Wednesday 12 July 2023

The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson BLOG TOUR #TheBleeding @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks #PaperbackPublication @givemeawave #FrenchNoir


Three women

Three eras

One extraordinary mystery…

 1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.

1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.

2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.

Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love…

The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 6 July 2023, and is translated by David Warriner. The hardback edition was published on 15 September 2022.

As part of this Orenda Books Blog Tour, I am delighted to share my review, originally posted for hardback publication.

Johana Gustawsson is best known in the UK for her Roy and Castells series, also published by Orenda. I was really excited when I heard that The Bleeding was to be published in English; translated by David Warriner, and have been looking forward to this for months.

I have to begin by saying that in my view, this is her best book to date, I was totally caught up with the characters, the intricate and clever plot and the fascinating way that the author weaves three totally different eras together so seamlessly. I stayed up very late one night to finish this, and then couldn't sleep for ages as I just couldn't stop thinking about it. 

Three women, separated by many years, are the heart and soul of this bewitching tale. Belle Epoque, Paris in 1899 where we meet Lucienne. She is traumatised as she watched her house burn to the ground and her two small daughters are missing. With little support from her husband or mother-in-law, and a newcomer to the city, in which she often feels out of placed and judged, she turns to her cousin Mary, and to strangers for help. Entering the dark and creepy world of mediums and spiritualists, Lucienne becomes drawn towards this bizarre, often unsettling community. 

Lina is a teenager in 1949 Quebec. Her father died fighting for the Resistance and her mother is overworked and tired, as well as grieving in her own way. Lina is being bullied by a girl in school and her mother cannot deal with this at all. Her answer is to insist that Lina joins her at her workplace; an ex-asylum, now care home, every day after school. Whilst Lina is not keen at first, the care home soon becomes a haven as is befriended by an elderly resident who passes on her knowledge. Lina now has a way to stop the bullying, but it is dangerous and risky. However, for Lina it is the way out and she soon becomes obsessed, and that obsession will last for the rest of her life. 

In 2002, Detective Maxine Grant returns to work after maternity leave. Her first case is to investigate the brutal murder of a local university professor. His wife is the accused, she is also a woman who taught Maxine at school and ask for her by name. These are the only words that she will say for a long time and as Maxine and her team begin their investigations, it soon becomes clear that there is far more to this case than originally thought. 

Gusawsson writes short snappy chapters, alternating between each era and this works incredibly well. The reader's attention is drawn and the anticipation of what is to come next is really thrilling. At first, I had no idea how Lucienne, Lina and Maxine could possibly be connected, but the revelations that are dotted along the way made me gasp with wonder and with admiration for this extremely clever and skilled author. She doesn't put a foot wrong, nothing is out of place, the tension increases, the realisation suddenly hits home and the pure brilliance of the plotting is just outstanding. 

The author delves into the darkest of places within the story, detailing some atrocious cover ups, and some cleverly and well hidden truths that are not apparent at all until she decides to reveal them. With a wonderfully gothic feel, full of characters who are colourful, yet incredibly flawed this is an absolute joy to read. 

Spellbinding, vivid and fascinating and beautifully translated by David Warriner. One of my favourite books of the year. 

Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. 
Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, including Block 46, Keeper and Blood Song, has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte,Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in 28 countries. 
A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. The Bleeding – number one bestseller in France and the first in a new series – will be published in 2022. 
Johana lives on the west coast of Sweden with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

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