Tag Archives: Scottish highlands

#Bookreview ’Summerwater’ by Sarah Moss #literary #contemporary

Twenty-four hours in the Scottish countryside, twelve people are staying in holiday cabins beside an isolated loch. Summerwater by Sarah Moss starts off with strangers concerned with the minutiae of their own lives and ends with a tragedy. Sarah Moss

This is beautifully written with sly humour coupled with sensory description of the place which puts you right there. The pace is slow and contemplative, taking time to plait together the observations by characters and the actual names, so carefully building together a picture of a temporary community. At first, they make assumptions and generalisations about each other. A retired couple sit and look out at the rain, reminiscing about the previous years they spent in this cabin. A young mother runs in all weathers and at all times of day, leaving her husband to look after the children. A teenager escapes the boredom of his bedroom by kayaking around the loch. The Romanian family, who party all night and don’t know how to behave, are the only ones seeming to have fun on holiday. They are also the only ones whose viewpoint we don’t hear, setting them apart from the rest. While at night a shadow stands in the woods, watching.

I never did get the identity of some characters straight in my head and the building of tension – the shadow in the woods – didn’t convince me. I didn’t feel it was necessary as I quickly became fascinated by the setting and the gradual interaction of characters. The constant rain acts as a claustrophobia device keeping everyone inside, feeling trapped, looking out and watching others, making judgements.

Summerwater is also darkly funny. Don’t miss the chuckle-out-loud scene when Milly and Josh are having sex but she’s thinking about a cup of tea and a bacon butty. The chapters about people are alternated with short sections about the natural world – a deer and fawn, the geology of the rocks, the origin of water flowing into the loch, bats, birds waiting for the rain to stop. These briefly pause the story – most are two paragraphs long – but add to the sense of place.

Most definitely not a page-turner in the thriller sense, Summerwater ends abruptly. It is however thick with atmosphere. The rain, the wet vegetation, the finger-chilling cold, the sense of the holiday park, the loch and earth being much older than the visitors. It is a book about a day in which not a lot happens, showing how small things become big when you are bored, and how we are all inter-connected.

Here’s my review of Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss.

If you like this, try:-
Akin’ by Emma Donoghue
These Dividing Walls’ by Fran Cooper
Anderby Wold’ by Winifred Holtby

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
SUMMERWATER by Sarah Moss #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4SD via @SandraDanby

#Bookreview ‘The Moon Sister’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley #romance

Fifth in the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley, The Moon Sister is the story of Tiggy, wildlife conservationist and warm-hearted introvert. Each of the D’Apliese sisters is different with diverse skills, interests and hugely varying birth stories. Tiggy’s story alternates between a Highland estate where she is managing the rewilding of Scottish wildcats, and the flamenco world in Spain during the 1930s. Lucinda Riley

The Kinnaird Estate is a beautiful, isolated, wild place. The four wild cats move into their custom-built enclosure and Tiggy moves into a shared estate cottage with fellow worker Cal. Riley builds the Kinnaird community quickly and skilfully from new Laird Charlie to housekeeper Beryl and old retainer Chilly. It is Chilly – speaking in a muddled mixture of English, Spanish and Romani – who introduces the first hints of premonition, seeing and herbal remedies. He tells Tiggy she has healing hands. Caught up in the twists and turns of the Kinnaird family, the frictions in Charlie and Ulrika’s marriage and their tempestuous daughter Zara, Tiggy grieves for Pa Salt and is curious about her own birth family. In his farewell letter, Pa Salt tells her she comes from a gifted line of seers. She must go to Granada in Spain, to the gypsy area called Sacromonte, where she must knock on a blue door and ask for Angelina. Tiggy delays, unsure of the truth, attracted to Charlie. But when she is injured in a poaching incident on the estate, Tiggy feels upset, confused and wronged. She flies to Granada. This is a quick reminder that Tiggy, who lives the most normal, ordinary life of the sisters so far, is far from a normal girl and when times get tough, the D’Apliese wealth is ever-present.

The second storyline is that of Lucia, Tiggy’s grandmother, who rises from a tiny girl living in deepest poverty in Sacromonte to a world-famous flamenco dancer. Though Tiggy’s character and situation is appealing, I found Lucia a more difficult character. By nature energetic and stubborn, Lucia turns into a selfish, spoiled woman who rides roughshod over others. Exploited by her feckless father who keeps control of her money and career, Lucia’s few moments of caring for others were not enough for me to warm to her. But the world in which she lives, the Sacromonte community, the gypsy brujas, and the violence and depravities of the Spanish Civil War were fascinating to read. As with the stories of the other sisters, Riley concentrates most of the birth family story on a generation further back than the birth parents and there were times when I longed for less flamenco and more bruja. I also wanted to know Chilly’s story and how he came to work on a Scottish estate.

There are more teasers in this book about the truth of Pa Salt’s identity and death, but nothing concrete. There is also the reappearance of Zed Eszu, who can only be described as a sleazy millionaire cad, who first appeared in Maia’s story. What lies behind his fascination with the six D’Apliese sisters. And is Pa Salt really dead?

Next in the series is The Sun Sister, the story of Electra.
Read my reviews of the first four novels in the series:-
The Seven Sisters
The Storm Sister
The Shadow Sister
The Pearl Sister
… plus these standalone novels by Lucinda Riley:-
The Love Letter
The Girl on the Cliff
The Butterfly Room 

If you like this, try:-
The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden
The Penny Heart’ by Martine Bailey
Rush-Oh!’ by Shirley Barrett

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE MOON SISTER by @lucindariley #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-46t via @SandraDanby