Friday, 9 April 2021

Northern Spy by Flynn Berry @flynnberry_ #NorthernSpy @wnbooks @WillOMullane #BookReview

 


A producer at the Belfast bureau of the BBC, Tessa is at work one day when the news of another raid comes on the air: the IRA may have gone underground after the Good Friday agreement, but they never really went away. As the anchor requests the public's help in locating those responsible for this latest attack - a robbery at a gas station - Tessa's sister Marian appears on the screen, pulling a black mask over her face.

The police believe Marian has joined the IRA, but Tessa knows this is impossible. They were raised to oppose Republicanism, and the violence enacted in its name. They've attended peace vigils together. And besides, Marian is vacationing by the sea. Tessa just spoke to her yesterday.

But when the truth of what has happened to Marian reveals itself, Tessa will be forced to choose: between her ideals and her family. Walking an increasingly perilous road, she fears nothing more than endangering the one person she loves more fiercely than her sister: her infant son, Finn.


Northern Spy by Flynn Berry was published on 8 April 2021 by W&N. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I practically inhaled this story, reading it in two large chunks over one day. Whilst it's not a long novel at under 300 pages, it really is a strong and powerful story that examines the strength of family bond within a pressurised and dangerous environment.

Tessa and Marian are sisters, they are very close, turning to each other in times of troubles and also to create happy memories. Tessa is single mother to six month old Finn whilst Marian is a paramedic. They both live around the area in which they were born and brought up in; the republican area of Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

Despite the Good Friday agreement, the tensions of the 'the troubles' have never really left the province. Things seem to be moving up a gear, and there's a sense of impending danger all around, with helicopters flying overhead, threats of bombings and increased security checks. 

Tessa works as a BBC broadcaster on a political programme and it is whilst she is preparing a show that she glances up at the news screen. The police are appealing for witnesses to an armed raid at a petrol station, and one of the raiders has shown their face on camera.  As Tessa continues to watch, she is horrified to see that face belongs to her sister Marian.  Both of them have always been anti terrorism, they've attended peace vigils together, Marian has attended to victims of the IRA in her job. They have never been IRA supporters.

Convinced that Marian has been abducted from the holiday cottage she had been staying in, Tessa goes to the police. It soon becomes clear that the security forces think that Marian is a member of the IRA, she was there by choice, and they begin to question Tessa's own loyalties too.

What follows is a compulsive and compelling story filled with danger and deceit. Tessa's main concern is the safety of Finn, as a mother, she will do anything to ensure his safety, but as a sister, she is totally devastated. She questions her whole relationship with Marian as she realises that nothing is quite what it seems. 

Berry is excellent at ramping up the tension as the pages are turned. Tessa is faced with huge decisions, some that can and will change the course of her whole life. This is a delicate setting to base a novel on, especially as most people think the troubles are over, and peace reigns in the North, although anyone watching the news this week will realise that feelings are still strong and violence is always simmering. 

Exquisitely tense, Northern Spy is so much more than just a psychological thriller. It is a study in family relationships, in communities and takes a long hard look at just how far a person will go in order to protect those that they love. 


FLYNN BERRY is a graduate of the Michener Center and has been awarded a Yaddo residency. 

She graduated from Brown University. 


Her first novel, UNDER THE HARROW, was awarded the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and was called ‘a triumph’ (Sunday Times) and ‘thrilling’ (New York Times). 
Her follow-up, A DOUBLE LIFE, was praised by Paula Hawkins and Clare Mackintosh among others and was called ‘blistering’ (New York Times) and ‘shocking’ (Guardian). 
Her third novel, NORTHERN SPY, is set in Northern Ireland. 

She lives in California.

Twitter @flynnberry_






Thursday, 8 April 2021

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey @annafbailey #TallBones @DoubledayUK @alisonbarrow #BookReview

 


When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again.

Abi's disappearance cracks open the façade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi's family, there are questions to be asked - of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father - both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him.

Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark - the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones....


Tall Bones by Anna Bailey was published on 1 April 2021 by Doubleday. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

This is a tightly plotted tale of one small US town that is home to a multitude of incredibly flawed characters. It is a stylish and compelling story, one that takes its time to draw in the reader and evokes such a startling and realistic sense of place that one cannot help but look around whilst reading, to ensure that you too are not entwined in the town of Whistling Ridge.

Emma says a reluctant goodbye to her best friend Abi. Abi is determined to attend the woodland party at the Tall Bones. Emma is not sure that this is the greatest idea, but drives off. This is the last time she sees Abi.

There's no urgency in the town despite the fact that Abi is just seventeen-years-old and was last seen with an unknown male. Her disappearance seems almost inevitable, as though the townsfolk were waiting for another thing to happen to her dysfunctional family. What does happen though, is that long held tensions begin to explode, and the people in Whistling Ridge display their inner feelings.

Emma also comes from a family who are looked down upon. Despite the fact that her mother is a Doctor, it's her Mexican heritage that makes the townsfolk feel superior. Abi was her only friend and as she turns to drink to deal with her loss, she also begins a tentative friendship with another outsider. 

As is often the case, the church plays a big part in encouraging the feelings within this town. Pastor Lewis rules this place and his teachings only cover up, and try to justify the rampant misogyny, homophobia and racism that threads its way through the streets. Whilst some of the younger people may begin to question things, they are not strong enough to change anything, and the behaviours continue, with no questions and no punishment.

This is a dark, claustrophobic story that doesn't shy away from showing the prejudices within the characters, and the damage that this can do. At times I had to take a short break from the bleakness, but the beautiful writing always drew me back.


Tall Bones is an intimate and gripping portrait of a community that is filled with flawed and damaging people. Written in a style that is both beautiful and brutal.


Anna Bailey was born in Bristol in 1995 and spent her childhood in Gloucestershire. 

She studied Creative Writing at Bath Spa university and wanted to become a journalist, but ended up moving to Colorado and becoming a Starbucks barista instead. 
In 2018 she returned to the UK, where she enrolled in the Curtis Brown Creative Novel-writing course and wrote her first novel, Tall Bones, inspired by her experience of living in small-town America. 

Twitter: @annafbailey 








De Vries by Christina James @CAJamesWriter @QuoScript #DeVries #MyLifeInBooks

 


Widower Kevan de Vries returns to 'Sausage Hall', his house in Sutterton, after seven years' exile in St Lucia. He must remain incognito because police want to question him about the unexplained disappearance of Tony Sentance, former employee and leader of a child trafficking gang that operated from within De Vries Industries. De Vries is obsessed with the identity of his father, never disclosed to him by his mother. He enlists the help of Jackie Briggs, his former housekeeper, and Jean Rook, his solicitor and erstwhile lover, who wants to rekindle their liaison. He reluctantly agrees. Agnes Price, a young primary school teacher, becomes concerned about the welfare of one of her pupils and Leonard Curry, a schools attendance officer sent to investigate, is attacked. Shortly afterwards, Leonard's niece, Audrey Furby, goes missing.


De Vries is the sequel to Sausage Hall. The two novels can be read as a pair or each as a standalone text.



De Vries by Christina James is published today, 8 April 2021, by Poisoned Chalice. I'm delighted to welcome the author to Random Things today.  She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books. 

My Life in Books - Christina James

My first copy of Alice in Wonderland was given to me by my grandmother when I was about seven. I was captivated by the fantastical elements in it, especially by the bottle from which Alice drinks to make her large or small and the Cheshire cat that fades away. (It was only as an adult that learnt that Dodgson, aka Carroll, was a little dodgy!)

My parents allowed my brother and me to choose a children’s “comic” (all children’s magazines were called that then) each week from the paper-shop and at Christmas they bought us the annual that went with it. I got bored with the annuals and asked for a book instead. Jane Eyre was the first of these, in the Dean’s children’s classics edition. I identified completely with Jane and was terrified by the madwoman. Mr Rochester was for long afterwards my idea of the perfect hero.

I’d love to list all the Jane Austens, as a complete oeuvre, but that would be cheating unless I used up six choices all at once, so I’ve selected Emma as the one that I consider the most accomplished. I read all six titles one after the other every half-decade or so and always find something new to admire in them. Like countless authors before me, I regard her as the unparalleled mistress of perfect English prose: both teacher and role model.




A masterpiece of human comedy as well as a virtuoso tour de force of different styles of writing: Joyce at his best, a writer’s writer presenting a novel still accessible enough to enjoy as a relaxing read. (Finnegans Wake is no doubt even more brilliant, but imbued with the kind of genius that makes your head ache.)

I read these three novels non-stop while recuperating from a broken jaw. A totally immersive experience, they tell the story of a series of relatively undocumented events during the Second World War. The tensions within the marriage of Guy and Harriet Pringle are as edge-of-seat as the fighting that is taking place around them.

This is also the first of a trilogy – in fact, the Rabbit series ultimately became a tetralogy – and all are equally good, but it was Rabbit, Run – with its clever play on words (the rabbit [rat] run and the popular song from World War II) and its unforgettable portrait of a middle-class American family in
the 1960s and 1970s, that first got me hooked. How I wish I could convey the traits of not only very ordinary but also unlikeable characters and the minutiae of their everyday life and command one tenth of the fascination that Updike does. These books are truly more than the sum of their parts – they capture a whole era.

Also the first of a trilogy – the others are The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road. What can I say? Magnificent! A completely original take on the historical novel.




Yeats is far and away my favourite poet of the twentieth century – perhaps of all time, though if competing with previous centuries he would be up against Coleridge and of course Chaucer and Shakespeare, if you count them as poets. A professor I once knew summed up his genius: “He fills his head full of all kinds of old junk and out of it comes perfection.” Precisely.

My son sent me this book when he was an undergraduate studying History – an unusual choice, but it captivated me as soon as I started to read it. It’s a serious historical work about working women in the early modern period and how they retaliated to male dominance by constructing a resilient – not to say subversive – network of their own. Great fun, and the lessons it teaches are timeless.

I received this book as a Mother’s Day gift some years ago and it completely blew me away. The use of language is startlingly fresh and original, the wit and warmth of the narrative ingeniously designed to obscure but not obliterate the underlying darker forces at work.

The exact date when this play was written is still in dispute. Most scholars seem to agree that it was probably the last Shakespeare worked on alone – and if so, it is a fitting swansong. With its masterly command of language and its portrayal of a magical world, it seems to me both to embody and transcend the wisdom and beauty of all his work.


Christina James - April 2021



About Christina James - taken from www.christinajamesblog.com


I was born in Lincolnshire, in England, and grew up in Spalding. I’ve had a lifelong fascination with the South Lincolnshire Fens, with their huge skies, limitless landscapes and isolated communities; I have always been interested in the psychology of the people who have lived there over the centuries.  I have now put some of this interest and fascination into the fictional world of Detective Inspector Tim Yates.

I’m fond of the outdoor life, loving walking, cycling and taking narrowboats along the tranquil waters of the English, Welsh and Scottish canals.   I live in the Pennines (a very different kind of landscape from the Fens, but equally beautiful in their own hilly way) with the boy in my life and a very small black cat.

I have worked variously as a bookseller, researcher and teacher.  I’ve  always read widely, particularly in history, English literature and biography, but also in crime fiction, as I really enjoy sniffing out someone else’s clues.  Under a separate name, I have been for some time a non-fiction writer, but my real heart is in the story.

Twitter @CAJamesWriter




Wednesday, 7 April 2021

An Act of Love by Carol Drinkwater @Carol4OliveFarm @MichaelJBooks @Livvii #AnActOfLove #BookReview #WW2Fiction

 


France, 1943.

Forced to flee war ravaged Poland, Sara and her parents are offered refuge in a beautiful but dilapidated house in the French Alps. It seems the perfect hideaway, despite haunting traces of the previous occupants who left in haste.

But shadows soon fall over Sara's blissful summer, and her blossoming romance with local villager Alain. As the Nazis close in, the family is forced to make a harrowing choice that could drive them apart forever, while Sara's own bid for freedom risks several lives . . .

Will her family make it through the summer together?
And can she hold onto the love she has found with Alain?


An Act of Love by Carol Drinkwater is published on 29 April in paperback by Penguin. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I have read many of Carol Drinkwater's previous books, both her non-fiction series set on her olive farm in the South of France, and her fictional novels. She's an author whom I admire, I've enjoyed reading her books, and have to say that this new novel; An Act of Love is my favourite of them all.

I was utterly engrossed in Sara's story from the opening paragraphs, as she lays in bed, surrounded by her loved ones, at the end of her life. The reader knows from this short prologue that Sara has such a story to tell.

Sara and her parents arrive at a small village in Alpes-Maritimes, France. It is early spring 1943 and this small family have had a dangerous and arduous journey that has taken a long time, stopped in many places and it seems that this isolated mountain village will be their next home. For how long, nobody knows. Sara and her parents are Polish Jews, driven out of their home by the invasion of the German forces. Labelled and targeted because of their heritage, and destined for almost certain death if they are caught.

The villagers are welcoming, and whilst the Italian army are there, in charge, they turn a blind eye to the newcomers. The village has become a safe haven for Sara and her people, almost fifty per cent of the population are now immigrants. Whilst still afraid, and worried about their future, the family find allies and friends, and Sara, at just seventeen years old, soon becomes an integral part of village life. She finds people to trust, and one to love. However, it is clear that the Germans are advancing, and the family will need to move on. 

When the Nazis arrive, decisions are taken and Sara finds herself alone. As she hides away, whilst trying to protect others, less stronger, the tension increases.

Sara's life is just beginning and her future holds such dangers that she could never have imagined, whilst all the time, pining for her family, and her lost love. She is no longer able to be 'Sara' and in order to survive, she must forget everything and everyone she knows and loves and create a new being.

An Act of Love is a compelling and impeccably researched novel, based around real-life incidents that took place in 1943. The author draws such wonderfully realistic characters set in an evocative setting. This is a story of love and loss, of bravery and daring. It is a tale of sacrifice in a plot that dances with intrigue.

This heartfelt and emotional story is more so because it is based on the truth. I was on tenterhooks throughout this powerful novel. Highly recommended. 


Carol Drinkwater is a multi-award-winning actress who is best known for her portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC television series All Creatures Great and Small. 

Her quartet of memoirs set on her olive farm in the south of France have sold over a million copies worldwide and her solo journey round the Mediterranean in search of the olive tree's mythical secrets inspired a five-part documentary film series, The Olive Route. 

She is also the author of novels The Forgotten Summer, The Lost Girl and The House on the Edge of the Cliff. 

She lives in the south of France.









Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Moonlight Over Muddleford Cove by Kim Nash BLOG TOUR @KimTheBookworm @rararesources #MoonlightOverMuddlefordCove #BlogTour

 


When thirty-four-year-old Nellie Wagstaff loses her job and discovers her fiancé is a cheating scumbag in a single day, she feels like the world has come crashing down. And that’s before the solicitor’s letter, along with a request to visit a place she hasn’t thought about for a very long time.

Heartbroken, Nellie escapes to the beautiful seaside town of Muddleford in Dorset, where she discovers she’s inherited more than she ever bargained for. Nellie never knew why her mother stopped talking to her sister, but now childhood memories of Muddleford come flooding back: long hot summers, the sea glistening beyond the sandy cove... and a stolen kiss with a boy called Jack.

Jack, now a devilishly handsome vet, has the local pet owners swooning over him, and as Nellie and he become close once more, and she gets used to gossiping with the locals and sipping wine at her beach hut with sand between her toes, she’s sure she can feel sparks flying once more. But just as she thinks she might be able to open her heart again, her newest frenemy, the glamourous Natalia, tells her a secret about Jack that changes everything.

Nellie will never know why her mother and aunt parted ways. She’ll sell the house, forget about Jack, and get back to real life. Because there’s nothing for her in Muddleford... is there?

An utterly uplifting and completely hilarious summer read about learning to trust yourself and of finding love and friendship in the least expected places for fans of Jessica Redland, Heidi Swain and Holly Martin.


Moonlight Over Muddleford Cove by Kim Nash was published on 30 March 2021. As part of this BlogTour, organised by Rachel from Rachel's Random Resources, I'm delighted to share a wonderful article, written by the author.



Is Muddleford real or fictional?

Muddleford is based upon Mudeford in Dorset, which is a gorgeous place that we, as a family, spent many happy holidays.

Dad was a butcher with his own shop and Mom was a secretary who worked full time, then used to help him on a Saturday so we used to spend many of our school holidays with our wonderful Nan down at her sister’s house in Mudeford. Mom and Dad used to come down from the Midlands after the shop shut on a Saturday and go back late on Sunday night.

In those days, we couldn’t afford many holidays and certainly didn’t go abroad so visiting family was the way we enjoyed our time off. (Not sure they enjoyed it as much as we did – lol! I think if I had people descending on me all the time, it would drive me bonkers!)

Our aunt and uncle, were the posh ones in our family, who we were all very envious of because they lived in a lovely bungalow just a short walk from the beach and we spent many happy hours playing there. In fact last weekend, my sister found a lot of photos from when we were children on that very beach - Avon Beach in Mudeford - and we spent hours going through the photographs and laughing at us as kids – such happy memories.



It was that beach that inspired me to write about Aunty Lil having a beach hut. It’s such a lovely part of the world, with a wonderful quay where we went crabbing as kids. We would visit Christchurch, Highcliffe and Lymington and I honestly think that it was that part of the world that gave me my love of being by the sea.

The sea soothes me. I feel that it grounds me and fills my heart with joy. I could sit and watch the sea for hours. Perhaps it’s because of those wonderful memories that we made in Mudeford all those years ago. I like to think so.

I thought it was easier to create a fictional place rather than use the real place, because things would have changed so much and I like to remember it as it was.

The last time I went, was around six years ago and I have a picture somewhere of my son Ollie playing on the beach that I used to play on. I would absolutely love to visit again now that I’ve written Moonlight Over Muddleford Cove and if we get chance this year, I’m definitely up for a visit to that part of the world again.

Kim Nash - April 2021 



Kim Nash is an author of uplifting, funny, heartwarming, feel-good, romantic fiction.


Her latest book, Sunshine and Second Chances, was shortlisted for the 2020 Amazon Kindle Storyteller Award.

She lives in Staffordshire with son Ollie and English Setter Roni, is Head of Publicity for Bookouture and is a book blogger at www.kimthebookworm.co.uk.

Kim won the Romantic Novelists Association’s Media Star of the Year in 2016, which she still can’t quite believe. She is now quite delighted to be a member of the RNA.

When she’s not working or writing, Kim can be found walking her dog, reading, standing on the sidelines of a football pitch cheering on Ollie and binge watching box sets on the TV. She’s also quite partial to a spa day and a gin and tonic (not at the same time!) Kim also runs a book club in Cannock, Staffs.

Sign up to be the first to hear about new releases. Your e-mail will not be shared with anyone else and you will only contacted about Kim’s books.
https://www.kimthebookworm.co.uk/

Amazing Grace was her debut novel with Hera Books and came out in April 2019.

Escape to Giddywell Grange is Kim’s second novel and was published by Hera Books in September 2019.

Sunshine and Second Chances is Kim’s third novel and was published in June 2020.   

Moonlight over Muddleford Cove, Kim’s fourth novel is available to order now and was published on 30th March 2021.

You can read Kim’s Blog here: www.kimthebookworm.co.uk

Connect with Kim on Social Media here:






Monday, 5 April 2021

Eternity Leave by Simon Kettlewell @SIMONKETTLEWELL #EternityLeave #BookReview

 


FOUR CHILDREN. ONE MAN. HOW HARD CAN IT BE?...

Dear Chloe, Emma, Ruby, and Ollie,

‘I am applying for the position you haven’t advertised, has no specific job description and no hope of fiscal reward. I am applying because I have this misguided belief that it will look like it does on the cover photo of ‘The Complete Guide to Childcare’ where everyone appears relaxed and bright-eyed, not knackered, irascible or covered in snot.

Armed with a pristine copy of ‘The Complete Guide to Childcare’, ambitions to be the next literary giant and live off the grid, what could possibly go wrong?

‘Five minutes after Brigit’s maternity leave ended I realised the magnitude of my error. I was now the sole carer for two six-month old children who thought the hands smearing yoghurt over their faces belonged to somebody else, and a two-year old who walked for five steps and decided it wasn’t for her.’

I crashed into a world of mainly strong, resourceful, resilient women, a mountain of nappies to rival Kilimanjaro and a widening gap where my self-esteem used to reside.’

I am a man. I soon discovered this was not an excuse…’


Eternity Leave by Simon Kettlewell was published on 11 February 2021, my thanks to the author who sent my copy for review.


I tend to begin any review of a book that is about being a parent with the disclaimer that I've never been a parent.  I have no children, but I do love books about people, and how our future generations are formed. 
It would be really easy to think that Eternity Leave is an autobiographical story as the author himself is a stay at home Dad. However, this is fiction, but I'm positive that Kettlewell has drawn on his own years of experience when writing this, and he's done it very well.

Our lead character (who has no name of his own, so I'll refer to him as 'him' or 'he') is a father of four. He's an aspiring novelist. His wife has a high powered, important, well paying job in the Health Service, it makes sense for him to be the stay at home parent, whilst she continues to work.

It is at times hilarious, it is also at times very poignant, written with such understanding, compassion and feeling. Whilst we women often shout about our second-class status and how we are looked down upon and miss out on chances; this book proves that a man, taking on a non-traditional role, especially within the family, can and does suffer the same treatment. The medical professionals who are scornful, the school mums who are not inclusive, he deals with them all. His 'bible' along the way comes in the form of 'The Complete Guide to Childcare', which, to be honest, is often more of a hindrance than a help!

It would be so easy to have made this story into an overly sweet and sentimental story that could grate. Instead, the author has written a book that is straight to the point, whilst still being funny, and also dealing with serious issues with style. 

I really enjoyed my visit to this unusual family, the Dad with no name is the star, for sure, and those children were very lucky indeed! Recommended by me.



Like the narrator of this story, Simon Kettlewell has also looked after four children for a very long time.

For the purpose of authenticity this book is inevitably shaped to some extent by this experience. Some bits have been extracted from the author's twisted imagination, but he is still too exhausted to remember which ones.

Simon lives in Devon with a variety of animals in a multi-coloured house where people come and go like passengers at Crewe station.


You can find him at ...

www.simonkettlewell.co.uk

Twitter @SIMONKETTLEWELL




Sunday, 4 April 2021

Scent by Isabel Costello @isabelcostello #Scent @MuswellPress @Brownlee_Donald #Paris #Perfume #BookReview

 


When Clementine and Edouard's last child leaves home, the cracks in their marriage become impossible to ignore. Her work as a perfumer is no longer providing solace and her sense of self is withering. Then, her former lover resurfaces, decades after the end of their bisexual affair, and her world tilts irreversibly. 

Set in Paris and Provence, this is an intimate portrait of a woman navigating conflicting desires and a troubled past whilst dreaming of a fulfilling future.



Scent by Isabel Costello was published in paperback by Muswell Press on 1 April 2021. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

Clémentine Dujardin and her husband of twenty-five years, Édouard, live in a balconied apartment overlooking the streets of Paris. Whilst their lives appear to be full of beauty; from the glamour of parties, to the elegance of Clémentine's bespoke perfumery, it is clear that there is no passion between them. One could assume that the departure of their grown up children has created the emptiness that divides them, and Isabel certainly misses both Appolline who is currently travelling in Australia, and Bastien who is living in an apartment in another part of Paris.

However, it becomes clear that theirs is not a loving relationship that has faded with time, but a marriage that has never featured love, or passion. Both Clémentine and Édouard are self-centred, battling with life in general. Dealing with disharmony within the family, and also exterior pressures created by their careers. It feels as though they never talk, and have never talked, yet they really do need to.

Scent is complex story, and the author takes the reader back to the early 1990s, when Clémentine was a young women on the brink of life. Young Clémentine is a totally different person to how she is in middle-age. Living in the country, maintaining a difficult relationship with her damaged mother, she embarks upon a passionate love affair that will change her, but ultimately destroy her future happiness.

As the reader discovers more about Clémentine's past, it becomes easier to understand her present. I can't say that I ever warmed to her though; there were times when she seemed to revel in her unhappiness, not prepared to make changes, or to be honest, with herself, or with her husband.

When a face from that never-forgotten past arrives in Paris, Clémentine is forced to face up to what she is, and what she wants. She faces difficult challenges, but not always with bravery, often trying to fool herself with her own denials. 

There are two sentences within this story, that for me, really sum up Clémentine's life:

'We have to tell ourselves all kinds of stories to live with lost loves and disappointed hopes. Not all of them are true.

'The perfect life is one of the biggest myths going.

There are some incredibly touching passages within this story of flawed relationships. However it is the author's beautiful portrayal of Paris and the French way of life that really won me over. Whilst reading it, I almost felt French. Her descriptions of places, the sounds, the smells, the people are exquisite and really quite perfect. 

This is a novel of passion lived and then lost. It is candidly painfully beautiful in places, although the characters can be frustrating and selfish in others. 


Isabel Costello’s first novel, Paris Mon Amour, was published to great acclaim in 2016 and her short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. 

She has run the Literary Sofa blog since 2011 and co-founded the Resilience for Writers project.

www.literarysofa.com

Twitter @isabelcostello