“It smelled bittersweetly of sourdough, and there was the trace of hot, fresh bread in the air. She took a deep breath and unlocked the door”
Fifteen years ago Bettina May’s life’s veered off course in one disastrous night. Still reeling from the shock of losing everything she thought was hers, Bettina opens a bakery in a village and throws herself into the comfort of bread-making.
She spends her days kneading dough and measuring ingredients. She meets someone. She begins to heal.
Until someone who knows what happens that night walks into Bettina's bakery. In the pause of a heartbeat, fifteen years disappear and Bettina remembers a time she thought was lost for ever . . .
Can she ever go back?
Welcome to the Random Things slot on the Blog Tour for The Other Half of my Heart by Stephanie Butland, I'm delighted to be involved in this tour.
The Other Half of my Heart was published in paperback by Black Swan / Transworld on 22 October and is the author's second novel. I reviewed her first; Surrounded By Water in April 2014, that book was published in paperback in April of this year as Letters To My Husband.
Once again, Stephanie Butland has written a story that has completely consumed me over the past few days. Her skillful portrayal of a woman who is both physically and emotionally scarred is beautifully done,
Bettina May is a sad and aloof character. She is dedicated to her bakery, filling her days with endless kneading and mixing and creating new recipes for the breads that fill the shelves of her shop. She is private and guarded and although she is slowly allowing her neighbour Rufus to play a bigger part in her life, she is unable to truly open her heart to him.
The reader is often perplexed by Bettina and her treatment of Rufus. One night she will jump into bed with him, the next day she will flinch at his touch.
Slowly and carefully, the author reveals snippets about Bettina, and the reader begins to understand that she has been running and hiding for the past fifteen years. Not hiding from anyone in particular, not hiding because she has done something wrong either; Bettina is trying to hide from herself, from her past and from the consequences of one terrible night when she was just nineteen years old.
Bettina's story is told in the present, and also skips back to happier times fifteen years ago, when she was known as Tina and she was happy and carefree.
She was in love with Roddy and spent her days with her other love; horses. Her family were settled, her parents were loving and her twin brother Sam had just gone off to University. It can be difficult for the reader to connect this happy, wholesome young girl with the world at her feet to the sombre and downcast Bettina from the present day story. However, it is clear that not only has Bettina changed, but so has her whole family, and the author tempts the reader with references to a terrible tragedy.
It was great to see some characters from Surrounded by Water / Letters to my Husband pop up in this story, but it's not a sequel by any means, it's totally a stand alone story.
Stephanie Butland is a gifted author who writes artfully. This story; the plot and the characters will capture the reader. It is emotional, you may cry. You will certainly become attached to the characters, you will be mystified by Bettina's actions, and then you will understand. You will hurt for her, and for those around her and you will root for her as she slowly begins to face up to the past and to embrace her future.
I adore this book. I adore Stephanie Butland's writing. I can't wait to read more from her.
I'm so happy to welcome Stephanie Butland to Random Things today, she has kindly agreed to answer my questions ~ thanks Stephanie!
I tend to read the first few reviews of a book when it comes out, just so I can get a sense of what people think of it, and whether the book in my head was the one that ended up on the page. After the first flurry, though, I don’t read reviews, because my tendency is to agree with the good ones and dismiss the bad ones as ‘wrong’, which even I can see is a bit disingenuous! I’d be lying, though, if i said I didn’t take a peek at star ratings….
How long does it take to write a novel?
It depends when you start counting! I’d say I have a three-to-six month ‘back brain’ period before I write anything - I’m thinking about characters and stories, and maybe doing some research. Once the writing begins I probably have a terrible first draft in eight months. I print it out, mark it up (‘More here.’ ‘Why this?’ ‘Say this better!’) and go back to the beginning and rewrite. Then I get some feedback and do a couple of edits. So I’ll probably have something worth sending to my agent 18 months on from when I start thinking, a year from when I start writing. Once I get into the publication process, I probably spend a month on editorial suggestions, and another week on copy-edits and corrections - but those processes can be spread out over six months, and I’m usually working on something new by then!
Do you have any writing rituals?
|Stephanie always has Post-its to hand!!|
What was your favourite childhood book?
I had an illustrated ‘Peter Pan’ that I loved, and I basically inhaled all of Enid Blyton’s boarding school books.
Name one book that made you laugh?
‘The Table Of Less Valued Knights’ by Marie Phillips. It’s a brilliant take on the Arthurian legends, focussing on those who aren’t considered to be good enough to sit at the Round Table.
Name one book that made you cry?
Oh goodness, I cry at everything! When I finished the His Dark Materials trilogy - I was having lunch on my own in Carluccio’s in Kingston - I sat and sobbed my heart out. Heaven knows what the other diners thought of me.
Which fictional character would you like to meet?
I’d like to sew with Eleanor Dashwood from ‘Sense and Sensibility’. And drink gimlets with Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe.
Which book would you give to your best friend as a present?
All of my friends are readers so that’s a dangerous game! A couple of years ago I gave a lot of friends reading record books, which they loved. One of my favourite books of late was ‘Bitter Greens’ by Kate Forsyth so I may pop that in a few parcels.
Are you inspired by any particular author or book?
I admire Kate Atkinson for originality and David Mitchell for chutzpah - but I must admit I’ve struggled with their latest books. I love Margaret Atwood for her creation of believable worlds, but my all time writing hero is John Updike, for his perfect, poised, beautiful prose.
What is your guilty pleasure read?
A couple of years ago I read the entire Booker shortlist one after another and by the time I was done I felt as though I’d eaten out at smart restaurants every day for months - and all I really wanted was beans on toast! So I read the Hunger Games trilogy and I have to say I enjoyed them more than at least two of the Booker-nominated books.
What book have you re-read?
All of Jane Austen - I read one a year!
What book have you given up on?
‘Catch 22’. And quite a lot of Dickens, although I probably shouldn't admit to that......
Stephanie Butland has written two books about her dance with cancer.
Letters to my Husband was her first novel.
She lives in Northumberland with her family.
Visit her website at www.stephaniebutland.com
Follow her on Twitter @under_blue_sky
Visit her Facebook Author Page