Monday, November 19, 2018

Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks

Paperback: 296 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Penguin, Random House 6th September 2018
Source: LoveReading Consumer Reader Review Panel Member
First Sentence: I was taking a pee in the bathroom when I caught sight of myself in the mirror.
Favourite Quote: I believed in the impact of previous existences on every day I was alive; in more excited moments I came to think that the membrane of death was semi-permeable.
Review Quote: The most impressive novelist of his generation’ Sunday Telegraph
Main Characters: Hannah and Tariq
Setting: Paris and Tangier
My Opinion: There is no doubt that Sebastian Faulks is a talented writer of literary fiction and I have at different levels enjoyed all the novels I have read by him. This one as the title Paris Echo hints at is full of the echoes of the history of Paris. The two main characters that meet quite by chance are from very different backgrounds, Hannah is an educated historian and aware young lady, whereas Tariq is her opposite a rather naive young man who knows nothing of the history of Paris. Immersing myself in their parallel stories was easy as through their voices and those of the people that Hannah was researching we learn how the dilemmas we live through reflect on our life choices. Recommended to anyone that is a fan of Sebastian Faulks writing or interested in history of the period as both people and place come alive as one reads.

I have read the majority of his novels, six of which I have previously reviewed, I am including the links to them for those of you that might be interested.

Devil May Care  Engleby   Human Traces  A Week in December  A Possible Life 

Where My Heart Used To Beat

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Here is Paris as you have never seen it before – a city in which every building seems to hold the echo of an unacknowledged past, the shadows of Vichy and Algeria.

American postdoctoral researcher Hannah and runaway Moroccan teenager Tariq have little in common, yet both are susceptible to the daylight ghosts of Paris. Hannah listens to the extraordinary witness of women who were present under the German Occupation; in her desire to understand their lives and through them her own, she finds a city bursting with clues and connections. Out in the migrant suburbs, Tariq is searching for a mother he barely knew. For him, in his innocence, each boulevard, Métro station and street corner is a source of surprise.

In this urgent and deeply moving novel, Faulks deals with questions of empire, grievance, and identity. With great originality and a dark humour, Paris Echo asks how much we really need to know if we are to live a valuable life.

Video Trailer for 'Paris Echo' Courtesy of YouTube/Waterstones

Author Profile:

Sebastian Charles Faulks CBE was born in Donnington, England on April 20th 1953  He is a novelist, journalist, and broadcaster who is best known for his historical novels set in France — The Girl at the Lion D'Or, Birdsong, and Charlotte Grey. He comes from an interesting family background as can be read in this biographical profile.
He is the son of Pamela (Lawless) and Peter Ronald Faulks, a Berkshire solicitor who later became a judge. He grew up in Newbury. His mother was both cultured and highly strung. She introduced him to reading and music at a young age. Her own mother, from whom she was estranged, had been an actress in repertory. His father was a company commander in the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, in which he served from 1939 to 1946. He saw action in Holland, France, Tunisia, Italy (at the Anzio landings), Syria and Palestine. He was wounded three times and awarded an immediate MC after an action against the Hermann Goering Parachute Troops in North Africa in 1942.
His maternal grandfather, Philip Henry Lawless, enlisted in the 1st Battalion, 28th county of London Regiment, otherwise known as The Artists' Rifles in 1914, and served in trench warfare on the Western Front until 1917, when he moved to the 26th Battalion Middlesex Regiment and finished the war in Salonika. He was decorated several times and received the Military Cross in 1918, the standard Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 1914 Star. He eventually left the Army and returned to work as a wine merchant - his father's original occupation.
His paternal grandfather, Major James Faulks (Major was his name, not a military rank) was an accountant who had previously worked as a schoolmaster at a private boarding school in Tunbridge Wells, while Major's provisions merchant father, William Robert Faulks, supplied dairy products in late Victorian Paddington.
Faulks' father wanted him to become a diplomat. He claims his first ambition was to be a taxi driver until at the age of fifteen, while reading George Orwell, he decided to become a novelist instead. In fact, he is the only member of his paternal family not to be a lawyer; his father and uncle were judges and his brother Edward is a QC specialising in medical negligence.
Faulks was educated at the fee-charging Wellington College and studied English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he won an open exhibition and to which he was elected an honorary fellow in 2007. He took a teaching job at the Dwight-Franklin International School after university while also moving into journalism, becoming a features writer for the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, and was recruited by the Independent as Literary Editor in 1986. He became the Deputy Editor of the Independent on Sunday before leaving in 1991 to concentrate on writing. He has been a columnist for The Guardian (1992-8) and The Evening Standard (1997-9).
He continues to contribute articles and reviews to a number of newspapers and magazines and to broadcast regularly. He wrote and presented the Channel 4 series Churchill's Secret Army, about the wartime Special Operations Executive (SOE), screened in 1999. Faulks is a team captain on BBC Radio 4's literary quiz The Write Stuff.
Faulks lives with his wife, Veronica (formerly his assistant at The Independent), and their three children William, Holly and Arthur . He works from his study in a top floor flat of a house near Holland Park Avenue, ten minutes from his home, starting work at 10am and finishing at 6pm, regardless of whether he is writing a book or not.
He was appointed a CBE in the Birthday Honours List 2002 for "services to Literature" and he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1994.
Faulks supports West Ham United. He writes about this in "Upton and Other Parks," a contribution to the 1990 football book Saturday's Boys.

An update of this Biography can be found on his Official Author Website

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

Amazon Author Page   Official Author Website    Sebastian Faulks - Facebook Profile

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

Paperback: 407 pages                                                                                              
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Windmill Books 2017
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: Prelude: If my friends hadn't decided that I should have a dog I would never have opened the gate and gone into the graveyard.
Favourite Quote: “Only a very few people leave traces in history, or even bequeath family documents to their descendants. Most have no money to memorialise themselves, and lack even a gravestone to mark their existence. Women's lives, in particular, remain largely unrecorded. But even so, did they not shape the future?”
Review Quote: 'This is the finest novel Helen Dunmore has written...From the start, Birdcage Walk has the command of a thriller...The novel's cast is marvellous and vivid...A novel that deserves to be cherished and to last'. Observer
Main Characters: Lizzie Fawkes, John Diner Tredevant
Setting: Bristol, England
Literary Awards: Walter Scott Prize Nominee for Longlist (2018)
My Opinion: A pleasant read with a very interesting sense of time and place. After reading the 'blurb' on the cover, I was at first confused as to why the 'prelude' was set in the modern day as a narrator introduces us to the background of the novel when they by chance find the grave of Julia Fawkes, in St Andrews Cemetery near Birdcage Walk. Reading on, one quickly realises that this was a stratagem to introduce us to the background behind the storyline. Although Julia Fawkes is fictional, in 1792 the period of the novel, Europe was in political upheaval and there would have been such women. The protagonist, Lizzie Fawkes marriage to a property developer is it seems full of impending doom, as she struggles to cope with her husbands dark side. This title has by some been considered as Helen Dunmore's finest novel, it was sadly her last as she herself explains in the afterword. ''The question of what is left behind by a life haunts the novel. While I finished and edited it I was already seriously ill, but not yet aware of this'' I cannot comment as I have only read one other novel by her and that was in 2008. This final novel as she died last year is loved by her many fans, she was known as an inspirational voice to others in the field of literature. A talented writer taken far too young. 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

It is 1792 and Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence.

Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism.

But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol’s housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect of war. Soon his plans for a magnificent terrace built above the two-hundred-foot drop of the Gorge come under threat.

Diner believes that Lizzie’s independent, questioning spirit must be coerced and subdued. She belongs to him: law and custom confirm it, and she must live as he wants.

In a tense drama of public and private violence, resistance and terror, Diner’s passion for Lizzie darkens until she finds herself dangerously alone.

Author Profile:

                                                   Photo Courtesy of  Caroline Forbes from 
                                                         British Council Literature

Helen Dunmore was born in Beverley, Yorkshire, on the 12th of December 1952, the second of four children of Betty (née Smith) and Maurice Dunmore. She studied English at York University, and lived in Finland for two years (1973–75) and worked as a teacher. She lived after that in Bristol. Dunmore was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL). Some of Dunmore's children's books are included in reading schemes for use in schools.

In March 2017, she published her last novel, Birdcage Walk, as well as an article about mortality for The Guardian written after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She died on 5 June 2017. Her final poetry collection Inside the Wave, published in April 2017 shortly before her death, posthumously won the Poetry and overall Book of the Year awards in the 2017 Costa Book Awards.

She is survived by her spouse Francis Charnley and children, Patrick, Tess and Ollie.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Helen Dunmore - Website   Helen Dunmore - Wikipedia     Amazon Author Profile

Helen Dunmore - British Council Literature     Goodreads Author Profile

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Gloriana by Oliver Richbell

Paperback:  90 pages                                                                                                
Genre: Novella Nostalgia Series, Thriller,
Publisher: City Fiction, September 2018
Source: The Publishers and author, in return for an honest and unbiased review.
First Sentence: The morning mist rose from the Thames like swirls of white candyfloss and as his jet-black chauffeur-driven car glided over Westminster Bridge, Sebastian Pennington was idly peering through the tinted windows watching the great unwashed shuffling along on the pavement.
Main Characters: Sir William Bretherinby, Clive Ferringsly QC, Brigadier General Xavier Llewellyn-Jones, Katherine MacStones, Philip Nicholson, Sebastian Pennington and Samantha Wyde.
Setting: London, England
My Opinion:Gloriana is the fifth title in the Novella Nostalgia series, the first four titles in the series were written by the author Tony Drury but 'Gloriana' which is inspired by the film 'Valkyrie' is a debut publication for Oliver Richbell.
I am not a fan of short stories or novellas and therefore rarely read or review any. However as Tony Drury and his colleagues have kindly sent the series to me for honest and unbiased reviews, I have read them! The series links iconic cinema classics with modern stories, though to be honest the former is rather wasted on me as though a fan of modern cinema I am not well up on the classics.

It may be coincidental that this title was published recently, but the timing is perfect as it is indeed very topical!

My opinion on novellas remains the same and although I enjoyed reading Gloriana I would have preferred it to be a full length novel. It just seemed to have got interesting to me when it ended! Still a worthwhile read, well written with good characterisation and despite only being ninety pages long it is an action packed roller coaster that feels dangerously realistic.

For those looking for quick reads, then of course I recommend not just this title but the entire series, Novella Nostalgia is certainly a name to look out for as more titles are added to the collection.

My reviews of the earlier titles in the series can be read here

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

A change must be made
Permanently removing The PM is the only way

This was the conclusion drawn by a band of conspirators intent on reversing what they saw to be the devastating result of the Brexit Referendum.
With the Middle Eastern Trade Agreement being signed that night the time for decisive action had arrived.
The plan had been calculated with military precision and when its leader declared “we go tonight” the accomplices were prepared to activate the Gloriana paper and to wrestle back the United Kingdom’s place in the European Union by assassinating The Prime Minister.

Author Profile:

Oliver was born in 1977 and qualified as a Solicitor in 2007. He worked in London for a litigation and sports law practice before a brief stint in two regional firms. In 2010 he married in his sweetheart and in 2014 he became a father. in 2015 Oliver took a leap of faith and formed his own dispute resolution consultancy. Oliver loves to write and has now achieved one of his many ambitions in life in becoming a published author. His first work, Gloriana, was published in September 2018 and inspired by the movie Valkyrie, Gloriana tells a story of a band of conspirators intent on assassinating The Prime Minister in the aftermath of the Brexit Referendum. Oliver's next work will be out in early 2019 and his first novel will be out soon thereafter.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following site.

Amazon Author Page - Oliver Richbell