Book Review – The Swap – Fiona Mitchell

It’s a bit of a nail-biting time when the first copies of a new book go out into the world, so I’m absolutely delighted with this first review of The Swap. Huge thanks to bestselling author Louise Jensen for saying such lovely things about my second book.

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Ever since I read The Maid’s Room, which I gushed about here, I’ve been waiting eagerly for Fiona Mitchell’s second book, The Swap.

And oh how it was worth the wait! Fiona has crafted an emotive and credible read centred around Tess who, during her IVF treatment, had her embryo mistakenly swapped for a stranger’s. For two years Tess and Annie, the other woman, have been unknowingly raising each other’s children.

Tess has never bonded with her son, Freddie, so when she meets Annie’s daughter, Willow, she’s determined she and Annie swap their children back. But Annie won’t let go of Willow without a fight.

Harrowing in parts, but uplifting in others, Fiona keeps the pace constant, never letting the story become pulled down by legal jargon, although it is obvious she’s carried out much research. For the last half an hour of reading, I was literally holding my breath…

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Why I Hate Writing The First Draft

The first draft is a bit of a Marmite process, don’t you think? You either love writing it or, like me, you loathe it. I call myself a writer which is weird since I don’t like writing all that much. What I do love, however, is the editing. Turning the rough words into something better – tinkering, changing things about, questioning everything. It doesn’t matter whether it’s my own work that I’m editing or somebody else’s work, editing locks me in completely. And when I’m in the midst of it, even when I’m not at the computer, I’ll be thinking about it – what bits work, what bits don’t, and why.

That’s why I’m splitting my time between writing and editing other people’s work now. I’m loving freelancing as a story editor for literary agents as well as the Blue Pencil Agency.

Today is a writing day though. I have a rough plan, but the story isn’t fully formed yet. It’s scary, like driving in the dark when your lights don’t work and you can’t see the road ahead. I’m impatient to be home.

A confession: I’ve taken to setting the timer on my mobile phone for an hour at a time to force myself to stay put at my desk, to stop myself from giving in to my constant cravings for snacks and tea. The first 1,000 words of the day are usually fuelled by a round of toast. The next few hundred come courtesy of a couple of slices of cheese. And then thank goodness, it’s lunch time. An early lunch, but who cares? Everything gets better after lunch.

Maya Angelou sums up the whole creative process beautifully: “What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’…. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.”

So with that in mind I’m going back in – hopefully adding to my current 24,000 words. 24,000 distinctly un-Angelou words, but it’s a start, right?

 

  • Post by Fiona Mitchell, author of The Swap, published on 18th April 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton.

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The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

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This is a book about a subject everyone has an opinion about, yet no one wants to think about too deeply – why a child would murder a toddler. The Flower Girls asks that question and more – how such a crime ripples out and virtually buries all the people affected, and what does rehabilitation even mean in the context of a young child who commits a crime? Readers will undoubtedly draw parallels with the James Bulger case, so this is tricky fictional ground to tread. Clark-Platts doesn’t shirk the responsibility. This is brave writing at its very best – beautiful, accessible, utterly compelling. Clark-Platts peels each of the characters’ layers away to scintillating effect – from the has-been journalist, Max, desperate for a scoop, to Joanna, a member of the dead toddler’s family, who is drowning in rage. I felt so invested in all the characters that I kept reading far into the night. Not only is The Flower Girls a truly original book, it is an unforgettable one too. I can almost guarantee you’ll be altered by it.

Review by Fiona Mitchell, author of The Swap, published on 18th April 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton.

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Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak – Book Review

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This book brought me so much joy. Strikingly funny, well-observed, and addictive, it is peopled with superbly drawn characters. I read it in about two days (and when I wasn’t reading it, I was wittering on about how much I was loving it).

It’s Christmas and a family are in quarantine as daughter Olivia, a medic, returns from a stint treating a deadly and highly contagious epidemic in Liberia. Most of the family members she’s with are guarding secrets and when an unwelcome visitor arrives, the already strained atmosphere reaches boiling point.

How I savoured this book and was sorry to finish it. The fact that it’s about an entitled upper class family may put some readers off, but the Birch’s country manor house, Weyfield Hall, dished up some delicious escapism as did their luxury Camden pad. Emma was the most privileged of the characters, but she was so funny and sympathetic that I fell head over heels in love with her. All of the characters made me smile though – Phoebe, George, Jesse et al. I simply couldn’t get enough of them.

The book is pacey and oh, that ending – to say more about it would involve spoilers, but it was totally unpredictable.

I loved everything about Seven Days of Us – the writing has real quality to it. It is the perfect festive read and is one of the best books I’ve read in months. An unstinting five stars.

 

Review by Fiona Mitchell, author of The Swap, published on 18th April 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton.

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