Blog tour · book review · literature · reading · review

The Runaway Daughter by Joanna Rees | book tour

When I read the blurb of The Runaway Daughter, I was aware this isn’t the sort of fiction I usually pick up. But, as the lovely people from Macmillan sent it to be to review, I set aside my preconceptions and started reading.

I was very pleasantly surprised by how quickly I was hooked. I would categorise The Runaway Daughter as an easy summer read – it’s part romance, part coming of age story and part self-discovery for the protagonist. It feels fast-paced, mainly due to the short chapters that switch between scenes. But for a new girl caught up in the hectic world of London, this seems entirely appropriate.

The characters are likeable, if at times a little predictable. Yet, as Anna grows into her new persona, Vita, she becomes a girl with guts, after all, working your way through 1920’s London society is no easy feat. After a somewhat bumpy start, Vita soon has a job, a bed to sleep in and a selection of friends.

There are, of course, hiccups along the way. Anna leaves her Lancashire roots behind her, and with them her brother. But unbeknown to Anna, Lancashire’s grip over her never truly disappears, leaving a shadow over her otherwise glamourous lifestyle. Vita is also naïve to a lot of the world; she gets taken advantage of, she also presumes too much from others. She even seems scared of herself at times.

At least there are plenty of strong female characters to learn from. Nancy shows Vita how a woman can be independent and self-sufficient in a society that still expects a woman’s place to be that of a wife and mother. The other show girls, put their own enjoyment and happiness above society’s expectations. And Vita, too, manages to make it – she’s eventually confident in London, happy to explore life through her flapper-girl persona. For a novel set in the 20’s, when women didn’t even have the vote – I think that’s pretty impressive.

Published by Macmillan, The Runaway Daughter is the first novel of A Stitch in Time trilogy. Follow the book tour by visiting these wonderful blogs:

The details:

Published: 22 August 2019

RRP: £7.99

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Blog tour · book review · books · reading · review

The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber | Blog tour

I don’t often read historical fiction, I’m even less likely to read American historical fictions – it’s just something I don’t know very much about. However, it’s always liberating to read a book I wouldn’t normally pick up and find out that I enjoy a new category of fiction. So when The Glovemaker came my way, I was intrigued.

Low in the canyon, a tiny town called Junction is home to a collection of families. It should be a place of relative safety. But this place attracts those hiding from the state’s Marshal and his deputies, those people who practise polygamy – and when the those people arrive Junction is no longer safe.

We follow the arrival of one such man in the late hours of a January evening. The snow is deep in Utah and it’s unusual for a Saint – as the Mormons call themselves –  to arrive at this time of year asking for refuge. This is where we follow Sister Deborah and her neighbour Brother Nel as they attempt to pass the Saint to a safe place. However, it’s not long until the Marshal turns up…

It took me a few chapters to get into the rhythm of Weisgarber’s writing, but her style soon gripped me into following the life of this tiny town. I was pulled into the description of canyon country; of the deep snow and harsh land. Weisgarber’s strong characters are driven by resilience and determination – but they must answer their own moral questions along the way.

There’s a clear depiction of the hardship women face; Sister Deborah’s character is as obedient as you’d expect to find in 1888. And it makes you realise how far women (and feminists) have come from the days of doing what you’re told. It’s clear Deborah doesn’t want the risk of a man on the run hidden in her shed, but because her husband is away from home for work (does that sound familiar?) she’s unable to say no. She has no spokesperson and she’s unable to give her opinion – something I think Weisgarber portrays well. 

The majority of the novel takes place in a 48-hour time period and the urgency of the events makes for a pressing read. It took me a week to make my way through the 290 pages (and it would have been quicker if a hardback book was more commuter-friendly). The novel switches between narrators – Sister Deborah and Brother Nel take turns telling their own version of events alongside their internal struggles of self, religion, and righteousness.

In Weisgarber’s author notes I got a snippet of the research that went into The Glovemaker – Junction was real, as was the passage to Floral Range where the on-the-run Saints looked for safety. The end result is a work of fiction that cleverly intertwines history to make this story not only believable but feel real too.

This review is part of The Glovemaker‘s blog tour. The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber was published on the 22 February 2019 by Mantle an imprint of Pan Macmillian. To see more thoughts from bloggers, take a look below: 

book review · literature · review · war

The tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

It’s hard to read a holocaust story and somehow enjoy it. Enjoy is never the right word, but a book can certainly be a good read no matter how hard or harrowing the subject may be. It’s even harder to read a holocaust story knowing it is based on real events, the true story of Lale Sokolov – the tattooist of Auschwitz.

Lale enters Auschwitz in 1942 having volunteered to report to the Slovakian government as a Jew. He quickly realised that to survive is everything, and although survival comes with its own risks, it’s the overwhelming theme of the book and comes with its own consequences. When Lale meets Gita, his desire to live is strengthened – it’s one thing to live for yourself, it’s all together harder to live for someone else.

We follow Lale through his journey, from his arrival at the camp to his quick promotion as Auschwitz’s tattooist. He retells the conversations he has with his SS supervisor, the friendship he forms with the day workers on camp – throughout he continues to show his kindness, his desire to be more than a prisoner. We also view his first meeting with Gita, when he tattoos her number onto her bare forearm. The power she holds over him is instant.

When the worse crimes are happening around you, do your own morals get tarnished by the system?

At times, Lale appears cunning, using his unique position of power to aid those around him. Bread is the currency of Auschwitz, and Lale shares his extra rations with those most in need. He uses his connections around camp to exchange jewels and money for rations. Keeping and storing diamonds for his own protection.

There’s no denying the sights he sees are harrowing; the bodies of the dead, the tortured, those who have lost all hope. One morning Lale enters a gas chamber, not to be gassed, but to examine two prisoners with the same tattoo. His SS officer jokes he’s the only jew to walk in, and then out of a gas chamber. It’s a chilling thought.

As powerful as Lale’s story is, it’s hard to read this book without thinking of the millions of untold stories. The people who did survive. The prisoners who did not. There’s no one to pass on their horrors, they simply remain a number, a statistic.

book review · books · literature · review

Elenor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Of course, Elenor Oliphant is not completely fine.

Honeyman’s debut novel demonstrates the behaviour of just-about coping. An existence of life certainly, but Elenor isn’t living. Instead, she simply goes through the motions. Flat, check. Work in an office 9-5, check. Down 2 litres of vodka every weekend, check.

One thing we cannot escape is just how lonely Elenor is, she leaves work on Friday and doesn’t speak to a single soul until Monday morning. She’s not just living alone, she expects to stay alone. She doesn’t understand the social interactions, she finds small talk pointless and she most certainly doesn’t get involved in office politics; but that doesn’t mean she can’t be sociable.

All it takes is for an unexpected friendly encounter, a twist in Elenor’s otherwise predictable routine to change not only her perception of life but her way of living. We follow Elenor along this path and her journey towards friendship. She may be a character with troubles and torments, but she’s also warm and surprisingly funny.

With a few twists along the way, this book gripped me from start to finish. I flew through it in under a week, and pondered over the characters for even longer.

book review · books · literature · review

How To Stop Time

Occasionally you can stumble upon a book that stops you in your tracks, a novel that makes you think. Matt Haig’s How To Stop Time did just that.

Haig elegantly mixes history and fiction, allowing our protagonist, Tom, to struggle with the wisdom 400 years on earth has tormented him with. It breaks down the human traits we recognise, and weaves them throughout history.

Tom Hazard was born in the late 16th century, yet he’s still alive in 21st century London. His many lifetimes span generations, from playing with Shakespeare and The King’s Men to life in 1920’s Paris. He joins Captain Cook on The Endeavour but it is the search for his daughter that truly keeps him alive.

There are large periods of Tom’s life where he is surviving. He is disjointed from the world, living his life in the shadows; neither connected to a person or a place. It’s a hard way to live and a lonely life too. But that can change with one person, a single piece of hope to carry you through the hard days. At the end of the day it’s our relationships with others that makes life worth living. Our shared experiences and in turn our shared history. A connection, a memory and a desire to live.

Beautifully written, this is book everyone should read.

book review · books · diary · non-fiction · review

Morning

Whenever I’m in doubt of what to read next, when the bookshop is overflowing with inspiration; I turn to the nearest bookseller and ask for their recommendation. Not only are booksellers a very friendly bunch, but they’re also big readers and often have a book in mind you’d never find nestled on the shelves.

I recently popped into Salts Mill (my all time favourite bookshop) and did just that. I was recommended a non-fiction book that would be hard to categorise; it’s a diary, a book of advice and wellbeing, and a little nod to nature too. With that description, I never would have picked it off the shelf. But it’s a small book, that’s beautifully simple.

Allan Jenkins uses Morning as a confirmation of what he already knows. A secret he shares with his readers. It’s effective and calming. It’s also very simple – to wake up earlier. Listen to the birds, watch the sunrise and enjoy the quiet calm before the day really begins.

It’s elegantly put together, a diary of Allen’s pre-dawn thoughts interwoven with interviews of others who wake before the sun. It’s very effective too. Although I’m yet to wake early enough to welcome a July sunrise, I am getting out of bed earlier. And more than that – I’m using that time wisely. For now this might be a little change in my routine, but I really hope it’s one that lasts.

autobiography · book review · books · non-fiction · review

This is Going to Hurt

I don’t often find myself straying from my bookshelf full of fiction, However, as soon as I’d heard of Adam Kay’s diary as a junior doctor, I was intrigued. Kay introduces an honest, raw, retelling of life on the inside the NHS: the long shifts, the lack of staff and funding but mostly the emotional toll this all takes. Despite the dedication of NHS staff across the country — the NHS is failing them.

Told with a side of dry humour Kay’s diaries are simultaneously heartwarming and devastating. It’s a glimpse into a world we rarely see. It’s not just the lack of social life, but the overtired doctors on the ward; what should be an exception is becoming the norm.

This is the shake up the NHS desperately needs, a chance for the outside world to see just how much the NHS is trying, and yet the services it provides continue to be overstretched. There are times when Kay points out more efficient methods of care, ways the NHS should be spending its money, but these decisions aren’t made by doctors, they’re made by people who rarely step foot into a hospital ward — no wonder they’re out of touch.

This book is a chance to appreciate the NHS and the hardworking staff, a chance to laugh out loud and on the next page have tears in your eyes. A chance to try and chance things for the future.