Guest Review: There Was Still Love – Favel Parrett

 

There Was Still Love

Favel Parrett

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733630682

Description:

The profoundly moving new novel from the critically acclaimed and Miles Franklin shortlisted author of PAST THE SHALLOWS and WHEN THE NIGHT COMES. A tender and masterfully told story of memory, family and love.

Prague, 1938: Eva flies down the street from her sister. Suddenly a man steps out, a man wearing a hat. Eva runs into him, hits the pavement hard. His hat is in the gutter. His anger slaps Eva, but his hate will change everything, as war forces so many lives into small, brown suitcases.

Prague, 1980: No one sees Ludek. A young boy can slip right under the heavy blanket that covers this city – the fear cannot touch him. Ludek is free. And he sees everything. The world can do what it likes. The world can go to hell for all he cares because Babi is waiting for him in the warm flat. His whole world.

Melbourne, 1980: Mala Li ka’s grandma holds her hand as they climb the stairs to their third floor flat. Inside, the smell of warm pipe tobacco and homemade cakes. Here, Mana and Bill have made a life for themselves and their granddaughter. A life imbued with the spirit of Prague and the loved ones left behind.

Favel Parrett’s deep emotional insight and stellar literary talent shine through in this love letter to the strong women who bind families together, despite dislocation and distance. It is a tender and beautifully told story of memory, family and love. Because there is still love. No matter what.

Brenda’s Review:

What an utterly divine, beautifully written novel There Was Still Love is by Aussie author Favel Parrett. Moving, profound, I’m blown away by this book. I loved the author’s previous novels, and this one is exceptional.

Set in Prague in 1938 and 1980, and Melbourne in 1980, it tells Eva and Mana’s stories and that of their grandchildren. Ludek lives in Prague with his Babi while his mother is a long way away working, and Mala Li ka lives in the tiny Melbourne flat with her grandma and grandpa. Love; the past; the present – all link together as there was still love; always.

Although There Was Still Love is a work of fiction, the author has drawn from the lives of her grandparents, showing the kindness and love which was always present. A very memorable book which is told mostly in the voices of the two children, and which I have no hesitation in recommending highly. The cover is beautiful, with the fox having special meaning. 5 stars

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

 

Guest Review: Cross my Heart – Pamela Cook

Cross My Heart

Pamela Cook

Wildwords Publishing

ISBN: 9780648523505

 

Description:

When a promise kept means a life is broken…a haunting story of guilt, redemption and friendship that will have you turning pages well past bed-time.

When a promise kept means a life is broken …

Tessa De Santis’s child-free marriage in inner-city Sydney is ordered and comfortable, and she likes it that way.

When tragedy strikes and her childhood friend Skye Whittaker dies, Tess is bound to honour a promise to become foster-mother to Skye’s ten-year-old daughter, Grace, throwing her life upside down.

Leaving her husband and work-driven life behind, Tess travels to an isolated property where the realities of her friend’s life – and death – hit hard. The idyllic landscape and an unexpected form of therapy ease her fears, and her relationship with Grace begins to blossom.

But a secret from her earlier life with Skye refuses to remain hidden, and Tess is forced into a decision that will either right the wrongs of the past, or completely destroy her future.

Cross My Heart is a haunting story of guilt, redemption and friendship set in the beautiful central west of New South Wales.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Exceptional; outstanding! Cross My Heart by Aussie author Pamela Cook goes straight onto my favourites list for 2019!

Tess and Josh had been married for five years and lived the high life in Sydney, both career oriented and working long days. Tess had arrived home from Los Angeles where she’d been for work when she found the letter which would change her life forever. Tess’ best friend from school days was dead, her ten-year-old daughter Grace an orphan. But it was the promise that Tess had made to Skye when Grace had been born that was sending chills down her spine. Tess was Grace’s legal guardian; Tess who had no children; Tess and Josh who didn’t want children to disturb the lives they lived…

With the advice from a psychologist friend ringing in Tess’ ears, she and Grace left Sydney and headed for the only home Grace had known. Leaving her business in the reliable hands of her 2IC and a disgruntled Josh to head for his overseas commitment, Tess’ jitters and uncertainty accompanied them the whole way, through the Blue Mountains and on to the small town of Weerilla, where they found the isolated cottage that had been Skye and Grace’s home. But would returning home help Grace through her grief? Would it enable Tess and Grace to bond; to form a friendship – a relationship of sorts?

Cross My Heart is an emotional, heart wrenching but uplifting novel on grief, friendship, love, secrets and commitment that I dare anyone to read and not have a lump in their throat and tears in their eyes! Pamela Cook’s first 4 books (which I’ve loved) were in the rural category and Cross My Heart is a contemporary novel which she has mastered with ease. A fabulous read which I have no hesitation in recommending highly. 5 stars.

With thanks to the author for my signed ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Other Half of Augusta Hope – Joanna Glen

The Other Half of Augusta Hope

Joanna Glen

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

The Borough Press

ISBN: 9780008314163

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in.

At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.

 

And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.

 

When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown. She’s determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?

 

 

My View:

Intelligent, poignant, insightful, lyrical…this is a remarkable read.

 

This is a story, well actually two stories, that are the same but oh so different; modern England family life juxtaposed against lives in a war torn refugee camp.  A story of isolation, of family, of identity, of violence, of death and coming home….Beautifully imagined and executed, heartbreakingly poignant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Lying Room – Nicci French

The Lying Room

Nicci French

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781471179242

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

Neve Connolly looks down at a murdered man.

She doesn’t call the police.

 

‘You know, it’s funny,’ Detective Inspector Hitching said. ‘Whoever I see, they keep saying, talk to Neve Connolly, she’ll know. She’s the one people talk to, she’s the one people confide in.’

 

A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things.

 

She has also made mistakes; some small, some unconsciously done, some large, some deliberate. She is only human, after all. But now one mistake is spiralling out of control and Neve is bringing those around her into immense danger. She can’t tell the truth. So how far is she prepared to go to protect those she loves? And who does she really know? And who can she trust?

 

A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things.

Could she be a murderer?

 

 

My View:

Extraordinarily twisty!

 

There was a point in this read (no spoilers here) when I was chilled to the bone, the unthinkable was looking like the answer… I had to stop and wait a day or two to pick the book back up … more twists but my fear was unfounded … a deliciously wicked red herring… this is such a twisty read.

 

Nicci French you have once again delivered a masterfully written read. How does this duo do it? It is flawless in its delivery and outstanding in its relevance to family, relationships and everyday life.

 

The relationship between parent and child is a standout for me. The murder – not so every day. J

Read, be thrilled and enjoy.

 

Review: The Confession – Jessie Burton

The Confession

Jessie Burton

Pan Macmillan Australia

Picador

ISBN: 9781509886159

RRP $29.99

Description:

The sensational new novel from the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse.

 

One winter’s afternoon on Hampstead Heath in 1980, Elise Morceau meets Constance Holden and quickly falls under her spell. Connie is bold and alluring, a successful writer whose novel is being turned into a major Hollywood film. Elise follows Connie to LA, a city of strange dreams and swimming pools and late-night gatherings of glamorous people. But whilst Connie thrives on the heat and electricity of this new world where everyone is reaching for the stars and no one is telling the truth, Elise finds herself floundering. When she overhears a conversation at a party that turns everything on its head, Elise makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever.

 

Three decades later, Rose Simmons is seeking answers about her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who withdrew from public life at the peak of her fame, Rose is drawn to the door of Connie’s imposing house in search of a confession …

 

From the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse, this is a luminous, powerful and deeply moving novel about secrets and storytelling, motherhood and friendship, and how we lose and find ourselves.

 

PRAISE FOR THE CONFESSION

‘Dazzlingly good. The Confession is that rare thing: an utterly engrossing novel which asks big questions without ever once losing sight of the storyteller’s need to entertain and move. I turned the final pages in tears and I know already I shall return to it again and again. Without doubt one of the best novels of recent years.’

Elizabeth Day, author of The Party and How To Fail

‘I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in a long time . . . I lost myself in the story, not wanting to come up for air. A bold, intelligent, wonderful novel’ Sarah Winman, author of Tin Man

‘Burton is asking important questions in The Confession – questions about motherhood, art and creativity, love, friendship – and in doing this, she has created three utterly fascinating characters. Connie, Elise, and Rose are complicated; complex in ways that women are so rarely allowed to be in literature, demanding that their stories be heard. This is a beautiful novel and one that will stay with me for a very long time’ Louise O’Neill, author of Only Ever Yours

‘an absorbing, intelligent piece of storytelling’ Guardian

 AUTHOR INFORMATION

Jessie Burton is the author of the Sunday Times number one and New York Times bestsellers The Miniaturist and The Muse, and the children’s book The Restless Girls. In its year of publication The Miniaturist sold over a million copies, and in 2017 it was adapted into a major TV series for BBC One. Her novels have been translated into thirty-eight languages, and she is a regular essay writer for newspapers and magazines. She lives in London.

 

My View:

I finished reading this last night – OMG!!!

 

This is such a sublime read full of emotional intelligence and elegant prose – I just wanted to highlight paragraphs and paragraphs – because of the skilled use of language AND because of the many astute revelations about life’s journey.

 

The narrative is engaging; a bit of mystery, a lot of coming of age, of learning to love oneself and live in the moment not the future, about acceptance, family, identity… this book has so much to offer.  READ IT! 10 stars!!!

Review: The Gift of Life – Josephine Moon

The Gift of Life

Josephine Moon

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143791997

 

Description:

You’ve been given the gift of life, now go live it.

 

Gabby McPhee is the owner of The Tin Man, a chic new cafe and coffee roasting house in Melbourne. The struggles of her recent heart transplant are behind her and life is looking up – until a mysterious customer appears in the cafe, convinced that Gabby has her deceased husband’s heart beating inside her chest.

 

Krystal Arthur is a bereaved widow, struggling to hold herself and her two young boys together since Evan’s death, and plagued by unanswered questions. Why was her husband in another city the night he died? And why won’t his spirit rest?

 

Krystal is convinced that Gabby holds the clues she needs to move towards a brighter future. Gabby needs Krystal to help her let go of her troubled past. The two women must come together to try to unlock the secrets in Evan’s heart in order to set free their own.

 

By the internationally bestselling author of The Chocolate Promise, this is a profound and moving novel about the deeper mysteries of love and loss – and the priceless gift of life.

 

My View:

A fabulous read – engaging, informative, and poignant.

 

This is a very moving narrative; organ donation is subject that has recently received deserved attention in the media and despite that increased attention there seems to be so much more that is needed to be done.  https://donatelife.gov.au/about-donation/get-facts/facts-and-statistics   What I really enjoyed about this story was hearing the unique voice of the character who is a recipient – each day a gift but with that gift are so many caveats.

 

Then there is the mystery.

 

This is a very engaging read; life is exposed in all its fragile beauty – difficult, tiring, exasperating, frustrating, challenging, worthwhile, exhilarating, loving and precious.  Themes of family, friendship, love, loss, grief and second chances dominate this read. Josephine Moon has written characters that you will genuinely care about wrapped in a narrative that is complex and discusses many contemporary issues.

 

 

 

 

Review: Allegra in Three Parts – Suzanne Daniel

Allegra in Three Parts

Suzanne Daniel

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781760781712

RRP$29.99

 

Description:

From Suzanne Daniel comes an outstanding debut novel, capturing 1970s Australia with warmth, humour and a distinctive voice. I can split myself in two . . . something I have to do because of Joy and Matilde. They are my grandmothers and I love them both and they totally love me but they can’t stand each other. Eleven-year-old Allegra shuttles between her grandmothers who live next door to one another but couldn’t be more different. Matilde works all hours and instils discipline, duty and restraint. She insists that Allegra focus on her studies to become a doctor. Meanwhile free-spirited Joy is full of colour, possibility and emotion, storing all her tears in little glass bottles. She is riding the second wave of the women’s movement in the company of her penny tortoise, Simone de Beauvoir, encouraging Ally to explore broad horizons and live her ‘true essence’.

And then there’s Rick who lives in a flat out the back and finds distraction in gambling and solace in surfing. He’s trying to be a good father to Al Pal, while grieving the woman who links them all but whose absence tears them apart. Allegra is left to orbit these three worlds wishing they loved her a little less and liked each other a lot more. Until one day the unspoken tragedy that’s created this division explodes within the person they all cherish most. Suzanne Daniel is a journalist and communications consultant who has also worked for ABC TV, the Sydney Morning Herald, the United Nations, BBC (London) and in crisis management and social services. For the past twenty years she has served on community, philanthropic and public company boards. Suzanne lives in Sydney with her husband and family. Allegra in Three Parts is her first novel.

 

My View:

I am sitting here in my flares, a recent “op shop” purchase, I love flares, I am searching for the musical references mentioned in this novel; I love the music of the seventies.

At the time (the 70’s) I was too young to appreciate that I was growing up female in the middle of the Women’s movement, the liberation. The movement was happening around me and I largely benefited from the struggles of my peers. Helen Reddy’s powerhouse song “I am Woman” was the anthem we all sang. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rptW7zOPX2E

But I digress. I am meant to be reviewing Allegra in Three Parts – and in a     roundabout way I am.

Allegra in Three Parts has many story arcs – the Women’s Liberation movement being one of them; the setting up of women’s safe houses/refuges from family violence, the challenge of attaining equal pay and conditions, education for women, the harnessing of trade unions to improve work conditions…so much more is introduced to us by the characters of grandmothers Joy and Mathilde. Joy is at the forefront of the movement, with her Liberty Club. Mathilde clearly feels that education and a good job are the key to a woman’s success and independence and she is determined that Allegra will have those opportunities. They both want the best life possible for Allegra.

 

Suzanne Daniel also creates a space here to discuss the role of fathers in family and in particular as role models for their daughters when we are introduced to Rick – Allegra’s father. As the narrative progresses his influence on the family and Allegra increases – in a positive way.

 

The characters of Rick and the grandmothers are great devices to open up discussion surrounding grief, loss and resilience.

 

There are so many more social issues subtly probed in this novel – so gently are they introduced that you hardly are aware of the lessons being shared; on racism, multiculturalism, on being different, of bullying, of class and privilege…

 

More than issues this is a book about growth and healing, forgiveness, families and love and the importance of being loved.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omrGB4HgjEg

 

“There’s no formula for happiness that’s guaranteed to work

It all depends on how you treat your friends and how much you’ve been hurt

But it’s a start, when you open up your heart

And try not to hide, what you’re feeling inside

Just open up your heart.”  (p249, ‘Open Up Your Heart’ G W Thomas)

 

I loved this book!