The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

guernsey.jpgTitle: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Genre: Literary Fiction/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: Movie tie-in published 21st March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 280

Price: $22.99

Synopsis:A celebration of literature, love, and the power of the human spirit, this warm, funny, tender, and thoroughly entertaining novel is the story of an English author living in the shadow of World War II and the writing project that will dramatically change her life. An international bestseller.

‘I can’t remember the last time I discovered a novel as smart and delightful as this one. Treat yourself to this book, please–I can’t recommend it highly enough.’
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

The beloved, life-affirming international bestseller–now a major film coming in April 2018, starring Lily James, Matthew Goode, Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Courtenay and Penelope Wilton.

It’s 1946. The war is over, and Juliet Ashton has writer’s block. But when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey–a total stranger living halfway across the Channel, who has come across her name written in a second-hand book–she enters into a correspondence with him, and in time with all the members of the extraordinary Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Through their letters, the society tell Juliet about life on the island, their love of books–and the long shadow cast by their time living under German occupation. Drawn into their irresistible world, Juliet sets sail for the island, changing her life forever.

Gloriously honest, enchanting and funny, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is sure to win your heart.

~*~

This book came to me as a surprise from Allen and Unwin, and it being the shortest of the ones that arrived the other day, I decided to read it first and work my way through the others over the next week or so. And what a lovely surprise it was! Juliet Ashton is a writer who has writer’s block and is searching for her next story. Whilst searching, she is contacted by Dawsey Adams, a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society on one of the Channel Islands, who are emerging from years of occupation by German forces during World War Two. Dawsey’s letter begins the months of correspondence between the society and Juliet, and the novel is solely told in letters and telegrams. As Juliet begins to uncover a story in Guernsey and those who live there, she is courted by Markham Reynolds, and goes to the island to do research for her book, leaving Markham behind. As Juliet corresponds with the society members and her publishers, a picture of their life and what they have been through unfolds, with heart-warming results for many of the characters of the book.

The use of letters to tell the story was really quite effective because you got to know the characters and their voices, how they thought and what they enjoyed doing, and even though some questions or letters might not have had direct answers, the questions in them were given in other letters, ensuring that their stories were told. Within these stories was that of Elizabeth and her daughter Kit, and Markham Reynolds, who was keen on Juliet. I enjoyed the way these two plot points were dealt with, and that Juliet was of her own mind, and her own person – she was probably my favourite, next to Dawsey and Kit.

Key to the society is literature, and what it means to them. The literary society they created is what got them through the war, and what they survived on – potato peel pie, and what they did to try and keep the German forces at bay and survive. It is touching and at times sad when you read some of the letters, but it has the impact needed: showing what happened and how people dealt with it. A very touching testament to the power of the human spirit, and what people do in the face of adversity for themselves and each other.

The letters are peppered with literary references, and talk about books – the solace that they give, and what they meant to the society but also the Channel Island of Guernsey as a whole, as they endured things they never thought they would endure. Literature and their society pulled them through, showing the power of literature and how it can help people in hard times.

The novel is both peaceful and heartbreaking – the memories and aftershocks of the years of German occupation are not quickly forgotten, especially as someone who knew Elizabeth and knew of her fate comes into their lives, and the realities of what was happening on the European Continent hit home for the society members. There are hints of romance, but the focus is on Juliet and the society members, and their friendship and the family they have built for themselves and Kit, whose entertaining and intriguing character is revealed through the letters.

I really enjoyed this novel and read it quite quickly. It reflects on how war can affect a small community, and in this instance, bring them closer together as family, and the way they welcomed someone else into their family and society, where they could help each other heal as they emerged from an occupation during wartime and the implications of that, where their love of literature binds them together.

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Egyptian Enigma by L.J.M. Owen

egyptian enigma.jpgTitle: Egyptian Enigma

Author: L.J.M Owen

Genre: Crime/Mystery/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Echo Publishing

Published: March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 370

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Dr Elizabeth Pimms, enthusiastic archaeologist and reluctant librarian, has returned to Egypt. Among the treasures of the Cairo museum she spies cryptic symbols in the corner of an ancient papyrus. Decoding them leads Elizabeth and her newly formed gang of sleuths to a tomb of mummies whose identities must be uncovered.

What is the connection between the mummies and Twosret, female Pharaoh and last ruler of Egypt’s nineteenth dynasty? How did their bodies end up scattered across the globe? And is the investigation related to the attacks on Elizabeth’s family and friends back in Australia? Between grave robbers, cannibals, sexist historians and jealous Pharaohs, can Dr Pimms solve her latest archaeological mystery?

~*~

The third in the fabulous Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth Series sees Elizabeth on a sojourn with New York philologist, Henry, to Egypt. Here, she gets to visit the ancient sites she has read about, and write about her travels, whilst exploring the history that inspired her love of archaeology and ancient history. When her journal is stolen, and the holiday ends, Elizabeth returns to work at the library, and university. Her tutoring job is due to start, and she must contend with two students who are disruptive and talk over people, and disregard what she has to say, she has to edit the Olmec and Maya papers with Alice, and a new investigation into The Golden Tomb of Egypt begins, involving 3D printouts of skeletons to help identify the victims and establish what happened long ago during the New Kingdom and the erasure of female Pharaohs, such as Tausret, from the records, as people had tried to erase Akhenaten and his family in earlier generations. At the same time, she is still attending family therapy sessions with Matty and Sam, and their relationship is much nicer in this book, and Elizabeth is baffled by an attack on her beloved Taid, and the distanced Mai, who seems to have cut herself off from many around her as she struggles with the revelations of Mayan Mendacity.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe ancient and modern mysteries that Elizabeth faces are diverse and unique – but will she solve all of them, and find out who stole her journal? And what has her work colleague, Judy, been hiding about William Pimms death for the past few years? Elizabeth seeks answers to these questions as well, balancing work and family life as she gathers together a snoop of sleuths -herself, Alice, Nathan, Rhoz and Llew, working in Taid’s library during weekends.

As each mystery – the murder, Taid’s attack, Judy’s behaviour and disappearance, and the antagonistic students in her class progresses and thickens, Elizabeth finds herself caught up in her work – something quite admirable about her, that she has such hyper focus that it takes a sit down with her beloved Taid to work things out and pull her out of it at times – he’s one of my favourite characters, but many of the characters are pretty cool.

I absolutely adored this book, as it reminded me of how much I love Egyptian history, and it explored the period of the New Kingdom – 18th-20th Dynasty – that I am most familiar with, so reading about Akhenaten and Tutankhamen, and the Ramesses Pharaohs was thrilling. Nathan is also a favourite – he’s the kind of friend everyone needs, so caring, and delightful, but still, as with all the characters, with his own flaws that make him the person he is.

Mai grew on me in this book – and I loved how the family cared for her so much when they found out she was sick, and brought her into their lives to help her, and give her the family she should have had growing up. I love the way the family just comes together in a tragedy and has an understanding of each other that ensures nobody is ever forgotten.

There were of course two unsolved mysteries – one that appeared at the end of the novel, and that readers will need to wait for the next book, advertised in the back as Mongolian Mayhem. I can’t wait to see what other Intermillennial crimes Elizabeth and her snoop of sleuths get to solve next.

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Draigon Weather: The Legacies of Arnan Book One by Paige L. Christie

Draigon Weather cover_for promotion (1).jpegTitle: Draigon Weather: The Legacies of Arnan Book One

Author: Paige L. Christie

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Prospective Press

Published: 3rd October, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: AU$32.75 (Booktopia) US$15.95

Synopsis: The brutal, drought-bringing heat that arises from the colossal, near-mythical Draigon, is a fell portent, heralding the doom of a bad woman.

When Leiel’s mother is sacrificed to the Draigon to relieve the terrible drought, Leiel is marked by the shame brought to her family. She must leave school, relegated to a new life of servitude.

Cleod, the woodcutter’s son, is Leiel’s closest friend. To avenge Leiel’s mother, he vows to rise above his station and join the Ehlewer Enclave, an elite society famed for training men to kill Draigon.

The friends’ lives take different paths. Cleod struggles with divided loyalties as he learns he cannot be a Draigon hunter while remaining a friend to a tainted woman. Leiel seeks forbidden knowledge and old secrets, placing herself in danger of sharing her mother’s fate.

When Draigon Weather returns to the land, Cleod has the chance to fulfil all his promises—both to Leiel and to his new masters, the Ehlewer. But as the rivers choke on their own silt and heat cracks the earth, the choices the two friends made begin to catch up with them, for what plagues Arnan is more than just a monster.

~*~

A copy of this book was sent to me by the author for review.

Leiel Sower is a girl in a place threatened by what they cannot understand – educated women. She attends school, despite disapproving looks, and is educated at home by her mother, Ilora. For several years of her childhood, Leiel is happy, she has a friend, Cleod, and they both have dreams. Until the day the Draigon Weather comes, and Leiel’s mother is sacrificed to the Draigon to relieve a drought that has plagued Arnan for too long. In the years that follow, Leiel and Cleod’s lives take off on different paths. While Cleod trains to be one of the few who can fight the Draigon, Leiel’s life becomes one of servitude to her brothers, Gial and Klem, and her father. The return of Draigon Weather brings Cleod back, hoping to fulfil his promise to Leiel to make sure she doesn’t meet her mother’s fate – but they must face more than just the Draigon that plagues Arnan.

I love a good fantasy story, and one that focuses on friendships between women and between the main male and female characters is always of great interest. Showing these relationships between Gahree and Leiel, Leiel and Cleod and Elda, Torrin and Leiel play a large part in the story, and how Leiel relates to her world and her family, and what drives her. Leiel is a character who does not let her circumstances and status in her family and society define her. She fights against it, subversively, and makes her voice heard, even though it is often overruled, she finds comfort and power in making herself heard, even if her brother, Klem, refuses to listen to her, she has a partial ally in Gial and a friend in Cleod, and the other women in her life, \who understand the struggles she is facing.

The world of Arnan is also complex, where certain classes and men are valued over other classes and women, and where everyone seems to publicly accept the rules, but subversively, and within the rules of the world around them, try and rebel and change it from within. It is a world of tradition, but tradition that needs to be broken apart and rebuilt, in a world where certain behaviours mean you’ll be sacrificed to a hungry Draigon.

I was contacted by the author to read and review this book after she found my blog and was asked to read and review this book. I gladly did, and I enjoyed Leiel and Cleod’s story. I particularly enjoyed the focus on friendship and platonic love over romantic love, and the strong female characters who don’t let anything keep them down and stay true to themselves. It is a story about the power of friendship, and the subversive powers that society sees as a threat and challenge to the status quo of Arnan, not realising what the people that the Council looks down upon can contribute. The bonds of friendship throughout this novel were strong, and enduring until the end, and the last pages gave a nice set up for what is to come in book two.

This is a very enjoyable read for lovers of fantasy, dragons, and those who like their relationships between all characters to unfold and develop into friendship and bonds that cannot be broken. I hope the questions Cleod had at the end will be answered soon.

 

 

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2018 NSW PREMIER’S LITERARY AWARDS

The NSW Government has a long tradition of celebrating and connecting the public with art and literature. The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards are an opportunity to highlight the importance of literacy and literature, whilst enjoying and learning from the work of our writers in NSW and Australia. Like other literary awards, this award in highlighting the spectacular Australian Literature Australian writers produce, highlights and honours the achievements of Australia’s writers, and their artistic contributions to society, but also to highlight our literary achievements to the world. The State Library administers the awards.AWW-2018-badge-rose

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards have more categories than the Victorian awards. These categories are:

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction

2017 Winner: The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

2017 Shortlist: Vancouver #3 in the series Wisdom Tree by Nick Earls

Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers by Ryan O’Neill

Where the Light Falls by Gretchen Shirm

After the Carnage by Tara June Winch

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood.

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing

2017 Winner: Letter to Pessoa by Michelle Cahil

2017 Shortlist:

The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon

Dodge Rose by Jack Cox

Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down

Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh

The Bonobo’s Dream by Rose Mulready

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction

2017 Winner: Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead by Thornton McCamish

2017 Shortlist: Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

Talking to My Country by Stan Grant

The Art of Time Travel: Historians and Their Craft by Tom Griffiths

Avalanche by Julia Leigh

Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire by Shane White

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry

2017 Winner: Ghostspeaking by Peter Boyle

2017 Shortlist: Burnt Umber by Paul Hetherington

Breaking the Days by Jill Jones

Fragments by Antigone Kefala

Firebreaks: Poems by John Kinsella

Comfort Food by Ellen van Neerven

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature

2017 Winner: One Thousand Hills by James Roy and Noël Zihabamwe

2017 Shortlist: Elegy by Jane Abbott

The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French 

the-ghost-by-the-billabong

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

The Boundless Sublime by Lili Wilkinson

One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature

2017 Winner: Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall

2017 Shortlist: Magrit by Lee Battersby and Amy Daoud

Something Wonderful by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair

Desert Lake Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli

Figgy and the President by Tamsin Janu

Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy

Nick Enright Prize For Playwriting

 

2017 Winner: The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell

2017 Shortlist:  The Hanging by Angela Betzein

You, Me and the Space Between by Finegan Kruckemeyer

Ladies Day by Alana Valentine

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting

2017 Winner: The Code – Series 2, Episode 4 by Shelley Birse

2017 Shortlist: Down Under by Abe Forsythe

Sucker by Lawrence Leung and Ben Chessel

The Kettering Incident episode 1 by Victoria Madden

Afghanistan: Inside Australia’s War by Victoria Midwinter Pitt

Cleverman Episode 5 “Terra Nullius” by Michael Miller

Multicultural NSW Award

 2017 Winner: The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke

2017 Shortlist: Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru by Madeline Gleeson

Not Quite Australian: How Temporary Migration is Changing the Nation by Peter Mares

Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea by Marie Munkara

Promising Azra Helen Thurloe – on my To Be Read pile.

The Fighter: A True Story by Arnold Zable

NSW Premier’s Translation Prize

 2017 Winner: Royall Tyler

2017 Shortlist: J.M.Q Davies

Penny Hueston

Jennifer Lindsay

Multicultural NSW Early Career Translation Prize

 2017 Winner: Jan Owen

2017 Shortlist: Christopher Williams

Indigenous Writer’s Prize – Biennial Prize Next Awarded in 2018

Last awarded in 2016.

2016 Winners: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe and Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

2016 Shortlist: Ghost River by Tony Birch

Inside My Mother by Ali Cobby Eckermann

Dirty Words by Natalie Harkin

Not Just Black and White by Lesley Williams and Tammy Williams

Other Awards:

NSW Prize for Literature

2017 Winner: The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell

People’s Choice Award

 2017 Winner: Vancouver #3 in the series Wisdom Tree by Nick Earls

 Special Award

 The Special Award was last awarded to Rosie Scott AM in 2016.

Across these twelve categories and the three additional ones, there is a diverse range of authors and stories, that tell of personal experiences, imagined worlds and that draw on history and the world the authors have lived that led them to write these books. Each prize I have looked at so far has shown a different degree of diversity, with this one having a broader range, if only because it has more categories than the others I have looked at. Last year’s winners and nominees are in good company with past winners Peter Carey, David Malouf AO, Elizabeth Jolley, Thomas Keneally AO and Helen Garner.

Each prize has a different amount of money, and further details can be found in the provided links. In 2018, the total prize money, including sponsored awards is up to $305 000, and to be nominated for any of these awards, the writer and illustrator must be living Australian citizens or hold permanent resident status.

Taken from the website:

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards are presented by the NSW Government and administered by the State Library in association with Create NSW. We are pleased to acknowledge the support of Multicultural NSW and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

The 2018 winners will be announced on 30 April 2018.The short-list will be announced in March.

Purchase any of the above books here:

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Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2018 Winners

2018 VPLA Victorian Premier's Literary Awards key art tile.jpg

Each year, the State Premiers of Australia nominate several books across several categories for literary awards, and each of the awards are announced at different times, and have different categories.  The Victorian awards were inaugurated in 1985 to honour Australian writing and are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.

The Victorian awards are split into five categories: fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry and writing for young adults, with one winner in each. Each winner wins $25,000 and they go on to contest the Victorian Prize for Literature. The Premier’s Award also incorporates the Unpublished Manuscript Award, won by Christian White for Decay Theory in 2017, and a biennial Award for Indigenous Writing. Both of these awards go onto contest the Victorian Literary Prize with the other five categories.

People can participate in the awards by voting for their favourite work on the shortlist, and the winner of the People’s Choice Award, which is named alongside the general categories wins $2,000.

In 2018, none of the winners were male or identified as male. Of the five winners, four were women, and one was non-binary – Alison Evans, whose novel, Ida, won The People’s Choice Award. This year’s winners were announced on the first of February.

The winners

  • The Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-FictionThe Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing)
  • The Prize for Fiction: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng (Text Publishing)
  • The Prize for DramaRiceby Michele Lee (Playlab)
  • The Prize for PoetryArgosy by Bella Li (Vagabond Press)
  • The Prize for Writing for Young AdultsLiving on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin)
  • People’s Choice AwardIda by Alison Evans (Echo)

Of these, I have Australia Day by Melanie Cheng on my To Be Read list, and am deciding which of the others to explore.

The above winners were chosen and voted for from the following shortlist:

The shortlist

Fiction 

  • A New England Affair by Steven Carroll (HarperCollins)
  • Australia Day by Melanie Cheng (Text Publishing)
  • The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Choke by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Restorer by Michael Sala (Text Publishing)
  • Taboo by Kim Scott (Picador Australia)

Non-fiction

  • The Museum of Words: A Memoir of Language, Writing and Mortality by Georgia Blain (Scribe Publications)
  • Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness by Kate Cole-Adams (Text Publishing)
  • The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing)
  • For a Girl: A True Story of Secrets, Motherhood and Hope by Mary-Rose MacColl (Allen & Unwin)
  • No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow (Scribe Publications)
  • Tracker by Alexis Wright (Giramondo)

Drama

  • Rice by Michele Lee (Playlab)
  • Black is the New White by Nakkiah Lui (Sydney Theatre Company)
  • The Rasputin Affair by Kate Mulvany (The Ensemble Theatre)

Poetry

  • Argosy by Bella Li (Vagabond Press)
  • The Metronome by Jennifer Maiden (Giramondo)
  • redactor by Eddie Paterson (Whitmore Press)

Writing for Young Adults

  • Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin)
  • Ida by Alison Evans (Echo)
  • Because of You by Pip Harry (UQP)

Highly commended

Fiction

  • No More Boats by Felicity Castagna (Giramondo)
  • Terra Nullius by Claire Coleman (Hachette)
  • Atlantic Black by A.S. Patrić (Transit Lounge)
  • Plane Tree Drive by Lynette Washington (MidnightSun)

Non-fiction 

  • They Cannot Take the Sky: Stories from Detention edited by Michael Green, André Dao, Angelica Neville, Dana Affleck and Sienna Merope (Allen & Unwin)

Poetry

  • I Love Poetry by Michael Farrell (Giramondo)
  • Reading for a Quiet Morning by Petra White (GloriaSMH Press)

Young Adult

  • In the Dark Spaces by Cally Black (Hardie Grant Egmont)

Reading up on as many of these entries as possible shows that this award strived for diversity too, and in naming four women and one non-binary author as winners, shows the importance of having these voices heard in society, but also the exemplary work these authors have achieved to have been nominated for these awards. Some of the authors on the shortlist were also nominated for the Stella Prize, and are on the 2018 Longlist, and information about this can be found on my post about the 2018 Stella Prize here.

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The Last Train by Sue Lawrence


the last train.jpgTitle: The Last Train

Author: Sue Lawrence

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Sue Lawrence serves up a brilliant historical mystery, meticulously researched and densely plotted, with plenty of twists and a gripping climax.

At 7 p.m. on 28 December 1879, a violent storm batters the newly built rail bridge across the River Tay, close to the city of Dundee. Ann Craig is waiting for her husband, the owner of a large local jute mill, to return home. From her window Ann sees a shocking sight as the bridge collapses, and the lights of the train in which he is travelling plough down into the freezing river waters.

As Ann manages the grief and expectations of family and friends amid a town mourning its loved ones, doubt is cast on whether Robert was on the train after all. If not, where is he? And who is the mysterious woman who is first to be washed ashore?

In 2015, Fiona Craig wakes to find that her partner Pete, an Australian restaurateur, has cleared the couple’s bank account before abandoning his car at the local airport and disappearing. When the police discover his car is stolen, Fiona conducts her own investigation into Pete’s background, slowly uncovering dark secrets and strange parallels with the events of 1879.

~*~

Three days after Christmas in 1879, the Tay Bridge is battered by a violent storm that destroys the bridge and takes all the passengers on the train down to a watery grave. At home with her children, James and Lizzie, Ann Craig is waiting for her husband Robert to return from visiting an elderly relative in Edinburgh. Ann sees the tragedy as it happens, convinced her husband is aboard and in a watery grave, never to be seen again. Living in a town of mourning, Ann’s doubt that her husband was aboard the train starts to grow, and after a young woman is washed ashore, a mystery surrounding her death, and Ann’s missing husband begins.

Over a century later in 2015, Fiona Craig awakens to find her partner, Pete missing, and all their savings gone. She and her son move in with her parents, Dorothy and Struan, whilst trying to rebuild their lives after Pete has disappeared. What Fiona discovers as she looks into Pete’s whereabouts and disappearance are strange parallels to the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879. What will the mysteries of time and space reveal to these two women, generations apart?

Based on the Tay Bridge Disaster of 1879, The Last Train combines historical fiction elements with intrigue, and elements of mystery. Told in alternating third person perspectives in the days following the Tay Bridge disaster in late December 1879 and early January 1880 and in 2015, the stories mirror each other in some ways with subtle differences to the stories, and more than one mystery to be solved along the way. What connects Ann and Fiona is the desire to keep their children safe, and a desire to find out the truth of what has happened to the men they share their lives with, even if they go about it in rather different ways. Fiona’s interest in the local history pulls her into a job helping curate a memorial for the 1879 disaster, uncovering names and stories that bring light to those who perished, and will solve the questions of Fiona’s secretive father Struan as the novel’s climax brings it to a dramatic and satisfying close, that sews together all the strands that have been dangled.

An enticing historical fiction novel tinged with two mysteries that allow secrets to be revealed and families to become close. Scotland’s landscapes and history are as important as the characters of Ann and Fiona, and the nation itself, in particular Dundee, play an important role in the story and who the characters are. A well-rounded novel for fans of historical fiction and mysteries.

200 Years of Emily Brontë

2018 marks the two hundredth anniversary of Emily Brontë’s birth. The fifth of six children, Emily lived with her parents and siblings at Haworth, a Pennine village in Yorkshire, England. Born on the 30th of July 1818, Emily Brontë, along with her sisters Anne and Charlotte, are the most well-known of the Brontë siblings.

Growing up, Emily didn’t receive much formal schooling than her sisters. Instead, most of her education took place at Haworth from tutors, and family members, such as her sister Charlotte. Her broader education came from her father. Happiest at home, Emily didn’t last long in traditional school or working for other people.

Emily wrote from the time she could read, much like her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, and brother, Branwell, creating the imaginary world of Gondal together, a collaboration that does not seem to have lasted. However, this literary family has produced some of the most famous works in English literature that are still widely known and read even today, over a century after their publication. The Haworth website speculates that it is possible that Emily never abandoned her imaginary world, yet it is her 1847 novel she is best known for.

Emily’s only book, Wuthering Heights was first published in 1847, just over 170 years ago. Today, it is a much-loved classic read by many, and known across the literary world. However, at the time it was published, Emily wrote under a nom de plume – Ellis Bell, and her sisters wrote as Acton and Currer Bell. Not wanting to reveal her true identity upon publication, Emily refused to go to London to do so. Only a year after Wuthering Heights was published, at the age of thirty, Emily died on the 19th of December 1848.

The endurance of the Brontës and their writing for over 150 years could be due to the passion in their books, and the fact that people will mostly love them or hate them – for me, perhaps it has more to do with the spectrum of emotions that these books evoke. I’m not on either extreme, but somewhere comfortably in the middle, where I can enjoy it but don’t need to declare an extreme love or hatred for the book. Perhaps Wuthering Heights has enjoyed the endurance it has after Emily’s death because it was her only book, whereas her sisters, Anne and Charlotte, wrote a few more – the titles lesser well known than their most famous ones – The Tennant of Wildfell Hall and Jane Eyre respectively. Whatever the reason, the fact that it is still readily available in bookstores and libraries, and still read and studied, indicates that it has indeed made a mark on literary culture – and that it has endured over the decades to be one of the best known stories ever.

Wuthering Heights

Synopsis taken from the Penguin Random House website:

Wuthering Heights has achieved an almost mythical status as a love story, yet it is also a unique masterpiece of the imagination: an unsettling, transgressive novel about obsession, violence and death.

“May you not rest, as long as I am living. You said I killed you – haunt me, then

Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before: of the intense passion between the foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and her betrayal of him. As Heathcliff’s bitterness and vengeance is visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the past.

The Penguin English Library – 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.

It has been a while since I read Wuthering Heights. But with the 200th anniversary of Emily Brontë’s birth approaching, I will try to plan another read. Have any of you read it, and what did you think about it?

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