“Sometimes when I close my eyes, there is a rifle in my hands. My hands are small; my fingers are pudgy. I’m eleven years old. There’s nothing special about this particular rifle, nothing to distinguish it from any other Remington, except that this is the rifle that killed my mother.”
Today is the first in a new series where on the first Friday of each month is a flashback to an older book. As soon as I read the gripping first lines above I knew this was the book to start with. And that book is…
The Wicked Sister by Karen Dionne! This was on my list of most anticipated reads when it was released last summer. I was a big fan of Karen’s first book, The Marsh King’s Daughter, so I’m very excited about reading this one.
A startling novel of psychological suspense, as two generations of sisters try to unravel their tangled relationships between nature and nurture, guilt and betrayal, love and evil.
You have been cut off from society for fifteen years, shut away in a mental hospital as punishment for the terrible thing you did when you were a child.
But what if nothing about your past is as it seems?
For a decade and a half, Rachel Cunningham has chosen to lock herself away in a psychiatric facility, tortured by gaps in her memory and the certainty that she is responsible for her parents’ deaths. But when she learns new details about their murders, Rachel returns, in a quest for answers, to the place where she once felt safest: her family’s sprawling log cabin in the remote forests of Michigan.
As Rachel begins to uncover what really happened on the day her parents were murdered, she learns – as her mother did years earlier – that home can be a place of unspeakable evil, and that the bond she shares with her sister might be the most poisonous of all…
I am delighted to share my review for this uplifting debut. Thank you to Orion for the invitation to take part in the tour and for my gifted ARC.
Could one split second change her life forever?
Hannah and Si are in love and on the same track – that is, until their train divides on the way to a wedding. The next morning, Hannah wakes up in Paris and realises that her boyfriend (and her ticket) are 300 miles away in Amsterdam!
But then Hannah meets Léo on the station platform, and he’s everything Si isn’t. Spending the day with him in Paris forces Hannah to question how well she really knows herself – and whether, sometimes, you need to go in the wrong direction to find everything you’ve been looking for…
After a romantic break in Venice, Hannah and Si are on their way to his sister’s wedding in Amsterdam. Then, following a calamitous series of events, Hannah finds herself stranded alone in Paris with no passport, luggage, purse or phone. At the station she meets Leo, a suave, handsome French man who while vexing her at first, slowly reveals himself to be everything that Si isn’t. Could a series of mistakes have led Hannah to what she didn’t know she was missing all along afterall?
Charming, absorbing and uplifting, this was the perfect Valentines read. Wonderfully cliched and featuring my favourite romance trope – enemies to lovers – this was pure heartwarming escapism. I travelled through the pages to Paris as the author’s vivid imagery brought the city to life. It felt like I was there alongside Hannah exploring the city and enjoying Leo’s guided tour of the city of love. I have been to Paris once, on a day trip during a French Exchange trip when I was a teenager many years ago, and I found myself reminiscing and wanting to get out my grainy photos of that rainy day. It has also made me want to go back with my partner and see the city through fresh eyes, a little like Hannah did in the story.
The story and characters are richly drawn and compelling, the author crafting a novel that is part contemporary love story and part self-discovery. Hannah and Leo are entertaining and compelling characters and the story is richly drawn and transportive. It was like I could hear Leo’s French accent and picture his darkly handsome features. I could feel the anxiety and frustration radiating from Hannah, and later her inner turmoil as she began to question so many things about her life.
Funny, engaging and utterly delightful, this debut is a welcome escape and the perfect pick-me-up for those lockdown or winter blues. I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to read more from the author in the future.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Lorraine Brown previously trained as an actress and has recently completed the final year of a postgraduate diploma in psychodynamic counselling. She lives in London with her partner and their 8-year-old son and can usually be found writing in coffee shops, feeling guilty about not going to the gym and watching too much Netflix. Uncoupling is her debut novel and is being published in the UK by Orion and in the USA by Penguin Random House (as The Paris Connection), as well as in Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, The Czech Republic, Croatia and Turkey.
“At the end of Wolfie’s garden in a shed he built in the summer of 1951, the same year he turned nineteen and opened thekosher deli next to Victoria Park. He scavenged timber from a house shattered by the Blitz, and laid the roof with red clay tiles prised from the rubble.”
What is your first read of 2021? Today’s first lines are taken from mine, which is Victoria Park, a debut novel which is published on January 7th. I’m not far into it, but I’m really enjoying it so far and finding it a refreshing and uplifting read.
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.
Keep an eye out for my review on January 14th as part of the blog tour.This sounds like the perfect way to start my reading year.
Welcome to my stop on the tour for this breathtaking novel. Thank you Ellie at Viking for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.
THREE HOURS TO SAVE THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege.
Pupils and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, the theatre. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help his trapped students and staff. Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news.
In three intense hours, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.
Ms. Lupton, you’ve broken me. This has got to be one of, if not the most, emotionally fraught books I’ve ever read. It has seeped into my soul.
From the first page we jump into the action as headteacher Matthew Marr is shot by a masked gunman stalking the halls of his school. The story then follows the stories of staff, students, parents and police, that play out simultaneously over the 108 minutes that the school is at their mercy. The writing is evocative, alluring, and almost lyrical; barely a word is wasted as you’re drawn into the living nightmare so vividly that I found myself actually holding my breath.
As a mother, this story is one of my worst nightmares; I can not begin to imagine the terror of having one of my children held hostage by gunmen, and pray I never have to. The author pulled me in, immersing me in the story and making me feel the characters’ terror. I saw myself in the frightened mother and the police woman, saw those who’ve taught my children in the teachers, and, most gut-wrenching of all, I saw my children in the students.
While at first glance this is a book about a school shooting, it is actually so much more. It is a multilayered novel that is also a statement on our political landscape and the hate culture being fostered by racists and extremists on both sides. The author also explores what drives them to commit such atrocities, asking how are they driven to violence, destruction and revenge? And how do they mask that hatred so the people around them never see it? She shows the harsh truths of these incidents, such as some people immediately pointing the finger of suspicion at the two refugee Muslim students and how, when the identities of the gunmen are revealed, they are seen as less than human and blame is put upon their parents for not doing their job right. She helps break down these stigmas and shows the beating heart behind those who some can be so quick to dehumanise. She also reminds us it is not only “bad” parents whose children commit evil acts and they are usually as shocked and distraught by what their child has done as everybody else.But this isn’t a maudlin book, it is also incredibly uplifting at times as we are shown examples of astounding bravery, selflessness and sacrifice despite their fear. The very best of humanity versus the very worst. A reminder that there is more good in the world than bad, and what extraordinary things we can do when pushed to our limits and those we love are in danger.
I included Three Hours in #EmmasAnticipatedTreasures back in January and it more than deserves not only it’s place there, but every bit of the hype it’s generating right now. I was left with a major book hangover after finishing this powerful masterpiece and cannot recommend it highly enough. Breathtaking, intense, harrowing, moving and exceptional, this is one not to be missed. YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Rosamund Lupton is the author of four novels.
Rosamund Lupton graduated from Cambridge University in 1986. After reviewing books for the Literary Review and being invited to join the Royal Court Theatre, she won a television play competition and subsequently worked as a screen writer. Her debut novel Sister, was a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, has been translated into over thirty languages and has international sales of over 1.5 million copies. It was the fastest-selling debut of 2010 by a British author, and was winner of the Richard and Judy Best Debut Novel of 2011 Award and the Strand Magazine Critics First Novel Award. Film rights of Sister are currently under option.
Lupton’s critically acclaimed second novel Afterwards also went straight into the Sunday Times bestseller lists and was the No. 2 Sunday Times fiction bestseller of 2011. The Quality of Silence her third novel was a Sunday Times best seller and a Richard & Judy bookclub pick
Her new novel Three Hours is a Sunday Times top ten best seller and a best book of 2020 in the Sunday Times, the Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Stylist, Red & Good Housekeeping. It’s a Times and Sunday Times thriller of the month.