Book review: The Key by Kathryn Hughes

Wednesday, May 23, 2018 Permalink

I’ve struggled lately with my blogging. Not the actually writing, but more the content. I’ve got a folder full of half-written posts that all seem ridiculously pointless when I revisit them to tweak for publishing.

One of those posts is about the TV series, The Alienist. Well sort of. It’s about things that meandered around my little mind as I watched The Alienist and that’s partially to do with the subject matter – namely the way in which we treated clients of mental health services. It’s a long time since my undergraduate psychology degree, but… I currently work in a health service so my colleagues deliver mental health services and I’m vaguely connected to some planning around a new inpatient mental health facility.

Which is why books like Kathryn Hughes’ The Key – about archaic medical practices – are of more interest than they may otherwise have been. (Plus, and as an aside, I’ve remained a little perturbed about that stuff since seeing An Angel At My Table, about the life of NZ author Janet Frame, a few decades ago!)

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Book review: Eleanor’s Secret by Caroline Beecham

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 Permalink

I’ve talked before about the fact that I don’t read historical fiction. It seems however that I DO occasionally read historical fiction… particularly when intertwined with the present, which is the case with Caroline Beecham’s latest novel Eleanor’s Secret.

I read Beecham’s Maggie’s Kitchen in 2016 and realised how little I knew about wartime London. In particular she introduced me (and other readers presumably, though I am probably more ignorant than most!!!) to the Ministry of Food and British Restaurants – set up by government to provide low cost hot meals to residents.

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Book review: The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

Tuesday, March 27, 2018 Permalink

I enjoyed Natasha Lester’s second book, Her Mother’s Secret, but I’d really really loved her first book, A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald. At the time I very much appreciated the insight it offered into the plight of women who’d come less than a century before me – not just through career-limitations but also through society’s beliefs and values, and sadly, its norms.

I reflected on this as I steamed through The Paris Seamstress. It’s most certainly saga-like. It doesn’t centre around topics as heavy and lesson-laden as Lester’s debut novel and yet I adored it and could not put it down.

I was rivetted. By the story of Estelle – a wannabe fashion designer in the 1940s – and her granddaughter Fabienne, a young woman wanting to make her own mark on the world.

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Book review: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 Permalink

Jessica Fellowes, I discovered, after picking up this book, wrote ‘companion books’ for the popular Downton Abbey TV series. It seems to be an indication that the author and journalist is a fan of history and enjoys researching times-gone-by – which is very evident in her latest novel The Mitford Murders.

And something I hadn’t appreciated until I actually reached the end of this book, was that it’s a form of ‘faction’…. facts mixed with fiction. Or fictionalised facts. Or something.

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Author Q & A: The Traitor’s Girl by Christine Wells

Thursday, May 25, 2017 Permalink

I usually shy away from historical fiction, although have made a few exceptions in recent times. I also find that I can cope with novels unfolding in two timeframes, commonly adopted in Kate Morton’s books for example.

The latest novel by Brisbane-based author Christine Wells offers readers dual timelines (so, the best of both worlds – appealing to historical fiction and contemporary fiction lovers alike). It’s the first book I’ve read by Wells and I very much enjoyed her characters and the plot unfolding in the ‘now’ as well as the detail included about the work of female spies and government agencies during the second world war.

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The Midsummer Garden by Kirsty Manning. A guest post about Italy.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017 Permalink

A quick glance at debut author Kirsty Manning’s website will alert visitors and readers that she’s most certainly passionate about travel and food, both of which feature strongly in her her debut novel The Midsummer Garden, which is set in France, Italy (Tuscany) and Australia (Tasmania).

Italy, and particularly Tuscany is on my bucket list and because I’m a masochist of sorts, I thought it’d be nice to ask Kirsty about it. 

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Book review: Her Mother’s Secret by Natasha Lester

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 Permalink

Natasha Lester’s A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald was one of my favourite reads of 2016. I don’t usually read historical fiction but very much enjoyed the novel set in America in the 1920s.

Lester’s latest release, Her Mother’s Secret is another period drama and again centres around the plight of a young woman forced to fight societal norms and prejudice for acceptance and equality.

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Book review: A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay

Monday, March 27, 2017 Permalink

I suspect I requested this book because it’s set in Brisbane… my former hometown and a place I know pretty well. The story of an elderly woman leaving her home of 60 years and the family moving in after her departure is not my usual reading fare but I found it enchanting and surprisingly addictive. 

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Author interview: Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer

Friday, November 4, 2016 Permalink

In 2013 Anna Romer released her much-lauded debut novel Thornwood House. I completely missed that, but around this time in 2014 I read and reviewed Anna Romer’s second book, Lyrebird Hill, a quintessentially Australian novel unfolding in two timeframes. In that review I commented on my usual reticence to read historical fiction, but found myself intrigued by the secrets, lies and family drama being unearthed.

Romer’s topped that with her latest novel, Beyond the Orchard. It’s a book that took me by surprise, forcing me to read it in a sitting (!!!). Romer’s talked in interviews about her inspiration – from stories, fairytales and legends and her fascination with old letters, diaries and long-held secrets. It brings a lyrical and almost mystical quality to her work that has the ability to enchant readers.

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