Release Date Announced for Kate Forsyth’s Beauty in Thorns

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On the 3rd of July this year, Kate Forsyth’s latest historical novel, Beauty in Thorns will be released by Penguin Random House, and is being hailed as her best work yet. Beauty in Thorns is Kate’s fortieth novel, and centres on the Pre-Raphaelites, and the series of paintings that Edward Burne-Jones completed in 1890 that had been inspired by the fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty. Other inspirations for the story come from a Dante Gabriel Rosetti print that Kate found during her days as a student, and encouraging a passion for the Pre-Raphaelites, which is evident in Kate’s writing.

The influence of the Pre-Raphaelites is evidence in their style of art and fashion, the work of William Morris and Gabriel Rossetti and is still evident, celebrated and available today, inspiring artists and designers. The stories Kate writes are a tribute to this, and Beauty in Thorns will be no exception upon its release in a few months.

The lifestyle of the Pre-Raphaelites was unconventional for the Victorian England they lived in. Their lifestyle of drug taking, partying and husband swapping was a stark contrast to the mores and expectations of the time period, and the women – Lizzie Siddal, Jane Morris, Georgie MacDonald and Margaret Burne-Jones – eschewed Victorian expectations and did away with corsets, and embracing a bohemian lifestyle – which is what draws people to them now and what made them fascination in the Victorian period.

Kate_ForsythKate’s story follows the four women listed above, and their association with William Morris and Rosetti, and how their experiences of being mothers, and losing children, being models and inspirations and having their own desires, formed who they were, and who they would become in history. Lizzie, Jane, Georgie and Margaret are the voices that tell the story, allowing love, desire, tragedy and betrayal, and the people behind the wives and the muses of the Pre-Raphaelite’s to be given a voice.

Kate Forsyth is an internationally recognised expert in the realm of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings, and it was a childhood illness that led to her fascination with fairy tales, and in particular, Sleeping Beauty and the themes of innocence and fear of death. Most of her books for adults and children incorporate either fairy tale elements or retell a specific fairy tale, such as The Singing, Springing Lark in The Beast’s Garden, which is my favourite. I enjoy Kate’s writing because she finds that nice balance with all her elements and the research makes the settings genuine, and moving. There are many books of hers that I enjoy, and each for different reasons.

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dragonclawI first came to Kate Forsyth’s writing through her first book, Dragonclaw, which celebrates its twentieth birthday this year. I still have my original set with the original covers on my shelves, and have plans to revisit the series. Dragonclaw is the first book in the six book Witches of Eileanan series, a tale of dark mysteries and dire mixed with dangerous quests, it follows Isabeau the Foundling, and her quest across Eileanan to save the children of Fairgean and stop the rise of the Ensorcellor, and also incorporates fairy tale themes.

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The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell

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Title: The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence

Author: Jennifer Bell

Genre: Fantasy/Fiction

Publisher: Corgi

Published: August 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 360

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: An uncommonly good and magical tale of Ivy’s adventures in Lundinor, a spellbinding city underneath London where ordinary objects have amazing powers. Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems . . .

Dive head first into the world of Lundinor in this magical adventure story for anyone with a Hogwarts-shaped hole in their life.

When their grandmother Sylvie is rushed to hospital, Ivy Sparrow and her annoying big brother Seb cannot imagine what adventure lies in store. Returning to Sylvie’s house, they find it has been ransacked by unknown intruders – before a mysterious feather scratches an ominous message onto the kitchen wall. A very strange policeman turns up on the scene, determined to apprehend them . . . with a toilet brush. Ivy and Seb make their escape – only to find themselves in a completely uncommon world, where ordinary objects have amazing powers. The forces of evil are closing in fast, and Ivy and Seb must get to the bottom of a family secret . . . before it’s too late.

 

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The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence draws the reader in from the first page. With their parents away at work, Ivy and Seb Sparrow are staying with their Granma Sylvie. When an accident lands her in hospital, Ivy and Seb are drawn into a world that lies below London, an uncommon world where common objects do extraordinary things. They are intrigued and scared, and accompanied by Ethel Dread, and Valian Kaye, are thrown into the chaos of a group of uncommoners in search of something that is claimed to be linked to their family – and Granma Sylvie. Soon, Ivy, Seb and Valian have lots of people chasing them, from those who wish to see justice done and find out what really happened on the Twelfth Night 1969, when Granma Sylvie disappeared, to those who wish to harm their family. They only have a few days to fix things and save their family, so Ivy and Seb are up against the clock – an uncommon clock, that is.

The Uncommoners evokes the tradition of hidden fantasy worlds that sometimes mirror our own, or that can be hidden in plain sight such as Narnia, or the wizarding world of Harry Potter, or even Neil Gaiman’s London Below, yet Lundinor still has a charm of it’s own that is separate from each of these other worlds, a place where magic enhances the every day and where you never know what kind of race of the dead you will meet – will they be good or bad, or somewhere in between? Ivy and Seb must navigate this world after being thrust into it, much like the Pevensie children in Narnia or Harry Potter in the wizarding world when he first finds out he is a wizard. I feel like this is just the beginning of a series of books that will hopefully become as well loved as Harry Potter or Narnia – any books that invite children into a magical world are lovely and this is no exception. Whilst it may be in good company with Harry Potter and Narnia, it has distinct differences and the world of Lundinor has a Victorian England feel to it, evoking nursery rhymes, and the old markets and streets that populate the world of Charles Dickens. It is a world that I enjoyed visiting and that I hope to return to soon if this is indeed a series, as it ended with that sort of feeling.

An ideal read for anyone aged nine and older who enjoys fantasy and new worlds and magic, Ivy and Seb are awesome characters and I liked their growth over the novel and the way they cared about each other.

Music and Freedom by Zoe Morrison

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Title: Music and Freedom

Author: Zoe Morrison

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Vintage Australia/Random House Australia

Published: June 27, 2016

Format: paperback

Pages: 345

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: I have no use for forgiveness, not yet. But other ideas like that,
kindness, for example, I think that is fundamental. Resurrection;
I like that too. And love, of course, love, love, love.

Alice Murray learns to play the piano aged three on an orange orchard in rural Australia. Recognising her daughter’s gift, her mother sends Alice to boarding school in the bleak north of England, and there Alice stays for the rest of her childhood. Then she’s offered a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, and on a summer school in Oxford she meets Edward, an economics professor who sweeps her off her feet.

Alice soon finds that Edwards is damaged, and she’s trapped. She clings to her playing and to her dream of becoming a concert pianist, until disaster strikes. Increasingly isolated as the years unravel, eventually Alice can’t find it in herself to carry on. Then she hears the most beautiful music from the walls of her house …

This novel’s love story is that of a woman who must embrace life again if she is to survive. Inspiring and compelling, it explores the dark terrain of violence and the transformative powers of music and love.

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Music and Freedom is Zoe Morrison’s first novel, and it is a thought-provoking and eloquently told story for a debut novel. Throughout Alice’s life, she has been educated in England, in boarding schools and music programs, where music has given her a sense of self and freedom, though she longs to return home and be free there with her family. Unable to return home, she weds an Oxford economics professor – a man who is troubled and with very traditional ideas of how a woman should act and how a husband should be allowed to treat his wife. As a result of his demands and the abuse she suffers at his hands, something she cannot speak of with the women’s circle she is part of for fear of being blamed for his temper by others, Alice internalises the abuse and her fears. She tries to escape through her music, but is forced to play elsewhere when Edward is home, and soon, even her music becomes a prison when Edward demands she attends a concert and perform a complicated Rachmaninoff piece she is not given ample time to prepare.

The novel is told in short chapters that mirror a diary, and go back and forth between a young, vibrant Alice in the 1940s and 1950s to a disoriented, confused old woman, trying to claw towards a freedom that she has been denied for so long – whether physically by her husband, or emotionally by the thoughts of doubt that imprison her.

This structure shows how Alice became the way she is at the opening of the novel, and slowly, she finds a way to be free with the help of her neighbour in Oxford, Emily, and her son, Richard.

Zoe Morrison deals with the issue of domestic abuse and the silence it can cause, even when attempts are being made to combat it. Alice’s fight for freedom is life long, and only when she is an elderly woman, can she finally find the freedom she desires, and find a way back to music, and a way into a new form of freedom: writing.

An eye-opening and emotional story, it is told with care and sensitivity for Alice, and has incorporated necessary research. This is just one story, one experience in a time when there were different expectations for men and women in some areas, and a time when the lines between what people expected men and women to do began to blur. The setting of Oxford illustrates this in the traditions that Edward holds so dear, and in the desires that Alice has throughout the novel about her music and freedom.