Wednesday, February 1, 2023

French Braid by Anne Tyler



Hardback:  244 pages

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Chatto and Windus 2022

Source:  Tywyn Library

First Sentences: This happened back in March of 2010, when the Philadelphia train station still had the kind of information board that clickety-clacked as the various gate assignments rolled up.

Setting: Maryland, U.S.A.

Favourite Quote: “Oh, a French braid,” Greta said. “That’s it. And then when she undid them, her hair would still be in ripples, little leftover squiggles, for hours and hours afterward.” “Yes…” “Well,” David said, “that’s how families work, too. You think you’re free of them, but you’re never really free; the ripples are crimped in forever.” 

Review Quote: 'Exquisitely crafted, tender, hilarious, devastatingly precise, I loved this powerful meditation on the small and often unvoiced moments that can make up a life' RACHEL JOYCE

My Opinion:  Anne Tyler is a prolific American author whose books I have been enjoying for over twenty years. Her literary style is appealing and her characters usually feel very relatable, this latest novel is no exception.

‘French Braid’ tells the story the Garrett family over several decades unto and including the recent Covid Pandemic.  A short novel considering the period it covers but it works perfectly as she shares with us the highs and lows of family life. With well developed characters the reader feels compassion for the complexities of the emotional ties that both bind and split families. The author has cleverly turned the mundane into a compelling tale of family dynamics.

Highly recommended as parts of this novel will probably resonate with many of us. For that reason alone it is well worth reading.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

The major new novel from the beloved prize-winning author -- a brilliantly perceptive, painfully true and funny journey deep into one family's foibles, from the 1950s right up to the changed world of today.
When the kids are grown and Mercy Garrett gradually moves herself out of the family home, everyone determines not to notice.
Over at her studio, she wants space and silence. She won't allow any family clutter. Not even their cat, Desmond.
Yet it is a clutter of untidy moments that forms the Garretts' family life over the decades, whether that's a painstaking Easter lunch or giving a child a ride, a fateful train journey or an unexpected homecoming.
And it all begins in 1959, with a family holiday to a cabin by a lake. It's the only one the Garretts will ever take, but its effects will ripple through the generations.

Author Profile:         

                                                   Anne Tyler

                                                     Courtesy of Goodreads

Her interesting profile can be read in full on Wikipedia

Anne Tyler (born October 25, 1941) is an American novelist, short story writer, and literary critic. She has published twenty-four novels, including Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982), The Accidental Tourist(1985), and Breathing Lessons (1988). All three were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and Breathing Lessons won the prize in 1989. She has also won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, the Ambassador Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2012 she was awarded The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence. Tyler's twentieth novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015, and Redhead By the Side of the Road was longlisted for the same award in 2020. She is recognised for her fully developed characters, her "brilliantly imagined and absolutely accurate detail" her "rigorous and artful style", and her "astute and open language."

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Goodreads Profile Page.    Anne Tyler - Facebook Page.   Wikipedia Profile.

Amazon Author Page

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Letters From the Past by Erica James



Hardback: 508 pages

Genre: Romantic Fiction, Family Saga, Historical Fiction,

Publisher: Orion 2020

Source:  Tywyn Library

First Sentences: Out in the garden Evelyn Devereux could hear ringing from inside the house. with an energetic step, she dashed up the lawn, assuming it was one of the children calling to say which train they would be on.

Setting: Suffolk, England

Review Quote: 'A captivating read: beautifully written and heartrendingly sad' Daily Telegraph

My Opinion:  As a long time fan of the author I had been looking forward to reading this sequel to  Coming Home to Island House. Letters From the Past is a heart rending story with the return of an extensive cast of characters.

The reader catches up with the extended Devereux family nearly twenty years later in the early sixties. Every characters story is told with flashback chapters to the war years. Erica James does a skilful task of bringing everything together in such a way that makes for an absorbing read. Poison Pen letters received by various family members bring all sorts of issues and secrets to light, causing much trouble and stress.

To be honest although it is not necessary to have read the previous novel, it will add to your enjoyment if you have done so. I am now left wanting to know what happens to all the characters next, another volume maybe? Recommended to fans of the author and those readers that love a family saga.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

Suffolk, 1962. The Devereux family are gathering for a party, and a series of anonymous letters are about to turn the sleepy village of Melstead St Mary upside down . . .

Evelyn is preparing to celebrate her 20th wedding anniversary, but there are secrets she's never told her beloved husband, Kit. Secrets that stretch back to her wartime days at Bletchley Park . . .

For Hope, her sister-in-law, happiness has never come easily, and the letter she receives could destroy her fragile world. While, up at Melstead Hall, Julia has discovered that life she married into comes at a heavy price.

And halfway across the world, the indomitable Romily is longing for home. But with the Devereux family under threat, she finds herself confronting her own closely guarded secret. Can she save the day, and seize her own chance of happiness?

From the gorgeous Suffolk countryside to the sun-baked desert of Palm Springs, let Erica James sweep you away...

Author Profile:         

                                               Erica James holding her novel, Gardens of Delight in one hand, and the Romantic Novelist of the Year award in the other hand.    

                                                           Courtesy of Authors Website

In the author's own words from her website.

I grew up on the south coast of England with never a thought in my head as a child that I would one day be an author. But somehow, I’m now the author of twenty-four bestselling novels, with recent Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers including Swallowtail Summer, Coming Home to Island House, Letters from the Past, and Mothers and Daughters.  With sales of over five million around the world, including a No. 1 in Norway, I’m told that my books are loved by readers looking for beautifully drawn relationships, emotionally powerful storylines and evocative settings. 

In 2006 my novel Gardens of Delight won the Romantic Novel of the Year award and in 2020 I received the Nielsen Silver Award for sales of over a quarter of a million copies for both Love and Devotion and Tell it to the Skies. 

I live in Suffolk and travel as often as time permits to see my eldest son and his family in the US and my youngest son in Japan.

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Erica James - Official Website.   Erica James - Twitter.  Instagram - Erica James

Goodreads Author Profile  Erica James - Amazon Author Page.  Erica James - Facebook

Monday, January 23, 2023

Daughters of War by Dinah Jefferies



Hardback: 538 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Harper Collins 2021

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: If only it was late summer, and she could smell the sun-soaked scent of fir and spruce and be able to stand and watch the finches and starlings flitting between the branches. Her optimism might have outweighed the claustrophobic sensation of life leaning in, of ancient lichen-covered stone houses enclosing her as she walked through the village and the light began to fail.

Setting: Dordogne, France 1944

Series: Daughters of War (#1)

Review Quote: ‘A warm and engrossing tale of passion and courage. I loved it’ Rachel Hore, author.

My Opinion: Dinah Jefferies is a favourite author of mine, she has the skill of transporting the reader to locations that come alive on the page.’Daughters of War’ is the first volume in a trilogy about three sisters. Set in 1944 in France it is all about their lives living in occupied territory during WWII.

The story is told from the different perspectives of the protagonists, three sisters, Helene, Elise and Florence. Living in difficult times, experiencing the terrors of occupation, Helene the eldest, tries to keep her sisters safe but it becomes increasingly difficult. The author has a very descriptive style of writing which I feel helps the reader  immerse themselves in the surroundings and know the characters. However, this also means that the horrors the girls witness are also hard hitting and emotional to read.

A captivating read with engaging characters that makes the reader realise just how devastating  life in such circumstances must have been. The sisters story continues in the next volume ‘The Hidden Palace’, which I am looking forward to reading soon having already requested from the library. Highly recommended to fans of historical WWII fiction.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

A  sweeping historical novel of World War II from the international bestselling author of The Tea Planter’s Wife
France, 1944. In an old stone cottage, on the edge of a beautiful French village, three sisters long for the end of the war.

Hélène, the eldest, is trying her hardest to steer her family to safety, even as the Nazi occupation becomes more threatening.
Elise, the rebel, is determined to help the Resistance, whatever the cost.
And Florence, the dreamer, just yearns for a world where France is free.

Then, one dark night, the Allies come knocking for help. And Hélène knows that she cannot sit on the sidelines any longer. But secrets from their own mysterious past threaten to unravel everything they hold most dear… 

Author Profile:         


                                                  Courtesy of Twitter Profile

Biography in her own words from her website

I was born in Malaysia but moved to the UK at the age of nine, going on to study fashion design, work in Tuscany as an au pair for an Italian countess, and live with a rock band in a commune in Suffolk.

A family tragedy changed everything, and I draw on the experience of loss in my writing, infusing love, loss, and danger with the seductive escapism of my locations. The sense of place, of history and of human nature is a heady mix in the novels.

Published in 29 languages in over 30 countries, I am currently writing an epic series for my new publisher Harper Collins (my 8th, 9th, and 10th novels) starting with Daughters of War set in 1944 in France (Sept  2021). I’ve always loved Italy but spent some years living in a tiny 16th Century village in Northern Andalusia, Spain. Now I’m delighted to have settled close to my family in the South West of England along with my husband and two enormous and very lovely Maine Coon cats.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Goodreads Author Profile  Twitter ProfileDinah Jefferies - Official Website

Amazon Author Page

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Good Servant by Fern Britton


Hardback: 539 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Harper Collins 2022

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: George VI is on the throne. The King, his wife and his two daughters enjoy great popularity.

Setting: United Kingdom

Review Quote: ‘The warmth and empathy that have made Fern Britton such a popular TV presenter are evident in her latest novel’ Woman’s Weekly

My Opinion: ‘The Good Servant’ is a fictionalised account of a true story. When the late Queen Elizabeth II and her sister were children, they had a much loved governess Marion Crawford. She taught them for many years and took her duties to the Royal Family very seriously. Yet she shocked the establishment in her retirement by selling her story, which was published as ‘The Little Princesses’

Fern Britton has taken the facts as they are known publicly and woven them into a story of ‘Crawfie’s’ life within the Royal Family.  Of course we will never know the full truth but it is a fascinating glimpse into her life during those years, until it all went horribly wrong. Was it her fault? In some ways yes, but Marion had thought she could trust certain people around her.

It certainly seemed an apt time to be reading this novel, with certain royals being so much in the news at present! Worth a read if you are interested in the monarchy and enjoy historical fiction.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

1932. Dunfermline, Scotland.
Marion Crawford, a bright, ambitious young teacher, is ready to make her mark on the world. Until a twist of fate changes the course of her life forever…

1936. Windsor Castle.
At first this ordinary woman is in a new world, working as governess to two young princesses, in a household she calls home but where everyone is at a distance. As the course of history changes, she finds herself companion to the future Queen, and indispensable to the crown. And slowly their needs become her needs. Their lives become hers.

It’s then she meets George, and falls in love for the first time. Now Marion faces an impossible choice: her sense of duty or the love of her life.

Author Profile:         

                                                   No photo description available.

                                                  Courtesy of Facebook Profile

About Fern Britton in her own words from her Amazon Author Page

 I am an English television presenter and journalist who has worked in current affairs and Newsrooms since 1980. In the 1990's I hosted Ready Steady cook for the BBC and through the 2000's presented ITV's flagship daytime magazine This Morning.

Since then I have discovered the joy of writing novels. The Good Servant is my tenth novel. A breakaway from my usual theme of Cornish village life by the sea. The Good Servant focusses on a real woman who spent her twenties and thirties devoted to Princess Elizabeth ( Queen Elizabeth 2) and Princess Margaret as children, but ended up an outcast.

I live in Cornwall and have four children and three cats. I have a motorbike licence, a power boat licence and I make good roast potatoes.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Amazon Author PageGoodreads Author Profile  Fern Britton - Official Website

Facebook Profile  Twitter Profile