Review: ‘The Van Apfel Girls are Gone’ by Felicity McLean ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

A compulsive, note-perfect debut for fans of The Virgin Suicides and Picnic at Hanging Rock.

‘We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song and when one came back, she wasn’t the one we were trying to recall to begin with’.

Tikka Malloy was eleven and one-sixth years old during the long summer of 1992, growing up in an isolated suburb in Australia surrounded by encroaching bushland. That summer, the hottest on record, was when the Van Apfel sisters – Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth – mysteriously disappeared during the school’s Showstopper concert, held at the outdoor amphitheatre by the river. Did they run away? Were they taken? While the search for the sisters unites the small community, the mystery of their disappearance has never been solved.

Now years later, Tikka has returned home and is beginning to make sense of that strange moment in time. The summer that shaped her. The girls that she never forgot.

Brilliantly observed, spiky, sharp, funny and unexpectedly endearing, The Van Apfel Girls are Gone is part mystery, part coming-of-age-story – with a dark shimmering unexplained absence at its heart.

 

MY REVIEW:

The Van Apfel Girls are Gone is a beautifully haunting mystery about childhood, adolescence, secrets and regrets, that takes place over the course of one transformative and unforgettable summer.

Tikka Malloy is haunted by the disappearance of her school friends and neighbours, Hannah, Cordelia and Ruth Van Apfel. They vanished in the sweltering summer of 1992, when Tikka was eleven years old, and despite an extensive search no one ever learned the truth of what happened to the sisters. When Tikka travels back to the small, isolated suburb in Australia she was raised in, she decides it is finally time to make sense of her memories and discern the truth: not only to find out the fate of her friends but also to free herself from the torturous remorse she still feels.

I started reading this book with high hopes as while I have not yet read the books mentioned in the synopsis, I have seen both films and. they were stories that both fascinated and haunted me in a way that is unique to an unsolved mystery. Thankfully, it did not disappoint. I loved this book and find myself still thinking about the mysterious Van Apfel girls.

Hannah, Cordie and Ruth Van Apfel live on the same street as Tikka and her older sister, Laura. Cordie is the one everyone is drawn to: the beauty that shines out, the cool one, the rebellious one. Their parents are religious zealots and are terrified of their violent father. The five girls spend as much time as possible together although to Tikka’s frustration she is often lumped with seven-year-old Ruth, four years her junior, and left out of the older girl’s discussions and plans.

The night the sisters vanished and the events surrounding that night are burned into Tikka’s memory and she’s plagued by guilt and regret. When back in Australia she and her sister discuss the secrets they’ve held for twenty years. It was confusing for Tikka and Laura as they knew what they were seeing was wrong but were so young they didn’t know what to do about it or who, if anyone, they should turn to.

I loved this mesmerising novel. Atmospheric, delightful, captivating, nuanced and nostalgic but also somber, sinister and dire, it had me hooked from the first page. It explores how tragedy can shape our future and how we see things differently with an adult perspective versus a child’s eye. Will we find out what happened to Hannah, Cordie and Ruth? I will leave you to find out for yourself when you read it.

Thank you to NetGalley, Oneworld Publications, Point Blank and Felicity McLean for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Out now.

*Thank you to Felicity McLean for the permission to use her picture.

 

 

My Sentimental Book Stack

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I was tagged by @diaryofabookmum & @silverliningsandpages on bookstagram to create a #sentimentalstack and enjoyed doing it so much that I decided to post it on here too.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓓𝓸𝓵𝓵 𝓕𝓪𝓬𝓽𝓸𝓻𝔂 & 𝓕𝓻𝓪𝓷𝓷𝓲𝓮 𝓛𝓪𝓷𝓰𝓽𝓸𝓷 – these were the books from the first author event I went to since starting my bookstagram account. It was such a special moment that I’ll never forget.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓵𝓸𝓻 𝓟𝓾𝓻𝓹𝓵𝓮 – The first book my other half bought me for my first birthday together. He bought me purple themed gifts and didn’t know I’d always wanted to read this book

𝓜𝔂 𝓢𝓲𝓼𝓽𝓮𝓻’𝓼 𝓚𝓮𝓮𝓹𝓮𝓻 – the first book I read by one of my favourite authors Jodi Picoult.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓦𝓲𝔃𝓪𝓻𝓭 𝓸𝓯 𝓞𝔃 – A favourite childhood book and the start of a lifelong obsession.

𝓜𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓵𝓭𝓪 & 𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓑𝓕𝓖 – two of my favourite childhood books that evoke good memories.

𝓘𝓷 𝓒𝓸𝓵𝓭 𝓑𝓵𝓸𝓸𝓭 – I read this as part of my English A Level. It was the first true crime book I read, before this it was only magazine articles. It instantly struck a chord and cemented my interest in true crime.

𝓕𝓵𝓸𝔀𝓮𝓻𝓼 𝓲𝓷 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓐𝓽𝓽𝓲𝓬 – I first read this as a teen and have read it many times.

𝓐 𝓣𝓲𝓶𝓮 𝓣𝓸 𝓚𝓲𝓵𝓵 – my first John Grisham book. He’s been a favourite author of mine ever since.

What would be in your sentimental book stack? Comment below.

Review: ‘The Queen of Hearts’ by Kimmery Martin ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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A debut novel set against the background of hospital rounds and life-or-death decisions that pulses with humour and empathy and explores the heart’s capacity for forgiveness…

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers – Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harbouring for years.

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the centre of Zadie’s life-both professionally and personally-throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.

I loved this book so much that I could read it every single day and it would bring me joy. An intelligent, poetic, mesmerising and delightful book about humanity, agony, hope, love and friendship.

Zadie and Emma have been friends since being assigned as roommates at a camp for kids interested in medicine. They stayed in touch and have been best friends throughout college, medical school, marriage and children. They can talk about anything and everything, with one exception. In their third year of medical school something terrible happened that they have an unspoken agreement to never discuss. So when Emma texts Zadie saying she wants to talk about Nick, someone who is a part of what they don’t talk about, Zadie feels like the wind has been knocked out of her. Why now?

Set in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the present day with flashbacks to their third year at medical school in Louisville, Kentucky, the story is narrated by both main characters. Early on Zadie reveals she did something that lead to someone’s death that year and Emma tells us that she has never told her best friend the truth about what happened. As we discover more about Nick and what happened that year, secrets are revealed and their strong friendship is tested like never before. Can it survive a secret kept for almost two decades?

This spectacular debut novel was one I was highly anticipating reading. I love medical fiction, something that probably comes in part from having a Mum who’s a nurse and also because before I became too ill to work I spent many years working in doctors and dental surgeries. I will admit that I judged this book by its beautiful cover. I know we’re not supposed to do that but we all do it, am I right? Thankfully in this case it was justified and I fell in love instantly. It started with a great opening paragraph that instantly portrayed the deliciously lyrical and witty style of writing that had me savouring every word and completely immersed in the pages.

Zadie and Emma were great characters and I was completely invested in their friendship and rooting for them to survive the storms of this story. I liked that the author didn’t shy away from showing how flawed they were and instead made it into an example of how even the good among us can do wrong and cause pain and how every little decision can have often unforeseen and far-reaching consequences. In terms of secondary characters I have to mention little Delaney. That girl is a firecracker! She was so much  fun to read and I loved her precocious, fun character that shone through every time she was on the page.

Though most of this book is written in a lighthearted manner there were some gut-wrenching scenes. My heart was in my throat reading as Zadie lost her first patient and in other tragic moments, and I found myself blindsided and unable to stop reading as the long-held secrets were finally revealed.

Kimmery Martin has written a beautiful book that is a perfect amalgamation of her two loves: medicine and literature. Her extensive medical knowledge shines through and I loved reading the details of medical life and procedures and cracking up at some of the anecdotes of life as a  doctor and mother. The Queen of Hearts is expertly written and I can’t wait to read the author’s second book next year. I will be recommending this to everyone.

Thank you to Kimmery Martin for my signed copy of this novel.

Out now.