Page 10 - Ickford Informer Newsletter - September 2021
P. 10

. . . and
       Book Reviews by Jo Tiddy

             UMMER (WHAT SUMMER??) draws to a close, there is a slight chill to the         something
             air, and what better time to curl up with a cuppa and a great book? Autumn is one of the
       Sbusiest times in the publishing calendar, when all the lovely shiny new books are released.   for the
       We look forward to big hitters such as Pat Barker, Sebastian Faulks, Sally Rooney and Paula Hawkins,
       all who have novels on the way. In the meantime, there are many new paperbacks in the TBR pile.   little ones
       I have recently devoured two in very quick succession, utterly different in content and tone.

                             We Begin at the End, by Chris Whitaker, is a thriller set
                             in Cape Haven, California, and I have to say it is an absolutely
                             blistering tale of murder, revenge and retribution.  Thirteen-year-
                             old Duchess Day Radley is part carer, part protector of her younger
                             brother, Robin and her addled mother, Star. When the man who
                             killed Star’s sister is released from prison, Duchess’ attempts
                             to protect her mother set off a chain of events that have tragic
                             consequences, not just for her family, but for the whole community.
                             Duchess, a self-proclaimed outlaw, doesn’t care for rules, rules are
                             for cowards. But even she cannot fight the unfolding tragedy that
                             threatens her family.
                             Police Chief Walk has never left the town where he and Star grew
                             up. Haunted by the testimony that sent his oldest friend to prison
       for murder, he tries to protect Duchess and Robin as Star slides deeper into self-destruction.
       This is a wide sweep of a novel; it looks at family, those we are born into, and those we
       create. It shows how revenge and justice are very often two different things. This book
       recently won Crime Novel of the year (a BIG deal in publishing circles), and rightly so. Perfect
       for fans of Jane Harper or Nicholas Evans.

                             Kate Grenville is an Australian writer who has explored the founding of
                             her nation in a number of novels, including The River and The Lieutenant.
                             Much of her writing deals with the themes of oppression and silenced
                             voices. Her latest, A Room Made of Leaves, is based on the real-
                             life story of Elizabeth Macarthur, wife to the hot-headed and arrogant John
                             Macarthur, a notorious Australian colonist, and the man who introduced
                             the merino sheep to Australia. Few of her letters survive, and they give no
                             hint of the dangerous and violent man that she shared her life with, half a   Phoebe Dupree is
                             world away from the Devon landscape where she had grown up.    Coming to Tea,
                             1788, and newly married, Elizabeth realises she has made a terrible   by Linda Ashman,
                             mistake. Forced to travel to New South Wales with her husband and   illustrations by Alea Marley,
                             infant son, she arrives to find Sydney Town, a brutal, hungry place   is a lovely picture paperback
                             of rough shelters, criminals and corruption.  Her husband is cruel,   about social anxiety (bear
       dangerous and eventually maddened. The novel charts how this most meek-seeming woman came   with me…).
       to thrive in the tough early years of the penal colony and amass the largest fortune in the country.
                                                                                            Abby is nervously awaiting
       Grenville’s writing is truly beautiful, startlingly fresh, and imagines the rich life behind   the arrival of the near
       Elizabeth’s carefully composed and bland letters to the people she has left behind. The novel   perfect Phoebe Dupree.
       includes a reading guide for book clubs.
                                                                                            Treats have been prepared,
                             Victoria Hislop’s much beloved novel The Island, explored the   the dog has been washed,
                             moving history of Spinalonga in Crete, a former leper colony.   the table laid. The guest of
                             She has now written a children’s book (8+) based on the same   honour arrives…. and then
                             events.                                                        things go terribly wrong…
                                                                                            What WILL Phoebe think?
                             Maria’s Island is narrated by one of the children from the
                             original novel, now a grandmother. She tells of the ancient and   Beautifully illustrated, and
                             misunderstood disease, exploring themes of stigma, shame and the   told in a gentle rhyme, this
                             treatment of those who are perceived different, themes that are as   is a great story showing how
                             relevant for children as they are adults. The book has parallels with   expectations can be turned
                             the current pandemic, with themes of isolation, and separation from   on their heads. v
                             family and friends. Beautifully illustrated by Gill Smith.

                      10                                        September 2021
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