Nobody’s Wife by Laura Pearson

Book Review: Nobody’s Wife by Laura Pearson

I adored this story about two close sisters, Emily and Josephine, and the infidelity that threatens to tear them apart. On the face of it, Emily appears to be happy with novelist husband Michael, but when Jack, Josephine’s new boyfriend, enters their lives, everything seems set to fall apart. Emily and Jack begin a love affair, taking risks that had me on the edge of my seat, wondering whether this was the moment they would be found out. The foreshadowing is marvellous, the passion intense and the tension just builds and builds. Michael is a gorgeous character and I felt so cross with Emily and Jack for betraying him. Jack, on the other hand, is rather dislikable – selfish and pretentious – but for me this just added to the reasons to keep on reading. And boy did I read quickly – in a matter of hours – that’s a measure of how much I enjoyed this exhilarating book. Although devastating things happen, the tone is light and it is so easy to read. I liked that there are no neat endings here – the book is fluid and the writing beautiful. Nobody’s Wife is a complete contrast to Pearson’s debut, but every bit as good.

 

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Nobody’s Wife is published by Agora Books on 28th March 2019.

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

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Book Review: Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

Three Hours transports you to a sprawling, cosseted private school on the Somerset coast which is under siege by masked gunmen. But this is no ordinary thriller. The writer hops into the heads of the many different characters – allowing us to navigate the wonderful relationship between Syrian refugee brothers Rafi and Basi; brave school girl Hannah; heartfelt headmaster Mr Marr; Beth, one of the parents awaiting news of her son who is still inside the school, and many others. Multiple points of view might have diluted the depth of the story, but Lupton mines each of her characters’ thoughts so deeply that we feel what they’re feeling. The writing is first-class with sentences that are almost poetic in their beauty. The pupils that are stuck inside the theatre – the most impenetrable part of the school, and therefore the safest – carry on performing their production of Macbeth, so that Shakespeare’s lines about power and psychopathy haunt the narrative.

The counter-terrorism investigation on the outside gathers force – Lupton’s research must have been meticulous. Indeed this fiction is so firmly rooted in reality that it is supremely disturbing. I find it interesting that Lupton has set her story in a liberal, fee-paying school with a massive budget – a school where people expect their children to be safe, yet the unthinkable still happens. Because it really can happen anywhere, to anyone – there will always be chinks that let the darkness in. Lupton explores just what it would take to be radicalised: the relentless racist messages thrown out by the press – the story is even intercut with Tweets from Trump and a vile diatribe by a former newspaper columnist – brainwashing by extreme groups and much more. While reading this book you will undoubtedly want to have a closer look at your child’s iPad and phone to see just what they have been looking at lately.

Three Hours is about hate crime, but what rings out from its pages – what is likely to stay with you long after you’ve read that magnificent last line – is love. I wanted to read Three Hours slowly to savour every beautiful word, yet it is so compelling that I couldn’t put it down. This one is destined for the best-sellers list, I reckon, and rightly so. It is phenomenal.

Three Hours is published by Viking on 17th October 2019.

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

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Holding picture by Sensei Minimal on Unsplash

 

Review: The Swap by Fiona Mitchell @FionaMoMitchell @Hodderbooks @LouiseSwannell

I’m thrilled to bits with this wonderful review of The Swap. Thank you to book blogger Danielle!

The Reading Closet

I was lucky enough to have received a free proof copy of ‘The Swap’ by Fiona Mitchell from Louise over at Hodder and Stoughton last month, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have read this though – provoking and emotional read. The Swap is due to be published in hardback and e-book format on the 18th of April 2019.

About The Author

TheSwap‘ is Fiona Mitchell’s second book, the first being ‘The Maid’s Room’ that was published in 2017. Fiona is an award winning writer who has had a career in journalism for many years. Before settling down in London with her husband and daughter, Fiona spent almost three years living in Singapore.
The Blurb

“Two women. Two children. But whose is whose?
When two strangers, Tess and Annie, undergo IVF at an American clinic, their embryos are mixed up and each woman gives…

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How to Write a Book: a Note to my Future Self

I’ve written this piece for you just in case you ever attempt to write a fourth book.

Right now, I’m writing book three and it’s not easy. I’ve stared at the screen feeling blank and I’ve churned out stream-of-consciousness sentences that make no sense whatsoever when I read them back. But this is how it always starts for you, please remember that.

If you’ve managed to come up with an idea, if you’ve started writing, the chances are you’ll be thinking you can’t do it. You’ll be impatient for ideas to come to you – they might arrive slowly at first – but trust me they will arrive.

Everyone will want to avoid the steps I’ve included here (especially step one – I do not recommend that at all), but I’m afraid for you, step two and beyond are distinct possibilities. Brace yourself then and begin.

1 Think up five ideas. Write 50,000 words of one. Discover that someone has written a virtually identical book. Abandon these 50,000 words. Write 40,000 words of another novel. Decide that it’s not the way you want to go. Chuck both files into the trash on your computer and have writerly crisis number 789.

2 Start writing your third idea – the best of the lot. Change the characters’ names several times over the course of the first ten pages. You don’t know who you’re dealing with here – is she an Ida or an Erin, maybe she’s a Jenny? For now though, you seem to have settled on Elizabeth, but knowing you, that could all change.

3 Read back some of your chapters and realise that they are all completely shit. You don’t know who the characters are and you sure-as-hell don’t know where they are going. In fact, what is the point of this book at all? What is the point of writing? Pause here for several days while wallowing in writerly crisis number 790. While doing this, it’s important to read the most scathing Goodreads reviews of your first book, paying particular attention to the woman who gave you not one 1-star review, but two 1-star reviews. Then make yourself feel better – watch author Louise Beech‘s inspired poem about Amazon reviews.

4) Admit it, you really can’t remember how to write a book can you? Apply for jobs and stop writing the book altogether. Land a freelance editing job with Blue Pencil Agency and start reading other people’s books – be seriously impressed by all of them. Somehow this gives you the urge to face the fear of book three again. Open it, feel completely stumped, eat a great deal of cheese.

5) Everyone writes books differently, but you decide that you need a reminder about just how it is that you write. Open the very first draft of your soon to be published second book, The Swap*, which started life as Swapped Version 1. It went through many incarnations, eventually becoming The Swap Version 11.

Swapped Version 1 bears absolutely no relation to the finished book. Swapped Version 1 features an au pair called Flavia and a woman who keeps having sex with her father’s nurse. By draft 3 you had killed off Flavia and the male nurse. For you, version 1 is all about writing roughly and hoping your idea gathers some kind of form.

So back to book 3: Eventually after loads of discarded words and far too many snacks, you end up with 23,000 words. They are rough and rubbish, but still – the blur is becoming that little bit clearer.

6) You’re 25,000 words in now – and the story is all over the place. You stop work and spend a day planning. This theme, that twist – maybe they could work. The next day, you look at your plan again and realise it’s not that great. You rewrite the plan. You’re not entirely convinced by  it yet, but this is the first draft and it’s all about experimentation.

7) 28,000 words in and you feel like spending a bit more time with the book now. You’ve got two different characters in two different files. You put them together to see how the story is panning out. The fear is still there, yes, but the initial terror of the first draft has gone. For now.

And that’s where I am right now. I don’t know whether I’m going to write myself into a tall, impenetrable wall, but I’m trying not to let that intimidate me. I am trying to be bold. Are you?

The Swap is published on 18th April 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton.

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Landing picture by rawpixel on Unsplash

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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The Swap – Cover Reveal for My Second Novel

So here it is – the cover of my next book. The Swap is published by Hodder & Stoughton on 18th April 2019.

When two strangers, Tess and Annie, undergo IVF at an American clinic, their embryos are mixed up and each woman gives birth to the wrong child.

The women only discover the devastating error three years later. Tess wants to swap the children back; Annie doesn’t. As the pair wrangle, neither of them expect what unfolds.

This cover captures the very essence of the story – the emotional turmoil; two women separated from their biological children; and cars, there’s quite a lot of cars.

Roll on 2019!

 

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The Boy Made of Snow by Chloe Mayer

An enchanting and devastating book that will make your throat seize up with dread. There’s a German POW working in the woods in rural Kent during World War Two – cutting down trees for fuel for the villagers. Friendly and with something of the forbidden about him, he’s an intriguing addition to the village where nine-year-old Daniel and his repressed mother Annabel don’t quite fit in. But just what does Hans want from the unsuspecting pair?

The story doesn’t pick up pace until about 80 pages in, but it is well worth the wait because what unfolds next is so compelling, mind-blowing even, that you won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough. Tension builds as it becomes increasingly likely that Annabel and Daniel’s fragile lives are about to shatter into pieces, but not in any of the ways that you might expect. Twisty and beautifully written, with intelligent observations – take note of the Home Guard with their jobsworthy puffed-up pride for instance – The Boy Made of Snow is a remarkable read. And since this is Mayer’s debut, it is just the beginning.

 

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