Daughters of Cornwall
By Fern Britton
Rated: 5 Stars *****
Written by Louise
Today is my turn on the blog tour for Fern Britton’s 9th novel – Daughters of Cornwall. Fern Britton is the highly acclaimed author of eight Sunday Times bestselling novels. Her book is fascinating and just grabbed me from the minute I turned to the first page, right until the end. It’s a Must Read! Before you discover the blurb and review, I would like to thank blog tour organiser Anne Cater for the invite to review, Elizabeth Dawson – PR Director at Harper Collins for sending a PDF copy and also to her and Fern Britton for a most interesting and lovely, relaxed Zoom chat. I also thank Fern Britton and her publisher for inviting me to her Twitter book launch. I was excited to have the opportunity to review the book, but to have these extras, made it all even more special, as you will see, throughout my review and. That being said, the review is still not biased. I have rated it 5 stars because it is an absolutely brilliant, impressive book with a great story that unfolds, that is told well. I also love the cover to this book – see below, where you’ll also find the synopsis, review and a bit about the author and media links as well as extra bits, after the “about the author” section.
The Great War is over, and Clara Carter has boarded a train bound for Cornwall – to meet a family that would once have been hers. But they must never discover her secret.
Hannah has always been curious about her mother’s mysterious past, but the outbreak of the Second World War casts everything in a new light. As the bombs begin to fall, Hannah and her brothers are determined to do their bit for the war effort –
whatever the cost.
Caroline has spent years trying to uncover the lies buried in her family history. And once she arrives in Cornwall, the truth finally seems to be in reach. Except with storm clouds gathering on the horizon, Caroline soon learns that some secrets are best left hidden.
Daughters of Cornwall is yet another wonderfully written book by Fern Britton, with characters you can understand their predicaments of and can empathise and sympathise with. Written with such sensitivity, candour and a little humour along the way; it is an all absorbing, page-turning, must read book.
Set between 1918 and the present day, this book feels incredibly authentic. The book flows from one age to the next very well. There’s certainly no room for confusion in this book as all the generations and the timelines are well connected.
It’s inspired by her grandmother, who was called Clara, whom is one of the characters in the book, which I think is a lovely thing for Fern Britton to do.
The book starts with a toast that has been adopted by Scottish regiments everywhere, in memory of her great uncle, which is just lovely and very fitting to what comes next.
Fern, in a zoom chat, talked about a man who wrote to her, who turned out to be her grandmother’s son, her mother’s half-brother, making him Fern’s half-uncle, who was given a way. Just the sign of the times, when difficult decisions were made and children were given away because of the shame of the, then, illigitimacy, back then and just further shows that families can be complex. It was so interesting to hear. It inspired part of the story, which is also very fictionalised, but with threads of truth weaving in and out. This perhaps why the writing feels so heartfelt and authentic. The writing is brave and I am glad that it is a story that has been told, with its emotional plot and the nuances of her characters, that in turn, creates a desire to keep reading to discover what happens next as time progresses.
The prologue itself just drew me in from the start as it sets up the story of family bloodlines so well. It’s the way it is written that adds curiosity and intrigue, one of the marks of a skilled author. I get the feeling that Fern Britton has honed so many skills to write this masterful, authentic book, that spans between 1918 and the present day.
Family secrets from the past are uncovered as a well travelled case is mysteriously sent to Caroline in the present day, also containing the initials of her grandfather – Ernest H. Bolitho, who had died in Penang, Malyasia.
Part 1 introduces Clara in 1918, a month after the First World War ended, on her way from Kent to Cornwall on an interesting journey. Interesting because there are different attitudes presented by Clara and a passenger. She would rather not talk about the war, but he would. The needs and emotions are handled well and with great realism.
Clara and Bertie were very much in love, but Clara has secrets that she is all too willing to hold close to her chest and weaves truths with lies to reinvent and perhaps, protect, as she travels by train, alone, after the war to meet Bertie’s family, one she should have been firmly part of, hadn’t it been for such a tragic fate that so many people in the war faced.
What emerges is that Clara is a strong woman, with a lot to deal with as she hides her tears and also gets on with this stage in her life. Readers will also see the endearing love between Bertie and Clara.
Attention to detail is astonishing, right down to meat paste sandwiches some of the fashions of the times and, and down to the advent of fashions/materials that are now so commonplace, such as denim/jeans. I’m suitably impressed! Overall, this is an impressively written book as real life and fiction is weaved seamlessly together to create this latest novel.
Fern talked a bit about on the Zoom meeting, how it was called the Great War because of course they thought that was the war to end all wars and not realising there could be another one. There are letters written between the two. The letters are well-written and feel authentic. I very much enjoyed talking to Fern Britton about them, she informed me (and everyone involved) they were made up, but she did delve into the archives a bit. Clearly, thought has gone into creating the letters because they feel natural and I’ve seen (and possess) letters with some similar content and tone. There’s also some amusement injected in the letters about snakes and frogs, which she talked candidly about. Some letters, when time goes back a little and Bertie is out at war, are fast-paced and energised, almost cinematic.
There are lovely brief sections that go to Caroline in the present day and intelligently feels like you are with her, looking into all the discoveries she makes.
Fern Britton bravely talked about illigitmacy and secrets in her own family. It was fascinating to hear (she has also talked about this for bigger, more prominient media programmes/interviewers). There’s plenty of families, mine included that did things that are perfectly acceptable or understandable for present times, that perhaps weren’t seen as so back then and that, in my humble opinion, is okay and to me, it just interests me, not because I’m totally nosey you understand, it’s just that you learn, you accept and understand and care.
Part 2 concentrates on Hannah in 1938/39. Hannah is protective of the family, which is then involved in the second world war, within the RAF. There’s also insight into this and also how Cornwall was affected. She also wants to find out more about her mother.
Fern Britton also has family who have been in the RAF during the world war, she divulged in the Zoom chat. It was interesting as so do I and it all turned into a lovely and interesting conversation about the way planes were and more…
Caroline, in the present (2020), gets to a point where it is time to tell her own daughter, Natalie to tell the truth about the family and the courage and strength they have had within and how they survived against the face of adversity.
The end of the book is thought-provoking and is also gently poetic as family lines continue.
I highly recommend this book. It is different from her other books. It shows that Fern Britton can write many topics very well and it’s a book that had me absorbed from the beginning to the end and I am sure many other readers will be too.
The Launch Party of this book was done incredibly well, given it was all done on Twitter.
Her launch party was so much fun. She shown people, virtually along a gorgous bay and read passages of her book. She has narrated the audiobook. I can say that she is incredibly pleasant to listen to and the acting/reading skills are really good.
She also gave a shout out to the independent bookshops, which was thoughtful and shown a gorgeous one in Padstow, as well as a welcoming looking cafe, where she also informed us that she also has a male following who are also enjoying her books.
Comandeering a boat, she shown her sense of humour as she gave us a fun tour around the harbour.
All in all, it was all a real treat. The book is available now. I do highly recommend it and is one, readers can really get into and get to know the generations of a family, she has skillfully created.
About the Author
Fern Britton is the highly acclaimed author of eight Sunday Times bestselling novels.
Born in London, into a theatrical family, Fern started her professional life as a stage manager. Theatre life was great fun but within three years, in 1980, she graduated to television and became a presenter on Westward Television. Here she achieved her ambition of living in Cornwall. Since then television has been her home. She spent 14 years as a journalist before presenting Ready, Steady, Cook for the BBC. This Morning for ITV came next where she won several awards and became a household name. Her interview programme Fern Britton Meets had guests including Tony Blair, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dolly Parton and Cliff Richard. Fern presented The Big Allotment Challenge (BBC2), For What It’s Worth (BBC1), Culinary Genius with Gordon Ramsay (ITV)
Fern’s novels are all set in her beloved Cornwall. Her books are cherished for their warmth, wit and wisdom, and have won her legions of loyal readers. Fern was a judge for the Costa Book of the Year Award and a supporter of the Reading Agency, promoting literacy and reading.
Fern turned her talents to acting last year when she starred as Marie in Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s award-winning musical Calendar Girls.
Fern has twin sons, two daughters and lives in Cornwall in a house full of good food, wine, family, friends and gardening books. She has a motor cycle licence, an honorary doctorate for services to broadcasting and charity, and is a member of Mensa!
I credit Joanne Baird for sending me a screenshot from the Zoom Chat. Again, I thank Fern Britton for giving her time to do a Q&A session for bloggers (and for the nice, appreciated comment that was made about bloggers), of which there were 7 of us at this exclusive event (and then Elizabeth Dawson and Fern Britton, making 9), that was well and kindly organised by Elizabeth Dawson – PR Director at Harper Collins.
Go ahead and also see who else is on this blog tour and also check out the book, which is available to buy now!