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.

Life Before by Carmel Reilly

life before.jpgTitle: Life Before
Author: Carmel Reilly
Genre: Crime/Mystery
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 6th May 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 345
Price: $29.99
Synopsis: Suspense and family secrets surround a pair of estranged siblings in a compelling debut thriller.
She knew she should talk to him. But what could she say? Once there had been blame to apportion, rage to hurl. Now she no longer had a sense of that. Who knew what the facts of them being here together like this meant. What was she to make of the situation? Scott lying unconscious here in this bed, unknown to her in almost every way. She a wife, a mother, but in her mind no longer a sister. Not a sister for a very long time now.

Lori Spyker is taking her kids to school one unremarkable day when a policeman delivers the news that her brother, Scott Green, has been injured and hospitalised following a hit and run.

Lori hasn’t seen Scott in decades. She appears to be his only contact. Should she take responsibility for him? Can she? And, if she does, how will she tell her own family about her hidden history, kept secret for so long?

Twenty years before, when she and Scott were teenagers, their lives and futures, and those of their family, had been torn to shreds. Now, as Lori tries to piece together her brother’s present, she is forced to confront their shared past-and the terrible and devastating truth buried there that had driven them so far apart.

Compassionate, wise and shocking, Life Before tells the gripping story of an ordinary family caught in a terrible situation. What if the worst thing you can imagine isn’t the worst thing to happen? How do you go on? And what steps will you take to protect yourself from further pain?

~*~

Life Before opens in 1993, with a country cop, Senior Sergeant Des Robinson has to attend an accident, with one fatal, and many injuries on the backroads of Northam. It is a tragedy that will touch many families and turn the lives of two in particular upside down, leading to a mystery about the fate of one family that is slowly revealed as the book goes back and forth between 1993, when the accident occurs, and 2016, where everything slowly comes out.

In 1993, Pam and Mick are living a normal life in Northam with their kids, Scott and Loren, both still at school and with promising futures ahead of them. One day, a terrible accident changes all that and Northam is never the same again. Months later, the town has to contend with another tragedy tearing a family apart.

2019 BadgeIn 2016, Lori is married, with two kids, and on her way to drop them at school when she’s informed her brother has been in an accident. He’s in a coma, and she’s listed as his only next of kin. at this point, we discover that her parents and oldest brother, Simon, are all dead – the big question is how and when. At first, Lori keeps Scott a secret from Jason. They’ve been estranged for over twenty years, since the tragedy that tore their family apart. Yet soon, their lives, and the lives of Lori and her husband Jason, will unexpectedly intersect and the mystery, crime and tragedies that made Lori who she is, will unravel and come to light.

In a compelling mystery, Carmel Reilly reveals how a tragic accident can change the lives of a normal family, and an entire community forever, and lead to even more tragedy that drives two family members apart for two decades. It is about how a decision can change everything. Throughout the book, the two mysteries – the one in 1993, and the one that leads to Lori and Scott reuniting in 2016, are told in a way that a little information is revealed each time, yet not too much: Carmel Reilly holds back on what we really need to know until the climax of the book, like all good mysteries. It is compelling, and I wanted to read on to find out what had happened. It also ran at a decent pace: not too fast, so everything was resolved neatly, but also, not to slow so things dragged on. This is where going back and forth in what seemed like parallel mysteries worked well.

Throughout the novel, the reader is constantly wondering what happened with the accident, what happened to Lori’s family – how did they die, and when did they die? All clues point towards something unforeseen and that Lori has been on her own – apart from Jason and their kids – for a very long time. The hints are there that something awful happened, something that she feels she cannot talk about. Yet it is the careful and deliberate peeling back of the layers of the two crimes involving Scott that has made this novel a compelling and engrossing story, and a mystery well worth the read. Where some mysteries show the fracturing of a marriage due to the secrets one spouse has kept, Reilly holds Jason and Lori together, showing that both have had something rough to deal with in this case and life. The mystery really opens up and heats up when Jason goes to the ICU with Lori – what comes after this reveals much more than anticipated and even quickens the pace a little, but not too much.

Unlike most mysteries that end in a nice, clean resolution of an arrest, here, whilst we find out what has happened, this one has a unique ending. The crime may be solved, but there is still more to come for Lori and Jason, and Scott off the page. All in all, a very compelling read for crime and mystery fans.

The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl

Maddie Bright.jpgTitle: The True Story of Maddie Bright

Author: Mary-Rose MacColl

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 504

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: In 1920, seventeen-year old Maddie Bright is thrilled to take a job as a serving girl on the royal tour of Australia by Edward who was then Prince of Wales. She makes friends with Helen Burns, the prince’s vivacious press secretary, Rupert Waters, his most loyal man, and is in awe of Edward himself, the boy prince.

For Maddie, who longs to be a journalist like Helen, what starts as a desire to help her family after the devastation of war becomes a chance to work on something that matters. When the unthinkable happens, it is swift and life changing.
Decades later, Maddie Bright is living in a ramshackle house in Paddington, Brisbane. She has Ed, her drunken and devoted neighbour, to talk to, the television news to shout at, and door-knocker religions to join. But when London journalist Victoria Byrd gets the sniff of a story that might lead to the true identity of a famously reclusive writer, Maddie’s version of her own story may change.

1920, 1981 and 1997: the strands twist across the seas and over two continents, to build a compelling story of love and fame, motherhood and friendship. Set at key moments in the lives of Edward and Diana, a reader will find a friend and, by the novel’s close, that friend’s true and moving story.

MRM566 pic by David Kelly.jpg
Author: Mary-Rose MacColl

~*~

Maddie Bright is seventeen when she is employed as a serving girl on the 1920 Royal Tour of Australia by Prince Edward, who would go on to become Edward VIII for a time in 1936. Soon, her talents are noticed by members of the Prince’s staff – Helen Burns, the press secretary and Rupert Waters, and she ascends to the position of letter writer, where she finds herself in awe of the prince, known as the ‘people’s’ prince – in a similar way that Diana was the ‘people’s’ princess of the 1980s and 1990s. What starts as a way to help her family earn some more money in a post-war Australia as nations around the world start to rebuild after The Great War, abruptly ends when the unthinkable happens.

In 1981, Maddie is watching from afar as Diana Spencer prepares to marry Charles, the Prince of Wales, the grandson of King George VI, Edward VIII’s brother. She now lives alone in Brisbane, with her neighbours for company. But in 1997, shortly after the death of Princess Diana, Maddie meet with a London journalist, Victoria, who was covering Diana’s death, and gets whiff of Maddie’s story and heads off to Australia, where she will discover a secret about her family that will have a rather large impact on her life.

2019 Badge

As the novel moves in and out of 1920 , 1981 and 1997 – three key years in the history of the Royal Family, and also in the fictional lives of Maddie and Victoria, and the way the lives of Victoria and Maddie intersect, and the secrets that Maddie has kept for over seventy years – how will this impact on Victoria and her family if she gets to meet Maddie? The lives of Edward and Diana are in some ways similar: both are popular and tragic, and progressive for the times and eras they live in. They are also both charming and appear to understand the wounds of others. We all know what Diana did for those she visited in poorer communities and countries, for AIDS patients. For Edward, it was making contact with members of the Commonwealth who had lost family in the war and apologising for his family’s war. Apologising for dragging them into it – which is perhaps in stark contrast to the inside figure we see – the charming, secretive figure whose contact with women he shouldn’t have is kept hush hush on the tour, even though his staff know.

Despite the stories being quite different, and separated by decades, the story is woven across time, seas and continents, and the impact that Edward, Diana and the tragic events in their lives mirrored each other, and yet in Diana’s case, the outcome was much more tragic. This book cleverly takes three, seemingly unconnected lives, and tugs at the strings of history, family and friendship to create a mystery where all the hints are there – but the question is how and when they will be resolved – and in some ways, if. In this story, Maddie is also an author, and the story of her life is interspersed with excerpts from her novel that hint at what the truth behind the secrets she has kept are.

Moving in and out of 1920, 1981 and 1997 – Maddie’s parts are told in first person, and Victoria’s in third person – which suits the novel, the characters and overall narrative. Everything is carefully revealed in this novel, almost purposefully, so that the reader knows details when they need to know it, and just as the reader finds things out in this way, the characters find things out when they need to. I loved that this was about family and friendship, and the power of breaking away from situations that weren’t right for each character – though we all know of Edward’s abdication in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson. The tragedy of these figures highlights how hard it must be to be in the spotlight constantly, but also, what the consequences can be for how they represent themselves, and the perceived way they represent the monarchy.

It is an intriguing story that at first, I thought would need a great deal of concentration because it felt so in depth and involved with so many strands and differing perspectives between Maddie and Victoria and told in first and third person. Yet it is a seamless transfer between Maddie’s fiction, between time periods and between first and third, Maddie and Victoria, that the entire book went by in a matter of days. It combines fictional characters and real-life figures well and in a seamless way, and has an authenticity about it that suggests something like this could have happened had someone like Edward had dalliances like the book hints at. It also explores the polarising cult of celebrity, and the hate versus the love of people like Edward and Diana, and also, ways celebrity can harm people’s lives.

It is also powerful because the story is told by two women – Maddie and Victoria, rather than the male figures around them who are in a more peripheral role, though still present, and still having an impact – Victoria and Maddie control the narrative and the direction the story goes in. A very well-written, and tightly plotted story, where the lives of women are mirrored in each other – Maddie, Diana and Victoria yet also starkly different in many ways, giving each figure their own power and vulnerabilities.

Booktopia

Book Bingo Five: A book set in the Australian Mountains.

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We’re now into March (How did that happen?) and my fifth book bingo for the year, and i have checked off seven of my thirty squares now. Initially when I got this card, I though this square – a book set in the Australian Mountains – might be a challenge, because I wasn’t sure what book would fit this square until I got The Orchardist’s Daughter from Allen and Unwin to review.

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n.jpg

Today, my friends Amanda and Theresa will also be posting a new book bingo post each, and each fortnight, it is always interesting to see what squares we fill and with what books, and whether or not we will be doing single or double bingos to make sure we fill all the squares by the end of the year. Some of my forthcoming reviews have been slated for certain squares but as they have not gone live yet, I will wait until those reviews are up to check off the squares.

orchardists daughter

The Orchardist’s Daughter is set in the south-east of Tasmania, around the mountains and forests. It is filled with various contentious relationships: a brother and sister, a husband and wife, Park Rangers and loggers, and humans and nature. It is a story with many threads that at the beginning, feel disconnected, but are still beautifully written, and that eventually weave together to create the overall narrative.

Check back in on the sixteenth for more book bingo action, and then again on the thirtieth of the month. With twenty-three squares to go, there might be some more double bingos coming your way.

Book Bingo Twenty-Three: A Book Everyone is Talking About, and A Book with a One Word Title, and a Book That Became a Movie

Book bingo take 2

Wow, another fortnight, and another book bingo – my 23rd of the year. As this is my second round, Theresa, and Amanda and I have allowed some flexibility and I have used previously read books to fit into categories I may not make by the end of the year but making sure they did not double up with my previous bingo card. Of the remaining categories, I am yet to read a book that fits in with a forgotten classic, and that will, together with a book written more than ten years ago, make up my final book bingo post that will appear just before Christmas – it’s a busy time of year – the asterix next to We Three Heroes in this post indicates I have not marked that square off yet, and it will appear in my next book bingo in early December.

Book bingo take 2 .jpg

This time around, I have scored three bingo rows – row two across, and rows two and three down – with some books not having appeared in my bingo previously but read this year, they fitted in perfectly to the categories, and some will as I previously said, be discussed in later posts.

Wundersmith

The first book off the shelf is the one that we have all spent a year waiting for. Ever since Nevermoor was released in 2017, the anticipation for Wundersmith, my book with a one-word title (I’m not counting its subtitle for the sake of this category), has been bubbling over in the book blogging world, the publishing world and the bookseller and reader worlds. Wundersmith continues the adventures of Morrigan Crow, rescued from Jackalfax on her birthday by the enigmatic and utterly delightful Jupiter North, whose air of mystery and magic show Morrigan a world beyond what she has known for her entire life. She is taken to Nevermoor, and after her successes in her trials, she is accepted into the Wunder Society, or WunSoc, to study and cultivate her talents and knack. She meets her friends, Hawthorne, the Wundercat, Fenestra, and Jupiter’s nephew, Jack, and lives at the Hotel Deucalion – where the rooms change depending on what you need, where vampires throw parties and where doors that lead to secret places appear. Who wouldn’t want to live here? In Wundersmith, Morrigan is due to start her lessons at the academy, with her classmates, including Hawthorne, but when her knack is revealed, she finds that there are many who will want to work against her, and those, such as Ezra Squall, who wants to use her to get back into Nevermoor. What follows is Morrigan’s fight to stay in classes and resist Squall – and it is through these trials that she finds out who she can really trust, and who is just in it to help Squall, by using her. A great series and I am eager for the third one, to see where Jessica and Morrigan take us, and would love to find out where I can get a cat like Fen.

victoria and abdul

The second book on this list and post is a book that became a movie. For this, I chose Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Shrabani Busi. I saw the movie first, and then found the book, which was originally published in 2010, seven years before the movie came out. True to the core elements of the story, including the racism and discrimination Abdul faced by the Queen’s family and staff, the movie covers only the year of the Diamond Jubilee, whereas the book covers the preceding ten years and the Golden Jubilee, and also tells us of Abdul’s fate after Queen Victoria’s death in January, 1901. The story was discovered years after, through diaries that had remained secret after the death of Victoria and Abdul – it was these diaries that Shrabani used to piece the story together, as Bertie, who became Edward the VII, had all personal correspondence between the two destroyed after he sacked Abdul and sent him home. What their story highlights is that prejudice is deeply entrenched in society – whether it is class, gender, age, or in this case, race and religion, and whilst Queen Victoria saw beyond these and respected Abdul as her friend and munshi, those around her did not like it. The diaries had been Karim’s – kept secret by his family after he died in 1909 – and without them and their dedication to keeping the diaries safe, and Shrabani’s fabulous detective work, we might not know the depths of this relationship, and the Queen’s family and her advisors would have succeeded in scrubbing a remarkable, and intriguing tale from the annals of our history.

Lennys book of everything

Finally, a book that everyone is talking about – Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee. This is one that has generated a lot of press from the publisher, Allen and Unwin, who won a seven-way bidding war for the right to publish this book. It tells the story of Lenny, whose brother, Davey, is sick and has a condition that makes him keep growing. Lenny dreams that her father will return one day, and as she and her brother collect a build it yourself encyclopaedia, Lenny begins to search for her father’s family, determined to find him. Yet as her brother gets sicker and has to go to hospital for tests, Lenny finds herself caught between a reality she has to deal with and the fantasy she is looking for. This book is special because it shows the strength of a community and family when things get bad, and a child narrator whose voice grows with her, and who has strong beliefs. Lenny and Davey dream of a life of freedom and adventure, heading up to Canada to find their father with Davey’s invisible Golden Eagle, Timothy, and away from the confines of their life with their mother. It is a love story, but not the kind of love story that everyone associates with those words. Instead of romantic love, it is familial love – mother and children, mother and son, mother and daughter, brother and sister – relationships that are perhaps more powerful than a romantic love because they are forever, and do not flit in and out of life in the same way romance does. There is a fragility about this book, but also a strength, and Lenny’s story is driven by her love for her family and insatiable thirst for knowledge. Lenny’s Book of Everything is one of those books that stays with you, and that haunts you. It gave me a book hangover that I’m clawing my way out of and trying to get on top of all my other reading. It is so powerful that my mind keeps circling back to it and I may need to read it again at some stage.

AWW-2018-badge-rose

Row #4

 

A forgotten classic:

A book with a one-word title: Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend – AWW2018

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

A funny book: Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, Illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky -AWW2018

A book with a number in the title: We Three Heroes by Lynette Noni – AWW2018*

Row #5 -BINGO

 

A book that became a movie: Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Shrabani Busi

A book based on a true story: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – AWW2018*

A book everyone is talking about: Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee – AWW2018*

A book written by someone under thirty: The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – AWW2018

A book written by someone over sixty: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – AWW2018

Down

Row #1 – –

A book set more than 100 years ago: The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – AWW2018

A book with a yellow cover: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian woman: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018

A forgotten classic:

A book that became a movie: Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Shrabani Busi

Row #2  – BINGO

 

A book written more than ten years ago: The Nutcracker by Alexandre Dumas*

A book by an author you’ve never read before: If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken

A book written by an Australian man: Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A book with a one-word title:Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend – AWW2018

A book based on a true story: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – AWW2018*

 

Row #3: – BINGO

 

A memoir: No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – AWW2018

A non-fiction book:Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer – AWW2018*

A prize-winning book: Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth – 2007 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction – aWW2018

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

A book everyone is talking about: Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee – AWW2018

This is my third last book bingo of 2018!! The next one shall be my penultimate post, on the 1st of December, and the entire challenge will wrap up ten days before Christmas on the 15th, so look out for my final posts and I hope, a book bingo wrap up post.

Booktopia

Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Shrabani Busi

victoria and abdul.jpgTitle: Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant

Author: Shrabani Busi

Genre: Non-fiction, History

Publisher: The History Press

Published: 21st Jult 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $24.99

Synopsis:

Tall, handsome Abdul Karim was just twenty-four years old when he arrived in England from Agra to wait at tables during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. An assistant clerk at Agra Central Jail, he suddenly found himself a personal attendant to the Empress of India herself. Within a year, he was established as a powerful figure at court, becoming the queen’s teacher, or Munshi. Devastated by the death of John Brown, her Scottish gillie, the queen had at last found his replacement, but her intense and controversial relationship with the Munshi led to a near revolt in the royal household.
Victoria & Abdul explores how a young Indian Muslim came to play a central role at the heart of the Empire at a time when independence movements in the sub-continent were growing in force. Yet, at its heart, it is a tender love story between an ordinary Indian and his elderly queen – a relationship that survived the best attempts to destroy it.

~*~

Often the most interesting stories that come from the historical record are the ones that we do not learn about on a school syllabus, but that we discover by chance, or that come out years after the event – whatever that event may be, and are told with a truthfulness and raw emotion, and that complement what we already know about history and add to our understandings and the record that was either wiped clean or hidden by those who did not want it known, and there are many examples of this throughout history. One such example is one that, until the movie came out last year, I had not known anything about, and ticks off the two movie categories in my Pop Sugar Reading Challenge, and my book bingo this year. After the movie, which spanned the final jubilee year of Queen Victoria, I was intrigued about the story, and where it had come from, and how Abdul had fared after he went back to India – as we were only given a small glimpse at the end of the movie. What I discovered was what we saw in the movie, and much, much more.

So I tracked down the book, Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant. Starting more than ten years earlier than the movie, with the Golden Jubilee in 1887, and ending in 1901, after the Queen’s death in the January of that year. During his time in England, Abdul Karim saw two jubilee celebrations – the Gold and the Diamond, and the heart of the English Empire, and became a good friend and Munshi to the Queen. His arrival, and elevation to roles beyond that of servant, and the trust Queen Victoria placed in him during her last years was seen by her family and household staff as undesirable, and they tried at every turn to undermine the Queen and her decisions, in particular her son, Bertie, who would become King Edward the VII, whose subsequent line would consist of King George the VI, who saw England through World War Two, and the threat of the Nazis, after his brother, Edward the VIII abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

But Queen Victoria stuck to her guns and continued her Urdu lessons with Abdul filling many journals, so she could speak with her Indian servants, Abdul, and his family when they arrived to live with him in England, and she ensured that they were well-looked after, another thing her family and staff felt was an affront to the image of royalty and the empire. What follows is an intricate story of the inner workings of Queen Victoria’s house and her delightful friendship with Abdul, and the respect she showed him, giving him a decent wage, helping his family and learning his language. In a time in history when many people would have seen Abdul as a subservient in England, and very much did, the Queen treated Abdul with respect and as an equal, treasuring her journals and letters from him. Upon her death, Abdul and his family returned to India, and a parcel of land, but the correspondence he had had with his Queen, were destroyed by her family and household staff.

In a world of prejudice and racism, Abdul broke barriers with Queen Victoria and into her society, and was then scrubbed from history until recently, or if not scrubbed, largely ignored when his influence was so significant upon one of the longest reigning monarchs of England, known as the Empress of India at the time. This is a book that needs to be read by history lovers, and those intrigued by the hidden histories that we have not had much of a chance to hear about.

Booktopia

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.