The Girl from the Island by Lorna Cook

Thank you to Avon Books for a digital review copy of the third book by Lorna Cook via Netgalley. I have read and enjoyed The Forgotten Village and The Forbidden Promise (see my review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/03/19/bookreview-the-forbidden-promise-by-lorna-cook/) .

Synopsis:

A world at war. 
One woman will risk everything. 
Another will uncover her story.

1940: When the island of Guernsey is invaded by the Nazis, two sisters are determined to rebel in any way they can. But when forced to take in a German soldier, they are shocked to find a familiar face on their doorstep – a childhood friend who has now become their enemy.

2016: Two generations later, Lucy returns to Guernsey after the death of a distant cousin. As she prepares the old family house for sale, Lucy discovers a box of handwritten notes, one word standing out: resistance. Lucy’s search for the author will uncover the story of a forgotten sister who vanished from the island one night, never to be seen again.

A timeless story of love and bravery, perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Rachel Hore.

My thoughts:

I’m pleased to say that this is another enjoyable historical fiction novel from Lorna Cook. This novel is based in Guernsey, a place I would like to visit after the Covid 19 pandemic has finished. It is only in very recent years that I became aware of how the Channel Islands had been occupied by the Germans during the Second World War.

This book looks at one family, who had to deal with the occupation, where neighbours were deported to prison camps, the wireless was banned and neighbours would inform on each other. How would Persephone and Dido cope with the challenges?

In this time slip novel, Lucy is back in Guernsey in 2016, after the death of her distant cousin Dido. When clearing out the house, Lucy becomes interested in some of the old papers she finds and sets out to solve the mystery about what happened to the residents of the house.

I enjoyed how the characters developed, the secrets revealed, the parallel sister stories and the historical details. As you would expect from a novel set during the occupation, there are some heartbreaking stories. But we also have happy and humorous moments too, when Lucy spends time with her new neighbour.

Happy to recommend to readers who enjoy time slip historical fiction novels.

A Book of Secrets by Kate Morrison

Thank you to Anne of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour. Thank you to Jacaranda Books for a stunning hardback copy of the book to read and review.

Synopsis:

A Book of Secrets tells the story of a West African girl hunting for her lost brother through an Elizabethan underworld of spies, plots and secret Catholic printing presses.

Susan Charlewood is taken from Ghana (then known as Guinea) as a baby. Brought to England, she grows up as maidservant in a wealthy Catholic household. Living under a Protestant Queen in late 16th Century England, the family risk imprisonment or death unless they keep their faith hidden.

When her mistress dies Susan is married off to a London printer who is deeply involved in the Catholic resistance. She finds herself embroiled in political and religious intrigue, all while trying to find her lost brother and discover the truth about her origins.

The book explores the perils of voicing dissent in a state that demands outward conformity, at a time when England is taking its first steps into the long shadow of transatlantic slavery and old certainties about the shape of the universe itself are crumbling.

A Book of Secrets gives a striking new perspective on the era and lets one of the thousands of lost Elizabethan voices, speak out loud.

My thoughts:

This stunning historical fiction novel features a strong young woman. Taken from her birth country as a baby, Susan initially grows up as the companion for a young lady before tragic events change the course of her life again. Having been secretly brought up in the Catholic faith, she finds herself in London, helping a printer produce illegal documents supporting the Catholic faith, whilst searching for the brother she thought had died years earlier.

This book is beautifully written, bringing to life an era where secrets were kept to protect lives and religious beliefs. Quickly I was hooked into the story, as Susan dealt with the many challenges in her life. Having grown up in a manor house in the country, we find out how different living in London is for her.

Susan has to keep adapting to her different roles and to deal with her losses. Having the house searched for ‘illegal’ printing, the threat of torture and public execution and having to pretend to follow a different religion were a daily occurrence for Susan.

This is a no spoiler review, so I’m going to avoid discussing any more of the story. However, this is a book I’m happy to recommend to readers who enjoy historical fiction (although you may prefer to skip a couple of pages about the public executions if you are squeamish). This is a cracking debut novel, full of detail and emotion and I look forward to reading more from Kate Morrison in the future.

Author Bio:

Kate Morrison is a British debut novelist. She studied English Literature at New Hall College, Cambridge and worked as a journalist and a press officer. Morrison was mentored by Ros Barber, the award-winning author of The Marlowe Papers and Devotion. She was a visiting scholar with the Book, Text, and Place 1500-1700 Research Centre at Bath Spa University. Kate Morrison currently lives in West Sussex with her family.

Kate Morrison is available for interviews, features and events across the UK

Contact Jazzmine Breary: Jazzmine@jacarandabooksartmusic.co.uk or Tiffany Cook: tiffany@jacarandabookartmusic.co.uk

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to turn the blog tour for this new historical fiction fiction book. Thank you to Harper Collins for a digital proof copy via NetGalley to read and review.

Synopsis:

1940. Three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes.

Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Awkward local girl Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles beneath her shy exterior.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together…

As the nation prepares for the royal wedding they must race against the clock to save one of their own.

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Kate Quinn and I will be looking to read more of her books in the future. As a regular reader of historical fiction books, I loved the sound of the synopsis of this book, especially the setting of Bletchley Park.

As the book starts, we find out about how three girls from three very different backgrounds who came to work at Bletchley Park. We also discover that one of them is locked away in an asylum and she needs help to escape and to find out how the real traitor was.

This book features many stories within the main story. Osla is a debutante, battling to prove how clever she is as a linguist. Mab is determined to put her past behind her and find a way out of poverty. Beth needs to escape her bully of a mother and use her problem solving skills to help the war effort. The story covers romance, aspirations, a literary club, dedication to work, heartbreak, mental health and a traitor in their midst.

The book is full of historical detail and emotions, the highs of cracking a code and the lows of losing a loved one. At the end of the book the author explains how she based the book on real people, determined to ensure that this part of the war effort isn’t lost behind secrecy laws.

Although the workers at Bletchley Park were in less physical danger than the soldiers, sailors and aircrew during the war, the book reminds us about how their determination to succeed led to mental health issues for many of the workers, and a lifelong fear about betraying secrets.

This was an enjoyable read and a book I didn’t want to put down, an excellent way to spend a lockdown weekend. Happy to recommend to readers of historical fiction and/or readers of how women helped win the war.

Author Bio:

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia.

When Paris Slept by Ruth Druart

I’m happy to be sharing my non-spoiler thoughts about this fabulous historical fiction book as part of the book tour organised by Anne of Random Things Tours. Thank you to Anne and Headline Review for a proof copy to read and review.

Synopsis:

Santa Cruz 1953. Jean-Luc thought he had left it all behind. The scar on his face a small price to pay for surviving the horrors of Nazi occupation. Now, he has a new life in California, a family. He never expected the past to come knocking on his door.

Paris 1944. A young woman’s future is torn away in a heartbeat. Herded on to a train bound for Auschwitz, in an act of desperation she entrusts her most precious possession to a stranger. All she has left now is hope.

On a darkened platform two destinies become entangled. Their choice will change the future in ways neither could have imagined.

Beginning on an ordinary day and ending on an extraordinary one, WHILE PARIS SLEPT is an unforgettable read.

My thoughts:

Regular readers of my blog will know that I regularly enjoy reading books set around World War 2, having studied this era at school. I have discovered some fascinating historical fiction books during our repeated lockdowns and this one is definitely added to my five star list. So what makes this book special?

In addition to the gorgeous cover design, this book is an emotional read and left me thinking about it long after I had finished reading. We start in the USA in 1953 where Jean-Luc and Charlotte are living the American dream with their son, Sam. We then head back in time to find out how Jean-Luc and Charlotte met in Paris in 1944, and what happened next.

The story looks at how the ordinary French people dealt with being under German rule, afraid to say anything out loud for fear of reprisals but with hopes that the resistance and the Allies would soon rescue them from the Nazi occupation. We also spend time with Jewish families who have lost their jobs, homes and are facing losing their lives.

In 1953, everything changes again for Jean-Luc, Charlotte and Sam, as the events of 1944 catch up with them. I have to admit that I didn’t see this part of the story coming when I first started the book. This part of the book was emotional in a different way, and as a mother I was torn about how I felt. I did enjoy reading about Paris, the different customs and food, reminding me about my first visit to France.

This is beautifully written, full of emotion and heartbreak, but also hope for the future. The final chapters found me holding my breath, eager to know what would happen next. Apologies for the vagueness of this review, but I don’t want to spoil the story for any prospective readers. I didn’t sleep whilst reading While Paris Slept, this was a book I read in a day, curled up on a sofa with our dogs (there are some benefits to lockdown). I’m happy to recommend this book as a must read in 2021.

Author Bio:

Ruth Druart grew up on the Isle of Wight, moving away at the age of eighteen to study psychology at Leicester University. She has lived in Paris since 1993, where she has followed a career in teaching. She has recently taken a sabbatical, so that she can follow her dream of writing full-time.

The German Heiress by Anika Scott

Thank you to Sarah Harwood of http://www.harwoodpr.com for a copy of this book, being published today by Windmill Books, part of Penguin Random House.

Synopsis:

For readers of The Alice Network and The Lost Girls of Paris, an immersive, heart-pounding debut about a German heiress on the run in post-World War II Germany.

Clara Falkenberg, once Germany’s most eligible and lauded heiress, earned the nickname “the Iron Fräulein” during World War II for her role operating her family’s ironworks empire. It’s been nearly two years since the war ended and she’s left with nothing but a false identification card and a series of burning questions about her family’s past. With nowhere else to run to, she decides to return home and take refuge with her dear friend, Elisa.

Narrowly escaping a near-disastrous interrogation by a British officer who’s hell-bent on arresting her for war crimes, she arrives home to discover the city in ruins, and Elisa missing. As Clara begins tracking down Elisa, she encounters Jakob, a charismatic young man working on the black market, who, for his own reasons, is also searching for Elisa. Clara and Jakob soon discover how they might help each other—if only they can stay ahead of the officer determined to make Clara answer for her actions during the war.

Propulsive, meticulously researched, and action-fueled, The German Heiress is a mesmerizing page-turner that questions the meaning of justice and morality, deftly shining the spotlight on the often-overlooked perspective of Germans who were caught in the crossfire of the Nazi regime and had nowhere to turn. 

My thoughts:

Regular readers of my blog will know that I regularly read historical fiction books set around the first and second world wars. However this is the first I’ve read set in Germany after the second world war.

This was a book I didn’t want to put down, once I started it. Clara is on the run from her past, having been in hiding since the Allies were advancing towards Essen. However now she is heading back home, to find out what happened to what was left of her family and her best friend Elisa.

Essen in December 1946 was a cold and bleak place, with very little food and many damaged buildings. We find out more about Clara’s life before and during the war, her friendships and what she tried to do during the war. We also meet Jakob, left disabled after being at the Russian front. Jakob tries to help Clara but who will he put first when the British Army turn up, his sisters or his new acquaintance?

Without giving any spoilers, I enjoyed the story and found it thought provoking. What would any of us done if we had been made to work as per the Nazi party instructions or face being killed ourselves? After what happened during the war, how would the Allied troops treat the German people?

I’m happy to recommend this book to fans of historical fiction. This is an impressive debut novel and I look forward to reading more by Anika Scott in the future.

Author Bio:

Anika Scott lives with her husband and two daughters in Essen, Germany, where her debut novel is set. She grew up in Michigan, USA and has degrees in International Politics and Journalism. She began her career wanting to be a CIA agent and had security clearance from an internship at the State Department in Washington, but CIA applications included never being able to write stories or keep a diary. Anika loves stories too much for that, and so became a journalist instead. She was staff on the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Chicago Tribune before becoming a freelance journalist in Germany: her work has appeared widely in the US and European media. She runs an online resource about post-war German history at http://www.postwargermany.com

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my thoughts about this stunning book. Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite to the blog tour for The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell and to Raven Books/ Bloomsbury Books for a gorgeous proof copy to read and review.

Synopsis:

As the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another… Why is the killer seemingly targeting her business?

Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them.

But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…

Today is the last day of the blog tour but please check out the reviews from my fellow bloggers listed below too.

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Laura Purcell despite having two of her books sat waiting on my Kindle. I had seen glowing reviews on social media about this book and was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review for the blog tour.

The book takes us back to Bath in Victorian times, but not to the genteel Bath we see in period dramas, but to the dark and creepy streets, where money is tight and people disappear in the night.

This is a no spoiler review, so I need to be very careful about what I write so that I don’t spoil this well plotted story. Agnes has been left unmarried and fatherless, so earns money to look after her family by cutting out silhouettes of paying customers. As the story progresses we meet her doctor and start to receive snippets of information about an accident, an illness she nearly died from, a lost fiancé, a dead sister. The people Agnes prepare silhouettes for start to die, leading to Agnes meeting young Pearl, who may be able to communicate with the dead.

This is a very clever story, with small hints/fake news being shared in each chapter, so that this poor reader had a number of suspects in the frame for the murders. However, I was totally wrong and didn’t guess the ending. I loved the way the story evolved, getting darker and more twisted. This was my favourite book of January 2021 and I’m sure will be in my top 20 books of 2021. I’m off to read more books by Laura Purcell – with a bright light on.

Author Bio:

Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Her first novel for Raven Books, The Silent Companions, was a Radio 2 and Zoe Ball ITV Book Club pick and was the winner of the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award, while her subsequent books – The Corset and Bone China – established Laura as the queen of the sophisticated, and spooky, page-turner.

laurapurcell.com |@spookypurcell

Laura Purcell is available for features, interviews and events. For more information please contact Emilie Chambeyron on emilie.chambeyron@bloomsbury.com

The Watchmaker of Dachau by Carly Schabowski

Thank you to Sarah Hardy for the invitation to read and review The Watchmaker of Dachau published this week by Bookouture. I reviewed The Ringmaster’s Daughter by Carly Schabowski in July 2020 (see review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/07/07/the-ringmasters-daughter-by-carly-schabowski/) and was pleased to be able to read and review her next novel pre-publication too. The book was published in the UK yesterday.

Synopsis:

An unforgettable novel of human kindness, inspired by an incredible true story.

Snow falls and a woman prepares for a funeral she has long expected, yet hoped would never come. As she pats her hair and straightens her skirt, she tells herself this isn’t the first time she’s lost someone. Lifting a delicate, battered wristwatch from a little box on her dresser, she presses it to her cheek. Suddenly, she’s lost in memory…

January 1945, Dachau, Germany. As the train rattles through the bright, snowy Bavarian countryside, the still beauty outside the window hides the terrible scenes inside the train, where men and women are packed together, cold and terrified. Jewish watchmaker Isaac Schüller can’t understand how he came to be here, and is certain he won’t be leaving alive.

When the prisoners arrive at Dachau concentration camp, Isaac is unexpectedly pulled from the crowd and installed in the nearby household of Senior Officer Becher and his young, pretty, spoiled wife. With his talent for watchmaking, Isaac can be of use to Becher, but he knows his life is only worth something here as long as Becher needs his skills.

Anna Reznick waits table and washes linens for the Bechers, who dine and socialise and carry on as if they don’t constantly have death all around them. When she meets Isaac she knows she’s found a true friend, and maybe more. But Dachau is a dangerous place where you can never take love for granted, and when Isaac discovers a heartbreaking secret hidden in the depths of Becher’s workshop, it will put Anna and Issac in terrible danger…

A gorgeously emotional and tear-jerking read set during World War Two. Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of AuschwitzWe Were the Lucky Ones and The Alice Network.

My thoughts:

Although I regularly read historical fiction novels set during the era of World War 2, I have always avoided the stories set in the death camps. However, because I enjoyed Carly’s previous book, I decided to read this one.

As you would expect there is a lot of heartbreak and tragedy in this book. The camp leader, Becher, is using Anna and Isaac as ‘slave labour’ to help run his home more efficiently, which leads to his young son, Friedrich meeting both of them and questioning the Nazi propaganda against the Jewish people.

We discover how Anna and Isaac ended up in Dachau camp, and the stories of their family and friends too. The story is mostly set towards the end of the war, as the Allied troops are heading across mainland Europe, to try to rescue the people who have been imprisoned by the Nazi regime. Isaac and Anna try to help each other, and their roommates to survive the hunger and the punishments.

Carly’s storytelling swept me into the past, on a very emotional journey. Quickly the characters became important and I didn’t want to put my Kindle down. I stayed up late reading this, a sign of a good book. The ending was a mixture of happy and sad.

This is a non spoiler review, so I’m not going to give any of the twists in the tale away. It was sadly all too believable, that something like this could have happened. Isaac and Anna’s story will stay with me for a long time. I’m happy to recommend this book.

Author Bio:

Carly Schabowski worked as a journalist in both North Cyprus and Australia before returning to Oxford, where she studied for an MA and then a PhD in creative writing at Oxford Brookes University. Carly now teaches at Oxford Brookes University as an associate lecturer in Creative Writing for first and second-year English literature students. 
https://twitter.com/carlyschab11

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://bit.ly/3oDgGxA

Apple: http://apple.co/3brLuxt

Kobo: http://bit.ly/3i0k0Al

Google: http://bit.ly/3oMjj09
— 

Until We’re Fish by Susannah R Drissi

Today I’m pleased to be sharing my thoughts about Until We’re Fish by Susannah R Drissi as part of the blog tour organised by Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and Propertius Press. Thank you to Susannah for a signed copy of the book, sent from California. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

A man can be destroyed but never defeated.

Stunning and elegiac, Susannah Rodríguez Drissi’s debut novel Until We’re Fish juxtaposes vivid landscapes, brilliant, playful meditations on life, and penetrating insights into the human heart, to richly bring to life the story of rapscallion dreamer Elio, a Cuban teen whose unbridled confidence is severely tested after a near-fatal shark attack.

Elio longs for freedom from the dreary home he shares with his mother. He spends his days and nights fantasizing about an American bike and Maria, his vivacious next-door neighbor. Two obstacles stand in his way: the 1959 Cuban Revolution and Maria’s dream of moving to Chicago. Yet Elio is steadfast in believing that somehow, some way he will get both the girl and the Schwinn. When an injury leaves him terrified of the sea, he’s faced with an impossible choice: to overcome his fear and do whatever it takes to realize his vision, or to stay safe, and risk losing everything he’s been living for. 

An unforgettable coming-of-age story, Until We’re Fish blends the romance, violence, mood, and ethos of the Cuban Revolution with a young man’s hopeless and heroic first love. With the truth of experience and the lyricism of poetry, Rodríguez Drissi constructs an exquisite, gossamer tale of revolution and hearts set adrift. A Don Quixote for our times, Until We’re Fish is an intimate exploration into the souls of people willing to sacrifice everything to be free.  

My thoughts:

This beautifully written book starts in 1959, as young Elio deals with being being abandoned by his father, who has travelled to the USA to find fame and fortune. Elio suffers an injury at the beach and loses his nerve for swimming in the sea.

The book follows Elio, Pepe and Maria, as they grow up and start work in Cuba as the revolution changes the lives of the Cubans. Maria dreams of moving to Chicago but Elio doesn’t want to leave. The book is a blend of a coming of age story and a historical fiction novel. Would they stay or would they try to flee to the USA, to be able to live the consumer dream (Maria was obsessed with the Sears catalogue as a teenager).

This is a complex story, with Elio, Pepe and Maria on a variety of life journeys through over 30 years. I was engrossed by the story and enjoyed my virtual visit to Cuba, a world very different to England, especially during this time period. A book for both history and travel fans.

Author Bio:

Susannah Rodríguez Drissi, PhD is an award-winning Cuban-born poet, writer, playwright, translator, director, producer, and scholar. She is Faculty in Writing Programs
at UCLA, Affiliate Scholar in UC-Cuba Program Initiative, and Associate Literary Editor for Cuba Counterpoints,Cuban and Caribbean Research Studies Institute. As a 1.5-generation writer (born in Cuba in the 1970s, but coming of age in the US), Rodríguez Drissi writes about Cuba through a double lens—from the vantage point of the native and also from the benefit of a temporal and geographical distance.

Her poems, short stories, creative nonfiction, and reviews have appeared in anthologies such as In Season—Stories of Discovery, Loss, Home, and Places in Between (2018 Florida Book Award Winner); and journals such as the Los Angeles Review of Books, Saw Palm, Literal Magazine, Diario de Cuba (Madrid), SX Salon, Raising Mothers, Acentos Review, Cuba Counterpoints, among other journals. Following readings at the University of California, Irvine and the University of
California, Los Angeles, her award-winning play, Houses Without Walls, premiered at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2018. More recently, her short plays, The Fruit Flies and Rey y Atenea were selected to the 2019 Short+Sweet Theatre Festival and premiered at the Lee Strasberg Film & Theatre Institute, in Los Angeles. Rey y Atenea received an Audience Choice Award and was Finalist for the 2019 NBC Universal Talent Infusion Programs Award.

She is the author of the poetry collection The Latin Poet’s Guide to the Cosmos (Floricanto Press, 2019) and Rey y Atenea / Rey and Atenea, a Bilingual Edition (Cassandra Press, 2019). Her musical, Radio Nocturno, El Musical, wasscheduled to premiere at Miami Dade College’s Koubek Center, on August 6th, 2020, directed by Victoria Collado (John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons), musical direction by Jesse Sanchez (Hamilton, national tour), and produced by George Cabrera (Broadway Factor). The production was postponed due to COVID-19 and is now planned for August 2021.

Learn more at susannahrodriguezdrissi.com

The German Girl by Lily Graham

Today I’m pleased to be sharing my thoughts about the The German Girl by Lily Graham, published in ebook today by Bookouture. Thanks to Sarah Hardy for the invite to join the blog tour and for the free digital copy. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

‘Our parents were taken. And if we go home, the Nazis will take us too…’

Hamburg 1938. Fifteen-year-old Asta is hurrying home from school with her twin brother Jurgen. The mood in the city is tense – synagogues have been smashed with sledgehammers, and Asta is too frightened to laugh as she used to.

But when she and Jurgen are stopped in the street by a friend, her world implodes further. Her Jewish parents have been dragged into the streets by German soldiers and if she and Jurgen return to their house, they will be taken too.

Heartbroken at the loss of her parents, Asta knows they must flee. With her beloved brother, she must make the perilous journey across Germany and into Denmark to reach their only surviving relative, her aunt Trine, a woman they barely know.

Jammed into a truck with other refugees, Asta prays for a miracle to save herself and Jurgen. Crossing the border is a crime punishable by death, and what she and Jurgen must embark on a dangerous crossing on foot, through the snowy forest dividing Germany and Denmark. And when barking dogs and armed soldiers find Jurgen and Asta escapes, she must hold on to hope no matter what. One day she will find her twin, the other half of herself. Whatever the price she has to pay…

A gripping and poignant read that will break your heart and give you hope. Fans of Fiona Valpy, Kristin Hannah and Catherine Hokin will be gripped by the story of a brave brother and sister seeking safety during one of the darkest times in our history.  

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book, my first historical fiction read of 2021 and a new author discovered. Lily Graham has set a high bar for the other historical fiction authors to reach, with great characters and emotive writing in this book.

The story starts in Sweden in 1995, when Ingrid is making changes to her life, including checking on her grandfather Jürgen. However she discovers that Jürgen is not who she has always thought he was. We travel back in time to Hamburg in the 1930’s to find out what happened to Asta, Jürgen and their family as the Nazi party tried to remove all the Jewish people in Western Europe.

I flew through the story, and found myself unable to put my Kindle down, wanting to find out what happened next. As usual in historical fiction novels set during this time period, there is a lot of tragedy and heartbreak, but there are also some lighter moments too. I’m happy to recommend the book to readers of my book blog and I will be looking to read more books by Lily Graham in the future.

Author Bio:

Lily has been telling stories since she was a child, starting with her imaginary rabbit, Stephanus, and their adventures in the enchanted peach tree in her garden, which she envisioned as a magical portal to Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree. She’s never really got out of the habit of making things up, and still thinks of Stephanus rather fondly.

She lives with her husband and her English bulldog, Fudge, and brings her love for the sea and country-living to her fiction.

https://twitter.com/lilygrahambooks

https://www.facebook.com/LilyRoseGrahamAuthor/

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://bit.ly/3b2aGdL

The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

Today I’m sharing my thoughts about Caroline Scott’s debut novel, which was published by Simon and Schuster UK in hardback in 2019 and in paperback in June 2020.

Synopsis:

If someone you loved when missing, would you ever stop searching for them?

1921. The Great War is over and while many survivors have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He was declared ‘missing, believed killed’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph in the post, taken by Francis, hope flares. And so she begins to search. 

Francis’ brother, Harry, is also searching. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, he has returned to the Western Front. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last conversation they ever had. 

As Harry and Edith’s path converge, they begin to get closer to a startling truth.

My thoughts:

I purchased this book back in June 2020 from Bert’s Books but only started reading it during the first weekend of Lockdown 2 which was also Remembrance weekend. As readers of my book review blog may remember, I recently read and reviewed Caroline’s latest book, When I Come Home Again (https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/10/31/when-i-come-home-again-by-caroline-scott/)

The photographer from the title of the book is Harry, who went to war with both his brothers but was the only one to return to England. As the story develops, we discover more about Harry’s relationships with his family and what happened in France and Belgium. Harry takes photos for other families who are looking for their loved ones who have been declared as Missing In Action or who have died.

The book is heartbreaking in places but is beautifully written by Caroline Scott, who conveys the horrors of World War 1 and the aftermath with care. Was a Missing In Action telegram more cruel than a Died in Service telegram, due to the continued hope of seeing a loved one alive again?

A five star read for me.