The Movement

Words have always been my super-power, Bookaholics, and I admit I have used that to my advantage in so many ways.  From a very young age I was skilled in the manipulation of language to achieve my goals, whether that be convincing my parents I needed a new bike, persuading them I definitely needed another ice cream or simply getting myself out of trouble. (It was always my sister’s fault anyway.  Honest.) I once attended a course on Negotiating and Influencing People that involved a significant amount of role play – by the end of day one, no one would pair up with me because I was so consistent in winning each and every debate.  But even with my love of language, I recognise that today’s world is more oppressively vocal than it has ever been, with every one of us having something to say about every single thing.  Every man and his dog (literally) has a social media account; so many of us hold the inherently narcissistic belief that others must hear exactly what we are thinking all the time.  So the concept of The Movement by Ayisha Malik absolutely fascinated me – is it possible that in this cacophony of voices, silence becomes the greatest power?  This novel is thought-provoking, emotionally engaging and will leave you questioning exactly what words truly bring us.

Sick to death of noise and the very verbosity of modern life, an up and coming author decides to embrace silence, dramatically rejecting a book prize she has worked hard to be nominated for. Whilst Sara’s actions cause only small ripples through the literary world, it draws the attention of a social media influencer who brings the concept of being non-verbal to the masses.  As more and more people see the benefits of adopting this new way of life, society divides between those who don’t speak, those who do speak but support people’s right to have a choice and those who believe being verbal should be mandatory.  Two other women find themselves embroiled at the heart of this humanitarian debate and through their eyes the story gains pace.  Grace is a single mother with a son who has never spoken, taken to court by the absent father for adopting silence herself, and accused of damaging their child’s chance of speech.  Zainab is a Pakistani woman trapped in a loveless marriage in Glasgow, with a husband who abuses her.  Silenced by society, rather than through choice, she too faces difficult decisions when faced with the reality of cultural expectation.

Interspersed with news articles, extracts from a documentary on the building crisis and the poignant perspectives of all 3 women, this story illustrates just how intertwined the personal and political can be.  Sara becomes an unwilling figurehead for those who believe silence is their right, despite being clear that her decision was purely personal and not intended to drive any sort of movement. One of the things I loved best about Malik’s story is the parallels with the way Brexit divided Britain into camps of polarised opinion  and had so many unseen consequences that few had predicted.  Some are incensed by the way people can so easily give up a voice that minorities have fought so long and hard to gain; others cannot understand why their own choices should be policed.  In choosing 3 women from ethnically diverse backgrounds to drive this narrative, Malik expertly highlights the way women (and particularly females from ethnic minorities)  can be silenced in so many different ways and I couldn’t help admiring those choosing to wrestle back their sense of self through silence.  In a world where words can see you “cancelled” without a moment’s notice, there is also safety in withholding language.

This is a superbly written and unique novel that works on so many levels: as a political commentary on how easily division can build between humans in our modern world; as a feminist narrative exploring the way the female voice is judged and controlled; and most of all as a truly brilliantly written and engaging story. Whilst I am not yet ready to give up my own verbosity, this has given me pause to reflect on the role silence plays in my own life and will be staying with me for some time to come.  I highly recommend grabbing a copy of The Movement – you wont regret it.

Shake it Up, Beverley

Like so many teenagers, I used to be obsessed with certain famous folk who stoked my hormonal fire. From the age of 9 when I decided I was going to marry Nathan Moore (lead singer of Brother Beyond – what do you MEAN you’ve never heard of them?) to my tween years when it was all about Ian Walker (he was a Tottenham goalie – what is WRONG with you people!?) and my subsequent infatuation with Gary Barlow (seriously, if you don’t know him, just leave now) it was a rollercoaster ride of unrequited romantic rapture. But as I progressed towards adulthood my interests shifted towards actual, real-life boys and those obsessions slowly faded, leaving me somewhat saddened at the loss of more innocent times (and no doubt leaving all 3 men heartbroken too I’m sure).  The same can’t be said for Beverley Wilson, the heroine of my latest read, who remains consumed by her adolescent adoration even though she is a 50-something mum of 3.  Beatles Bev is one of the most brilliantly likeable protagonists I have come across for some time and I cannot wait for you to meet her.

As the pseudonym may already have given away, Beverley is a huge fan of the Fab Four and has an impressive memorabilia collection to prove it, from a leather jacket once worn by Ringo to even living in a house where Paul resided as a child.  This hasn’t stopped her living a fulfilling life however, with a husband she adored, 2 children and a part-time job as an estate agent.  But having been sadly widowed some time before we join her story, she is beginning to feel like her world might need shaking up a little and her best friend Jools has just the idea: internet dating.  Following a whole host of bizarre and frankly demoralising dates, our Bev meets Scott who seems to be the perfect man – he even loves The Beatles. Can her new boyfriend really be as perfect as he seems or is he literally too good to be true?

Without doubt the best thing about this book is Bev.  She is a fabulous heroine, so honest and down to earth that you can’t help but want to be her best friend and I was rooting for her from the very start.  There is a thread of humour that runs throughout the story that sets it aside from so many of the more predictable, clichéd romantic comedies out there on the market and I definitely laughed out loud on several occasions.  I have to confess I have never been to Liverpool and the descriptions of the city shine so brightly throughout the text that it has just been catapulted to the top of my “to visit in England” list and I know full well I will be saying “oh so that’s where Bev was” when I do. 

If you are anything like me you may be finding life a bit overwhelming at the moment and this book is the perfect tonic – funny, touching and ultimately very readable, it is undoubtedly escapism at its best.  It also provides a timely reminder that there can be humour even in the toughest of life crises and that laughter is what holds us together.  I highly recommend this as a light-hearted, fun read perfect for your summer holiday.

Snap

I spent large parts of my childhood playing on the M5, Bookaholics.  Now before you all rush to the phone to call Social Services in horror at this devastating disclosure of juvenile neglect, let me clarify: I was always inside a vehicle – even if it was at times hardly moving – and I was always supervised.  Endless hours were spent playing mindless games like I-Spy, creating random dance moves to the latest pop songs and, if all else had been exhausted, waving coquettishly at lorry drivers whilst my mum dished out chocolate eclairs (of the suckable kind) in the hope it would keep my sister and I from chanting “are we there yet?” in that immensely charming habit that all young children seem to develop early on.  So despite the fact I generally don’t choose to read thrillers, the premise of Snap by Belinda Bauer grabbed my attention immediately, with its link to that most familiar of motorways.  This is a fast-paced and engrossing novel that had me on the edge of my seat, thinking “what if?” about my own childhood experiences.

 

When a heavily pregnant woman and her 3 small children break down on the M5 one hot summer’s day, she insists they stay in the car whilst she walks to the nearest emergency phone seeking help.  Little do they know they will never see her again.  Abandoned and alone, Jack takes control, spending the next few years trying to keep his 2 younger sisters safe from harm.  Made old beyond his years by the trauma of loss, he takes to burglary and other criminal activity in an attempt to keep the family together but things are close to falling apart.  Then during a robbery he stumbles across the weapon he believes was used to harm his mother and, by proxy, the person who hurt her.  Is he losing his mind? Could he really be about to solve a mystery that the authorities failed to crack? And exactly how much danger is he putting both himself and others in by going to the police?

 

Having recently read Exit by the same author, I already knew I liked Bauer’s writing style and this is a narrative that is punchy and easy to devour.  Jack, his sisters and the policemen on the periphery of the investigation are so individually developed that I felt like I knew them and whilst DCI Marvel is a little cliched in the role as maverick detective, he provides enough humour and entertainment for me to forgive this.  I definitely didn’t guess most of the twists and turns as the story progressed and found myself constantly wanting to know what would happen next, the mark of a unique and intriguing plot line.  From her vivid opening description of that sultry summer motorway, Bauer had me hooked right through to the end, creating an atmospheric and absorbing world that I could barely bring myself to leave.

 

This was the perfect easy read for our own sultry summer and I definitely recommend as an engaging holiday choice.  Maybe even take it with you down the M5.  Just pray to God you don’t breakdown…

Textual Torment

It was clear I was prone to addiction from a young age, Bookaholics.  From my friend’s Gameboy which I borrowed for a week and ended up giving back 10 years later (true story) to my lifetime compulsion for sugar (anyone for cake?), it takes me a huge amount of willpower to break away from anything I am drawn in by.  In adulthood my 2 greatest addictions are without doubt the calorific temptations of biscuits or chocolate and my voracious appetite for reading.  On the surface it would seem that one of these is of far greater concern than the other – after all, books won’t give me diabetes – but this week I have finally come to accept that my love of lit may be seriously damaging my health.  Is reading actually making me ill?

On the one hand, there are so many arguments in favour of my literary pursuits – books give me escapism, relaxation and a world far away from the worries in my head. My bookish buddies are categorically those in my life with the greatest empathy and the biggest hearts, thanks in part to their textual consumption of such disparate human experience. Yet on the flip side, I can’t ignore the physical symptoms.  When I spend all day sat at a computer for work, I really should be more physically active in my spare time, yet I dedicate every spare moment to reading.  I have neck pain, shoulder pain, experience headaches when I sit for too long and have even had the occasional ocular migraine where the words have blurred and refused proper focus.  It is fair to say that I am far too sedentary and my love of lit isn’t helping. Something has to change.

Of course there are solutions and I will explore them – what choice do I have?  I could listen to audiobooks whilst walking or partaking of other outdoor exercise; I could get a frame to hold my latest read whilst I stand or stretch; I could seek to simply reduce the amount of time I spend with a book in my hand (I actually shuddered typing that one).    But truth is it’s going to be really hard to change habits that are so ingrained and are such a big part of who I am. Maybe the easier answer is to have a full on mid-life crisis and change career path for something more active. I can’t quite see me as a farmer getting up at 5am to milk the cows, but if needs must, I would rather don my wellies and wade through muck than lose such a huge part of my identity.

I would love to know if anyone else has ever experienced something similar and how you have addressed your problems – maybe one of you has the magic wand I have been looking for.  In the interim I will be busy experimenting with balancing my kindle on my bookcase at the perfect reading height whilst balancing hardbacks on my head.  That has to help my posture right!? Wish me luck…

Girls They Write Songs About

I will never know if it was sheer chance that led me to pick up Girls They Write Songs About just days before events in America took such a sinister turn: in some ways I like to think the fickle fingers of fate were driving my reading choices.  At a time when being a woman feels increasingly like you are born to fight a battle you can never win, Carlene Bauer’s novel connected to my inner feminist in ways that had been lying dormant for far too long.  This novel is a powerful, poignant and ultimately heart-breaking love song to what it means to be female in a world that tells us we can live our dreams then judges us for believing we can. 

Charlotte and Rose meet in 1990’s New York as ambitious young writers both working for the same music magazine.  Despite being very different people on paper, they soon discover they share a similar outlook on life and long to achieve what generations of women before them have been denied.  Both of them crave being published and for their words to have the value they deserve; both want to milk city-life for every exciting and exhilarating experience they can; both know they can trust the other not to judge their choices by the misogynistic standards of a hypocritical world.  Railing against the patriarchal expectations of marriage, children and being a house wife – believing life can, and will, offer them more – they carry each other through love, loss, success and failure until one day Charlotte realises they are no longer in sync. What happens when the values you built your friendship on are no longer the same? How do you cope when those who swore never to condemn you now stand in judgement of your very existence?

I have no greater compliment to give this book other than to say I felt thoroughly seen.  As a woman I have known intense female friendship born from the desire for a space safe away from the inherent criticism of the male gaze; I too have known those relationships break down and the pain of knowing someone who shared your inner most feelings is no longer your safety net.  Despite their longing to be strong, independent women, both Charlotte and Rose find themselves seeking male approval time and again in a world where even those of their own gender are trained to impose patriarchal expectation.  The journey from absolute, unquestioning confidence in your dreams to the compromise that comes with age is also far too familiar as a woman and one that resonated powerfully, with the book clearly showing that in confining one sex to out-dated roles, men suffer the consequences too.  We are all trapped in this game we call gender.

This is a beautifully written and pertinent book that is being published at a time when women need to know they are not alone and that is just one of the myriad of reasons to grab a copy.  We need to recreate that safe space on a global scale and support the oppressed no matter where they are or what they look like – otherwise who knows when they will come for us? 

We Are What We Read

Not long ago I stumbled across an article about dangerous criminals and the books they liked to read.  Whilst we are all familiar with video games being blamed for reckless and violent behaviour in real life (fortunately obsessive playing of Frogger as a child never led to me being squashed whilst crossing a road) it is rarer in 2022 to hear anyone blame literature for criminal activity.  Yet the evidence is there in abundance: Mark David Chapman allegedly claimed to be Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye and even proposed at one point that he killed John Lennon to promote that very book; Richard Ramirez – responsible for multiple rapes, kidnaps and murders in 1980s America – is believed to have considered In Cold Blood by Truman Capote his favourite novel.  This started me thinking about books that have influenced me and my life in certain ways (don’t panic, I have never resorted to violence) and I thought I would share with you the titles that have impacted me the most and helped create the person I am today.

1) I can still remember now the excitement I would feel as I dove between the cloth-bound, hardback covers of my mother’s Enid Blyton collection and Malory Towers was always my favourite.  It opened my eyes to a world outside of my own narrow childhood experience and I found myself longing for midnight feasts and lacrosse matches (very hypocritically given I always hated PE).  Even now there is a sense of escapism whenever I think of those tales and it reminds me of the first moments I truly understood the magical lure of reading as a way of firing the imagination. Those are precious memories.

2) When I first reached university I found many of the set texts hard going, with reading for pleasure often secondary to the fact I had to get through so many books at pace.  Just occasionally a novel would be so readable that it allowed me to remember why I was studying English and Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was one example of this.  But as I delved further into the depths of its pages, it became more and more uncomfortable – I couldn’t compute how a novel could be so popular yet so inherently racist in the stereotypes of black people it portrayed.  When I timidly ventured those views in a seminar, I discovered I was far from being the first to feel this way and it was widely seen as a controversial, divisive text.  For the first time I was actively vocalising my disgust at prejudice, something that has grown to be a key part of my value base today.

3) In my 30s I was feeling a little lost.  I knew the world felt unfair as a woman but was struggling to articulate this in a meaningful way.  Then a friend recommended Unspeakable Things by Laurie Penny and I had a proper lightbulb moment – here was someone so coherently saying all that I had been feeling for so long.  It gave me the strength to know I was not alone in the way I viewed injustice, helped me challenge my thinking further and empowered me to vocalise my views. I am now proud to call myself a feminist and unafraid to challenge behaviours that before I would have accepted as the way of the world.  This book made me strong in ways too numerous to count.

4) I always love it when other people recommend me things they have read and think I will respond positively to and Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera was no exception.  We widely recognise that the British education system fails to teach us anything meaningful about colonialism, so I learnt a vast amount about the good, the bad and the ugly of imperialism.  What I found most refreshing was the authenticity of Sanghera’s voice and his unique position as both British and “other”.  This book helped me understand that it is all too easy to dismiss the negative actions of a country to the past and that evidence shows the “empire state of mind” is very much alive and kicking today.  The current government do not – and never will – act in my name.

5) I would never have independently picked up The Overstory by Richard Powers but as it was a Book Club choice, I delved in with some apprehension.  I am so, so glad I did – this novel revolutionised the way I view the natural world.  I learnt a huge amount about how intelligent trees are, their ability to communicate and – most significantly – how reliant human existence is on their presence.  Ever since then I have found myself taking more time to appreciate the greenery around me, pausing to wonder at the magnitude of things we don’t truly understand about nature.  It is an amazing read.

I like to think the person I am today has been influenced by all of these texts in different ways and I certainly wouldn’t be me without the experience of reading them.  This excites me for what is still to come – imagine who I could be in another ten years?  I would love to hear which books have changed you in ways big and small.  Let me know. After all, we are what we read.

Sasha Knight

The more entrenched I become in middle-age, the more I realise just how much my childhood has shaped the adult I am today.  From the obvious connections that anyone could spot (you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I grew up surrounded by book lovers and that in our house emotional comfort was always accompanied by chocolate) to those buried somewhat deeper beneath the surface (the uncertainty of family illness triggering anxiety from an early age), all of my formative experiences are entwined within my very being.  As a result I find myself drawn more and more frequently to those coming-of-age novels that explore just how pivotal that journey into maturity can be, seeking learning for myself as much as anything else.  I therefore jumped at the chance to review Sasha Knight by Sean Godfrey and I have to say it exceeded all of my expectations.

Ironically, given the novel’s name, this is really the story of Matthew, who we meet as a young boy growing up in Jamaica.  When new lodgers move into the house he shares with his mother and brother, Sasha steamrolls into his pre-adolescent world, larger than life and full of fascination and fun.  Soon they are best friends, inseparable outside of school and embroiled in all the kinds of high jinks you would expect of children so young and naive.  Then one day Sasha disappears and Matthew’s life changes forever.  He may physically grow into an adult as we follow his path through school and then on to America, but emotionally he remains trapped in the moment Sasha left him.  He cannot move on without accepting what really happened to his friend.

One of the things I love best about this book (and there were so many) is the way it defies genre – yes it certainly fits into the bildungsroman category but it also interweaves elements of magic realism and mystery to create an addictive and unpredictable narrative.  Matthew becomes a more unreliable narrator as the story progresses and I found myself searching for clues to try and solve Sasha’s disappearance myself, reading between the lines to find my own meaning.  The author explores some really complex themes such as race, class and gender expectations with great skill, all of which play a pivotal role in driving the story forward. But ultimately this is a book about loss and the trauma it brings those who experience it: with an absent yet idolised father, Matthew was clearly vulnerable to anyone filling the empty space in his heart and once Sasha has done this, he cannot let go. All of us carry emotional scarring and all of us have struggled to move forward following the loss of someone we care about.  This story will undoubtedly resonate with everyone.

This is one of those brilliantly written books that you can’t help feeling would hit the bestseller’s list if only the author was already really famous and I hope it gains the traction needed for greater media attention.  I highly recommend buying a copy – Matthew and Sasha will certainly be staying with me for some time whilst I reflect on my own emotional parallels.  Godfrey is clearly one to watch – you heard it here first!

Sasha Knight will be published on 23rd of June 2022 and can be pre-ordered here:

https://ownit.london/shop/sasha-knight-by-sean-godfrey/

How do you read yours?

Although I am not a huge fan of the term (and have tried hard to think of a cute alternative to no avail) I am definitely a mood reader – I always choose my next book based on how I am feeling at that very moment in time.  I remain bewildered by those who plan their “to read” list months in advance then work through it methodically one by one, as in my mind this limits the potential for that incredible, life-affirming buzz when you pick exactly the right book at exactly the right time for you.  I also credit the fact I devour so many brilliant novels to this approach, as my heart and mind unite to choose something my subconscious knows will hit the spot at that very moment.  I have read some incredible books recently and below is a quick round up of the ones I’ve loved best.

Imagine if every New Year’s Eve at midnight you time-travelled to a different year of your life: from 19 to 90, you never know where you will end up next or at what point in your existence you will be.  This is the concept behind The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart, a brilliantly delivered novel that sees our heroine learning to cope with living each year out of order.  It sounds like it should be a car crash in terms of structuring a novel, but Montimore delivers an incredibly addictive, moving and heart-warming story with great finesse. From relationships that finish before they start, to friends who turn out to be family, this book reminds us that no matter how we live our lives, we grow from every experience and are stronger when we learn to take nothing for granted.  Definitely one of my favourite reads of the last few months, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. 

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Sharak is what can only be called a masterpiece and has promptly lodged itself in my top 5 books of all time. This is the story of 2 Cypriot teenagers who fall in love in the 1970s despite their differing backgrounds – Kostas is Greek and Christian and Defne is Turkish and Muslim.  Decades later in London, their 16 year old daughter Ada is struggling to come to terms with losing her mother, battling her own grief and that of her father.  She knows nothing of her Cypriot roots or of the trauma in her parent’s past, until her estranged aunt arrives, changing her life for good.  I have no words to describe how beautifully written this story is, in language that is so lyrical and evocative it lifted my literary soul to a higher plane.  Most poignant of all is the way Sharak intertwines the natural world into the lives of the humans she portrays.  I was left speechless (which is incredibly rare) and wish I had the money to buy everyone I know their own copy.

In contrast, Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner is the autobiography of a woman who has lived all of her life on the periphery of the royal family. I am not much of a royalist, if truth be told, but given the current jubilee celebrations it felt like an appropriate time to explore the world of stately superiority and all this entails.  Glenconner writes such engaging prose – something I already knew from reading one of her novels earlier this year – and the anecdotes come thick and fast.  From a childhood disrupted by the second world war to an adult life shaped by her marriage to a highly eccentric and unpredictably violent husband (and not to mention her role as lady in waiting to Princess Margaret), she has certainly been through many fascinating experiences and I was highly entertained by them all. As autobiographies go this is both compelling and eminently readable. 

So which one will you be buying, Bookaholics – maybe all 3?  Just don’t let them languish at the bottom of your TBR for too long and let me know what you think!

The Bookaholic Bex Guide to Book Blogging

Something exciting happened last week, Bookaholics: someone I had never heard of before contacted me out of the blue.  They told me that they had been following me for a while (in the online sense, they aren’t physically stalking me) and that they wanted to thank me for all the brilliant books I had recommended and that they had loved.  Not only was this the nicest thing to happen to me for some time (unless you count the day someone gave me free cake) but it also completely blew me away.  Sometimes as a book blogger it can feel like you are screaming into the void, with little or no interaction on reviews you spend ages crafting.  But truth is, just because people don’t respond, it doesn’t mean they aren’t reading, and knowing this has made all the difference.  As a direct result of this life-affirming and frankly quite moving moment, I have put together the following Guide to Book Blogging, in the hope that my learning helps anyone else out there in the same position as me.

1) Blog from the heart.  Don’t worry about what other people think about a particular book, your response is just as valid – even if the entire world seems to love something you couldn’t get into.  (Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks – still think I may be the only person on the planet who found it clichéd and frankly quite terrible). Maintaining that integrity and being true to what you enjoy is a key part of building your own individual character as a blogger. Also, it’s exhausting trying to be one of the cool kids.  Individuality is way cooler.

2) Be kind.  Ok, you didn’t like a particular book, but you don’t need to tag the writer to tell them how awful you think their work is.  (Whilst I love everything else Sebastian Faulks has written, please don’t tag him in this). There are tactful ways of sharing your views without destroying the author’s self-worth: their work may not be for you but someone else will no doubt love it.  Ultimately if all else fails, apply what my mum always said to me when I was a child – if you can’t find something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

3) Be tactful.  If an author has sent you a free copy of their book, repaying their kindness with insults is definitely not the answer. Let them know it wasn’t for you and then don’t tell the rest of the world.

4) Interact with other bloggers.  Remember that feeling when you post something that’s taken you ages to write and then no-one responds?  You are not the only one feeling that way.  Take the time to find the reviewing styles you like and promote those you engage with.  We all have our own unique approach and I have yet to read a blog I haven’t learnt something from. Carve out the time to give others what you want to receive.

5) Be realistic about the time you have to blog. Most of us have jobs / families / demanding lives that take us away from reading (which is frankly unacceptable).  Try not to over-commit – one thing I have definitely learnt is that it’s better to do a few reviews well rather than too many that are rushed and do neither the novel or me any justice.

6) As Jon Bon Jovi once said, keep the faith. Somebody somewhere thinks your reviews are awesome.  One day they may even tell you.  Hold on to the fact that you are making a difference – the world can never have enough book bloggers.

I was going to add a number 7 – don’t let success go to your head – but based on the feedback of that one individual, I have already branded myself as an influencer, appointed a publicist and decided to be more obnoxious than a Kardashian.  I am nothing if not grounded.

Happy blogging folks 😊

Rose Hawthorne: The Irish Wanders

I have been feeling particularly old this week, Bookaholics.  Whether it’s the incessant back ache, the constant tiredness or the realisation that one of my colleagues was born 2 years after I started working for my current employer (shoot me now), the world has been conspiring to make me feel geriatric.  When I feel like this, it is far too easy to assume the best years are behind me (pipe and slippers, anyone?) and it is for this reason that I enthusiastically embrace any novel where the protagonist is more mature in years yet actively demonstrates that human value does not diminish with decrepitude, no matter what the media may tell us.   My copy of Rose Hawthorne: The Irish Wanders, therefore, could not have arrived at a better time, with a feisty 70 year old heroine who embodies the ideal that life’s adventures do not stop simply because you are a grandmother.  This is a delightfully charming tale that provided me with some much needed escapism.

From the very opening scene it is clear that Rose is a force to be reckoned with.  A celebrated author of world-wide renown, she is a lady with strong opinions and unafraid to express them to friends, family and even the man who ransacks her house in a botched burglary.  When a letter arrives from a secretive source asking for her help solving an ancient Irish mystery, our heroine doesn’t hesitate to travel from Toronto with her grand-daughter Samantha on a mission to find out more.  Blending magic and mystery with romantic reminiscence, and set against the incredibly evocative backdrop of the beautiful Irish countryside, this novel’s mix of ancient druid myth and fairy-tale fiction certainly captured my imagination.

My favourite thing about this book was the growing relationship between Rose and Samantha as the story progressed, with the complex clash between old and young gradually dissipating as the excitement of their adventure grows.  Alongside Bill, our heroine’s love interest from some 50 years earlier, they make an unlikely yet touching investigative team as they search for the mysterious medallions that form the object of their quest.  Yes there are occasional moments when things seem to happen a little too conveniently – and yes the ending is bordering on cliché – but I can forgive this for the plot had me hooked.  As Rose develops from classic domineering matriarch to someone far more in touch with her feelings, the reader’s empathy for her also grows, and it is difficult not to root for all 3 of the protagonists as the story canters towards its conclusion.

This isn’t a challenging read and was exactly what the doctor ordered in a week when the world has felt overwhelming.  If you are looking for something to take you away from the world and distract you from life for a few hours, this is the book for you.  I will, however, provide one warning – it will leave you with an irresistible urge to visit Ireland immediately.  Now, where did I put my passport?

%d bloggers like this: