#BookReview By Lou of The Good Servant By Fern Britton @Fern_Britton @LizDawsonPR @fictionpubteam @HarperCollinsUK #HistoricalFiction #BookRecommendation #BookTwt #TheGoodServant

The Good Servant
By Fern Britton

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Good Servant, a book that is fiction based on fact about an ordinary woman in Dunfermline, Scotland, whose life turned into the extraordinary, in this fascinating and engrossing book.
Thanks to Harper Collins for a review copy.
Find out more in the blurb and rest of my review below.

The Good Servant cover

Blurb

From the no.1 Sunday Times bestselling author comes the story of Marion Crawford, governess to the Queen – an ordinary woman living in an extraordinary time in 1932. Dunfermline, Scotland.

Marion Crawford, a bright, ambitious young teacher, is ready to make her mark on the world. Until a twist of fate changes the course of her life forever…

1936. Windsor Castle.

At first this ordinary woman is in a new world, working as the governess to two young princesses, in a household she calls home but where everyone is at a distance. As the course of history changes, she finds herself companion to the future Queen, and indispensable to the Crown. And slowly their needs become her needs. Their lives become hers.

It’s then she meets George, and falls in love for the first time. Now Marion faces an impossible choice: her sense of duty or the love of her life.

Review

The Good Servant is fiction based on fact. It’s a fictionalised account of Marion Crawford’s life from before, during and after she an employee for the monarchy.
Marion is a young Scottish woman who becomes a governess to two princesses – Princess Margaret and the princess who became our present queen – Queen Elizabeth II. They were devoted to Marion Crawford and affectionately called her Crawfie. She was ambitious, but hadn’t planned to take her ability to teach to that end of the population; her original plan was to educate and be a child psychologist at  the other end of the scale – the underprivieged, until fate drew its hand and changed them quite unexpectedly and dramatically. She took them on a journey of what people who aren’t royalty, call normality.

It’s a fascinating story that is revealed and makes me want to look into Marion’s life more as I am sure many readers will after reading this rivetting book.

The book has an air of authenticity to it and Fern Britton has cleverly woven through the facts of an ordinary woman who suddenly has her life changed to the extraordinary and has to weigh up choices she hadn’t thought she had to face, with the consequences to choose which path she will go along and some of the mistakes made along the way.

There are twists as readers see what mistakes are made and motives uncovered, involving a certain man in her life.

This is a book I recommend as it is very interesting, about a woman I certainly was barely aware of and the writing coupled with the research makes it a very good read.

#BookReview By Lou of The Little Wartime Library By Kate Thompson @katethompson380 @HodderBooks #TheLittleWartimeLibrary

The Little Wartime Library
By Kate Thompson

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Little Wartime Library is based on real events and is absolutely extraordinary! It is insightful and will lead you to a library you may not have known existed where it did. It is far from your usual place in this book with a fascinating page-turning, heartwarming plot, based on a lot of fact. I am truly impressed.
Thanks to Kate Thompson for allowing me to review and to be part of an interview process of 100 librarians for an article (not commented on this review, as I have not seen it, but what I have commented on is the book itself and the author’s note). This is an important and must read book for all of society. Find out more in the blurb and my review below.

The Little Wartime Library, Kate Thompson, The Paris Library, historical fiction, women's fiction

Blurb

London, 1944.

The Little Wartime Library, Kate Thompson, The Paris Library, historical fiction, women's fictionClara Button is no ordinary librarian. While the world remains at war, in East London Clara has created the country’s only underground library, built over the tracks in the disused Bethnal Green tube station. Down here a secret community thrives: with thousands of bunk beds, a nursery, a café and a theatre offering shelter, solace and escape from the bombs that fall above.

Along with her glamorous best friend and library assistant Ruby Munroe, Clara ensures the library is the beating heart of life underground. But as the war drags on, the women’s determination to remain strong in the face of adversity is tested to the limits when it seems it may come at the price of keeping those closest to them alive.

Based on true events, 
The Little Wartime Library is a gripping and heart-wrenching page-turner that remembers one of the greatest resistance stories of the war.

The Little Wartime Library, Kate Thompson, The Paris Library, historical fiction, women's fiction                                    The Little Wartime Library, Kate Thompson, The Paris Library, historical fiction, women's fictionReview

Readers meet Clara Button in 1944 in the East End of London. She created a safe library underground, when there was war all around. The introduction to her and this story is fascinating and shows the flexibility and resilience of librarians and their assistants.
Throughout, there are some quotes taken from various librarians. There is mention of an article. I have not seen this in the proof copy I had to review from.

Kate Thompson has interviewed 100 librarians, I was absolutely priveleged to be one of them. She writes an authors note, addressing librarians and also for anyone reading her book, that is so pleasing to read. It is a bit like a love letter. She has debunked many myths about libraries and librarians and also tells a truth about what is happening to them, as well as their importance and how and why they are still as relevant today as they ever were. I’ve never read anything like it and nor am I probably ever likely to again and for this, I thank Kate Thompson for what makes my heart soar with joy that someone truly understands.

There’s an adventure to be embarked. One of history and a library to be found and suddenly readers are hurtled back from the present day, (where it begins in the prologue) to 1944. It is an emotional, vivid and inspiring book.
This book shows that in 1944, libraries didn’t disappear as such and this one ingeniously moved underground. Clara is such a likeable character and it is so interesting getting to know her and her best friend and library assistant – Ruby Munroe. Clara has such strength in character, that she carried on, even through her own grief. I got a sense that her and I just might have got along.

The writing shows that a lot of research has been put in and yet it is light with its touch. It is a beautiful story of war, resillience, love and loss and of course libraries carrying on no matter what is thrown at them. It pulls you in and the style of writing is entrancing. It’s a feast for the eyes and mind with characters that are fascinating to meet, some with their own issues to deal with, including Clara herself with her family, especially the fractious relationship between her and her mother as far as the library was concerned. There is also a new boss, who is not likeable and may cause readers to have a fixed glare at his character, despite this, the library is abuzz with atmosphere and people reaching out for books.

There is also Ruby’s story being told in alternating chapters and as it unfolds, you get to know what a lovely friend she is to Clara. She also has a penchant for Gin cocktails. There is also some flirtation going on with some of the ARP. 

Weaved amongst the two main characters are the lives of others within the area and it all becomes a rich tapestry of people from all different backgrounds, with their own stories to tell, some are the most heart-wrenching anyone could have. There are other big themes on mysoginist attitudes, that also encapsulate what was happening socially at the time, including attitudes around reading. There’s a lot of strong observation in the book that perhaps highlights certain things that aren’t always examined when looking at war-times, more topics looked at before and after, not always during, so that stands-out too.

There is trepidation, other than the dangers of war of course, that is very gripping.

Time moves onwards and Clara and Ruby are still there, and some of the debates around reading are still the same in 2022. Much like now, the library was under threat of closure, what ensues is a sobering thought. Suddenly by the end of some voracious reading, it is hard not to read slower, wondering what is going to happen as there was a turn of events earlier.

The book finishes with a wonderful epilogue, returning readers back to present day, where they began and this demonstrates the arcs that bridge different time periods very well.

About The Author

Kate Thompson was born in London in 1974, and worked as a journalist for twenty years on women’s magazines and national newspapers. She now lives in Sunbury with her husband, two sons and a Lurcher called Ted. After ghost writing five memoirs, Kate moved into fiction. Kate’s first non-fiction social history documenting the forgotten histories of East End matriarchy, The Stepney Doorstep Society, was published in 2018 by Penguin. Her seventh novel, The Little Wartime Library is to be published by Hodder & Stoughton in the spring of 2022.

           www.katethompsonmedia.co.uk                Twitter @katethompson

 

#BookReview By Lou -The Language of Food By Annabel Abbs @AnnabelAbbs @simonschusterUK #TheLanguageOfFood @BookMinxSJV

The Language of Food
By Annabel Abbs

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Language of Food is fiction based on fact. It takes reader into the life of a little known woman, by many, called Eliza Acton. She changed the course of cookery forever and when today’s cooks come across her, they are inspired by her story and style. Annabel Abbs has now opened her life up so that everyone can know the achievements and hardships and good times of her. Discover more in the blurb and my review. I also thank Simon and Schuster for gifting me a copy of the book.

The Language of Food pic

Blurb

The Language of Food picEngland 1835. Eliza Acton is a poet who dreams of seeing her words in print. But when she takes her new manuscript to a publisher, she’s told that ‘poetry is not the business of a lady’. Instead, they want her to write a cookery book. That’s what readers really want from women. England is awash with exciting new ingredients, from spices to exotic fruits. But no one knows how to use them

Eliza leaves the offices appalled. But when her father is forced to flee the country for bankruptcy, she has no choice but to consider the proposal. Never having cooked before, she is determined to learn and to discover, if she can, the poetry in recipe writing. To assist her, she hires seventeen-year-old Ann Kirby, the impoverished daughter of a war-crippled father and a mother with dementia. 

Over the course of ten years, Eliza and Ann developed an unusual friendship – one that crossed social classes and divides – and, together, they broke the mould of traditional cookbooks and changed the course of cookery writing forever. 

Eliza Acton, despite having never before boiled an egg, became one of the world’s most successful cookery writers, revolutionizing cooking and cookbooks around the world. Her story is fascinating, uplifting and truly inspiring.

The Language of Food pic

                                              The Language of Food pic

Review

The Language of Food may make you hungry, it may make you feel warm and cosy and it may show you something you perhaps did not know before.

This is a fictional book, but features a real person from history – Eliza Acton. She was a cookery writer who lived between 1799-1859 and got a blue plaque. I love and appreciate food and cookery, but I had never heard of her before, perhaps because, as the book says, so little was known about her, but this book weaves into her life, what was known about her. More well-known cooks of this more modern era, such as Delia Smith and others, have been influenced by her. Eliza’s books were bestsellers, selling vast amounts of copies at the time.

Each chapter is nicely designed in the way they are written and titled – using food related terms or actual food. The book also goes between Ann and Eliza to tell their life stories. It begins with Ann and Mr Whitmarsh, who has given her a present. Immediately, Mr Whitmarsh brings energy that runs through the opening chapter, but also one of intrigue at a certain reaction to the more well-known – Mrs Beaton…

The book then goes to Eliza, on her way to a publisher, hoping to publish some more poetry. The publisher then sees an opportunity for a cookery book. The book shows how things were at a certain time in people’s views and at the same time, therefore also shows how things have moved on as time has passed and views have differed and what is realised about women’s talents, that were overlooked and not taken seriously before, as she argues the point of how poetry was good enough for great male stalwarts of this type of writing, but perhaps not women. There is also a level of perspective within Ann’s world, where she isn’t pleased at this finding, but Mr Whitmarsh soon shows a bit of reality within his cooking world.

The book has a sense of movement in time and is, in some respects, the writing is poetic, something perhaps Eliza Acton may have appreciated…. perhaps… It also shows her determination, ambition and almost fearlessness to do things how she wants to, which then drove a change in the way cookery books were and are written.

It isn’t as simple as that. Eliza has to think about food in a more focussed way to give her publishers a cookery book, but with one tiny problem… she has never even boiled an egg before, which makes you wonder how on earth she can write a cookery book and the sort that her publishers would want to show the world and sell. So, she learns and gets inspired by food and what Jack has told her. Eliza, against the odds, begins to add unexpected ingredients for Britain at that time.

The food and how it was cooked, all blended into the story, unfolds in a way that educates in how food was prepared and also feeds the senses terribly well and absorbs into the mind, wanting to soak up and consume every word. Given that there, as readers are informed at the beginning, that there is little known about Eliza Acton, I can’t help but think that this book is respectfully done. There’s a certain sense, especially as it captures the times and then hones in on the food and brings a believability to it and shows how cuisine was then and how Eliza started to change it, and also learnt from other cooks. The book demonstrates a whole foody web of connections and sparks of inspiration gained from others, even if not always in-person, but in their cookery books.

As well as all the food that leaps from the page, there, intertwined is also other parts of her life, because people have more than one interest and more than one thing going on in their lives. There are the friendships forged, even when some may seem unlikely, but showing that sometimes, they can be great friendships. There are also health challenges and how they were seen at the time.

There is also great insight into the characters lives, and the places featured, lots that are real, including a mental health asylum. Those that feature a lot in the book have a very interesting note at the end of the book, which gives even greater context and interest and attention to detail.

As a book as a whole, it’s a good introduction to Eliza Acton, who will, I am sure be a bit better known than she perhaps used to be, and is interesting as well as being humorous with lots of food within it and snippets of her and Ann’s lives throughout, creating a believable story, that then picques interest to do a small amount of looking around for Eliza Acton, something I often find myself doing after a biopic or a fictional story based on a real person’s life, if it interests me enough.

About the Author

Annabel Abbs is the new rising star of biographical historical novels. She grew up in Bristol, Sussex and Wales before studying English Literature at the University of East Anglia and Marketing at the University of Kingston. Her debut novel The Joyce Girl was a Guardian Reader’s Pick and her second novel Frieda: The Original Lady Chatterley earned critical acclaim including Times 2018 Book of the Year. She regularly appears on national and regional media, with recent appearances on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and Sky News, and is popular on the literary festival circuit. She was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, the Caledonia Novel Award and the Waverton GoodRead Award. Annabel lives in London with her husband and four children.

 

#BookReview By Lou – The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures By Holly Hepburn @HollyH_Author @TeamBATC @harriet_col #simonschusterUK #TheLittleShopOfHiddenTreasures

The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures
By Holly Hepburn

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Today I am excited to present my review of The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures. It has layers of history, romance, poignancy and chips away at you to make you curious amongst the cosyness.
Check out the blurb and my full review below. Thanks to Simon and Schuster for gifting me a physical copy of The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures and for inviting me onto the blog tour.

The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures cover pic

Blurb

**The brand new novel from Holly Hepburn, perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley and Katie Fforde.**
Originally published in four parts this is the full story in one package. 

When Hope loses her husband, she fears her happiest days are behind her. With her only connection to London broken, she moves home to York to be near her family and to begin to build a new life.  

Taking a job at the antique shop she has always admired, she finds herself crossing paths with two very different men. Will, who has recently become the guardian to his niece after the tragic death of her parents. And Ciaran, who she enlists to help solve the mystery of an Egyptian antique. Two men who represent two different happy endings.

But can she trust herself to choose the right man? And will that bring her everything she really needs?

The brand new novel from Holly Hepburn, author of Coming Home to Brightwater Bay

Review

The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures cover picHope Henderson is into antiques and needs a job. What can be more perfect than a vacancy at The Ever After Emporium – Purveyors of Treasure Great and Small in York. Her love of antiques started at Portabello Market in London, but then she moved to York where she finds the antique shop founded in 1902 where the proprieter is James T. Young Esq. What makes it seem all the more perfect is the post is part-time and no experience is required.

Charlotte is Hope’s sister, grappling motherhood with her daughter, Amber who is of a young age that she keeps growing out of things, something many parents with toddlers (and older kids), will be able to relate to. 

There’s an interesting Egyptian puzzle box that belonged to Will’s mother in the emporium that piques at the curiousity of Hope and will readers alike. This is where the plot begins to thicken, now it’s already captured my attention by its relative cosyness, which I am sure many readers will be able to feel and be reeled in even further between the past and present, linked with a letter written around an exhibition to Egypt in the early 1920’s. This note, secretly hidden away, sends Hope on an adventure of investigative research into Tutenkhamun, Lord Canarvon and the exhibitions. So, although this is a fictional story, it does mention real people and real excavations. The author intertwines fact and fiction well and holds interest. This book, what with all the interest in the Canarvon Family due to the location of Downton Abbey, may then find you wanting to investigate these exhibitions yourself too and that’s where good writing comes in, to pique interest that much.

On-top of the mysterious letter and the history is also deep poignancy about grief. What is said is incredibly truthful and wise words indeed within this book that has certain interesting nuances within it.

There’s also quite the love story to follow through this book too that keeps you guessing what the ending is going to be and what choices are going to be made. There’s also some great humour with certain film references and more general humour, between Hope and her sister Charlotte, creating some great sisterly fun. There’s also some really heartwarming moments among other characters too.

This is ulitmately a lovely book that is heartwarming and a joy to read.

The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures BTG (1)

 

#BookReview By Lou – The Collector’s Daughter By Gill Paul @GillPaulAUTHOR @AvonBooks #HistoricalFiction #Egyptologists #Tutankhamun #5thEarlOfCanarvon #Fiction

The Collector’s Daughter
By Gill Paul

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Collector’s Daughter has a lot I didn’t expect and was better for it and oh so interesting as well as being a book I sailed through. I am absolutely delighted to finally have time from a busy period of time, to show you my review… Thanks to Avon Books for gifting this lovely book. Find more in the blurb and my review…

The Collector's Daughter

Blurb

From the internationally bestselling author comes a tale of long-buried secrets and a discovery that will change everything, perfect for fans of Dinah Jefferies and Lucinda Riley.

The Collector’s Daughter: A gripping and sweeping tale of unforgettable discoveries and unforgiveable secrets for 2021An unforgettable discovery
In 1922, Lady Evelyn Herbert’s dreams are realised when she is the first to set foot inside the lost tomb of Tutankhamun for over 3,000 years.
A cursed life
But the months after the discovery are marred by tragedy, when Eve’s father dies suddenly and her family is torn in two. Desperate to put the past behind her, Eve retreats into a private life with her new husband.
A deadly choice
But she is harbouring a dark secret about what really happened in Egypt. And when a young woman comes asking questions years later, the happiness Eve has finally found is threatened once more…

Review

The Collector’s Daughter takes readers to Egypt to follow in the footsteps of Lady Evelyn Herbert, as she takes the first steps into the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. It is absolutely fascinating to read about Eve and her discoveries and when she is older and how Dr. Ana Mansor takes up the mantle and how their path’s cross.

Luxor, 1919. Eve comes from a privileged family at Highclere. She is a daughter of Lord Carnarvon (George Herbert – 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who becomes an Egyptologist and funds the exploration of Tutankhamun’s tomb. 

Her mother has other plans. She wants Eve to get married and has to be a man of similar social standing. This isn’t Eve’s idea. For Eve there has to be more than this. She desires a man who will share a passion for travel and who will approve of her being an archeologist. It has been a passion of hers, after being inspired by her father, who encouraged her, to be part of digs. At 18 she arrives in Luxor, Valley of the Kings. There are some strange events as Tutenkhamun’s Tomb is discovered. 

London, 1972. Eve is in her early seventies and has had yet another stroke and is trying to regain her speech at a rehabilitation centre. The story of Egypt doesn’t stop here though. Dr. Ana Mansor is working on a research project and finding something odd about the archives with information about Tutankhamun’s tomb. Dr. Ana Mansor decides to visit Eve. It piques curiosity as to what this may be. It also gives a new energy and determination to Eve to improve her speech, but something feels odd. She has a secret that she is reluctant to reveal… It is so dark about what happened in Egypt…

This has depth and some of the characters are real, but are fictionalised. The book however piques interest to find out more about the exhibitions of Lord Canarvon. There’s a great plot, history, dark secrets to uncover; it’s an enthralling read. The research done with imagination is great and makes this better than I ever expected!

 

#BookReview – Looking for the Durrells By Melanie Hewitt @MelanieHewitt61 @HarperInspire #Fiction #Bookboost #LookingForTheDurrells

Looking for the Durrells
By Melanie Hewitt

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Today I am excited to reveal my review for Looking For the Durrells By Melanie Hewitt. The Durrell’s are fascinating and that tv drama was wonderfully done. This book takes you to Corfu as you meet Penny on her travels to find what remains from this family, mixing fact and fiction to create an absorbing book. Thanks to Melanie Hewitt for gifting me a signed copy of the book. Opinions are my own and not influenced by this.
Find out more in the blurb and my full review below.

Looking for the Durrells: A heartwarming, feel-good and uplifting novel bringing the Durrells back to life

Blurb

Looking For the Durrells 1Fiancés, friends, and other animals…

After a year that sees a broken-off engagement and the death of her beloved father, Penny is desperate to get away.

Fulfilling a childhood dream, she sets off on a month-long pilgrimage to Corfu – an island idyll she knows only through the pages of Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals.

On the island, Penny quickly finds herself drawn into the lives of a tight-knit circle of strangers. Exploring – searching for the places the Durrells knew decades before – she makes unexpected discoveries about the hopes, fears, and secrets of the people living there today.

And as strangers start to be friends, lives past and present become entwined in ways none of them could have predicted…

Review

Looking For the Durrells 2Penny is so enthused by The Durrells and has a passion for Gerald Durrell’s book – My Family and Other Animals, has read this and the whole trilogy So Many Times! Enthusiam and energy breaths through each page and there is suddenly, after a life event, adventure in the air and what an adventure she is going to have as she heads to Corfu on her own to discover more about the Durrells and Corfu and what it is like, what has changed or whether it even smells like it did in the 1930’s when the family were there. This is a sparky book and you can’t help but feel the energy and curiosity encapsulating, wrapping round like a hug as there’s such warmth.

When she arrives in Corfu you start to get a sense of the place, including the apartment and its surrounding area. There are quite a few people to meet, a few familiar names (familiar if you’ve read Gerald’s stories or watched the recent drama – The Durrells, or indeed know the families), such as the Ioannidis family, Spiro, Tess and Theo Stephanides – 3 people, 3 generations. There are people who Eve meets who knew the Durrell’s family friend, Spiro Americano. It’s an interesting and yet nice touch that the author has decided to use this as well as the fact he was also known by Spiro Halikiopoulos. There’s also an interesting revelation there that takes this family right up to present day with an amusing anecdote.

As well as discovering The Durrells (as well as a little snippet of what happened to them) and what survives of when they lived in Corfu, Penny is also discovering whether its a place she wants to be to start a new life. She meets many people, including Nicolas Constantine (Nic), a professor of marine biology and Dimitris.

Penny really embraces the Durrells, even donning the types of clothes Margo would have worn and what draws her to not just the Durrells as a whole family, but Margo, inparticular.
There are also travels to discover the family’s first and last houses they lived in whilst in Corfu. As well as looking around the island discovering what it holds, there is also room for romance and to uncover some of the secrets some of its present day residents keep. The connections to the island and how people are connected adds to the life of Corfu. The book is very much in the present, with references back to the Durrell’s and Corfu’s past. It is all rather a lovely, uplifting, cosy story.

Melanie Hewitt really draws you into this adventure and into the sights, temperatures, aromas, atmosphere and sounds of Corfu. It isn’t about the Durrells in the way a non-fiction book would document their lives or like the books that they wrote, it is very much a story in its own right and is akin to being on holiday on a tour finding out the places they went to and the people. It also, in a way, makes me think of travel programmes where the presenter meets others who know an area and meet people, since Penny gets lucky to meet people who knew or has connections to The Durrells, so alongside Penny’s life and adventure is some fact about the family and the Greek island. This is actually quite nice and works well as it makes it a story of its own and puts a different slant on things that is really rather accessible for everyone and gives it a holiday vibe. I love that there has been correspondence between Melanie Hewitt and Lee Durrell – Gerald Durrell’s wife and the book has been shared with her. This, I find very respectful and makes the book alright to come into being, by my reckoning, since it includes mentions of her family. It makes it a more comfortable, relaxing and enjoyable read than it may well have done otherwise.