REVIEW: Time’s Fool by Alys Earl

I received a review copy of this book through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest.

Summary: Autumn in the market City of Barchester, and two bright students begin their final year at University, content with old friendships, paying lip-service to old dreams. Until, that is, an ill-conceived prank introduces them to Julian.

For Sophia and Steven, the friendship they form with this worldly stranger marks a coming of age, a possibility to embrace the needs and longings they have never had the language to express. But Julian has his own secrets, and as the nights grow longer, it becomes clear that not all desires are without cost; that some things should never be brought into the light.

Time’s Fool is a novel about monstrosity, about desire and communication. It’s about the self we present to the world and the needs we whisper to ourselves in the darkness. It is about honesty and the fear of honesty. It is about the things we refuse – refuse to say, refuse to seek, refuse to believe – because sometimes, ignoring those things is all that keeps us sane.

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REVIEW: Odette by Jessica Duchen

I received a review copy of this book through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest.

Summary: When a swan crashes through her window at the height of a winter storm, journalist Mitzi Fairweather decides to nurse the injured bird back to health. But at sunset, the swan becomes a woman.

This unexpected visitor is Odette, the swan princess – alone, adrift and in danger in 21st-century Britain, entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers. Bird by day, human by night, and with no way to go home, she remains convinced, to Mitzi’s distress, that only a man’s vow of eternal love can break her spell.

Mitzi is determined to help Odette, but as the two try to hide the improbable truth, their web of deception grows increasingly tangled. Can they find a way to save Odette before it’s too late?

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REVIEW: Apple Island Wife by Fiona Stocker

I received a review copy of this book through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest.

Summary: What happens when you leave city life and move to five acres on a hunch, with a husband who’s an aspiring alpaca-whisperer, and a feral cockerel for company? Can you eat the cockerel for dinner? Or has it got rigour mortise?

In search of a good life and a slower pace, Fiona Stocker upped-sticks and moved to Tasmania, a land of promise, wilderness, and family homes of uncertain build quality. It was the lifestyle change that many dream of and most are too sensible to attempt.

Wife, mother and now reluctant alpaca owner, Fiona jumped in at the deep end. Gradually Tasmania got under her skin as she learned to stack wood, round up the kids with a retired lady sheepdog, and stand on a scorpion without getting stung.

This charming tale captures the tussles and euphoria of living on the land in a place of untrammelled beauty, raising your family where you want to and seeing your husband in a whole new light. Not just a memoir but an everywoman’s story, and a paean to a new, slower age.

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REVIEW: A Small Dark Quiet by Miranda Gold

I received a review copy of this book through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest.

Summary: March, 1945. The ravaged face of London will soon be painted with victory, but for Sylvie the private battle for peace is only just beginning. Revealing strength and small acts of kindness in the most unlikely places, A Small Dark Quiet looks through the eyes of a mother as she finds the courage to face loss – both her own, and that of the orphan born in a concentration camp whom she and her husband, Gerald, adopt two years later.

Haunted by the gaps in the orphan’s history, Sylvie begins to draw him into parallel with her dead child. When she gives the orphan the stillborn child’s name, Arthur, she unwittingly entangles him in a grief he will never be able to console. His name has been erased, his origins merely guessed at, but the trauma Arthur carries begins to release itself in nightmares, merging into the story he has been told about the dead child whose life he is expected to step into.

Having internalized the sense that he is an imposter, Arthur’s yearning for a place where he might be accepted is echoed in our own time. Striking, too, are the resonances that can be felt through Arthur’s journey as the novel unfolds over the next twenty years: the past he can neither recall nor forget lives on within him even as he strives to forge a life for himself. Identity and belonging may be elusive, but the pulse of survival insists he keeps searching and, as he opens himself to the world around him, there are flashes of just how resilient the human heart can be.

As part of this process, Arthur comes to understand that he is Jewish, yet he fears what this might entail – could this be an identity or will it only make him more of an outsider? He’s threatened with being sent back where he belongs – but no one can tell him where this is; he learns all about ‘that other little Arthur’, yearning both to become him and to free himself from his ghost. He can neither fit the shape of the life that has been lost nor grow into the one his adopted father has carved out for him.

Through Sylvie’s unprocessed grief and Arthur’s acute sense of displacement, A Small Dark Quiet explores how the compulsion to fill the empty space that death leaves can, ultimately, only make the sense of such a devastating void more acute. Yet the search to belong and the instinct to love and connect persists in this story of loss, migration and the ways in which we find ourselves caught between the need to feel safe and the will to be free

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