Book Review: A Letter from America

And so the 12th book in my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge is…A Letter from America by Geraldine O’Neill.  The synopsis, as provided by Amazon, is as follows;

‘It is the late 60’s in Tullamore, County Offaly, and life is full of exciting possibilities for Fiona Tracey, as she prepares to leave Ireland to work for a wealthy family in New York.

Fiona’s parents have the local shop and bar, and her younger sisters are already leading independent lives. Bridget is at a convent school preparing to be a nun and Angela has led a life of her own since she was hospitalised up in Dublin for years with childhood polio.

Then, sudden tragedy forces Fiona to postpone her departure for New York. As her mother sinks into illness and depression, her responsibilities mount. When help is offered by her aunt and cousin, Fiona is mystified by her mother’s animosity towards them.

As summer approaches, an American architect, Michael O’Sullivan, takes a room above the bar. Within a short time Fiona finds herself involved in an unexpected and passionate affair.

Then, as a surprising incident threatens Bridget’s vocation, Angela uncovers information which explodes old family secrets.

Before Fiona can embark on an independent life again, perhaps in New York, she must find a new understanding of her family – and of herself.’

This is a lovely story of three very different sisters, hit by tragedy, fighting to find their way in life in 1960’s Ireland.  A Letter from America follows their hopes and dreams, sometimes shattered, but always followed as life twists and turns.

Whilst I did really enjoy this story, I found that none of the sisters stories were in enough detail.  I didn’t feel like I learnt enough about them to really engage with them.  The novel contains stories of love and loss, and despite the fact that I enjoyed reading about them, they didn’t grip me in the way that I had hoped.  Please don’t be put off by these comments though – this book really was an enjoyable read and I certainly wouldn’t want to put you off.  This was a charming book about a troubled family who just want to follow their dreams.  Make a brew, grab some cake and curl up on the sofa with the Tracey sisters!

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Book Review: The Little Paris Bookshop

And so the 11th book in my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge is…The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.  The synopsis, as so kindly offered by Amazon, is as follows;

‘On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers.

The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, twenty-one years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. His memories and his love have been gathering dust – until now. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building on Rue Montagnard inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past and his beloved.’

As you may well be beginning to realise, I have a love of books set in other countries, particularly, although not limited to, France.  This is probably due to the fact that I have sadly not yet travelled as far and wide as I would have hoped (although I have many plans!).  The Little Paris Bookshop does not disappoint.  Whilst I would have liked to have ‘seen’ a little more of Paris, I cannot fault Nina George’s descriptions of the French countryside as Jean Perdu embarks on a journey that will see him embrace his memories after 21 long painful years as he finally seeks closure.  The beautiful friendships he makes along the way only add to the beauty of the scenery, as he shares these new experiences with people that he loves.

As someone with a serious love of books, the backdrop of a floating bookshop only adds to the romanticism of this novel.  I could truly imagine myself perusing Jean’s bookshelves and accepting his book prescriptions to soothe my own soul.  Nina George’s portrayal of the beautiful, rolling French countryside allows you to fully immerse yourself in the French culture as you imagine yourself drinking fine wine and eating beautiful food alongside Jean Perdu and his friends.  Whilst the underlying love story was not something I felt able to fully engage with, for me this book was about the love between friends, a love of books, and the realisation that the ability to set yourself free lies only within yourself.

This is a lovely novel, which I can definitely recommend.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5


My Reading List – Updated!

So I have an extensive to be read list which I thought I might share just a little of with you all.  As I read these books, I am reviewing them – these reviews can be found by following the links!

The Vintage Teacup Club, Vanessa Greene

Sleepless in Manhattan, Sarah Morgan

My Sister’s Secret, Tracy Buchanan

Waiting for the Bee Stings, Calvin Wade

The Lies We Told, Diane Chamberlain

The Midwife’s Revolt, Jodi Daynard

The Scandalous Duchess, Anne O’Brien

Montana Cherries, Kim Law

A Letter from America, Geraldine O’Neill

Hunger, Michael Grant

Me Before You, Jojo Moyes

The Tea Planter’s Wife, Dinah Jefferies

Read along with me and let me know what you think!

Book Review: The Midwife’s Revolt

So, I chose The Midwife’s Revolt by Jodi Daynard as my 10th book in the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

‘On a dark night in 1775, Lizzie Boylston is awakened by the sound of cannons. From a hill south of Boston, she watches as fires burn in Charlestown, in a battle that she soon discovers has claimed her husband’s life.

Alone in a new town, Lizzie grieves privately but takes comfort in her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams. Soon, word spreads of Lizzie’s extraordinary midwifery and healing skills, and she begins to channel her grief into caring for those who need her. But when two traveling patriots are poisoned, Lizzie finds herself with far more complicated matters on her hands—she suspects a political plot intended to harm Abigail and her family. Determined to uncover the truth, Lizzie becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could not only destroy her livelihood—and her chance at finding love again—but also lead to the downfall of a new nation.’ (taken from Amazon)

Whilst I do love a historical novel, I know very little about the American Revolution and so could not even begin to comment on the factual correctness of this novel.  However, I loved the story of Lizzie Boylston, as she learns to live in a world without her new husband and find her way as a midwife and healer in a new town full of suspicion and loss.  The historical backdrop of the American Revolution just added to the intensity of the novel, and Lizzie’s knowledge of healing and midwifery are fitting of the time period.  Naturally this knowledge was met with suspicion as people were wary of such witch-like qualities, particularly in a woman, however as she begins to heal people and deliver healthy babies in difficult situations she finds her place in the small town as it is rocked by conspiracies, loss and war.

I am sure that fans of American history will love this novel, but I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone, even those without the prior historical knowledge.  It is not a light read, so don’t read it if that is what you looking for.  However, if you are looking for a novel that you can fully immerse yourself in, where you can learn not only about a time period but also about how people felt and acted in such a turbulent time then I definitely recommend this book.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5


Book Review: Pride & Prejudice

Well what can I say…I chose to re-read Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen as the ninth book in my Goodreads reading challenge.  This is, without a doubt, one of my absolute favourite books.  With arguably the most famous opening sentence in fiction, Austen draws you in immediately with Elizabeth Bennet’s quick wit and prejudiced first impressions.  I love the fact, that despite this book being published for the first time in 1813, many of the issues raised continue today.  We all judge a book by it’s cover (excuse the pun!) at sometime in our lives, and that is exactly what Elizabeth Bennet and the inhabitants of Meryton do throughout this book.

We all know the story of Pride & Prejudice – the BBC helped with that with their amazing tv adaptation starring Colin Firth (you’re thinking about him in his wet shirt emerging from the lake at Pemberly, I know it!) and Jennifer Ehle so there really is no need for me to give you a detailed synopsis.  If you haven’t read this book, you need to.  Classics are often seen as dry and boring by many, in part I believe due to the fact we are forced to read them at school.  Take the time, and read this classic – it may surprise you.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Book Review: The Tea Planter’s Wife

Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper steps off a steamer in Ceylon full of optimism, eager to join her new husband. But the man who greets her at the tea plantation is not the same one she fell in love with in London.

Distant and brooding, Laurence spends long days wrapped up in his work, leaving his young bride to explore the plantation alone. It’s a place filled with clues to the past – locked doors, a yellowed wedding dress in a dusty trunk, an overgrown grave hidden in the grounds, far too small for an adult…

Gwen soon falls pregnant and her husband is overjoyed, but she has little time to celebrate. In the delivery room the new mother is faced with a terrible choice, one she knows no one in her upper class set will understand – least of all Laurence. Forced to bury a secret at the heart of her marriage, Gwen is more isolated than ever. When the time comes, how will her husband ever understand what she has done? (Taken from Amazon)

For me, location plays a significant role in any novel, and Dinah Jefferies certainly does not disappoint with The Tea Planter’s Wife.  Her beautiful, vivid descriptions of Ceylon really do bring the story to life, as you imagine the tea pluckers in their beautiful sari’s picking the delicate tea leaves across the vast plantations.  It creates the ideal setting for the story of a young, English tea planters wife who leaves her home and family to follow her husband to the strange land in which she is to live.  This novel delicately explores the racial differences of the 1920’s and 1930’s, as the natives were slowly beginning to fight for their rights, and for independence.  It follows Gwen Hooper and her family as they fight to hide their own secrets at a time of significant cultural change, as they are forced to explore their own views and the impact these will have.  The characters of Gwen and Laurence Hooper are wonderful examples of characters who portray love, tragedy but above all hope, at times when all feels lost.

I really cannot recommend this book enough, and am very pleased that this was book eight in my Goodreads reading challenge.  I will definitely be reading more from Dinah Jefferies.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5