The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes

Mitford Scandal.jpgTitle: The Mitford Scandal

Author: Jessica Fellowes

Genre: Historical Fiction/Crime

Publisher: Sphere/Hachette

Published: 24th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 380

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: The newly married and most beautiful of the Mitford sisters, Diana, hot-steps around Europe with her husband and fortune heir Bryan Guinness, accompanied by maid Louisa Cannon, as well as some of the most famous and glamorous luminaries of the era. But murder soon follows, and with it, a darkness grows in Diana’s heart . . .

This wonderful new book in the bestselling THE MITFORD MURDERS series sees the Mitford sisters at a time of scandalous affairs, political upheaval and murder.

The year is 1928, and fortune heir Bryan Guinness weds eighteen-year-old Diana, most beautiful of the six Mitford sisters. The newlyweds begin a whirlwind life zipping between London’s Mayfair, chic Paris and romantic Venice. Accompanying Diana is Louisa Cannon, as well as a coterie of friends, family and hangers-on, from Nancy Mitford to Evelyn Waugh.

But when one of their party is found dead in Paris in 1930, Louisa begins to think that they might have a murderer in their midst. As the hedonism of the age spirals out of control, shadows darken across Europe…and within the heart of Diana Mitford herself.

~*~

After three books, starting in the early to mid-1920s. we are now headed towards a series of events in world history that plunges Europe and the world into the Great Depression and World War Two. Against the backdrop of impending economic crisis in the years following the end of World War One, or what was known in the 1920s as The Great War, there are hints at unrest in Europe, especially Germany. This is filtered through the only Mitford brother, Tom, who appears every now and then, discussing the politics of the day and setting up what is to come, and what we know happened with the six Mitford sisters during the war for the books that are to come, presumably focusing on Unity, Jessica (Decca) and Deborah (Debo).

Louisa and Nancy are perhaps the key anchors throughout these books, as well as the rest of the Mitfords, occupying much of the action, especially Louisa, who is reunited with Guy, her policeman friend in this book when some maids at a Mitford party fall through a skylight, and die, and another vanishes, setting in motion a side mystery.  Yet the key mystery begins in Paris, and weaves in and out across the early 1930s as death touches the Mitford-Guinness party across the years in mystery deepens, and ebbs and flows as suspects are interviewed until the death of the prime suspect seems to bring a halt to the case – which ends up being much more complicated than anyone first thought.

This series takes real life people, fictional people and uses the world and politics they existed within to create mysteries that are engaging and thrilling to read. The pacing of them fits the setting and ensures a desire to read on – especially when things seem to wrap up too neatly, that as a reader, I knew there was more to what had happened. Something had to give because it was all too easy.

Simmering beneath the mystery is the growing tensions of post-war Europe, and the clashing of political ideologies, such as communism, fascism, democracy and Nazism – with some characters expressing an interest in Nazis and indeed suggesting they would support them. This is chilling as we know what the Nazi regime eventually led to. Reading about these people, even in a fictional way, before they became embroiled in and deeply connected to the Nazi regime and ideology is chilling because instead of reading them just as Nazis, we get to see how they start to gravitate towards this ideology and the scandal that it eventually caused within society and their family. What it leads it is an ending where whilst the crime may be solved, the family and those around them – and the reader – will be plunged into a world where nothing is certain, and where Louisa may soon find she does not know who she can trust.

I have been following this series since it first started, and have been loving it, looking forward to seeing what happens next. As we descend into fractious politics that will divide family and a coming war, it is starting to sit comfortably alongside the Rowland Sinclair mysteries as a series that combines family, politics and murder and the world of the 1930s to create stories that are engaging and thrilling.

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

deathless girls.jpgTitle: The Deathless Girls

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Genre: Historical, Gothic, Fantasy

Publisher: Bellatrix/Hachette

Published: 24th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 310

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Gothic, intoxicating, feminist and romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

Gothic, intoxicating, feminist and romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

~*~

Kizzy and Lil are Travellers, whose lives change forever when they are enslaved by Boyar Valcar and taken from their community. Lil tells the story – so everything we see is shown through her eyes, and her understandings and feelings for her sister, and those she meets at the castle, like Mira, and her love for her brother and those she fears she will never see again.

In the castle, as they work, rumours swirl around about what happens to the girls who disappear – until Kizzy is taken, and this sets in motion a series of events that leads Mira, Fen and Lil to search for and save Kizzy and brother Kem from an unimaginable fate – but at what cost. and where will everything lead them all?

Set a few hundred years in the past, maybe three or four hundred years, The Deathless Girls follows Kizzy and Lil as they are ripped from a life they know and into one that they will ever escape from. It draws on the myths and stories of Dracula and his brides, and their untold story. The first half move slowly, as pieces of the puzzle are slowly revealed and as hints towards the fates of Kizzy and Lil are dropped for the reader to follow – and it is done quite cleverly, so whilst it is slowly, it doesn’t feel slow or meander too much.

The turning point, where Kizzy is taken, is where it picks up. More questions arise but these foreshadow what is to come and what the rest of the book had been heading towards. Whilst not the ending I had hoped for, it was perhaps what I had expected from the title and the hints that had been dropped throughout the novel – especially when it came to some of the characters.

This book is aimed at a young adult audience – and I don’t think you need to know the Dracula myths or stories to enjoy it – it can stand alone as its own story, but can also be read alongside a reading of the Dracula stories and myths that people do know. Either would make for an interesting discussion and reading, as each explore different themes. Here, the power of the women involved and their choices and lives, and what leads them to their fate are highlighted. They have agency and personhood, rather than just being a passive victim.

Whilst a vampire novel in a way, the vampire element, and Dracula element only becomes clear towards the latter half. For the first half or so, the divining by Cook and the other things that are hinted at could have led to anything, which is perhaps what makes it powerful and different to what usually constitutes a vampire novel. I’m sure there will be a very keen audience for this book, I I hope future readers enjoy it.

August Round Up 2019

cropped-Readings-and-Musings-on-all-things-books-Aussie-authors-and-everything-in-between.jpg

I managed to read sixteen books in August, and the break down is below for each challenge and collectively in lists and tables. Several were read for review purposes, some for quiz writing purposes and others for my own reading. Some reviews are only going live in September, but others are up and ready to be read.

#Dymocks52Challenge

To date, I have read 135 books, and am up to 66 for my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and to date, have only one book bingo square to fill, with each post except the final one written and scheduled. I haven’t really added to my Popsugar Challenge this month but am still aiming to finish it by the end of the year.

I did add to my Jane Austen reading challenge with a Pride and Prejudice retelling by Fiona Palmer – I still have to add more reads to this challenge. As I am on top of all my review books at the moment, I might have time to read more for this challenge, even if I do not review each book, I read for it. I also took part in a blog tour with Corella Press – a cover reveal and an interview with illustrator, Kathleen Jennings. August also meant Love Your Bookshop Day, and my post about it is here.

In other book news, my new bookcase arrived, and my books are now sorted out nicely, and easy to find. Heading into September, I am busy with quiz writing and editing work, so it’s a good thing I have so many reviews already scheduled so I don’t have to worry about writing them.

Until next month!

Books 119-135

  1. The Battle for Perodia (The Last Firehawk #6) by Katrina Chapman
  2. Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda
  3. A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison
  4. The Puppy Who Couldn’t Sleep by Holly Webb
  5. Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis
  6. Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls by Ann M Martin
  7. The Truth About Stacey by Ann M Martin
  8. Mary Anne Saves the Day by Ann M Martin
  9. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus
  10. The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel
  11. Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer
  12. Harry Potter: Spells and Charms: A Movie Scrapbook by Judy Revenson
  13. Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson
  14. Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey
  15. The Loneliest Kitten by Holly Webb
  16. The Land of Long-Lost Friends by Alexander McCall-Smith
  17. The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French

2019 Badge

Australian Women Writers Challenge

  1. Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  2. Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis – Reviewed
  3. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – Reviewed
  4. The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel – Reviewed
  5. Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer – Reviewed
  6. Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson
  7. Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  8. The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French – Reviewed

Book Bingo

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n

Rows Across:

Row One:

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages:

A novella no more than 150 pages:Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Row Two: BINGO

A book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Row Three: BINGO

Themes of Science Fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Themes of Culture:The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019 

Row Four: – BINGO

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Row Five: BINGO

Written by an Australian Man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Written by an Australian Woman:Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Row Six: BINGO

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Rows Down:

Row One:  – BINGO

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019*

Themes of science fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Row Two: BINGO

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018      

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Book set in the Australian outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Row three:

Novel that has 500 pages or more:

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Book set on the Australian coast:The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Row Four: – BINGO

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person:Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Themes of inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian mountains:The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane AustenRow Five: BINGO

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Jane Austen Reading Challenge 2019

Jane Austen Reading Challenge

Pride and Prejudice

Sense and Sensibility

Northanger Abbey

Mansfield Park

Emma

Persuasion

Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer – Pride and Prejudice retelling

 August Round Up – 16

 

Title Author Challenge
The Battle for Perodia Katrina Charman General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Rowan of Rin Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
A Pinch of Magic Michelle Harrison General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Puppy Who Couldn’t Sleep Holly Webb General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off Delphine Davis General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #aWW2019 -September release
Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls Ann M Martin General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Truth About Stacey Ann M Martin General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Mary Anne Saves the Day Ann M Martin General, #Dymocks52Challenge
While You Were Reading Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Popsugar
The Unforgiving City Maggie Joel General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Popsugar
Matters of the Heart Fiona Palmer General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Jane Austen Challenge
Harry Potter: Spells and Charms: A Movie Scrapbook Judy Revenson General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers

 

Valerie Wilson General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Kensy and Max: Out of Sight

 

Jacqueline Harvey General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
The Loneliest Kitten Holly Webb General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Land of Long Lost Friends

 

Alexander McCall-Smith General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Lily and the Rose Jackie French General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019 – reviewed in September.

As Happy as Here by Jane Godwin

as happy as here .jpgTitle: As Happy as Here

Author: Jane Godwin

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Lothian Children’s Books/Hachette

Published: 23rd July 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 275

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A beautiful coming-of-age story about three teenage girls from very different backgrounds who find themselves sharing a hospital ward, for fans of Kate DiCamillo and Fiona Wood

Three teenage girls from very different backgrounds find themselves sharing a hospital ward. When they witness a crime in the park below their window, they bond over trying to solve the crime and each one undergoes a profound change.

A beautiful coming-of-age story about identity, expectation, class, justice, society, fairness, and, above all, kindness.

Evie would never have met Lucy and Jemma if the accident hadn’t happened. But here they are, sharing a hospital ward. When the three girls witness a crime in the park below their window, it sets off a chain of events that will change each of them forever, and force Evie to confront what it means to grow up, and how to live truly, with courage, as yourself.

~*~

2019 BadgeAfter Evie is injured on the way home from running training, she ends up in hospital with injuries to both legs that are going to take a long time to heal. She ends up sharing a ward with Lucy, recovering from pneumonia and Jemma, who has been rushed in to have her appendix taken out. Aged between twelve and fourteen, the three girls are recovering when they witness strange goings below their hospital window. At the same time, Lucy notices some of her things go missing, and Jemma, despite being on a strict post-surgery diet, is constantly heading down to the hospital kiosk to buy food and drink she isn’t allowed – but where is the money coming from?

As they watch the comings and goings of people burying and digging things up close to the hospital, they begin their own investigation. Lucy and Jemma each check out the buried items, while Evie watches in between school times and physio sessions, and overbearing parents who come across as more worried about her getting back to running as soon as possible than the implications of Evie pushing herself during recovery and physio. This is more of a side story, but still important because it helps Evie grow and work out what she wants, separate from what her parents want as she works on her physio sessions, and forms a friendship with Lucy that is the kind of friendship readers of all ages need to be able to experience. With Jemma, things were a bit more complicated – whilst Evie and Lucy tried to be her friend and understand her, she did make it hard for them – but that was what worked about this book. Each character was individual and unique, and relatable on many levels to all readers, for many different reasons.

The events lead to something that the three girls never thought would happen and that will change them forever – they each grow throughout the novel in many ways, especially Evie, who realises that she might only be running to please her parents, and not herself – a realisation she comes to as the mystery below the window and the mystery of Jemma that slowly comes out as Evie coaxes it out of her, despite Jemma’s lies that she uses to cause friction in the room when she wants attention. It is a touching story of friendship, and a mystery – a soft mystery that could have unforeseen consequences for all three girls.

I really enjoyed this story. It defines friendship as a crucial element of life, and the hospital setting was dealt with well – not over done, and nicely balanced with everything else that was happening in the story. It is uplifting in some ways, but it still represents the realism of life and the differences we all face and how they can define us, but also, how they sometimes don’t. In reflecting the various differences in life, it shows that it is sometimes these differences that can bring us together.

The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn

esther durrantTitle: The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant

Author: Kayte Nunns

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 28th May 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 375

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A cache of unsent love letters from the 1950s is found in a suitcase on a remote island in this mysterious love story by top ten bestselling author, Kayte Nunn

  1. Esther Durrant, a young mother, is committed to an isolated mental asylum by her husband. Run by a pioneering psychiatrist, the hospital is at first Esther’s prison but soon becomes her refuge.
  2. Free-spirited marine scientist Rachel Parker embarks on a research posting in the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast. When a violent storm forces her to take shelter on a far-flung island, she discovers a collection of hidden love letters. Captivated by their passion and tenderness, Rachel determines to track down the intended recipient.

Meanwhile, in London, Eve is helping her grandmothera renowned mountaineer, write her memoirs. When she is contacted by Rachel, it sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to reveal secrets kept buried for more than sixty years.

The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant is a deeply atmospheric, resonant novel that charts the heart’s wild places, choices and consequences. If you love Elizabeth Gilbert and Kate Morton you will devour this book.

Praise for the bestselling The Botanist’s Daughter:

‘Two incredibly likeable, headstrong heroines . . . watching them flourish is captivating. With these dynamic women at the helm, Kayte weaves a clever tale of plant treachery involving exotic and perilous encounters in Chile, plus lashings of gentle romance. Compelling storytelling’ The Australian Women’s Weekly

‘I loved The Botanist’s Daughter. I was transported to the 1880s and Chile, to contemporary Sydney and Kew. A gripping read’ JOY RHOADES, author of The Woolgrower’s Companion

‘The riveting story of two women, divided by a century in time, but united by their quest to discover a rare and dangerous flower. Fast-moving and full of surprises, The Botanist’s Daughter brings the exotic world of 19th-century Chile thrillingly to life’ KATE FORSYTH

~*~

The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant opens with a cleverly deceptive scene with Esther and her husband supposedly headed off on holiday on an island off the coast of England. Esther is under the impression he will be staying with her in the little stone house – until she wakes up in the morning to discover he is gone, and she’s surrounded by a doctor and nurse. It is 1951, and Esther has what will become known as post-partum depression, though the 1950s did not see it this way. Sent to Little Embers to recover, Esther soon finds comfort in the others there – soldiers returned from war, struggling to fit back into a society that demands they do.

2019 Badge

In 2018, Rachel, a researcher, discovers a suitcase in a place called Little Embers after she is rescued by Leah, and spends several days recuperating until a friend comes to find her, and she takes the letters and suitcase she discovers with her. Also in 2018, Eve is helping her ninety-year-old grandmother, a renowned mountaineer, write her memoirs, when Rachel tracks them down. Eve’s gran is Esther Durrant, and the letters reveal a sixty-six-year-old secret that slowly evolves through the novel.

By dipping back and forth between 2018 and 1952, and the perspectives of Rachel, Eve and Esther, Kayte Nunn tells the whole story, and only reveals things when they need to be revealed. This gives the novel an air of mystery that remains throughout the novel. Dual timeline stories like this are effective when worked well, and Kayte Nunn has done so in this one, much like her previous novel, The Botanist’s Daughter, also reviewed on this blog. What a dual timeline does is take the reader back into the past from the present as a character reads letters, a dairy or speaks with the person from the past storyline, and sometimes it is a combination of all three that allows for this to happen. At other times, a different approach is taken but in all the dual timelines I have read, each has been very effective.

In this case, the secrets that are hinted at are cleverly dealt with throughout. Each character could have a potential link to the secret, which makes it more mysterious and intriguing, and an enjoyable mystery to read and try to solve.

The Au Pair by Emma Rous

the au pair.jpgTitle: The Au Pair

Author: Emma Rous

Genre: Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 11th December 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 410

Price: $29.99

Synopsis:A tautly plotted mystery of dark family secrets, perfect for fans of Kate Morton. ‘Entrancing, compelling, atmospheric, reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier. A beautiful read that delivers a shocking and satisfying ending’ Liv Constantinebestselling author of THE LAST MRS PARRISH

Seraphine Mayes and her brother Danny are known as the summer-born Summerbournes: the first set of summer twins to be born at Summerbourne House. But on the day they were born their mother threw herself to her death, their au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark-cloaked figures and a stolen baby.

Now twenty-five, and mourning the recent death of her father, Seraphine uncovers a family photograph taken on the day the twins were born featuring both parents posing with just one baby. Seraphine soon becomes fixated with the notion that she and Danny might not be twins after all, that she wasn’t the baby born that day and that there was more to her mother’s death than she has ever been told…

Why did their beloved au pair flee that day? 
Where is she now? 
Does she hold the key to what really happened? 

~*~

Seraphine Mayes and her brother Danny are known as the summer-born Summerbournes, or the Summerbourne sprites – whispers from people in the village and school children have followed them their whole lives. But after her father’s death so close to their twenty-fifth birthday, during a search through photos, Seraphine discovers a photo of her mother with one baby, minutes before her mother was found dead. From here, Seraphine starts to wonder if she is really her mother’s daughter – Danny and Edwin, her older brother, look so alike, yet she has stark differences that have always made her stand out, and spurred on the rumours that Danny and Seraphine had a sprite-like quality about them, based on stories of witches’ cloaks and stolen babies in the night. In Seraphine’s mind, she is not that baby, not any relation to her brothers. In an effort to find out who she is, Seraphine embarks on a journey to track down the au pair from that day and will discover many more secrets that will affect more people than her and Danny and threaten to break the family apart – and that maybe there is more to her mother’s death than she has been told. The secrets she is about to uncover will change their lives forever.

Family mysteries with a dual storyline as the main focus always make intriguing books – with the focus on family and identity rather than romance, which there is some of, though it is not always the overall goal of the character, but rather, a nice side story alongside the main pot as a nice addition, that is woven in and out neatly. Seraphine’s mystery is tightly plotted and thought out, with each bit of evidence presented at just the right time, slipping back and forth from 2017 to 1991 and 1992 seamlessly, where Seraphine and Laura – the au pair – get to tell their stories – and the clues slowly start to fall into place. Who Seraphine is, and where the au pair, Laura fits in, as well as who Alex is, and information that Seraphine never thought she would uncover in the course of her investigations and asking questions around the village, specifically with the village doctor. The reader discovers the secrets and facts along with Seraphine, and though one can try and guess at the outcome, it is not as clear cut as it is first thought to be, but the execution of this is so well done, it suits the story and entire plot so well.

Overall, this was a well-written book, with an intriguing plot that held my interest and will appeal to fans of Kate Morton and other authors who work in dual or multiple timelines. The dual timeline is a tool that works well here to tell the story, because we need to hear from both Seraphine and Laura to get the full story, and understand what happened that fateful year at Summerbourne, and how the mystery of Seraphine and her brother came into being.

Booktopia

Frieda: A Novel of the Real Lady Chatterley by Annabel Abbs

frieda.jpgTitle: Frieda: A Novel of the Real Lady Chatterley

Author: Annabel Abbs

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 11th September 2011

Format: Paperback

Pages: 372

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The moving story of Frieda von Richthofen, wife of D.H. Lawrence – and the real-life inspiration for Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a novel banned for more than 30 years

Germany, 1907. Frieda, daughter of aristocrat Baron von Richthofen, has rashly married English professor Ernest Weekley. Visiting her family in Munich, a city alive with new ideas of revolution and free love, and goaded by a toxic sibling rivalry with her sisters, Frieda embarks on a passionate affair that is her sensual and intellectual awakening.

England, 1912. Trapped in her marriage to Ernest, Frieda meets the penniless but ambitious young writer D.H. Lawrence, a man whose creative energy answers her own needs. Their scandalous affair and tempestuous relationship unleashes a creative outpouring that will change the course of literature – and society – forever. But for Frieda, this fulfilment comes at a terrible personal cost.

A stunning novel of emotional intensity, Frieda tells the story of an extraordinary woman – and a notorious love affair that became synonymous with ideas of sexual freedom.

‘Annabel Abbs’s poignant Frieda: A Novel of the Real Lady Chatterley captures the Lawrence s’ shifting emotions’ The Australian

‘I loved this novel so very much. Abbs’s writing is glorious’ MELISSA ASHLEY, The Birdman’s Wife

~*~

Frieda Weekley, nee von Richthofen, is married to Ernest Weekley, and is living with him and their three children in 1907, in Nottingham. Born into German aristocracy, Frieda has in their eyes, and she has married well, and has three young children: Monty, Elsa and Barby. Yet Frieda yearns for more, and when she is exposed to ideas of free love and great intellect, she begins a series of affairs, starting with a doctor, Otto Gross, and culminating in an affair that saw her forever separated from her family wit author, D.H. Lawrence an affair that inspired the novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, banned for more than thirty years after it was published.

Set in pre-World War One London and Germany, between 1907 and 1913, Frieda explores a very different world, where familial and societal expectations based on gender, class and for some people as war grew closer, nationality. Caught between wanting to please herself, please her family and stay with her children, Frieda finds decisions will be made for her, at times without her knowledge, and she is driven to desperate lengths to see her children, enlisting friends to try and maintain a connection to them after she is cut off from them by the Weekley family.

As a work of historical fiction, Frieda uses a woman’s voice – one who fought against oppression in favour of desire – is intriguing and gives a new voice to the world, and one I had not heard of, and a story I had not heard of, despite hearing about the novel that was based on Frieda and Lawrence’s scandalous relationship. It explores the perspectives of Frieda, her husband, Ernest, and their three children – Barby, Monty and Elsa, but particularly the eldest – Monty and the youngest – Barby, as Frieda weaves in and out of their lives and between Nottingham and Metz in Germany, where her family tries to convince her to remain with Ernest and leave Lawrence. These are some of the scenes where she feels the restraint of what her aristocratic family and society expects of her, and the hinted at war to come, where there already feel like there are tensions between some people in England and Germany, even though the war is several years away from beginning.

Filled with a strong female voice, caught between love for a man she truly desires, love for her children and respect for her family, Friedaexplores the changing attitudes towards relationships, and how these changes started to occur during the early decades of the twentieth century, and the consequences that a woman like Frieda faced for having an affair and turning her back on her husband, rather than staying in a socially acceptable position to keep the peace, and maintain the order that society so desperately sought to cling to. But by following her heart, though the initial decision appeared to have been made without Frieda’s knowledge, with Lawrence taking it upon himself to inform Ernest, there was still an element of Frieda not having the freedom to make her own choices, when ironically, this is what she was aiming to do, even though it left her with some regrets about not being able to see her children until they turned twenty-one.

Frieda’s story has a happier ending than Abbs’ previous book – The Joyce Girl – in what would become known as inter-war Europe, where Frieda is reunited with her children, and is able to live her life with D.H. Lawrence and provided him with inspiration for his oft- banned book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. This was an intriguing story that dealt with various aspects of society, the individual, the arts, love and family, and concluded with a hopeful ending where everything felt as though it had concluded nicely, and showed that Frieda had found the freedom she longed for, even if it had come with a price.

Booktopia