RAE’S READING ROUND-UP FOR… JULY 2021

Hello bookish friends!

Well, July has flown by! Only three books to share this month, as I’ve been busy, busy writing, as well as spending time with family.

However, if you’ve yet to try reading flash fiction, then I highly recommend Brightly Coloured Horses by Mandy Huggins. Whilst The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue and An Ocean Between Us by Ann O’Loughlin are both set in Ireland – one historical, one contemporary.

Also, please remember to pop back mid-month, when I’ll be chatting all things books and writing with author, Emma Robinson.

Finally, I’d love to hear which books you are enjoying this summer?

But in the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!

In Ann O’Loughlin’s An Ocean Between Us, American, Cora Gartland is rocked to her core when long-term partner, Jack is killed in a road accident in Ireland. However, her grief quickly turns to confusion and anger when the woman who dies alongside him is identified as his wife, Amelia. Cora flies to Dublin to try to make sense of Jack’s betrayal, and the remainder of the novel focuses on her arrival in De Courcy Square.

Running alongside Cora’s experience is a gentle story of Lily and her lost love, as well as the day-to-day issues concerning busy-body, Gladys. References to the meaning of flowers are sprinkled throughout, which I enjoyed. A story of loss and redemption, An Ocean Between Us begins as an intriguing mystery but then focuses on Lily’s story, when I longed for Cora to reclaim centre stage. Even through the subject matter is sad, O’Loughlin adds warmth and neighbourliness which transforms the novel into a feel-good read.

BRIGHTLY COLOURED HORSES by MANDY HUGGINS

For anyone wondering where to start when reading flash fiction, then I highly recommend, Brightly Coloured Horses by Mandy Huggins. An outstanding collection, most of the pieces are either prize winning or have featured in literary anthologies and magazines.

Twenty-seven micro tales of loss and betrayal, hopes and shattered dreams, set in vibrant locations around the globe. Each delivers an emotional punch, meaning the story and characters linger long after the pages have been closed.

If this is your first dive into flash fiction, I hope you enjoy…

THE PULL OF THE STARS by EMMA DONOGHUE

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue focuses on childbirth in Ireland during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

Set in a maternity ward caring for women suffering flu symptoms, we follow the daily routine of nurse Julia Power. Author Donoghue refuses to flinch from detailing traumatic tragedies, making this perhaps the most visceral book I’ve ever read. I was literally pushing during the childbirth scenes, and there were several instances where I had to take a breather and return to the novel later. But, as harrowing as it is in places, it is also tender and a real insight into the lives of women during an incredibly tough period in history. Thankfully, maternity care has moved on in leaps and bounds. Labouring mothers are no longer invited to drink a tot of whisky! But pregnant mums today still have pandemic worries and fears.

I hate suggesting that readers should avoid a book, but in this instance, if pregnant, it might be best to give this one a miss. Put it on your to-be-read pile, to enjoy after the happy event. An interesting, detailed novel that will stay with me a long time.

Author Heart-to-Heart with… Giselle Green

Hello Reading Friends!

It’s that time when we enjoy an author Heart-to-Heart💗, and today I have the pleasure of introducing Giselle Green. Giselle writes the touching, emotional fiction that Heart-to-Heart💗 readers love. Her latest release, The Girl You Forgot, is not only a fantastic love story, but also a thought-provoking read. (Click to read my full review…)

So, let’s get started…

Welcome to an author heart-to-heart💗, Giselle. Please share a little about yourself

Hello, and it’s lovely to be here on your Heart-to-Heart blog, and thank you for inviting me, Rae!

A little about me: I always knew I was going to be a writer. I sent my first manuscript off to a publisher when I was fourteen, and I never looked back. As a result, I was strongly encouraged to read English at Uni but I chose to take science subjects instead. I am so glad I did. It helped balance out the way I view the world and the way I think. True science, in reality is a bit like Star Trek –  I think we’re meant to ‘‘boldly go’ (!) where no man has gone before.’ New discoveries can only come from creative endeavour. In that sense it’s a bit like writing!

I like learning new things. When I first announced I was going to formally study astrology, over twenty-five years ago now, there was a lot of eye-rolling from friends and relatives. They missed the key point: I was keen to investigate… to see for myself if it worked.

It turns out the whole subject of astrology is also related to writing. Writing is about stories. Stories are about how our characters play out the balance between free-will and choice. Are they fated to whatever happens to them? I hope not! The story gives them opportunities to learn and make informed choices… this being the cypher which often changes what appears to be their inevitable ‘fate.’

It’s interesting how the things which draw us, often end up being so interrelated. 

An astrological wheel
What an intriguing background. This is why I love these questions! The answers are always so unexpected…

People will ask me why I write: I do it for fun, entertainment, enlightenment, challenge. Writing a book can be as entertaining as reading one. It’s a journey. I will usually start off knowing WHAT has to happen but I have no idea HOW I’m going to get there. It’s like I have a destination in mind but I don’t know the route. The process of finding out is enlightening. And writing a new book is always challenging. People ask if it gets any easier – it doesn’t for me because I don’t tend to repeat what I’ve done before. The sense of personal triumph at the end when I’ve done it, is what makes it worthwhile.  

You rise to each challenge beautifully! All that hard work pays off, Giselle, as your novels read so smoothly, and I’ve learned something from each one.
A selection of Giselle’s novels…

A little about my books and writing:  As a mum of six, you can imagine, I’m a family-oriented person. I love to write about ordinary families who find themselves in extraordinary situations. All fictional, of course. I mention that, because my style of writing is very ‘up-close and personal’. It leads some people to believe that some of these might be events I’ve experienced myself, ha ha! But, this is the power of imagination…

Only a few years ago I’d never have imagined that I’d be writing in this way. You have to become more open, less guarded in your storytelling. You have to silence any internal editors/critics going on inside that tell you that you can’t write this or you can’t let a character do that. The fact is, you have to let them do whatever the story demands they do. You have to learn to trust in the story.

For me, I think that came about as a natural response to writing in the first person, immersing myself more in the character I was writing about.  First person narrative gives the reader more immediacy, more excitement because everything is happening in real time. If your heroine has a problem, you feel it with her, you experience her thought processes as she does. That’s nice. That feels personal and real. The reader is more easily able to engage. I didn’t develop this way of writing by chance, and my method isn’t static, either. I’m constantly developing it so as to achieve my objective even better – which is to allow the reader to experience vicariously what my hero/heroine is going through. As I write dual perspective, readers always get both sides of the story equally explored.

I think getting that vicarious experience is part of why readers come to the novel. They experience, they feel, they learn. And hopefully, they also enjoy.

Thanks for the sneak peek behind your writing style. That emotional connection is definitely why I return to your novels again and again…

What inspired The Girl You Forgot?  It came from an article I read, a personal account written by a journalist who’d studied neuroscience at University. One day, his tutor was upset, explaining that he’d lost a dear colleague with a brain tumour who’d walked into the sea rather than lose his memories as per his diagnosis. Someone made the observation that colleague would still have been ‘himself’ even if without all his memories… and that set me thinking: how much of our identity is gleaned from our memories and stories we tell about ourselves. How much of it would endure, if we lost those memories? 

As a footnote, I’ll add that, this book took an age to write: I wanted to give up so many times because I didn’t know how to express what I felt needed expressing. The idea, however, wouldn’t go away! I had to come back to it again and again, till – after four years – I finally nailed it. I am so happy I persisted, I think it was worth it!   

We’re delighted you didn’t give up on the story!
The Girl You Forgot – Giselle’s latest release

What do readers love about it?   From the feedback, I think readers appreciate that first and foremost, it’s a love story. Two lovers find themselves in an impossible situation, and they are about to embark on keeping a big ‘secret.’ The reader is told on PAGE ONE what the secret is. The story is about how holding such a secret pans out for them…

It’s about the power of truth, and the power of love to overcome even some unpalatable truths.  It’s also got some sweet and wise characters – like Old Harry – that readers have found very endearing. It’s a serious topic but it’s got a lot of funny bits, because that’s also true to life. Humour helps us remember that, even when it’s not always easy, life is also sweet. It’s up to each of us to let ourselves pause and remember that.

A little about what’s next: I’m working on a book based around the theme of Home and Belonging. It’s features an outrageously handsome Scotsman with a – shall we say – very ‘interesting’ career! I’m having a lot of fun with writing about him, and also the girl he falls for, Sofia. I won’t say more, other than  that it’s an impossible situation for both of them, as she’s also just about to marry someone else… but, is it for the right reasons?

I know I am biased, but I love a handsome Scotsman!
A Writers Guide to the Zodiac… a how-to manual.
Thanks so much for making time to chat, Giselle. The Girl You Forgot is a fabulous read and deserves to fly off the shelves.

To discover more about Giselle and her writing, follow the links below, but in the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!

Giselle Green author…

Check out Giselle’s Website: www.gisellegreen.com

Follow Giselle on Facebook: www.facebook.com/gisellegreenauthor

Follow Giselle on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gisellegreenuk

Buy links for THE GIRL YOU FORGOT

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-You-Forgot

Apple: https://books.apple.com/gb/book/the-girl-you-forgot/id1514383385?mt=11&app=itunes

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-girl-you-forgot

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Giselle_Green_The_Girl_You_Forgot?id=78vnDwAAQBAJ&hl=en_GB

RAE’S READING ROUND-UP FOR… JUNE 2021

Hello bookish friends!

Time to collate my June reads and I have seven to share, which explains why this monthly round up is a little late… I’ve been busy reading!

It’s been back to my love of contemporary fiction this month, with novels by Emma Robinson, Leah Mercer, Imogen Clark and Cathy Rentzenbrink. I also enjoyed two modern classics; one by Virginia Woolf and the other by Elizabeth Taylor (the novelist, not the actress). Whilst The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles is fantastic historical fiction, heavily inspired by fact.

I hope there is something for everyone in this month’s selection and please remember to pop back soon, when I’ll be chatting all things books and writing with Giselle Green.

In the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!

HIS FIRST WIFE’S SECRET by EMMA ROBINSON

Emma Robinson’s novels have been on my to-be-read pile for too long, so when I saw her latest release, His First Wife’s Secret described as a powerful and emotionally gripping drama, it had to be my next read.

When Pete dies suddenly, his second wife, Emily, is distraught. But she isn’t the only grieving widow, as his first wife, Caroline must also come to terms with the loss. Alone and pregnant, with baby Dylan, Emily turns to Caroline for help and the two women grow close. But what secrets has Caroline kept hidden? And can their fledgling friendship survive when truths are revealed.

His First Wife’s Secret is a beautifully written, heart-tugging read. Every single character rang true. Even the unusual friendship between a first and second wife seemed entirely plausible. There are enough twists and turns to keep the plot interesting, but it’s the riveting emotional journey that both women experience that is central to the novel. Although His First Wife’s Secret deals with tragic events, it is lifted by hope, humour and warmth. Themes including friendship, motherhood, divorce and grief, are sensitively explored. The good news is that Emma Robinson also has a backlist to enjoy. One for fans of Diane Chamberlain, Jodi Picoult, Catherine Miller and Kelly Rimmer.

THE PARIS LIBRARY by JANET SKESLIEN CHARLES

The story of The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles focuses on events that took place at the American Library in Paris during WW2, when staff ensured all subscribers continued to have access to books, even when the Nazis invaded the city, and such actions were punishable by imprisonment or worse. We follow Odile Souchet, a young librarian who is very much in love with her family, her fiancé, her work, but war tests individuals in unexpected ways, threatening loyalties and blurring the lines between right and wrong.   This is a dual timeline story, where we catch up with Odile in Montana in 1983, when she befriends her young neighbour, Lily, who is navigating the road from teen to womanhood, desperate to leave her small-town neighbourhood behind.

Prior to hearing Janet Skeslien Charles discuss her latest novel, I wasn’t aware of the American Library in Paris, which was established in 1920 to provide literature to allied armed forces during WW1. Even as a life-long booklover, I was astonished by the actions of the library staff, which may have seemed small in the grand sweep of the war but meant a huge amount to those banished from libraries. Quiet librarians who risked everything to ensure life continued (boosting morale) in truly heroic ways.

This is a tale of friendships, secrets, romance, with fascinating real-life events woven beautifully throughout. There is a scene, near the end of the novel, that left me quite shaken and reflecting on what happened to the women involved. It is easy to judge with hindsight, far harder to remain calm when emotions were running high.  The Paris Library is one for anyone who loves books, Paris, or simply enjoys a story that history almost forgot.

A MOTHER’S LIE by LEAH MERCER

I was delighted to receive an advance copy of Leah Mercer’s latest release, A Mother’s Lie, (previously entitled Safe From Harm), a psychological thriller that explores a range of tensions and worries surrounding pregnancy and new parenthood.

Ali Lawton’s marriage crumbles with the strain of her pregnancy and she escapes to a cottage, left to her by her grandmother, which sits by the coast. Meanwhile, next door neighbours, Meg and Michael, appear to have it all, juggling interesting artistic careers with caring for baby Jem. When Meg takes Ali under her wing, Ali believes she has made a friend she can rely on. But all is not as it seems.

It’s hard to review A Mother’s Lie without creating a spoiler, as there are so many unexpected twists and turns. This novel gave me the chills from the outset, as there was something far too perfect about Meg and Michael’s relationship, who appeared to find life with an infant a breeze. The addition of the voice of Violet (Ali’s grandmother) adds poignancy and I very much felt for the older woman who, like Ali, chose to settle by the coast to escape pain. Mercer tackles a host of serious issues sensitivity. However, A Mother’s Lie also focuses on the dramatic plot line, offering an escapist read.

ANGEL by ELIZABETH TAYLOR

Angel by Elizabeth Taylor, the 20th century novelist (not the actress), was a book club choice, and given she was a new author for me, I was keen to discover more… Queen Victoria is dead and fifteen-year-old Angelica Deverell (Angel) is desperate to escape the hum-drum life she has been born into, living above a grocers shop with her widowed mother, eating buttered toast for tea. Instead, she dreams of high society and the extravagant balls and picnics hosted at Paradise House. Convinced she is destined for greatness, Angel pens a novel and, much to her family’s surprise, not only is she published but her overblown style is a hit.

But readers can be fickle and as literary tastes change, Angel struggles to balance her income with the gilded lifestyle she knows to be her due. Self-absorbed, deluded about her literary prowess, her finances, her relationships, Angel sweeps through life, totally lacking in empathy. She is a larger-than-life literary character who might be easy to dislike, but Taylor’s novel is also filled with subtle humour. It is darkly funny, even caustic in places, meaning it might not be for everyone.  However, I rarely re-read a novel, but plan to re-read Angel because the descriptive writing is so wonderfully done. Elizabeth Taylor – the author – was a real find, and I look forward to reading more.

RELUCTANTLY HOME by IMOGEN CLARK

In Reluctantly Home by Imogen Clark, Pip Appleby has worked hard to become a successful human rights’ lawyer, with an attractive boyfriend and a perfect apartment in the right part of the city. However, a tragic incident changes Pip’s life in an instant and now she feels trapped, not only by the memories that play in a loop, but by the necessity to return to her family home in Southwold.

It is only when Pip discovers Evelyn Mountcastle’s diary that, finally, she is able to concentrate on a situation other than her own. Part of the novel is told in flashback, recounting disturbing events that took place during Evelyn’s acting career in the 70s. Reluctantly Home deals with heart-breaking issues including grief and loss, but the introduction of Pip’s friend, Jess, helps lighten the mood. However, I did find Evelyn and her sister’s relationship difficult to understand, as I wished Evelyn would stand up to Joan, particularly in terms of protecting her daughter, Scarlett.

Pip and Evelyn, two women who have had everything they worked for stolen from them. Can their friendship heal wounds and help them strive towards a brighter future?

TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by VIRGINIA WOOLF

To The Lighthouse is Virginia Woolf’s autobiographical masterpiece that has been on my reading list for a while. Mr and Mrs Ramsay holiday each summer on the isle of Skye, along with their eight children and a collection of adult friends. This is definitely a book of two halves, with a shocking twist at its midpoint. For the family, there will forever be a before and after the devastating event. This makes sense as the novel is also split in two by war – pre- and post-World War One. The first half is filled with wit and warmth, whilst there is a more reflective feel as time moves on.

Although the blurb says the novella is set on Skye, to me it felt like a Cornish backdrop. A bit of digging revealed that the young Virginia spent many childhood summers on the Cornish coast, enjoying the freedom of playing in the bracing salt air. It was interesting to view pictures of Talland House on the outskirts of St. Ives, believed to be the work’s inspirational setting. To the Lighthouse is a Modernist classic that will likely resonate with a new generation, as we come to terms with our own pre- and post- lockdown experiences.

EVERYONE IS STILL ALIVE by CATHY RENTZENBRINK

If you enjoy beautifully written, mums-at-the-school-gate fiction, then Everyone Is Still Alive by Cathy Rentzenbrink is the perfect summer read. When Juliet’s mum dies, it makes sense for Juliet, Liam, and their young son Charlie to move into the house on Magnolia Road. But Juliet works full-time, and it is Liam, a writer, who attends coffee catch-ups and gets to know the neighbours, leaving Juliet unsure where she sits in the inevitable school-gate hierarchy.

Everyone Is Still Alive explores the highs and lows of family life, the dramas and anxieties of parenting young children. Magnolia Road is a haven for the middle classes, where competitive parenting flourishes and marriages crumble beneath the strain, yet time is still found to drink wine and make bunting. I liked its almost-gossipy feel, and subtle humour. One for lovers of early Liane Moriarty.

Author Heart-to-Heart with… Leah Mercer

Hello Reading Friends!

It’s that time where we enjoy an author Heart-to-Heart💗, and today I have the pleasure of introducing Leah Mercer. Leah’s novels have twice been shortlisted for the Romantic Novel Of The Year Award, with her latest, SAFE FROM HARM due to be published, here in the UK, on the 24th June, 2021. I was thrilled to be gifted an early copy and assure readers they are in for a treat. So, let’s get started…

Welcome to an author heart-to-heart💗, Leah and it’s traditional to start by sharing a little about yourself?

Thank you for having me! I’m a Canadian who has been in the UK for 17 years now – hard to believe it’s been that long. I came here originally to teach, but I was lucky enough to get published and make writing my day job. I live in Central London with my husband and my eight-year-old son, smack dab between two beautiful parks which I run through every day. I ran competitively for years, and even though I’m nowhere close to achieving the speeds I used to, I still really enjoy it and find it a great way to clear my head of pesky plot-lines. 

Kensington Gardens in the sunshine…
Parks and open spaces have been a lifeline for many. How fantastic to live so near! But back to your books and writing… we would love to hear more…

I write emotion fiction with an element of suspense. I suppose the industry would call it ‘women’s fiction’ or ‘domestic drama’, but I absolutely hate those terms. It belittles the work to me, as if it could only appeal to a certain demographic. I started writing romantic comedies under the name Talli Roland, which I really enjoyed, but I wanted to try something different. WHO WE WERE BEFORE was my first novel as Leah Mercer, which examined how losing a child can affect a marriage. Most of my novels explore relationships, whether husband and wife or mother and daughter, and how the past plays into them. I love delving into characters’ emotional lives. 

Loads from Leah Mercer to enjoy…
I agree. It’s hard to define the gripping, emotion-led fiction that Heart-to-Heart💗 readers love. But Safe From Harm falls firmly in that genre (whatever term we use!) What inspired you to write ….? And what do readers love about your story? 

I first got the inkling of idea for SAFE FROM HARM when I was at a cottage on the ocean in Nova Scotia, where I grew up. I’d just heard about a group of people who’d got caught in a riptide, and how the people who’d come to assist were almost drowned by those they were trying to rescue. I was fascinated by the thought of how, in that situation, everyone could be pulled under. It became a sort of metaphor for the book, where you can never truly be certain which character really needs help and which doesn’t – and where they might all be pulled under. 

I’ve always been fascinated by other people: their stories, their inner worlds, and what they carry with them. The ability to get inside people’s heads is what inspires me to write! I also love visiting different worlds. Once I sit down at my desk, I’m transported to another time and place – a handy ability during lockdown! I think readers appreciate that, too. My characters always grow and change throughout the course of a book, and I think that gives us hope. 

Safe from Harm – page-turning fiction…
Definitely! Travelling vicariously via books has been a blessing over the past year. So, which authors do you enjoy?

I love to read authors like Lisa Jewell, Adele Parks and Louise Candlish. I also enjoy a good thriller or two! Mel Sherratt’s new book, INVISIBLE VICTIM, kept me up at night. 

Some of Leah’s favourite reads…
A fantastic selection, Leah. Your love of page-turning reads comes through in your fiction too. Can you tell us a little about what’s next?

I’ve just sent my editor a draft of my novel due to come out in December, and I’m nervously awaiting her feedback. I’m also starting to sketch out ideas for another novel – I love this stage!

That’s brilliant news, Leah. Lots for Heart-to-Heart💗 readers to look forward too. Wishing Safe From Harm every success on the 24th June, and thanks so much for joining us.

To discover more about Leah and her writing, follow the links below, but in the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!

Leah Mercer author

Check out Leah’s Website: www.leahmercer.com

Follow Leah on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorLeahMercer

Follow Leah on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/LeahMercerBooks

Follow Leah on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leahmercerauthor

Buy links for SAFE FROM HARM

Amazon: geni.us/B093QCQ75Gcover

Apple: ow.ly/TE5n50EABLj

Kobo: ow.ly/LucL50EABJK

Google: ow.ly/BvTl50EAD9p

RAE’S READING ROUND-UP FOR… MAY 2021

Hello bookish friends!

Back to full reading strength during May with a selection of five reads. Some beautiful magical realism in Monique Roffey’s The Mermaid of Black Conch; historical fiction set in Poland from Kelly Rimmer, with more historical fiction, this time set in New York, from Francis Spufford; and some heart-breaking contemporary fiction from Giselle Green. Also, I highly recommend the moving memoir written by Josiah Hartley and his mum, author Amanda Prowse, as they candidly share Josiah’s journey out of depression.

Finally, please pop back soon, when I’ll be chatting all things books and writing with Leah Mercer.

In the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!

THE MERMAID OF BLACK CONCH by MONIQUE ROFFEY

Every now and then I seek out magical realism and if there’s a mermaid involved so much the better. So, when I discovered Monique Roffey’s The Mermaid of Black Conch had won a clutch of awards, including the Costa Book Award, I knew it was one I would enjoy.

Set in the fictional village of St. Constance on the Caribbean island of Black Conch, a local fisherman, David becomes bewitched by Aycayia, a woman banished to the sea centuries before, doomed to live as a mermaid. Woven around both historical fact and mythical fantasy, Roffey’s lyrical prose carries the reader to a place of storms and stunning sunsets, where nature blossoms and fish are trapped.

But what makes this book so special? I enjoyed The Mermaid of Black Conch on audiobook, where the narrator’s voice matched the tale perfectly. The rumours spun by the tight-knit community, their ancient folklore, the way their lives intertwined with nature, made the existence of a mermaid feel possible. But ultimately this is a beautiful love story about loneliness, loss, colonialism and sacrifice. A tiny warning – this is romantic fiction with a fair amount of ‘sexing’ involved, but it’s all tastefully described. If you are a fan of magical realism then The Mermaid of Black Conch is a treat to enjoy, and if you are curious about the genre then this novel is a brilliant place to start.

THE THINGS WE CANNOT SAY by KELLY RIMMER

Anyone who has read my reviews for a wee while will know I love Kelly Rimmer’s contemporary family dramas, so I was interested when she shifted genre with The Things We Cannot Say, historical fiction inspired by true events. Set during World War Two, in Nazi occupied Poland, Alina Dziak is a teenager working hard on her parents’ farm, desperate for news of her sweetheart, Tomasz. As the weeks and months pass, and the Nazis’ grip tightens, rumours of camps grow, until one terrifying evening when Alina is forced to make a heart-breaking decision.

This is a dual timeline story where in the present day we meet Alice; a busy mum of two, juggling visits to her gravely ill grandmother, whilst sticking to the rigid routine required by her beloved, autistic son, Eddie. Alice makes little time for herself, and her relationship with her husband, Wade is suffering. But by helping her grandmother piece together her history, can Alice find herself again?

Whether writing contemporary fiction or dual timeline, Kelly Rimmer is brilliant at writing real characters whose relationships are messy and difficult and awkward, but always founded in love. At times, I felt teary when considering the devastating grief and hardship ordinary folks endured. Much of The Things We Cannot Say is connected to voice, those who have it removed through terror; those who lose it through illness; those, like Eddie, who find it impossible to find the words needed to navigate the world.   

It is not only Alice who learned from Alina’s story. I learned lots too. The Things We Cannot Say is a heart-breaking novel about secrets, sacrifice, courage and family.  

THE GIRL YOU FORGOT by GISELLE GREEN

The Girl You Forgot by Giselle Green is a love story with a heart-breaking, thought-provoking twist. When Will is diagnosed with a brain tumour, he opts to have life-saving surgery that means his recent memory will be lost. Seven years’ worth to be exact. His partner Ava carries secrets, but are they too heavy for her to bear alone?

Every now and again a novel, or more specifically the premise of a novel, makes me stop and think. And such was the case with The Girl You Forgot. Will is in his late twenties when he requires surgery. To wipe seven years of memories during such a critical time in someone’s life, when they are finding themselves in terms of career, relationships, ideas and principles, would have a massive impact on that person’s sense of self. I couldn’t help but reflect on where I was at, and what I was doing, at a similar age, and the impact such a decision may have had.

One for lovers of dilemma-driven, emotional fiction by the likes of Diane Chamberlain and Jodi Picoult.

It’s a while since I’ve read non-fiction but when I heard author, Amanda Prowse and her son, Josiah Hartley, speak so movingly and honestly about Josiah’s struggle with depression, I knew I would share The Boy Between.

This is not a self-help book, or a how-to-beat depression manual, instead it is simply Josiah’s story about what it felt like to be consumed by depression and his journey to managing his mental health. In Josiah’s words ‘Depression came along like a wall of water that knocked me off my feet… Each time a wave hit, I scrabbled to my feet, only for another wave, larger than the first, to smack me back down to the ground.’  (TRIGGER WARNING: Josiah hit rock bottom and was desperate for escape) But it’s also his mum’s story, about how lonely and isolating it can feel when trying to support someone battling mental health issues. Not knowing what to say or do, not knowing where to turn for help.

A part of me hopes that no one reading needs this book, but I’m not that naïve. The past year has been a hard one, and if Josiah, and his mum, sharing their stories helps just one person, then Josiah’s bravery in opening up will have been worth it. The Boy Between may bring comfort and hope to anyone struggling with mental health, or to someone offering support.

GOLDEN HILL by FRANCIS SPUFFORD

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford was my book group’s choice for May. Set in 18th century colonial New York, it’s written in speech appropriate for the time, mostly in lengthy sentences, which I initially found tricky to get to grips with. However, I was so intrigued by the plot that I switched to audiobook and suddenly the story raced along.

Richard Smith, a young stranger, fresh off the boat from England, presents a bill for payment at a counting house on Golden Hill. But what is his purpose? Is he friend or villain? – Gossip amongst respectable society grows.

If I had to pigeon-hole Golden Hill, then I would say it’s a mystery with witty humour, filled with dramatic twists. It has a cast of slightly larger-than-life characters that adds to the period feel. But it was the setting, along with the Dutch references, that I found so fascinating. New York in the early days, when it was little more than a large town. A Costa Book Award Winner in 2016, Golden Hill isn’t a quick read, rather one to be savoured.

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