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SQUADPOD BOOK CLUB REVIEW: This Family by Kate Sawyer

Published May 11th, 2023 by Coronet
Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Domestic Fiction

Welcome to my review of This Family, the enthralling literary masterpiece that was the Squadpod Book Club pick for May.

Thank you to Coronet for the gifted proof copy.


An ambitious new novel of family life past and present from the author of the Costa Book Awards shortlisted The Stranding.

‘A smart yet tender page-turner. Kate Sawyer makes the reader feel as though they have a seat at the family table.’ ERIN KELLY

‘A tender yet vivid novel in both form and voice, its threads as bright as the tapestry of life it depicts. I lived, laughed and ached for these characters throughout. A superb accomplishment.’ WIZ WHARTON

‘Feels like the ultimate eavesdropping exercise, it’s satisfying fresh and expertly structured. The penultimate chapter will make you shriek. I loved it.’ ALEXANDRA HEMINSLEY

‘Lyrical, literary and luminous … buy it and treat yourself to writing at its finest.’ BETHANY CLIFT

‘Perfection. Funny and powerful, deeply moving, hugely atmospheric.’ LIZ HYDER

‘Every nuance of mother and daughters and sister relationships is vividly explored. Beautifully written, it expertly weaves the past with the present, building the tension, so you have to turn the pages.’ GEORGINA MOORE

‘Unfolds like a great piece of theatre… The more I read, the harder it became to put down.’ BOBBY PALMER

‘Fans of The Stranding, rest assured–This Family is every bit as good and then some. An absolute treat from start to finish.’ NATASHA CALDER

‘The vibrant, complex members of This Family are still alive and well in my imagination, weeks after I finished reading it. The rich, precise prose drew me into their world and held me there from beginning to end.’ JO BROWNING WROE

It is my dearest wish, that after so long apart, I am able to bring this family together for my wedding day.

This house. This family.

Mary has raised a family in this house. Watched her children play and laugh and bicker in this house. Today she is getting married in this house, with all her family in attendance.

The wedding celebrations have brought fractured family together for the first time in years: there’s Phoebe and her husband Michael, children in tow. The young and sensitive Rosie, with her new partner. Irene, Mary’s ex-mother-in-law. Even Emma, Mary’s eldest, is back for the wedding – despite being at odds with everyone else.

Set over the course of an English summer’s day but punctuated with memories from the past forty years of love and loss, hope and joy, heartbreak and grief, this is the story of a family. Told by a chorus of characters, it is an exploration of the small moments that bring us to where we are, the changes that are brought about by time, and what, despite everything, stays the same.



“It is my dearest wish that after so long apart, I am able to bring this family back together for my wedding day.
I don’t think it’s my way to ask much of others, but now I am asking each of you to give me one day where you leave any animosity at the gate and try to remember that you love each other.”

Enchanting, moving and achingly real, This Family is another literary masterpiece from Kate Sawyer. This family saga is told over the course of a late summer’s day and peppered with flashbacks that illustrate their history and the animosity, discord and anger that lingers between them. Can they put their bad blood aside for this one day? Or will their deep wounds rise to the surface and bubble over in a blaze of fury and resentment? 

“It’s a new beginning. 
She should be happy.
And she is. She is.
But where there are new beginnings, there are always endings too.”

What a magnificent book! Kate Sawyere’s debut, The Stranding, was one of my favourite books of 2021 so I was highly anticipating her sophomore novel. And there is no second book syndrome in sight as Sawyer once again showcases her remarkable storytelling in this beautifully written story. A character study and exploration of life and family, Sawyer draws you into the lives of this fractured family with her eloquent and evocative writing. It is an emotional story, but not too heavy or melancholy thanks to the sprinkling of witty observations about life, parenthood and family that lighten the mood. I was lost in the pages, completely immersed in their world, and was sad to say goodbye to them when I reached the final page.

“She had been braced for a certain amount of nostalgia this weekend. It’s only to be expected that being back in your childhood home, saying farewell to all the nooks and crannies of the place where you became the person you are, is always going to invoke memories. She just hadn’t been prepared for which memories they might be, and how, remembering those memories, would feel like living it all over again.”

Told from multiple points of view, it follows four generations of one family as they come together for a wedding. This will be the first time they are all together since unknown events fractured them into pieces, but sisters Emma, Phoebe, and Rosie have agreed to put their own feelings aside for their mother Mary’s special day. But the pain runs deep between them, and they are unprepared for some of the feelings that arise when they see one another for the first time in years. This novel perfectly encapsulates the essence of family life with all of its messiness, drama, pain, and complex relationships. This is a family that is broken and we see how tensions run even higher during claustrophobic and anxiety-laden situations such as a wedding. The characters are all richly drawn, compelling, flawed and relatable. I had a particular affinity for Mary, who is a kind, selfless woman that has always given her all to her family, even raising  the child her husband had with his mistress after her death. I think a lot of this affinity stemmed from having raised children from two families in a blended household myself, as well as the fact that my children are now grown and I’ve just had my second wedding. I also really enjoyed Irene, the cantankerous mother of Mary’s ex-husband Richard and the delightful Rosie, who was the only sister talking to everyone. 

A truly decadent read that is atmospheric, stirring, insightful, nuanced and enthralling, This Family is an absolute must-read from a literary star. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

TW: Infertility and grief.



Kate was born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, UK where she grew up in the countryside as the eldest of four siblings, after briefly living with her parents in Qatar and the Netherlands.

Kate Sawyer worked as an actor and producer before turning her hand to fiction. She has previously written for theatre and short-film. Kate’s first novel The Stranding was published by Coronet in 2021 and was listed for the Costa First Novel Award.

Having lived in South London for the best part of two decades with brief stints in the Australia and the USA she recently returned to East Anglia to have her first child as a solo mother by choice.



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SQUADPOD REVIEWS: Mrs Porter Calling by A. J. Pearce (The Emmy Lake Chronicles, 3)

Published May 25th, 2023 by Picador
Historical Fiction, Romance Novel, Historical Romance, Humorous Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Book Series

Welcome to my review of Mrs Porter Calling, which is one of our Squadpod Reviews titles for May. Thank you to EdPR Picador for my gifted copy of the book.


A heart-warming, heart-wrenching wartime story from The Sunday Times bestselling author of Dear Mrs Bird, AJ Pearce.

Emmy Lake is the much-loved agony aunt at Woman’s Friend magazine, relied upon by readers across the country as they face the challenges of life on the Home Front. With the problem page thriving and a team of fantastic women behind her, Emmy finally feels she is Doing Her Bit.

But when a glamorous new owner arrives, everything changes. As the Honourable Mrs Porter tries to charm her way around the rest of the team, Emmy realizes that she plans to destroy everything readers love about the magazine.

With happiness quickly turning to heartbreak and war still raging in Europe, will Emmy and her friends find the inner strength they need to keep keeping on – and save the magazine they love?

‘A winning combination of warmth, humour and a compelling story of the power of friendship.’ – Katie Fforde



“Had she really just eviscerated nearly everything I’d worked on for Woman’s Friend? More importantly, was she dismissing the parts of the magazine that were most obviously for and about the readers.”

It is official. The Emmy Lake Chronicles is my favourite audiobook series. Having listened to Yours Cheerfully in the space of twenty-four hours, I immediately did the same with Mrs Porter Calling, which is the third instalment in this charming series. And now I’m feeling bereft that I have to wait an unknown amount of time before the next one.

It is April 1943 when we return to war-torn London to catch up with Emmy Lake, the much-loved agony aunt at Women’s Friend magazine. Her page is thriving and the staff are all working together well when the new owner, the Honourable Mrs Cressida Porter, assumes control. Fancying herself a creative genius, Mrs Porter has grand plans for the magazine that threaten to destroy the things that the readers, and Emmy, love about it most. Can Emmy and the team band together to save their beloved magazine? 

“War’s bad enough as it is. Imagine if you’re trying to get through this alone.” 

A.J. Pearce has done it again. Bubbly, bittersweet and bingeable, this is an absolute triumph. A story of friendship, community, love and loss, Pearce transports you into Emmy’s world, making you feel like you’re one of the gang. I went through every emotion alongside them in what is undoubtedly the most emotionally resonant instalment of this series so far. One of the elements I love most is how quintessentially British these books are, and combined with the warmth that radiates from every page they are like picnicking on egg and cress sandwiches, tea and victoria sponge in the park on a warm day. 

Every single character in these books is richly drawn. Emmy is one of my favourite heroines ever, and the group of people she surrounds herself with are a delight. The unwavering support they have for each other is friendship goals, and I especially love her relationships with her best friend, Bunty, and brother-in-law-cum-boss, Guy. But it was undoubtedly Mrs Porter who stole the show this time around. God I hated that woman! Rude, snobby, scheming and sly, she made me angrier than any character has in a long time. Watching her plot and try to destroy Women’s Friend was devastating, and I was rooting for Emmy and the team to find a way to beat her at her game. But all of this just goes to showIt is a great example of how skilled Ms. Pearce is as she manages to incite rage in a reader over a fictional character. Even just typing this I’m seething. And I never want to hear the phrase ‘a bit mis’ again! Ugh. 

“When you cut through the smokes, and the darlings, and the sugar sweet voice, it was quite clear that the Honourable Mrs Cressida Porter didn’t care about anyone other than herself. She was made of stone all the way through.”

Unfortunately, Mrs. Porter isn’t the only dark cloud on Emmy’s horizon, and we see her and those she loves really put through the mill in this book. Thankfully, there were lots of lighthearted and funny moments to brighten the mood along the way. The combination of Ms. Pearce’s masterful storytelling, her enthralling characters, and the outstanding narration of Anna Popplehouse took these books to another level. I could not stop listening and found that when I had to go run some errands, all I could think about was getting back and listening to the rest of the book. Without a doubt, I will be buying both the physical and audio versions of any future books in this series. 

Effervescent, uplifting, heartrending and hopeful, Mrs Porter Calling is a must-have addition to your book or audible shelves this summer. Maybe even take it with you to the park for a picnic. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮



AJ Pearce was born in Hampshire, UK. Her favourite subjects at school were English and History, which now (finally) makes sense.

She majored in American History at the University of Sussex, spending her Junior Year at Northwestern University in Illinois, USA.

Her debut novel Dear Mrs Bird was a Sunday Times Bestseller and has been published in the USA, Canada and Australia and in translation in over fifteen languages. 

Dear Mrs Bird was shortlisted for the Debut of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards as well as the Royal Society of Literature Sir Christopher Bland Prize and the Historical Writers’ Association’s Debut Crown 2019 for the best historical debut. It was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick in the UK, and in the USA was shortlisted in the US Library Reads Favorites of Favorites 2018. In 2022 it was chosen for BBC Radio 4’s Book Club.

AJ has appeared at literary events and festivals across the UK, including Cheltenham, Henley, Ilkley, Chipping Norton, Durham, Guildford, and The British Library.

Her second novel, the sequel Yours Cheerfully, was published in 2021 and was a Times Top 10 hit. Her new novel, Mrs Porter Calling is the third in the Emmy Lake Chronicles series and will be published 25 May 2023 in the UK and 8 August in the USA/Canada.

AJ will be touring the UK around the publication, starting in May. Please go to the Events page for full info and how to book tickets.

When not talking about, researching, or writing books, AJ enjoys being fairly rubbish at a variety of hobbies, and has recently decided to try to learn to paint. Should anyone have alerted members of the Royal Academy of Arts, it is more than likely that no one is holding their breath.



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SQUADPOD REVIEWS: The Final Party by A.A. Chaudhuri

Published May 25th by Hera Books
Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Thriller, Domestic Fiction, Urban Fiction, Travel Literature, Coming-of-Age Story

Today I’m delighted to be opening the Squadpod Spotlight tour for The Final Party. Thank you to Hera books for my gifted eBook.




In a luxury villa set high in the hills above the glamorous town of Sorrento, southern Italy, three couples gather for the perfect 40th birthday celebration.


Before the week is out, one of them is dead.


Their perfect reunion quickly becomes the holiday from hell when one of the group starts receiving anonymous messages, threatening to expose a dark secret from their university days.

As old friendships are tested to the limit, it’s clear that what happens in the dark past won’t stay buried…

A heart-racing psychological thriller that will hook you from the very first page, with twist after twist that will make your jaw drop. Fans of B.A. Paris, My Husband’s Killer and Lucy Foley won’t be able to put this down. If you were hooked by The White Lotus or The Watcher, you’ll love this.



“Six friends had started the week on seemingly good terms, here for a rest and the perfect birthday celebration. 
But the perfect week in paradise has turned into the holiday from hell. 
Because one of them is dead. 
One of them is a killer. 
But which one of them here is guilty?” 

A multiple point of view and dual timeline novel, The Final Party takes place in Sorrento, Italy in August 2019. Six friends have got together for the fortieth birthday of one of their group, but tensions are high as four of the friends battle with their conscience over secrets they have been keeping for eighteen years. Secrets surrounding the night that another one of their group was attacked and left forever changed by her inability to remember who attacked her or why. What is it her friends know about that night? And which one of the group will end up dead before their celebrations are over?

A.A. Chaudhuri just gets better with each book. Tense, twisty and totally thrilling, she has delivered a first-rate thriller that will knock your socks off! This is suspense writing at its best; a seven-layer cake of a thriller where each slice holds something unexpected. And I couldn’t get enough. From the start there is a sense of something dark and sinister. Of overwhelming dread, long-held secrets and deception. And you can tell that these secrets have the power to blow up their lives if revealed. Chaudhuri expertly drip-feeds the reader little pieces of the puzzle before whipping the rug away from under us every time I thought I’d got things figured out. The uncertainty only heightened the tension and I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. 

When a multi-narrative thriller is done right it is one of my favourite tropes, and this is sheer perfection. The characters are a group of fractured, flawed and relatable people who, quite frankly, are a train-wreck. But they are compelling and I couldn’t help but feel totally invested in their twisted web of friendship, secrets and lies. It was soon apparent that each one of them holds different pieces of this puzzle and no-one has the full picture, not even the ones who think they do. They are eaten up by guilt, regret and the fear of exposure; of one of the secrets being revealed and triggering a domino effect that would see their lives explode in a fiery blaze of betrayal. I really felt for Padma, who is still so eaten up by not knowing the truth about the night that changed her life. Knowing that those closest to her have held the keys to answering her questions all along yet chose to keep her in the dark only compounds the devastation. But even in my wildest theories I didn’t suspect the true horror that was waiting to be uncovered.

Unpredictable, intricate and suspenseful, The Final Party is a nerve-shredding thriller you won’t be able to put down. This is one any self-respecting thriller-lover HAS to have on their TBR.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5



A.A. Chaudhuri is a former City lawyer, turned thriller writer, who lives in Surrey with her family.

Once a highly ranked British junior tennis player, competing in the national championships and a member of the national squad, she went on to tour the women’s professional satellite circuit as a teenager and achieved a world ranking of 650.

After returning to full-time education, she gained a BA Honours 2:1 in History at University College London, and a commendation in both the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course at the London College of Law, before training as a solicitor at City firm Norton Rose and then practising as a commercial litigator at two other City firms, Kendall Freeman and Travers Smith.

She left law in 2008 to pursue her passion for writing and in 2010 passed the NCTJ fast-track newspaper journalism course, in respect of which she was awarded The Oxford University Press Public Affairs Award for the most outstanding public affairs central government paper.

In 2013 and 2014 she self-published two women’s fiction novels under the name Alexandra Sage: Love & Limoncello and the sequel Love & Loss. Love & Limoncello has sold more than ten thousand copies to date, reaching number 53 in the Amazon Kindle Bestsellers List in October 2014.

THE SCRIBE and THE ABDUCTION, published by LUME BOOKS in July and December 2019, are her first crime book series, plunging readers into London’s glamorous legal world and featuring series’ heroine, Maddy Kramer, fiction’s first female City lawyer amateur sleuth, who teams up with charismatic DCI Jake Carver to solve a gruesome series of murders and a puzzling abduction.

Both books have hit the bestsellers lists in the UK, Australia and Canada, with bestseller tags in Australia and Canada.

THE SCRIBE and THE ABDUCTION were published as audio books by Isis Audio on 1st  January and 1st March 2021, both read by David Thorpe.

She has also contributed an original short story THE ENCOUNTER to crime anthology GIVEN IN EVIDENCE published by LUME BOOKS in May 2020, has written many articles and short stories for The Crime Writers’ Association.

In February 2021, Alex signed a two-book contract for two standalone psychological thrillers with HERA BOOKS, the first entitled SHE’S MINE was published on 18th August 2021 in ebook and 26th August in paperback. THE LOYAL FRIEND was published by Hera Books on 23rd June 2022 in paperback and ebook and on 26th June in audio with Saga Egmont. In June 2022 Alex signed a deal with Hera Books for three more psychological thrillers. The first of these, THE FINAL PARTY, will be published on May 25th 2023.

Besides being an avid reader, she enjoys fitness, films, anything Italian and a good margarita!



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