Books and Bites Bingo That book you keep putting off: The Louvre by James Gardiner

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When it came to a book I keep putting off, it was hard. I usually don’t put a book off for the reasons many people do – it’s something they don’t want to explore yet, or something they’re being forced to read. For me, it came down to one that I had to put off because at the time, I had lots to get through for certain release dates, and this book came after the book itself was released. I often put books that arrive after release date off, unless it is for a blog tour. It helps me manage my schedule to work this way and ensures that I get through everything and get things done in time.

 

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The book that I chose for this category was The Louvre: The Many Lives of the World’s Most Famous Museum by James Gardner. When it arrived, I had lots to get through. Several books had arrived after release date, and I had many that were being released on the same day. As a result, I was trying to get through everything before it piled up too much. This was a fascinating exploration of the history of the Louvre – which started as a fortress, and evolved into a palace, and finally, the museum we know today, and was added to by a succession of French rulers and governments. Today it combines ancient and modern aspects for visitors and focuses on all aspects. It is dense and intricate – and has so much information, it is hard to condense it all here. If you’re interested in history, art, and architecture, it is a fascinating read.

Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser by Kate Bailey

alice curiouser and curiouserTitle: Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser
Author: Kate Bailey
Genre: Non-Fiction/Exhibition Guide
Publisher: V&A Publications
Published: 2nd July 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 224
Price: $79.99
Synopsis: Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a cultural phenomenon. First published in 1865, it has never been out of print and has been translated into 170 languages. But why does it have such enduring and universal appeal for both adults and children?

This book explores the global impact of Alice in Wonderland across art, design and performance from the nineteenth century to today. It shows how Alice has been re-imagined and reinterpreted by each new generation: from the original illustrations by John Tenniel to artwork by Peter Blake and Salvador Dali, and from the 1951 Disney movie to Tim Burton’s latest interpretation.

This beautiful, playful publication also includes specially commissioned interactive illustrations by award-winning artist Kristjana S. Williams, as well as quotes from an array of cultural creators from Stephen Fry to Tim Walker, Ralph Steadman to Little Simz about the profound influence of Alice on their work.

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Ever since the 1860s, Lewis Carroll’s beloved Alice stories – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its follow-up, Alice Through the Looking Glass, have captured the imaginations of readers and artists for over one hundred and fifty years. Originally told in episodic form, the Alice stories have been recreated in art, in writing, in movies and performance for as long as the books have been around, and as this study into the reception and retellings of Alice discusses, Lewis Carroll was not averse to these retellings, yet perhaps one of the things that can trip up those reimagining the stories is the episodic format, and how to make these flow into a singular narrative, or how to translate a story based around word usage into a performance like ballet that doesn’t use speech, but movement, to tell the story.

Alice has been part of the world collective consciousness for almost one hundred and sixty years, and there are many aspects that we know intrinsically: Wonderland, Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter – they all evoke an image for us – whether it is the Tenniel illustrations, the 1951 Disney animation and beyond – there is always something in our zeitgeist or knowledge that harkens back to Alice.

As this exhibition guide does, it tells us of the origins of Alice – stories that Lewis Carroll – Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – told to the Liddell girls on an afternoon boating trip while he taught at Oxford. These stories are full of nonsense, and the retellings work to use those aspects to their fullest extent.

The exhibition guide for Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser was set for the exhibition’s June 2020 to January 2021, however a quick perusal of the Victoria and Albert Museum website shows that the exhibition has been moved to 2021 due to the pandemic. But for those of us who cannot get to exhibit, this book offers access to the items on display – the new illustrations, the various interpretations and advertising, performances and fashion, and everything in between. It evokes a sense of wonder, and the nonsense that Lewis Carroll created, and that began the Golden Age of Children’s Literature, which saw a move away from the didactic nature of children’s books until the publication of the Alice books, which then saw a move into other well-known works.

The legacy of the Alice stories is also touched on, and how this has impacted the Liddell family. There are many facets to this story, and this exhibition and the accompanying guide bring some of the endearing and enduring aspects of Alice to life, and a quick Google search shows the many books surrounding Alice, Lewis Carroll and the multitude of editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, some of them coming out to coincide with the significant anniversaries over the past few years, and examining a variety of aspects of the legacy of Alice. This is one example of how Alice in Wonderland has become one of the most well-known works, never out of print since publication and a work that has inspired many interpretations and creations, and if travel were possible or if I lived in London, this would be an exhibit I would love to attend. I will settle for the exhibition guide, as it allows me to explore the story and exhibits from the comfort of my own home amidst a pandemic. It is a book to be treasured and revisited, to be dipped in and out of, or explored cover to cover. It combines the scholarly investigation, and the history of Alice, Lewis Carroll, and its journey of interpretations with the nonsensical and whimsical feel of the original and the way it has been interpreted. An excellent addition for fans of Alice in Wonderland. I loved this book, and will be revisiting it.

The Louvre: The Many Lives of the World’s Most Famous Museum by James Gardner

Title: The Louvre: The Many Lives of the World’s Most Famous Museum

Author: James Gardnerthe louvre

Genre: Non-fiction, History

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 2nd July 2020

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 416

Price: $39.99

Synopsis: A meticulously crafted, sparkling history of the legendary museum in Paris.

Almost nine million people from all over the world flock to the Louvre in Paris every year to see its incomparable art collection. Yet few, if any, are aware of the remarkable history of that location and of the buildings themselves, and how they chronicle the history of Paris itself – a fascinating story that historian James Gardner elegantly tells for the first time.

Before the Louvre was a museum, it was a palace, and before that a fortress. But much earlier still, it was a place called le Louvre for reasons unknown. People had inhabited that spot for more than 6,000 years before King Philippe Auguste of France constructed a fortress there in 1191 to protect against English soldiers stationed in Normandy. Two centuries later, Charles V converted the fortress to one of his numerous royal palaces. After Louis XIV moved the royal residence to Versailles in 1682, the Louvre inherited the royal art collection, which then included the Mona Lisa, given to Francis by Leonardo da Vinci; just over a century later, during the French Revolution, the National Assembly established the Louvre as a museum to display the nation’s treasures. Subsequent leaders of France, from Napoleon to Napoleon III to Francois Mitterand, put their stamp on the museum, expanding it into the extraordinary institution it has become.

With expert detail and keen admiration, James Gardner links the Louvre’s past to its glorious present, and vibrantly portrays how it has been a witness to French history – through the Napoleonic era, the Commune, two World Wars, to this day – and home to a legendary collection whose diverse origins and back stories create a spectacular narrative that rivals the building’s legendary stature.

~*~

Today we know The Louvre in Paris as a museum, the home of great artworks such as the Mona Lisa, yet its history is far more complex than that, and begin as a fortress, and moving through the Renaissance, the Revolution and the Napoleonic Age, shifts from the fortress to a lavish palace that is added to over several hundred years by each leader, until it became the museum that millions flock to today.

Prior to the building, it was a place known as le Louvre – inhabited for over 6,000 years – until King Phillipe Auguste built a fortress in 1191. James Gardner explores this history in detail, exploring the different stages of the Louvre, when they were built, why they were built and who instigated the designs and buildings, all the way up to modernity, and the evacuation of the treasures of the Louvre during the war years – a plan set in motion long before the war started as the growing presence of the Nazis converged on, and threatened Europe. These accounts are intriguing and chilling – they evoke a sense of what the Louvre has seen and experienced over the years, a sense of history that is perhaps not always considered when people visit or think about the Louvre.

Nine hundred years of French history is explored here – giving life to the museum and city – and the role that the Louvre plays in the life and history of Paris, now and throughout history. It is only a fraction of Parisian and French history, but it is a part of the history that has perhaps had great influence on Paris and France, and influenced what people see in the city and museum.

Most people attend the Louvre to see certain things or because it is a popular tourist attraction – that is the face and the surface of the Louvre. Dig a bit deeper, and you will see that is has lived a rich and deep life. A life that is complex and troubled, but also extravagant and lavish – many lives that have contributed to what it has become today and what it is now known as.

The history is as interesting as the museum. This book is dense and detailed, yet it is accessible to those who wish to know more, and uses images of the museum and the collections to tell the story alongside the words – this works well as it allows the two mediums to work together and evoke a sense of what the Louvre is, what it was and what it may become in the future.

I took time to read this book, getting to know the Louvre and all its history – it is detailed and accessible, and shows that the history behind what we know is often times more complex than what we may know or what we are told – that there is often more below the surface than what we are shown or told about something. We can apply this to many things – too many to list here but the impact will always be the same. History is always more detailed and more complex than some sources lead us to believe, and being open to what has been hidden, or simply not told, or in the case of the Louvre, not widely known, is something that historians should be open to.

An intriguing read and one that history buffs and art lovers will find fascinating.

 

Evie and Pog: Party Perfect by Tania McCartney

Evie and Pog Party PerfectTitle: Evie and Pog: Party Perfect
Author: Tania McCartney
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 20th April 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 144
Price: $12.99
Synopsis:
In the bestselling tradition of Ella and Olivia, comes a further book in a new series for early readers about best friends, Evie and Pog.
High in a tree house live two very best friends. Evie and Pog. A girl and a dog.
Evie is six years old. She likes reading and baking and rolling on the daisy-spot grass.
Pog is a pug. He is two and likes to drink tea and read the newspaper. He also likes fixing things.
But most of all, Evie and Pog love to have fun – especially at parties! Join them for three further adventures – Book Parade, Art Show Muddle and Party Time!

~*~

Each Evie and Pog story begins with the same six lines with some rhyming, that introduces us to Evie and Pog, the pug. It then launches into the story – the book parade, where Evie and Granny work hard to create a celebrations costume – but they have to keep it a secret from Pog! In Art Show Muddle, Evie and her friend, Noah, are painting a picture when a litter of kittens wreaks havoc, and in Parry Time, Evie feels like her plans for her grandmother’s birthday are going to be overshadowed by what everyone else wants a party for.

The stories are filled with fun and love, and memorable characters: Mr Arty-Farty, Miss Footlights, Noah, Granny, and of course, Evie and Pog, all of whom come together to create a wonderful community and series of stories for readers aged six and older, who have enjoyed and do enjoy the Ella and Olivia books by Yvette Poshoglian.

AWW2020Like Ella and Olivia, Evie and Pog is aimed at the stage of readership that is just starting to read alone, but who still like to be read to or read with someone. The three short novels in each book are interlinked – through the characters and references to what has come in the previous story. This made it delightful to read, and ensured that readers will remain engaged with both the words and the illustrations created by Tania McCartney, which work together to tell the stories within this new Evie and Pog book.

This was my first adventure with Evie and Pog, after hearing about it on various podcasts and in my reading groups. I found it very easy to slip into this world, and it was filled with fun and art, books and humour – Evie is a fabulous character who brings words and crafting together in a fun and delightful way for readers to engage with Evie and the stories, and see a variety of interests celebrated – knitting and reading are celebrated a lot in the stories, showing how fun and awesome these hobbies are.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to readers aged six and older looking to expand their vocabulary as they learn to read.

Venus and Aphrodite: History of a Goddess by Bettany Hughes

venus and aphroditeTitle: Venus and Aphrodite: History of a Goddess

Author: Bettany Hughes

Genre: Biography, History, Non-Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 12th November 2019

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 242

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A vivid history of the ancient goddess Venus by the bestselling historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes

Through ancient art, evocative myth, exciting archaeological revelations and philosophical explorations Bettany Hughes shows why this immortal goddess endures through to the twenty-first century, and what her journey through time reveals about what matters to us as humans.

Charting Venus’s origins in powerful ancient deities, Bettany demonstrates that Venus is far more complex than first meets the eye. Beginning in Cyprus, the goddess’s mythical birthplace, Bettany decodes Venus’s relationship to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, and, in turn, Aphrodite’s mixed-up origins both as a Cypriot spirit of fertility and procreation – but also, as a descendant of the prehistoric war goddesses of the Near and Middle East, Ishtar, Inanna and Astarte. On a voyage of discovery to reveal the truth behind Venus, Hughes reveals how this mythological figure is so much more than nudity, romance and sex. It is the both the remarkable story of one of antiquity’s most potent forces, and the story of human desire – how it transforms who we are and how we behave.

~*~

Many gods and goddesses from various religions and myth cycles from all over the ancient world have not only fascinated people throughout the decades and centuries, but often have many counterparts. Aphrodite and Venus are two such goddesses – the same goddess from two different societies, who have gone from Greek  to Roman origins, and have been found in other incarnations in other Near East or Middle Eastern ancient cultures where they have evolved and changed as the society has needed them in their pantheon of gods and goddesses in polytheistic religions that either pre-date or run concurrently with the monotheistic religions we associate with the modern equivalents of those places.

Bettany Hughes explores the Grecian and Roman sides of the same goddess – Aphrodite and Venus, and her role in art and the pantheon, and how she came to be in each tradition, and how this influenced arts, stories and other narratives and characters throughout history.

Venus-Aphrodite is a figure that is more than nudity, romance and sex. Like many gods and goddesses, she has many more roles and layers to her, and what she brings to mythology and the understanding of humanity and human emotion. This history adds to our understanding of a goddess who is often reduced to what she is known to represent and stand for in mythology, rather than the complexities behind what she does.

Rather than justify her actions throughout the various myth cycles, Bettany Hughes explores these as part of the history of Venus-Aphrodite and how she has been represented, and what this has meant in how she is viewed and builds on this with layers and complexities.

This is an intriguing book for anyone interested in antiquity, and especially women and their role in antiquity, which is only going to build on our understanding of women and their role in the ancient world. It will help bring to life these myths in a new and exciting way.

The Artist’s Portrait by Julie Keys

Artists Portrait.jpgTitle: The Artist’s Portrait

Author: Julie Keys

Genre: Mystery/Literary/Historical

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 26th March 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 290

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: A story about art, murder, and making your place in history.

Whatever it was that drew me to Muriel, it wasn’t her charm.

In 1992, morning sickness drives Jane to pre-dawn walks of her neighbourhood where she meets an unfriendly woman who sprays her with a hose as she passes by. When they do talk: Muriel Kemp eyes my pregnant belly and tells me if I really want to succeed, I’d get rid of the baby. 

Driven to find out more about her curmudgeonly neighbour, Jane Cooper begins to investigate the life of Muriel, who claims to be a famous artist from Sydney’s bohemian 1920s. Contemporary critics argue that legend, rather than ability, has secured her position in history. They also claim that the real Muriel Kemp died in 1936.

Murderer, narcissist, sexual deviant or artistic genius and a woman before her time: Who really is Muriel Kemp?

~*~

The Artist’s Portrait moves between the early nineties and the first three decades of the twentieth century, up until 1936 – when a woman named Muriel Kemp is said to have died. Yet in 1992, Jane, on an early morning walk as she tries to combat morning sickness, encounters the long-presumed Muriel Kemp, whose abrasiveness somehow draws Jane in, and from there, an unlikely companionship forms – where Muriel constantly criticises Jane, as Jane begins to write Muriel’s biography as Muriel would like it to be written – on her own terms, in her words and only including what Muriel herself wishes to be in it.

The novel weaves between 1992-1993 in Jane’s perspective, and the first decades of the twentieth century in Muriel’s perspective – both told in first person. At first, this was a little confusing, but it became clear that the change in voice often coincided with the year or decade that was at the top of the chapter, thus making it easier to follow with both voices in first person.

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The mystery at the heart of this book is the true identity of Muriel Kemp, and whether or not she actually died in 1936. The trick for Jane in 1992-3 is getting those who rely on the official record to believe her. Mixed in with this is a story of the world of art and the ways in which gender could impact the role someone had in that world, and the breaking free of conventions to forge your own way in the world.

Where art critics and historians tell Jane that Muriel Kemp’s legend has secured her notoriety more than her artistic talent and her triptych paintings, and the mystery of the post-1936 paintings are relegated by the official archives as fakes, rumour – anything but the real thing, and even credited to a different Muriel. So, at the heart of the novel is a search for identity and the how a myth is created around a person, and the lengths people will go to deny anything that contradicts what they know.

Not everything I felt was revealed in this novel – some things are definitely left to the imagination, particularly when it comes to Muriel, and others are revealed slowly, likely peeling back the layers of an onion. It is a very layered novel, and one I found intriguing, and think is worth the read for those who like a mystery where not everything feels wholly resolved and bits left to the imagination of the reader.

Booktopia

Beauty in Thorns Revisited – And Stepping into the World of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in Canberra.

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In 2017, I was lucky enough to be approached by Penguin Random House to review Kate Forsyth’s book, Beauty in Thorns, the story of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and in particular, William Morris (Topsy), Ned Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the women who inspired them:  Janey Burden, Lizzie Siddal, and Georgie MacDonald, and in the final section, Georgie and Ned’s daughter, Margot. Ned, Dante and William used the women in their lives as models for their paintings based on myths, literature and fairy tales – amongst other themes. Some of the most famous paintings by these artists feature in the story, and it opens with John Everett Millais painting one of the most well-known Pre-Raphaelite works, Ophelia, based on a character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

BeautyinThorns_Cover

Kate Forsyth is my go-to author, the one I will always read and devour within days – her adult, young adult and children’s fiction. Beauty in Thorns focusses on the stories of the women – and how they affected the art, what they themselves created, and why they created what they did. The men still have a role and voice, but it is Lizzie, Janey, Georgie and Margot whose voices are at the front and centre of the novel. The intricate links between all these people and those who come in and out of their lives, end in tragedy in some cases, but happiness in others. The art they created was seen as radical for their time, and Kate Forsyth hints at this when the artists discuss progress and reviews and shows. Reading this the first time was magical, but when I found out that a selection of the paintings were going to be shown in Canberra, I knew I wanted to see them – and not just as images on a screen or in a book (though I did buy the guide and a book of Christina Rossetti’s poetry), and we headed down for a few days.

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Ophelia, by John Everett Millais, featuring Elizabeth Siddal.

Starting from many paintings I was unfamiliar with, I saw the progression of subject matter, from the everyday themes, to modern life, faith, truth to nature, romance, portraits, and the ones I knew about, the ones linked to myth, fairy tale and literature, the latter themes being the ones focussed on in Kate’s novel, and the ones that everyone heading to the Tate or this exhibition likely knows about, but all their art is exquisite and it’s easy to see why they chose to paint in this style, and why Kate Forsyth was drawn to them.

2019 BadgeSeeing the paintings for myself, and reading the book during my visit, brought them to life more than ever before. The book coming to life in this way was magical and enriching, and brought a new dimension to the novel, knowing what the end result of what had occurred in the novel, and knowing the stories behind the paintings, and the names of the models that weren’t always credited on the placards, but are mentioned in the guide, was very enjoyable.

I’ve linked back to my original review here too but being able to visit the world Beauty in Thorns is based on was amazing, and I have bought a few post cards to display in my room of my favourite paintings.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

the clockmakers daughter.jpgTitle: The Clockmaker’s Daughter

Author: Kate Morton

Genre: Crime/Mystery/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 12th September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 592

Price: $32.99

Synopsis:Kate Morton’s highly acclaimed novels have sold over 11 million copies worldwide and are number one bestsellers around the world.

‘A truly hypnotic tale that is bound to please both fans and newcomers, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is another wonderful read from one of Australia’s most beloved authors.’ – Booktopia

‘Morton explores the tangled history of people and place in her outstanding, bittersweet sixth novel.’ – US Publisher’s Weekly

My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter.

~*~

Opening with an unnamed voice, reflecting on a distant past, there is an element of mystery and intrigue that crosses time and space, and envelopes several people into the mystery, all of whom have some kind of connection to Birchwood Manor. The story moves between the 1860s parallel to the Pre-Raphaelites, into World War One and Two, and 2017 and various years in between as Elodie, Ada, Lucy and other narrators with a link to Birchwood Manor tell their part of the story as the Clockmaker’s Daughter, Birdie Bell, narrates in interspersed sections that flow with the narration of the other characters as she bears witness to the years from 1862 to 2017, as people come in and out of Birchwood Manor, uncovering the past, attending school and unfurling the history that drew Elodie, and her mother, to the house that inspired a family story Elodie has never forgotten.

AWW-2018-badge-roseEach narrator tells their story, though the house, Birchwood Manor, and Birdie are the stars. Elodie’s story is woven throughout, and the ending to her story is hinted at quite cleverly. Not all stories are wound up as neatly as Birdie’s – as neatly as can be, given the plot, or Lucy’s, or indeed I suppose Elodie’s, where we find out little bits about the end or presumed ending to these stories, but I think this works and adds to the mystery and what the manor bore witness to over the years and decades. This adds to the mystery, and develops the history of the house in a unique ay, where all its secrets are not revealed at once, but gradually, each clue leading to another as the novel progresses.

As each time period is woven in and out of Birdie’s story, the four or five different stories are seen through Birdie’s eyes, and the other characters, each living their own story, contributing to the mystery and intrigue, and history of the house, leaving it with an ongoing sense of self and mystery as Birdie’s spirit lingers within the walls and grounds.

The sense of mystery, the various stories that trailed off once the connections had been made at first feel strange but then fall into place when I realised the star of the novel was truly the manor, and Birdie’s connection to the manor – a connection that slowly became clear as the novel went on, invoking a mystery that was unforeseen at first, and very intriguing.

Where Kate’s previous novels have been focussed very much on the mystery of people, and identity, here she has intersected people and place, and woven it across a span of over 150 years to create a mystery that is seemingly never solved completely solved, yet at the same time, there is a sense that someone knows what happened – is it Elodie, Lucy, Ada or one of the many other people with a link to the manor who discovers the secret that manor is hiding?

The intricacies and complexities of this novel are what make it work, and that allow the wispy strands of some plotlines to float away yet still have a feeling of completion in relation to Birchwood Manor. A stunning read that I really enjoyed.

The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell

the peacock summer.jpgTitle: The Peacock Summer

Author: Hannah Richell

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 26th June 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Two summers, decades apart. Two women whose lives are forever entwined. And a house that holds the secrets that could free them both.

At twenty-six, Lillian feels ancient and exhausted. Her marriage to Charles Oberon has not turned out the way she thought it would. To her it seems she is just another beautiful object captured within the walls of Cloudesley, her husband’s Chilterns manor house. But, with a young step-son and a sister to care for, Lillian accepts there is no way out for her. Then Charles makes an arrangement with an enigmatic artist visiting their home and her world is turned on its head.

Maggie Oberon ran from the hurt and resentment she caused. Half a world away, in Australia, it was easier to forget, to pretend she didn’t care. But when her grandmother, Lillian, falls ill she must head back to Cloudesley. Forced to face her past, she will learn that all she thought was real, all that she held so close, was never as it seemed.

An utterly compelling story of secrets, betrayals and the consequences of a long-ago summer from the internationally bestselling author of Secrets of the Tides and The Shadow Year.

~*~

The Peacock Summer opens with Lilian and Maggie in 2015, each in different countries, as the impetus for Maggie’s return to Cloudesley to look after her grandmother, who raised her after Maggie’s father, Lilian’s step-son – Albie – has left and been out of her life for quite some time. Both women have past secrets that they must face when they reunite with each other and those around them – as memories of past summers come back into their minds and psyches. Woven throughout the narrative are the reasons each woman is secretive and slowly, these secrets are revealed through flashbacks and interactions with other characters, adding to the mystery of the novel as it moves along, and the intrigue of Lilian’s relationship with her husband and the painter he has hired to paint a room in their house.

AWW-2018-badge-roseAs well as this, Maggie’s search for her mother becomes a plot point, and an answer that must be given – her uncertainty about events in her life, and her feelings about her family are slowly revealed. Even though the pacing of the novel is slow, it fits with the storyline and events of the plot in 1955 and the 2015 plot that weave in and out of each other, and eventually, culminate in an ending that is bittersweet, but nonetheless enjoyable.

The painter employed to paint the room – Jack Fincher – develops feelings for Lilian, that she yearns to return. Their story provides the backbone to the mystery of the house and the lives of Maggie, Lilian and Albie that culminate in a surprising, unexpected and heartbreaking ending for all the characters. Jack was a balm to Charles, who seemed to only want Lilian to raise Albie, whereas Jack wanted more for her – whatever it took to get that for her. Loyalties are tested in this book, in both women’s lives, but they remain loyal to each other the whole way through, determined to be there and to love each other.

As the realities of Maggie and Lilian’s lives evolved and revealed themselves throughout the novel, the story grew, and the mysteries of the family were revealed – why Maggie lived with her grandparents, where Albie always was, what was behind the locked door, and why Maggie had run away and was only just returning. It is a novel of intrigue and family secrets, that show what the characters thought did not reflect the truth behind what they knew or were told.

In the aftermath of World War Two, Lilian marries and becomes a step-mother, and goes from village life to living on an estate with servants, where she must find a way to fit in with society ladies in an ever-changing world, where what was once expected is now seen as acceptable, but where some things are still seen as something not to be spoken about – and yet, as a reader, there is always the sense that something is not quite right, in 1955 and sixty years later, and also a sense that Maggie and Lilian are secretive themselves, even if they want to talk about things, and make amends.

Overall, it is an excellent novel, and the first of Hannah’s that I have read. It weaves history and the past into the present, and flows nicely between each perspective, and is meticulously researched as well, giving it a sense of authenticity.

Booktopia

P is for Pearl by Eliza Henry Jones

p is for pearl.jpgTitle: P is for Pearl

Author: Eliza Henry Jones

Genre: Young Adult, Literary

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 19th of February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A POIGNANT READ BURSTING WITH HEARTACHE, GRIEF AND SMALL-TOWN FAMILY SECRETS THAT WILL DRAW YOU IN UNTIL THE FINAL PAGE’
– Gabrielle Tozer, award-winning author of The InternFaking It and Remind Me How This Ends

Seventeen-year-old Gwendolyn P. Pearson has become very good at not thinking about the awful things that have happened to her family.

She has also become used to people talking about her dead mum. Or not talking about her and just looking at Gwen sympathetically.

And it’s easy not to think about awful things when there are wild beaches to run along, best friends Loretta and Gordon to hang out with – and a stepbrother to take revenge on.

But following a strange disturbance at the cafe where she works, Gwen is forced to confront what happened to her family all those years ago. And she slowly comes to realise that people aren’t as they first appear and that like her, everyone has a story to tell.

From the talented author of the celebrated novels In the Quiet and Ache comes a poignant and moving book that explores the stories we tell ourselves about our families, and what it means to belong.


PRAISE

P is for Pearl is a complex, authentic exploration of grief, friendship, mental illness, family and love, sensitively written by a writer whose voice will resonate with teen readers.’  Books+Publishin

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Gwendolyn P. Pearson hides the dark family secrets that have plagued her family for years very well, and she is good at it. For years, the small Tasmanian town of Clunes has whispered and spoken about her mother, who died when Gwen was a child, one of two family tragedies that happened within months of each other. Gwen has her best friends, Loretta and Gordon, school and running to distract her – that is, until a strange incident at the cafe she works at triggers a memory, and Gwen must confront her memories. When new kids, Ben and Amber arrive in town, Gwen is torn between letting them be, and befriending them and their aunt. As she tries to hide secrets from everyone and hide from her past, it is Ben who will show her that the surface of someone is not always what they seem, and that it is okay to be angry when you are hurt.

AWW-2018-badge-roseP for Pearl completes my book bingo for the first half of 2018 – this will be in a separate post next Saturday, and then I am embarking on round two, using the same card but hopefully, different books as much as I can. First written when Eliza was sixteen, P for Pearl is the world of tragedy and loneliness seen through the eyes of a teenager whose understanding of what happened is coloured by what she wants to believe, and what, as a child, she was told or led to believe. Through narrative and diary entries, Gwen’s story is slowly revealed, and we see the pain she has been in for years, slowly emerging and bubbling its way to the top following the smashed windows at work.

Gwen’s family – her father, stepmother Biddy, step-brother Tyrone and half-sister Evie, are all key figures in the way Gwen experiences her life, and of them all, she seems to feel closer to Evie at first, and a little distanced from the rest of her family, perhaps feeling a little lost in it all. Tyrone is older – and at first, is rather annoying but later, I found something endearing about him and the way he genuinely cared for Gwen, which comes through gradually as she comes to terms with her confusion and pain. In the end, Tyrone, Ben, Loretta and Gordon are the ones who help her come through her pain and the realisation of the painful family history that has haunted her.

P for Pearl is aimed at teenagers but is a novel that speaks to the grief and complicated events and tragedies in life that we all face and endure. Gwen’s voice is genuine, and works well in the novel, as is the character growth and learning little bits about characters as the novel progresses. A greet novel to check off my final bingo box.

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