Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow

Paperback: 354 pages
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher: Avon, September 2012.
Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: 'Perhaps because death leaves so little to say, funeral guests seem to take refuge in platitudes.' He had a good innings ... Splendid send-off ... Very moving service ... Such beautiful flowers ... You are so wonderfully brave, Lilly.'
Review Quote: 'An evocative and engaging novel for fans of ' The Postmistress and Suite Francaise from back cover of paperback.
My Opinion: An enthralling read.

I had picked this book up at the local library as it sounded like a good read, when the very next day I came across an excellent newspaper article about how Liz Trenow got inspiration from her family background in the silk weaving industry. It is a fascinating article and inspired me to start reading the book at once and what an enthralling read it is. The historical setting in a silk mill during the Second World War is captivating and along with the romance and intrigue of the story, one also gains a fascinating insight into the history and production of silk. 

Narrated in the first person by the heroine of the tale Lily Verner, it is easy to immerse yourself in her story. Feeling emotional and with many things to think about Lily is at her husband's funeral as the novel opens. A week later whilst with her granddaughter, they come across something, which along with Emily telling her grandmother of her plans to do a parachute jump, triggers memories.  She drifts back to those long ago days and tells us the story of how thanks to the imminent start of WWII all her plans change and she finds herself unexpectedly working in the family silk factory. Life at the factory turns out to be far more inspiring than Lily had expected, also somewhat harrowing thanks to the war, although there is love amongst the sadness. 

In summary if you are looking for a romantic read that has plenty of poignancy and emotion then I think this is one you will enjoy.

Author Profile

Liz Trenow's family have been silk weavers for nearly three hundred years and she was born and brought up in a house next to the family silk mill. Her father and later her brother, went to work each day at the mill, silk therefore played a large part in her early life, though at the time she did not really appreciate this fact.

As a student she did a range of holiday jobs in the mill but, like Lily in The Last Telegram, the business held no real romance for her. What she really wanted was to become a journalist so, after a few years teaching skiing in Canada, she became one. Working in news and features for local and regional newspapers, as a news journalist for local radio and regional television, also at BBC Broadcasting House and Television Centre, before leaving to work in PR which had much more family-friendly working hours!  She now lives in Essex with her sculptor husband, and has two grown-up daughters.
The silk company has a long and distinguished history which had never been recorded, so I started to research it with the intention of writing a book, but work, marriage and family took precedence in my life and the research languished in a file. As her parents reached their eighties, she realised there might not be much time left, so started recording conversations with them, individually and together, about their extraordinary lives. During one of these conversations, her father mentioned that during the Second World War what kept the mill going were contracts to weave silk for parachutes, surgical dressings (silk has amazing antiseptic properties) and electrical insulation (plastic had not been invented). He also told me how tricky it had been getting the porosity of the fabric just right for parachutes. It was after learning these facts that the idea for a novel was born, but it was only after retiring from full-time work and taking an obtaining an MA in Creative Writing at City University London that she actually started writing her début novel 'The Last Telegram'

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Express - My family of silk weavers inspired me    Amazon Author Profile   Liz Trenow - Official Author Website    

Monday, March 11, 2013

One Moment,One Morning by Sarah Rayner

Paperback: 405 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Picador, 2010
Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: 'Lou is pretending to be asleep, but out of the corner of her eye she is watching the woman opposite put on her make-up.'
Review Quote: 'An intimate, thoughtful novel celebrating women's friendship and loyalty.' Waterstone's Books Quarterly.
My Opinion: A sad subject for a novel but Sarah Rayner carries it off.

Sarah Rayner is an author I have only recently come across and this is the first book I have read of hers. Impressed by this début novel I have already sourced a copy of her latest published last year 'The Two Week Wait'. The subject matter of this story is a sad one but the author carries it off with out becoming unduly sentimental and with good characterisations. The main themes of the novel are death, grief, alcoholism and sexuality, cleverly dealt with this made for a pleasurable read.  I also enjoyed the fact that the novel is set in Brighton, a city I am fond of and I felt the atmosphere of the place was expressed well in this novel.

Following the lives of three female protagonists over a period of just one week; starting with a terrible tragedy that links them together. Karen Finnegan is on an early morning train from Brighton to London, with her husband when tragedy strikes. So for Karen a period of learning to cope with a very different life to the one she is used to begins. The other two women are her best friend Anna who in supporting Karen realises that her own personal life is very unsatisfactory and that she needs to make some changes. Lou the third young women gains a whole new point of view on life through a chance encounter with Anna and via her getting to know Karen and being in a position to help both these grieving women. The descriptions of this period in these young womens lives are very plausible and at times quite moving.

If you can cope with a novel that tugs at your heart strings then this is definitely worth reading.

                     One moment with Sarah Rayner - You Tube Video                   

Author Profile

Sarah was born in London and spent her childhood years in Richmond, Surrey, becoming a punk with spiky hair. After studying English at Leeds University she returned to London and started a career in fashion PR.  Her boss suggested she was better at writing than impressing clients, suggesting she became an advertising copywriter. Taking his advice she then spent  ten years in various London agencies, before  turning freelance, got some short stories published by Woman’s Own, and for many years combined life as an author and copywriter.  Sarah and her partner Tom now live in Brighton along with her teenage stepson who joins them at  weekends.

One Moment, One Morning One Moment, One Morning, is fast approaching sales of 300,000 copies in the UK, and is currently being translated into 11 languages. She did publish earlier novels, The Other Half (Orion 2001) and Getting Even (2002), which have been fully revised and updated by the author and just republished by Picador as ebooks available on Amazon.
Sarah's latest novel, The Two Week Wait, was published in the summer of 2012. She calls this is a 'sister' novel rather than a sequel to One Moment, in that it features some of the same characters and is also set in Brighton, yet stands well alone. Ms Rayner is currently working on her fifth novel, which will continue the story of her Brighton-based characters.
You can find Sarah's website at http://www.thecreativepumpkin.com/ 

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Official Website for Author Sarah Rayner  Amazon Author Profile   Goodreads Author Profile

YouTube - One moment with Sarah Rayner

Monday, March 4, 2013

When In Rome by Nicky Pellegrino

Paperback: 276 pages
GenreContemporary Romantic Fiction
Publisher:  Orion 2012

Source:  Tywyn Library, Wales.
First Sentences: 'On every door there is a photograph. They show us as we used to be - not weathered or worn; not bent by age and nearly finished with life.

Review Quote:I LOVED this book so much I could hardly wait to get to the computer to type its praises. ... This book has inside-track glamour in spades and all the colour of La Dolce Vita-period Rome. ... An original subject and beautifully handled. Brava Nicky. (Wendy Holden DAILY MAIL )
My Opinion: I always enjoy drifting off to another world through the pages of a Nicky Pellegrino novel.  

 Nicky Pellegrino is an author I only discovered in the latter months of last year and this is already the third book of hers I have read. Surely a good recommendation in itself, she writes novels that I always enjoy drifting off to another world with. So far always set in my beloved Italy but each novel has portrayed a different Italian world. This time she transports us back to the romantic era of 1950's Rome with a story woven around a real life singer from the period Mario Lanza, with a story that she has obviously researched well.  If you know a little something about the life of this famous American- Italian tenor you probably already know it was a sad one.  

The female protagonist of the novel is Serafina, the eldest of three sisters that has grown up in a tiny apartment building in the centre of Rome. Their mother is a single parent and the four of them have learnt to get by on very little. When they can the three girls sing for money in the local piazzas so that they can buy cinema tickets to watch the matinee idols of the fifties on the big screen. Serafina has big dreams and one day with a great deal of luck, her path crosses that of her greatest idol  Mario Lanza.  She actually finds herself working as a personal assistant to his wife and this opens up a whole new outlook on the world for her. Will she be happy living in the world of her dreams or will she miss the world she is familiar with?
Although the novel is told from Serafina's perspective throughout it really is the story of Mario Lanza and his family. Wealthy and apparently wanting for nothing, but not all was as it seemed. It is interesting to compare the life of his families happy and sad times with those of Serafina's family who despite having nothing were still happy.

A novel for those italophiles that cannot resist another story set in Italy, fans of the author's writing, or indeed anyone interested in the life of Mario Lanza.

My earlier reviews for Recipe For Life  and The Italian Wedding

If you have time to watch this video it is an interesting introduction to the author.

    Author Talk : A Chance to Meet: Nicky Pellegrino

                                Courtesy of:dunedinlibraries

Author Profile

Image credit: New Zealand Woman's Weekly

Nicky Pellegrino's Italian father came to England and fell in love with a Liverpool girl which is where Nicky was born on the first of January 1964. Bringing his passion for food to his new family, his Italian mantra that you live to eat not eat to live is one of the inspirations behind Nicky's delicious novels. Now living in New Zealand, where she works as a journalist, Nicky hordes her holidays so she and her husband can return to Italy to see family, eat the best mozzarella and research her books.

When Nicky first started writing fiction it was her memories of childhood summers in Italy that came flooding back and flavoured her stories: the passions, the feuds but most of all the food.
She works as a freelance journalist, has weekly columns in the Herald on Sunday newspaper and the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly and her novels are distributed in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and have been translated into 12 languages.
She loves cooking for friends, drinking red wine, walking on New Zealand’s amazing beaches, riding her horse through the forest and lying in bed reading other people’s novels.

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   Nicky Pellegrino - Official Website   Nicky Pellegrino - Twitter