Friday, January 20, 2017

Where My Heart Used To Beat by Sebastian Faulks



                                            25241505

Hardback:325 pages                                                                                                  
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Hutchinson, 2015
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: With its free peanuts and anonymity, the airline lounge is somewhere I can usually feel at home; but on this occasion I was in too much of a panic to enjoy its self-importance.
Review Quote: "A masterpiece…a terrific novel, humming with ideas, knowing asides, shafts of sunlight, shouts of laughter and moments of almost unbearable tragedy" (Toby Clements Sunday Telegraph)
My Opinion: Such a sad story of love and loss with war taking a large part of the narrative.  The subject of both World Wars is a recurring theme in the novels of Sebastian Faulks and one he writes about so vividly, though sometimes this can be a little over powering. Another subject that Faulks has written about previously is the condition of the human mind and that is very much part of this latest novel as he explores how much our minds are part of our genetics.
As in his previous novels he manages despite the underlying harrowing parts of the story once again to have produced a compelling page turner. If you find parts difficult to concentrate on just keep going as it is well worthwhile for the heart rending ending.




Précis Courtesy of Goodreads
:


"You don't live the life I have without making some enemies."

Having accepted a strange but intriguing invitation to a French island, psychiatrist Robert Hendricks meets the man who has commissioned him to write a biography. But his subject seems more interested in finding out about Robert's past than he does in revealing his own. For years, Robert has refused to discuss his past. After the war ended, he refused to go to reunions, believing in some way that denying the killing and the deaths of his friends and fellow soldiers would mean he wouldn't be defined by the experience. Suddenly, he can't keep the memories from overtaking him. But can he trust his memories and can we believe what other people tell us about theirs?

Moving between the present and past, between France and Italy, New York and London, this is a powerful story about love and war, memory and desire, the relationship between the body and the mind.

Compelling and full of suspense, Where My Heart Used to Beat is a tender, brutal and thoughtful portrait of a man and a century, which asks whether, given the carnage we've witnessed and inflicted over the past one hundred years, people can ever be the same.

I have read the majority of his novels, five of which I have previously reviewed, I am including the links to them for those of you that might be interested.

Devil May Care  Engleby   Human Traces  A Week in December  A Possible Life



Video Trailer for 'Where My Heart Used To Beat'      ' Courtesy of YouTube and BBC Newsnight'




Author Profile






Sebastian Charles Faulks CBE was born in Donnington, England on April 20th 1953  He is a novelist, journalist, and broadcaster who is best known for his historical novels set in France — The Girl at the Lion D'Or, Birdsong, and Charlotte Grey. He comes from an interesting family background as can be read in this biographical profile. 
He is the son of Pamela (Lawless) and Peter Ronald Faulks, a Berkshire solicitor who later became a judge. He grew up in Newbury. His mother was both cultured and highly strung. She introduced him to reading and music at a young age. Her own mother, from whom she was estranged, had been an actress in repertory. His father was a company commander in the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, in which he served from 1939 to 1946. He saw action in Holland, France, Tunisia, Italy (at the Anzio landings), Syria and Palestine. He was wounded three times and awarded an immediate MC after an action against the Hermann Goering Parachute Troops in North Africa in 1942.
His maternal grandfather, Philip Henry Lawless, enlisted in the 1st Battalion, 28th county of London Regiment, otherwise known as The Artists' Rifles in 1914, and served in trench warfare on the Western Front until 1917, when he moved to the 26th Battalion Middlesex Regiment and finished the war in Salonika. He was decorated several times and received the Military Cross in 1918, the standard Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 1914 Star. He eventually left the Army and returned to work as a wine merchant - his father's original occupation.
His paternal grandfather, Major James Faulks (Major was his name, not a military rank) was an accountant who had previously worked as a schoolmaster at a private boarding school in Tunbridge Wells, while Major's provisions merchant father, William Robert Faulks, supplied dairy products in late Victorian Paddington.
Faulks' father wanted him to become a diplomat. He claims his first ambition was to be a taxi driver until at the age of fifteen, while reading George Orwell, he decided to become a novelist instead. In fact, he is the only member of his paternal family not to be a lawyer; his father and uncle were judges and his brother Edward is a QC specialising in medical negligence.
Faulks was educated at the fee-charging Wellington College and studied English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he won an open exhibition and to which he was elected an honorary fellow in 2007. He took a teaching job at the Dwight-Franklin International School after university while also moving into journalism, becoming a features writer for the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, and was recruited by the Independent as Literary Editor in 1986. He became the Deputy Editor of the Independent on Sunday before leaving in 1991 to concentrate on writing. He has been a columnist forThe Guardian (1992-8) and The Evening Standard (1997-9).
He continues to contribute articles and reviews to a number of newspapers and magazines and to broadcast regularly. He wrote and presented the Channel 4 series Churchill's Secret Army, about the wartime Special Operations Executive (SOE), screened in 1999. Faulks is a team captain on BBC Radio 4's literary quiz The Write Stuff.
Faulks lives with his wife, Veronica (formerly his assistant at The Independent), and their three children William, Holly and Arthur . He works from his study in a top floor flat of a house near Holland Park Avenue, ten minutes from his home, starting work at 10am and finishing at 6pm, regardless of whether he is writing a book or not.
He was appointed a CBE in the Birthday Honours List 2002 for "services to Literature" and he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1994.
Faulks supports West Ham United. He writes about this in "Upton and Other Parks," a contribution to the 1990 football book Saturday's Boys.


The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and his writing.

Goodreads Author Profile   Sebastian Faulks - Biography.  Amazon Author Profile 


Sebastian Faulks - Facebook   Author's Official Website  


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Winter by Christopher Nicholson


Paperback: 247 pages                                                                                                
Genre:Historical Fiction
Publisher: Fourth Estate 2014
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: One of the old roads leaving a well-known country town in the west of England climbs a long slope and finally reaches a kind of open plain, a windy spot from which a wide prospect of the countryside is available.
Review Quote: 'Nicholson's understated prose perfectly suits this account of Thomas Hardy's unrequited love ....a superfine, thistledown novel about a novelist, a place and about love and loss....' The Guardian
My Opinion: Since studying Thomas Hardy's literature at school I have been a firm fan of all his novels. Tess of the D'Urbevilles has always been a favourite, so I was intrigued when presented with this title for a recent book club selection. In the 1920’s Thomas Hardy did actually adapt his apparently favourite novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles for a Dorset amateur dramatic group, so this novel is based on real events.
Winter is not something I would have normally wanted to read as I do not like it when it seems like an author is taking the fame of another, real and or fictional for their own novel. It almost feels like cheating to me.  Despite these doubts I did enjoy Winter, although I was not particularly keen on Nicholson's portrayal of either Thomas Hardy or his second wife Florence. He is portrayed as a somewhat reclusive and obstinate old man that is not at all pleasant to his much younger wife, though one feels she deserves it with her tendency to hysteria and nagging at times.
In conclusion this complex story about the winter of Hardy's life and the emotional problems arising in his marriage due to old age, his desires, fear of mortality and his wife's jealousies does provide a provoking read.
Regardless of the way the author has characterised Hardy, I still love his writing and would therefore recommend this novel to any fans of his work.


Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

In the winter of 1924 the most celebrated English writer of the day, 84-year-old Thomas Hardy, was living at his Dorset home of Max Gate with his second wife, Florence. Aged 45 but in poor health, Florence came to suspect that Hardy was in the grip of a romantic infatuation. The woman in question was a beautiful local actress, 27-year-old Gertrude Bugler, who was playing Tess in the first dramatic adaptation of Hardy's most famous novel, 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles'. Inspired by these events, 'Winter' is a brilliantly realised portrait of an old man and his imaginative life; the life that has brought him fame and wealth, but that condemns him to living lives he can't hope to lead, and reliving those he thought he once led. It is also, though, about the women who now surround him: the middle-aged, childless woman who thought she would find happiness as his handmaiden; and the young actress, with her youthful ambitions and desires, who came between them.


Author Profile:


Christopher Nicholson was born in London in 1956 and brought up in Surrey. He was educated at Tonbridge School in Kent, and read English at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. After university he worked in Cornwall for a charity encouraging community development. He then became a radio scriptwriter and producer, and made many documentaries and features mainly for the BBC World Service in London. He was married to the artist Catharine Nicholson, who died in 2011 www.catharinenicholson.com. He has two children, a son and a daughter. For the past twenty-five years he has lived in the countryside on the border between Wiltshire and Dorset.
He has written three novels: 'The Fattest Man In America' (2005), 'The Elephant Keeper' (2009) and 'Winter' (2014).

Photographs and Biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads Author Profile     Amazon Author Page   Author Official Website

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Favourite Christmas Books







The above four titles have been favourites in our family since the children were tiny. They are still enjoyed every year to pick up and browse.

Wishing all my readers and followers Seasonal Greetings and hope for a Peaceful and Prosperous 2017.  I will be taking a blogging break now until after Twelfth Night.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Spilt Milk by Amanda Hodgkinson

                                                             
 
Paperback: 291 pages                                                                                                 
Genre:Historical Fiction
Publisher: Penguin 2014
Source: Advance Reading Copy
First Sentence: They were a mend-and-make do kind of familyand you had to love them for it.
Review Quote: Hogkinson's second novel is simply but elegantly written, its subtle charms emerging as her gentle, bittersweet story shows history repeating itself over the generations (Sunday Times)
Favourite Quote: "The child was born in the dry, corn-cracked summer when the air was thick with heat. A boy with dark hair and a docile way about him. He barely cried and lay in her arms peacefully, as if he had always been held by her. Birdie was sure the midwife must have known this was not her first child but nothing was said and she was grateful to the woman for her tactful silence."
My Opinion: I throughly enjoyed this novel, the first I have read by this author but hopefully it will not be the last, as I will look out for her debut and any future published works.  As the story unfolds the secrets that the sisters share, slowly unravel in a moving tale of a family that faces adversity more than once. Recommended to those that enjoy a family saga.



Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

The eagerly anticipated new historical novel from the author of 22 Britannia Road: a novel about sisterhood, motherhood, and secrets that cannot be laid to rest.

1913. Unmarried sisters Nellie and Vivian Marsh live an impoverished existence in a tiny cottage on the banks of the Little River in Suffolk. Their life is quiet and predictable, until a sudden flood throws up a strange fish on their doorstep and a travelling man who will change them forever.


1939. Eighteen year old Birdie Farr is working as a barmaid in the family pub in London. When she realises she is pregnant she turns to her mother Nellie, who asks her sister to arrange an adoption for Birdie's newborn daughter. But as the years pass Birdie discovers she cannot escape the Marsh sisters' shadowy past - and her own troubling obsession with finding her lost daughter will have deep consequences for all of them.


Author Profile

Born on October 25th but no record of the year, Amanda Hodgkinson is an award-winning British novelist and journalist who grew up in a small Essex fishing village before moving to Suffolk, and attending the University of East Anglia.  Her debut novel 22 Britannia Road was an international bestseller, an Amazon.com book of the year 2011, a Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee and was published in over sixteen languages. Spilt Milk is her critically acclaimed second novel published in 2014. (Spilt Milk is a refracted version of real life, that impossible mess we inherit and muddle through, yet transmuted here into something shining and meaningful, told in beautiful prose. THE FINANCIAL TIMES.)

Amanda loves to travel, cook, garden and swim (but not all at the same time). She currently lives in SW France in an old stone farmhouse high on a hill, with her husband and two daughters.


Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads Author Profile    Facebook Profile   Amanda Hodgkinson on Twitter 

 Amazon Author Profile Page