Published recently by Jennie Rooney, this is a gripping, emotional and expertly plotted spy novel of the Cold War, inspired by a true story. It is beautifully written and will appeal to everyone.
She is a loving mother, a doting grandmother, and leads a quiet, unremarkable life in the suburbs. Then one morning there is a knock on the door, and suddenly the past she has been so keen to hide for the last fifty years threatens to overturn her comfortable world. Cambridge University in 1937 is awash with ideas and idealists, yet unworldly Joan feels better suited to a science lecture and a cup of cocoa.
But a chance meeting with the glamorous Russian-born Sonya and her charismatic cousin Leo blurs the edges of the things Joan thought she knew about the world, and about herself. In the post-War world of smoke and mirrors, allegiance is a slippery thing. Working in a government ministry with access to top-secret information, Joan is suddenly faced with the most difficult question of all: what price would you pay to remain true to what you believe? Would you betray your country, your family, even the man you love?
This debut novel by Eleanor Brown is very different and quirky.
'See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much.' THE WEIRD SISTERS is a trenchantly observant novel about the often warring emotions between sisters. Unlucky in work, love and life, the Andreas sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother.
With a Shakespearean Professor for a father who communicates mainly in quotes, the sisters are very different and for me, the charm of the book lies in their interaction with each other and their novel way of communicating. The family is eccentric and works on the basis that a good book can solve all life's problems! As an avid reader myself, a good book is certainly an excellent way of escaping life's problems, at least for a while!
Ann Cleeves came to the Richmond Walking and Book Festival in 2011 and proved to be a very engaging speaker.
Her Vera Stanhope novels have recently been televised but Raven Black is the first of her Shetland series with the wonderful detective Jimmy Perez.
It won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger for Best Crime Novel in 2006 and deservedly so. It is a classic detective story which keeps you guessing to the end
Ann probes beneath the surface of a close-knit community to reveal the secrets that lie beneath
I have now read the other three titles in the series, White Nights, Red Bones and Blue Lightning with much enjoyment and am looking forward to number 5, currently being written.
Three of Anne's all time favourites
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Incendiary by Chris Cleave
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
I've always felt very confused about the Arab/Israeli situation and also felt that the news as we hear it has a definite Israeli bias, so was pleased to come across a book that is written by a woman who was brought up in a Palestinian refugee camp.
I loved this book. It tells the all too familiar story of a displaced people and lives ruined by conflict.
The story is told through the eyes of Amal who is born after a terrible event which tears her family apart. Her childhood is spent living through the horrors of life in a war zone, yet to her this is normality, she plays with dolls, has a best friend, goes to school etc and it is only slowly that she comes to understand her damaged and distant mother. It is not a comfortable book to read and leaves one feeling incredibly sad, though there is some closure on the tragic event that took place before Amal was born. I realise that this book is bound to have a Palestinian bias but feel it goes some way to redressing the balance and helped me understand at least in part the tangled and difficult position in this part of the world.
I read this book a couple of years ago, I was drawn to it because I had enjoyed this authors previous work, “Year of wonders” and “March”. “Year of wonders” is a novel set in the plague village of Eyam in Derbyshire and “March” follows the fortunes of the absent father in “Little Women”. She seems to take a true life event and weaves a work of fiction around it. This time the book is centred on a book!, a religious text known as the Sarajevan haggadah. This book was thought to have been destroyed in the Balkan conflict, but it had been spirited away for safekeeping by one of the curators in the museum. The author takes this as the starting point for her novel and then proceeds to tell the story of the book through an Australian bookbinder who uses various clues, like a wine stain, a moth's wing and a hair to decipher it's previous lives. Each chapter is set in a different place and time and gives a vivid description of it's place in history. As a rule I get annoyed with books which work backwards, as this one does, but this time I was utterly gripped. The story is told alongside the current day life of Hanna, the bookbinder, maybe that was why I didn't get cross with it going backwards. For whatever reason, it worked for me and I thoroughly recommend it.
This book is one of my all time favourites. It was recommended by a customer and I dipped into it and was immediately hooked. It is set in India in the mid 1970s and tells the story of two tailors, an uncle and nephew who head to Mumbai to make money to take home to their village.They are from one of the lower castes in Indian society and end up working for a widow of a higher caste who is down on her luck and needing to make some money so she doesn't have to keep asking for help from her brother. The fourth main character is a young student from the north of India who is studying in the city and lodges with the seamstress. He is the son of a small business owner so again from a higher class than the two tailors. These four characters end up forming a close bond despite their different backgrounds and this is one of the main themes of the novel, set against a background of growing political unrest. The two tailors experience a series of disasters but are such charming characters full of irrepressible optimism which seems to carry them through all manner of adversities.The fact that so many people love this book despite the series of tragic events that befall it's characters is due entirely to the quality of the storytelling . (Health warning from Anne: Brilliant book but not to be read if feeling depressed!)
Three of Wendy's all time favourites
Birds without wings by Louis de Bernieres
The Bone People by Keri Hulme
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving