Monday, 17 December 2018

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman @hannahbeckerman @orionbooks @PoppyStimpson #IfOnly

Audrey's family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.

As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman is published by Orion Books on 21 February 2019 and is the author's second novel.

I was very lucky and honoured to receive an exclusive signed proof from the very first print run of If Only I Could Tell You. This is a book that I've been looking forward to for a long long time.

To be honest, I'm struggling to find the words to describe just how much this book has affected me. With themes that have felt very personal to me at the moment, at times I found it quite difficult. However, the writing and the story line are just so very very beautiful that I found myself becoming comforted by it, despite the absolute tragedy within the story. it is incredibly powerful and so very moving.

This is the story of a family, and how long-held beliefs can affect relationships and feelings. The author takes two sisters; Lily and Jess and allows her readers to gain such an insight into their lives, yet there is one tragic event that both binds these women together, but also has broken them. Not only are they broken, but their whole family are shattered by it. The rippling effects of the waves made by what happened with Jess was ten-years-old and Lily was sixteen have informed every decision that they've made since.

Hannah Beckerman has structured this novel impeccably; the reader gets to know Jess and Lily as adults, along with their own two daughters, and their mother Audrey. We are also taken back to the events of June 1988, the time that this once close-knit, loving family was torn apart, never to recover.

Jess and Lily couldn't be more different. Lily is successful, wealthy and driven.  Jess is a single-mother, always watching the pennies and appears to be increasingly unhappy. It's difficult to warm to Jess, especially as the reader is unaware of her reasons for cutting her sister from her life, it's only as we learn the truth that we can empathise with her and understand that it was sorrow and the misunderstanding of a child that led her to take the steps that she did.

If Only I Could Tell You deals with some serious and life-affecting issues, and Audrey, Lily and Jess certainly have more than their fair share of dark times. However, the absolute perfection of this author's writing and plotting does not make the reader feel overwhelmed by this issues and each event fits perfectly into the plot.

I have no doubt that when this is published in February next year, it will be praised highly. There is absolutely nothing to criticise at all. It is tender and intelligent, with a perception of family issues that is startling at times.

Utterly wonderfully heartbreaking, yet precise and searingly honest too. The perfect read.

Hannah Beckerman studied English at King's College, London and for a Master's degree at Queen Mary and Westfield, London. She spent twelve years working in television, first as a Producer for the BBC and subsequently as a Commissioning Editor for Arts and Documentaries at Channel 4 and the Discovery Channel USA. She lived in Bangladesh for two years, working for the BBC World Service Trust.
Hannah is now a full-time author and journalist. She is a book critic and features writer for the Observer, the FT Weekend Magazine and the Sunday Express and a regular chair at literary festivals and events. She has been a judge for numerous book prizes including the Costa Book Awards.
If Only I Could Tell You is Hannah's second novel. She lives in London with her husband and daughter. 

Find out more at
Twitter @hannahbeckerman
Author Page on Facebook

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Fukushima Dreams by Zelda Rhiando @badzelda @Unbound_Digital #RandomThingsTours #FukushimaDreams #MyLifeInBooks

Sachiko and her husband Harry live in a village on the North-east coast of Japan. They are both struggling to adapt to life as new parents to their infant son Tashi. In the aftermath of the tsunami, Sachiko wakes alone. Her family is missing. She begins a desperate search until radiation fallout from the Fukushima power plant forces her to leave the area. She moves to Tokyo, and a different life. Harry has fled to a refuge on an isolated mountain, abandoning his family. He lives there, haunted by guilt and hovering on the edge of sanity. Will they find each other and confront the question of their missing son?

Fukushima Dreams by Zelda Rhiando was published by Unbound in 2017. As part of the Random Things Tours Blog Tour, I am delighted to welcome the author here today. She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books.

My Life In Books - Zelda Rhiando

Out - Natsuo Kirino
A young mother strangles her philandering, gambling husband, and her co-workers help her to hide the body. Out is an unflinching, psychologically taut foray into the dark recesses of the human soul - an unsettling reminder that the desperate desire for freedom can make the most ordinary person do the unimaginable. In its way Out is a feminist book, as well as an examination of urban blight.

How to Japan - A Tokyo Correspondent’s Take - Colin Joyce
This book was given to me by Yumi Aoyagi in Tokyo, and apart from being a great introduction to Japanese customs, it was also a useful insight into the life of the expatriate, invaluable in developing the character Harry in Fukushima Dreams. Colin Joyce is brilliant an encapsulating the embarrassment of the gaijin (foreigner), and his fascination and increasing affection for his adopted country shines through.

Ichi-F - Kazuto Tatsuta
This is a graphic memoir of life as a cleanup worker in the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant, published in serial format from 2014-2016. It’s an unflinching portrayal of the dangers and mundanities of the work of cleaning up after the disaster of 2011, and a compelling insight into post-fukushima life in Japan.

Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure - Hideo Furukawa
Furukawa wrote this novella in one month, immediately following the tsunami of 2011. He is a native of Fukushima Prefecture, but was away when the disaster occurred. It’s both a memoir, and a meditation on the redemptive power of writing, this book plays with form, in a way that is reminiscent of Nabokov, to create a sense of liberation, chaos and loss.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman - Haruki Murakami
The stories in this collection range from surreal to poignant, the quotidian to the fantastic, and between them create an extraordinary world in which anything may happen. There’s a hypnotic and spellbinding quality to this through-the-looking-glass Japan, that forces the reader to reexamine their concept of ‘ordinary’.

Six Four - Hideo Yokoyama
Yokoyama worked for many years as an investigative reporter before switching to fiction and writing Six Four. The title refers to a notorious real life case, where the investigation was botched by the police and the perpetrator not brought to justice for many years. In a country with a 95% conviction rate, this was considered a great disgrace Yokoyama takes the real events and weaves a remarkable revenge drama, revealing as much about Japan and its people as the mystery at its heart.

Frozen Dreams - Tatematsu Wahei
Based on the true story of six university students who go climbing despite warnings of bad weather, and are caught in an avalanche. Miraculously, one of the climbers survives for four days after his companions have perished, and revisits his life as he gradually loses feeling, and eventually, consciousness. It’s an amazingly evocative description of Japan’s frozen wilderness.

An Artist of the Floating World - Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro is a master of spare elegance, communicating worlds in a few words, and this was the first of his books that I encountered, as a teenager many years ago. It’s a beautiful portrait of a Japan rebuilding itself after World War II that spans the decades of the protagonist’s life until he is looking back at his early passions, and wondering at how they have mellowed into the serenity of old age. The tranquillity is marred by a dark shadow…

The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories - Edited by Theodore Goosen
This definitive book presents stories from 1860 to the present day. It’s an incredible selection, and is a book that I return to again and again.

Zelda Rhiando - December 2018 

Zelda Rhiando was born in Dublin and read English Literature at Cambridge. 

She lives in South London with her husband, two daughters and four cats, and is one of the founders of the Brixton BookJam. 

She is the author of two novels, Caposcripti and Fukushima Dreams.

Twitter : @badzelda