My Book of 2015 – Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

This book often sends me into raptures. Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey is an epic love story woven with astonishing skill. When dying World War II bomber pilot Dan makes a last-ditch attempt to contact the love of his life, vicar’s wife Stella, it is troubled singer Jess – squatting in the now abandoned love nest – who ends up reading the letter. Joined by her new friend ‘posh boy’ Will, they set out to reunite the lovers before it’s too late.

The characters in this book are so strong that you can practically see and hear their personalities in all their colourful glory. The crimson-lipsticked Nancy fizzes off the page, as does the hilarious, tousled and not-all-that-confident Will. And what can I say about Dan? Charismatic and kind, like Stella I fell completely in love with him.

Grey draws her villains perfectly too – I won’t give away any spoilers, but boy, I was rippling with anger towards one particular character. Grey stokes up the tension and the passion throughout, but no fear, the sex scenes do their job without once veering into cringe-factor territory. And as for emotion – well this book has valleys of it. But it isn’t all tear-sodden hankies, there are laughs aplenty too.

What a talent Grey is and what a perfectly formed, beautifully written debut. I will certainly be reading everything Grey publishes in the future. A heady mix of heart-breaking and feel-good, this is my book of 2015. I absolutely loved it.

51rYtvZGzoL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Advertisements

Recommended Book – Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

This incredible and memorable debut was my book of 2014.

When Peggy Hillcoat’s survivalist father takes her to a tumble-down hut in the remote German mountains, it feels like the start of an adventure, skinning squirrels to eat and making porridge from acorns. Then James tells Peggy that an apocalypse has killed the rest of the world including her concert pianist mother Ute. What unfolds is by turns enchanting and menacing. Where Ute has never allowed her daughter to touch her precious piano, James makes a silent piano by fashioning bits of wood into a keyboard. He thereby teaches his little girl to play.

It is told from two points of view – eight-year-old Peggy, and 17-year-old Peggy who has returned to Ute after nine years of living in ‘Die Hutte.’ Because we know that ultimately Peggy escapes, it makes her terrible ordeal a little easier to bear. As James descends into insanity, Peggy’s story takes an even more sinister turn.

While Peggy’s survivalist father turns out to be anything but, it is Peggy who is the ultimate survivor. She is endearing and unforgettable.

Fuller’s description of the forest is so evocative that’s it easy to imagine the textures, colours and smells of the place.

This is literary fiction at its best. Yes, there are sentences beautiful enough to frame, but you won’t find yourself tripping over any self-conscious prose. Neither will you find any ridiculous plot twists. The story is seeded with tiny hints and clues that will keep you staying up late and turning the pages.

Our Endless Numbered Days is an utterly compelling and haunting debut.51-+9JdFfJL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Have You Got More Than One Story in You? #writing

Suffering from a major book hangover after reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I started a new book in a grouchy, this’ll-never-match-up kind of mood. My Name is Lucy Barton didn’t disappoint in the end, but it’s this line that has made a dent in me.

‘“You will have only one story,” she had said. “You’ll write your one story many ways. Don’t ever worry about story. You have only one.”

Do you have only one story? I think I might be guilty…

All my short stories, my debut novel, The Maid’s Room, and my second novel have things in common. Overseas settings. Tick. Writing about outsiders. Tick. And something else – all of them are an examination of the relationship between mothers and their children. I don’t just mean between the woman who gives birth and her offspring; I write about women who can’t give birth, the women who don’t want to, the connections they forge with other people which are just as deep and unbreakable as the ones they might have had with sons and daughters. I write about absent mothers, about father figures, about any parental set-up that isn’t 2.4 kids.

I’ve got an idea for a third book and it will be extremely difficult to pull off. Indeed I’ve told a couple of friends about it, and they’ve advised me to steer clear. Yet it’s an idea that I can’t stop thinking about, so perhaps it’s the one to go with. And yes – that too is about a mother and child.

For me, Elizabeth Strout is dead on – I am writing my story in many different configurations.

I once wrote a novel (I can’t even bring myself to say the title now, it was that pretentious) about an oil rig worker. I spent about a year on it, reworking it, and telling myself that this was the one that was going to get me an agent. It didn’t. It did have it’s moments, but it was the most deluded piece of writing I’ve ever produced. It was also the only time in the six and a half years that I’ve been writing fiction that I veered off my parental obsession. When I gave it to my husband to read, he fell asleep on the sofa with the pages fanned over his face. That will be the last time I write about oil rig workers.

So I’m going to stop berating myself about having a single story now. I feel like the brilliant Elizabeth Strout has given me permission.

The book I never wanted to end! The Maid’s Room

The very first review of my forthcoming debut The Maid’s Room is in. Massive thanks to best-selling author of The Sister and The Gift, Louise Jensen for her feedback.

 

fabricating fiction

I don’t often blog book reviews. However, The Maid’s Room has grabbed my heart and won’t let go and I feel compelled to share it.

This literary/commercial crossover novel is the debut of Fiona Mitchell although you would never think this is Fiona’s first book; each sentence is beautifully constructed, each word carefully chosen. The characters are rich and multi-dimensional. You can feel the love that has been poured into these pages. This is a real heart and soul book, and it shows. I never wanted it to end.

The story is based on Fiona’s real-life experience in Singapore. Shockingly there are 240,000 female domestic workers in Singapore and an estimated 53 million women working as domestic helpers across the globe. A quarter of these are afforded no legal rights at all.

I love books with an element of truth. Admittedly, it was uncomfortable at times, learning how modern day…

View original post 243 more words