Thursday, 14 February 2019

Review - The Hidden by Mary Chamberlain

The Hidden by Mary Chamberlain
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Release date: 7 February 2019
Back cover blurb: Her heart died in the war – can she breathe new life to it? Dora Simon and Joe O’Cleary live in separate countries, accepting of their twilight years. But their monochrome worlds are abruptly upended by the arrival of Barbara Hummel, who is determined to identify the mysterious woman whose photograph she has found among her mother’s possessions. Forced to confront a time they thought buried in the past, Dora and Joe’s lives unravel – and entwine. For, trapped on the Channel Islands under the German occupation in the Second World War, Dora, a Jewish refugee, had concealed her identity; while Joe, a Catholic priest, kept quite another secret... This is a story of love and betrayal, shame and survival. But can a speck of light diffuse the darkest shadows of war?

For me, The Hidden is a bit of a slow burner of a novel, it probably took me until around half way to get totally absorbed in it, and then I couldn't let it go.

This novel opens in 1985, where Dora Simon and Joe O'Cleary are living in separate countries, unaware that their paths are about to collide, and unaware that they passed before, during the Second World War when they were both living in Jersey under German occupation.

We are then transported back in time to occupied Jersey, where we learn that Dora is a German Aryan Jew, hiding under the guise of a Swedish Aryan.

Dora is a midwife, though she dreamed of becoming a Doctor. Through the tragic death of his daughter, and her stillborn child, she meets Geoffrey, the man she knows she wants to spend the rest of her life with. Geoffrey is a social outcast and Dora is warned off him several times, though she is never given any real reason for this.

Joe O'Cleary is an Irish priest, hiding a terrible secret of his own. He is a keen amateur boxer, and bird watcher, and it is through the love of the latter that he meets Trude a German nurse.

Both Dora and Joe know that they shouldn't be putting themselves in the danger that they are by falling in love with those who are deemed unsuitable for them, particularly during wartime.

But it is precisely during the wartime that these usually forbidden relationships seem to blossom, as people fear for their lives and their families.

The Hidden is a beautifully written novel, and has real as well as historical figures within it's chapters. The story is much more than I have detailed above, but much like the characters themselves, I believe that each reader will go away with their own version of this story.

The Hidden is available now via Amazon online and all good book shops.

Thank You to the publishers who approved my request via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Review - The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Publisher: Orion
Release date: 7 February 2019
Back cover blurb: Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word. Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him....

The book world has have been taking about this book for months, and rightly so. It is an incredible debut, gripping you from the start and not letting go until that ending.

'The Silent Patient' allows us to follow forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber, through his journey with the notorious Alicia Berenson.

Alicia was a successful artist who hit the headlines when she was found alone with her murdered husband Gabriel. Gabriel was shot in the face five times, and Alicia's were the only prints on the gun. She has never admitted her guilt, nor has she protested her innocence.

She has been mute since the day of the murder.

Six years on and Alicia is a patient at a closed psychiatric unit called The Grove, the hospital setting is perfect for the atmosphere of this novel, and their treatment of Alicia before Theo's arrival is exactly as you might expect.

Theo who has been fascinated with Alicia's case since the start, applies for a role at the Grove and is successful. He believes that he can make Alicia speak again, his colleagues are unconvinced and think Alicia is a lost cause. He is determined to get her off some of the heavier medication that she is on and move forward.

Theo's almost obsessive interest in Alicia seems in part, to be due to similarities with his own childhood and the trials and tribulations that they had to overcome to be successful.  But there is also an obsession with the case, why is Alicia mute? There must be an underlying reason...

I literally cannot say anything else (I'm keeping the silence about that ending!) but I can honestly say that I was completely shocked by it (I read so many novels that it's hard to shock me these days, I genuinely gasped out loud!).

Absolutely brilliant, can't recommend it highly enough. I know it's still early, but this is definitely one of the books of 2019.

The Silent Patient is available now via Amazon online and all good book shops.

Thank You to the publishers who sent me an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Review [Blog Tour] - The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Lost Man by Jane Harper
Publisher: Little Brown
Release date: 7 February 2019
Back cover blurb: He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron's mind when he was alive, he didn't look peaceful in death. Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other's nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart. They are at the stockman's grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family's quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn't, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects...

The Lost Man is the third Jane Harper novel that I've had the pleasure of reading, and I think it may just be my favourite yet. Harper's storytelling is magnificent and I always look forward to her novels.

The unbearable heat and unforgiving conditions of the vast Australian outback set the scene for The Lost Man. Three brothers live on neighbouring farms; their farms each almost the size of a small country.

Cameron Bright, is dead, days before Christmas at a place known as the Stockman's Grave. A place of local legend, a landmark so old that no one can’t actually remember who or what is buried there.

When Cameron’s car is found nearby with good tyres, sufficient fuel and provisions, the local police have no option but to conclude that Cameron’s death was suicide. He knew the area, he grew up in the area, there is no way he’d have abandoned his vehicle and not taken the provisions.

Cameron’s family although respectful of the police opinion, struggle to come to terms with it. Nathan the main protagonist of our story is convinced that there is more to his brothers death than meets the eye.

Through Nathan’s eyes we learn so much about the Bright family. Seemingly normal from the outset, it is clear that the have a chequered history as the novel progresses. Could an outsider have wanted Cameron dead?

I can’t answer that, not can I tell you anything about that ending that everyone’s talking about. You’ll just have to read this stunning novel yourself to find out. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

The Lost Man is available from 7 February 2019.
You can pre-order it now via Amazon online and all good book shops.

Don't forget to check out the rest of today's blog tour hosts;

Thank You to the publishers who invited me to review this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Review - A version of the truth - B P Walter

A version of the truth -  B P Walter
Publisher: Avon Books UK
Release date: 7 February 2019
Back cover blurb: There are three sides to every story... 2019: Julianne is preparing a family dinner when her son comes to her and says he’s found something on his iPad. Something so terrible, it will turn Julianne’s world into a nightmare and make her question everything about her marriage and what type of man her husband is or is pretending to be. 1990: Sophie is a fresher student at Oxford University. Out of her depth and nervous about her surroundings, she falls into an uneasy friendship with a group of older students from the upper echelons of society and begins to develop feelings for one in particular. He’s confident, quiet, attractive and seems to like her too. But as the year progresses, her friends’ behaviour grows steadily more disconcerting and Sophie begins to realise she might just be a disposable pawn in a very sinister game. A devastating secret has simmered beneath the surface for over twenty-five years. Now it’s time to discover the truth. But what if you’re afraid of what you might find?

2019 : Julianne is about to throw a dinner party when her teenage son, Stephen comes to her, horrified at some content he has come across on his iPad. Something so terrible, that he cannot even articulate it. Something about her husband and her son's Father; James that will turn their world upside down forever.

1990: Sophie is a fresher at prestigious Oxford University when she meets Ally, Ernest, Peter and James. Despite her obvious intelligence, she is immediately out of her depth, younger and from a poorer family, she doesn't immediately fit in.

Told from alternating viewpoints; Julianne's in 2019 and Sophie's in 1990, it is apparent that the two narratives are somehow linked, but it is not clear how. Both women are suffering in their own way, and it is hard not to feel some sympathy for them, though neither woman is particularly likeable.

I'm hesitant to say too much more...

A version of the truth is a hard book to review without giving away too much. The difficult subject matter is thought provoking, and dealt with brilliantly and I did feel that there could be an opening for a sequel - however uncomfortable it may be to read...

A Version of the Truth is available from 7 February 2019.
You can pre-order it now via Amazon online and all good book shops.

Thank You to the publishers who approved my request via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Review - We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet
Publisher: 4th Estate (Harper Collins UK)
Release date: 7 February 2019
Back cover blurb: A woman; a war; a child that changed everything. Spanning the sweep of the twentieth century, We Must Be Brave is a luminous and profoundly moving novel about the people we rescue and the ways in which they rescue us back. She was fast asleep on the back seat of the bus. Curled up, thumb in mouth. Four, maybe five years old. I turned around. The last few passengers were shuffling away from me down the aisle to the doors. ‘Whose is this child?’ I called. Nobody looked back. December, 1940. As German bombs fall on Southampton, the city’s residents flee to the surrounding villages. In Upton village, amid the chaos, newly-married Ellen Parr finds a girl sleeping, unclaimed at the back of an empty bus. Little Pamela, it seems, is entirely alone. Ellen has always believed she does not want children, but when she takes Pamela into her home the child cracks open the past Ellen thought she had escaped and the future she and her husband Selwyn had dreamed for themselves. As the war rages on, love grows where it was least expected, surprising them all. But with the end of the fighting comes the realization that Pamela was never theirs to keep… A story of courage and kindness, hardship and friendship, We Must be Brave explores the fierce love we feel for our children and the astonishing power of that love to endure.

We Must Be Brave, is a sentiment that the reader should probably keep in mind whilst reading this beautifully written novel, for its subject matter is at times difficult to endure.

We Must Be Brave is a novel that focuses on the trials and tribulations that must have affected many families during the second world war, but this perspective is rarely written about.

Ellen Parr is a newly-married, childless young woman who finds a girl sleeping, unclaimed on the back of an empty bus. The bus has recently arrived from Southampton whose residents have been made homeless by relentless German bombers.

Little Pamela it transpires is entirely alone in the world. Abandoned in the chaos at Southampton, her Mother now dead in a bombing raid, Pamela (on her part somewhat reluctantly) is taken in by the Parr family. 

After an attempt to place her elsewhere, the Parr's come to accept Pamela as their own, despite her poor behaviour, which was no doubt common of a child in her situation. After desperate attempts to contact any remaining family are exhausted, the Parr's form an unbreakable bond with the child and don't expect that she will ever see her real family again.

Ellen's world is turned upside down when a relative stranger appears on her doorstep, her face familiar, but Ellen cannot understand why. As she explains her reason for her visit, Ellen realises that she could be about to lose everything she never knew she wanted.

We Must Be Brave is a very moving novel, but also uplifting novel, and I was bereft when I go to the end! This deserves to be one of the books of 2019, and I cannot recommend it enough.

We Must Be Brave is available from 7 February 2019.
You can pre-order it now via Amazon online and all good book shops.

Thank You to the publishers who approved my request via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Review - The Last by Hanna Jameson

The Last by Hanna Jameson
Publisher: Viking
Release date: 31 January 2019
Back cover blurb:
BREAKING: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington BREAKING: London hit, thousands feared dead. BREAKING: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm. Jon Keller was on a trip to Switzerland when the world ended. More than anything he wishes he hadn't ignored his wife Nadia's last message. Twenty people remain in Jon's hotel. Far from the nearest city, they wait, they survive. Then one day, the body of a girl is found. It's clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer... As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what happens if the killer doesn't want to be found?

The Last begins with the end of the world as we know it (yes the R.E.M lyrics are intentional). Nuclear attacks have taken place, affecting San Francisco,  Munich and Scotland. Little information about these is given, which I think adds to the authenticity of this story, as we the reader are in the same situation as the people involved, cut off from the outside world by devastation and disaster.

Jon Keller is staying at a remote hotel in Switzerland as part of a conference when disaster hits. Some of his fellow conference attendees panic and flee the hotel in the hope of escape. Most are terrified at the prospect of the end of the world as they know it and are paralysed by fear into staying at the hotel.

This seems like the sensible option at first. The hotel is safe, away from the major towns and cities and their chaotic evacuations as people anticipate further attacks. However the hotel is not the place that it first appears to be.

When the body of a young girl is found, her identity a mystery, we realise that the hotel itself is a very mysterious thing. Historically famous for it's slightly creepy, remote location and thirteen floors, amongst other more secretive details that Jon is yet to uncover.

The only thing we know for certain is that her death was not accidental, and she was not killed by the blast, fallout or radiation sickness. In short, she was murdered. Jon, as he begins to document each day since the nuclear attacks, is determined to find out who committed this crime, and whether the hotel residents are in further danger of more than 'just' another nuclear attack.

The Last is a difficult novel to summarise, is it a post apocalyptic thriller? A murder mystery? or something in between? Whatever it is, it is a great novel, with an interesting conclusion!

The Last is available from 31 January 2018.
You can pre-order it now via Amazon online and all good book shops.

Thank You to the publishers who approved my request via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.