I instantly empathised with Tess. I felt as though she had been let down big time at work and I couldn’t see an easy way out of it for her. If I were Tess, I would feel inordinately unhappy (understatement of the week) with work!
I admired the way that Tess managed to wangle a summer-long sabbatical from work after her disappointment, framing it in such a way as to make it sound favourable to her organisation. I genuinely felt that it would be beneficial to her personal life, at any rate, joining her teacher Husband in a nice long break.
River, on the other side of the Atlantic is also having work issues; the film industry is not a easy one, as she is finding out. As a struggling screenwriter, can she make a success of bringing a Shakespeare project over to England for inspiration? I felt sorry for River, as it felt to me that her problems with work were not through want of trying or lack of effort; the film industry is just notoriously difficult to succeed in.
Both women have proposed ‘left of field’ ideas and have been pleasantly surprised to have them accepted. I did find myself wondering whether or not the two women’s paths would cross at all, in that they worked in such different fields.
I felt for Tess, in that her Husband seemed very much entrenched in his set way of life, completely closed to new ideas! She may have her work cut out, persuading him to go travelling for the whole summer! I felt really sad at Tess’s comparison of her marriage, to watching a video of someone laboriously trying to create a spark, from rubbing 2 sticks together! I did however have a bit of a ‘snort out loud’ moment, when Tess replaces the words of the famous Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem read out at their wedding, asking ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways’, with ‘How do you annoy me? Let me count the ways.’ A play on a classic quote that must surely resound with many married couples!
I truly empathised with Tess – the way the author describes her sadness and regret at not having spent more time with her children during summers past, when they were still at school. This topic was described in such a real way, I could not but help but wonder if these were the author’s own thoughts. What I do know for certain, was that this very much resounded with me as a version of my own truth.
The author’s last depictions of Bella were simultaneously heart wrenching and beautifully written, such was the raw emotion. One couldn’t help but be moved by this superlative yet sympathetic writing. Again I detected the inspiration of personal experience of the author, such was the raw, but realistic tone of the very clever writing.
At first Tess’s family seemed the perfect family, but as the story developed, it seemed to be becoming a myriad of secrets. In fact it was easier to think about who didn’t have a secret. All of this did nothing for me, but add to the enticing air of mystery surrounding the book.
Serendipity conspires to leave Dave recovering from a fall at home in the summer house, while Tess and Ruby ostensibly house swap. This leads the story open to a wealth of fun on both sides of the Atlantic, and perhaps the revelation of a few home truths as I couldn’t help but feel that the individual members of Tess’s family, Tess included, needed to open up to each other. I’m not accusing them of lying, but as much of not being honest with themselves, let alone each other. Just how the two women get on, ostensibly living each other’s lives – I am going to leave for you to discover.
As a whole, this book was a wonderful story about friends and family and those bonds that hold us together, but there was a vital, yet barely detectable dark streak running unnoticed throughout most of the story, that could have ended in two ways. This was a story of self discovery and of knowing and understanding the importance of your role in life and the production that is your family; about knowing yourself and being prepared to talk; about being open to making things better.
The first few chapters of this book laid a cracking (in the metaphoric sense, rather than the literal) foundation for a really fantastic read, especially for the summer, tapering into an occasionally harrowing tome, with the potential for tragedy, but I do not want to reveal any more detail, for fear of spoiling what will be an unbeatable literary experience, for you.
When you invariably chose this as your next read, simply use this link to buy your own copy: https://amzn.to/34hthhb
The story of Ruby and Kim, who work together in Kim’s florist shop. What a refreshing change, to have a book based in Sheffield. I took an immediate liking to both of these strong female characters straight away; I loved the honest way that they were portrayed. Ruby is eager to please and desperate to have a baby – by any means. Kim on the other hand still desperately misses her ‘late’Husband – but there is an element of mystery in the letters she has been receiving from ‘him’.
Ruby meets the grumpy Curtis on a train to London, they end up spending the day together and as the day progresses, so Curtis’ grumpiness thaws. Whilst Ruby is in London, Kim makes a shocking, but endearingly romantic discovery about their regular customer, Adrian. The pair of them seem destined to be close.
Ruby on the other hand is desperately showing Curtis how to have fun, while he is ostensibly trying to find her a partner, through the conduit of giving her a part time job. What could possibly go wrong!
This is a book full of mystery, of laughs and of love. Ruby has a history of poor choices in men; after all – who on earth pees in someone’s kettle! Kim is hiding a secret. Together, the pair have a wonderful friendship and love working together. If I had to choose be word to describe Ruby, it would be ‘joyous’. She takes great delight in taking Curtis on cheap/free days out and always lives life to the max. She is the kind of person who would make the ideal best friend. She is completely selfless, for example encouraging Curtis to date other women, when it is obvious to anyone else that her and Curtis are very keen on each other. Saying that however, she really deserves some love in her life. It was my sincere hope that The gorgeous Curtis would provide this love. Kim is equally unlucky in love and it was easy to see how the Husband ‘confusion’ came about. I adored Kim’s relationship with Boomer the rescue dog – and it was heart-warming that she gave an animal with no hope, a new home and future. I did fear for her on the ‘Husband’ front however!
In all I thoroughly enjoyed this heartwarming tale of friendship, love and overcoming past demons and I would recommend it as your next summer read.
Kate ends up ‘between homes’, staying at her Brother’s place and decorating it; she was thinking of setting her own business as a decorator. Life seems pretty grim for her. She needs to find a house to live in, and everyone else seems to be away on holiday.
The arrival of Harry the bookseller seemed like manna from heaven – although Kate’s first interaction with him doesn’t go that well! Indeed Willowbury doesn’t seem short of eligible men, with coffee shop Jack available too!
The inter-sibling teasing was portrayed very realistically Corey also came across very well, as did Kate’s in laws. The night the baby was born was terrible and seemed all too real; fantastic writing.
When we discovered that the third house in the terrace alongside the Brothers was empty, I was desperate for Kate to move in and stay in the same town as her Brothers, and to keep on seeing Henry. That would make the perfect outcome for me.
Olivia is an Irish Woman living and working in London – a long way from her home seaside village. This seemed a poignant fact, when Olivia passes a cherry tree on her way to work and she mentions that it is the the only organic thing she sees on her commute to work! The descriptions of Sandycove were delightful; most appealing, and it was not a surprise for me, as a reader, that Olivia seemed to yearning after her birthplace. I loved the depiction of Sandycove as ‘a long curving line of shops, pubs and cafés’. What more could one want! Serendipitously (you could argue), Olivia ended up going ‘home’ for a month to help out her Mother. Early on, I felt curiously drawn to Olivia, and I also found I had a bit of a soft spot for her friend Roberto, such was the way that he was portrayed.
As Olivia flew into Dublin, I absolutely loved the idea of the piers of Dún Laoghaire ‘hugging’ the boats in the bay. Such understated, yet powerful imagery. As I previously commented, the village of Sandycove sounded lovely; it was described in such a way that it conjured up the most beautiful images in my mind and I felt compelled to google it, to see if it actually exists; I hadn’t even appreciated that Dublin (Sandycove is a suburb of Dublin) was anywhere near the seaside! I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Sandycove does indeed exist, and is a popular seaside resort. I can only comment that the author was nothing but accurate in her representation of this clearly popular retreat and I felt compelled to add it to my mental ‘to be visited’ list.
On arrival at her family home, the author described Olivia’s family home and I felt an immediate empathy for Olivia’s Mother, owing to the fact that there was a monkey puzzle tree in the front garden. I felt genuine monkey puzzle envy, owing to the fact that I love the look of these trees, even if it was actually described as a ‘crazy little tree’. Indeed I have been growing one in my garden (or trying to) for several years, and it seems to grow at a rate of considerably less than 1cm per year! Anyway, enough of my arboreal issues, and back to the book! I do find that empathising with the personalities in a novel correlates directly with your enjoyment of the book in its entirety, owing to the fact that you have a vested interest in the outcome of those characters. I felt confident at this point, so early on in the book, that my affinity to these main characters, augured well for the rest of the story.
Henry, Nell’s(Olivia’s Mother) partner simply exudes charm and sophistication, with a big helping of attentiveness, from the moment he appears in the book, to the extent that I can forgive the prickly handlebar moustache! It doesn’t take a lot to see why Nell appears to be fairly smitten with him! What’s not to like (apart from the prickly appendage)!🥸 When Nell said of Henry, ‘He’s brought a great deal of happiness into my life,’ I sensed such tangible joy, owing, I’m sure, to the intelligence and generosity of the author’s prose.
We initially get hints at first from Nell, about Olivia’s failed business making soaps and the like. It sounds like the kind of business that could thrive, especially in a touristy town, but something clearly went wrong. What is certain, however is that Olivia clearly doesn’t like talking about that time in her life; she immediately clams up when Nell brings the subject up, albeit briefly. Olivia is not alone in the ‘sore subject’ stakes, as Nell almost visibly recoils, when Olivia asks about the identity of her Father. One can’t help but wonder about the mystery shrouding the identity of Olivia’s Father, but that little touch of intrigue merely serves to enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the book as a whole – in my case at any rate!
Bronagh is Olivia’s long time friend. She seems to be almost bursting with ‘joi de vivre’ and as such, comes across as infinitely likeable. I loved the fact that the two women get together having not seen each other for some tiMe, and their friendship has defied time – they are as happy together and familiar with each other as if they had only seen each other yesterday. Their enviable friendship is a veritable tonic to the reader.
The more we see of Olivia, the more we learn about her life and her past. It seems such a shame that her skincare range didn’t turn out well, as the products sounded amazing. Olivia has been unlucky in love recently, but she comes across as such a genuinely ‘nice’ person, one can but hope that situation maybe resolved, but in sleepy Sandycove? I do have a theory about Sandycove. It is narrated in such a way, that one cannot help but be drawn into its inner workings and every day goings on. Similarly I suspect that a character such as Olivia will get inexorably drawn into village life, the longer she spends there away from her bustling norm, to the extent that there will come a time when she cannot bear to leave this new way of life. I loved the phrase about the tentacles of village life pulling Olivia in – this was exactly how her position came across to me, the reader. To be honest, seeing as how she hated her city job, I don’t think that being captured by the tentacles of village life would necessarily be a bad thing for Olivia long term. I did hold out great hopes for Olivia and Will, the village GP – such a catch – and then his ruddy ex wife turned up. I could but hope, as I reached the denouement!
I want a Jessica. I’m just putting it out there…….I did however worry that there was some thing dark going. With her partner – an element of mystery for the story.
Jessica works for Nell in her shop and she comes across as an amazing chameleon type character, who is instantly able to change her mannerisms to suit the ‘needs’ of each individual customer. She comes across as completely organised in her own life, and happy to help others; I need a Jessica in my life!
Fate finds Olivia charged with organising the Midsummer Festival for the village, with just three weeks notice and it is a testimony to her that she seizes the task at hand and throws her all into it.
There is a wonderful sense of community in Sandycove, an example being when James the delicatessen needs to be at home with his dog, and the whole village rallies around to keep the shop open. Such wonderful camaraderie, all to rare nowadays.
The tagline for the book suggest that you need to learn to love yourself first before you can truly love another. I felt that the book owned the statement. This was a wonderful story, built around that line and I find it difficult to come up with the words justified by such a fabulous read. Please read it for yourself, to fully understand what I mean: https://amzn.to/3nQWuJ0.
I really could not praise this book enough, and I struggled to put it down; it was bright star in a stellar library of books, shining out stronger and brighter than all the other novels. I think what may just quell my sadness at coming to the end of this book, would be a sequel, defining the next chapter in Olivia’s life.
Before I even started reading this book, I was really taken with the concept of examining the lives of different people along the route of the Dublin tram. It felt like an admonishing reminder to us all, that we have developed into a people that often live our life by rote, with little thought about what we are doing and even less thought for those around us.
I tried to feel sympathetic for Laura at stop 1, although it seemed to me as though she was in a classic no-win situation that was destined to end in tears – her tears. It is of course all too easy to make that assumption from outside of the relationship. Ultimately I think I did feel for Laura, perhaps more sadness at her naivety, than anything else; I also felt sad at the ‘chip’ that she seemed to have on her shoulder with regard to relationships and feeling loved/unloved, going back to childhood. It felt as though Laura would be a psychologist’s dream client!
It fairly soon became apparent that rather than each chapter being a self contained story about a person who got on at that tram stop, the people at the various stops would all have some kind of connection – a kind of cross pollination. I really liked this idea and felt it was the portent of some very intelligent writing and the way that the reader got to see different aspects of the same story from an alternative angle, was very clever and made the book infinitely appealing and readable.
Suzanne’s story, for stop 2, gives, as I suggested, a whole new perspective on the story from stop 1. The way that Suzanne is portrayed makes her instantly likeable in my eyes; a loyal, family oriented woman – which in Itself presents its own issues. I felt nothing but empathy for Suzanne’s dilemma, such was the way it was depicted in her story. The story behind ‘stop 2’ gave me the first hint of the author’s sense of fun, and the humorous streak in this book, with the depiction of a writer giving a reading of her morose cat themed poem, about a long succession of dead pet felines.
Stop 3 brought to the fore the emotive topic of ghosting, which, whilst creating a great storyline, made me just very aware of how real and distressing an issue this has become for some people, with the advent of more technology. This chapter also made me think about unplanned pregnancies and the potential backlash surrounding abortion law in Ireland.
In stop 4, I felt that Nathan behaved true to form; Fauve and her flat mates had been right about him in the third chapter of this book. I felt so sad that Orla knew that her friends disliked Nathan, yet even sadder that Orla seemed to know that her friends were right about him, yet almost didn’t want to admit to herself what a nasty, selfish character he was. The way he behaved over the pregnancy test was quite frankly patronising and demeaning; the way he spoke to her……. The way her character was portrayed was sad – It felt as though she was desperately hanging onto the relationship just because it was a relationship. I wondered when she had last been single. In my eyes, Nathan went beyond redemption, when he basically raped Orla, after the altercation over the pregnancy test. The way Nathan was characterised felt like an example of the author’s very powerful writing, however despicable the character was; and I am in danger of running out of appropriate pronouns to describe him!
I immediately warmed to Donna and Mick, at stop 5, in that she seemed like a thoroughly decent person, having been prepared to intervene, along with her Husband, in the row between Orla and Nathan the previous night. Too many people would have chosen to just ignore them. Donna and Mick’s story involved going to see a solicitor and hearing the most heartbreaking story. The real tragedy however, is the fact that the story they hear is reminiscent of the kinds of real life stories suffered by many people at the joint hands of their families and the church, in a certain era.
My first impression with Maroon’s story, in stop 6 was that Maroon was a beautiful name; a word that I had not heard used as a name before. I had the utmost empathy for Marooon and I though that the ‘special’ relationship between her and Graeme could work well. The author also managed to capture my empathy for Graeme too – clearly trying to be his best possible self. Their story was a short excerpt, but none the less captivating for the reader.
Stop 7 introduces the reader to Graeme’s Brother Carl and his partner. As a reader, I was instantly drawn to Carl and his relationship with his autistic Brother. I immediately identified their relationship as a thing of beauty; the fact that Carl would do anything for his little Brother, was just so fascinating and I felt the utmost respect for the the author, in her portrayal of what could be quite a tricky alliance. Humour abounded again in this chapter, with Graeme’s interactions with his niece and nephews, and with his confession to his family; he was just so oblivious to the fact that his news could cause some alarm within his family! Full respect to Graeme’s Mother’s reaction to the news and the disastrous family lunch – I loved the fact that she just cracked up laughing! Regardless of Carl’s reaction to Graeme’s shocking news, he was portrayed as Intensely protective of his younger a brother and I had nothing but respect for this part of his character. Carl’s interaction with his old school friend kind of had me lost for words, but full kudos to the author for coming up with such a fun, original twist to his story! One couldn’t help but wish him well though, especially when he ultimately behaved in the manner that he did.
The eighth stop on the route told Liz, Gerry and Jean’s tale. In my opinion, women everywhere will empathise with Liz’s joy at the thought of enjoying a shopping and lunch trip in town, with a girlfriend. As for Gerry’s part in this story, I found the narrative of his behaviour utterly heartbreaking; beautifully written, but heartbreaking and hateful. If I were Jean, I would not stay with him and I would never forgive him. I understand that he would have been grieving in his own way, but that in no way detracts from his demeanour. What a wonderfully written, yet devastatingly sad story.
Stop 9 eloquently chronicles Jamie’s issues with his sexuality and the trouble he has with his non working partner. The way his situation at home was described, I couldn’t help but feel for him. He came across as a very pleasant young man and I thought he could do without the grief that seemed to mar his home life. His partner, on the other hand didn’t come across as at all likeable, although as throughout the book, their story was told in a most eloquent manner, although the end of this story came as a bit of a shock for both the reader and both parties concerned!
The tenth chapter of the book, told the story of Phillips, who shared a house with Jamie and his boyfriend from stop 9, and her Sister Nicky. This is a continuation from Jamie’s story really, as Phillips tells her friend what had happened in the house the night before. The previous night’s events were described in such a realistic way, that I genuinely felt for Jamie. Phillips also came across as such a kind and empathetic character, that one couldn’t help but warm to her kind soul. Nicky has her own issues, and I felt completely drawn into her dilemma, which was so original in its subject matter. But oh my – the conclusion of this chapter was a total out of the blue shock; terrifying! <mental note of relief to self that I’m not home alone tonight>!
Stop 11 told the story of Michael, Philipa’s partner, and Melissa. I just hope my nerves can remain intact for this chapter, after the shocking contents of the last story! This story was as shocking in content as the last chapter – the threads connecting it to Philipa’s story were equally terrifying and beautiful in content. Melissa’s story was positively heartbreaking. I couldn’t help but wonder, how Michael’s promises to Melissa would ultimately affect the lovely Philipa. The author really outshone herself with this chapter and the last – the stories were like shining beacons in a sea of already outstanding content.
By the time I got to chapter 12, I was torn between the excitement of discovering Barry and Beck’s story, and their connection to the previous chapters, and sadness at having nearly finished the book. I felt ridiculous – that genuine feeling of sadness! I was torn about how I felt about this chapter. It was beautifully written, yet emotive on all fronts. I was torn between being desperate to read it and shying away from the sadness within. I felt further emotion at reading about Becks’ childhood. I felt very emotional by the end.
Stop 13 sees us going full circle back to Laura from stop 1, who is seems has been having a fling with Barry form the previous chapter. Again I don’t feel a huge amount of sympathy for Laura and her ways, due to her propensity for hanging around with already ‘attached’ men. If anything I felt pity for her.
I just loved the way each chapter or stop weaved a new tale, yet each story was still connected, almost like a relay race. If I was asked to make a picture to visualise this book, I would draw a large, but simple Venn diagram, with an ellipse to depict each stop, showing the little intersections between each story.
It felt like such clever, intelligent writing to me. I empathised with many of the characters, to the extent that I felt I was being asked to share their pain and their experience. As a woman I felt so much compassion for each and every woman that was wronged, such was the passion and intensity of the writing. So many of the issues within the book were common issues, experienced by women meverywhere, regardless of creed, but this in no way diluted the power of the writing. The book was beautifully composed, with echoes of Mauve Binchy’s writing, and the different stories for each tram ‘stop’, although separate, flowed as one.
As I finished this overwhelmingly good book, I felt the words ‘Please move down the tram’ echoing through my mind; did anyone know what it really meant?
I had to sympathise with Ruby Locke, ostracised by the media and then the public, through no fault of her own. I really felt for the character – she was so likeable and obviously innocent. As for her ex fiancé Tyler – what a douchebag – condemning her rather than sticking up for her. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be behind Ruby’s social media hacking in the first place, such were the bad vibes I got from him. Philippe and his family were godsends and I loved the descriptions of the family time Ruby spent at their abode, while she was hiding out with them. They came across as so genuinely caring, one couldn’t help but like them.
Once in Sicily, Ruby talks about soaking up the local sights, sounds and smells and I felt as though the author also afforded me that luxury vicariously, through her descriptions. There was also humour in the book, for example when Ruby mistakes the Scottish owner fo the villa for an Italian builder. This made me laugh out loud and I didn’t see it coming!
My curiously was aroused by Ruby’s Sicilian neighbour, Clark. He seemed a nice chap, if not a little too good to be true, but Nero the dog always growled at him – and this made me suspicious of him, in that animals are often a better judge of people than anyone. I really hoped that I was wrong about him! Mitch on the other hand, the owner of Ruby’s hideout, continued to grow on me and seemed like a thoroughly decent if not occasionally grumpy gentleman. I held out great hopes for the two of them!
The turn of events takes Ruby and Mitch to The island of Skye, the descriptions of which rivalled Sicily, for sure. I started to feel unsure of Ruby’s agent, Valerie and just hoped that she wouldn’t be implicated in the hacking. It did seem a bit odd though, that she had sent Shelby, her assistant, to stay with Ruby. Meanwhile, the more the story continued, the more Mitch grew on me. He seemed such a ‘nice’ chap and someone I thought I would trust myself. I loved the author’s portrayal of him.
The villagers on Mitch’s home island were all amazing and I especially loved the portrayal of young Evin. They made me want to up sticks and live there.
I enjoyed this book thoroughly but thought it served as a stark reminder to us all about the dangers of social media and cyber bullying and not believing everything you read online. Indeed, are we, as a society, fuelling press bad behaviour, through the simple act of reading the tabloid stories that constantly seem to be pushing the boundaries of acceptability?
To summarise – an absolutely fabulous book, set in amazing locations – practically guaranteed to have you enthralled.
Before the end of the first page of this book, as a fellow Mother, I had huge amounts of empathy for Annie. We all resort to blackmailing our children in some way at some point and Annie’s diary is welcomingly refreshing.
I was conscious, very quickly of how Annie’s issues with her Husband are all too real for some people and I think the author will have hit a nerve with some folk, although myself, I found it comforting to think that everyone else’s life isn’t perfect. I felt that this book sent out a very strong ‘you are not on your own’ message.
There certainly is humour in this book, a prime example being when Isabelle, Annie’s Daughter, makes a bit of a faux pas at the school parents evening. I’ll leave you to read it for yourself, but this incident, among others, did make me laugh out loud. Please don’t read it while you have a hot drink in your hand! Another hilarious moment occurs when Annie’s friend Megan is trying to describe how Annie and Matthew should reduce their mutual tension! I also found it most amusing, when Annie and Matthew aren’t talking and indeed haven’t been doing so for two weeks, and Annie confesses to her diary that she’s actually enjoying the peace and quiet and not having to listen to Matthew moaning!
The way Annie is portrayed is so close to real life. For example, when she’s planning to start a diet, to lose weight and go on holiday – but orders a takeaway and opens a bottle of wine the night before. Another example is the Ninja style rummaging in the kitchen cupboards for treats in the night, once on the diet.
I loved the author’s description of the ‘Mummy Mafia’ – this rang so true for me in so many ways and I’m sure it is one of the things that will help many women to identify with Annie and with this novel as a whole. Annie’s phantom pregnancy was portrayed in such an empathetic manner that I couldn’t help but feel for Annie, but the writing was such that I didn’t know what to feel for her when – sadness at what never was, or joy at the fact that she was not imminently going to be the Mother of three very young children, when she was already struggling with two children and a Husband!.
It felt to me as though the book veered from comedic to something a littler darker at this point. I felt very real pain for Annie, when, having had enough of Matthew’s ways, she seeks refuge at her Parents house. My compassion for the way this was portrayed was such that I totally understood Annie’s reasoning for doing what she did, whilst part of me couldn’t help but think about those women affected by these kinds of issues in real life. I was acutely aware that not all women have the familial bosom to turn to in such times of crisis and I felt genuinely humbled by this book and the stories within it.
I have no experience of counselling, but just trust that it’s not like it’s portrayed in this book. I thought Annie was right, in comparing it to torture and it seemed to be making matters worse! One can just hope that this situation improves over time!
Such clever writing, much more intense than antecedent thoughts; like a luxury truffle, dark around the edges, yet once you bite into it, just funny enough; simultaneously oozing with empathy, over situations that surely all parents can relate to, whilst allowing non parents to sympathise and understand too. A book that becomes deeper and more meaningful, so much more so than a simple comedy, the further you delve into it. Returning to the chocolate analogy – a more luxurious, rich, classy affair than I initially realised.
Imagine my double joy – a new novel by Joy Skye and a return of the sublime Peter Williams of Sublime Retreats – surely guaranteed to make anyone’s holiday a lesson in perfection.
The celebrated Leonard Lupine, certainly sounded in need of a holiday, although my initial introduction to him didn’t paint him in a particularly appealing light – although I think he could be forgiven that, in that it sounded as though he was being plagued by paparazzi.
Things appear in reality not to be as portrayed in the media, as it seems that Leo is deliberately carrying his miserable, grumpy on screen persona into he real life. Ironically this facade seems to have been enough to make him genuinely miserable! In all, the author portrays Leonard and his woes in a very clever manner, such that the reader fairly immediately sympathises with him. In all it seems a fairly sad existence, especially since his divorce, inevitably played out in full to the media and the world’s stage. I felt as though he fully deserved the freebie holiday in Croatia being offered to him, in exchange for a few publicity photos.
Isabella, the concierge of the exclusive villa where Leonard was going to stay with his Sons, also came across as a likeable character, a dedicated single Mother, albeit one devoted to her job too, despite the difficulties sometimes presented by the more trying guest.
The descriptions of Brac were amazing and I found myself longing to be there. I was shocked at the power of the paparazzi in the story, in that their subterfuge is so real for so many undeserving people; this intrusion felt as though it was portrayed very accurately in the book.
The chemistry between Isabella and Leonard was incredibly hot and I found myself desperate for them to overcome the odds and get together. In all, a thoroughly good read, although I was a tiny bit disappointed that Peter Williams had no more than a cameo mention!
It was with great anticipation that I started this book, as I have always loved the Ali Macnamara books I have read, and so I had great expectations for a fantastic, warm read that I would struggle to put down. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
Ava is having trouble sleeping but we don’t yet know what is behind her trauma. Needless to say, her nightmare is described in an incredibly realistic way; I’m not surprised she has trouble at night! This all leads to Ava making the decision to move to Bluebell Cottage, which sounds utterly idyllic and is very remote. Not much is given away early on, as to what kind of trauma has befallen Ava, but I like that sense of building up the mystery and intrigue. One thing that is clear from the beginning, is that Ava has come away to forget something. What I found very sweet was that Merlin, Ava’s rescue dog is going through a similar healing process to Ava. He ended up in a rescue centre, after bring in a car crash that killed each other. I thought it was very clever writing, the way that Ava and Merlin’s lives are kind of reflective of each other; they are both healing from some kind of trauma and they both seem to be starting some kind of new life; a kind of mutual parallel rebirth. Neither of them seemed keen to encounter any strangers – which made me overwhelmingly sad, having almost immediately bonded with the pair; the author made me genuinely care about their ultimate outcome, desperate for a ‘Happy Ever After’ for them.
The author really does a great job of layering up the intrigue with regard to what has happened in Ava’s past. Incidents like her reaction upon discovering Callum, the plumber repairing her sink, merely serve to feed the reader’s curiosity, although clearly whatever happened to Ava in the past, wasn’t pleasant. The writing was such that one was left in no doubt as to the severity of what had happened, which is a pretty impressive considering the very few clues to the incident that the reader was given. I found that I had the utmost empathy for Ava and I was glad that she had Merlin the dog for protection and company. I wondered if I saw a bit if a spark if sexual chemistry between Ava and Callum, after he mended her sink; I do so hope I was right! Another thing I loved about the book, is Ava’s joy at being able to offer Merlin a new, safe life. Her love of animals shines through. As for Callum the plumber’s secret – I certainly didn’t see that coming! I do love a genuine surprise like that!
Amongst the things I liked about this book was the imagery surrounding the wild birds in Ava’s garden. I may be seeing more into the birds then the author intended, but if that is the case, so be it. It felt to me as though the wild birds in the garden were a metaphor of Ava’s life. When she first moved in, no birds came to her bird table; Ava struggled and researched, in order to get the birds to come. It seemed that as the birds’ confidence grew and more birds came into the garden to savour the tests on offer, this confidence was reflected in parallel in Ava’s own life. I loved the way that the trees in the woods were personified and portrayed as absorbing Ava’s anxiety. What a wonderful way to deal with one’s woes! Ava’s confidence of her place within the village community seemed to blossom and grow, the longer she was around and got to know people, to the extent that she even volunteered to join the village quiz team – even if this did leave her wreaked with anxiety from the time she volunteered, until the actual quiz night.
The arrival of Lonan was a book highlight for me; astute writing at its best. It is little things like this that really lift a book above what might be expected, for me. I loved the fact that Lonan (meaning blackbird), coincided with an incident in the garden, where Merlin and Ava rescued a blackbird from the hands (or more appropriately, paws) of a local cat.
The way that Callum’s compassion towards Ava is shown is truly touching, although it’s not clear at first whether this is compassion that comes with his job, or whether he is keen on her – or a combination of the two? Regardless he seems be both cognisant of and empathetic towards Ava and her issues within a social climate.
Jemima, I found a little irritating on a couple of fronts. Firstly she seemed quite keen to get her talons into the lovely Callum, when to me he just seemed the perfect match for Ava. Secondly she was one of those nosy, probing type of people – the sort who just keep on and on with their questions (in the book’s case, about Ava’s past) and just don’t know when to stop! Her one redeeming moment was, hoovering the coining of the word Bluebellian!
This book posed a lot of questions, which I liked – they really piqued my curiosity:
What had happened to Ava to make her so jumpy? Did Callum have a secret past?
Were birds really dropping ‘treasure’ on Ava’s bird table? (I did love the way these little treasures seemed to hold meaning). Robins had a constant role in the book – both the avian kind and the human kind. The birds seemed to show an intelligence beyond what you would eclecticism, and the boy Robin was simply a delight, in the way that he was portrayed.
Are they sending messages? What was going on with the development plans for the village; had there been done ‘paw greasing’? Does Colin Cuckoo have a hidden agenda? (His surname seemed oddly appropriate!)
All of these questions, and more, added to the indelible intrigue of the book for me. But the question is, will these questions all be answered in this book, or might there be a welcome sequel in the offing?
‘Enchanted’ If asked to sum up in one word how I felt about this book – the author’s writing, the story, the characters, that word would be enchanted, and the ‘Extras’ at the end of the book did nothing but cement this opinion.
I absolutely defy you to find a better way to spend an evening, than in the company of the latest book from T.A. Williams. What an utter treat.
The first page of this book had me captivated, with the description of the mineshaft that Anna, a geologist found herself in. Upon closing my eyes, I could almost imagine myself there, with her.
I initially felt sad because Anna’s work seemed to have put paid to her social life and any chance of love. I can only hope that situation will change! I loved the portrayal of Anna’s childhood neighbour, Toby and was hopeful of great things happening in this budding relationship, despite the fact that they both seemed married to their work. My romantic interest was further piqued with the arrival of Marco on the scene, in Elba. Wow, eligible young men seem a bit like buses for Anna – not a sign of one for ages and then two come along at once! My heart did sink though, upon discovering that Marco was an environmentalist – he couldn’t have been a worse match for Anna, with her career. I could just feel her disappointment.
I was thrilled at the introduction of a George, this author’s obligatory gorgeous black Labrador. This moment in this author’s books always make my heart sing, and the books just wouldn’t be the same without George or his equivalent. I look forward to meeting the black lab in each and every book. I absolutely adored the description of George taking up his position on Anna’s bed, lying on his back, with his legs in the air. I also loved the way the author described George as he ‘wagged not only his tail but his whole body’. I could just see this in my own mind – as if George was in the room with me.
Anna’s relationship with Jack was so refreshing. I loved that they had so much in common, although I felt that Jack lamenting his former mining career and travelling with work, that meant he never settled down with a significant other, was a stark reminder to Anna about the direction in which her own life was heading.
As the story evolved, so did the mystery and intrigue – how Marco had caught wind of mining prospectors in the area, what had Ruby (the boss’s Daughter, sent to work with Anna) been up to, to warrant Anna being asked to keep an eye on her, how did Marco earn his living and was he really a womaniser. This all combined with Anna being faced with two very different men, who clearly liked her. I very quickly found myself reeled in by the enigma of it all, and wondering if she could possibly have a future with either man? Myself, i could quite happily have set up home in Jack’s stable renovation; indeed the descriptive language was such that if I closed my eyes I could very easily imagine myself on Elba, with all its beautiful scenery and scents, flora and fauna. I found myself completely entranced by the secrecy of the story, the island and and it’s surroundings.
I found myself genuinely shocked and disappointed at the description of Ruby and Toby daily off out to sea together, and I had not thought of Toby as a ‘player’. Still, if the intent was to shock and surprise the reader, it was successful! At least it would hopefully help Anna make some decisions in the man department! Although fate seemed to have played a hand in that too and I felt genuine sadness as Anna said her goodbyes to Jack and George, such had my attachment to the main characters grown and such had Anna’s affection for the pair grown. I’m afraid to say that this manifested itself with real tears. I found myself desperately wanting love to blossom between Marco and Anna, but feared this would never happen after Marco discovered Anna’s occupation and the reason why she was on Elba.
The twists and turns at the end of the book had me entranced and I had not guessed any of those unpredictable twists; what an utter treat.
The beautiful descriptions of all Elba and the beaches and the ocean all had me hooked – it made me feel as though I were on holiday myself. I have loved all the TA Williams books I have read and this one was simply up there with the best of them. This author never fails to deliver an outstanding story and once again I was not disappointed.