This was my first Barbara Hannay read. What rock have I been living under?? ... I have no idea why Hannay hasn't come to my attention before 4.5 stars
This was my first Barbara Hannay read. What rock have I been living under?? ... I have no idea why Hannay hasn't come to my attention before now but I've been missing out.
The Secret Years is a multi-generational story blending contemporary and historical narratives into an utterly captivating read.
It's a story where the past bleeds into the present, the effect of long held secrets rippling through generations.
Lucy returns home to Australia from a 6 month deployment in Afghanistan. Her mother and beloved grandfather Harry's reticence in talking about the past, then her discovery of a tin of her grandfather's wartime memorabilia, impetus for heading to Cornwall, England to unravel the secrets of her family's history.
Harry and George's (Georgina) story (the historical narrative) was my favourite, it's tender and brave and the war added tension and urgency to their romance. But, I was surprised to enjoy Lucy and 'cousin' Nick's story almost as much. Lucy's search for answers is integral in pulling all the pieces of the story together.
The Secret Years has a wonderful sense of place, whether it was the harsh beauty and isolation of the Australian bush, London during the Blitz, the dramatic beauty of the Cornish coastline or the lush beauty, humidity and danger of Rabaul, New Guinea during the Japanese invasion, I was transported effortlessly and completely immersed.
The Secret Years is an evocative story of great love, loss and secrets. Family history gives us a strong sense of identity so the story is also a journey of self discovery. Hannay breathes life and love into the pages.
One of the benefits of discovering an author late is an extensive backlist to devour :)...more
I love historical fiction and France's history in particular is rich, vivid and endlessly fascinating. I've read a few novels focused on the formidablI love historical fiction and France's history in particular is rich, vivid and endlessly fascinating. I've read a few novels focused on the formidable Catherine de Medici but this was my first look at the early life of her daughter Marguerite and my first Sophie Perinot novel. Definitely a positive experience.
The story is told from the first person perspective of Marguerite (Margo) and her relationships with her Valois family are front and centre. Mother Catherine de Medici, brothers King Charles IX and Henri Duc d'Anjou (Anjou) ... what a viper's nest.
In this coming-of-age story we follow Marguerite from relative obscurity and innocence to a place at court, in love with the unsuitable Henri, Duc de Guise, a pawn in her family's power struggles and finally in political alliance her marriage to Henri, King of Navarre.
He smiles again, then looks at me questioningly. "Whatever possessed you to wear that awful wig?" "The same demon, Sir, that goaded you to wear yellow." "Your mother then." I can't help myself: I laugh.
There is a real sense of Marguerite's growth as the novel progresses, fueled by the machinations and ill-treatment by her family, naivety fast becomes awareness and intelligence and a strong moral compass hold her in good stead challenging her family in doing what she believes is right.
Set during the throes of the Wars of Religion and culminating in the horrific Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre the slaughter of thousands of Heuguenots (Protestants) viewing this through Marguerite's eyes added a different perspective.
Well written and researched, Perinot does justice to the colorful and bloody history and its players.
I thoroughly enjoyed Médicis Daughter. Now to hunt down The Sister Queens, I don't think you can OD on French historical fiction. ...more
My first time reading Australian author Tricia Stringer and Heart of the Country appears to be her first foray into adult historical fiction.4.5 stars
My first time reading Australian author Tricia Stringer and Heart of the Country appears to be her first foray into adult historical fiction. Historical fiction being one of my favourite genres to read and me being a self-confessed-fussy-cow I gotta say, Tricia Stringer nails it!
Heart of the Country is set in the mid 1800's during pastoral settlement of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. We follow young Thomas Baker as he strikes out for 'Penakie' and a new life.
There's a wide cast of characters to love and loathe but I particularly adored Thomas and Lizzie, Gulda and Daisy and Lizzie's brothers Zac and Jacob. I laughed and cried along with them as life and the land dished out joys and hardships. I giggled at Thomas's embarrassment getting a boil lanced on his backside, sighed at the sheer vastness and beauty of our country and wished a 'bad' end on a few vile characters HA.
Stringer captures the wild beauty and ruggedness of our country, the harsh conditions and isolation, the scorching heat, drought that brings the country to its knees, the loss of livestock, the very human toll but also the camaraderie between (most) properties despite the distance. I loved the respect shown to the culture of original land owners but I also appreciated that Stringer didn't gloss over the often negative and shameful encounters between white settlers and indigenous Australians.
Heart of the Country is authentic, vibrant and colourful, full of tension, and tender moments. 500 pages flew by. No hardship reading this one ... I loved it!
I loved that Heart of the Country had a satisfying ending, no cliffhanger to torture me for a year and I can't wait to see what awaits the next generation.
Maybe a little Tricia Stringer rural romance while I wait for the 2nd installment? ...more
Food, Love and Paris ... sold! Ok I confess, I wanted this one for the cover.
In 1909 Guillaume (Gui) Du Frere, leaves Bordeaux for Paris and3.5 stars
Food, Love and Paris ... sold! Ok I confess, I wanted this one for the cover.
In 1909 Guillaume (Gui) Du Frere, leaves Bordeaux for Paris and a job as a railway labourer. He finds so much more than he ever imagined when a chance encounter with Jeanne Clermont, daughter of a famous Parisian confectioner opens the door on the Patisserie Clermont and forbidden love. In 1988 Petra Stevenson is determined to uncover a family secret involving her late grandfather.
I loved the historical narrative and Gui and Jeanne and I begrudged leaving 1909. Actually the swings from present day to the historical timeline were so fast I found it quite unsettling, just as I was immersed, I was yanked out ... torture, I kid you not. That's my only reason for not rating this higher as Madeleine's writing is beautiful and her descriptions of Paris and the Clermont Patisserie, rich and evocative.
The workings of the patisserie kitchen, the sweet smell of sugar and chocolate, cream and warm caramel, the delicate pastries ... my mouth was watering.
There were whole, plump roses steeping in honey; purple-stained sugar, thick with lavender, tiny jars of crimson threads, cherries and peaches suspended in syrup as if they had fallen there from the trees. The luxurious scents wrapped around him. Butter, his nose relayed, cream, nuts, brandy, chocolate ...
The Confectioner's Tale had me pining for Paris. Macarons or chocolate éclairs are mandatory with this read :)
I loved the old-world almost dreamy feel to The Lake House ... I lost myself in another time and place.
The L4.5 stars
Lake house ... Cornwall ... Sold!
I loved the old-world almost dreamy feel to The Lake House ... I lost myself in another time and place.
The Lake House is a multi-layered story of love, loyalty, loss and long-held secrets. Three strong women; Eleanor, Alice and Sadie, multiple time frames, plots and sub-plots. There's a lot going on.
In 1933 we're introduced to the Edevane family of Leoanneth, the Lake House ... Alice, Deborah, Clemmie, Theo and parents Eleanor and Anthony. On a midsummer's eve, 11 month old Theo disappears.
In the present day Sadie Sparrow, (cringe on the name) a London detective on disciplinary leave, visiting her grandfather in Cornwall, stumbles upon the abandoned lake house, her curiosity reviving the 70 year old cold case of missing baby Theo.
The story shifts to London, 1911, filling in Eleanor's back story. Past, present, back and forth with Kate Morton deftly peeling back the layers while I literally held my breath in anticipation.
I worked out what happened to baby Theo early on, I didn't waver, even though there were multiple threads leading in different directions, but just as I was patting myself on the back for being so clever, Kate Morton put me in my place. I loved the ending, I didn't see that particular gem coming. There were tears, happy tears.
Kate Morton's skill with family ties, secrets and the slow reveal is masterful, even the quieter, drawn out parts of the narrative have purpose. The whisper fine threads came together beautifully and the resulting picture was bittersweet.
The story opens as England declares itself at war with Germany. The WWII setting is what initially appealed to me, England, France, Poland but Scent oThe story opens as England declares itself at war with Germany. The WWII setting is what initially appealed to me, England, France, Poland but Scent of Triumph is actually more sweeping family drama and one woman's determination to provide and care for her remaining family after facing great tragedy.
Danielle is a fiercely determined, clever, hard-working, resilient woman and I admired that about her but I didn't always feel an emotional connection with her. I'm not sure how to explain it, it might be that I wasn't quite so enamored once Danielle was living in Los Angeles. Despite tragic losses she seemed so cool and removed and focused, I actually felt the distance but when Danielle was immersed in creating a perfume she came alive to me.
I thought parts of the story were a little predictable and I'll also be honest and say I found the ending disingenuous. Despite these points there was much to love.
I loved Danielle's mother-in-law Sophia and her small but significant, and lasting part, her courage really touched me. I liked Jon, and Jon and Danielle together, it was so frustratingly obvious they were meant for each other and I wanted to shake both of them for the misunderstandings.
I loved the artistry, history and tradition of perfumery, I felt Danielle's love for the creative process, the trial and error composition and design of a new perfume. I loved Moran's descriptions of the Bretancourt family perfumery gardens in Grasse, so beautiful I want to visit. I loved how Moran's writing appealed to my senses, I could smell what she was describing, my mouth actually watered at the "sweet, buttery scent of the boulangerie in Grasse where they bought croissants ..." and the perfume aspect gave the book a very sensual feel.
"She waved blotter strips of paper under her nose, then made notes in her journal. Too much bergamot in this one, too tart; no depth in this one; bring forward the orange blossom in another."
"She inhaled again, going farther, detecting the bouquet of jasmine and rose, rich and silky, entwined with a spicy note of carnation, adding verve and vitality, robust brilliance. It needs a splash of complexity here, a sprig of basil there, an accent of clove."
Overall, Scent of Triumph was a little different from what I was expecting but a lovely, entertaining read.
Cover: cover fairy worked on this one ... it's beautiful! ...more
It's not often I say a book is superb let alone the entire trilogy but Nancy Bilyeau ticks all the boxes with The Tapestry and its predecesso4.5 stars
It's not often I say a book is superb let alone the entire trilogy but Nancy Bilyeau ticks all the boxes with The Tapestry and its predecessors. Maintaining historical integrity while blessing the reader with a pacy entertaining read is no mean feat.
I'm a glutton for all things Tudor. Being well read in that particular historical period I confess I've become quite picky discerning and really appreciate a fresh approach which is exactly what Nancy Bilyeau gives readers with her Joanna Stafford trilogy. Viewing the oft-covered Tudor era and Henry VIII's court, roiling with religious instability, political treachery, conspiracies and betrayals from the perspective of former Dominican novice Joanna Stafford has been an exciting reading experience.
I loved the direction Bilyeau took in this final installment. Despite best intentions Joanna is drawn back into service to King Henry, intrigue and danger follow her doggedly. King Henry is working on ridding himself of wife number 4, Anne of Cleves and has Catherine Howard in his sights for wife number 5 spot, much to Joanna's horror, being a long-time friend of Catherine's.
Once again I loved the mix of notable historical figures and fictional characters, I enjoyed learning about German painter Hans Holbein the younger and I was especially happy to spend time with many (King Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, Bishop Gardiner, Thomas Howard, Jane Boleyn, Thomas Culpepper and Catherine Howard) from the safety of a book's pages.
A compulsive read that has you turning the pages for ... just one more chapter.
I fell in love with Posie Graeme-Evans' writing almost 10 years ago after reading her War of the Roses trilogy. The cover of Wild Wood called4.5 stars
I fell in love with Posie Graeme-Evans' writing almost 10 years ago after reading her War of the Roses trilogy. The cover of Wild Wood called my name, blessed by the cover fairies with what looks to me like Eilean Donan Castle. Then of course I noticed the author's name and when I finally read the synopsis, I was sold. And not disappointed ... this Australian author's writing has evolved over the years and Wild Wood is a beautifully refined story, compelling and evocative.
"The past bleeds into the present."
A dual narrative, separated by centuries, distinct but slowly merging as the threads of past and present unlock long-held secrets ...
1321 in the borderlands, the story unfolds at the Norman stronghold Hundredfield, held by Godefroi, eldest of the three Dieudonné brothers. The story is narrated by the youngest, Bayard. I loved his character; battle-hardened knight, his strength, compassion and sensitivity endearing traits.
1981 Jesse Mayard's world is rocked when she learns she is adopted and leaves her home in Sydney, Australia determined to discover the truth, and herself. Heading for Jedburgh in Scotland, fate intervenes bringing Jesse and Alicia and her neurologist friend Rory Brandon together, setting Jesse on the path to Hundredfield.
In a dual time line story I normally find one story appeals more than the other but with Wild Wood I was equally intrigued by both. I was immediately hooked on Bayard's narration, page-turning, breath-holding reading, the setting and times, violent, harsh and unforgiving. Jesse's narration was a quieter pulling, until Hundredfield exerted its influence.
Wild Wood has its faults but maybe visiting Scotland gave the story and Hundredfield a whole lot more 'feel' ... history literally seeps from the walls of these ancient castles and ruins, it can be quite emotionally overwhelming. It was lovely to revisit that feeling with Wild Wood.
History, dark secrets, legend and superstition create a haunting tale. And now I look forward to the author's new writing venture ... The Outer Sea. Write faster Posie :)
I really enjoyed Sandra Byrd's Ladies in Waiting series and jumped at the chance to read the first in her new Daughters of Hampshire series, set in ViI really enjoyed Sandra Byrd's Ladies in Waiting series and jumped at the chance to read the first in her new Daughters of Hampshire series, set in Victorian England.
Mist of Midnight is wonderfully atmospheric with Headbourne House, the family graveyard and chapel shrouded in mystery and mist. The gothic feel with that delicious sense of foreboding was one of my favourite parts of the novel.
Rebecca Ravenshaw returns to her family home in England after her parents are killed in the Indian Mutiny, expecting safety and financial security. What she gets instead is the onerous task of proving her own identity and the 'other' Rebecca Ravenshaw an imposter.
I liked Rebecca's forthright character and I loved her flirty interactions with Luke and naughty sense of humour, all within the bounds of propriety of course. Luke was really likable but for a 'Gothic' hero I expected a little more brooding intensity so whilst the author gave us reason to be suspicious of him, I actually didn't mistrust him.
Mist of Midnight is marketed as Christian fiction, which I don't read much of but I found it very subtle and completely in keeping with Rebecca's missionary family. I loved the contrast in cultures and Rebecca's effort to 'fit' in her native England while embracing what she loved of both countries.
I left a piece of my heart on the pages of The Nightingale. I could quite honestly leave it at that as I'm not sure I have the words to convey how mucI left a piece of my heart on the pages of The Nightingale. I could quite honestly leave it at that as I'm not sure I have the words to convey how much this book affected me.
I read quite a bit of WWII fiction and nonfiction but at the risk of sounding cliched The Nightingale was different. I was incapable of putting it down, sleep paled into insignificance as Vianne and Isabelle's story took hold and I finished it at 3am, emotionally wrung out.
Kristin Hannah captures the horror, the hunger, the heart, the biting contrast between humanity and inhumanity with an eloquence that left me breathless and ugly crying. Alongside the atrocities there are moments of great tenderness, love and always hope. This story is one big 'feel' and that's what makes it unforgettable.
Andrée de Jongh, the young Belgium woman who established an escape network over the Pyrenees which later became known as the Comet Line was Hannah's inspiration for Isabelle. It doesn't seem to matter how much I read of the holocaust the unimaginable horror never lessens in intensity. But The Nightingale recognises the quiet courage, strength and determination of women, those who protected friends, saved Jewish children, sacrificed and survived, made gut wrenching choices, worked in the Resistance, risked their lives for strangers, endured the unthinkable, died fighting evil. Those like Isabelle and Vianne ...
I've read many of Kristin Hannah's books, I love her writing. Winter Garden is a favourite but The Nightingale is exceptional. I'll go out on a limb and say it's one of the best books I've read ... the kind of best that lands a novel on my books-to-be-buried-with list. I can't stop thinking about it, my heart hurts ... ...more
Kate Forsyth is one of my 'keeper' authors, a favourite author whose storytelling is a rare gift. Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl will alway 4.5 stars
Kate Forsyth is one of my 'keeper' authors, a favourite author whose storytelling is a rare gift. Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl will always have my heart but The Beast's Garden was another beautiful addition to her repertoire.
The Beast's Garden is a retelling of The Singing, Springing Lark, a Grimm Brothers' variant of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. I love fairy tales, and I adore retellings ... they keep our love of fairy tales alive for generations to come, inspiring us to share both the traditional and re-imagined with our children and grandchildren.
The Beast's Garden had a slightly different feel to previous works, the historical story line extensively researched, as always, but the fairytale re-imagining, more subtle, delicately woven.
The main characters and their families are fictional but the rest of the cast are actual historical figures.
The story opens on Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass and young German woman Ava Falkenhorst races to aid close family friends, the Feidels. Ava encounters Leo von Löwenstein, an officer in the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service and their story begins ...
Kate is very respectful of the history; the terrible atrocities committed against the Jewish population and I really appreciated the fresh perspective and focus on the many Germans who were part of the resistance, actively working to bring down Hitler and the Nazi regime. Admiral Canaris, chief of the Abwehr and Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen of the Red Orchestra resistance group, to name just a few.
This tale of love, courage and resistance was everything I expected ... and more. ...more