Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North by Rachel Joyce



Hardback: 127 pages

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Publisher:  Doubleday 2022

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: It was too early for birdsong. Harold lay beside her, his hands neat on his chest, looking so peaceful she wondered where he travelled in his sleep.

Series: Book 3 in Harold Fry Trilogy.

Setting: England

Favourite Quote: These days it was all safe motorways and Uber. It was paying with your phone, and-lease keep your distance, not to mention podcasts, milk made of oats and meat made of plants, and everything streamed online.

Review Quote: A beautiful novella ... with compassion and tenderness ... the novel's conclusion is deeply moving and life-affirming. -- Hannah Beckerman ― Observer Published On: 2022-10-09

My Opinion:  A slim volume, but nevertheless this is a forceful and moving finale to Rachel Joyce’s trilogy featuring Harold and Maureen Fry. It is not absolutely necessary to have read the earlier two, but it may well add to your enjoyment and understanding of this concluding volume if you have done so.

Maureen Fry is the protagonist this time and it is her turn to take an emotional journey. Maureen’s grief caused by the death of her son many years previously is still festering away inside her. Deciding to lay her ghosts to rest she embarks on her own journey. She is nothing like her husband in character, therefore the trip is a real challenge for her, she certainly has to face her demons along the way.

This touching narrative of personal grief is told with humour, which will have you laughing but will also bring tears to your eyes.  Well worth reading.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

Ten years ago, Harold Fry set off on his epic journey on foot to save a friend. But the story doesn't end there. Now his wife, Maureen, has her own pilgrimage to make.

Maureen Fry has settled into the quiet life she now shares with her husband Harold after his iconic walk across England. Now, ten years later, an unexpected message from the North disturbs her equilibrium again, and this time it is Maureen's turn to make her own journey.

But Maureen is not like Harold. She struggles to bond with strangers, and the landscape she crosses has changed radically. She has little sense of what she'll find at the end of the road. All she knows is that she must get there.

Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North is a deeply felt, lyrical and powerful novel, full of warmth and kindness, about love, loss, and how we come to terms with the past in order to understand ourselves and our lives a little better. Short, exquisite, while it stands in its own right, it is also the moving finale to a trilogy that began with the phenomenal bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and continued with The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.

This is a slender book but it has all the power and weight of a classic.

Author Profile:         

Rachel Joyce

                                                          Courtesy of Goodreads 

Rachel Joyce was born in London in 1962. She has written over 20 original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and major adaptations for both the Classic Series, Woman's Hour and also a TV drama adaptation for BBC 2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play. She moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, and Cheek by Jowl, winning a Time Out Best Actress award and the Sony Silver.

For a full profile visit her Website

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Goodreads Profile   Rachel Joyce - Official Website   Instagram Profile

Amazon Book Page

Sunday, December 18, 2022

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell


                                                    Book Cover

Hardback: 438 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Tinder Press, Headline Publishing Group 2022.

Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentence: Lucrezia is taking her seat at the long dining table, which is polished to a watery gleam and spread with dishes, inverted cups, a woven circlet of fir.

Favourite Quote: “Sadness keeps attempting to tie weights to her wrists and ankles, therefore she has to keep moving, she has to outpace it.” 

Review Quote: 'Her narrative enchantment will wrest suspense and surprise out of a death foretold' Financial Times

Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2022)

Setting: Italy

My Opinion:  I have been a fan of Maggie O'Farrell's writing for over twenty years! Beautifully descriptive literary prose and cleverly woven storylines that have never disappointed me as a reader. In her latest novel ‘The MarriagePortrait’ she has taken the historic real life characters, Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara and his first wife Lucrezia de Medici, Duchess of Ferrara and woven the storyline around their short marriage of just three years.

The retelling of this true story of the untimely death of the young duchess Lucrezia, which may have been, according to history, at the hands of her husband is an evocative read. One becomes immersed in the Italy of the C16 with the descriptions that Lucrezia gives us of her lifestyle.

Maggie O’Farrell in her renowned descriptive style of writing has turned this sad episode from history into a literary and readable story. Certainly one of my favourites for this year and therefore, highly recommended.  

Previous Reviews:   Hamnet.   Instructions for a Heatwave

Precis Courtesy of Goodreads:

I thought I had made myself clear. I want something that conveys her majesty, her bloodline. Do you understand? She is no ordinary mortal. Treat her thus.' 

Florence, the 1560s. Lucrezia, third daughter of Cosimo de' Medici, is free to wander the palazzo at will, wondering at its treasures and observing its clandestine workings. But when her older sister dies on the eve of marriage to Alfonso d'Este, heir to the Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: Alfonso is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father to accept on her behalf.

Having barely left girlhood, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appears before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?

As Lucrezia sits in uncomfortable finery for the painting which is to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court's eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferrarese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, her future hangs entirely in the balance.

Author Profile

                                                     Photo courtesy of Wikipedia 

Maggie O'Farrell was born on 27th May 1972 in Coleraine, Northern    Ireland. She is married to the author William Sutcliffe and they live in Edinburgh with their three children.



  • I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death (2017)

For Children

  • Where Snow Angels Go, Walker Books, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (2020)
  • The Boy Who Lost His Spark, Walker Books, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (2022)

Photograph and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

 Goodreads - Author Profile    Amazon Author Profile  Facebook - Maggie O'Farrell

Maggie O'Farrell - Official Website.   Wikipedia - Maggie O'Farrell

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena



Paperback:  452 pages

Genre: Crime Thriller, Murder Mystery

Publisher: Penguin Paperback 2022

Source: My own bookshelf

First Sentences: There are many expensive houses, here in Bracken Hill, an enclave of Aylesford, in the Hudson Valley.

Setting: North of New York, USA

Favourite Quote: “But all fairytales are tinged with darkness.” 

Review Quote: Dramatic, tense and satisfying murder mystery ― My Weekly

Literary Award: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Mystery & Thriller (2021)

My Opinion:  I read this as it was a recommended Richard and Judy Bookclub choice. As I have not read anything else by this author I was not sure what to expect, so a little disappointed as expecting a psychological thriller, incorrectly, as it is a ‘whodunit’.

The very unhappy, mainly unpleasant and dysfunctional Merton family, three adult children and their partners get together for their annual Easter Sunday dinner with their parents at the family home, which does not go well. The next day the housekeeper finds the elderly parents brutally murdered and the children are all prime suspects. The protagonists, though all are unlikeable, are well portrayed and the various scenarios, motives and alibis will certainly keep you guessing.

A quick read and worth while picking up if you are a fan of the genre. 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets - even the dead.

In the quiet, wealthy enclave of Brecken Hill, an older couple is brutally murdered hours after a tense Easter dinner with their three adult children. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you'd know.

Wouldn't you?

Author Profile:         

                                         Shari Lapena                      

                              Photo Courtesy of Goodreads Profile                                                                        

Shari Lapena is a Canadian novelist born in 1960, she was formerly a lawyer and a teacher before becoming an author.

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

Goodreads Profile   Amazon Author Page  Shari Lapena - Facebook Page

Shari Lapena - Official Website   Instagram Profile    Twitter Profile

Monday, December 5, 2022

A Lady's Guide to Fortune Hunting by Sophie Irwin



Hardback: 337 pages

Genre: Historical Romantic Fiction 

Publisher: Harper Collins 2022

Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: 'You're not going to marry me?' Miss Talbot repeated disbelievingly.

Favourite Quote: “There was nothing hesitant about the kiss, nothing uncertain. It was as if they'd both read the script beforehand and had—all along—simply been waiting for the cue.” 

Setting: 1818, London, England

Review Quote: 'Charming, witty and infectiously exuberant...absolute perfection. I only wish it hadn't ended!' Santa Montefiore

My Opinion:  It was not until I finished reading this novel that I discovered the author had written a university dissertation on Georgette Heyer. This did not come as a huge surprise as I found 'A Lady's Guide to Fortune Hunting' to be very reminiscent of the novels of Georgette Beyer, of whom I was a great fan in my late teens.

Kitty Talbot the novels female protagonist feels like a 21C heroine in this period novel as she makes no real effort to hide her search for a rich husband to save her and her sisters from financial ruin. As a person she might easily have come across as mercenary, but in fact turned out to be vulnerable and I loved her character. Despite Lord Radcliffe giving her such a hard time in her quest, the love-hate relationship between them makes the novel so animated.

Though maybe a little predictable, this Regency Romance was a pleasure to read. As a debut novel it has been a great success with fans of historical romantic fiction and has already been sold in 35 countries worldwide. Recommended for fans of the genre, Sophie Irwin is going to be an author to watch, bringing a fresh approach to historical romance.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. This is 1818 after all, and only men have the privilege of seeking their own riches.

With only twelve weeks until the bailiffs call, launching herself into London society is the only avenue open to her, and Kitty must use every ounce of cunning and ingenuity she possesses to climb the ranks.

The only one to see through her plans is the worldly Lord Radcliffe and he is determined to thwart her at any cost, especially when it comes to his own brother falling for her charms.

Can Kitty secure a fortune and save her sisters from poverty? There is not a day to lose and no one—not even a lord—will stand in her way...

Author Profile:         


Photo Courtesy of Twitter                                                                         

Sophie Irwin grew up in Dorset before moving to south London after university. She has spent years immersed in the study of historical fiction, from a dissertation on how Georgette Heyer helped win World War Two, to time spent in dusty stacks and old tomes losing herself in Regency London while researching this book. Her love and passion for historical fiction bring a breath of fresh air and a contemporary energy to the genre, and Sophie hopes to transport readers to a time when ballrooms were more like battlegrounds.

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

Twitter Profile   Sophie Irwin - Instagram  Goodreads Profile  Amazon Author Page