A holiday on the stunning Greek island of Zakynthos, with its perfect blue skies, white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, should be a dream come true.
But for Holly it feels more like a nightmare. Arriving on the island to clear out a house she's just inherited, Holly has no idea what to expect. And she's certainly not prepared for the family secrets she uncovers inside.
With the help of Aidan, her handsome neighbour, Holly sets out to explore the island, hoping to piece together her own lost story. Yet all too soon real life, including the boyfriend she left behind, threatens to catch up with her.
Holly things she's following the secrets of the past. But might it turn out to be a map to her future?
My Map of You by Isabelle Broom was published in paperback by Penguin on 21 April 2016, and is the author's debut novel.
I read a lot of books.
I read a lot of books, from a lot of genres. I read books by male authors, and female authors. I read fiction, I read non-fiction. I read a lot of books. I very very rarely call a book 'perfect'. There's been The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough and A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor-Bradford - they were many many years ago. There's been The Vanishing Act of Esmee Lennox by Maggie O Farrell and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Each of those books are 'my' perfect books, for many reasons, but all personal.
I'm so happy to welcome another book to that special party; take your place My Map of You by Isabelle Broom,
I'll start with the beautiful cover. Blue sky, blue sea, a glimpse of the dazzling white buildings, the tree covered hills, the colourful flowers, in the the background, a faint, hardly noticeable hand-drawn map of Zakynthos. Evocative and inviting and draws the reader in without even having read a word.
There is absolutely no doubt that My Map of You has been written by an author who knows and loves Zakynthos. I too love the Ionian islands, I've visited them all, even the small ones that most people miss, and reading this book is almost as good as being there yourself. Isabelle Broom has perfectly captured the sights, the smells, the people of Zakynthos. She takes her readers to the small, traditional villages and also to loud, brash Laganas. The characters eat cheese pies and drink village wine whilst listening to the cicadas and locals arguing. They also experience the 'strip' at midnight; the neon lights, the goldfish bowl cocktails, the sunburn. For me, this makes the story so realistic, it would be wrong to think that Zakynthos is purely secluded tavernas and fresh fish, this well-balanced view gives the reader the opportunity to experience the whole Zakynthos experience.
Our lead character, Holly, is a troubled woman. Finding out that she's inherited a house on a Greek island that she knows nothing about, from an Aunt that she didn't know existed has been a shock. She's spent most of her life creating an invisible armour around herself, rarely allowing people to get too close .... in case she loses them. The death of her mother hit her hard, she looks back at their relationship that for the last few years centred around a Vodka bottle and an empty belly and struggles to feel any love or affection for the woman that used to be the funniest, most loving mum in the world.
I'm not going to go into depth about what happens to Holly on Zakynthos, that wouldn't be fair, and really everyone should buy the book and find out for themselves. However, I do want to say that Isabelle Broom's writing will transport every reader to the heart of this beautiful island. The reader will meet Greek people who are so wonderfully drawn that they become a part of life whilst reading the book. You'll be delighted by the descriptions of the island, the food and I can promise you that you will be Googling 'holidays to Greece' within minutes of finishing this heart-warming, beautifully written story.
I really try not to 'gush' when I write a review of a book, but My Map Of You landed in my hands at the perfect time for me. It made me able to put some huge, frightening changes in life to the back of my mind for a few hours, and it took me to one of my favourite places in the whole world.
Me? I fly to Corfu in a fortnight. Bring on the cheese pies, the Mythos and the sunshine! Yiamas!
My thanks to my dear friend Nina who gave me a signed and dedicated copy of My Map of You, and thanks to Isabelle Broom too.
My Life In Books ~ Isabelle Broom
Silver Snaffles by Primrose Cumming I grew up obsessed with ponies, so this book - which is all about a girl who enters a parallel world where horses can actually talk - was one I read over and over. I've always loved stories with a magical element, and I think reading this really made me realise that all I needed to do to escape into another world was pick up a book. Of course, this is something I have never stopped doing. I'd love to dig out my old copy of this book - especially as I've just now discovered that they're selling for almost £50 on Amazon!
The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton I know most people went mad for The Famous Five, but I always preferred The Secret Seven. I had the books in hard copy and those story cassettes you used to be able to buy, and I'd listen to them while I was playing in my bedroom. I hold them purely responsible for my constant childhood cravings for homemade lemonade and jam tarts - not to mention making dens. It's a wonder I didn't end up becoming a professional sleuth, really - but I reckon being an author is far more fun.
The BFG by Roald Dahl This was another book that literally fell apart at the seams from sheer reading. I used to carry it around with me everywhere I went. Roald Dahl was such a genius at striking that perfect balance between heartfelt and macabre, and he taught me what it means to be a brave writer and to push the boundaries. When I was a bit older, I read and really enjoyed this autobiographical books, Boy and Going Solo, too. I just find him absolutely fascinating - and all his stories have really stood the test of time.
Forever by Judy Blume For a time when I was growing up, this book was the one that all the girls at school used to pass round and giggle over. Who doesn't remember the first time they read about Michael, Katherine and, ahem, the charming Ralph? He was an enterprising fellow, wasn't he? I used to read it under my duvet, eyes wide and cheeks pink. I wonder if teenagers do the same thing with Fifty Shades nowadays? Let's hope not, eh?
Riders by Jilly Cooper If Forever taught me the basics, then this bonkbuster filled in the gaps! I suspect I was probably a bit too young to have read this when I did, but it hasn't done me any lasting damage. On the contrary, it's made me all the more likely to indulge in a terrible-yet-hilarious pun or twelve. But seriously, sex scenes aside, there's barely an author alive who does character better than Jilly. She writes people that are so alive and real that they become a huge part of your life - and I still measure most men I meet against Rupert Campbell-Black. Thank heavens he's coming back in her new novel Mount this September!
Harry Potter by J K Rowling Please don't ask me to pick which one of the Potter books I like the best, because I can't. And anyway, why would you limit yourself to just one foray into the magical world that JK Rowling has created for us all? If there's one author who inspires me, it's this lady. Harry Potter is just pure perfection - that characters, themes, plot, pace, detail, magic, style - and Jo deserves to win every single accolade going. She's responsible for getting a whole generation of children and adults excited about reading books again, and I plan to revisit them time and time again throughout the course of my life.
Falling In Honey: Life and Love on a Greek Island by Jennifer Barclay This true-life tale seemed to fall into my lap at exactly the right time. A few years ago, I was disenchanted with my life in London, single, bored at work and yearning to turn my writing habit into a career. I had half-decided to pack everything up and move over to Zakynthos in Greece when I read a feature about Jen Barclay in a Sunday newspaper and ordered her book. Jen moved from London over to the Greek island of Tilos after a relationship fell apart, and her story absolutely captivated me. Here was a woman who not only understood that intrinsic pull that I felt towards my own little corner of Greece, but she'd actually had the guts to go through with moving there. Her way of thinking and the story of her adventure changed my life, because it made me feel less alone and gave me that final push I needed to do what I'd always wanted: write a book set in Greece. Will I ever follow suit and make a new life for myself over there? Never say never .....
Isabelle Broom ~ May 2016
Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge nine days before the 1980s began and studied Media Arts at the University of West London before starting a career first in local newspapers and then as a junior sub-editor at heat magazine. She travelled through Europe during her gap year and went to live on the Greek island of Zakynthos for an unforgettable and life-shaping six months after completing her degree. Since then, she has travelled to Canada, Sri Lanka, Sicily, New York, L.A, the Canary Islands, Spain and lots more of Greece, but her wanderlust was reined in when she met Max, a fluffy little Bolognese puppy desperate for a home. When she's not writing novels set in far-flung locations, Isabelle spends her time being the Book Reviews Editor at heat magazine and walking her beloved dog round the parks of North London.
If you like pictures of dogs, chatter about books and very bad jokes, you can follow her on Twitter @Isabelle_Broom or find her on Facebook under Isabelle Broom Author.