The Last Days of Ellis Island by Gaëlle Josse (Translated by Natasha Lehrer)

Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour for this book. Thank you to World Editions for a copy of the book, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Winner of the European Union Prize for Literature

New York, November 3, 1954. In a few days, the immigration inspection station on Ellis Island will close its doors forever. John Mitchell, an officer of the Bureau of Immigration, is the guardian and last resident of the island. As Mitchell looks back over forty-five years as gatekeeper to America and its promise of a better life, he recalls his brief marriage to beloved wife Liz, and is haunted by memories of a transgression involving Nella, an immigrant from Sardinia. Told in a series of poignant diary entries, this is a story of responsibility, love, fidelity, and remorse.

My thoughts:

This is a book of highs and lows, both for Ellis Island and for John Mitchell, who is packing up his personal possessions and leaving the island for the last time. This books blends fiction and nonfiction seamlessly.

In many books, I’ve read about how ships full of immigrants would arrive at Ellis Island, hoping to be allowed to proceed into America to make new, brighter lives and to escape poverty, war and persecution back in Europe.

This book brings this to life from the other side of the story, how the United States processed the applications. The section of the book detailing how the immigrants are first observed, then sorted and questioned was written in a way that really brought the images to life. Alongside the general memories of Ellis Island, John Mitchell tells how he fell in love with his wife and why he feels guilty about how he dealt with Nella and her brother, who were fleeing Sardinia to seek safety.

This is a relatively short book for a historical fiction novel with over 45 years of events crammed into the story, as New York and the rest of the world undergo major changes. Some parts are lovely, such as when John falls in love with Liz, but there are many more sad moments than happy memories. I enjoyed reading this book and would love to visit Ellis Island one day, as my teenage boy did last year with his sixth form. A thought provoking story about a gateway to new beginnings.

Author Bio:

Gaëlle Josse holds degrees in law, journalism, and clinical psychology. Formerly a poet, she published her first novel, Les Heures silencieuses (‘The Quiet Hours’), in 2011. Josse went on to win several awards, including the Alain Fournier Award in 2013 for Nos vies désaccordées (‘Our Out-Of-Tune Lives’). After spending a few years in New Caledonia, she returned to Paris, where she now works and lives. Josse received the European Union Prize for Literature for The Last Days of Ellis Island, along with the Grand Livre du Mois Literary Prize.

Natasha Lehrer won a Rockower Award for Journalism in 2016, and in 2017 was awarded the Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize for her translation of Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger.

“Combining real and fictional events, Gaëlle Josse has written a text as visceral as it is melancholy and vibrant.” ―Livres Hebdo

The Becket List by Henry Becket, Illustrated by Tony Husband

Today I’m thrilled to be joining the blog tour organised by Red Door Press and Helen Lewis of Literally PR for The Becket List. Thank you for a copy of the book, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

An A to Z of First World Problems is… just that. The Becket List is a not entirely serious compendium of ‘First World Problems’ – the sort of stuff that drives us round the bend on a daily basis. How is it that atonal music, bus stations, cling-film and coat-hangers can bugger us up so comprehensively? Or passport control people, modern poetry, or just about anything you’ll find in a typical hotel bedroom? Embracing both the inanimate – from allen keys to rawlplugs – and the animated (well, in some cases) – from your fellow-travellers to every third-rate waiter who ever walked the earth – this book is essential for your sanity. As such, this comprehensive A to Z provides a signal service to humanity.
A collection of entries about many of the things in life that, whilst essentially trivial, day after day contrive to b*gger you up. In the greater scheme of things they don’t matter a damn, but in the context of advanced civilisation they take on a huge significance. The book is a both an important resource for future social historians and a call to action. It’s also, mostly, really rather silly. 

My thoughts:

In a year full of major anxiety with a global pandemic, this book gave this reader some light relief. Instead of worrying about the ‘big problems’, Henry Becket looks at a wide of variety of people and objects that incur his wrath. Topics covered range from Gatwick Airport to Dry January, from Showers that are impossible to work to Hashtags.

This is a book that can be dipped in and out of, or read in one sitting. In the current climate of zoom meetings, keeping a copy on your desk to read whilst waiting for the host to let you in is my recommendation.

I didn’t agree with all the issues (personally as a non smoker, pubs are much improved by the smoking ban) but did find myself agreeing with many, especially trying to find light switches and use showers in hotel accommodation. For readers of a certain age, you may find yourself worrying that this book will turn you into the Victor Meldrew of 2020 (watch the BBC TV series One Foot in the Grave to understand this reference).


Here’s the ‘about the author’:


Henry Becket was one of that curious breed, a Choral Exhibitioner at Cambridge, where he read… books. And magazines. He then spent decades nurturing what a head hunter once described as an iffy CV – as a Westminster speechwriter, lobbyist, wine merchant, copywriter, ad agency supremo (industry-speak for MD), and writer/director of innumerable eminently forgettable TV commercials in an awful lot of languages. He is lucky enough to have an impressively large family, and is also pretty obsessed with sailing, skiing, claret, churches and hillwalking, among other things. Oh, and the foibles of the world around him. Obvs.

Check out https://thebecketlist.com

Tony Husband

Illustrator

British cartoonist known for black humour. His cartoons appear on greeting cards, and he has a regular cartoon strip in Private Eye entitled Yobs that has been published since the late 1980s. He co-wrote the Round the Bend children’s television series, which ran from 1989 to 1991, and was also involved with Hangar 17, which ran from 1992 to 1994. With Marc Riley he was also involved with the comic Oink! and his work has appeared in numerous publications since the 1980s.

The Purple Shadow by Christopher Bowden

Thank you to Christopher Bowden for a copy of the book, to prepare for the blog tour organised by Rachel of Rachels’s Random Resources. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

In the years before the war, Sylvie Charlot was a leading light in Paris fashion with many friends among musicians, artists and writers.  Now she is largely forgotten.  Spending time in Paris during a break in his acting career, Colin Mallory sees a striking portrait of Sylvie.  Some think it is a late work by Édouard Vuillard but there is no signature or documentary evidence to support this view.

The picture has some unusual qualities, not least the presence of a shadow of something that cannot be seen.  Perhaps the picture was once larger.  Colin feels an odd sense of connection with Sylvie, who seems to be looking at him, appealing to him, wanting to tell him something.  Despite a warning not to pursue his interest in her portrait, he is determined to find out more about the painting, who painted it, and why it was hidden for many years.   

Colin’s search takes him back to the film and theatre worlds of Paris and London in the 1930s – and to a house in present-day Sussex.  As he uncovers the secrets of Sylvie’s past, her portrait seems to take on a life of its own. 

My thoughts:

This book had an old fashioned feel to it, despite some of the story being set in modern times. We start off in Paris, meeting Colin, an actor in between roles, who is intrigued by the purple shadow on the painting of Sylvie Charlot. The painting had been found wrapped up and hidden away in the apartment. Colin is convinced this was part of a bigger portrait but why would someone cut up a portrait and who else was in the original?

Colin visits theatres, galleries and museums in Paris and London, and finds a love story set in the 1930’s. The more he discovers, the more intrigued he becomes, the more mysterious it becomes, and he discovers that he is not the only person interested in the story behind the painting. This is a spoiler free review so I can’t divulge anymore about the story but can confirm that I enjoyed the story, which was very different to my normal genres.

Author Bio:

Christopher Bowden lives in south London. He is the author of six colour-themed novels, which have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay.  

Social Media Links –  https://www.facebook.com/christopher.bowden.90

Website – http://www.christopherbowden.com/

Purchase Links 

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Purple-Shadow-Christopher-Bowden-ebook/dp/B01JLMD7N4/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Purple-Shadow-Christopher-Bowden-ebook/dp/B01JLMD7N4/

France – https://www.amazon.fr/Purple-Shadow-Christopher-Bowden-ebook/dp/B01JLMD7N4/

Winter at Wishington Bay by Maxine Morrey

Thank you to Boldwood Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation to join the blog tour. Thank you also for a digital review copy of the book, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Eighteen months ago, Sophia Jones finally walked out on her unhappy life.

With a tricky divorce ongoing, money is tight and so when friends offer her a housekeeping job while they’re away travelling, she accepts.

Nate McKinley is hesitant when his brother, Gabe, offers him the use of their home in the picturesque village of Wishington Bay. But he has a book to a write and an imploded marriage to recover from, so maybe a change of scene is exactly what he needs. 

As Wishington Bay works its magic, friendship blossoms between Sophia and Nate. For Nate, finally feeling able to be himself with someone who is honest and down to earth is a revelation. 

But Sophia has a secret and a jealous colleague is determined to blow her cover. Can she really keep her old life in the past or is it destined to destroy this new, happy one too?

Take a trip back to Wishington Bay this winter and find out…

A deliciously heart-warming and romantic read, perfect for a cosy winter’s evening, from the author of the bestselling Winter’s Fairytale.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/32l5kV5

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Maxine Morrey and I enjoyed my visit to Wishington Bay. I did quickly realise that Maxine had set a book in the area before (Coming Home to Wishington Bay) but that didn’t stop me enjoying this story.

Sophia and Nate are both running away from heartbreak, and need to make new lives

The course of true love never runs smoothly, especially when jealous work colleagues and ex partners get involved. However, the majority of the residents at Wishington Bay are keen to help the two recent arrivals, and there is a four legged cupid involved too.

A lovely book to curl up with on a cold winter evening. My recommendation is to team this up with a mug of hot chocolate and a cosy blanket. And relax…

Author Bio:

Maxine Morrey is a bestselling romantic comedy author with eight books to her name including Winter’s Fairytale and the top ten hit The Christmas Project. She lives in West Sussex. Her first novel for Boldwood, #No Filter, was published in November 2019.

Social Media Links – 

Newsletter Sign up – http://bit.ly/MaxineMorreyNewsletter

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/Scribbler_Maxi/

Twitter @ https://twitter.com/Scribbler_Maxi

Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/MaxineMorreyAuthor

Christmas at the Cornish Confetti Agency by Daisy James

Thank you to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the invite to enjoy the tour. I enjoyed reading and reviewing Summertime at the Cornish Confetti Agency earlier this year. Thank you for a digital copy of the book, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

It’s Christmas at The Cornish Confetti Agency!

When Lexie Harrington is asked to choreograph Phoebe and Sam’s Christmas-themed wedding, she can’t wait to create the perfect winter wonderland – elegantly dressed fir trees, glossy garlands of holly and mistletoe, baskets of yule logs and pine cones, and the mouth-watering fragrance of gingerbread, cinnamon sticks and warm mulled wine floating through the air.

With handsome wedding columnist-cum-fledgling scriptwriter Theo Barker at her side, she’s confident that she can create the perfect festive ambience the bride and groom have been dreaming of since their engagement in the Swiss Alps; no rampant hosepipes, no mechanical mice, no confetti-filled hairdryers.

But this is The Cornish Confetti Agency, and the words ‘plain-sailing’ and ‘hassle-free’ do not feature in the promotional brochure. So, when a much-loved portrait of the groom’s father is adorned with pirate eye-patches and black plastic moustaches, and his expensive cologne is switched for toilet cleaner, Lexie and Theo must once again don their metaphorical deerstalkers and unravel the mystery before the wedding dissolves into Christmas-themed chaos and calamity.

A perfect Christmas wedding?
Is there such a thing for The Cornish Confetti Agency?

A glittery, feel-good story perfect for the festive season, and the third book in The Cornish Confetti Agency series.

Purchase Links 

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0892GV962

US  – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0892GV962

My thoughts:

I enjoyed curling up with this book on a wet and windy afternoon during the October half term holiday in Wiltshire. I’ve still not managed to visit Cornwall and due to the current global pandemic, don’t see any likelihood of a visit in the next few months. So it was nice to have a virtual visit.

Lexie is organising a wedding AND a Blissful Brides Christmas Extravaganza in the two weeks before Christmas, when life is already busy for many of us. As the synopsis states, Lexie has to discover who is playing jokes on the groom’s father during the hen and stag events before the wedding is spoilt. If you have read the previous Cornish Confetti Agency books, you will remember how Lexie regularly has to save the day.

Much as I enjoyed the wedding run up and the wedding, my favourite part of the book was the Blissful Brides Christmas Extravaganza. This sounded amazing and Lexie had been planning for this since primary school. Of course, nothing is easy or straightforward for Lexie, but the book has a lovely community feel as everyone pulls together to help.

The book includes a mixture of old and new characters, delicious sounding food, a gorgeous dog and a sprinkling of festive snow. I recommend reading with a large mug of hot chocolate and a mince pie (Loved Theo’s mince pie recipe and Christmas baking competition tradition). A cosy Christmas book I’m happy to recommend.

Author Bio:

Daisy James loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. She especially likes to create sunshine-filled settings in exotic locations – the Caribbean, Tuscany, Cornwall, Provence – so she can spend her time envisioning her characters enjoying the fabulous scenery and sampling the local food and drink.

When not scribbling away in her peppermint-and-green summerhouse (garden shed), she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.

Social Media Links – 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/daisyjamesbooks

Twitter – https://twitter.com/daisyjamesbooks

Instagram – @daisyjamesbooks

Avalon’s Portal by Lynne W. Bailey @lynnewbailey1 @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours #AvalonsPortal

Thank you to Lynne for a proof copy of Avalon’s Portal so I could prepare for the Love Book Tours blog tour. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Nothing exciting ever happens to Arthur, and that’s the way he likes it. But when he stumbles into a magical world on his 13th birthday, the new teen has to put on his big boy pants and begin the quest of a lifetime to find his way back home.

With the help of new friends, Arthur overcomes seemingly impossible obstacles, tames magical creatures, and fights mythical monsters. By the end of his journey he has changed in ways he could never have imagined; he needs to get home, but the pull of Avalon leaves him with a difficult decision to make.

My thoughts:

When the email arrived from Kelly at Love Book Tours about this blog tour, the cover design (I live in Wiltshire) and mention of Avalon caught my attention and I quickly offered to read and review.

I’ve always been fascinated by stories featuring Arthur, Guinevere and Merlin, and discovering that Arthur in this story was a Penn (my maiden name) I decided the signs were good.

I enjoyed this book, which admittedly is aimed at younger readers, and I will be passing it onto my 15 year old, having checked that the content is age appropriate. Arthur travels through the Avalon Portal a few days after meeting Marmaduke in his new home town of Glastonbury. The story is full of adventures, magic and some very unusual creatures for Guin and Arthur. As the cover shows, dragons and crows also feature in the story.

Happy to recommend to readers of upper Key Stage 2 and above, and their families. I will be keeping an eye out for book two, to see what happens next.

Author Bio:

Lynne has been writing short stories and poems since the age of 12. She is currently working on various ghostwriting projects for a reputable publisher, however, Avalon’s Portal is her debut novel, published in her own name. 

Lynne loves anything weird and wonderful, so expect to find her books full of magic, crystals, and mythical beings. Whilst working on the second book in this series, Lynne also holds a full time job and enjoys spending time with her family.

The Girl Without A Name by Suzanne Goldring

Thanks to Bookouture for inviting me to join the blog tour and providing a digital review copy. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

She left home, with the man she loved, and was never seen again…

August 2004. Billie has rushed to her father Dick’s hospital bedside. A terrible stroke has robbed him of his speech, and she is devastated to see her strong, invincible dad a shell of the man he was before. But when Billie finds a crumpled black and white photo in his wallet of a smiling, dark-haired girl she doesn’t recognise, Dick frantically tries to talk. Billie knows that he is trying to tell her something important, and she must ask the questions her father cannot. All she has to go on is the name he is just able to mumble. Ruby.

September 1940. As the bombs of the Blitz fall on London, childhood sweethearts Ruby and Stevie are falling in love. United by a shocking experience when they were evacuees, Ruby believes that she understands Stevie like nobody else can. But then Stevie is sent abroad, to a dusty and dangerous place…

As Ruby waits, desperately, for letters with foreign stamps that never come, she begins to fear that the man she fell in love with is lost forever. And when Stevie does return, he is changed, and Ruby must make a difficult choice.

As Billie uncovers Ruby’s tragic story she is determined to find out what happened to the girl who went away for a weekend with the man she loved and never came home. Why did nobody miss her? And how is she connected to Billie’s beloved father? Can Billie lay the ghosts of the past to rest, even if it means revealing the darkest secrets of her father’s life?

A completely compelling and heartbreaking read, this is the story of the bravery and courage of a young woman in wartime and another woman’s quest to put things right. Fans of The Letter and The Nightingale will be hooked on The Girl Without a Name.

My thoughts:

Thank you to Sarah Hardy for inviting me to read this book. I was trying to reduce my blog tour commitments ready for returning to work, but the synopsis of the book hooked me and I quickly said yes.

Three characters tell this story, Nick (aka Stevie), his daughter Billie and Ruby. Billie is trying to find out who the girl is from the photo in her Dad’s wallet.

We are taken back in time, initially to 1939 as the children of London are evacuated to the countryside. This was my favourite part of the story, as told by Ruby. Mrs Honey, who hosted Ruby and Joan sounded lovely, but sadly this wasn’t the case for all evacuees. As the story moves forward, we find out more about how Ruby ended up back in London and what happened when Stevie went to Palestine with the British Army.

This is a no spoiler review, so I don’t want to give any hints about what happens. I enjoyed the story, as we travelled through the different era with Stevie and Ruby. We also keep returning to Billie, who loves her dad and wants to find out what happened to his first sweetheart. I hadn’t correctly predicted the end, but once I read it, I was pleased that I had it incorrect. If you enjoy historical fiction, then I recommend reading this.

Author Bio:

Following an eventful career as a public relations consultant, specialising in business and travel, Suzanne Goldring turned to writing the kind of novels she likes to read, about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. Whether she is working in her thatched cottage in Hampshire or her seaside home in North Cornwall, Suzanne finds inspiration in the secrets hidden by everyday life.  
https://suzannegoldring.wordpress.com/
https://twitter.com/suzannegoldring

Buy Links:


Amazon: https://bit.ly/3kGjTKJ

Apple: https://apple.co/2ZE3rCo

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2WxpvwS

Google: https://bit.ly/32sA5cg

Parents and Teachers by Sara Madderson

Thank you to Sara Madderson for a copy of her book so that I could prepare for the Random Things Tours blog tour organised by the lovely Anne Cater. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

At two of London’s most exclusive prep schools, there are strict rules against parents fraternising with teachers. Well, that’s the theory, in any case.

Jenna, a Year 3 teacher at St Cuthbert’s, catches the eye of the school’s highest-profile parent, a world-famous action movie star, with far-reaching consequences. Meanwhile, over at Chiltern House, Astrid is still licking her wounds after her husband left her. Her daughter’s PE teacher, Callum, may be her best chance of rediscovering her joie de vivre.

Astrid’s friend Natalia, whose life revolves around motherhood these days, finds herself questioning everything she’s taken for granted when her husband becomes embroiled in a #MeToo scandal.

Really, the only ones behaving themselves are the kids … 

  • Paperback : 294 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1916353045
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1916353046
  • Product Dimensions : 12.7 x 1.88 x 20.32 cm
  • Publisher : Madderson (19 Sept. 2020)

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Parents-Teachers-only-ones-behaving/dp/1916353045

My thoughts:

I’ve worked in schools, from nursery through to sixth form, so when I saw the synopsis for this book, I was keen to read it.

As the byline states, the children are the only ones behaving at the two exclusive prep schools. Despite being told at the beginning of the year, that the staff and parents should not have any relationships other than the traditional parent-teacher relationship, not everyone was listening.

In places this story was like a modern day version of a Jilly Cooper novel, full of passionate people and glamourous lives. However, in 2020, some of the relationships are recognised to be inappropriate with older men taking advantage of young women or trying to. Initially I thought Jenna was being naive to get involved with a married man and father of a child in her class, but afterwards thought it was more a case of a #MeToo issue, with a young woman being taken advantage of by the older rich man.

Overall, I enjoyed the fast paced, often humorous and fabulously glamorous story, and could imagine this being made into a TV drama full of very attractive people. I wonder who would play Callum, the hot PE teacher…?

Author Bio:

Sara Madderson is an author, entrepreneur, wife and mother. She was born in Ireland and moved to the UK with her family when she was ten years old. She lives in London with her husband Chris, their two children, Paddy and Tilly, and their cocker spaniel Charlie.

Before turning to writing, Sara worked in finance for a decade and then ran her own fashion brand, Madderson London, for eight years. She earned her MPhil in Early Modern History from the University of Birmingham.

Metamorphosis is Sara’s first book. Given that she spent most of her childhood writing and designing clothes, she’s now seen both of her childhood career dreams come true! She’s enjoyed the adventure of publishing independently as much as she’s enjoyed the writing process itself. She’s now completely hooked on writing!

Twitter @saramadderson

Plant Magic by Dr. Greg J Kenicer @thebotanics @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

Thank you to Kelly at Love Books Tours and The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh for a gorgeous copy of this book. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

An informative and entertaining look at why plants have been used in magic and what that tells us about people and plants in a post-magic world.

With chapters on subjects as diverse as Witchcraft, Curses and Blessings, Divination, the Plants of Faery, Hallucinogens, Divine Plants in the Christian and Pagan traditions and a Plant Bestiary, Greg Kenicer’s book is an erudite and informative look at how and why various plants have had a role in Europe’s supernatural and magical traditions.

Individual entries look at particular plants combining botanical analysis with historical examples and anecdote to explain exactly why each plant came to be used in this way. Considerations of dangers and actual efficacy cast light on how modern science is now re-examining the uses of many of the plants and how the evolution of the plants themselves has been influenced by our use of them.

Whether Foxglove or Mandrake, Hawthorn or Aspen, Rowan or Oak, St. John’s Wort or Bird Cherry, Plant Magic  shines a bright and fascinating new light on dozens of familiar plants.

My thoughts:

As a child we often discover the fictional magic of plants in books such as the Magic Faraway Tree and the folklore stories about Robin Hood etc. Plants have been used for centuries to make medicine and food, but also to make enemies ill or to kill them.

This book is a reference book to explain how the wide number of plants have been used for food, medicine and pain, from trees, to fungi, from herbs to ferns.

I live in Oakhurst, named after the Oak trees growing in the area. I was fascinated by the amount of information about how Oak trees were the symbol of Zeus, and linked to Merlin the wizard. I wasn’t aware that acorns were used to make love potions.

There is a section at the back of the book about Mystery Plants, such Laughter Leaf and Was Wak trees. These are plants that have featured in stories such as the Arabian Nights and this book explains how the stories may have evolved.

A fascinating book, looking at folklore, legend, botany and science. I’ve enjoyed dipping in and out of the pages, learning more about the plants in our garden and those seen on our daily dog walks.

Author Bio:

Dr. Greg J Kenicer is the author of Plant Magic.  He is also a botanist and a lecturer at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. He is an expert in the evolution and diversity of peas and beans but the fantastical relationship between plants and people is where his heart really lies.

Buy Link 

www.rbgeshop.org

When the Music Stops by Joe Heap

I’m pleased to be sharing my review as part of the blog tour organised by Anne at Random Things Tours. Thank you to Anne and Harper Fiction for a digital review copy, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

This is the story of Ella.
And Robert.
And of all the things they should have said, but never did.

‘What have you been up to?’
I shrug, ‘Just existing, I guess.’
‘Looks like more than just existing.’
Robert gestures at the baby, the lifeboat, the ocean.
‘All right, not existing. Surviving.’
He laughs, not unkindly. ‘Sounds grim.’
‘It wasn’t so bad, really. But I wish you’d been there.’

Ella has known Robert all her life. Through seven key moments and seven key people their journey intertwines.
 
From the streets of Glasgow during WW2 to the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll of London in the 60s and beyond, this is a story of love and near misses. Of those who come in to our lives and leave it too soon. And of those who stay with you forever…

My thoughts:

I was hooked by the blurb for this book but still wasn’t prepared for how the story started and how we meet Ella. The story starts with a storm which leaves Ella holding her baby grandson on a damaged boat, trying to keep him alive until rescuers find them.

During the time stranded on the boat, Ella revisits seven key moments in each decade of her life and meets seven people who she had lost during her lifetime. Each meeting is also linked to a piece of music, from the book of music Ella chose with her dad in Glasgow. The audio book version will include the songs played in full.

Ella’s journey takes her from Glasgow to London. Joe’s writing brings each of the seven periods in time to life, from the school days in Glasgow to the first flat in London to being in a maternity ward as a geriatric mother. I’ve read many books this year whilst furloughed, and this is one of the most poignant. This book is full of emotion and I was caught up in each story, shedding a few tears along the way.

This is a no spoiler review, so you will need to read the book to find out if Ella saved her grandson. A five star book in my humble opinion, a lifetime of experiences captured in one stunning story. It will also make you think about who you would like to meet again, to maybe have a different conversation with. I’ve had Joe’s debut novel, The Rules of Seeing, on my Kindle for months and I look forward to reading it soon.

Book launch event:

On Thursday 28th October I attended Joe’s online book launch event organised by his publisher. It was fascinating to hear about Joe’s inspiration for the book, from how his grandparents met to becoming a father himself, to linking The Seven Ages of Man by Shakespeare to the life of a woman linked by music. The Jack Shapiro who wrote the music in the book is a work of fiction based on Jack Sands, his grandfather.

Author bio:

Joe Heap was born in 1986 and grew up in Bradford, the son of two teachers. His debut novel The Rules of Seeing won Best Debut at the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards in 2019 and was shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Reader Awards. Joe lives in London with his girlfriend, their two sons and a cat who wishes they would get out of the house more often.

For more information, please contact felicity.denham@harpercollins.co.uk | 0208 307 4203