Review of A Year Without Summer – One Event, Six Lives, a World Changed by Guinevere Glasfurd @GuinGlasfurd @TwoRoadsBooks #AYearWithoutSummer #RandomThingsTours #BlogTour #Review #Historical

The Year Without Summer
By Guinevere Glasfurd
Rated: ****

I am delighted to be closing this wonderful blog tour of A Year Without Summer. One Year, an exploding volcano that has far reaching implications than just its vicinity. It is worth reading and also find out which characters from history, you recognise. The intertwining of people’s lives and a volcanic eruption makes for intriguing reading.

Year Without Summer BT Poster (1)

 

About the Author

A Year Without Summer Guinever Glasfurd Author Pic (1)

 

Guinevere Glasfurd was born in Lancaster and lives near Cambridge with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel, The Words in My Hand, was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa First Novel Award and Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and was longlisted in France for the Prix du Roman FNAC. her writing has also appeared in the Scotsman, Mslexia and The National Galleries of Scotland.

Blurb

1815, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia:
Mount Tambora explodes in a cataclysmic eruption, killing thousands and causing famine, poverty and riots. Lives, both ordinary and privileged, are changed forever. Sent to investigate, ship surgeon Henry Hogg can barely believe his eyes. Once a paradise,
the island is now solid ash, the surrounding sea turned to stone. But worse is yet to come: as the ash cloud rises and covers the sun, the seasons will fail.

1816:
In Switzerland, Mary Shelley finds dark inspiration. Confined inside by the unseasonable weather, thousands of famine refugees stream past her door. In Vermont, preacher Charles Whitlock begs his followers to keep faith as drought dries their wells and
their livestock starve. In Britain, the ambitious and lovesick painter John Constable struggles to reconcile the idyllic England he paints with the misery that surrounds him. In the Fens, farm labourer Sarah Hobbs has had enough of going hungry while the
farmers flaunt their wealth. And Hope Peter, returned from Napoleonic war, finds his family home demolished and a fence gone up in its place. He flees to London, where he falls in with a group of revolutionaries who speak of a better life, whatever the cost.
As desperation sets in, Britain becomes racked with riots – rebellion is in the air.

For fans of David Mitchell and Andrew Miller, The Year Without Summer tells the story of a fateful year when temperatures fell and the summer failed to arrive. It is a story of the books written, the art made; of the journeys taken, of the love longed for and
the lives lost. Six separate lives, connected only by an event many thousands of miles away. Few had heard of Tambora – but none could escape its effects.

The Year Without Summer Cover (1)

Review

Firstly, I do enjoy a bit of creativity, so the layout of the title and sub-title captured my attention on such an otherwise, quite stark cover. It intrigues me, as does the hard-hitting blurb.

The book starts with a series of beautifully written letters between Emmalina and Henry in 1815, when Henry is a surgeon upon the Beneres – a ship out on the high seas. They practically set the scene of the times, a bit like looking at letters from ancestors.

The book then changes to 1816, where the chapters really begin, cleverly named after the main characters – John, Hope Peter, Charles, Henry, Mary, Roisin and Sarah. The book then transports readers to and fro from 1815 and 1816 in a succinct way.

This is a sumptuous period piece. I don’t mean big dresses and corsets. I mean that it is as richly character driven as it is setting driven as the story tells one of on land and at sea. There are all walks of life within these pages. There’s a romance, the returning from war, there’s a preacher trying to preach sermons wherever he could, there’s an author and artists too.

Then… an eruption! There is a volcano exploding that will change the course of life.

This was a period of time that I had heard of, but was still a bit unfamiliar with, not so much the people within the story, who did exist, but the actual Tambora volcanic explosion, so that was interesting.

There are writers, such as Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein and artists too that come into this story, one of the main reasons I was drawn to it. I was intrigued as to how they would fit into this story, plus I really like John Constable’s art. John, being John Constable, trying to show off his work of art at an exhibition at Somerset House. Those unfamiliar with Constable’s work, he was born in Suffolk and painted (in my opinion) beautiful landscapes, such as The Haywain, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, Cornfield and many more… It is interesting reading his part of the story, you get a feeling of his mood as people study his paintings, but then also go onto Turner’s (whom I equally like) and when the subject of a volcano erupting would be right up Turner’s street, when it is reported in the newspaper. It is also all put into context with what was happening elsewhere, such as Byron leaving Britain for Switzerland and one would think, giving up Newstead Abbey (visit if you haven’t already). As for Mary Shelley, it is interesting reading how she is trying to write and finally comes up with a tale to tell.

There are also tales to tell around the mill and other interesting characters, each life different to the next.

The story goes at a reasonable pace as the words etch onto the page like the paper is a large canvas, now filled with well-known names and historical times all weaved together to create, what is a pretty good yarn. There’s all manner of life to be found in this book.

Do take time to acquaint yourself with the Afterword. It tells of the far-reaching consequences and the real-life devastation caused by the Tambora volcanic explosion. It also tells a little more about the people who are characterised within this book.

Great Theatre Shows from 2019 and some to look out for on tour in 2020 #Theatre #Plays #Musicals #Humour #Drama #Theatregoers #London #Edinburgh #Glasgow #2019 #HappyNewYear #TheatreWrapUp #Review #culture

Great Theatre Shows from 2018 and 2019

I have seen some fantastic theatre shows and the shows I loved in 2018 and 2019 are, in no particular. Some of these plays are touring right now within the UK and others are getting set for national UK tours. So, I hope you have fun looking out for them. They are categorised by musicals and plays only. So, without any further to-do, here is my lists, with very brief reviews.

Musicals:

les mis        Theatre Strictly Ballroom musical
Strictly Ballroom – (on national tour in 2020). When I saw this in London, it was so much fun. It had a great cast, including Will Young as the narrator at that time. The costumes are outstanding and just so beautiful. The set was cool. The dancing and songs are expertly performed and choreographed.
Please take note that Strictly Ballroom (based on the same name) is doing a national tour within the UK (including Scotland in 2020). It has been expertly put together by Strictly’s Craig Revel-Horwood, amongst many other people. So, do look out for this fun, feel-good show. It is A-Maz-Ing… see what I did there? I couldn’t help myself, it had to be done. This is an exciting show and one that I am so pleased to see tour.

Les Miserables – This is exquisite and full of emotion. I’ve seen it twice, once in London, once in Edinburgh and it doesn’t matter where you see it, you are in for a treat. It is so well-performed and well-cast no matter the location. The performance, the set and the costumes are all so rich and it is all so atmospheric. It is often in London and also on tour.
A full review can be found within my blog

Plays:

The Greatest Play in The History of the World – This play was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has now reached London (check it out now for January 4th 2020. It’s an original love story set on Preston-Road and in space and time. Time has stopped in this wonderfully written and performed one-woman play that has poignancy and honour and I just love the use of shoes. You have to see it to see what I mean. I don’t want to spoil it. Shoes aren’t used in the conventional sense. Not when this was performed in Edinburgh anyway. There’s also great music too. The set may be minimalist, but the way it is written and performed feeds incredibly well into the imaginations of audiences because it is so cleverly done and so immersive and captivating.
It is performed by Julie Hesmondalgh (Haley Cropper in Corrie and other shows) and written by her husband Ian Kershaw (writer for Corrie, Cold Feet and many more shows).

This House – This play was an unusual play in that it encouraged people to be part of the cast on stage for the whole play. This was a political play set in the 1970’s and was set in the Houses of Parliament. There was a great cast playing the opposition party and party in power. There were high stakes, debates, fist fights in the parliamentary bar, crucial votes that had party’s hanging by a thread, games and tricks. It was all there. A friend and I with a number of others took up the limited spaces on stage, which was split for the left and the right of the House with its mocked up parliamentary seats. We were given our lines and directions as the play went on and followed accordingly to become part of the cast. It was lots of fun, if not a bit daunting looking onwards at a full theatre where the rest of the audience was sitting. It was completely immersive from our point of view and we are glad we did it and both enjoyed the experience immensely. Some of the key cast also took time at the interval to talk to my friend and I, which was most interesting and of which we again thank them for this. This immersive and brilliantly conceived play was written by James Graham.

ArtThis was a terrific play at the Glasgow Theatre Royal about 3 men and a piece of modern art, which happens to be a white canvas, bought for a huge amount of money. The play gets revived every so often and is worth looking out for. It is about friendships and those friends falling out and making up, it is about life and all the paths that it can lead people down. It also has a big twist in it. It is poignant, important, funny, sad and such a great pace. When I saw it, the cast was Stephen Thomkinson (Wild at Heart, DCI Banks and much more) Denis Lawson (New Tricks, Holby City and much more), Nigel Havers (Coronation Street, The Cockfields, Midsomer Murders and much more). I thank Denis Lawson and Nigel Havers again for their time in having a very pleasant quick chat and signing my programme.
Full review can be found on my blog. 
Duet for One – I saw this at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh as part of a national tour. I think I saw this in 2017, but then it toured again in 2018, which is why it is on this list. It was a both serious and funny two-handed play (tours from time to time), about a woman with MS, which at the time of me seeing  it was Belinda Lang, and wow, what a performance. She played someone coming to terms with MS and limited mobility as if she could have had it herself (I sadly speak from experience as a member of my family has it). The emotion was there, the movement and everything was brilliantly executed. If this ever tours again, seriously consider seeing it. This was a revival of this play, so it isn’t impossible for it to return. It isn’t as depressing as it seems. This play has humour at many points. It is so well-written. It was so lovely to be able to actually tell her how well she played her part and to hear what she had to say about it – which was all positive things. I also thank her again for signing my programme and especially for talking to my mother and being so insightful.
A full review can be found within my blog.

Humble Boy – directed by the always very busy Paul Miller, I wish it would do a national tour. If it did this, I would certainly write a full review. It is one of those plays I think people should see. It was a funny play that tackles love, death, friendship and the importance of bees. This play had it all. It had emotion, serious and tender moments, poignancy as well as so much humour. It was so well-written by Charlotte Jones.
The set was amazing. I saw it in a round theatre and it was set in a garden. The time it must have taken to set up the scenery must have been immense. Parts were actually real plants. I loved having to walk on the cobblestones to my seat with my friend (we were on the front row and the set started right in front of the front row). The cast were all fabulous – Belinda Lang (from 2 Point 4 Children she played the mother and other shows and theatre), Paul Bradley (Cardio-surgeon in Holby City and other shows), Selina Cadell (Pharmacist in Doc Martin and other shows), Jonathan Broadbent (Silent Witness and other shows). There was also Christopher Ravenscroft and Rebekah Hinds.
The cast all sounded like they enjoyed performing this show at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. It was a joy and privilege to catch up with the cast after the show, of which I thank them for their time and their sheer kindness and also for signing my tickets.

The Importance of Being Earnest – This was a fun production of Oscar Wilde’s play, brought to the Vaudeville Theatre by Classic Spring. It was in London (another play I think should tour. His plays do tour from time to time nationally within the UK, so do look out for them. The play was full of humour and was recognisable from the film-version of the play. There was again, another great cast, most notably – Stella Gonet (House of Elliott, Holby City, Outnumbered and much more), Sophie Thompson (Coronation Street and much more, also sister of Emma Thompson), Jeremy Swift (Downton Abbey) and many more. A full review can be found in my blog. I thank Stella Gonet again for having a very pleasant chat and for asking if I would like my programme signed.

De Pro-fundis – Simon Callow performed this in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival when I saw it. This was a play I just had to say Wow at. I was hooked from the beginning to the end. I have seen quite a number of his one-man plays before. All are amazing and this was no different. It was played with conviction, energy and how he remembers all those lines, I will never know. If you ever see Simon Callow is doing a one-man play or even doing a book talk, I urge you to go. De-Profundis was the letter Oscar Wilde wrote from prison. It was haunting, dark. No one talked, no one made a noise in the audience, you could hear a pin drop, until the stunned audience erupted in applause at the end. He captured everyone from start to finish. The set was minimalist, his performance was passionate and full.

I have some plays already booked for 2020 of which I shall review and I am planning on doing a quick resume of different plays and musicals I have seen as many of them still run in theatres today and I suspect they will for many years to come. This will be done in- between book reviews and the occasional article. I’ve plenty of exciting things to be blogging about in 2020 and I hopefully many more exciting opportunities will crop up in the future. For now, I hope you enjoy what I have for my 2019 resumes and all else that is on my blog. I hope you all had a great Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2020. Thank you too for following and reading my blog, without such, it wouldn’t exist. I love writing my blog and always grateful to those who give me opportunities to review and to write and to talk to people and to those who read what I write. Thank you!!!!

Review of First in the Fight – 20 Women Who Made Manchester Rated 5 stars @inostalgiauk @HelenAntrobus #AndrewSimcock @LoveBooksGroup #Manchester #Scotland #UK #History #Review #BlogTour #Non-Fiction #Culture #Political #Nature #Social

First in the Fight – 20 Women Who Made Manchester
By Helen Antrobus and Andrew Simcock
Rated:5 stars *****

 

I am delighted and very excited to be part of this blog tour for the People’s History Museum for their book – The First in the Fight. Expertly put together by the historian and author Helen Antrobus and Andrew Simcock, this book celebrates women who yes, are important to Manchester, but in-turn, also made a huge impact on the UK as a whole, which we still see today. So, whether you are in Manchester or elsewhere, please do take time to find out what this book is actually all about. It covers more than you would think in the lovely short sections that are just a few pages long. They certainly keep the interest going and that want to read on.

Click here for a link: Nostalgia

Click here for a link for blog tour organiser

Blurb

Emmeline Pankhurst stands proudly in St Peter’s Square, but she stands for so many more… From the women who marched to St Peter’s Fields flying the flag for reform to the first entrepreneurs, the women of Greater Manchester have long stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight for equality and social change. For the centenary of some women being able to vote in 2018, the journey began for a statue to be erected, symbolising the incredible lives and achievements of Manchester’s radical women. Glimpse at the lives of the twenty women who were long-listed in the campaign, who all made Manchester first in the fight for freedom, and feminism.

Manchester Women Cover

Review

Behold these women who stood up for women’s rights. Some for the right to vote, others for workers rights and there are other women who inspire for other reasons as well.

This beautiful book important, influential women who have made a great impact, not just in Manchester, but across the entire UK, your mind may turn to the Pankhursts. The book does cover them, but there are also women who have done great things, who are less known or in the midst of time have been largely forgotten about, with their being at least one, almost being erased from history altogether.

This is a book I would recommend to anyone wanting to know more about social and political history and the women’s lives who were part of change or achieved great things that weren’t within the political sphere too. That’s what is so great here, is the variety of women who are showcased in this book.
The book nicely starts off with a very interesting bit about Manchester and its history before taking each individual women and allowing readers to learn something about who they were and who they became. It certainly is a valuable book full of substance. It is beautifully presented in the way it is written, with each woman just having a just few pages about them. It is also very well illustrated from the cover right down to the pages inside. Even the front cover seems fitting and eye-catching.

Let me take you on a short journey in tim to whet your appetite for reading this book.

The women who have been so well researched for this book are:

  1. Margaret Downes – read about her; discover what happened to her and Peterloo and some other, perhaps more prominent women who would have been around too.
  2. Margaret Ashton – a leading lady from Lancashire who was in the fight for equality and yet later had her name all but erased for quite some time. Find out how her name resurfaced and about her upbringing that brought her perhaps to the Suffrage movement.

  3. Mary Quaile – Born in Dublin, her family and her moved to Manchester and were from a poor working class background. Read about the her and other women who tried for equality in the workplace. Find out more about these women and the TUC here.

  4. Esther Roper – An orphan, she was one of the first women to attend Robert Owen’s College. Scots would know him for championing worker’s rights at New Lanark (now a great museum). She also wanted to continue where Lydia Becker left off (mentioned further below). Delve further into this part and you’ll find out more about her and her connections with suffragettes.

  5. Ellen Wilkinson – one of the first women to be voted into parliament and is also famous for leading the Jarrow March. Read her section to find out how she ended up in parliament and a bit about her life as a child and her death.

  6. Lydia Becker – largely forgotten in the tides of history, she had sympathies with the working class and also wrote a book about the suffragettes and set up a literary society with the focus on science. There’s much to be discovered in this part about her.

  7. Christabel Pankhurst – The Pankhursts played host to many reformers such as Keir Hardie from Scotland, William Morris – the English textile designer, activist etc and many more people, who you can discover in the book. There’s interesting bits about the relationship between Christabel and Emmeline to find out too.

  8. Sylvia Pankhurst – she had artistic and political leanings and led an interesting life in both her achievements and how family relations were with her.

  9. Emmeline Pankhurst – Perhaps not the first in the fight for women, but perhaps one of the most well-known and influential women to fight to gain the vote. There are snippets here and there however that perhaps you may or may not already know, so it’s still worth reading.

  10. Elizabeth Gaskell – One of the most influential authors of her time who also became acquainted to other well-known authors such as Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte. There are other parts of her life however that is perhaps less well-known and yet also fascinating, such as charitable work, other people who she met and life in general that aren’t so well-known.

  11. Enriqueta Rylands – she came across to Manchester from Cuba, other women shouted louder, so sadly she is sometimes overlooked and yet she is just as important. She was the founder of the John Ryland’s Library (perhaps a bit more well-known than herself as it is now a world landmark for literary lovers and historians. The library still exists today). Read more in this section about how she came to being in the UK, the overshadowing and her legacy to the world.

  12. Annie Horniman – she certainly lived a varied life and not one that would instantly spring to mind. Expect the somewhat unexpected here. There are many parts to her life that are very worth reading and is written in such a way that you would really get a good impression of what this woman was like.

  13. Olive Shapley – She presented Women’s Hour in the 1930’s (a radio 4 programme that still runs today) and created a safe house for women. There’s even more to this woman than meets the eye and some of it quite risky for the time. So read on to find out more about this pioneering woman.

  14. Marie Stopes – she fought for birth control and more. She, however, is a controversial woman who had (perhaps unfortunately) eugenics firmly in her sights and more can be found out in the book.

  15. Shena Simon – she championed for better education and active citizenship (however it was Ellen Wilkinson who was the first Minister of Education in 1945), but she nevertheless seemed to do quite a lot, which can be discovered in her part.

  16. Kathleen Ollerenshaw – one of the greatest mathematicians in the country (UK), she advocated for a lot educationally and died in 2014. There’s so much of her life that would have been, perhaps unknown until now…

  17. Louise  Da-Cocodia – the section starts with a great sounding African proverb, before moving onto her time within the NHS and being part of the “windrush” generation and creating a legacy.

  18. Elizabeth Raffald – long before Mary Berry and Nadia Hussain and lots of other people who you can think of today who are bakers, there was Elizabeth Raffald. A woman who was making waves in the business world and unbeknown to her she has left a legacy, of which more can be read about as well as a bit about her life.

  19. Emily Williamson – She was passionate about the conservation and preservation of wildlife. Her passion really shines through and I she would fit well in today’s most influential conservationists etc such as David Attenborough and Chris Packham. Her life is different from that from the social campaigners and worth reading to uncover more.

  20. Sunny Lowry – She swam the Channel. Again different from the social or political activists, but it shows women can do this and also take a moment to read this section as this isn’t just about achieving swimming the Channel (although impressive in itself), this is about much more that came into being afterwards.

To conclude, this is absolutely a fascinating book to read a really worthwhile getting. There are so many interesting parts that aren’t specifically about the women mentioned too, such as how it came about that there would be a statue for Emmeline Pankhurst and the work that went into that. There are well presented photos of this too, which were taken in very recent times. I highly recommend this book for anyone to read.

Manchester Women Cover

#Review of Lucy Mathers Goes Back to Work by Julie Butterfield – A book with relatable qualities for both mothers and fathers @juliebeewriter @rararesources #blogtour #romance #comedy #bookish #fiction #parents #family

Lucy Mathers Goes Back to Work
By Julie Butterfield
Rated: 3.5 stars***-

 

It is my pleasure to present my review on Lucy Mathers Goes Back to Work as part of the Random Resouces blog tour. This is a book that so many parents will find something to relate to within it.

Lucy Mathers Full Tour Banner (2)

About the Author

Julie Butterfield belongs to the rather large group of ‘always wanted to write’ authors who finally found the time to sit down and put pen to paper – or rather fingers to keyboard.
She wrote her first book purely for pleasure and was very surprised to discover that so many people enjoyed the story and wanted more, so she decided to carry on writing!

Social Media Links –

Twitter @juliebeewriter

Website    www.Juliebutterfield.co.uk

 

Blurb

Lucy Mathers was once the golden girl of Simcock & Bright. Four years later, she’s a stay at home mum with two adorable children, has swapped her Louboutins for rabbit slippers and spends her day making crustless sandwiches and colour co-ordinated lunches instead of signing up high profile clients.

When her husband is suddenly made redundant, there is panic in the Mathers’ household. With a mortgage the size of the national debt and a credit card balance that’s in danger of toppling, Lucy reluctantly decides she must return to work. So she digs out her old power suits from the back of the wardrobe and leaves Will to become a house husband. But sitting in Lucy’s old office is Grant Cassidy, suave, handsome and ruthless and with no intention of letting Lucy walk back into the number one job.

At home, despite his breezy declaration that swapping boardroom battles for toddler groups would be a doddle, Will’s belief that parental/household issues could be solved with forward planning and a spread sheet soon falls by the wayside.

With both Will and Lucy struggling to adapt, could their previously happy marriage be developing some cracks?

Lucy Mathers Front cover

Review

The beginning launches right in the middle of a “debate”, what I would more call a family row, but perhaps what others would call a debate, with the tensions there about the fact Will has lost his job and Lucy has a suggestion about them swapping places. It’s something I can quite well imagine happening in many households these days and with the tensions of family dynamics changing and then working through them.

The children – Harry and Emily are their young children with characteristics I am sure will be familiar to so many parents.

In a way it is a pity in some ways that the cover is quite feminine, even though some men are embracing the “pink” in life, because there is a lovely bit when Will is introduced to other parents in the different clubs children love to attend, in a way that may ease any negative as in self-conscious feelings a male may have when there is essentially a role reversal. It made me hope that some positive conversations between mothers and fathers (I say this because this family happen to be a traditional mother and father family, although other shapes and forms of famlies may gain from this fictional book too) can occur around this book.
I must add, going back to clubs/groups, I love that they mention going to a group to sing some nursery rhymes. This type of thing, for parents who don’t know, often takes place in libraries across the UK (perhaps other countries too). In Scotland it is Bookbug, in England it is often Rhyme-time.

t’s interesting about the office dynamics and changes that are faced by Lucy Mathers when she returns to work for Simcock & Bright alongside Rob and Grant. She has worked here before, but returning to work there seems a little different in-terms of position. I was pleased that although things had clearly changed upon Lucy’s return, the atmosphere isn’t a particularly bad one, not always totally positive, but it isn’t as bad as what it could have been. I liked that.

The story then takes readers back to Will, trying out all manner of methods to keep things going at home, including resorting to trying a spreadsheet.

There are however cracks that begin to show and arguments and suspicions of an affair come to the fore. I’ll let readers find out whether Will and Lucy make it through or go their separate ways and to read to also find out what happens at Lucy’s workplace.

All in all the story is pretty good. Parents will relate to so much on some level or indeed, perhaps a very similar level in experience. It is however a little slow in pace. For busy parents needing something to read that is relatable and not going to tax the brain too much, then this is ideal for you.

*With thanks to Julie Butterfield for signing the book. It was lovely of you to do that. Thanks for the print/physical copy of the book, organised by the blog tour organiser.

Review of Ka-E-RO-U – Time to Go Home – A beautifully written book about the repatriation of a flag, history, culture and love by B. Jeanne Shibahara #Time to Go Home #B.JeanneShibahara #Review #WW2 #Japan #UK #USA #History #Culture #ModernTimes #fiction #Mystery #Humour

KA-E-RO-U – Time to Go Home
by B. Jeanne Shibahara
Rated 4 stars ****

About the Author and Book

B. Jeanne Shibahara studied fiction writing from Mark Harris (Bang the Drum Slowly) B Jeanne Shibharaand copywriting from Beth Luey (Editorial Consultant, Chicago Manual of Style, 16thEd.) in the MA program for creative writing at Arizona State University.

In Japan, B. Jeanne has taught English at a private university, written articles for research groups, and created jazz lyrics for composer Hajime Kitamura.

Daughter of a US military officer, she married into a family of calligraphy, ikebana, and tea ceremony teachers, shamisen player, kimono fabric artist, business entrepreneur, and architect. Her home is in Nara City, the ancient capital of Japan.

Time-slip to my Osaka life, 1995, fifty years after the end of WWII—bubble economy ready to burst and the seed to KA-E-RO-U falls into my hands. A WWII Japanese flag. A widow of a US veteran in Akron, Ohio sends the flag to a colleague of mine, asks him to find the family of the fallen soldier who had carried it into the battlefields.
Please click on the website link for more information about the author and the very interesting backstory to the book.           Link:    Website

Meryl is a Vietnam War widow who misses her grown son, feels left out after her father’s recent marriage. A WWII Japanese flag falls into her hands. The gentle push of a love-struck professor starts her adventure to take the flag home. From the neon of Osaka, to the ancient capital Nara, to the forests of Akita, the trail follows British and US expats, a newspaper reporter, factory manager, ikebana teacher, a Matagi hunter and winds through Japanese culture, past and present. A story of shared humanity and love “in the simplest things.”

Kaerou

Review

The book is well organised and split into 6 sections – Desert Flower M, The Backstreets of Namba, Day 2 in Japan, To Meryl To Atika, Returns and Finale.

The opening sentence is  “Everybody who knew the secretary knew she couldn’t resist any chance at serving up beefy gossip—seasoned, well done, sizzling and sputtering the latest, the most titillating, the just-gotta-tell.” I must say, it is instantly intriguing and I wanted to know a bit more and it is written so excellently.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the book as a whole really, but I was intrigued enough to really want to read it. I started to enjoy it from the outset in the office and getting to know the characters. The letter interested me as do the Shakespearean quotes. I like that there is some humour mingled in with history and people’s lives.

Kaerou takes readers along with Meryl, who is a war widow from the Vietnam war, on a  journey to Japan. She discovered a Japanese flag of a fallen soldier from the second world war and wants to deliver it back to the family. She meets many interesting characters who I enjoyed reading about, including a professor and a writer. The book is very character driven. The premise of the actual plot is fine and interesting enough. Sometimes the grammar isn’t at its best, but somehow that doesn’t detract from the actual story and the richness in culture. It really is fascinating to read about the cultures and how they sit in people’s minds as the book isn’t just about Japan, it covers the UK, Vietnam and the US.

The scenery is beautifully written and picturesque.

The book is nicely written and it is interesting as there are some quick, short chapters, yet the pace is smooth and gentle. The way it goes between past and present is beautifully presented and flows well and in an unconfused way. With all the complexities of the book, everything marries up well on the whole, leaving a pleasant satisfaction.

The book is a love story and one of discovery. It is also one of history and how it can join up with the present as there is a journey to join up the flag of the fallen soldier with his family. It’s about moving on, but not without making peace first with what was lost in the war. It’s also about life ever-moving onwards and it’s there to be really lived and embraced and trying to overcome and bridge that which divides us. So, as much as this is Remembrance Sunday and we think of our war dead and the veterans who are still alive, this book is about love too and there is something to learn here as well, even though Japan wasn’t an ally nation. In this book readers can learn about the past and more present times of Japan through the characters that are written about.

I think B.Jeanne Shibahara has achieved what she set out to achieve. She has a book that has a story, great characters and I get the sense of most importantly, one that tells the world about Japan.

Overall, I recommend this book. Take a leap, take that chance and read about the familiar and the perhaps, lesser well-known and learn something from this story that, although is fictional, is based on fact. So, I recommend to try this book for something new. Sometimes we get into reading very similar books time and time again, this book brings something new, or if you like reading about people’s lives or family sagas even, or learning about different cultures and thoughts and feeling emotions and history in terms of where it also sits with the present,  then I would recommend Ke a rou. Bascially, I say give it a go for a pleasant, satisfying read.

I have to say I enjoyed reading the book. Thanks to B. Jeanne Shibahara for contacting me on my contact page on my blog and for giving me this amazing opportunity to review her book. I thank her also for buying me a copy of her book and sending it to me.