Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Learning to Speak American by Colette Dartford #BlogTour #MyLifeInBooks

Having suffered in silence since the tragic death of their young daughter, Lola and Duncan Drummond's last chance to rediscover their love for one another lies in an anniversary holiday to the gorgeous Napa Valley.
Unable to talk about what happened, Duncan reaches out to his wife the only way he knows how - he buys her a derelict house, the restoration of which might just restore their relationship.
As Lola works on the house she begins to realise the liberating powers of letting go. But just as she begins to open up, Duncan's life begins to fall apart.
After all the heartbreak, can Lola and Duncan learn to love again? 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Learning to Speak American by Colette Dartford, published on 14 July 2016 by Twenty7 Books, with my review and a special My Life In Books piece put together by the author.

Learning to Speak American is Colette Dartford's debut novel, it is a tender and powerful novel that deals with some heartrending issues.

Lola and Duncan Drummond have had a charmed life, wealthy and successful with the trappings that go with it. Their seemingly perfect life came crashing down around them three years ago, when their cherished and much loved eight-year-old daughter was killed.

The Drummonds have dealt with their painful loss in their own personal ways, but have never discussed what happened on that awful day. In fact, they don't mention Clarissa's name at all. Duncan makes one last ditch attempt to try to heal Lola and books a surprise trip to the Napa Valley in California. Whilst there, they find themselves outside The Treehouse, an almost derelict house that Lola falls instantly in love with. When Duncan buys it for her, he hopes against hope that by restoring the Treehouse, they can restore their love, and their relationship.

I was totally swept away by this story, and the abundance of well-rounded, expertly crafted characters. It's an easy read, but surprises the reader by dealing with some emotional and sensitive issues, compassionately and with care.

I loved Lola, her pain is raw and so well described, she's frail and vulnerable, yet has an inner strength and force that is exposed many times. Poor Duncan .... I didn't like him, despite the horror that he too has had to endure, I found his way of coping with his pain so very sad - for himself and for those around him.

The contrasting landscapes of the Californian Napa Valley and their home in Somerset are written with convincing detail, and the contrast in lifestyles and character is engaging.

Learning to Speak American is a study of a breaking relationship, concentrating on how deep-rooted fears and secrets can alter a life for ever. Colette Dartford is a talented author, I look forward to reading more from her.

My thanks to the publisher for my review copy, and for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour.

I'm delighted to welcome Colette Dartford to Random Things today. 

She's sharing with us a list of the books that are special to her and have made a lasting impression on her life. 

My Life in Books ~ Colette Dartford

The Ship That Flew by Hilda Lewis  I have a vivid memory of going to the local library with my brother when I was seven years old. We were allowed to choose one book each, and I chose The Ship That Flew by Hilda Lewis. I can still remember the wonder of reading about Peter and his incredible adventures in the magic ship. The story inspired a lifelong love of reading and made me realise that a book can captivate the imagination in a way nothing else can.

An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan  This is a painfully haunting account of Keenan's four-and-a-half years as a prisoner of Shi'ite militiamen in Beirut. Much of this time he had no contact with anyone other than his jailers, but then he was joined by another hostage, the journalist John McCarthy. Keenan and McCarthy formed a deep and enduring friendship that sustained them during the brutal horrors of their ordeal. An extraordinary book that I will never forget.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt  Donna Tartt's debut novel richly deserves its status as a modern classic. Tartt's most accomplished work, in my opinion, The Secret History is about a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college, who overstep the bounds of morality. I'm re-reading it at the moment, simply to bask in Tartt's masterful use of language.

Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott  Another book I dip in and out of from time to time. Its full title is 'Some Instructions on Writing and Life', as it serves as both a writer's manual and a collection of insights into life in general. Lamott's views are derived from her strong Christian beliefs, but it's a light, humorous and comforting read, that always makes me smile. The chapter on Publication is particularly prescient for me right now. Writers often perceive publication as the holy grail, a myth roundly dispelled by Lamott. And she's right - it is the beginning of a whole new set of anxieties and insecurities - but that doesn't detract from the sense of achievement it brings.

Solar by Ian McEwan  As far as I'm concerned, Ian McEwan can do no wrong, so it was difficult to select one book among his many masterpieces. I chose Solar because it's his only foray into comic fiction, and he does it brilliantly. It's a darkly satirical and wickedly funny account of a brilliant man's conceit in both his personal and professional life. I would advise against reading it on public transport though, unless you want to be seen crying tears of laughter. You have been warned.

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh  A wonderfully written novel that closely examines the complex relationships of the wealthy Massachusetts McKotch family; philandering scientist father, prim, blue-blooded mother, one successful son, one unsuccessful son and a daughter with Turner's syndrome. Again, it's the quality of the writing that makes this book stand out for me, A very satisfying read.

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh  The subtitle is Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery - not an obvious choice but a thought provoking, accomplished and superbly written book. The author, a neurosurgeon, offers a unique account of the fragility not just of the brain, but of life itself. Countless times I had to put this book down simply to absorb the significance of what I had just read. It is a truly astonishing achievement that has rightly been showered with accolades and awards.

Colette Dartford ~ July 2016

A Londoner by birth, Colette Dartford went to university in Bath and made it her home. A scholarship to undertake a doctorate led to a career in health and social research, before she moved to California's Napa Valley.  Here she studied Viticulture and Enology and wrote her debut novel.

Find out more about the author at
Follow her on Twitter @ColetteDartford


1 comment:

  1. Such a well crafted book, with good characters - the loss and ways of dealing with grief was palpable, and location too was great. And a great review too!