Friday, October 17, 2014

All Change (Volume 5 in the Cazalet Chronicles) by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Hardback:  572 pages.
Genre: Womens Fiction.
Publisher: Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2013

Source: Tywyn Public Library.
First Sentences: 'Not long now.' 'Duchy, darling!' 'I feel quite peaceful.' The Duchy shut her eyes for a moment: talking - as did everything else - tired her.
Review Quote: ‘Elizabeth Jane Howard is one of those novelists who shows, through her work, what the novel is for . . . She helps us to do the necessary thing – open our eyes and our hearts’ Hilary Mantel.
My Opinion: It was like meeting up with old friends.

In the early 1990's Elizabeth Jane Howard published the first four volumes of 'The Cazalet Chronicles' and they were a treat to read. Even after a gap of 14 years since Volume 4 'Casting Off' was published it was like meeting up with old friends to read the final volume.  I had always wondered how the Cazelets would survive in the new order of things after the Second World War. This final volume in the series covers two years in the fifties and reminds us just how much life changed for families like the 'Cazelets' after the war. A great swansong from a much loved author.

'All Change' begins nine years after 'Casting Off' ended and as the Duchy, beloved matriarch of the family dies in the opening pages. Her death means a huge change for the family as she was the last part of the disappearing world of huge family houses with many servants and oodles of tradition. A lifestyle that most can no longer retain in the nineteen fifties. For her children, Hugh, Edward, Rachel and Rupert there is no doubt that life is never going to be the same again. Now in their fifties and sixties they are going to struggle in the modern world. It is the women that maybe face the greatest challenges, as the new generation of Cazalets meet at the family residence 'Home Place' to discuss the future and how it will impact on all of them, male or female, family or servant, young or old.

If you enjoy a family chronicle then this is one for you. No problem if you have not read the first four volumes, as there is a foreword which gives the reader unfamiliar with the series an excellent précis of the storyline.

Author Profile

Courtesy of  Independent Newspaper 

Elizabeth Jane Howard was born in London, England on 26th March 1923 and she died on January 2nd 2014 in Suffolk, England. Before becoming her novelist she had careers as an actress and a model, Between the years 1942 and 1983 she had three marriages. She had a daughter Nicola with her first husband, the Naturalist Sir Peter Scott and a stepson Martin from her third marriage to Sir Kingsley Amis.

She is best known for the series of books telling of the changing fortunes of an upper-middle-class English family, the Cazalets, before and after the Second World War. The first four books in the Cazalet Chronicles - The Light Years (1990), Marking Time (1991), Confusion (1993) and Casting Off (1995) were all written and published close together. The final volume being released just a year before her death earlier this year. Established as modern classics they have been adapted for a BBC television series and in2012 for BBC Radio 4. In 2002 Macmillan published her autobiography,Slipstream, that same year she was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

A full list of her works can be found here

Her obituaries published in the Daily Telegraph and The Independent in January 2014 make interesting reading. 

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing.

Daily Telegraph      Wikipedia - Elizabeth Jane Howard   The Independent   

Amazon - Elizabeth Jane Howard

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Flavours of Love by Dorothy Koomson

Hardback: 440 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction.
Publisher: Quercus 2013
Source: Tywyn Public Library.
First Sentence: 
 Prologue: 'Are you going to tell the police?' she asks
Review Quote: 
'Another moving and thought-provoking read, this lives up to expectations' Cosmopolitan.

My Opinion: psychological thriller of a tale with plenty of twists and turns to keep you thinking.

It was in 2010 that I last read any novels by Dorothy Koomson, I did not rate either of them very highly, probably why I still have some of her titles sitting on my bookshelves unread. Having now read ' The Flavours of Love' I need to look at them again. Yes this was better than anticipated I am glad I decided to give this author another try. After all the ones I read previously were written over ten years ago and writers do change their writing style over the years, like us all they are maturing.  My introduction to her writing had been back in 2006 when I read and enjoyed My Best Friend's Girl, maybe it was a mistake to add her back catalogue to my wishlist at that time. Never mind her writing has taken a change of direction and is now classed as 'emotional thrillers' so she is back on my reading list and The Flavours of Love did not disappoint me. 

The Flavours of Love deals with how the protagonist Saffron copes with becoming a widow after the murder of her husband. It is eighteen months since her husband was murdered and she has decided to finish writing a cookbook that he had been working on when he died. Through past and present we gradually learn what was and in fact still is going on in her family's life life, all is not as it seems. Both she and her daughter are keeping secrets that may well ruin their lives, but of course the truth will come out in the end. How though? That is for me to know and you to find out when you read the novel for yourself.

psychological thriller of a tale with plenty of twists and turns to keep you thinking. Recommended to fans of this genre, although rather different from Sophie Hannah I think it may well appeal if you enjoy her novels.

This is a great radio interview about the novel with Dorothy Koomson.

I have read three of Dorothy Koomson's earlier novels and reviewed two of them on this blog. 

The Cupid Effect and The Chocolate Run  The first one I read was from 2006 My Best Friends Girl was reviewed on Bookcrossing.

Author Profile

I have taken the liberty of using the authors own words and photo below from her website. The only thing she does not tell us is when she was born although I did discover it was in 1971.


Posted on April 18, 2012
Hello, my name’s Dorothy Koomson and I’ll try to make this bit that’s all about me as interesting as possible.
I wrote my first novel called There’s A Thin Line Between Love And Hate when I was 13. I used to write a chapter every night then pass it around to my fellow convent school pupils every morning, and they seemed to love it.
I grew up in London and then grew up again in Leeds when I went to university. I eventually returned to London to study for my masters degree and stayed put for the following years. I took up various temping jobs and eventually got my big break writing, editing and subbing for various women’s magazines and national papers.
Fiction and storytelling were still a HUGE passion of mine and I continued to write short stories and novels every spare moment that I got. In 2001 I had the idea for The Cupid Effect and my career as a published novelist began. And it’s been fantastic. In 2006, third novel, My Best Friend’s Girl was published. It was incredibly successful – selling nearly 90,000 copies within its first few weeks on sale. Six weeks later, it was selected for the Richard & Judy Summer Reads Book Club and the book went on to sell over 500,000 copies. Oh, there I go again, this is meant to be about me, not my novels.
Okay, back to me. I recently spent two years living in Sydney Australia, and now I’m back in England, living on the south coast and still writing books.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing.

Dorothy Koomson - Official Website   Amazon - Author Profile  Goodreads - Author Profile

Facebook Page - Dorothy Koomson    You Tube Interview    Wikipedia Profile   Twitter Profile

Friday, September 19, 2014

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Paperback: 422 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Random House 2013
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentences: Well, I must say, I didn't think for a minute you'd be called something earthy like Jim! The Barbour and natty waistcoat in your profile photo make you look more like a Rupert or a Henry, something serious with two syllables, you know!
Review Quote: "Compelling. possibly the author's best yet. An intensely moving study of grief and family relationships, this is also a fantastically gripping story with a couple of powerful shocks." (Hello!)
My Opinion: A pleasant read involving complicated relationships and believable characters

Lisa Jewell is an author whose name I was familiar with, so when this title was selected as a Book Club read I checked to see what other titles I have read by her. Surprisingly just three over a period of two years in the mid noughties before I started writing reviews.

This was a pleasant read involving complicated relationships and believable characters about a family that has kept a dark secret for years. Everything unravels when the family are forced to return altogether to the family home one Easter. The four children, Meg, Beth, Rory and Rhys had all grown up with memories of an idyllic childhood in the cottage in the country with its rambling garden. Something happened during that period of their lives that they all pushed to the back of their minds, although the event still manages to almost unobtrusively come between them. They are about to discover the truth about a family tragedy.

It is one of those novels where if one says too much the story is spoilt and as I do not believe in spoilers, this all I am going to say. Sorry but some reviews in my opinion are in danger of completely ruining the element of surprise, which is surely what reading a good book is all about!

 Fans of contemporary fiction are bound to enjoy this one, especially if they are already fans of this author.
 I will probably pick up her new book The Third Wife to read having enjoyed this one.

Author Profile

Lisa Jewell was born 19th July 1968 in Middlesex, London. She was educated at St. Michael's Catholic Grammar School in Finchley, North London, leaving school after one day in the sixth form to do an art foundation course at Barnet College followed by a diploma in fashion illustration at Epsom School of Art and Design. 
She worked in fashion retail for several years, namely Warehouse and Thomas Pink.
After being made redundant, Lisa accepted a challenge from a friend to write three chapters of a novel in exchange for dinner at her favourite restaurant. Those three chapters were eventually developed into  Ralph's Party, which then became the UK's best selling début novel of 1999. See below for her list of published novels.

Lisa Jewell now  lives in Swiss Cottage, London with her husband Jascha and daughters Amelie Mae (born 2003) and Evie Scarlett (born 2007).


  • Ralph's Party (1999)
  • Thirtynothing (2000)
  • One Hit Wonder(2001)
  •  A Friend of the Family (2004)
  • Vince and Joy (2005)
  • 31 Dream Street (2007)
  • The Truth About Melody Browne (2009)
  • After The Party (2010)
  • The Making Of Us (2011)
  • Before I Met You (2012)
  • The House We Grew Up In (2013)
  • The Third Wife (2014)

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing.

Goodreads - Author Profile    Lisa Jewell - Facebook Page  Lisa Jewell on Twitter   

Author - Amazon Page

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Before The Fall by Orna Ross

eBook: 416 KB, Paperback has 231 pages.
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Publisher:  Font Publications (27 February 2012).
Source: The author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
First Sentence: Here comes Useless John skulking up the road.
Review Quote:  SUNDAY INDEPENDENT: "A highly ambitious, engaging and evocative novel and a hauntingly captivating read."
My Opinion: Love and grief intertwined with mystery.

It worked well reading this immediately after finishing 'After The Rising' 'After the Rising' as it follows on with events in Mucknamore seamlessly continuing the modern day (1995) story of Jo Devereux, who is still in Ireland researching into the family history and trying to deal with her feelings for her old love Rory O'Donovan.

As in the first volume of the trilogy the storyline jumps between locations and generations. Continuing the family dramas, though this time concentrating more on the characters of Peg and Norah and what happens to them in the 1920's. Besides being set in Ireland the contemporary part of the story also takes the reader to the USA where AIDS was starting to take a hold when Jo first went to live there in the 1980's. 
As Jo comes to understand exactly what freedom cost the families and how the past has haunted three generations, she realises that once can never truly break free from family.
There is so much love and grief intertwined with mystery, which if you have read the previous volume I do not think you can fail to be moved by. 

Just like the first volume this is written in a flowing expressive style and left me knowing a little more about Irish history. Still looking forward to reading the third title in the trilogy, recommended to fans of historical fiction. 

Author Profile

Orna Ross (Aine McCarthy) was born in Waterford, Ireland but is now living in London. She writes novels, poems, non-fiction and she also blogs about creative writing living. She has a dedicated belief in the power of the published word to transform and liberate. When she's not writing, you'll probably find her reading.

Orna has been published by Attic Press and Penguin, but she now publishes her own work. She is founding author & Director at 'The Alliance of Independent Authors',  for which she has been named "one of the 100 most influential people in publishing" by The Bookseller magazine.

ORNA SAYS: (Reproduced from her Amazon Profile)

"My NOVELS usually take the form of family-based dramas. Often they are historical fiction and usually there's a murder mystery or other buried secret from the past causing chaos in the present. I enjoy writing emotional twists and surprises around big themes -- identity, family loyalty, truth, sex and death, the struggle between freedom and belonging.

My POEMS are simple and accessible and tend towards the inspirational. I think everyone should read a poem a day (keep a poetry book in the bathroom is my advice).

My NONFICTION is about applying the creative process to everything in life. We've all been educated to neglect our creative capacities -- a big mistake, as the Creative Age overtakes the Information Age. Thankfully, like any other muscle, creative ability is strengthened by being flexed and used. The 'Go Creative!' books show how to become more creative.

ORNA'S INSPIRATIONS: (Reproduced from her Amazon Profile)

1: HISTORY: I agree with Mr Hartley that the past is, indeed, another country and it's my favourite place to travel -- reading and writing historical fiction is my favourite thing to do. I'm especially drawn to bohemian times and places where shackles are thrown off and creativity flourishes -- fin de siecle Paris (1890s); literary revival and revolutionary Ireland (1910/20s); hippy (1960s) and gay lib (1980s) San Francisco...

2: GENDER: I write the kind of women's fiction that explores what it is to be a woman, in various times and places. But I think both men and women have feminine and masculine dimensions. We are all seeded by man and born of woman and we all carry 'male' and 'female' characteristics. How these play out, in an individual life and in different societies, is endlessly fascinating to me.

3: IRELAND: I don't only write about Ireland but it is a strong influence. Because so many millions have emigrated from there, its stories reach beyond its own shores. There is always a particular flavour to Irish writing and readers tell me they experience in my books too.

4: THE SEA: Everything I really needed to know, I could have learned by watching the waves.

5: THE SPACE BETWEEN THE WORDS. About which the less said, the better.

How Orna got her writing name and more interesting biographical details can be found in the about me section on her website.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing.

Author Goodreads Profile   Orna Ross - Twitter Profile    Amazon Author Page - Orna Ross

Orna Ross - Official Author Website   Orna Ross - Google Plus