Book Review: Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

An unputdownable novel. It centres around four strong characters who really lift off the page – Liz, Jess, Charlotte and Mel. They have all been friends since they were part of the same ante-natal group prior to having their firstborns. When paediatrician Liz treats Jess’ third child for a serious head injury, Liz has no choice but to pick up the phone to social services. Jess insists it was an accident, but not all is as it seems and a police investigation ensues.

I had a strong suspicion about part of the story, but that made this novel even more compelling for me as I waited for the truth to come out. And then came a shock that I really wasn’t expecting. This is a well-observed and feverish read – brilliantly written – yet another winner for the massively talented Sarah Vaughan.

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Little Disasters is available to buy at online bookshops including HIVE and Amazon.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo – A Review

Outstanding and utterly original, this book examines every facet of what it is to be a black woman in Britain – and oh, how glorious it is. I didn’t start out by feeling like that, however. Never have I been so put off by an opening chapter only to fall so completely head over heels in love with the rest of the narrative. The problem was that initially I found the lack of punctuation difficult to navigate. I’ve read books like this before, ones making statements about how they are not going to be constrained by form. It’s going to be worthy and self-conscious, I thought, a feeling compounded by the fact that the first character that Bernardine Evaristo visits is Amma – who was my least favourite character. I kept the faith though and carried on, and as soon as I arrived in the next chapter, I was won over. I didn’t even notice the lack of punctuation then because the prose flowed like a poem.

In some ways this a book that should not work; aside from the punctuation, it is all told. Bernardine Evaristo brings us a series of talking heads who report what has happened to them rather than plunging us into scenes. Writers are often instructed to ‘show’ not ‘tell’ because so few writers can tell well. Bernardine Evaristo is a supremo at telling. This combined with the way she weaves her story back and forth through time are just a few of the reasons that this is a truly original novel, a real literary great.

The characters get better and better – each has a distinct voice which doesn’t so much as lift off the page as pole-vaults off it. Through them, we get to experience every facet of human emotion – the harrowing aftermath of rape, the way a mother refuses to let her child drown under the weight of mental health problems, an enthusiastic young teacher ground down after years of the relentless ungratefulness of her pupils who she constantly tries to mould better futures for. But this is no depressing novel, it is uplifting, beautiful and the humour is abundant and effortless. A wonderful moment was Hattie’s failure to grasp her grandchild’s non-binary status, calling her friends ‘those non binding people’ yet she has huge love for her grandchild and her friends nonetheless.

I read this book on my Kindle, but will be buying the paperback as soon as it comes out. It should be required reading in schools, but perhaps that might take some of the joy out of it. I can certainly see it spawning a thousand English Literature degree theses. A book that deserves to be pushed into the hands of everyone, it feels like its pages contain the whole world.

Girl, Woman, Other is published by Penguin. The paperback is released on 5th March.
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Review by Fiona Mitchell, author of The Swap, and The Maid’s Room both published by Hodder & Stoughton.

The Swap is on The Motherload’s May Bookshelf

I’m so blown away that brilliant blogzine The Motherload has chosen The Swap (only 99p on Kindle) as one of its reads for May.

Author and journalist Laura Pearson has written a stunning review of my second book for the website too:

The idea of babies being swapped at the hospital is tried and tested. It’s been a Coronation Street storyline, it’s been an American teen drama and it’s been in the papers. But Fiona Mitchell’s is the first story I’ve seen that takes this idea and moves it back a step. The Swap is about two embryos being accidentally switched during IVF treatment. So that the babies these mothers give birth to are not, biologically, theirs. This raises all manner of questions about what makes you a mother. Is it the egg? Is it the carrying and giving birth? Is it the raising?…….

For the rest of the review and for other fab reading choices, visit The Motherload.

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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!

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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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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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 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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