Guest Review: Suitcase of Dreams – Tanya Blanchard

 

Suitcase of Dreams

Suitcase of Dreams

Tanya Blanchard

Simon & Schuster AU

ISBN: 9781925596168

Description:

From the bestselling author of The Girl from Munich, a sweeping, dramatic tale of love and identity, inspired by a true story.

After enduring the horror of Nazi Germany and the chaos of postwar occupation, Lotte Drescher and her family arrive in Australia in 1956 full of hope for a new life. It’s a land of opportunity, where Lotte and her husband Erich dream of giving their children the future they have always wanted.

After years of struggling to find their feet as New Australians, Erich turns his skill as a wood carver into a successful business and Lotte makes a career out of her lifelong passion, photography. The sacrifices they have made finally seem worth it until Erich’s role in the trade union movement threatens to have him branded a communist and endanger their family. Then darker shadows of the past reach out to them from Germany, a world and a lifetime away.

As the Vietnam War looms, an unexpected visitor forces Lotte to a turning point. Her decision will change her life forever . . . and will finally show her the true meaning of home.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Arriving at Bonegilla, the migrant camp in rural Victoria near the NSW border, after the long sea voyage from Germany on the Skaubryn, Lotte Drescher and her husband Erich, plus daughters Greta and Johanna, were excited but nervous about their future in Australia. Their life was beginning anew; it was 1956 and they were filled with hope.

But life wasn’t easy – Erich struggled to find a job after their arrival in Sydney. His qualifications as an engineer weren’t recognized in Australia and he had to re-study if he wanted to follow that course. The family’s lack of funds made that option unavailable, at least for the time being. But eventually, after much struggle, trauma and heartache, Erich was working from home as a wood carver – following in his father’s footsteps. And Lotte was fulfilling her heart’s desire of being a photographer. They were happy.

Until subtle – and not so subtle – innuendos began to corrupt their lives. Erich’s position in the trade union movement and his determination to help other migrants was beginning to endanger his family. And with the Vietnam War about to draw Australia in, Erich and Lotte’s challenges were great. What would be the outcome in a future that was uncertain?

Book #2 in The Girl From Munich series by Aussie author Tania Blanchard was exceptional in my opinion. I loved the first, The Girl From Munich and Suitcase of Dreams didn’t disappoint. Based on the true story of the author’s grandparents, their arrival from Germany in 1956 to Bonegilla, and their stay in the Villawood hostel in Sydney, before their own living quarters and a job were found, I was fascinated but saddened at the hardships the family suffered. An excellent rendition of fact to fiction, I highly recommend Ms Blanchard’s follow up, Suitcase of Dreams but advise reading them in order of publication. 5 stars.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: The Desert Nurse – Pamela Hart

The Desert Nurse

The Desert Nurse

Pamela Hart

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733637568

 

Description:

Amid the Australian Army hospitals of World War I Egypt, two deeply determined individuals find the resilience of their love tested to its limits

It’s 1911, and 21-year-old Evelyn Northey desperately wants to become a doctor. Her father forbids it, withholding the inheritance that would allow her to attend university. At the outbreak of World War I, Evelyn disobeys her father, enlisting as an army nurse bound for Egypt and the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

Under the blazing desert sun, Evelyn develops feelings for polio survivor Dr William Brent, who believes his disability makes him unfit to marry. For Evelyn, still pursuing her goal of studying medicine, a man has no place in her future. For two such self-reliant people, relying on someone else for happiness may be the hardest challenge of all.

From the casualty tents, the fever wards and the operating theatres of the palace; through the streets of Cairo during Ramadan, to the parched desert and the grim realities of war, Pamela Hart, beloved bestselling Australian author of THE WAR BRIDE, tells the heart-wrenching story of four years that changed the world forever.

Brenda’s Review:

Sublime, captivating, heartbreaking, brilliant! These words and more describe Aussie author Pamela Hart’s latest novel. The Desert Nurse is set in the early 1900s when a young Evelyn Northey had just turned twenty-one and expected to receive her mother’s inheritance so that she could study in Sydney to become a doctor – a dream she’d held since she was thirteen years of age. But her father was a staid, old fashioned man, and although a doctor himself, refused to allow his daughter the same privilege. He would hold her money until she turned thirty, or until she married, in which case the money would become her husband’s…

Training with a friend of her father’s in the Taree Manning Base Hospital as a nurse was the best Evelyn could do. She was grateful beyond words for his help – and when she presented the certificate to her father and he ripped it up, she informed him she had another; she was also heading to Cairo as a nurse and there was nothing he could do to stop her. World War I had begun – doctors and nurses would be needed, and Evelyn was determined to do her bit.

As the Heliopolis Palace was turned into the 1st Australian General Hospital, patients began arriving from the disastrous Dardanelles campaign; some were walking wounded, others had shocking injuries. But Dr William Brent, although struggling with a weak leg from polio as a child, was a hard-working, doggedly determined and compassionate doctor, and with Sister Northey by his side, they often worked twenty hours straight in theatre, with barely a break.

Four years of blood, sweat and tears – of heartache and loss; of hope and fear. And feelings that grew, whether they wanted them to or not. What would be the outcome for Evelyn and William – for the many others affected by a horrific and unnecessary war?

Pamela Hart writes historical fiction with seeming ease. The words flow; the research is obvious; the pages turn themselves. I’ve loved her previous historical fiction novels, and this one didn’t disappoint. The cover is perfect for the story; the red-haired beauty is Evelyn to a tee – the background picture of the hospital tents on the front line as I imagined. I can’t recommend The Desert Nurse highly enough – 5 stars.

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read and review.

Post Script: Book of Colours – Robyn Cadwallader

The Book of Colours

The Book of Colours

Robyn Cadwallader

Harper Collins Australia

4th Estate

ISBN: 978 1 4607 5221 0

 

Description:

From Robyn Cadwallader, author of the internationally acclaimed novel The Anchoress, comes a deeply profound and moving novel of the importance of creativity and the power of connection, told through the story of the commissioning of a gorgeously decorated medieval manuscript, a Book of Hours.

 

London, 1321: In a small stationer’s shop in Paternoster Row, three people are drawn together around the creation of a magnificent book, an illuminated manuscript of prayers, a Book of Hours. Even though the commission seems to answer the aspirations of each one of them, their own desires and ambitions threaten its completion. As each struggles to see the book come into being, it will change everything they have understood about their place in the world. In many ways, this is a story about power – it is also a novel about the place of women in the roiling and turbulent world of the early fourteenth century; what power they have, how they wield it, and just how temporary and conditional it is.

 

Rich, deep, sensuous and full of life, Book of Colours is also, most movingly, a profoundly beautiful story about creativity and connection, and our instinctive need to understand our world and communicate with others through the pages of a book.

 

‘Cadwallader’s writing evokes a heightened attention to the senses: you might never read a novel so sensuous yet unconcerned with romantic love. For this alone it is worth seeking out. But also because The Anchoress achieves what every historical novel attempts: reimagining the past while opening a new window – like a squint, perhaps – to our present lives.’ Sydney Morning Herald

 

‘A novel of page-turning grace’ Newtown Review of Books

 

 

My View:

A fantastic read that has a Dickenson like bleakness juxtaposed against the passion and the colour of the limners for their craft; a black/grey existence versus illumination and colour, creativity, life.

 

In depth research, locations that leap of the page, characters and their circumstances that will touch your heart, this is a great read.

 

And there is a bonus for all art lovers/creators – each chapter is prefaced with a paragraph or two from a book that one of the character is writing about their craft “The Art of illumination.”  I appreciated every word.

 

 

 

 

I Think I Am Being Sent A Message

Over the past few weeks I have read 3 books; A Place to Remember, True Blue and the Book of Colours, (4 if you include the The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart with its gorgeous cover and flower art between the covers) that have spoken to me about art, painting, creativity and the therapeutic value of creativity. The universe feels like it is sending me a message, to say I have been inspired is an understatement – I cannot stop painting! And I am loving the process.

 

A Place to Remember True BlueThe Book of Colours

 

 

 

Post Script: A Place to Remember – Jenn J McLeod

A Place to Remember

 

A Place to Remember

Jenn J McLeod

Head of Zeus

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781786699923

 

Description:

A man loses five years of his life. Two women are desperate for him to remember.

 

Running away for the second time in her life, twenty-seven-year old Ava believes the cook’s job at a country B&B is perfect, until she meets the owner’s son, John Tate. At twenty, the fifth generation grazier is a beguiling blend of both man, boy and a terrible flirt. With their connection immediate and intense, they begin a clandestine affair right under the noses of John’s formidable parents.

 

Thirty years later, Ava returns to Candlebark Creek with her daughter, Nina, who is determined to meet her mother’s lost love for herself. While struggling to find her own place in the world, Nina discovers an urban myth about a love-struck man, a forgotten engagement ring, and a dinner reservation back in the eighties. Now she must decide if revealing the truth will hurt more than it heals…

 

 

My View:

A remarkable read! Jenn J McLeod has out done herself with this epic Australian family saga. Fantastic settings, family dramas that will wrench your heart, a little mystery and a compelling narrative. All that is left to say now, is, what’s next Jenn?

Guest Review: The Jade Lily – Kirsty Manning

The Jade Lily

The Jade Lily

Kirsty Manning

Allen & Unwin AU

ISBN: 9781760294793

Description:

In 2016, fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm, when her grandfather is dying. With only weeks left together, her grandparents begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century.

In 1939, two young girls meet in Shanghai, the ‘Paris of the East’: beautiful local Li and Viennese refugee Romy form a fierce friendship. But the deepening shadows of World War Two fall over the women as Li and Romy slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession and the desperate Shanghai Ghetto. Eventually, they are forced separate ways as Romy doubts Li’s loyalties.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. As she peels back the layers of their hidden lives, she begins to question everything she knows about her family – and herself.

A compelling and gorgeously told tale of female friendship, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage to shape us all.

 

Brenda’s Review:

It was 1938 and Romy Bernfeld was forced to flee Vienna with her parents after the Nazis began rounding up Jewish residents. Shanghai was a different city completely – bewildered and afraid, Romy found friendship with a neighbour, Li and her brother, while Romy’s mother was shattered and depressed. Her father, a doctor, began working at the local hospital. Gradually Romy found her way around the French Concession where they lived. But with the Japanese invasion, everything changed once again.

Alexandra Laird had returned to Melbourne, Australia to be with her Opa who was dying. It was 2016, and the thought of losing him devastated her – he and Oma (Wilhelm and Romy) had been there for her for as long as she could remember. Alexandra had no idea how she would cope when he was gone. Her transfer to Shanghai with work felt fortuitous – she could research her grandparents’ past while there. Oma had told her very little of what had happened during the war years.

But what would Alexandra find? Her search was frustrating, but as secrets came to light, she found more questions than answers…

The Jade Lily by Aussie author Kirsty Manning is my first by this author, and it won’t be my last! A thoroughly enjoyable historical fiction novel which was set mainly in Shanghai, with the narration in two timelines by both a young Romy and Alexandra; I couldn’t put it down. Heartbreaking, filled with hope, a lifetime of friendship, and masses of courage, The Jade Lily is one I highly recommend – 5 stars.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my uncorrected proof to read and review.

 

Guest Review: Coming Home to Island House – Erica James

Coming Home to Island House

 

Coming Home to Island House

Erica James

Orion

ISBN: 9781409159605

Description:

The captivating new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Erica James.

It’s the summer of 1939, and after touring an unsettled Europe to promote her latest book, Romily Temple returns home to Island House and the love of her life, the charismatic Jack Devereux.

But when Jack falls ill, his estranged family are called home and given seven days to find a way to bury their resentments and come together.

With war now declared, each member of the family is reluctantly forced to accept their new stepmother and confront their own shortcomings. But can the habits of a lifetime be changed in one week? And can Romily, a woman who thrives on adventure, cope with the life that has been so unexpectedly thrust upon her?

 

Brenda’s Review:

Romily Temple returned home to Island House after her tour of Europe, where she was promoting her latest crime novel, to discover her new husband and greatest love, Jack Devereux, gravely ill. Jack’s best friend, lawyer Roddy Fitzwilliam was tasked with sending messages to Jack’s estranged family, calling them home, where Jack hoped to make amends for his mistakes of the past.

The necessity was that siblings Hope, Kit and Arthur, plus their cousin Allegra, were to spend a week together at Island House, getting to know one another once again, and to forgive the issues that had driven them all apart those many years ago. Could they do it? There would be a lot of adjusting to be done, and with war imminent, change was happening…

Romily was an adventurous spirit; probably one of the reasons Jack had fallen in love with her – but was she up to the sudden change in her life?

Beautifully written historical drama, Coming Home to Island House is my first by author Erica James, and won’t be my last! Set between August 1939 and December 1940, WWII impacted heavily on the characters, as well as past grievances, forgiveness and love. I was completely enthralled by this novel, which was both heartbreaking and heartwarming and I have no hesitation in recommending this 5 star read highly. I’d like to thank Maggie for the recommendation as well 🙂

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read and review.