Published: January 7th, 2021 Publisher: Allen & Unwin Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Urban Fiction
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this wonderful debut. Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the gifted ARC and Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part.
Mona and Wolfie have lived on Victoria Park for over fifty years. Now, on the eve of their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary, they must decide how to navigate Mona’s declining health. Bookended by the touching exploration of their love, Victoria Park follows the disparate lives of twelve people over the course of a single year. Told from their multiple perspectives in episodes which capture feelings of alienation and connection, the lingering memory of an acid attack in the park sends ripples of unease through the community. By the end of the novel, their carefully interwoven tales create a rich tapestry of resilience, love and loss.
With sharply observed insight into contemporary urban life, and characters we take to our hearts, Gemma Reeves has written a moving, uplifting debut which reflects those universal experiences that connect us all.
Victoria Park is a difficult book to review as it is just so different to anything I’ve read. It takes place over the course of a year, focusing on a different character each month and is more like a collection of short stories than a novel. Though it took me a little while to get into the flow of the book as I rarely read short stories, I really liked this fresh and unique approach and thought that the author executed it well.
We are only given a small glimpse into each character’s life as the author tells their stories via individual chapters. But we also see them a little through the eyes of other characters as she has chosen to focus these stories on a group of people whose lives are interwoven. She created a richly drawn community full of a compelling cast of varied characters. I had a soft spot for Wolfie and Mona in particular as they are such wonderful characters. I adored their love story and Wolfie’s devotion to Mona despite the challenges and was thrilled every time they were on the page.
The author also uses the book to subtly examine many themes such as family, friendship, love, isolation, alienation and adjusting to change. There are some powerful and emotional moments that mostly occur during times the characters are quietly reflecting on their lives.
Absorbing, funny and delightful, the book has an air of calm that made it a refreshing and relaxing read. I would highly recommend this remarkable debut.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Gemma Reeves is a writer and teacher who lives and works in London. She graduated with distinction from the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and holds an MA in Twentieth Century Literature from Goldsmiths.
Thank you to Riverrun for my gifted copy of the book and invitation to the readalong.
A disturbing portrait of a modern American family.
An extraordinary debut novel by Natasha Randall, exposing the seam of secrets within an American family, from beneath the plastic surfaces of their new ‘smart’ home. Love Orange charts the gentle absurdities of their lives, and the devastating consequences of casual choices.
While Hank struggles with his lack of professional success, his wife Jenny, feeling stuck and beset by an urge to do good, becomes ensnared in a dangerous correspondence with a prison inmate called John. Letter by letter, John pinches Jenny awake from the “marshmallow numbness” of her life. The children, meanwhile, unwittingly disturb the foundations of their home life with forays into the dark net and strange geological experiments.
Jenny’s bid for freedom takes a sour turn when she becomes the go-between for John and his wife, and develops an unnatural obsession for the orange glue that seals his letters…
Love Orange throws open the blinds of American life, showing a family facing up to the modern age, from the ascendancy of technology, the predicaments of masculinity, the pathologising of children, the epidemic of opioid addiction and the tyranny of the WhatsApp Gods. The first novel by the acclaimed translator is a comic cocktail, an exuberant skewering of contemporary anxieties and prejudices.
Jenny Tinkley lives with her husband Hank and their two sons, Jessie and Luke, in a quiet suburban town. They’re a picture-perfect family living in the picture-perfect smart home. But behind the glossy, perfect sheen there are cracks: Jenny feels bored and stuck in her life, Hank is frustrated by his lack of professional success and their children are each facing their own worries and challenges.
To try and escape the monotony, Jenny begins a correspondence with a prison inmate named John. She finds excitement in their letters, but things start to unravel when Jenny agrees to become a go-between for John and his wife and develops a strange obsession with the orange glue that seals his letters.
The characters are the driving force of this story. They are compelling, relatable, and instantly familiar as someone who could be your neighbour. Jenny is a typical suburban mum. I found her relatable but did struggle to warm to her, particularly as the story went on and her actions became increasingly selfish as she spiralled into addiction. I hated Hank. He was misogynistic, toxic, controlling, and just generally awful. I thought the author did a great job of writing him and managing to evoke such strong feelings of dislike in not only me, but every other reader I’ve spoken to. For me, it was the kids that drew me to them most of all. My heart broke for them and the things they went through. I think one complaint I have about the book was that I would have liked the children to have featured more.
I also liked how the smart house was like another character. Jenny sees the house as spying on her and controlling their lives. She gets a kick from outwitting it and managing to do things unnoticed. She even tells Hank to ask the house if he has any questions at one point. I would hate to live in a house like theirs and can understand why she felt the way she did. Sometimes you can have too much technology.
I did have two issues with the book that I would like to address. The first one was how the therapist told the family that Luke wasn’t autistic because he showed a high level of empathy. This perpetuates the false narrative that autistic people aren’t empathetic which is completely wrong. While they can struggle with processing and expressing emotion, people with autism are often highly empathetic, my own son included. Second of all was how it portrayed everyone who takes pain pills as addicts. While I liked that the book raised the issue of opiate addiction, I did feel like the portrayal spiraled into harmful stereotypes. My biggest issue was with the following quote:
“The thing about pain pills is that they take away pain. Any kind of pain. It gets so that people can’t even get out of bed for the pain that life becomes… compared to the high.”
As someone who uses opiates for chronic pain, the idea that we all become addicted and care only about the high is harmful, offensive and factually incorrect. I don’t get high. Pain medication is the ONLY reason I can get out of bed and live a life that has a sliver of normality. Dependency to help ease pain is not addiction, and while some people do unfortunately spiral into an addiction, I personally know many more who are languishing in agony with no life because they’ve been tarred with the same brush as an addict and denied any relief from their chronic and debilitating pain. For me the quote above is like saying all people who drink alcohol do so to get drunk and become alcoholics. But these are personal feelings and I don’t think everyone reading will feel the same way. So I encourage you to read for yourself.
But I don’t want this to come across as sounding like I didn’t like the book, because I did. Love Orange is an absorbing and addictive debut novel that explores family, secrets and addiction in modern society. It is beautifully written, immediately draws you into the the Tinkley’s world. I also really liked the quirky humour that runs through the story. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments that made this a joy to read.
I read the book as part of a readalong organised by the publisher and really enjoyed the chats where I got to see the different things others noticed and the varied ways we can interpret the same book.
A beautifully written look at a fractured family and life in suburban America, I would recommend this novel and can’t wait to read more from the author in the future.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Natasha Randall is a writer and translator, living in London. Her writing and critical work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Moscow Times, BookForum, The New York Times, Strad magazine, HALI magazine and on National Public Radio (USA). She is a contributing editor to the New York-based literary magazine A Public Space. Her debut novel Love Orange will be released by riverrun (Quercus, Hachette) in September 2020.
Published: February 4th, 2021 Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Genre: Science Fiction
Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for my gifted ARC.
*Please note that this book is published as Faye, Faraway in the US.
THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY DEBUT OF 2021
This is a story about taking a leap of faith And believing the unbelievable
They say those we love never truly leave us, and I’ve found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you’d expect.
I’ve been visiting my mother who died when I was eight. And I’m talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here.
Right now, you probably think I’m going mad. Let me explain…
Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother?
Space Hopper is an original and poignant story about mothers, memories and moments that shape life.
Space Hopper tells the story of Faye, a woman in her early 30s. Faye is happy in her life as a wife and mother but has always struggled with the loss of her own mother when she was just eight years old. Then, one day, she is surprised to find herself back in her childhood home in the seventies. Faced with the chance to finally get to know the mother she lost and answer the questions she’s had all these years, she’s faced with a difficult choice: how much is she prepared to sacrifice in order to chase the past?
The story got off to a fascinating start and I immediately loved the conversational writing style. I always find this style helps me connect with a book as you really feel like the narrator is talking to you. I found the story compelling and I was engrossed in the book. But there were a number of problems that made this book a bit of a miss for me. First was Faye. At first I didn’t mind her but I quickly found her really irritating and got frustrated with her.
Another difficulty for me was that while the story has a lot of potential, it fell short somehow. What started as an interesting premise became far-fetched and didn’t hold my attention so easily. Some of the plot points felt really far-fetched and Faye made decisions that just didn’t sit right with what a loving mother would do. The ending was also a big issue for me that affected how I saw the book overall.
I would always say that it is best to read a book for yourself and not let any review sway you from reading a book you like the sound of. While this didn’t live up to my expectations, it is a quirky, original and intriguing book that had lots right with it, such as the writing style and some sweet and tender moments. Just go in with an open mind and you might find it’s one you love.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Helen Fisher spent her early life in America, but grew up mainly in Suffolk where she now lives with her two children. She studied Psychology at Westminster University and Ergonomics at UCL and worked as a senior evaluator in research at the RNIB. She is now a full-time author.Space Hopper is her first novel. She is currently working on her second novel.
Welcome to my stop on the tour for this sensational debut thriller. Thank you to Headline for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.
They don’t know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way.
How far would you go to win? Hyper-competitive people, mind games and a dangerous natural environment combine to make the must-read thriller of the year. Fans of Lucy Foley and Lisa Jewell will be gripped by spectacular debut novel Shiver.
When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.
The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.
In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light.
“It’s that time of year again. The time the glacier gives up bodies.”
Wow! What a book! A deliciously dark, chilling, tense and twisty tour-de-force, this was hard to put down.
Shiver is one of my most highly anticipated books of 2021, so I was thrilled to receive a proof and be asked to post my review today. It’s a book that’s been receiving a lot of praise and hype and, let me tell you, every bit of it is deserved.
Milla, a former semi-pro snowboarder, returns to Le Rocher for a reunion with five of her friends. The last time they were together was ten years ago when another member of their group, Saskia, disappeared.
They start the weekend with an icebreaker game that quickly turns sinister and forces them to question who brought them together and why. Trapped together on a deserted glacier they don’t know who to trust or how far some will go to uncover the truth about what really happened on the mountain a decade ago…
“He doesn’t know what I did. None of them do. And I intend to keep it that way.”
An electrifying, high-octane thrill ride, this addictive and atmospheric read had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
Told in the present day and flashbacks to ten years ago, we see the story through the eyes of Milla, who I instantly felt a connection to as she hails from my hometown of Sheffield. Milla is haunted by events from the last time she was at Le Rocher, by a body yet to be given up by the glacier and a dark secret she desperately hopes to keep unveiled. I liked Milla and found her to be a compelling and relatable protagonist. In fact, all of the characters are compelling and richly drawn with backstories that keep you glued to the page. The claustrophobic dynamics of living and competing together on the mountain is ripe for conflict and the author mines this to perfection both in the flashbacks and in the present day.
Though she’s an awful person, I loved Saskia’s character and thought she was fantastically written. As we only ever see her through Milla’s eyes it’s obviously a skewed opinion we have of her, but to be fair, I don’t think there’s much that could redeem her character. Despite the extremes she goes to, it all feels realistic and I could imagine someone who is both competitive and of questionable morals behaving that way to keep ahead. She gave the story a sense of foreboding and tension that made me keep reading as I needed to know what she’d do next and what had really happened to her.
“I soar above the ice, mind pure and empty, seeing nothing, hearing nothing. Only feeling. These precious moments of weightlessness at the top of the arc, suspended by gravity.”
Allie Reynolds is a former freestyle snowboarder and you can feel the authenticity of her expertise in the writing. The imagery, emotions and little details are all so transportive and on point that it is clear she has lived this. I felt like I was flying through the air with Milla and could almost feel the icy air of the French Alps. There were times that the book had a cinematic quality to it and I could definitely see this on the big screen one day.
So if you’re looking for a book that’s dripping with suspense and an atmosphere thick with malevolence that has your heart pounding, this is a book for you.
An outstanding debut by a talent that is one to watch, don’t miss this book.
Rating: ✮✮✮✮. 5
MEET THE AUTHOR:
From the author’s website:
I was once a freestyle snowboarder in the UK top ten at halfpipe. I spent five winters in the mountains of France, Switzerland, Austria and Canada.
I taught English for fifteen years. I’ve also been a London primary school teacher, bookshop assistant, barmaid, nanny and French teacher/translator. My short fiction has appeared in women’s magazines in the UK, Australia, Sweden and South Africa. I’ve been a full-time writer since 2018.
Born and raised in England, I moved to Gold Coast Australia in 2003. I have two young children and a cat who thinks he’s a dog.
Published: January 7th, 2021 Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Genre: Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Humorous Fiction
Welcome to my stop on the tour for the outstanding debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Simon & Schuster UK for the gifted ARC of the book.
‘I want you to remember something, Nat. You’re small on the outside. But inside you’re as big as everyone else. You show people that and you won’t go far wrong in life.’
A compelling story perfect for fans of The Doll Factory, The Illumination of Ursula Flight and The Familiars.
My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.
The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.
They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.
Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is a heartwarming tale about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.
“It’s been quite a life, the one I’ve had; I was there when they turned the world upside down, and I was there, right at the heart of it all, during the turbulent times that led us down the road to that day. So I got to thinking that I should write it all down, because there’s been a lot said about those times, and not all of it’s right.”
This book is a truly magnificent tale. In her outstanding debut, Frances Quinn takes you on an adventure alongside Nat Davey, a fictional character based on Jeffrey Hudson, court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria. Seamlessly merging fact with fiction, she weaves together historical events and moments from the lives of real people with those of her fictional characters and imagination. It’s so expertly done that I would have believed the entire book to be biographical is it wasn’t for her author’s note saying otherwise.
This was a glorious novel. Immersive and absorbing, I was lost in Nat’s world and could see it all happening like it was on a movie screen – which it really does belong on, in my opinion. I loved that it is told like Nat is telling the reader his story, with him addressing us at times. It made it feel personal and added to the authentic feel.
“Because the way I look at it now, if we’d been just like other folks, what kind of lives would we have had?”
For a book to be truly memorable, you need memorable characters. And Nat is one of the most memorable characters I’ve come across. It is impossible not to love and root for this pint-sized man. His size alone in a time where being born different made you a freak makes him someone you can’t help but feel for. He faces judgement, ridicule and rejection from birth; even being sold by his father and given to the queen as a human pet. But what is one of the worst things to happen to him ultimately becomes the thing that leads to happiness in his life as he finds a home and even friendship in the queen’s service. His story is unforgettable and will stay with me.
While Nat is undoubtedly the star of the book, the cast of characters around him are equally as fascinating, richly drawn and memorable. There are some beautiful friendships and great life lessons hidden in this story.
I could wax lyrical about this for a very long time. Instead, I’m going to say: READ THIS BOOK! You won’t regret it. The Smallest Man will be on my list of top reads of 2020 and I have no doubt it is the start of a fantastic career for the talented Ms Quinn.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Frances Quinn read English at Cambridge, and is a journalist and copy-editor. She completed the Curtis Brown Creative Course in 2015. The Smallest Man is her debut novel.
Today is my stop on the tour for this wonderful debut. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.
She’s not lost. She’s just waiting to be found…
Dawn Elisabeth Brightside has been running from her past for twenty-two years and two months, precisely.
So when she is offered a bed in St Jude’s Hostel for the Homeless, it means so much more than just a roof over her head.
But with St Jude’s threatened with closure, Dawn worries that everything is about to crumble around her all over again.
Perhaps, with a little help from her new friends, she can find a way to save this light in the darkness?
And maybe, just maybe, Dawn will finally have a place to call home….
The utterly charming feel-good debut novel of 2020 to curl up with.
“And if being at St Jude’s has taught me anything, it’s that you need to find your tribe. The rest of the journey’s not designed to be a solo one. Group tickets always offer the best value.”
The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside is a truly special book. The definition of ‘uplit’, it is one of those books that feels like a warm hug or a hot chocolate on a cold day. It will make you laugh and cry. It will steal your heart and make a permanent home in your soul.
I adored the colourful cast of compelling and very real characters. I liked that the author showed their humanity and personality rather than making them a cliché. She makes their experiences leap from the page, transports you into their world and makes you live every moment alongside them.
Dawn is quite the character. She is damaged, flawed and unreliable but also hopeful, joyous and endearing. Despite being down on her luck and going through some very traumatic things, she sees the silver lining – the ‘bright side’ you might say – and encourages others to do the same. She cares deeply about others and becomes a real light in the lives of those around her. She is a character I won’t forget and I challenge anyone not to fall in love with her too.
This was a very nostalgic book for me as my father was a manager for the YMCA and we lived on-site for three years when I was twelve to fifteen. The experience made a huge impact and is a big part of who I am today. The residents became like family and we are still in touch with a number of them even now. All the memories of that time came flooding back while reading and it was clear to me that the author knew her stuff. This felt authentic. So I wasn’t surprised to learn she’d worked with the homeless and had even lived on-site too.
But while this is a very uplifting book, it also addresses serious topics such as mental health, addiction and homelessness. She examines these things on a deeper level, commenting on the perception and judgement of the homeless or with mental health or addiction issues, the underfunding of homeless hostels and the degradation of applying for sickness benefits, something I personally related to as someone unable to work because of chronic illness. But she has a talent for doing all of this without bringing the mood down, balancing gritty realism with a humour and optimism that is reminiscent of Dawn.
Addictive, heartbreaking, hopeful, evocative, entertaining, warm and emotionally resonant, this is a remarkable debut. This book has arrived at the perfect time; Dawn’s kindness and positivity is something we all need more of right now. READ THIS BOOK!
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Jessica Ryn is a former midwife and homeless resettlement worker. She has recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at CCCU, and her stories have been shortlisted for the Kimberly Chambers’ Kickstarter Award, Wordsmag and the Val Wood Prize for Creative Writing. When she’s not scribbling away, Jessica can be found meandering through the woods, reading stories that pull on the feel-strings and eating yoghurt-covered skittles. Jessica lives in Dover with her husband, two children and their high-spirited springer spaniel. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside is her debut novel.
“Listen. We know there are people who hide in our homes. They crawl into attic spaces. Tuck themselves behind yard equipment in garages. Flit between the rooms of the house just outside the reach of sight. Some of us have found nests tucked in the back of bedroom closets behind hanging clothes. Or in the void space beneath the stairs. In that sliver between a living room sofa and the wall. We have found half-empty water bottles and candy wrappers and the remains of leftovers of food cooked the day before. I found my own wrinkled clothes pressed flatt to the floor and stinking of someone else’s sweat. Look in the places behind the furniture. The spaces between beds. Every deep crevice of the house. No guarantee that once a space has been checked that someone will not sneak back into it. You can stay home all day and still not find them. They are clever and patient and they know the insides of your home better than your ever will. But you have to find them. You have to root them out.”
This week’s eerie first lines come from another of my most anticipated books of 2021, Girl in the Walls by A. J. Gnuse, which I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of this week.
She doesn’t exist. She can’t exist.
‘A uniquely gothic tale about grief, belonging and hiding in plain sight’ Jess Kidd, author of Things in Jars
’Those who live in the walls must adjust, must twist themselves around in their home, stretching themselves until they’re as thin as air. Not everyone can do what they can. But soon enough, they can’t help themselves. Signs of their presence remain in a house. Eventually, every hidden thing is found.’
Elise knows every inch of the house. She knows which boards will creak. She knows where the gaps are in the walls. She knows which parts can take her in, hide her away. It’s home, after all. The home her parents made for her. And home is where you stay, no matter what.
Eddie calls the same house his home. Eddie is almost a teenager now. He must no longer believe in the girl he sometimes sees from the corner of his eye. He needs her to disappear. But when his older brother senses her, too, they are faced with a question: how do they get rid of someone they aren’t sure even exists?
And, if they cast her out, what other threats might they invite in?
Girl in the Walls is published by Fourth Estate on March 18th, 2021. You can pre-order your copy here.
Welcome to First Lines Friday. This is a tag that was started by Mrs Cooke’s Books on Instagram and I’ve been doing on there for a while. I decided to start posting here too, offering more than just one line and hoping to entice you into reading the books I share.
This week, I’m sharing the first line from one of my highly anticipated books of 2021:
“The bells rang out as they had done for hundreds of years, their sombre music sweeping over London with grace and stillness, bright as the moon which was till and ripe in the sky. Despite the late hour, the city below was restless, tossing and turning in the darkness with lights and buses and cars and people —walking, rushing, working, drinking, dancing, sleeping; none taking any notice of the bells at all. Within the tower, the sound was deafening. Yet the women did not flinch as they stepped closer, forming a circle, their feet bare on the stone floor and their hair loose against plain robes. They pulled back their hoods, feeling the vibrations of the bells in their bones; feeling the buzz and excitement of the windows; feeling the languages of their own magic rising. The last chime rang out with finality. Midnight. It was time.”
This first line is from Threadneedle by Cari Thomas. This debut is published on May 27th, 2021 by HarperVoyager. Thank you to them for my gifted ARC.
Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic. Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.
Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.
It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used, but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.
Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then. Could it?
How amazing does that sound! I can’t wait to read this and am hoping to fit it in before the year ends.
Today is my stop on the tour for this spectacular debut. Thank you HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.
A picture paints a thousand lies…
Romilly lives in a ramshackle house with her eccentric artist father and her cat, Monty. She knows little about her past – but she knows that she is loved.
When her father finds fame with a series of children’s books starring her as the main character, everything changes: exotic foods appear on the table, her father appears on TV, and strangers appear at their door, convinced the books contain a treasure hunt leading to a glittering prize.
But as time passes, Romilly’s father becomes increasingly suspicious of everything around him, until, before her eyes, he begins to disappear altogether.
In her increasingly isolated world, Romilly turns to the secrets her father has hidden in his illustrated books, realising that there is something far darker and more devastating locked within the pages…
The Illustrated Child is the unforgettable, beguiling debut from Polly Crosby.
This book is one of my most anticipated books of 2020. I’ve been green with envy at others receiving the gorgeous proofs and am so glad I’ve finally had the chance to read it.
From the title and cover I had imagined a lighthearted and uplifting read, but thankfully I’d read a few reviews and been warned that it is a darker book than you expect. That being said, it’s one that’s best read blind so I’m not going to reveal much about the plot.
I absolutely adored this book. I was immediately captivated by the beautiful prose and lost in Romilly’s strange world. The author has crafted an intricate, layered novel that has so much hidden beneath its surface. She holds the reader captive as she slowly unveils the truths waiting to be discovered, like the rumoured clues to the hidden treasure in Tobias’ stories.
I loved Romilly. She is a fantastic and fascinating heroine who is a paradox in the way many children are: independent but vulnerable, strong but weak, daring but afraid. She hasn’t had the easiest life and I couldn’t help but feel for her, especially as the story went on. From the start I felt an affinity with her as I also had a part-siamese cat with a kink in its tail when I was younger, though he didn’t have a name nearly as important.
This story consumed me. I didn’t want to put it down, not even to go to sleep, I was so immersed in its pages. Emotionally resonant, there wasn’t a feeling it didn’t make me feel as I lived every moment with Romilly. I needed to know what her future held, where she ended up, if my predictions were right.
Evocative, dark, haunting and mesmerising, this is one of my favourite books this year. A sensational debut from an extraordinary new talent that you don’t want to miss.
READ. THIS. BOOK.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
After a whirlwind of a year which saw Polly receive writing scholarships from both Curtis Brown Creative and The University of East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing, she went on to be runner up in the Bridport Prize’s Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel.
Polly’s novel was snapped up by HarperCollins HQ in the UK and Commonwealth in a 48 hour pre-empt, and a few days later by HarperCollins Park Row Books in North America.
Polly grew up on the Suffolk coast, and now lives in the heart of Norfolk with her husband and son, and her very loud and much loved rescue Oriental cat, Dali.
Published: October 1st, 2020 Publisher: Pushkin Press Format: Paperback, Kindle Genre: General Fiction, Children’s Fiction
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this charming debut. Thank you to Pushkin Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.
A summer she can’t remember A friendship she won’t forget
Nothing much happens in Sycamore, the small village where Clara lives – at least, that’s how it seems. She loves eating ripe mangoes fallen from trees, running outside in the rainy season and escaping to her secret hideout with her best friend Gaynah. There’s only one problem: she can’t remember anything about the previous summer.
When a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change. Gaynah stops acting like a best friend, while Rudy and Clara roam across the island and uncover an old family secret. As the summer reaches its peak and the island storms begin, Clara’s memory starts to return and she must finally face the truth of what happened last year.
“Something happened that made me forget everything that happened last summer.”
Nothing exciting ever happens in the small town of Sycamore. And since the incident with the witch-doctor, no-one new ever comes to visit. A summer the same as every other is stretching out in front of Clara. Until new girl Rudy arrives from London and changes everything. Now things are looking like they might be exciting after all. It would be perfect, if only Clara could remember what happened last summer that made her too scared to go into the water…
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book as it’s been a while since I read children’s fiction.
I read it quickly, immersed in the tropical setting and scary yet innocent world of young Clara. Her every emotion was palpable and there were many times my heart broke for this child. I wanted to help her, even if I had no idea what was causing her pain. The author captures the fun, freedom and innocence of childhood on a small island while also looking at the fear, frustration and pain that children also experience. She examines topics such as friendship, family, mental health, trauma and forgiveness through an age-appropriate lens that I think will make young readers feel seen.
Charming, heartfelt, thoughtful and mysterious, this is a beautifully crafted debut and a wonderful story for the young reader in your life.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Kereen Getten grew up in Jamaica where she would climb fruit trees in the family garden and eat as much mango, guinep and pear as she could without being caught. She now lives in Birmingham with her family and writes stories about her childhood experiences. When Life Gives You Mangos is her debut novel.