Tag Archives: family saga

#BookReview ‘A Daughter’s Hope’ by @MargaretKaine #saga #romance

The daughter mentioned in the title of A Daughter’s Hope by Margaret Kaine is Megan Cresswell, strictly-raised, religious, sheltered, young, dowdy. Set in the post-WW2 Potteries district around Stoke-on-Trent still suffering from continued wartime poverty and hardship, Megan is free after the death of her mother to make her own way in life. But the harsh reality of being an adult and enduring a hand-to-mouth existence soon makes her realise she must she find a husband to survive. Margaret Kaine

Ever the realist, pragmatic Megan allows her friends to give her a makeover of hair, clothes and make up, before setting off to visit nearby churches on Sundays in search of a suitable husband. Along the way, Megan meets new friends and learns things about herself. As she explores the real world, she wonders why her strict father trapped her in such a narrow world and why her mother didn’t protest on her daughter’s behalf. And she begins to question whether finding a husband is her only option. As she explores beyond the geographical and social bubble in which she was raised, Megan begins to question her place in the world and to confront the puzzles of her childhood.

Romance is not my normal genre – and there is a handsome love interest who looks set to break Megan’s heart – but this book is so much more. Kaine’s portrayal of her native Potteries comes alive off the page. It is not often that a novel is set in an industrial setting; it reminded me of The House at Silvermoor by Tracy Rees which is set in a South Yorkshire coal mining village. Kaine’s description of the hand painting at the potbank, and the production methods, is a fascinating insight into pottery manufacturing in the Fifties. Kaine is a skilled portrayer of character; I particularly enjoyed Megan’s fellow workers on the potbank and the household dynamics of Celia Bevington, who becomes something of a fairy godmother.

This is the first novel by Margaret Kaine that I have read and I will seek out more.
A Daughter’s Hope was previously published as Song for a Butterfly.

If you like this, try:-
The Heat of the Day’ by Elizabeth Bowen
Pattern of Shadows’ by Judith Barrow
The House at Silvermoor’ by Tracy Rees

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#BookReview ‘Mum & Dad’ by Joanna Trollope #familysaga

I remember reading Joanna Trollope’s novels in the Eighties – The Choir, A Village Affair, A Passionate Man, The Rector’s Wife – and loving them. Somehow, I stopped reading her and I can’t remember why. These weren’t strictly her first novels, she’d previously published a number of historical novels under the pen name Caroline Harvey. So now I come to Mum & Dad. I devoured it in a couple of days, partly because it is set in a part of Spain I know very well, and partly because Trollope is a master storyteller. Joanna Trollope

When her husband Gus has a stroke, Monica’s three children descend to their parents’ vineyard in Southern Spain. Gus and Monica have lived near Ronda for twenty-five years; it is their home, but they are distanced from their children who have children of their own, busy lives and marital tensions. The eldest Sebastian runs a cleaning company with his wife, Anna, who has never got on with her mother-in-law. Katie is a lawyer who, with husband Nic, must deal with a bombshell dropped by one of their three daughters at an inconvenient time. And Jake, with partner Bella and toddler Mouse, seems to deal lightly with the truth and is oddly eager to move to Spain and help out his father.

The problem is, Monica is not sure any more what she wants. She loves her house in Spain but struggles with her irascible grumpy husband; she is terrified of what his stroke will do to his personality, and to their life. Their life there seems so settled. They run the vineyard and their house with the help of Pilar and a team of Spanish workers. Gus is proud of the awards his wines have won, and Monica loves her early morning cup of tea looking at the view south to Gibraltar. But now all this is under threat. Each of the three children arrives at the vineyard with their own ideas of what is best for Monica and Gus, and for themselves. What none of them anticipate is the way long-held resentments, jealousies and misunderstandings will affect what happens next.

Trollope is a master at showing the complexities of ordinary people, the things they don’t know about themselves, and the way families inter-act by sticking with good and bad habits ingrained by time as the normal way of communicating. When something happens, like Gus’s stroke, those habits are broken. Trollope turns a magnifying glass on petty jealousies, unrealistic expectations and lies told that are bigger than they first seem. She gets under the skin of how families react to challenges, how choices made by one member of the family affect everyone else, and where responsibilities lay.

The solution found at the end is perhaps a little too easy but this is a positive story about how lack of communication and the fissures this causes over the years, can be rectified with a little forgive and forget.

You can expect to read a lot more reviews here of Joanna Trollope’s books as I starting re-read them from the beginning.

If you like this, try:-
The Cheesemaker’s House’ by Jane Cable
The Language of Flowers’ by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Little House’ by Philippa Gregory

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
MUM & DAD by Joanna Trollope #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4Kd via @SandraDanby

Book review: Some Luck

Jane SmileyIt is 1920, the eve of Walter Langdon’s 25th birthday and he is walking the fields of his Iowa farm. The first two pages of Some Luck by Jane Smiley are a wonderful description of him watching a pair of owls nesting in a big elm tree. And so starts the first book in this trilogy about the Langdon family. Chapter-by-chapter it tells of the family’s life, their farm, the ups and downs of daily life, births and deaths, and always the land.

At first it feels as if not much is happening. Smiley is so good at the detail: of Walter farming, Rosanna doing the laundry, babies being born, growing into toddlers and then pupils walking the track to the tiny school where they are taught with their neighbours in one classroom, all ages together. Steadily the chapters, and years, march on. The eldest child Frankie goes away to college and then to war, becoming a sniper in Africa and Europe. His younger brother Joe shows no inclination to leave the farm. Lillian, ‘God’s own gift’, the beautiful daughter, meets a man and goes to Washington DC. And so more babies arrive into the Langdon’s household, and the family’s life expands from Iowa as this next generation lives in a world

I came to this book fresh after reading A Thousand Acres and eager for more. Reading Jane Smiley [below] is a little like reading a novel by Colm Tóibín. Both writers excel at the detail, building the story slowly, like layers of frost thickening on a window in winter which starts off looking cloudy and finishes as an intricate design. As a reader, I trust both authors to deliver in the end. Jane SmileyWill I be reading the next two books in the trilogy? Definitely. Some Luck is a book to be read over a quiet winter weekend, hunkered down on the sofa with an endless supply of mugs of hot chocolate. Don’t read it in short snatches, it deserves more than that and it will get beneath your skin.

To read my review of A Thousand Acres, click here.
For Jane Smiley’s own ‘Top 100 novels’ list, click here.
To read an excerpt from Some Luck, click here.

If you like this, try:-
‘Life Class’ by Pat Barker
‘Rush Oh!’ by Shirley Barrett
‘The Museum of You’ by Carys Bray

‘Some Luck’ by Jane Smiley [UK: Mantle] Buy now

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