Book Review: Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris

‘There exists in all of us a song waiting to be sung which is as heart-stopping and vertiginous as the peak of the cathedral. That is the meaning of this quiet city, where the spire soars into the blue, where rivers and stories weave into one another, where lives intertwine.’

One quiet evening in Salisbury, the peace is shattered by a serious car crash. At that moment, five lives collide – a flower seller, a schoolboy, an army wife, a security guard, a widower – all facing their own personal disasters. As one of those lives hangs in the balance, the stories of all five unwind, drawn together by connection and coincidence into a web of love, grief, disenchantment and hope that perfectly represents the joys and tragedies of small town life.

What I Thought:
As someone who, at various stages, has thought ‘I might like to write a novel’, reading a book like Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain is very likely to make me never think that thought again, as how could anything I could ever write possibly compare to the beauty in this book? I don’t say that in a self-pitying way, but rather to completely praise Barney Norris for writing what, at times, is a breathtakingly beautiful book. It’s a measure of his talent as a writer that, considering he is better known for writing plays, his prose is spare and powerful and paints such vivid mental pictures.

Not so surprisingly, considering the drama background, the five characters that form the interlocking frame of the novel are fully imagined and each has such a unique and personal voice that it would be easy to believe that more than one writer had contributed to the book.

I think the story that spoke to me most was the first – that of Rita the flower seller. Her’s is a story of lack of opportunity, missed chances and dreams shattered and is particularly poignant given the arc of her story through the novel.

My big takeaway from this book was that, as we pass through life, we never truly know how we connect with people, how our paths cross and how our actions affect others, even in the smallest of ways. Barney Norris manages to interweave his five characters in a natural and seemingly coincidental way until the moment that their paths collide in a tragic way one summer evening.

As I’ve said, this book is worth picking up for the wonderful prose alone, but it is also something of a confessional from each character, as they look back at things they regret, and attempt to move forward with meaning – in essence, being hugely relatable as are we not all just trying to do that?? A somewhat melancholy read, perfect for a summer’s day.

Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain is published by Black Swan. To find out more about Barney Norris, you can connect with him on Twitter. As an aside, he is also appearing at Salisbury Literary Festival this year, so do check out their events pages…

Please note: I received a review copy of this book courtesy of Gullivers Bookshop. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente

As the story opens, nine comedians of various acclaim are summoned to the island retreat of legendary Hollywood funnyman Dustin Walker. The group includes a former late-night TV host, a washed-up improv instructor, a ridiculously wealthy “blue collar” comic, and a past-her-prime Vegas icon. All nine arrive via boat to find that every building on the island is completely deserted. Marooned without cell phone service or wifi signals, they soon find themselves being murdered one by one. But who is doing the killing, and why?

A darkly clever take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and other classics of the genre, Ten Dead Comedians is a marvel of literary ventriloquism, with hilarious comic monologues in the voice of every suspect. It’s also an ingeniously plotted puzzler with a twist you’ll never see coming!

What I Thought:
The publisher Quirk Books is exactly that – quirky, and in a very good way. I’ve read a number of their books now and been impressed by their willingness to publish sometimes niche and often not particularly safe titles but I think it’s great that there is a home for these books, or else we all miss out.

Ten Dead Comedians owes much to the crime thriller tradition and, in fact, it’s very upfront in being a retelling of Christie’s And Then There Were None, but in Fred Van Lente’s story, the principal characters are comedians, drawn together to a private Caribbean island when legendary comedian Dustin Walker makes them an offer they can’t refuse…

Each of the comics is different in style and background, and each has something shady in their past but will they realise quickly enough that they are slowly being killed off and will they be able to find the killer in time?

This book is cleverly written, using the Christie story as a basis, and yet including plenty of original elements and some pretty canny and grisly deaths! The action on the island is interspersed with excerpts of each comedian’s famous routines which give clues as to why they have been marked for death. The only thing we know for sure is that someone on Dustin Walker’s exclusive private island (with no wifi and no phone signal by the way) wants the others dead; twists and turns and misdirection make it impossible to tell who that may be.

Both dark and funny, this book is hugely entertaining and definitely worth your time…

Ten Dead Comedians is published by Quirk Books. To find out more about this book and Fred Van Lente, check out his website, or you can connect with him on Twitter.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Sticks and Stones by Jo Jakeman & Giveaway

Hi folks, today I’m really pleased to bring you a Q&A with Jo Jakeman, author of the fantastic debut thriller, Sticks and Stones. I was really pleased to get the opportunity to read this book, as it’s one of a growing number of thrillers written by women, about women who are the heroes in their own stories. I won’t spoil it too much, but will hand over to Jo to whet your appetite, and don’t forget to check out the giveaway!

Imogen’s husband is a bad man. His ex-wife and his new mistress might have different perspectives but Imogen thinks she knows the truth. And now he’s given her an ultimatum: get out of the family home in the next fortnight or I’ll fight you for custody of our son.

In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable: she locks her husband in the cellar. Now she’s in control. But how far will she go to protect her son and punish her husband? And what will happen when his ex and his girlfriend get tangled up in her plans?

Phillip is a fantastically nasty character – from what roots did you bring him to life?

I was reading a lot of classics when I started writing this book. I’d just finished re-reading Jane Eyre and I was talking to my course tutor about the abundance of narcissistic men in classic novels that women seem to swoon for. It’s no accident that Phillip’s surname is Rochester – the name of the man who Jane fell in love with who locked his ‘mad’ wife in the attic. I decided to turn that classic on its head and have the wife lock her husband in the cellar. I channelled the worst traits of tortured Heathcliffe and arrogant Darcy, who I grew up reading about. Books about zombies don’t scare me because they don’t affect me emotionally – but books about someone trying to take a mother’s child away, or leaving a woman without a voice and scared for her life – that terrifies me!
On the surface, Imogen, Naomi and Ruby are very different characters – how important was this is forming their responses to Phillip and his actions?

This was really important to me. Three different women with different strengths and weakness and yet they all found themselves falling in love with this charming man and then being mistreated by him. It shows that it can happen to anyone, not just because a woman is ‘naïve’ or ‘weak’. Victims come in all shapes and sizes. But it also gave me the ability to explore different ways of reacting to Phillip. Ruby’s initial response is to believe the best in him and give him another chance. Imogen wants him to agree to something in writing and for them to come to a compromise over their son. Naomi is possibly the most angry of them all and has the least invested in him so is quicker to wash her hands of him.
It’s a very bold decision to let the reader know that your villain is dead at the beginning of the book – what made you choose this approach?

I knew that the story I wanted to tell was about the women and their friendship not about Phillip. I didn’t want the reader to be wondering how it was going to work out for Phillip, or worry whether the women or Imogen’s son, Alistair, would get hurt. From the first chapter you know that it’s going to be alright in the end, you just don’t know how. In a sense I’m saying to the reader, it’s okay, trust me; the bad guy gets the ending he deserves and the women live to fight another day, now sit back and enjoy finding out what happened. I am quite an emotional reader. I’ve flung books across rooms when authors kill off beloved characters or write a sad ending that leaves me sobbing. I want to give the reader permission to love the characters and know I won’t break their hearts.
In your piece that came with my review copy, you ask what we would do if we were in Imogen’s position. So I ask what would you do?

Oh, that’s such a good question! I am generally quite laid back and will give people chance after chance. I want to believe that everyone is capable of change (even in the face of evidence to the contrary!) and I HATE confrontation. But if you threatened my family..? No, no, no. That’s not happening!

I am fiercely protective of my brood and go full-on tiger mode. Out of the three women I’d say I was somewhere between Imogen and Ruby on the Sticks and Stones scale. I’d have tried to reason with Phillip, and if that didn’t work I’d make sure he never saw his son again! I have a lot more faith in the police than Imogen does and I’d have been down the station making complaints and giving statements from day one until I found someone who’d listen.

Though, it’s easy for me to say that sitting here behind my keyboard, isn’t it? There are thousands of women, and men, in abusive relationships right now who don’t feel they have anywhere to turn. So, who’s to say I’d be able to react in that way if I was stripped of all my power?
You have said that Sticks and Stones came out of your attending the Curtis Brown Creative Writing Course – how much help was this course in allowing to produce a full novel? Would you recommend writing courses in general?

Yes, I would absolutely recommend a writing course. The market is competitive and overcrowded, and if you want to either get published or just improve your writing for your own enjoyment you have to take every opportunity. Why wouldn’t you want expert opinion on your work? Why wouldn’t you want to be the best you can be? I had no idea how to write a synopsis, or even simple things like how long a novel should be.

Without the structure that the course gave me, I’d still be pootling along and writing when inspiration struck – in other words, it still wouldn’t be finished! Having said that, some courses are incredibly expensive and it’s a huge outlay when there’s still slim chance of a publishing deal at the end of it. Before the Curtis Brown course I did one at the local museum and one at the library. I did a free Open University course on creative writing too. There are plenty of resources out there, but there’s no substitute for passion and hard work.

Huge thanks to Jo for answering my questions – Sticks and Stones is really worth your time, as you’ll see from my review!

This post is part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of Sticks and Stones on 12th July, so why not check out some more exclusive content, reviews and giveaways below and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sticks and Stones is Published by Harvill Secker.

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Blog Tour: The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware

**Insert** I am hugely embarassed that this post did not post itself yesterday as planned, so here is my delayed entry on Ruth Ware’s blog tour for The Death of Mrs Westaway

Good morning all! I’m excited to be bringing you something a bit different today – an audio entry on a blog tour. If you click below, you’ll hear the opening section of The Death of Mrs Westaway, the latest novel by Ruth Ware, read by Imogen Church. Details of the book are below, plus the rest of the stops on the blog tour, so do take a look for more exclusive content…

When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast.

There’s just one problem – Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger’s funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.

Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…

The Death of Mrs Westaway is published by Vintage. For further information about this book and Ruth Ware, you can check out her website.

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Blog Tour: The Red Hand of Fury by R. N.Morris – Q&A

London, June 1914. A young man is mauled to death at London Zoo after deliberately climbing into the bear pit. Shortly afterwards, another young man leaps to his death from the notorious Suicide Bridge. Two seemingly unconnected deaths – and yet there are similarities. 

Following a third attempted suicide, Detective Inspector Silas Quinn knows he must uncover the link between the three men if he is to discover what caused them to take their own lives. The one tangible piece of evidence is a card found in each of the victims’ possession, depicting a crudely-drawn red hand. What does it signify? To find the answers, Quinn must revisit his own dark past. But can he keep his sanity in the process …?

Good morning one and all! I’m very happy today to be taking part in a blog tour for R. N. Morris’ latest Silas Quinn novel, The Red Hand of Fury. Roger has been kind enough to answer a few questions about his historical crime novel.

Writing historical fiction and not spoiling the narrative flow by cramming in every note of your research is definitely a skill – how do you balance historical fact within your writing, or is it just a Dark Art??
I’m not sure it’s a Dark Art, but it is something I’m consciously trying to achieve. I think there are two sides to historical research. The first is to give the writer the confidence to actually start writing the story. What you’re trying to do is absorb as much as you can about the period so that you build up a feel for what it must have been like to be alive at that time. I read general histories, biographies, diaries, memoirs, newspapers from the archives, as well as novels of the period, written at the time. I allowed three months for this and during that time I didn’t attempt any writing at all. I was just taking things in. I read on a Kindle so I was highlighting things that caught my eye. Then I put that all to one side and started writing. Very rarely will I go back and check something – or think I have to work in a particularly fascinating detail that I picked up. Now it’s all about the story. But then what happens is as you write the story you come up against specific things that you need to know about. So this is the second side of the research, because you’re looking for something very specific, chasing some descriptive detail down or some fact that is important to your story. For me it’s always about the story, that has to come first. Along the way there are fascinating snippets that I’m just not able to include. That’s just the way it is.

There is a focus on mental health in the novel – how did you go about researching mental health ‘care’ in the early 20th Century? 
I began by reading a history of the Colney Hatch Asylum where much of the story is set. I also read accounts of patients’ experiences in other asylums in England at the same period, but also I read as much as I could about the history of psychiatric care. One book in particular, “Madness in Civilization: The Cultural History of Insanity” by Andrew Scull, was extremely helpful. For me it’s also important to build up a visual idea of the setting, so the photographs in these books and online were often as useful as the texts. It was also interesting to visit the Colney Hatch hospital site as it is today. It has been converted into a block of luxury flats – it even counts a number of pop stars among its residents. I’m not sure I could live in such a building, however tastefully refurbished it was.

Did you find anything that really shocked you in the treatment of mental health patients in this period?
Lots! Things like deliberately inducing insulin comas in patients (who were not diabetic) as a method of calming them down and controlling them. Perhaps the most bizarre thing I discovered was that an American psychiatrist called Cotton believed that all mental illnesses had a single physiological cause – a germ of madness, if you like. This germ spread through the bloodstream and poisoned the brain. The ‘cure’ was to surgically remove the source of the infection, which he initially believed to be the teeth and tonsils. But when this didn’t really work he whipped out stomachs, spleens, cervixes and colons. He claimed this cured up to 85 per cent of the mad. It’s hard to believe now, but his theories were taken seriously and he had his followers around the world, including England. I don’t want to give too much away but Cotton was the medical director of New Jersey State Hospital at Trenton from 1907 to 1930, so he was active during the period of the book. Not to give too much away, I speculate that some of the doctors at Colney Hatch might have heard of his theories.

What inspired you to set the Silas Quinn books in the early 20th Century? 
I was really interested in writing something set just before the outbreak of the First World War, because for me that event seems to be a turning point in history. Nothing was the same ever again. All the horrors of the twentieth century are just around the corner, so that we tend to think of the eve of the war as an age of innocence almost. In a way, the events of the novel serve as a dramatic foreshadowing of what is to come. The war unleashed catastrophic slaughter on an industrial scale, death, destruction, horrific injuries, psychological trauma – it’s almost as if the world went mad. I wanted to juxtapose that with an exploration of individual madness and a series of bizarre and violent crimes that are on a more human scale. The beginning of the twentieth century is an amazing time too, with so much happening in every sphere of activity: politics, art, society, literature, music. You pretty much have the birth of the film industry, mass entertainment, mass communication, consumerism, urban living, alienation… It’s a very fertile field for a historical novelist, especially one specialising in historical crime fiction.

Will Silas Quinn return??
Yes! I’m working on the next book right now. It’s due to be published in 2019. And by the way, there are other books in the series available. The last time I looked the first book, Summon Up The Blood, was 99p or $1.33 on Kindle. Amazon change their prices so that may have gone up by the time you read this, but hopefully it should still be reasonably priced. Apologies for the blatant sales pitch!

Many thanks Roger for taking the time to answer my questions!

My full review of The Red Hand of Fury will follow outside of the tour, but it was definitely my cup of tea! The tour is still ongoing, so please do check out some of the fab blogs below for more exclusive content and reviews.

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Blog Tour: What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean

England, 1813 Nineteen-year-old Catherine Bennet lives in the shadow of her two eldest sisters, Elizabeth and Jane, who have both made excellent marriages. No one expects Kitty to amount to anything. Left at home in rural Hertfordshire with her neurotic and nagging mother, and a father who derides her as silly and ignorant, Kitty is lonely, diffident and at a loss as to how to improve her situation. When her world unexpectedly expands to London and the Darcys’ magnificent country estate in Derbyshire, she is overjoyed. Keen to impress this new society, and to change her family’s prejudice, Kitty does everything she can to improve her mind and manners and for the first time feels liked and respected. However, one fateful night at Pemberley, a series of events and misunderstandings conspire to ruin Kitty’s reputation. But Kitty has learnt from her new experiences and what she does next does next will not only surprise herself, but everyone else too.

Based on Jane Austen’s much-loved characters, this is the story of one young woman’s struggle to overcome the obstacles of her time and place and truly find herself.

What I Thought:
I am happy to be a total cliche and tell you that one of my favourite books is Pride and Prejudice. As such I delight in reading retellings of and follow-ups to Jane Austen’s original novel – What Kitty Did Next is a brilliant example.

Most of the these type of books seem to focus on the more prominent Bennet sisters, while poor Mary and Kitty get cast adrift. Carrie Kablean sets this right by turning the spotlight onto Kitty as she emerges from Lydia Bennet’s shadow and influence. Invited to spend more time in the Bingley and Darcy households, Kitty fully embraces the opportunities that gives and begins to make friends with Georgiana Darcy – who is presented as a much more fully-formed character in this novel.

Carrie Kablean’s style is very much her own and, while the characters we all recognise from Pride and Prejudice are here, there are some fantastic new ones introduced – some of whom are worthy acquaintances of the Darcys and some who are downright rogues. All of these characters blend seemlessly, with settings such the balls and assemblies we’re familiar with.

It’s clear that the author is a fellow lover of Pride and Prejudice, as it comes through in the care she shows poor Kitty and the rest of the Bennet family and, although tragedy strikes the family, the whole section is written with sensitivity and true affection.

Reading the further adventures of Kitty and seeing how she begins to mature and develop is a real delight and any fan of Jane Austen’s work will love this continuation of Kitty’s story – definitely recommended!

What Kitty Did Next is published by Red Door. To find out more about Carrie Kablean, you can check out her website, or you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of the a blog tour for What Kitty Did Next, and there is lots of other great content on the blogs below, please do check them out if you can.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All other opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Hanging Women by John Mead

Jack Stevens discovers the bodies of two women, Philomena Blackstaff and Mary Walsh, tied together and hung by their ankles in a position resembling the symbol for treachery as depicted on tarot cards. Though retired and now wealthy, Stevens is an ex-sheriff and involves himself in the subsequent investigation.

As a result of Jack ‘stealing’ Philomena’s diary and his association with the Pinkerton detective agency, it is discovered that Mary Walsh worked undercover for the Pinkertons, investigating the Knights of Labour (the fastest growing workers’ rights movements in America of the late 1800’s). The women had been working together, tracing the man who was selling guns and dynamite to the more extremest factions of the workers movement. This led them to Ruby’s, a secret ‘nightclub for deviants’, where Stevens and Inspector O’Leary believe the pair fell foul of the man they were looking for, gang leader Joseph Mannheim.

With the May 4th Haymarket riots and bombings looming, Stevens must uncover the truth about The Hanging Women before it’s too late.

What I Thought:
I find American history fascinating. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of it, it takes some spirit to impose yourselves and your values on a whole continent, seemingly without care. This bluff, pioneer attitude is perfectly encapsulated in John Mead’s protagonist, Jack Stevens.

In The Hanging Women, Stevens is a wealthy, older gentleman, but one who has lived an active life as a sheriff in the West and continues to apply the values of that life to his current circumstances. With grown children, Stevens seems to live much of his life simply to prevent boredom – including becoming involved in a police investigation after the discovery of the titular dead women.

John Mead paints a detailed picture of 19th Century Chicago, removing much of the rose-coloured tint that that period evokes and showing us a gritty, faction-led city that is, in many ways, struggling to find an identity. Politics, crime, sex and gangs mix to show that many of the things affecting our society today are age old!

I really enjoyed the historical details in the book and I don’t think I’ve read anything with this particular setting before – there are many books dealing with the Old West, but we often forget that by the late 1880s, the great cities of the US were very firmly established. There has obviously been a great deal of research done on this book, but it is integrated well into the fictional narrative – if you read a lot of historical fiction you will appreciate that this is a tricky skill for a writer.

Overall, this book is excellent. It’s paced very well, building slowly as the mystery about the murdered women is unfolded, before exploding into intense action as all is revealed and all the loose threads are pulled together. This may indicate that Jack Stevens’ story is at an end, but I would certainly be happy to read more about him in future.

The Hanging Women is published by The Book Guild. To find out more about John Mead, you can connect with him on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour for The Hanging Women so do check out some of the fantastic blogs below for their take on this title.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Mine by Susi Fox

This is not your baby.

You wake up alone after an emergency caesarean, dying to see your child.

But when you are shown the infant, you just know . . .

This baby is not yours.

No one believes you.

They say you’re delusional, confused, dangerous.

But you’re a doctor . . .

Do you trust yourself?

Because you know only one thing – You must find your baby.

What I Thought:
If you read this blog, even sporadically, you’ll know that I love reading thrillers, the twistier the better, and with Mine, Susi Fox has written a fantastically twisty, edge-of-your-seat thriller!

There are several levels on which this book is uncomfortable. First, the very idea of a baby swap in a hospital will put the frighteners on any parent, but couple this with the fact that the clinicians’ first assumption is that a new mother is psychotic and it really gives you the feeling of everything being out of your control. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m a bit of a control freak, but the thought of having everything taken out of your hands really sits uneasily with me and I could empathise with Sasha as every aspect of being a new parent is slowly taken away – from her baby’s premature and traumatic birth, to the assumption that she wants to do her baby harm.

I had thought, upon picking the book up, that it would be entirely from Sasha’s point of view as she tries to get to the truth, but it was great to read passages from her husband Mark’s point of view and to realise that there are things that we keep from each other, even in ‘perfect’ marriages.

The whole book is superbly written, always keeping you guessing as to whether Sasha is right and that her baby has been swapped, or whether she is indeed suffering from mental illness. Revelations about Sasha’s own mother add to the mix and muddy the waters significantly…

The ending was a complete surprise and definitely proves to me that you should still think twice, even if you think you know everything, and there are still enough threads to keep you thinking long after you’ve put the book down.

As a brief aside, this book is part of a fantastic wave of thrillers and crime fiction coming out of Australia at the moment and, I am happy to say, coming from Australian women. It’s good to see publishers acknowledge that women can and do write books like these, and that there is a definite market out there for them – long may it continue!

Mine is published by Penguin. To find out more about Susi Fox, you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of the blog tour celebrating the release of Mine in the UK. Please do check out some of the other blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content.

Please note: I received this book via Netgalley for the purposes of the tour. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Whatever Happened to Margo? by Margaret Durrell

In 1947, returning to the UK with two young children to support, Margaret Durrell starts a boarding house in Bournemouth. But any hopes of respectability are dashed as the tenants reveal themselves to be a host of eccentrics: from a painter of nudes to a pair of glamorous young nurses whose late-night shifts combined with an ever-revolving roster of gentleman callers leading to a neighbourhood rumour that Margo is running a brothel. Margo’s own two sons, Gerry and Nicholas, prove to be every bit as mischievous as their famous Uncle Gerald – and he himself returns periodically with weird and wonderful animals, from marmosets to monkeys, that are quite unsuitable for life in a Bournemouth garden.

What I Thought:
The Durrells seem to be popular at the moment, what with the hit ITV show and so, Whatever Happened to Margo?, Margaret Durrell’s memoir of her eventual return to the UK, has been reissued by Penguin.

I’d not realised that, alongside her brothers, Margo Durrell had been bitten by the writing bug so discovering this book and the quirky residents of Margo’s boarding house was an absolute delight.

I mainly picked up the book as Margo’s boarding house was in Bournemouth and I love to read things set locally to me to see if I recognise any of the locations and, although Bournemouth is now very different to that of the late 1940s, I could picture where Barry the beach warden would have patrolled, and where Margo describes ‘going into town’ I could picture the route they might’ve taken.

Of course, even without the real-life signposts, the book is lovely to read as a snapshot of the late 1940s, as Margo’s mother has concerns that Margo get the ‘right people’ in her boarding house and worries that the nurses on the top floor might lead people to believe that they are running a brothel!

It’s hard to work out how much of Margo’s residents is the truth, and how much is caricature, but nevertheless, the book is written with a light touch and finds humour in the mundane details of boarding house living – and when Gerald turns up with a crate full of snakes, it’s interesting to say the least!

This edition of the book carries a foreword by Gerald Durrell, and also recommends looking up Gerald’s organisation, The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which carries on Gerald’s lifelong love of animals and does some fantastic conservation work.

Whatever Happened to Margo is published by Penguin and highly recommended!

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Soldier’s Home by George Costigan

Good morning one and all! It’s been a while since I posted on here, so what better way to come back to it than hosting a blog tour for an actor I admire, who has now turned his hand to writing?

You might be familiar with George Costigan from his many film and TV roles and, in light of this, I was eager to ask George about his experiences moving between acting and writing. I wondered whether his experiences as an actor inspire or inform his writing and vice versa? Although they are both creative outlets, does he feel that one lets him satisfy his creative spirit better? George was kind enough to send the following answer:

Right now I am playing James Tyrone in Eugene O’Neil’s ‘Long day’s Journey Into Night’. Anyone who couldn’t be inspired {and/or awed and thrilled and scared and amazed} by it must be a bit – err – dead. O’Neil is the only American playwright to have won the Nobel prize, and it’s not easy to capture in words the quality of and in his words. The soaring rhythms, the total precision, the scary emotional accuracy – and every night in the bar afterwards one is faced with people ‘blown away’.

This is thrilling and daunting, too when you next come to set pen to paper. But, hell, if you don’t aspire, and allow yourself to be inspired, then you rest on the ground always – and who doesn’t want to soar..? If only for a yard.

When this finishes I go on to a Sally Wainwright eight hour television which in its own way is just as good. Both these writers are in utter and total and thrilling control of their medium.

When that’s over I intend to go home and sit and write. Time will tell what rubs off and in which direction – but I am optimistic.
Of course all experiences get stored away somewhere for later use, either as an actor or as a scribbler. Laurence Olivier once said, ‘Actors are jackdaws, they steal things, store them away and bring them out sometimes years later, cos they knew they’d use it some day…’ That’s true, I would bet, for writers, too… Isn’t that the one of the uses and the point of memory?

To me, the action and the creativity are separates but both utterly satisfying. Acting is obviously more immediate. Tonight, for example, we’ll go out and do our best and reap {hopefully having earned it} the most obvious instant reward – applause. And, if you wanted to get grander about it – the seeding of a memory.

That doesn’t happen for a scribbler in that way – but the very idea someone somewhere you don’t know from Adam is reading – and maybe enjoying – something you wrote is almost indescribable…

I’m hugely thankful to George for taking the time to answer in such depth. Having read The Single Soldier, the first book in this series, I can’t wait to get stuck into The Soldier’s Home – more on both of those titles in review!

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of The Soldier’s Home and it continues on the other fantastic blogs below – do check them out if you can…

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