The Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina (author) and Lucy Rand (translator)

I’m thrilled to share a review for this unique, thought provoking book on my blog today. Thank you to Bonnier Books and Manilla Press for an advanced review copy – my thoughts are my own.

Publisher comments:

We all have something to tell those we have lost . . .

When Yui loses her mother and daughter in the tsunami, she wonders how she will ever carry on. Yet, in the face of this unthinkable loss, life must somehow continue.

Then one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone box in his garden. There, those who have lost loved ones find the strength to speak to them and begin to come to terms with their grief. As news of the phone box spreads, people will travel there from miles around.

Soon Yui will make her own pilgrimage to the phone box, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Then she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of their loss.

What happens next will warm your heart, even when it feels as though it is breaking.

My thoughts:

I was intrigued by the idea of this book and wondered if it would live up to the hype. I’m pleased to say it did, and then exceeded the hype. This is a book which took me on a roller coaster of emotions – the description of the loss of Yui’s daughter and mother was heartbreaking. I also realised that I hadn’t really been aware of how devastating the tsunami in Japan in 2011 had been – whole communities destroyed and the hearts of the survivors shattered.

This book follows Yui as she tries to move forward after her loss, meeting other people at the Phone Box who have also lost loved ones and want to find closure. The writing (and translation) is exquisite – some chapters pick up on a single detail from a previous chapter and explain more fully about an item. I also appreciated the Glossary at the end of the book – my knowledge of Japanese culture and phrases was extremely limited. The story evolves over a number of years as Yui and the other visitors to the Phone Box work through their grief.

Initially this was going to be a four star read – however the book made me think deeply about my own recent experience with grief. I lost my brother to depression when he decided he didn’t want to live any longer. As I read and talked about the book, I found myself wondering what I would have said to him if I could have made the pilgrimage to the Phone Box. I know that I have so many things I wish I could say to him and that is why this book became a five star read – it helped me examine my own grief.

About the Author

Laura Imai Messina has been living in Japan for the last 15 years and works between Tokyo and Kamakura, where she lives with her Japanese husband and two children. She took a Masters in Literature at the International Christian University of Tokyo and a PhD in Comparative Literature at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. The Phone Box at the Edge of the World has been sold in over 21 territories.

Lucy Rand is a teacher, editor and translator from Norfolk, UK. She has been living in the countryside of Oita in south-west Japan for three years.

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The Foundling by Stacey Halls

The Foundling by Stacey Halls

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb:

Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst – that Clara has died in care – the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed – by her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why. Less than a mile from Bess’ lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.

From the bestselling author of The Familiars, and set against the vibrant backdrop of Georgian London, The Foundling explores families, secrets, class, equality, power and the meaning of motherhood

My thoughts:

I have a confession – I still haven’t read The Familiars by Stacey Halls (it is on my Kindle ready to go).

However after seeing great reviews and reading the opening chapters of The Foundling, I decided to use my Readers First points to ‘buy’ a copy of this book. The hardback book is beautiful to look at – a stunning cover design.

The story is based on the true Foundling Hospital in London, set up to help children who had parents unable to care for them. From the opening chapter, when a young woman asks to give up her baby born just hours earlier, we are transported back in time to 1747 to watch the baby lottery.

The descriptions of Georgian London are of two different worlds – the rich and the very poor. The story is told from the view of both main characters and we are slowly drip fed information to help explain what happened after the visit to the Foundling Hospital.

I’m happy to recommend the book – one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read. Thank you to Readers First and Manilla Press for my copy.

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