Monday 26 March 2012

My Dear I Wanted To Tell You by Louisa Young

I'd heard great things about this novel and my copy has been sitting on the shelf for some time, I finally started to read it late last week.  I finished the book yesterday and the story, the characters and the setting have been there in my mind all day, almost haunting me.

I've heard people say that a book has 'changed their life', and to be honest I've always wondered how a fictional story could do that, but this story has certainly changed my perceptions and my thoughts about the Great War.

Louisa Young is a remarkable author, her ability to get under the skin of these characters, both male and female is astounding.  What starts out as the story of a working-class lad mixing with the gentry soon turns into a story of enduring love cruelly interrupted by the horrors of war.   Each and every character is drawn perfectly, and each one has an important part to play within the story, but it is Riley Purefoy who is the finest character of all.  An innocent lad who becomes entranced by the bohemian Waveney family and their set of artistic associates. Although Riley appears to be accepted for who he is, he must remember his place, it really wouldn't be done for him to fall in love with a Waveney girl.
Riley finds himself in the trenches in France fighting the 'Hun' - alongside the ordinary men and the officers, but he doesn't really know quite where he fits.

Riley has multiple voices, there are the lines that he says out loud and there are his innermost thoughts.  Louisa Young has very cleverly combined these two, which allows the reader to experience Riley's inner battles with himself.

The battle scenes from France are stark and horrific, and straight to the point.  Young uses very few words but uses them so well, not one word is wasted.   When the action moves to the constructive surgical hospital in Sidcup, again the full horrors of war are laid out, the injuries to soldiers who are little more than children.  Visible injuries and also those that are so well hidden in the mind.

I've concentrated most on Riley in this review because his character has totally bewitched me - his vulnerability, his innocence and his resilience shine through - he really does come alive through the pages.
The other characters; Nadine, Rose, Julie and Peter Locke are all excellently written too.  Julia Locke's slow and steady breakdown, Nadine and Rose both at the Front, each and every one of them add their own part to this very special story.

There is an incredible amount of research behind this novel and it is knowing that although the characters are fictional, the events surrounding them are based on fact that makes it so moving.

My Dear I Wanted To Tell You has been selected as a Richard and Judy Book Club Spring 2012 read.  Louisa Young has written four adult fiction novels and is also the co-author (with her daughter) of the children's Lionboy series (written under the name of Zizou Corder).   She is also the author of two non-fiction titles, one of them is her Grandmother's biography - Kathleen Scott, the widow of Captain Scott.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Q&A with Diane Chamberlain and GIVEAWAY of The Good Father!

I am delighted to welcome Diane Chamberlain to my blog today.

Diane Chamberlain is the American author of 22 published novels.

She started to write her first novel Private Relations in 1989, finished it in 1992 and it was published in 1993.

Since then she has continued to delight her fans with her stories of  suspense, romance and family drama.

Diane's latest book The Good Father will be published her in the UK on 24 April 2012.

Personally, I think it is one of her very best books and you can read my review here on my blog.

I am really happy to be able to offer an uncorrected proof copy of The Good Father as a giveaway here on Random Things Through my Letterbox.

To enter, please complete the form at the bottom of this post.  The giveaway is open until 4 April 2012 when I will make the draw.   Good Luck!

Diane has  been kind enough to answer a few questions about herself and her reading and writing habits, another one in my series of 'Author Questions and Answers'.

Questions and Answers with Diane Chamberlain

What are you reading at the moment?  Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It's a slightly fantastical tale of a man and woman who live in Alaska. Longing for a child, they create one out of snow and then. . . well, you'll have to read the book!

Do you read reviews of your novels?  Do you take them seriously?  Yes, I do read reviews. I want to know what readers think of my books, and I pay attention to constructive criticism. If a book receives mostly five- and four-star reviews and then a one-star review pops up, I try not to let that get to me: every story is not for every reader. But in general, I take reader reviews to heart.

Diane Chamberlain
How long does it take to write a novel?   I've written 400 page novels in as little as six months, but that tight a schedule really saps the joy out of the writing process. My new contract allows a year, which is far more do-able and allows me to have a life outside my writing cave. 

Do you have any writing rituals?  I aim to write 2500 words at least 20 days a month, in one hour increments. It sounds rigid, but it's the only way I can stay on task without being distracted by the Internet and email and life in general!

What was your favourite childhood book? Charlotte's Web is still one of my favorite books. I love the characterization and Charlotte is simply a perfect character: mysterious, generous, complex and noble.

Name one book that made you laugh?   The Help.

Name one book that made you cry?  The Help. You can't ask more from a book than to make you both laugh and cry!

Which fictional character would you like to meet?   I've thought about this and to be honest, I'd want to meet one of my own characters, particularly Travis Brown, the father in The Good Father. I need to apologize to him for all I put him through!

Are you inspired by any particular author or book?  A recent inspiration is Stephen King's 11/22/63. I love it for many reasons. It appeals to both men and women, which is unusual. It involves the impossible, yet King makes it feel possible. And the characters are so real and so easy to get to know. King is amazingly skillful that way. 

What is your guilty pleasure read?  Facebook. I can lose hours there every day. I love to see what everyone's up to!

Who are your favourite authors? So many! I love Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Hoffman, Elizabeth Berg, Anne Rivers Siddons, Kristin Hannah, Kathryn Stockett, Diane Setterfield, Kate Morton . . I could go on and on!

What book have you re-read?   I'm not a big re-reader, but I've read the classic, The Magus by John Fowles, at least three times simply because it fascinates me. I think I keep hoping it will end differently!

What book have you given up on?  I'm afraid there are many, but I won't name them because a book that bores me may be another reader's cup of tea. I will say that a book has to grab me right away. If I reach page 50 and am not enthralled, I go no further. 

For your chance to win the copy of The Good Father, please complete the form below:

Saturday 17 March 2012

The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain

The Good Father from the title of Diane Chamberlain's latest novel is Travis.  

Travis is in his early twenties and is single handedly bringing up four year old Bella.  Bella is his child from a doomed relationship with his childhood sweetheart Robin.

The story begins half way through, the reader is introduced to Travis and Bella just as he has to make an enormous decision that could change their lives.

And so, we see Travis leave his beloved daughter in the care of Miss Erin - a sad and lonely woman in her mid-thirties, and someone that Travis only met a few days ago.

This prologue leaves the reader gasping for more, I wanted to know why? who? what?

The story is narrated by the three lead characters in turn; Travis, Erin and Robin.  

Each narrator has their own back story, each one of them are realistic and likeable, but each one of them sees their situation in totally different ways.

Who couldn't fall in love with the wonderful Travis?  

A young man who loves his daughter with every ounce of his being, who would (and indeed does) do anything to make sure that she is happy and secure.

A young man with faults, but with a vulnerability that would melt the hardest of hearts.   My heroine was Erin - a woman who has suffered a tragic loss and who can't see a future for herself.  It is her heartache and her experience that make her behave in the way that she does and although she is a complex character, she also is vulnerable.  

And finally, Robin.  The mother who left her child, the mother who hasn't thought about her child or her childhood sweetheart for many years.   The reader should dislike her - after all, we love Travis, how could we like the woman who hurt him so badly?    Again though, Diane Chamberlain has created a realistic character in Robin and it soon becomes clear that she too has her sadness and her pain to deal with.

The Good Father serves up a story of enduring family relationships, of pain and sorrow and loss with a plot that is fast-paced, maybe at times a tiny bit far-fetched, but totally gripping nethertheless.

Published by Mira Books on 1 June 2012, I have no doubt that Diane Chamberlain has another hit on her hands.

Sunday 11 March 2012

The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy

Published by Mira Books in February 2012, The Legacy of Eden is the debut novel from Nelle Davy.

The story starts in Iowa in the 1940s, and is the story of a farm called Aurelia, and the family who live there - the Hathaways, headed up by the fearsome and determined Lavinia.

Lavinia Hathaway will stop at nothing to protect Aurelia, the farm that she built up to become the most talked about homestead in the county, the farm where she raised her children and grandchildren. Aurelia is also the place that has seen many dramas; expulsions, betrayals and deaths.  

The Legacy of Eden is a family saga that spans the decades up to the present day and is narrated by Meredith - Lavinia's youngest grand-daughter.
Nelle Davy has woven a totally gripping tale of one family and the greed and determination that has created them, the story flows effortlessly and I was totally engrossed throughout.

Nelle Davy
My one, small criticism is that Meredith rarely refers to anyone by their name, instead she mentions 'my Grandmother' or 'my Uncle'.  At times this can be confusing, but once used to this style, the characters soon fall in to place.
In my opinion, Nelle Davy is a new author to watch out for - this is a very accomplished debut, I enjoyed it very much.

My thanks to Claudia from Harlequin for sending a copy for review.

Sunday 4 March 2012

The Good Father by Noah Hawley

This is Noah Hawley's third novel, he is also well known as the writer and producer of the TV series Bones.  The Good Father is published in the UK on 29 March 2012 by Hodder and Stoughton.

The Good Father is a book of obsession.  Dr Paul Allen has lived a pretty normal life to date, he’s made a few mistakes along the way; a bad first marriage and not being around all the time for his first son Danny, but he’s made a success of his career and has a new family.  He and his second wife live a comfortable life with their twin sons.
Paul’s first son Danny has always been a feature in their lives.  He lived with them for a while as a teenager and Paul and he speak every now and again on the phone.

As far as Paul is aware, Danny is fairly content.  Paul was not happy that Danny decided to drop out of college and take a road-trip across the country, but he’s come to terms with it and their relationship seems pretty stable.

When the shocking news hits the airwaves that up and coming Presidential candidate Senator Seagram has been shot at a rally, the Allen family are as horrified as everyone else.  When Danny is named as the prime suspect, and the Senator dies, family life changes forever.

So begins Paul’s obsession.  His obsessive quest to prove that his son did not murder Seagram.  His obsession with proving that this was a cover-up, that Danny could never be capable of such an act.  Paul also becomes obsessed with his role as Danny’s father.  Did he let him down?  Did he do his best for Danny?  Was Danny damaged by the divorce?  So many questions, yet very few answers.
Noah Hawley
The Good Father is an intense and often complicated read, yet this does not take away from the story at all.  Paul also becomes obsessed with infamous assassins, those others who have taken the life of a leader, and Hawley includes some very detailed information about these.  This research adds another dimension to the story, giving it a very realistic feel – this is a fictional story, but could so easily be true, after all those real-life assassins must have had a family too.  This book brings home the total destruction of life that can be brought about by one single act of terrorism.

I was very impressed by this book, it is an in-depth look at the love of a Father for his son.  Paul’s emotions are deep-felt and often harrowing.