An Ordinary Life by Amanda Prowse – an intense, powerful novel of a woman’s experiences of war and so much more

An Ordinary Life by Amanda Prowse

This is a book that shows that no life is completely “ordinary”, and that everyone has their secrets. In this book, mainly set in the Second World War, life is fragile but love and memories can last. This is the story of a woman’s life, her work, the risks she took, but most importantly, her love. Molly begins the book as a ninety four year old woman, struggling to fulfill a promise,  to reveal a secret central to her life. As she looks back, remembers a brief and glorious time, a time of worry, fear and overwhelming longing, the reader is involved in a story of love, loss, fear and much more. The food, the clothes, the objects descriptive give texture to a story that can be recognised by any reader, while the dialogue gives life to characters despite a distance of time. This is a book where the characters really come alive, especially Molly, whose doubts, fears and so many other emotions seem so real. This is writing, a novel, which lingers in the memory in all its colours and variations. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.

After the older Molly has a nasty fall, she begins to remember her story, to go back to being eighteen years old in December 1943. Working in Bloomsbury, London as a senior translator for the Ministry of Information, she is a bright and ambitious young woman with a good friend, Geer, who drags her to a dance to meet her brother. Her attraction to Johan is immediate and total; happily it is mutual and each word, action and moment becomes vital to both of them. Snatched moments of love, spent in London and later elsewhere, become precious to Molly, diverting her from her work, her ambition, her petulant mother who she lives with, even a war that dominates everyone’s life. A sudden tragic discovery robs her of this blissful state, leaving her with a growing realisation that a new life beckons, very different from anything that she could have expected. The decisions that she must make, the special task that she chooses to embark on, fills her life, works on her brokenness, and leaves her a different person, a casualty of war and much more. Throughout this time she must depend on her family, made to realise that the heightened emotion she is enduring is beyond her alone, that she needs help from others to cope with so much, and express her greatest love.

This is a powerful novel that reflects the fact that war is more than a state of fear or even loss, that love can dominate a life in so many ways, that survival is more than bodily safety. A mission of incredible difficulty and danger is not the only story in this book, just as this is more than just an imaginative account of wartime life. It is the intense story of a woman who lives an extraordinary life of contrast and challenge, of love and sadness, but also purpose and small comforts. Prowse has created Molly as a woman of great depth and reality, her emotions and reactions though described by a narrator are vivid and understandable. There have been many books that deal with a woman’s wartime experiences, but this one places those feelings in the context of a long life, experiences that however brief are central to all that comes afterwards, colouring everything. The secret that Molly is trying to reveal is something and everything, a fact that has changed lives and made her own existence anything but an ordinary life.

Housewife Writes Bestseller by Ann Victoria Roberts – Writing, family and coincidence

Housewife Writes Bestseller by Ann Victoria Roberts 

Writing a book – the research, the plotting, the editing and rewriting is a tricky and time consuming process. When that process took place in the 1970s and 1980s, before computers and the internet it was a long and complex task. In this book Ann Victoria Roberts describes how a childhood discovery of a soldier’s diary sparks off an interest in family history which powers much effort into a first novel: “Lousia Elliott”. This book is much more than bestseller writing, however, as it captures a picture of the life of a family life in which Ann’s husband is a sea captain, and therefore travelling the world while she cares for the family. Her own travels, the many coincidences and happy meetings that she experiences and the desire to write make this a very readable and relatable book. I found this honest account of her relationship with her husband Peter and her family and friends very engaging, with an excellent sense of place and time. Her research, her attempts to fill in gaps with fictional links, her integrity in dealing with family members who came before makes this a fascinating read, and an intimate account of how she found fame as a historical novelist.  I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this very interesting book.

The book begins with a happy meeting with Lena, who is researching her family history in York, and who happily helps to provide support for Ann’s early steps in writing a novel based on various individuals in her family. A childhood account of discovering books in a grandmother’s house, as part of a much enjoyed regular trip to York follows. It establishes a fascination with the Victorian age, clothes and other elements of life which will later add texture to Ann’s fiction writing. Most significantly she discovers a photograph and a diary belonging to Will, a relative who despite being killed at a young age in the First World War, lived an interesting life. This discovery will inform her second novel, and inspire visits to the battlefields of France. Meanwhile she meets and marries Peter, whose work will take him on ships in many parts of the world. She details how she travels with him on some trips, and how when their two children came along they also had ship based adventures. Nevertheless, Peter’s absences are filled with the research that provides a framework for the novel which Ann feels that she must write. Before the internet, it involved visits to archives and museums, meetings with helpful experts, and the use of maps to track down buildings and other relevant sites. Actually getting the novel published involves tracking down an agent, and it is in a string of connections that Ann encounters Carmen Callil, who was then able to publish the book. Ann makes headlines when her agent negotiates a huge offer for the American rights to her first two novels, and the excitement of publicity is well described.

This book makes much of the fortunate coincidences that made much of Ann’s writing career possible, as well as the support of family that made it possible. It flows well, and is honest when it recalls that having a husband away for up to six months at a time created tension, especially when his ambitions were not always in harmony with her career. This is a good and involving read which inspired me to investigate Roberts’ novels for myself, now with a clear idea of the inspiration and research behind their creation. 

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall – a woman tries to cope with her family in a mature contemporary novel

Helen and the Grandbees eBook: Morrall, Alex: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

Honesty, help and hope are three themes of this spirited contemporary novel of the experience of parenthood. Helen’s story can be seen as one of desperation, lack of control and struggle, but also the conviction that something can be done for the woman she calls her bee, and her two grandbees. Indeed, names are important in this vivid novel of domestic interiors and memories. Helen is not called “mother” or “mum” by her daughter, and she struggles to refer to the person she called Lily is now determined to be Ingrid. Helen begins with the claustrophobia of family life as she reflects on her relationship with her parents, which moves onto the feeling of control over her environment as she lives in a completely clean flat. What has happened to her in the past, what is happening to her in the present and what she imagines will happen in the future is always seen in relation to others, their moods and abilities. This is a novel which seeks to convey the intensity of feeling in one woman’s life, even if she seeks to be self effacing. Plaintive, yearning and questioning, this writer is able to convey so much in small descriptions of setting and behaviour, it is a successful book of a woman’s life. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this effective novel. 

This novel records something of a girl’s desperation to leave her family home, which is transfigured by emotion. As she runs away, she is surprised by a baby, which leads to her understandable confusion and resolve to keep the flat clean without her bee, who she has called Lily. An empty time of dreams and memories ends when Lily/ Ingrid turns up out of the blue, full of facts about her adoptive parents, somewhat heedless of the effects of her words on Helen, as she takes in the shabby, lonely conditions in which she lives. As the novel proceeds it becomes obvious that Lily is demanding, perhaps unaware of what she already has in her life. Helen’s aware of her fragility and her unwillingness to reveal much of her past, which she comes to realise means that Lily will be angry with her. She is surprised at the strength of the protectiveness that she feels for Lily, her helplessness in the face of this woman who she only meets as an adult, seemingly making decisions that she cannot understand. That are times when Helen recognises that she is happy, content to what she is allowed to do, but always there is the nagging fear that her bee, and her grandbees, will go away from her. 

The author has made a wonderful job of creating the character of Helen with all her insecurities but also her bravery in confronting what she thinks she must do to protect others. I also thought that her depiction of the teenage Aisha is well handled in the context of challenging relationships, especially in echoing some of the fears that Helen has experienced. This book handles realistically the problems of relationships defined by passing comments, facial expressions and unsaid questions. It is a book full of insight, and compassion, and I recommend this deeply personal novel. 

Blind Pool by Vicki Goldie – Melissa and Alasdair in a classic country house mystery with an extra layer

Blind Pool by Vicki Goldie

A country house mystery set in 1923 would be attractive; in this well plotted and written book the author skilfully adds in the Honourable Melissa and the blind war hero Major Alastair Charters.  A delightful read that distracted me from any other reads for the duration, this is a book that looks at a dysfunctional family in the oppressive context of a large house surrounded and cut off by flood water. Melissa and Alasdair have been invited to stay for a few days in a large house on the Somerset Levels by Davinia Gauntlet who has heard of their reputation. In the first novel Melissa and Alasdair had been involved in a mystery, but it is more than possible to read this book on its own as the characters are so well developed. Alasdair’s blindness is thoughtfully incorporated into the plot and texture of the novel, as his apparent limitation is turned into a strength as he needs the layout of rooms, descriptions of those around him and other aspects of what is going on spelt out clearly and thus informing the reader. Personal experience of a blind partner means that Vicki Goldie writes this novel with a warm sensitivity that adds fascinating level to this already well written mystery novel. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this clever novel. 

As the couple arrive on a train they are aware that the weather is not encouraging, and the rather grim driver mutters his concern about the bridge holding in the face of flooding. When they finally arrive Davinia is relieved to see them, as she has some concerns about the recent death of her grandmother. She does reassure Alasdair that his guide dog Sheba is welcome, and they have also brought Thomas as a sort of valet and helper. At dinner that evening they become acquainted with the residents and guests of the house, including Colonel William Gauntlet whose Indian service has led to a lot of the decoration, and his somewhat diffident wife Majorie. Their son Charles is present with his wife Serena, and the even more challenging Major Roderick. When the argumentative aunt Petunia is added in, the already challenging environment of a formal meal becomes the scene of much verbal jousting, even when the jovial American Sheridan tries to lighten the atmosphere. When a murder is discovered the following morning, Melissa and Alasdair are unwitting witnesses and soon realise that a flooded moat and surrounding area has effectively cut them off from help. The only person who gets through is a district nurse, who soon has her hands full. As investigations proceed, the claustrophobia of a house where an odd collection of guests and residents are trapped mean that Alasdair and Melissa must proceed with caution.

This is a clever book which manages to combine many elements of a Golden Age mystery with some well developed characters and some emerging favourites in Melissa, Alasdair, Thomas and even Sheba. This is not a straightforward murder mystery, and it depends on the convolutions of family relationships and financial pressures in the setting of a house which is beginning to go out of practical use. I found it a textured, vivid and most engaging read, and I cannot wait for more mysteries from this talented author.   

Cows Can’t Jump by Philip Bowne – Billy makes many discoveries in a gentle growing up comedy

Cows Can’t Jump by Philip Bowne

Billy is desperate. He has made a mess of his GCSEs, his relationship with his parents is difficult, and he cannot find a job. Well, apart from being a gravedigger, which is a more exacting job than might be supposed. Billy is a young man who thinks deeply about things, and in this funny and fascinating book Billy’s voice narrates a story of first love, family idiosyncrasies, and an unusual progress through Europe. This is a very readable book of Billy’s reactions to those around him, ranging from his gravedigger colleagues to the strange and amazing people he encounters on his journey to find Eva. This is a fascinating story of contemporary issues as seen through the eyes of a teenager who is given real insight and the noticing of details. Frequently funny, flowing beautifully and occasionally poignant, this is the book of a Britain affected by the Brexit vote and Europe in all its variety and challenges. Not for the nervous, Billy learns about drinking, people who have wild ideas and family members who develop their own obsessions. It is a book about learning of life from the older people he encounters, but also the varieties of consideration that people can show for others. I was impressed and pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this brilliant book. 

Billy’s philosophy of finishing school before A levels appears on the first page “I don’t think anyone ever knows what they want to do. People pretend”. In the first hint that this book will tackle even religious belief, Billy explains that he gets his first job digging graves via his mother’s assiduous church attendance. Teased like many in their first job, Billy meets three men who he calls “the Russian Dolls” and remembers their humour. His parents are stunned when his grandfather announces he is going to remarry a much younger woman, and his father takes up boxing. Billy’s job search takes him to be an assistant at a summer school, where he meets children with problems. He also meets Eva, and it is the attempt to keep his relationship going with the Swiss ecowarrior that propels much of the novel. His progress meets with highs and lows, extraordinary meetings and some dangerous encounters. One of my favourite scenes is when a smoke alarm causes trouble for Billy’s father, and his reaction to the noisy item.

This is an impressive book though there are no mysteries, crime or even complex plot. It is the story of people, in all their humour, variety and desperation. Billy is an ordinary person in circumstances that sometimes spiral out of control, and there is one group of people that he encounters that show the deeperation faced by many thousands of people to this day. The writing is lively and vivid as Billy gives a running commentary on his thoughts and concerns, his problems with money, language and transport, his worries for various people. There are running jokes such as the meaning of someone’s name, his mother’s groups, his father’s obsessive behaviour. I recommend this book for its contrasts, its challenges, and its picture of a young person trying to cope with the twenty first century  

Mango Bay by Serena Fairfax – a young woman’s life in a Jewish community in the 1950s and 1960s

Mango Bay by Serena Fairfax

A book which brings to life a family, a time and romance in a very different place and time. When Audrey meets Nat in London, 1956, she has no idea that falling in love will take her to live in Bombay in the Bene Israel Jewish community, a small group which is connected by marriage and more than fiercely protects their interests. This is a sort of family saga, with some fascinating characters living in Mango Bay, a large villa, and those who they mix on a daily basis. It has much to say about such things as arranged marriages, the difference of cultures and the efforts to keep people from marrying out of a community. It explores family relationships and the difference a young woman from another country, place and faith can make. Dramatic events happen throughout this book, but it is also fascinating for the characters that populate it. As intrigues, surprises and plans are made and upset, this is a book that sets an exotic scene, full of the colours, smells, sounds and more that Audrey comes to experience in this vivid and complex book. This is a read full of intense life and colour, personalities and people that is absorbing. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this special book. 

When Nat finally asks Audrey to dance after some time of observing her, she only gradually comes to understand what her situation will be if she becomes attached to him. She is training to become a professional musician, and learns that he is a barrister from India. When they decide to marry she must inform her traditional Scottish parents, who have many concerns. When Nat returns home, there is a pause when she is left in a poor flat without any certainty of his feelings for her. Eventually she travels to Bombay, when Nat has finally broken to his family that he does not want a marriage arranged for him, and that he would rather like his wife to come over from London. His father is outraged at his ambitious social plans being upset, but Audrey disarms him and begins to establish what is really going on in the villa. Khan Sahib is the patriarch of the clan, who bought the villa and now lives there with his second wife Rachel, her mother the venerable Babai, Khan Sahib’s eldest son Vidor and his wife Leah, and the Pearl, a disassified daughter. Their social connections are complex and close, as the survival of the community necessitates many interlinking relationships. There are, however, many reasons why everything does not go to plan.

This is a book of great depth as people, places and practices must all be delicately balanced. Money and assets are discussed, as well as the strong minded Esther’s plans. I found it an intense read which was difficult to put down, as I was keen to discover what was going to happen to the various characters that I was interested in. The writing is beautifully balanced between the characters, the setting and the plot, and the little mysteries of each character are well handled. Altogether this is an enjoyable book with memorable characters, cleverly revealing an alternative lifestyle in the 1960s , a well written testimony to a remarkable community. 

Hetty’s Farmhouse Bakery by Cathy Bramley – a Cumbrian woman wonders if her pies may be her future

Hetty's Farmhouse Bakery: Amazon.co.uk: Bramley, Cathy: 9780552173940: Books

Hetty’s Farmhouse Bakery by Cathy Bramley

 

Hetty is a farmer’s wife, a mum to Poppy, and will bake pies for every good cause in the area. However, when Poppy is asked which woman she admires, it is her aunt Naomi she names, and Hetty begins to think that she wants an independent role, not just to back up her busy husband. While she loves her husband Dan he is completely wrapped up in the family farm that he inherited unexpectedly early before he could follow his dream of training as a vet. She gets on extremely well with her sister in law who runs a farm shop, her mother in law who lives locally, and her life long best friend Anna, single mother and school nurse. 

 

This is a novel of a woman who realises that she wants to establish something for herself, her own business, a new start surrounded by those whom she loves. Set in the beautiful hills of Cumbia, this is a book which establishes a sense of a lovely if remote place, where the community is close and gossip spreads. It looks at the life of contemporary farmers who diversify into other ventures to survive. It examines long term relationships and friendships, old and new romance, and new opportunities. Hetty tells the story from her own point of view, and Cathy Bramley is so skilled at creating a voice of a lively and sometimes confused woman. Hetty’s particular talent is making free form pies with delicious short crust pastry, and it is this skill which she believes she can use to establish her own business, and much of the novel describes how she tries to do so in the face of unforeseeable difficulties. With funny dialogue and some moving moments, this is an engaging and endearing book.

 

The book begins with Hetty meeting Anna at the parents evening for their respective children. Bart, Anna’s son, is a match for Poppy who has a cheeky sense of humour, whereas Hetty’s nerves and style is to blurt out what she is thinking, much to the embarrassment of her offspring. Rusty, Hetty’s much loved and elderly dog is ill, and the situation makes Hetty reassess her daily life. When Naomi secretly enters Hetty’s pies for a competition for best Cumbrian foods, it makes Hetty wonder if she could do more to establish the sale of her pies through different outlets and create a business. As she receives an exciting invitation it creates tensions with her husband, and begins to make her reconsider past loyalties.

 

This book can be seen as quite a light read on one level, with a family and friends at its heart. Yet it also has a lot to say about the role of women within a community and a marriage. Hetty’s situation is not uncommon in contemporary life, with a long time relationship which has its challenges and secrets. I found it really enjoyable and difficult to put down, as I became so involved with Hetty’s discoveries and decisions.The dialogue is lively and realistic, funny and endearing. This is an entertaining book which I really recommend to anyone who enjoys a book with a light story with deeper themes.

 

 Anyone who reads this blog regularly will realise that I enjoy a variety of books, and the difference between this book and yesterday’s sizable novel of much of John Ruskin’s life is considerable! 

Charity’s Choice by Alexine Crawford – a novel from the strange time after the Civil War

 

A historical novel which contains an in depth look at the confused political and religious situation following the most significant part of the English Civil War, this book also manages to tell the story of various individuals who tried to understand what was going on. This was a time when simple actions and meetings could lead to trouble, and the act of publishing non authorised writing could lead to imprisonment. Some of the characters actually existed, but the fictional characters are also invested with life. Gossip is a real theme in this book, as suspicions abound not only about political allegiances but also religious loyalties. Of course there are the normal topics for local gossip; suspicious relationships, surprise pregnancies and people who are new to the area, but essentially this book reveals some of the realities of this unique time in British history. This is an ambitious book which has a large cast of characters and mentions many more. There is a useful “Who is who and Locations” to show the various families involved which indicates some of the relationships. This book focuses on Charity, a young woman with a mysterious past, Thomas a thoughtful carter, his brother James with ambitions, and a young man who loves horses, called Hal.  I found this an enjoyable and engaging read, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this skilfully written novel.

 

A small scene set in 1632 establishes Martha and Walter, who appreciate the draw of journeying to America, where there is freedom. Then comes the main story, in 1647. The king, Charles, is imprisoned but negotiating, as Oliver Cromwell and others seek to balance the traditional loyalty to the monarchy with as yet untried political systems. As the various characters discuss the newsbooks and pamphlets that tell the people the news, create hope for a peaceful settlement and in some cases whip up seditious feelings, names are given to the real people who wrote the publications and were often imprisoned for their publication. This is an age of media but not as we know it, and depends on people reading and passing documents around. Women are depicted as the carriers of gossip, but also those who supported businesses and men in their sometimes challenging roles. As James wants to do more in the family business, he can antagonise people, whereas Thomas is more thoughtful and is determined to branch out and discover new ways of building up his trade. There are tales of the fighting which some of the characters experienced first hand, and the frustration of what to do with a deposed king who will not negotiate and seeks to escape. The importance of trade and the import and export of goods is mentioned, and a vibrant commercial society is shown. 

 

This is not a long book, but it manages to pack in a lot of themes, characters and stories.The research behind this novel is immense, yet it never gets in the way of the story and the characters’ development. I recommend this book as an excellent story of a time of confusion and new beginnings, but also a time when people had to decide the way they wanted to live.  This is a very readable novel which vividly introduces a little explored time in British history through the eyes of people who were there. I recommend this book to those who appreciate historical fiction.    

 

I am working on the belief that there are not so many books on this late Civil War period, though I have read several non fiction classics in the dim and distant past. Am I missing out on some fictional greats from the period?

The Girl from the Hermitage by Molly Gartland – an artist discovers life in a changing world

 

Russia in the twentieth century was a challenging place for its inhabitants, and this historical novel is a insightful look at one women’s life as she tries to meet various challenges. Beginning with a childhood of hunger and loss in the Hermitage during the siege of Leningrad, eight year old Galina will go on to encounter other challenges throughout her life as priorities change in so many ways, and society has different expectations. This is a moving account of one woman’s life as she stands for so much with her love and and her gifts as a painter. It is a book of memories as things are remembered, special events and times celebrated, and much more. It has a lightness of touch which is very special, a drawing of personalities which is memorable and an outstanding eye for detail in creating an atmosphere of Russian life. There is a depth of research in this book which is lightly expressed and carefully rendered into a story which carries the reader along. This is a very special book and was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it. 

 

The book opens with a father, Mikhail, desperately trying to provide food for his daughter in a small flat in Leningrad as all nourishment has disappeared from the city. It is an enormous struggle, but his friend Anna has an idea which may save them as well as her daughter Vera. People are taking shelter in the Hermitage museum, as the paintings are gone elsewhere. Mikhail is asked to paint a portrait of an official’s sons, which he is initially reluctant to do, but as his daughter later discovers the painting of portraits means an entering into a special process of discovering something of the person. When Galina herself later paints a special portrait, she discovers that the surrounding circumstances stay with her just as surely as the painting.  The painting that Mikhail undertakes has unforeseeable consequences, and this is one of the earliest observations of something which becomes an important theme in the book, that painting is a process of special absorption in time and space. As everything changes around her, her relationships with those she loves are threatened and changes are forced upon her, and little remains the same in one lifetime. 

 

This is a mature and compelling novel which looks at how a desperate attempt to preserve life can lead on to so many things. It is about how the colours and paints that an artist uses can mean so much, and in skilled hands can capture a different reality. It is about loyalty and betrayal, love and sadness, hope and the tenuous perfection of experience even if it is for just one day. The colours, textures and so many details are conveyed by the writing which I so enjoyed in this book, as the enthralling depth of feeling emerges. It is a book of things, people, emotions and so much more. It is not a long book, but is entirely successful in telling the story of a special woman who represents so many. I recommend it as a historical novel which enthralls and involves the reader with great success.  

 

Redeeming Her Viking Warrior by Jenni Fletcher – a Scottish island as the setting for an unusual relationship

Redeeming Her Viking Warrior (Mills & Boon Historical) (Sons of Sigurd,  Book 4) eBook: Fletcher, Jenni: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Redeeming Her Viking Warrior by Jenni Fletcher

 

This is a slightly unusual historical romance, in that it is set in the time of frequent invasions of the Scottish islands, and the ninth century was a time of turmoil on the Isle of Skye where much of this exciting novel is set. Not that much historical knowledge is required to enjoy this book; as with other novels by Jenni Fletcher the characters and their relationship with each other is far more important. It features a neat reversal of roles, where the physically huge Danr is physically dependent on a slight woman who has the knowledge to save him. He is talkative, busy and dramatic, whereas Sissa is reluctant to speak, and even more reluctant to reveal her name to this man who disturbs her peaceful way of life. Both have suffered trauma that will take time to recover from, if ever, and neither are eager to find a new relationship. 

 

The setting is lyrically described, as the weather challenges even the prepared with much rain and dropping temperatures. This is an enjoyable novel with lively writing, some humour and fascinating dialogue. While technically part of a collection featuring some slight overlapping of characters and situation, as this is Fletcher’s only contribution to it, this novel is definitely one that can be read as a standalone. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

 

The novel opens with a badly injured Danr lying amongst the roots of a large oak tree, unable to move owing to severe loss of blood. In the haze of his pain he believes he sees a young woman, armed with a spear, accompanied by two wolves and considers his past obsession with the attractiveness of women. Hints of his oath to his brothers, and that Hilda was involved in what will probably be his fatal injuries, flash through his mind. Many things about Hilda are soon revealed, including her possible involvement in his father’s death and his anger at her longer term dislike of himself and his twin brother. Sissa meanwhile prepares to help the strange man who she has discovered apparently on the point of death, as she is a silent healer whose own experience of death has overwhelmed her in the past. She cleverly constructs a shelter from the elements which threaten them both, and as he gradually recovers he begins to talk, and does not really stop. 

 

This is a book which goes into a little of the way that politics was personal at the time; that survival and ability would guarantee a place of power rather than legal inheritance. Danr is influenced by his family background and more. Sissa has been well taught but bases her survival on her own skills and understanding of the natural world. Her relationship with Tove is special as she has little or no experience of human relationships, leaving her with some innocent confusion. Altogether it is a sometimes surprising, always fascinating and well written novel, depicting the relationship between Danr and Sissa with all its ups and downs, misunderstanding and stubbornness. This is a lovely read which comes from a keen imagination and a real talent for constructing a story around a relationship which defies expectations and is really enjoyable. 

 

  So this is September, and there has been a lot of fuss about the number of books being published this month, some of which were delayed from earlier in the year. I have certainly got a lot of books to review in the coming weeks, so I hope the variety will be interesting- they are certainly keeping me busy! Have you got exciting reading plans?