Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Painting by Alison Booth

Published: July 15th, 2021
Publisher: Red Door Press
Genre: General Fiction, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this moving novel. Thank you to Midas PR for the invitation to take part and Red Door Press for the ARC.

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MY SYNOPSIS:

A young Hungarian woman confronts her family’s past in an engrossing quest for a stolen painting.

When Anika Molnar flees her home country of Hungary not long before the break-up of the Soviet Union, she carries only a small suitcase – and a beautiful and much-loved painting of an auburn-haired woman in a cobalt blue dress from her family’s hidden collection.

Arriving in Australia, Anika moves in with her aunt in Sydney, and the painting hangs in pride of place in her bedroom. But one day it is stolen in what seems to be a carefully planned theft, and Anika’s carefree life takes a more ominous turn.

Sinister secrets from her family’s past and Hungary’s fraught history cast suspicion over the painting’s provenance, and she embarks on a gripping quest to uncover the truth.

Hungary’s war-torn past contrasts sharply with Australia’s bright new world of opportunity in this moving and compelling mystery.

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MY REVIEW:

“The portrait was home, it was family, it was the uncle she’d never met, it had become a part of who she was.”

The Painting is an simple yet enlightening portrait of totalitarianism, immigration, family and self-discovery.  It tells the story of Anika, a Hungarian immigrant living in Australia with her Aunt after being forced to flee her oppressive homeland during communist rule. One of the few possessions she brought with her was a painting from her family’s secret collection that she is shocked to discover is actually a very valuable piece by a French Impressionist. When it is then stolen in what looks like a targeted theft, questions about the painting’s origin force Anika to face uncomfortable questions about her family’s past. 

After loving the author’s novel The Philosopher’s Daughter last year, I jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour for this book. Compelling, mysterious and skillfully written, the author drew me into Anika’s world, taking me back to a period in time that I knew little about, offering me the chance to be educated while also being entertained. 

“A cobweb of lies and concealments, that’s what a police state was. That’s what families became.”

The book is clearly well researched and the author writes with compassion, bringing  to life the fear and suspicion that grips those who lived under the communist regime before the fall of the Soviet Union. Anika and her family are unable to communicate freely as the secret police listen to their phone calls and open their letters and after the break in she is scared to reveal any emotion or give information to the police even though they are there to help her. I think where we see the greatest effect of her upbringing though is in her distrust of everyone she meets. She is suspicious and unable to put her faith in anyone but her family, which affects every facet of her life. It can’t be easy to alter your entire way of thinking, and I enjoyed watching Anika’s journey as she slowly learned to see the world in a different way. 

“She felt sick at heart about what she might discover in Budapest. It could blow her family apart. She would have to take things slowly, very slowly. One question at a time.”

When Anika learns the true origins of the painting her whole world falls apart and she is forced to question what secrets her family might be hiding. How did her grandparents amass their secret art collection? Could there be more to their secrecy than fear of the Hungarian secret police? She has to confront the fact that they could be very different people from who she has always believed and I admired her bravery in seeking the truth at the cost of her own comfort. I appreciated the sympathy with which the author wrote these parts of the story, making me feel like I really understood Anika’s anxiety, heartache, and the strength it took her to find answers. 

This book surprised me. I was expecting a book that focused on an investigation into the missing painting but instead found myself reading a story that focused on what the painting meant to Anika and the other characters. The author intricately weaves their stories together, crafting a captivating and moving novel that I would definitely recommend. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Alison Booth was born in Melbourne and grew up in Sydney. She is a professor at the Australian National University and the author of three novels: Stillwater CreekThe Indigo Sky and A Distant Land, all set in the fictional town of Jingera. She lives with her husband in Canberra’s inner north, and has spent two decades living and working in the UK.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon*
*These are affiliate links

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – April 2020

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I can’t believe we’re a third of the way through the year already. April has been a strange month for the world with us being in lockdown. For me, that’s meant mostly getting used to not having a quiet house during the day Monday to Friday, which is when I do a lot of my reading and blogging. I’ve also had to hand over my laptop to our eldest as his is broken so I’m restricted in my times I can write.

In terms of reading, April has been another strong month for me. I’ve read thirteen books, taken part in fifteen blog tours, two cover reveals, one readalong and one buddy read. So here is what I’ve read this month:

  1. Mine by Clare Empson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  2. Strangers by C.L. Taylor ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  3. The Philosopher’s Daughters by Alison Booth ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  4. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  5. All In Her Head by Nikki Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton ⭐⭐⭐.5
  7. The Switch by Beth O’Leary ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. I Am Dust by Louise Beech ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. What’s Left of Me Is Yours by Stephanie Scott ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
  11. The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  12. The House Guest by Mark Edwards ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  14. So Many Lies by Paul J. Teague ⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can read the synopsis and reviews for what I’ve read this month by clicking on the links above except for The House Guest, which will be reviewed next month.

So many great books means it’s hard to choose a favourite. And this month it was almost impossible. I loved Hamnet and was sure nothing would top that; until I read the breathtaking debut novel, What’s Left Of Me Is Yours. I still think about that book many times each day and am constantly recommending everyone read it. So if you haven’t yet bought a copy you can use the links in my review to do it now! Other books I feel deserve a shout out are the fantastic thrillers Strangers and All In Her Head, the heartwarming and uplifting The Switch, and the brilliantly sinister I Am Dust. Each of these were also contenders for my book of the month.

Thank you to the publishers for my gifted copies of the books and the blog tour organisers for all their hard work.

What have you read this month and what was your favourite? Comment below.

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Philosopher’s Daughters by Alison Booth ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: April 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Red Door Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Red Door Press for my gifted copy of the novel.

SYNOPSIS:

A tale of two very different sisters whose 1890s voyage from London into remote outback Australia becomes a journey of self-discovery, set against a landscape of wild beauty and savage dispossession. London in 1891: Harriet Cameron is a talented young artist whose mother died when she was barely five. She and her beloved sister Sarah were brought up by their father, radical thinker James Cameron. After adventurer Henry Vincent arrives on the scene, the sisters’ lives are changed forever. Sarah, the beauty of the family, marries Henry and embarks on a voyage to Australia. Harriet, intensely missing Sarah, must decide whether to help her father with his life’s work or to devote herself to painting. When James Cameron dies unexpectedly, Harriet is overwhelmed by grief. Seeking distraction, she follows Sarah to Australia, and afterwards into the outback, where she is alienated by the casual violence and great injustices of outback life. Her rejuvenation begins with her friendship with an Aboriginal stockman and her growing love for the landscape. But this fragile happiness is soon threatened by murders at a nearby cattle station and by a menacing station hand who is seeking revenge.

MY REVIEW:

Thought-provoking, compelling, tender and evocative, this delightful novel explores issues such as equal rights for women and all races in nineteenth century London and Australia. 

Sisters Sarah and Harriet Cameron were raised in London by their progressive, philosopher father. After his death, Harriet travels to Australia to join Sarah, who is there on an extended honeymoon with her husband Henry. Living in Dimbulah Darwin, deep in the Australian outback, the sisters must adjust to a harsher, more dangerous existence, but soon find joy and friendship in their new home. But as racial tensions rise, they must find a way to protect not only themselves, but those they’ve come to care about.

I love historical fiction because of the opportunity to immerse myself in another place and time, and the chance to learn more about those periods. This novel captures a moment in history I knew little about, which is part of the reason I jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour. Themes of injustice run through the novel and are explored through topics such as women’s and equal rights, appropriation, and racism. It was jarring to read the stark reality of the Aborigines lack of rights and the fear in which they were forced to live in a land that was taken from them. Harriet’s battle for independence and autonomy was a reminder of those who fought for equal rights and to be thankful for the rights women enjoy living where and when we do today.

The characters are compelling, flawed and real. Harriet and Sarah are very different people but are both complex women with a heart of gold and great strength. We watch them wrestle with themselves as they embark on a journey of self-discovery, going through great changes in the seven years over which the story is told. Harriet in particular suffers an identity crisis and does a lot of soul searching during her time in the outback, embracing the teachings of the Aboriginals. I loved this inclusion of so many Aboriginal characters and the inclusion of them as memorable characters in their own right rather than simply being nameless background workers. 

Told in short, tightly crafted chapters, this is a subtle and steadily paced novel. But as the threat towards those at Dimbulah Darwin escalated, the tension radiated from the page and my heart raced in anticipation. The author’s prose is lyrical and bursting with rich imagery that made me feel like I could actually see the bright colours of the Australian Outback. 

I highly recommend this uplifting, powerful and endearing story. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alison Booth was born in Melbourne and grew up in Sydney. She is a professor at the Australian National University and the author of three novels: Stillwater CreekThe Indigo Sky and A Distant Land, all set in the fictional town of Jingera. She lives with her husband in Canberra’s inner north, and has spent two decades living and working in the UK.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Website
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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon
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Book Depository
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