Pulitzer Prize in 1921; the first woman to do so. This [below left] is the American first edition, published by D Appleton. It is said the first choice of the Pulitzer judges was Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, which was rejected on ‘political grounds’. Wharton’s story first appeared in 1920 in the magazine Pictorial Review, serialised in four parts, then published in book form in the USA by D Appleton. It is believed the title of the novel was taken from the painting by Joshua Reynolds [above] which was much reproduced in the late 18th century and came to represent the commercial face of childhood. The current edition by Wordsworth Classics [above] dates from 1994. BUY THE BOOK The story Set in 1870s upper class New York society, The Age of Innocence was set around the time of Wharton’s own birth. She wrote the book had allowed her to find “a momentary escape in going back to my childish memories of a long-vanished America… it was growing more and more evident that the world I had grown up in and
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Amy & Isabelle’ by @LizStrout #contemporary #literary

The mother and daughter portrayed in Amy & Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout are at odds with each other. The events of one long sweltering summer in Shirley Falls are simple, familiar across the ages, but are told with a hefty emotional punch. So strong is this book it’s difficult to see that it was Strout’s first novel, published in 2000 to be followed only eight years later by her Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge. Strout is adept at peeling away the layers of character and events to show the raw emotion, shame, guilt and pain beneath. When Isabelle Goodrow arrived in Shirley Falls with her baby daughter, she took a job at the local mill. Now, in a time that feels like 1970s America, Amy is sixteen and has a summer job in the same office as her mother. They sit and fume at each other, barely talking, brushing past each other without a word. Amy, who has fallen in love with her maths teacher, believes her upright, unemotional mother, has no idea of what she is feeling right now. Isabelle despairs of her daughter’s behaviour. Told in absorbing detail, switching between the two viewpoints, the trauma of the two women
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read… @jane_fenwick60 #books #historical

Today I’m delighted to welcome historical novelist Jane Fenwick.  Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Ross Poldark by Winston Graham. “Ross Poldark was first published in 1946. It’s surprisingly ‘modern’ and fresh even today. I first read it in the 1970s after the saga was made into a TV series. I was intrigued to see how different the two versions were. They were massively different as it turns out, the book being far better. “There are twelve books in all but the first, Ross Poldark, is the one I reread time and time again. I’ve lost count exactly how many times I’ve read it. I go back to it time and time again because it’s like putting on a comfortable pair of old shoes. It always makes me feel better. Also, each time I read it I see something new, some scene which for some reason has new significance, some word choice which adds depth, some character detail I’d missed. “I’m drawn to this book for two reasons; firstly the main character and secondly the writing style. The central character, Ross Poldark is not a hero, he’s flawed. He makes mistakes but has a conscience and a strong moral compass.
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#BookReview ‘Islands of Mercy’ by Rose Tremain #historical

In Bath, England in 1865, such are Jane Adeane’s nursing skills that she is known as the Angel of the Baths. Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain is about Jane’s destiny to make something of herself, a journey which involves choosing between a tempestuous love affair with another woman and marriage to a respectable doctor. Being the Angel of the Baths is not enough for her and this impacts on the lives of everyone around her. Islands of Mercy is in fact three stories in one, lightly linked together by the merest connection and fleeting physical meeting. The story starts with Clorinda Morrissey who arrives in Bath from Ireland. ‘She was not beautiful, but she had a smile of great sweetness and a soft voice that could soothe and calm the soul’. By selling a ruby necklace, a family heirloom, Clorinda sets up what becomes a highly popular tea room. It is in this tea room that she first sees Jane Adeane who is taking tea with a man. Jane leaves abruptly and Clorinda is curious why. The man concerned is Doctor Valentine Ross, medical partner of Jane’s father Sir William Adeane and brother of naturalist Edmund Ross, currently pursing
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Categories: Book Love.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘What I Learned From My Mother’ by Julia Kasdorf #poetry

Written in 1992 by American poet Julia Kasdorf, What I Learned From My Mother is a poem that crosses time, languages, cultures and continents. Its message is familiar to all women. The rituals of death and grieving, of condolence, of a kind word, flowers and chocolate cake and the blessing of your presence. This poem is subject to copyright restrictions. Please search for the full poem in an anthology or at your local library. ‘What I Learned From My Mother’ I learned from my mother how to love the living, to have plenty of vases on hand in case you have to rush to the hospital with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole grieving household, to cube home-canned pears and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins and click out the sexual seeds with a knife point. BUY THE BOOK Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:- ‘Invictus’ by WE Henley  ‘Runaways’ by Daniela Nunnari ‘Valediction’ by Seamus Heaney  And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem
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Categories: Poetry.

#BookReview ‘Charlotte Brontë A Life’ by Claire Harman #books #writerslife

How did Charlotte Brontë create the character of Jane Eyre? Was Villette really based on a doomed love affair in Brussels? How much of the real author is in these novels? If you have read Charlotte Brontë’s books, you will have asked yourself these questions. The biography Charlotte Brontë: A Life by Claire Harman provides some fascinating answers. This is the first biography of Brontë I have read and I wish I had read it sooner. Harman tells the enthralling story of the family whose losses, grief, hardship, isolation and disappointments populate the novels of the three sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne. It is impossible to write about Charlotte without writing about the family, and particularly about Emily, Anne and brother Branwell. Everyone knows the headline facts about the Brontës – Haworth parsonage, mother and siblings dying, Branwell’s addiction, and the imaginary kingdoms of Angria and Dondal in which the children lose themselves. But Harman makes the history accessible, telling the life of Charlotte in chronological order starting briefly with her father Patrick. There are clear references to real life appearing in the novels and Harman casts light on the writing process of Charlotte and her sisters. For a novelist, this
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#Bookreview ‘The Tuscan Contessa’ by @DinahJefferies #WW2

The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies is a story of women at war where trust, between women, between strangers, is at the core of everything. Although the book’s title refers to Contessa Sofia de’ Corsi this is also the story of Italian-American Maxine, recruited by English special services to the fight against fascism in Tuscany. Once there and charged with assessing the ability and armaments of Italian partisans, Maxine she finds the fight is not only against the Germans but between Italian groups suspicious of each other. It is 1943 and in the exquisitely beautiful Tuscan countryside, trust is in short supply. Strangers may be spies or escaping Allied soldiers, the penalty for helping enemies has been followed by retaliation – massacres of villagers by the Nazis. Maxine, with her odd sounding Italian accent, must prove her worth if she is to do her job. She must also learn who to trust. When Maxine’s radio engineer James is wounded, he is sheltered by Sofia in her isolated castello. And so though very different characters, Maxine and Sofia find themselves on the same side; one is young, energetic and full of zeal, the other more cautious and concerned with protecting her
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Miss Benson’s Beetle’ by Rachel Joyce #adventure

What an uplifting read is Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce, an author who never fails to deliver a read that is both thoughtful and chuckle-out-loud. It is a tale of failure, friendship, the spirit of adventure and never-say-die. Above all it is a story of not giving up, never allowing yourself to be defeated. Margery Benson has never fit in, never married. It is 1950 and she is a teacher at a girls’ school, mocked and ridiculed by pupils, never liked by colleagues. Alone now after the death of her aunts who raised her after the death of her parents, she knows she lacks self-worth but doesn’t know how to change things. The one thing that gives her pleasure is remembering time spent as a child with her father who encouraged her to read. Her favourite book was Incredible Creatures, an illustrated guide to extinct and ‘never found’ animals. Margery fell in love with a gold beetle suspected to be living on the Pacific island of New Caledonia. A sequence of events sets the middle-aged Margery on an ocean liner bound for Australia in search of both the beetle and a purpose for her life. After interviewing and rejecting
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Transcription’ by Kate Atkinson #literary #WW2

Few of the characters in Transcription by Kate Atkinson are who they seem to be. A novel of the Second World War, Transcription suggests that the ripples of wartime secrecy spread out through the following years so that outstanding lies and betrayals are eventually repaid. Many years later. In 1940, Juliet Armstrong intends to join one of the women’s armed forces when she receives a letter on government notepaper and is summoned to an interview. After being informed by telegram that she has got the, still unspecified, job, Juliet boards a bus which takes her to Wormwood Scrubs prison, now converted into government offices. There she works in Registry, shuffling files around, until Perry Gibbons says, ‘I need a girl’ and Juliet finds herself working for Perry’s MI5 counter-fascism team at a flat in Dolphin Square. Told across two timelines, 1940 and 1950 – with a brief glimpse at 1981 in the prologue and epilogue – Transcription has a huge cast of characters, most of whom I confused and, I suspect, Atkinson wishes me to confuse. Some characters are spies with cover names, some are only described and have no name while others seem innocent, too innocent to actually be
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Distance Between Us’ by Maggie O’Farrell #contemporary

Two strangers, both with troubled personal lives, are thousands of miles apart. The Distance Between Us by Maggie O’Farrell is about Stella in London and Jake in Hong Kong and how these two people so far distant, geographically and emotionally, can come together. This novel is basically a romance with two layers of mystery intertwined. It starts at Chinese New Year when Jake is caught in a horrendous crowd crush with his girlfriend Mel and her friend Lucy. Mel is badly injured, Lucy is dead. When a doctor tells Jake that Mel will not live through the night, he agrees to her wish to marry. In London, Stella is walking home across Waterloo Bridge when she sees a solitary figure walking towards her, a red-haired man. The sight of him triggers a flight instinct and she flees home to Scotland. Not to her family in Edinburgh and Musselburgh, but to work in a remote country hotel. She avoids the telephone calls from her sister Nina. The truth behind Stella’s panic and the significance of the red-haired man is a long time coming, too long really. In Hong Kong, Mel survives and Jake travels to the UK with her to stay with
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Mum & Dad’ by Joanna Trollope #familysaga

I remember reading Joanna Trollope’s novels in the Eighties – The Choir, A Village Affair, A Passionate Man, The Rector’s Wife – and loving them. Somehow, I stopped reading her and I can’t remember why. These weren’t strictly her first novels, she’d previously published a number of historical novels under the pen name Caroline Harvey. So now I come to Mum & Dad. I devoured it in a couple of days, partly because it is set in a part of Spain I know very well, and partly because Trollope is a master storyteller. When her husband Gus has a stroke, Monica’s three children descend to their parents’ vineyard in Southern Spain. Gus and Monica have lived near Ronda for twenty-five years; it is their home, but they are distanced from their children who have children of their own, busy lives and marital tensions. The eldest Sebastian runs a cleaning company with his wife, Anna, who has never got on with her mother-in-law. Katie is a lawyer who, with husband Nic, must deal with a bombshell dropped by one of their three daughters at an inconvenient time. And Jake, with partner Bella and toddler Mouse, seems to deal lightly with the
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Glass House’ by Eve Chase #historical #mystery

This story takes place in a forest and I could smell the humus rich soil, see the ferns, hear the rustlings of small mammals and imagine the blending of shadows and sunlight. In The Glass House by Eve Chase, the mysterious happenings in a forest have ramifications across the decades. Shame, deceit, secrets and love are bound-up together in a group of people whose lives are coloured forever by what happened in the Forest of Dean in 1971. When nanny Big Rita drives her boss’s wife, Jeannie Harrington and Jeannie’s two children Hera and Freddy to their country house in the West of England, they enter a different world. Leaving behind Jeannie’s husband Walter at their sugar-white stucco house in Primrose Hill, and her own unhappy memories, Rita is cautious about the mysterious forest with its rustling noises and the feeling of being watched. She spends every hour with the children while Jeannie, recovering after the loss of a baby, spends her time in bed. And then Hera finds a baby girl abandoned in the woods. This is the catalyst for a number of things happening at once, things that upset the status quo and challenge Rita’s place in the
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Orphan’s Gift’ by @RenitaDSilva #historical #India

The Orphan’s Gift by Renita D’Silva tells the stories of two women, Alice and Janaki, and moves across four decades between India and England. It is a deceptive tale of love and loss and the mystery of how these two young women are connected at a time when certain love was forbidden. It is an unforgiving world where broken rules may be punished by death, isolation and poverty and where the sanctions may come from those closest to you. We first meet Alice, aged four, living a privileged life in the house of her parents, surrounded by beauty, warmth, and servants. But there are shadows too. Alice’s parents are distant and she finds love and companionship with her Ayah and Ayah’s son, Raju. Alice’s mother is delicate and spends all her time in a shadowed bedroom, her father is Deputy Commissioner of the British Government in India. Alice’s story starts in 1909 when the first agitations of Indian independence begin. Janaki’s story begins in 1944 when she is raised by nuns in an Indian orphanage, she was left there as a tiny baby, wrapped in a hand-made green cardigan. Desperate for love, Janaki learns a difficult lesson; that even when
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The House on the Shore’ by @VictoriaHoward_ #romance

The House on the Shore by Victoria Howard starts off seeming to be a conventional romance and turns into a satisfying suspense story set in a beautiful, remote Western Scottish loch. The remoteness is central to the plot. After a love affair turns sour, Anna MacDonald leaves Edinburgh for her remote croft, once her grandmother’s, beside Loch Hourn in the Western Highlands. She longs for peace and quiet to write her book. Tigh na Cladach, a two bedroom cottage alone at the end of a twelve mile track, is her bolt hole where she hopes to nurse her injured pride and heart. When she arrives, an unknown yacht is anchored in the bay. On board is a rather handsome American sailor, stranded as he waits for a part to repair his engine. A combative relationship develops between the two; Anna resents the intrusion of Luke Tallantyre but is driven to help by the local community spirit; Luke bridles at the prickly, aggressive woman he must rely on for help. Meanwhile, Alistair Grant, heir to the Killilan Estate which borders Anna’s land, and who was a teenage friend of hers, returns from his life of luxury in the South of France to run the estate. But
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Lady of the Ravens’ by @joannahickson #Historical

It is England, just after the War of the Roses. The Lady of The Ravens by Joanna Hickson starts with the new Tudor King Henry VII on the throne and the country awaiting his marriage rumoured to be to Elizabeth of York, older sister of the Princes in the Tower. The marriage is intended to heal divisions between the two warring factions after Henry’s defeat of King Richard III at Bosworth Field, so allowing peace to settle on the land. But of course it is not that simple. Twenty-four year old Joan Vaux is a servant to the princess and follows her to court on her marriage to the king. Watching the childbirth experiences of Queen Elizabeth, her own sister and other women of the court marry and bear children – some dying in the process – Joan develops a phobia of childbirth. But the king requires his courtiers to be married and a husband for Joan is proposed, but the situation is complicated as while she dithers a proposal is received from an unexpected source. Joan must make her choice, a decision which echoes throughout her life. Joan has an affinity with the ravens, starting from when as a
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read @Lizzie_Chantree #books #romance

Today I’m delighted to welcome romance author Lizzie Chantree.  Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. “My Porridge and Cream book would be The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. I was introduced to this book by my English teacher at school in the 1980s and I just couldn’t believe a book could set fire to my imagination. I read all of Tolkien’s books after that. It ignited my passion for reading and I began writing my own stories and visiting the library to find more wonderful authors. English lessons became so exciting, as I couldn’t wait to see what book we would study next. Although, for some years, I found many to enjoy, I didn’t come across a book that made me feel as if I couldn’t wait to turn the page and discover what would happen next. Until I met Mr Darcy, of course! Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte are two more books that I found hard to put down as a teenager, as they are so beautifully written.” “I don’t revisit the book often, as it’s an epic read, but I do return to it for inspiration on
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#BookReview ‘The Museum of Broken Promises’ by @elizabethbuchan #books

The Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan is a disjointed story of Cold War romance and its lingering after-effects decades later. Promises are made and broken, by everyone. The title is misleading, as the sections at the museum in present day in Paris act as bookends to the crucial story in Eighties story in Czechoslovakia. It is 1985, Prague. After the death of her father, student Laure takes a job as an au pair in Paris moving to Prague with her employers. It is the Cold War and the once beautiful city is shabby and grey, an unsettling place to live where the threat of imprisonment or violence always lingers. Laure cares for two small children while their father Petr works, he is an official at a pharmaceuticals company and in a privileged position enabling him to bring a foreigner to work in the country, and their mother Eva is ill. Gradually Laure explores the streets and finds a marionette theatre. There she is enchanted by the folklore tales of the puppets; and she meets Tomas, lead singer in a rock band. Resistance against the repressive regime in Czechoslovakia is low key, expressed through the arts. In this way, the book reminded me of
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Our Souls at Night’ by Kent Haruf #love #loneliness

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is a simple, straight talking, touching book about loneliness, love and longing late in life. One day Addie Moore suggests to her neighbour Louis Waters that he visit her house each night and sleep in her bed. Both are in their seventies, widowed, lonely and don’t know each other well. Acknowledging Addie’s bravery in asking the question, Louis arrives with his pyjamas and toothbrush in a bag. And so starts this touching novel about relationships, family and morality. Addie and Louis sleep side-by-side, not touching. They ignore the glances of neighbours, fearing censure. But the townsfolk nod and smile at them, while their own children disapprove. And so one generation seeks to control another. When their new dynamic is disrupted by the arrival of Addie’s six-year-old grandson Jamie, Addie and Louis’s relationship enters a new stage. Jamie’s parents have separated and he is distressed. Addie’s son Gene has asked his mother to help. This new three-person family begins to slowly to heal itself, starting slowly by visiting a family of new born mice in Louis’ shed. This is a short read, manageable in one sitting. The language is beautiful. Addie’s suggestion does not contain
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Categories: Book Love.

Celebrating Romance #RomanceReadingMonth #freebooks

2020 is the 60th anniversary of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and, to celebrate, February has been named #RomanceReadingMonth. Since joining the RNA and meeting so many romance novelists, I’ve redefined my idea of ‘the romance novel’. If you still think its simply Mills and Boon romances between nurses and doctors, then think again. Romance crosses every single fiction genre from sci-fi to historical, crime to thrillers, horror and vampires to the genre I write – character-led contemporary women’s fiction. So this week I’ve partnered with a small group of authors to offer FREE EBOOKS to you. These are character-led dramas and not strictly romances though they may have romance sub-plots [as my books do]. Simply click the link above and scroll through the free novels on offer, Mobi and ePub files are available which work on Kindle, smartphones, tablets and ereaders. Offer ends February 10 so don’t delay! Planning activities to celebrate #RomanceReadingMonth has made me think about my favourite romance novels and why I re-read them. I’ve realised that in the books I enjoy romance is a part of the plot, but not the be-all-and-end-all. My favourite classic romance is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, my most recent favourite
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ by Elizabeth Taylor #classic #love

Reading this novel is like taking a long deep breath of air when your lungs are bursting. The Sleeping Beauty by Elizabeth Taylor is about beauty and is loosely based on the fairy story – a man rescuing a woman – but with real people who have faults, irritations, fantasies and vanities, whose prejudices and past lives inconveniently do not go away. In the small seaside town of Seething, Vinny Tumulty visits an old friend, Isabella, whose husband has recently died. He wants to support her through difficult times, but Isabella fancies she is falling in love with him. Vinny, however, sees a stranger walking on the beach and, without seeing her clearly, knows she is beautiful. We learn later that Emily’s face has been reconstructed, plastic surgery necessary after a car accident caused by her drunken brother-in-law. Emily’s widowed sister Rose tells Vinny that, since her accident, Emily looks and behaves like a completely different person. To Rose, Emily’s face is untrue; to Vinny, it is beautiful.  He becomes obsessed with her. ‘My plans for today are to hang about hoping for a glimpse of her, to have my heart eaten away by the thought of her; to feel my
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Categories: Book Love.