Reading From My Ever expanding Book Pile -The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Dare.

I don’t just want to be having any kind voice . . .
I want a louding voice.

At fourteen, Adunni dreams of getting an education and giving her family a more comfortable home in her small Nigerian village. Instead, Adunni’s father sells her off to become the third wife of an old man. When tragedy strikes in her new home, Adunni flees to the wealthy enclaves of Lagos, where she becomes a house-girl to the cruel Big Madam, and prey to Big Madam’s husband. But despite her situation continuously going from bad to worse, Adunni refuses to let herself be silenced. And one day, someone hears her.

Review

As we start a new reading year and try to move forward, we all need to find some hope of brighter days to come. The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abdi Dare is a novel that shines with that very thing we all need right now, hope!

It has been described by others as captivating, sparkling, beautiful and it is indeed all of these and more. It is joyful, often emotional, sometimes a painful read, one that will forever remind us, that where loss and despair reside, hope and the human capacity to strive for better will always exist.

One of the most remarkable things about it, is how Abi Dare has managed to deal with some difficult subjects, yet deliver a novel that captivates both the heart and the soul of the reader. It’s a story about daughters forced into marriage at a young age in a society that undervalues the worth of it’s women, slavery and physical violence. Reading that description, you would be expecting a novel that is heart breaking, yet it is not. For it is a work that celebrates Adunni’s refusal to remain a victim, her bravery and determination to find her own voice amongst the maelstrom of abuse and violence that surrounds her.

Abi Dare gives Adunni a voice that grows as the novel progresses, becoming louder and more determined. As a character traumatised by events in her home village, she progresses her to a young women with a voice and it is that voice which gives the novel it’s heart and its strength. The lead characters determination to not be silenced and to change the path others have forced her to take, to one in which she has control over her destiny, is what makes this story as well as the writing both intensely moving and deeply affecting.

As a character Adunni is warm, brave and resilient in the face of loss and betrayal. The writer never tries to downplay battles she faces, but lifts them up and shines a light on them, so we can see truth and celebrate her search for her louding voice. She writes a narrative that comes from the tradition of issue led novels which spark conversations and bring taboo subjects into the light. It also gives her voice an authentic lilt, broken English at first, for as she saysNow I know that speaking good English is not the measure of intelligent mind and sharp brain. English is only a language, like Yoruba and Igbo and Hausa”. It is not how Adunni articulates her thoughts which makes her such an amazing character, it is her spirit, the light that shines in the deepest part of her being and how she uses her voice. The narrative takes her from having her words trapped within her chest, scared and subservient to her father, to a character that as she changes and finds her voice, growing with the support of others, shines from the page “the words running bright, a ribbon of fire, of hope”.

The Girl With The Louding Voice was the first book I finished in 2021 and I’m already certain that it will feature in my favourite reads this year!. What a stunning start to any reading year!

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and from Waterstones.

About the author

Abi Daré grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and has lived in the UK for over 18 years. She studied law at the University of Wolverhampton and has an M.Sc. in International Project Management from Glasgow Caledonian University. Keen to improve her writing, Abi completed an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University of London, achieving a Distinction. Her novel, THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE won The Bath Novel Award in 2018 and was selected as a finalist in The Literary Consultancy Pen Factor competition in 2018. Abi lives in Essex with her husband and two children.

Review ~Advent by Jane Fraser

Winter, 1904, and feisty twenty-one-year old Ellen has been summoned back from her new life in Hoboken, New Jersey, to the family farm on windswept Gower, in a last bid to prevent the impending death of her alcoholic father. 

On her return, she finds the family in disarray.  Ailing William is gambling away large swathes of Thomas land; frustrated Eleanor is mourning the husband she once knew; and Ellen’s younger twin brothers face difficult choices.

Ellen, tasked with putting her family’s lives in order, finds herself battling one impossible decision after another.  Resourceful, passionate, and forthright, can she remain in Gower, where being female still brings with it so many limitations?  Can she endure being so close to her lost love?  Will she choose home and duty, or excitement and opportunity across the Atlantic?

Review

I am a massive fan of the books published by this small and unique publisher, that specialises in publishing welsh women’s fiction, with it’s office located on the site of my old University, Aberystwyth! Each novel gives a voice to stories with Wales at their centre, in the fine tradition this nation has of producing high quality poetry and prose.

Advent by Jane Fraser tells the story of twenty-one year old Ellen, who returns to her childhood home to spend time with her ailing dad. Drawn back into an intricate web of family ties, old and painful connections, she must decide if her future lies in the traditions of the Gower or America, a land of infinite possibilities.

What Jane Fraser does in Advent is deliver a story that draws on the Celtic traditions around story telling, rooting her narrative firmly in the beauty of the Welsh landscape, celebrating how it can be drab and dreary, yet how both the weather and land have shaped the people of Wales.

Within the story she has given us a group of wonderful characters, prominent amongst them are the women of the Gower, full of strength and resilience, shaped not just by the landscape around them, but the limits society placed on their roles outside the home. The story is set around Ellen who has tasted freedom in America, but on returning home, finds that she can not ignore the troubles of her family, but yearns for the freedom from expectations life in America symbolised. Ellen is as a character, the perfect combination of that welsh longing for a home that once left you can never really return to, that intense grief for the places of your past, your homeland (hiraeth) and the American dream of opportunity and mobility. The conflicts this cause, informs both her personality and her journey through the novel and how we as readers watch the battles played out both in her heart and mind, to see which ultimately will triumph. It is a journey that both enthralled me and left me wishing that at some point, we could return to this character to find out, if her decision brought her both peace and prosperity and a true understanding of the meaning of home.

The story evokes feelings of longing within the reader and manages to be both epic in the tale it tells of a family struggling to find certainty in a time of change and intimacy from the way the writer weaves the bounds between it’s family members. Jane Fraser with an infinite understanding of the land the story is set in, weaves an intense emotional tale of the people and the lives they lived in this period. She shines a light on the role of the women who held the threads of each of their families existence within their embrace, holding disaster at bay, but at the same time often forced to deny both their own longies and desires. Ellen is shown in this wonderful story as one in a long line of women, from her grandmother, through her mother, who shaped both limits life in Wales would offer her, while shaping the desire for change and fulfilment on her own terms.

As a book it is a complex tale of family and relationships and our connections to each other. It is also a homage of women who helped shape the landscape around them. I for one, look forward to the what Jane Fraser will do next!

You can purchase this novel directly from the publisher Honno Press, Amazon and Waterstones. You can also order it from your local Indie Bookshop.

About the author

Jane Fraser Her debut novel, Advent , is published by Honno, the UK’s longest-standingindependent women’s press, in January 2021. Her first collection of short fiction, The South Westerlies was published by Salt, the UK’s foremost independent publisher of literary fiction, in 2019.

You can follow the author on Twitter at @jfraserwriter

Reading From My Ever Expanding Book Pile- Rust by Eliese Colette Goldbach

Eliese wasn’t supposed to be a steelworker. Raised by staunchly Republican and Catholic parents, Eliese dreamed of escaping Cleveland and achieving greatness in the convent as a nun. Full of promise and burgeoning ideals, she leaves her hometown, but one night her life’s course is violently altered. A night that sets her mind reeling and her dreams waning. A cycle of mania and depression sinks in where once there were miracles and prayers, and upon returning home she is diagnosed with mixed-state bipolar disorder.

Set on a path she doesn’t recognize as her own, Eliese finds herself under the orange flame of Cleveland’s notorious steel mill, applying for a job that could be her ticket to regaining stability and salvation. In Rust, Eliese invites the reader inside the belly of the mill. Steel is the only thing that shines amid the molten iron, towering cranes, and churning mills. Dust settles on everything – on forklifts and hard hats, on men with forgotten hopes and lives cut short by harsh working conditions, on a dismissed blue-collar living and on what’s left of the American dream.

But Eliese discovers solace in the tumultuous world of steel, unearthing a love and a need for her hometown she didn’t know existed. This is the story of the humanity Eliese finds in the most unlikely of places and the wisdom that comes from the very things we try to run away from most. A reclamation of roots, Rust is a shining debut memoir of grit and tenacity and the hope that therefore begins to grow.

Review

Rust has sat on my too read pile of books for a while and suddenly when I was looking for my next non-fiction read it called out to me! Sent out as proof, but with no set date to be reviewed, it sat in a corner patiently waiting to be read, while more recent ARCs got read first. Well having read it, I would like to say to anyone that has it on their book shelf, push it to the top of your pile, because it is stunning.

The author Eliese Goldbach was never meant to end up working in a steel mill, from a young age she dreamed of becoming a nun. But a series of heart breaking events led her to Cleveland’s Steel Mill. From this journey she has written a memoir of startling honesty and emotional depth. It ranges from her childhood, her dreams of escaping her hometown to find greatness in a life dedicated to religious work, to a shocking event that led to a decent into cycles of depression and mania, then finally a redemption of sorts by returning full circle to the towering structures of the steelworks, that had been there in the background her entire life.

What I found remarkable about this book, is the author’s journey, so if your looking for a book about the steel making process, then this is not the book for you.

This is a book about people and society. For those working in the mill including the author, it was not just a place of work, but a community, their differences being the very glue that bound them together, despite widely differing views about politics, because the making of steel was part of their identity, it was who they were. Thanksgiving dinners eaten together, breakfasts made on cooking stoves in the shanties scattered throughout the mill, gossip shared and bounds strengthened by events bigger than their differences

She writes with a understated passion and with an innate understanding of people and events. Her detailing of a society riven by it differences is the most moving and perceptive part of this book, especially the parts where she talks about how Trump and others like him came to power.

He offered us scapegoats and outrage to mask our anxieties, which blinded us to the fact that he was just another rich, powerful man who wanted to gain more power on our backs. He fed us vengeance, and he stoked our anger. He crippled the good in us, which meant that he never really understood the delicate beauty we were fighting to defend.

Rust – One Woman’s Story of Finding Hope Across The Divide by Eliese Colette Goldbach. Page 137.

Add into the mix her honesty about how being bi-polar effected both her relationships and her life in general and you have a work that is deeply moving and inspiring.

You can purchase Rust from Amazon and Waterstones

About the author

Eliese Colette Goldbach is a steelworker at the ArcelorMittal Cleveland Temper Mill. She received an MFA in nonfiction from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts Program.

Book Review ~ The Art Of Dying by Ambrose Parry

There’s a fine line between kill and cure.

Edinburgh, 1849. Despite Edinburgh being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr James Simpson. A whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances.

Simpson’s protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher are determined to clear their patron’s name. But with Raven battling against the dark side of his own nature, and Sarah endeavouring to expand her own medical knowledge beyond what society deems acceptable for a woman, the pair struggle to understand the cause of the deaths.

Will and Sarah must unite and plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets to clear Simpson’s name. But soon they discover that the true cause of these deaths has evaded suspicion purely because it is so unthinkable.

Review

What I needed to read right at this moment in time was a book that would not just distract me, but drag me into a world full of amazing characters and a wonderful story. The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry fitted the bill perfectly, it is laden with atmosphere, packed full of characters that you will love and others you will hate and with a killer that made me shudder with terror.

Good historical drama needs both a sense of place and also a strong feeling of period. You need to feel you are there in Edinburgh 1849, not in your chair, in my case Cardiff in 2020. Ambrose Parry succeeded in making me feel like I was walking the streets with Will Raven and Sarah Parry. It felt dark and dangerous, as the inhabitants were being stalked by a deeply disturbed killer. Not here the modern, bustling streets of Edinburgh many of us are familiar with, but a city filled with menace and danger. I took each step with them, through fog and down into tenements teaming with poverty and criminal activity, then into the homes of the educated and well off, where secrets threatened the lives of our hero’s. The world they inhabited brought alive, by writing that delivered the past into my present in glorious detail and with a thrilling sense of unease.

Also we need characters that belong, that reflect the times they are living in, revealing their frustrations of the time and the dangers they are facing. Creating in Sarah and Raven a need within the reader for them both to survive and flourish. Sarah started life within these books as a maid, but her obvious intelligence has earned her a role of trust and a relationship that celebrates her talent, yet also reflects the barriers that society placed around her, so much so that she is unable to fulfil all her dreams. For the character to be the women determined to clear her employer from wrong doing, she needed to have an inner strength and a refusal to remain constrained by the norms of the times. The writers created in Sarah a character both equal parts reflective of so many women in the 19th Century, but singly unique and astonishingly brave and I absolutely adored her. Raven on the other hand, both annoyed me and frustrated me, he being reflective of a age of men and yet being so fascinatingly flawed, I became within a few pages fascinated by him and utterly in love with his personality. Both characters are so incredibly real feeling, so authentic, that they bring the story alive through the force of their complex personalities.

The story itself is tense and thrilling. It weaves from the continent to the streets of Edinburgh, while drawing us deep into the troubled mind of the killer. It takes us through the frustrations faced not only by Sarah who is constrained by her gender, but also a killer, whose past has shaped and created the monster they have become. While it gives us a male lead, capable of developing and evolving into the type of person that begins to see Sarah as an equal, We are treated to a story that oozes with tension, but is also celebrates the intelligence of its characters and readers alike. From page one to the final revelations, it weaves between quiet moments where characters can reflect and other’s where they are quite literally fighting for their lives. It is superb and very accomplished, a historical drama of the finest type.

I do hope there will be more.

You can purchase this book from Amazon and Waterstones. Even better why not consider ordering from a small independent bookshop?

About the author

Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. The couple are married and live in Scotland. Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels. Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist of twenty years’ experience, whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which this series, which began with The Way of All Flesh, is based. The Way of All Flesh was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year and longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.

The Art of Dying is the second book in the series.

@ambroseparry

Reading From MY Ever Expanding Book Pile. The Doctor Will See You Now – The Highs and Lows of My Life as an NHS GP by Dr Amir Khan

60 hours a week

240 patients


10 minutes to make a diagnosis


Welcome to the surgery.

Charting his 15 years working as a GP, from rookie to becoming a partner in one of the UK’s busiest surgeries, Dr Amir Khan’s stories are as much about community and care as they are about blood tests and bodily fluids.

Along the way, he introduces us to the patients that have taught him about love, loss and family – from the regulars to the rarities – giving him the most unbelievable highs and crushing lows, and often in just 10 minutes. There is the unsuspecting pregnant woman about to give birth at the surgery; the man offering to drop his trousers and take a urine sample there and then; the family who needs support through bereavement, the vulnerable child who will need continuing care for a long-term health condition; and, of course, the onset of COVID-19 that tested the surgery at every twist and turn. But, it’s all in a day’s work for Amir.

The Doctor Will See You Now is a powerful story of hope, love and compassion, but it’s also a rare insider account of what really goes on behind those surgery doors.

Review

I never really watched Behind Closed Doors, being a bit paranoid that the symptoms some patient’s were having might apply to me, but followed the good doctor on Twitter. I was attracted to his sense of humour, his love of nature, the outdoors and his kindness. Based on this I decided to buy his book The Doctor Will See You Now and I’m ever so glad I did! It’s an honest and often emotional story he tells, but it is also deeply funny, full of warmth and an forthright portrayal of life as a community GP.

He talks about the long hours, the pressures of balancing patient facing time, with the almost bone crushing weight of paperwork that makes up so much of a GP’s time. He balances stories of relationships developed over years with patients whose health problems bring with them fears of missing something, with the reward of knowing he has made a difference to their lives, with the frustration of having to deal with violent and threatening personalities whose sense of entitlement, brings danger to the practice.

It is his honesty and sense of inclusiveness that makes this book such a wonderful read, especially how he details how much pressure so many GP’s are under. It is a gentle reminder that doctors are human, with a right to a life away from all our cares and concerns and it has made me reflect on how we may all need to redefine our relationships with our community practices. I loved how this book acknowledges that their are frustration on both sides of the GP relationship and that things have to change and not all innovation is bad.

But at its very core this is a story about life within the NHS, it’s triumphs, it’s frustrations and the sadness, but always the utter joy of knowing that humanity is our greatest gift and Dr Khan has oodles of it. His writing is a joy to read and I hope he goes on to write more.

You can buy this book from Amazon and Waterstones, but you could also consider ordering it from your nearest independent bookshop.

About the author

Dr Amir Khan is a full-time GP living in the UK. He is a GP Trainer, an Honorary Senior Lecturer at both Bradford and Leeds University, as well as being on the advisory board for the School of Pharmacy and Practice Managers Association.

He has appeared on shows such as GPs Behind Closed Doors, How to Lose a stone for Summer and Why Can’t I Sleep? Amir has also been a regular on Lorraine, and numerous other news outlets, providing advice and insight on the coronavirus.

Amir is an ambassador for the National Wildlife Trust, combining his credentials as a GP with encouraging schools and councils to reserve land to learn from.

His hobbies include keeping fit, running, conservation, gardening and keeping on the right side of his mother!

Twitter: @DrAmirKhanGP
Instagram: doctoramirkhan

My Wonderful Reading Year 2020- Favourite Fiction Reads.

Given the year we have had, I am not going to limit myself to my top ten favourite reads, but instead celebrate all the books that I have loved this year.

Here are my very favourite fiction reads from 2020.

These are not in any particular order, but have been chosen, simply because I loved them for many different reasons.

So here we go!

The Dutch House by Anne Patchett

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Ali Waxman

Miss Bensons Beetle by Rachel Joyce

You will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr

The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

Little by Edward Carey

When I come Home Again by Caroline Scott

The Coral Bride by Roxanne Bouchard

The Creak On The Stairs by Eva Aegisdottir

The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone

The Seven Doors by Agnes Ravatn

A Song of Isolation by Michael J Malone

V for Victory by Lissa Evans

The Innocents by Michael Crummey

Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardottir

Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith

10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World by Elif Shafak

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackay

Containment by Vanda Symons

The Binding by Bridget Collins

I Am Dust by Louise Beech

When We Fall by Carolyn Kirby

Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald

Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds

Cow Girl by Kirsty Eyre

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J Harris

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

WinterKill by Ragnar Jonasson

Well that was 2020. Now to start a new reading year!

My Wonderful Reading Year ~ December 2020.

Welcome to a series of posts that chart my wonderful reading year, 2020. I don’t have the time to review all the books I read and wanted I way to celebrate each one. So I’m going to do a monthly post of all the wonderful books I’ve been reading that month. Short snappy reviews, simple comments about why I enjoyed them so much.

It is a scary world out there at the moment and my reading is suffering, but I am keeping it up and hoping my reading mojo doesn’t disappear totally.

Sending Cwtches to all those that need one.

So welcome to my celebration of my reading in December 2020.

This month started with a non fiction book The Prison Doctor by Dr Amanda Brown. People often have a very warped idea of what life behind the prison walls is like for both prisoners and staff, reading this book with open eyes and minds.

Then I moved onto a wonderful read by Beth O’Leary. The Switch is charming and at the same time it deals with some difficult subjects, such as grief and family estrangement. What is so remarkable about her writing is that despite all of this it doesn’t feel heavy or too taxing to read, especially at the current time, when life is both scary and stressful enough. I discovered her writing, when I was a shadow panel judge on the Women’s Comedy prize for fiction and she has become a firm favourite.

My next read was The Colour Of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J Harris. Sweet, moving and utterly compelling, it is one of the most original and rewarding murder mystery stories I have read in years.

Following this came another non fiction read, The Doctor Will See You Now by Dr Amir Khan, is moving, informative, very funny in places and a call to us all, the recognise the unique place GP’s have in our lives and our communities.

After this I read a superb historical murder mystery The Art Of Dying by Ambrose Parry. Full of oodles of tension and a collection of amazing characters, it is a highly entertaining read.

Next came a book that has sat on my to read pile for a while, The Mating Habits of Stags by Ray Robinson. Full of atmosphere, stunning characterisation and a story that is both part of the landscape it is set in and reflective of lives that are bound to it.

Rust by Eliese Colette Goldbach is a stunning story of one woman’s journey towards hope in the face of adversity.

Now onto January 2021.

My Wonderful Reading Year 2020- Favourite Non Fiction Reads.

Given the year we have had, I am not going to limit myself to my top ten favourite reads, but instead celebrate all the books that I have loved this year.

Starting off with my very favourite non fiction reads from 2020.

These are not in any particular order, but have been chosen, simply because I loved them for many different reasons.

So here we go!

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

The Boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charlie Mackesy.

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

My Mad Dad by Robin Hollingsworth

How to Catch a Mole by Mark Hamer

Inges War by Svenja O’Donnell

A Year Of Living Simply by Kate Humble

In Black And White by Alexandra Wilson

The Diary of a Bookseller and Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Becoming by Michelle OBama

Bookworm – A Memoir Of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan

Mud Larking by Lara Maiklem

Lady In Waiting by Anne Glenconner

The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes

Boy Erased – A Memoir of Identity, Faith and Family by Garrard Conley

The Doctor Will See You Now by Dr Amir Khan

The Prison Doctor by Dr Amanda Brown

Fear Talking by

Rust by Eliese Colette Goldbach

Reading From My Ever Expanding Book Pile ~ The Colour Of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J Harris.

There are three things you need to know about Jasper.

1. He sees the world completely differently.
2. He can’t recognise faces – not even his own.
3. He is the only witness to the murder of his neighbour, Bee Larkham.

But uncovering the truth about that night will change his world forever…

An extraordinary and compelling debut which will make you see the world in a way you’ve never seen it before.

Review

I think it is virtually impossible to read this amazing book and not fall utterly, totally and overwhelmingly in love with Jasper!

He is as far as I am concerned he is an iconic character, who defines all that is wonderful about The Colour Of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J Harris.

Jasper has Prosopagnosia (face blindness) and Synesthesia, which means he sees sounds and hears colours, making him the most original character in a murder mystery novel for me at least, in all of my years of reading. It seems too simplistic to say that Jasper is easy to love, though he is, because he is a clever and complex creation, who see’s the world around him in ways we can only imagine. Therefore the story itself, being born of his singular personality, a one of a kind narrator, is moving, memorable and always extraordinary!

The only witness to the murder of his neighbour Bee Larkin, Jasper is the only chance the police have of finding who is responsible. His unique outlook on the world though, makes him an unreliable witness. The result being a series of events that left me as the reader alternately flabbergasted and deeply troubled, because you are never sure, if what Jasper is relating to us, can be relied on. It gives the story an edge of deception, as the writer uses Jasper’s complex view of people and actions, to fool and cajole us into misjudging the events that are being portrayed. Habit sees me the reader, interpreting events from the point of view of someone that can recognise faces and doesn’t see noises in colours and Sarah J Harris uses that trip us up and it really is glorious.

This novel shows us that the world can be viewed in so many ways, that we as individuals are complex and varied. It doesn’t use Jasper’s differences in a negative way, it celebrates them. Jasper is dazzling, heart warming and unique in every imaginable way and only by opening our eyes to his world of colour and the fact he can’t recognise faces, do we solve the case of Bee Larkin’s murder. His world is different, his innocence endearing, but his isolation is heart breaking and reminds us I hope, to celebrate our children in all their amazing variety and adapt the world we live in to embrace them!

I love you Jasper!

You can purchase this book from Amazon and Waterstones.

But better still why not purchase it from an independent bookshop?

About the author

Harris. Sarah.J.Harris is the author of The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder, her first adult novel. She also writes Young Adult books under the pen name, Sarah Sky, and has three books published by Scholastic. Sarah is a freelance education journalist who lives in London with her husband and two young children.

Reading from my ever expanding book pile! The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Leena is too young to feel stuck.
Eileen is too old to start over.
Maybe it’s time for The Switch…

Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and L Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.

But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?

Review

I made the decision to tackle my ever expanding to be read pile of books a while ago, because despite what many feel, book bloggers do buy books!

I first read a book by Beth O’Leary when I was one of the shadow judging panel of book bloggers on The Women’s Comedy Prize for Fiction this year. I loved The Flatshare and immediately bought The Switch as a result. It is as equally charming, delightful and joyful! Remarkable when it is dealing with such a difficult subject, grief!

Before reading The Flatshare, I admit, I would probably have bi passed this type of book, just because I didn’t perceive it as a book I would enjoy. Which is silly, because I genuinely have quite wide reading tastes! Yet from the first few pages, I knew that I loved it and wanted to read more books by this author and so I did.

The Switch is one of my favourite reads this year, light enough that the subject matter doesn’t feel overwhelming, full of humour and moments of intense emotion. Yet never, not once, do you feel as if the story is going to overwhelm you and the writer manages to open you up to difficult feelings, while holding you safely until the story ends. It is as the Welsh would say, a Cwtch in book form! Beth O’Leary’s writing is remarkable, in that she brings a lightness of touch to emotions and stories, that could in the hands of another writer, leave you an emotional mess, yet she never compromises on story or characterisation.

Here we have Leena a young women in desperate need to a break from her career and life in London, then there is her grandmother Eileen, newly single and looking for adventure after years of repressing her own needs. They are both looking for change and seeking a way to move forward, after their lives are derailed by loss and overwhelmed by waves of grief. The journey we take with them is full of bumps along the way, characters full of warmth and others misunderstood, both in good and bad ways.

The overwhelming feeling you have when reading The Switch is of utter contentment. I loved the drama, especially Leena’s attempts to win over the unruly OAP’s of her former home, which had me in stitches of giggles. Then there was her grandmother’s building of a community in a corner of London, that had me feeling warm and happy. This novel is full of a myriad of moments, that taken together, form a story that charmed me so much, I not only looked forward to curling up with it, I immediately started thinking of people I know would love reading it. So it is on my list for birthday and Christmas present buying, or just to say thank you.

I am looking forward to reading the writers next book, with a smile and a renewed commitment, to try all books, not matter if I think they are my cup of coffee or not!

You can purchase this book from Amazon and Waterstones

Or why not order from a local independent bookshop?

About the author

Beth O’Leary is a Sunday Times bestselling author whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages. Her debut, THE FLATSHARE, sold over half a million copies and changed her life completely. Her second novel, THE SWITCH, has been optioned for film by Amblin Partners, Steven Spielberg’s production company. Beth writes her books in the Hampshire countryside with a very badly behaved golden retriever for company. If she’s not at her desk, you’ll usually find her curled up somewhere with a book, a cup of tea and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).