Tag Archives: women’s fiction

#BookReview ‘The Last Hours in Paris’ by Ruth Druart #WW2

The Last Hours in Paris by Ruth Druart is a different kind of Second World War romance. At times it is a tough read, the hatred is visceral and uncompromising. It feels real. Ruth DruartThis is the story of three people in the last days of occupied Paris and the years following when repercussions continued and the war, though never spoken of, remained tangled in the roots of daily life. Those who fought the Germans, those who stayed behind and lived under German dictatorship. In peacetime everyone must live alongside each other again. The different memories, experiences, losses, are difficult to assimilate.
In Paris 1944 Élise Chevalier a bank clerk by day, secretly helps to smuggle Jewish children from the city. ‘Paris was no longer Paris. It was an occupied city, and even the buildings seemed to be holding their breath, waiting.’ No longer her familiar city, Paris is sinister, threatening, frightening. One day in her favourite bookshop Élise is threatened by two French policemen and is defended by another customer, a German soldier. And so begins the story of Élise and Sébastian Kleinhaus and the terrifying, impossible time in which they live.
In 1963 in rural Brittany, eighteen-year old Joséphine Chevalier uncovers a story about her mother that she could never have imagined. She fears it is impossible to truly know someone. ‘From now on, she’ll always be wondering what part of themselves people are hiding.’
A slow burn to start, Druart takes her time, allowing us to feel connected to the characters as she gradually raises the emotional temperature. The peripheral characters are well drawn, particularly Élise’s younger sister Isabelle, bookshop owner Monsieur le Bolzec and Breton farmer Soizic. Each brings their own experience, judgement and dignity to what is an impossible, unbearable situation for everyone. The definition of family and home, love, protection and separation. ‘Maybe home wasn’t a place at all, but the people you wanted to be with.’
Whatever you may think of what happened in Paris at this time, Druart tells this sensitive story of young people, inexperienced, naive and hopeful, living in a time of such violence and betrayal, of secrets, survival, moralising and vengeance. After surviving the hardships, violence and deprivations of war, how can they adapt to find a new life of possibilities. How can they forgive the secrets and betrayals and move on.
A strongly emotional interpretation of life in occupied Paris that is hardly an obvious setting for a story about love. But this is a love more than romance. It is a love of family, responsibility, truth, sacrifice, forgiveness, of letting go of past hurts and wrongs and looking to the future.
Highly recommended.

Click the title to read my review of WHILE PARIS SLEPT, another World War Two story by Ruth Druart.

If you like this, try:-
Midnight in Europe’ by Alan Furst
The Book of Lies’ by Mark Horlock
After the Bombing’ by Clare Morrall

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THE LAST HOURS IN PARIS by Ruth Druart #bookreview https://wp.me/p2ZHJe-5T2 via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Ladder of Years’ by Anne Tyler #literary #family

Ladder of Years is another fine character-led drama by Anne Tyler, one of my favourite authors. It is the story of Delia Grinstead who, in a moment of dissatisfaction with her life and relationships, goes for a walk on the beach and keeps on walking. Finding a niche in a small town, with hardly any money and possessions, Delia starts again. And when her family catch up with her and ask her why she left, she cannot find a way to explain.

It is twenty-eight years since Ladder of Years was first published. It was chosen by Time magazine as one of the ten best books of 1995. Tyler had already been a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1986 with The Accidental Tourist and won it in 1989 for Breathing Lessons. All her novels stand the test of time and can be read as if the action takes place today, so accurately is her finger on the portrayal of human emotion.

Adrift from her husband and three almost-adult children in Baltimore and not understanding why, Delia finally tips over the edge while on holiday. She finds herself in Bay Borough, the sort of small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. She finds a job and a room to rent, buys a couple of secondhand work dresses and a nifty gadget to heat water in a cup so she can make an early morning cup of tea. Delia knows she should let her family know she is safe but is disinclined to do so, feeling she has been taken for granted. Inevitably, one of her sisters arrives on the doorstep. What follows is the story of a woman free for the first time, having married as a teenager and worked all that time as her doctor husband’s receptionist. Free from the expectations of others, she makes a circle of friends on her own terms.

This is a novel about middle-aged stasis and escape, about admitting the truth of one’s own life, choices and possibilities, and that there are no easy answers. Tyler’s characters are always so well-drawn and believable and her observations so wise and true, sometimes uncomfortably so. Here’s an example; ‘Didn’t it often happen, she thought, that aged parents die exactly at the moment when other people (your husband, your adolescent children) have stopped being thrilled to see you coming? But a parent is always thrilled, always dwells so lovingly on your face as you are speaking. One of life’s many ironies.’ Of course, Delia encounters other parent/child combinations in Bay Borough which challenge this theory.

Tyler’s novels deceive; seemingly about small domesticities and passage-of-life-events, they are really about the big, difficult questions we all face as we pass through different phases of life.


Read my reviews of these other books by Anne Tyler:-

And read the first paragraphs of:-

If you like this, try:-
Olive Kitteridge’ by Elizabeth Strout
Mothering Sunday’ by Graham Swift
The Stars are Fire’ by Anita Shreve

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#Bookreview LADDER OF YEARS by Anne Tyler https://wp.me/p5gEM4-49S via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Dear Mrs Bird’ by @ajpearcewrites #WW2 #romance

Sometimes I hear about a book when it is launched but somehow miss the tide. Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce was published in 2018 and two weeks later became a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. In 2019 it was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club. The first few pages are fresh and engaging, light humour at a time when people when people were living day to day in the Blitz. My only doubt was that I would find the jolly tone too much if it continued for the whole novel. AJ Pearce

It is 1941 in London and Emmy Lake applies for a job as a war correspondent and  instead finds herself typing up letters for the problem page of a distinctly faded women’s magazine, Woman’s Friend. The premise is fascinating. The tone is full-on jolly which at times is irritating. The strength of the book for me lies in the second half.

Emmy lives with her friend Bunty on the top floor of Bunty’s grandmother’s house. Both girls have daytime war jobs and volunteer in the evenings. Emmy is frustrated by her boss Mrs Bird’s dismissive rules about letters from emotional young women and starts to reply directly to the women, hiding the letters and posting her replies in secret. When she doesn’t get found out, she becomes bolder, and prints one of her replies in the magazine. Dumped by telegram by her boyfriend, Emmy agrees to go out with Bunty and her boyfriend William and finds herself set up with a blind date. As Emmy’s love life takes a turn for the better, the girls’ friendship is tested as it has never been tested before. Inevitably, Emmy’s letter writing catches up with her in spectacular fashion and she is sent home.

The book is at its best when examining the relationship between Emmy and Bunty, the depth of their loyalty, and what happens when cracks begin to appear. This is a lightweight, cozy war romance which takes a serious tone towards the end. An easy weekend read.

Read how AJ Pearce researched London in World War Two for Dear Mrs Bird.

If you like this, try:-
Please Release Me’ by Rhoda Baxter
You’ll Never See Me Again’ by Lesley Pearse
One Step Too Far’ by Tina Seskis

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#BookReview DEAR MRS BIRD by @ajpearcewrites #WW2 #romance https://wp.me/p5gEM4-49f via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Jumping the Queue’ by Mary Wesley #contemporary

Jumping the Queue is a must-read for fans of Mary Wesley’s writing. It is a slim volume about a deadly serious topic. Widow Matilda Poliport prepares to commit suicide. She cleans the house, organises her papers, destroys anything incriminating and gives away her pets. On the day she judges the tide to be favourable, she makes a picnic and takes a bottle of wine to the beach. She plans to wade into the sea and drown. What happens changes the course of Matilda’s death, and life. Mary Wesley
This is a quirky mixture of a book with heavy topics which, as you get older, become more familiar and understandable, with dark humour and a touch of forbidden romance. There is also betrayal, all kinds of betrayal actually – between husband and wife, between parents and children, between friends. As Matilda contemplates suicide, she thinks, ‘I am the great betrayer… That is my sin. I am not a sticker. I betray from laziness, fear and lack of interest.’
The story is told from Matilda’s point of view, at times despairing, at times wickedly funny and lusty. It’s hard to believe Jumping the Queue was Mary Wesley’s first adult novel, published in 1983 when she was seventy; its topics are as pertinent today, as then.
Matilda and her husband Tom made a pact, to end it all when they were old and no longer enjoying life. But when Tom dies suddenly in Paris, Matilda is left alone in an isolated West Country house, rarely visited by her four children. The villagers pretty much leave her alone except for her neighbour Mr Jones, who carries a not-so-secret torch for Matilda. But not everything is as it seems. What was Tom really doing in Paris, why don’t the children visit, and does Mr Jones really see UFOs?
When Matilda’s plan at the beach is interrupted by a group of holidaymakers, she retreats to the town to wait. There she meets The Matricide, a man on-the-run, wanted for killing his mother and whose face is in all the newspapers. Matilda is anything but conventional and she doesn’t fear for her safety. The Matricide, whose name is Hugh Warner, checks she understands who he is and that he killed his mother. ‘Of course’, says Matilda. ‘Lots of people long to. You just did it.’
At first glance, this could be a depressing novel about getting older and longing to be out of it. But in fact it is a tale of loyalty, love and trust; just in unexpected places. Thought provoking, sad and uplifting, all at the same

Here’s my review of THE CAMOMILE LAWN, also by Wesley, or read its #FirstPara.

If you like this, try:-
Whistle in the Dark’ by Emma Healey
The Hoarder’ by Jess Kidd
‘The Carer’ by Deborah Moggach

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#BookReview ‘In a Summer Season’ by Elizabeth Taylor #classic #love

What a painful, heart-wrenching read is In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor. It is about love – giddying heart-spinning young love, the intensity of teenage crush, the love and companionship of friendship, parental love, second love, age-gap love, tragic love and lust-love. Elizabeth TaylorWidow Kate is seen by friends and family to have married again, unwisely, to a younger man, the charming and feckless Dermot. Kate’s sixteen-year-old daughter Louise hates the way Dermot speaks to her mother, while Kate’s son Tom struggles to make his way in his grandfather’s business and retired teacher Aunt Ethel fears for the new marriage which she believes is founded solely on sex. As Kate adopts new hobbies to fit in with her husband – going to the races, the pub – Dermot feels excluded by the things he doesn’t know, and by Kate’s shared experience with first husband Alan. The household exists in an uneasy alliance. For the first half of the book, this calm is layered with a troubling current eventually brought to the surface by the arrival of Alan’s oldest friend, Charles, and his beautiful daughter Araminta. Tom becomes too caught up in his own calf love for Minty to worry about his mother, Lou falls for the local curate, while Ethel tells all in sensational letters to her friend Gertrude. ‘Ethel had a way of bending her head at closed doors, not listening, as she told herself, but ascertaining.’
None of the characters are endearing. Their paths to the truth, or not, about love – their own love and that of others – their assumptions, misjudgements and blindness, are beset with challenges. Some I forsaw, others I didn’t. Elizabeth Taylor draws a delicately coloured picture of life in a middle-class English family in the Home Counties in the fifties. Times are changing, post-war, particularly the role of women. Kate drifts, used as she was to being the junior partner to her first husband Alan, now she finds herself acting as both mother and lover to her second, younger, husband. Neither are truthful to the other.
More a story of consecutive scenes than a novel with increasing tension, In a Summer Season was published in 1961 and so combines the slower classic style of the older novel, injected with the new sexual tension appropriate to the times. The ending, so long awaited, finally arrived abruptly. My favourite Taylor novel, to date, is A View of the Harbour.

Read my reviews of other books by Elizabeth Taylor:-

If you like this, try:-
Touch Not the Cat’ by Mary Stewart
My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You’ by Louisa Young
The Confession’ by Jessie Burton

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IN A SUMMER SEASON by Elizabeth Taylor #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5tQ via @SandraDanby

#Bookreview ‘The Missing Sister’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley #mystery

Well, what I thought would be the final book, the seventh in the wonderful Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley, turns out not to be the last after all. The Missing Sister will be followed later this year by Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt. So, I finished this latest book with many questions remaining. This is an example of a family saga that you want to run and run. The publication of the eighth book sadly follows Lucinda Riley’s death in 2021, so the forthcoming eighth book will be based on Lucinda’s draft and completed by her son Harry Whittaker. Lucinda RileyThe seven sisters of the myth were Maia, Alcyone, Asterope, Celaeno, Taygete, Electra, and Merope. Their parents were Atlas, a Titan commanded by the god Zeus to hold up the earth, and Pleione, the mythical protectress of sailors. The Missing Sister is the story of Merope – Mary, or Merry, as she is called in the book – though it’s unclear whether she is lost, or simply ‘missing’ from the family because Pa Salt didn’t adopt her. The confusion over the first name adds to the twists in a book packed with twists and turns when the missing D’Aplièse sister is identified as either a mother and daughter, both called Mary. The pursuit begins with the announcement by the family lawyer that the missing sister is in New Zealand. Mary can be identified by the distinctive diamond and emerald ring she wears.
The story is told in various timelines. In the present day we hear the voices of recently-widowed Merry McDougal who leaves New Zealand on a Grand Tour around the world, of her daughter Mary-Kate left at home to run the prize-winning winery, and of the six D’Aplièse sisters who follow the clues. Plus two historical timelines – of Nuala Murphy, a farmer’s daughter in the West of Ireland in July 1920, a critical time in Irish independence; and of Mary O’Reilly starting in October 1955 in the Irish valley of Argideen.
Riley, herself Northern Irish, tells of a chapter in Irish history with a fascinating insight into the impact on a small rural community, the bravery, secrecy, divisions, the betrayals and deprivations. New to me was the ‘Cumann na mBan’, the Irish women’s volunteer movement, and its role not simply in feeding and clothing the fighting men but as couriers delivering not only messages but weapons. An inspiration to the Irish is Michael Collins, from Clonakilty in West Cork, close to where Riley sets her story. ‘The Big Fellow’ rose to be director of intelligence for the Irish Republican Army. Another real person appearing in the story is local Clogagh fighter Charlie Hurley.
My mind swirled with all the options. First of all, is Pa Salt really dead? If he’s alive, why lie to everyone and put them through so much grief? The concept of the adopted sisters raises multiple questions: who is this man, Pa Salt, who collected babies from around the world to care for them. And why does the story of Merope feel different from the others? So many new hints are dropped in this seventh novel, things that don’t add up. Most certainly this is a book to read having read the rest of the series – read as a standalone it will only disappoint.
I finished it with mixed feelings. It’s a long book [the hardcover is 816 pages] with scenes included that might have been shortened or deleted. I found the sisters’ determined pursuit of Mary at best eager but often selfish and inconsiderate. But the Irish sections are wonderful. It’s clear these were close to Riley’s heart which adds emotional depth and understanding. If you enjoy dual-timeline historical fiction combined with the globetrotting glamour of Penny Vincenzi, please pick up The Seven Sisters and start reading this series.

Read my reviews of the first six novels in the series:-

… plus my reviews of these standalone novels by Lucinda Riley:-

If you like this, try:-
The House on the Shore’ by Victoria Howard
Brooklyn’ by Colm Tóibín 
On a Night Like This’ by Barbara Freethy

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THE MISSING SISTER by @lucindariley #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5qu via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘The Rose Code’ by @KateQuinnAuthor #WW2 #Bletchley

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn is the first book I’ve read by this author. I was drawn in by the WW2 setting and promise of mystery, but it’s much more than that. There are two timelines; 1947 as the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth approaches, and 1939 at the outbreak of war. At its centre are three young women who don’t quite fit into their worlds. War introduces something new to their lives. Opportunity. Advancement. Recognition. Friendship. Home. Kate QuinnMabs has grown up in Shoreditch but longs to escape. She follows her own plan of improvement – reading the classics, copying the accents of assistants in upper class shops – with the long-term aim of rescuing her younger sister Lucy from poverty. Osla is a Canadian society girl, rich, pretty, labelled as a dim deb who trains as a riveter to make Hurricanes. Both have mysterious interviews and are sent on a train journey to ‘Station X’. This turns out to be a large country mansion – Bletchley Park – where secret war work is undertaken. Both must sign the Official Secrets Act before they are admitted. At their lodgings, they meet Beth, downtrodden daughter of their strict religious landlady Mrs Finch.
Beth’s skill at crosswords is recognised and soon all three girls are working at ‘BP’. In their jobs – typing, translating, decoding – the three girls get to know each other and, despite the rules of secrecy, they learn how gossip inside ‘BP’ works. Soon they are promoted, learning top secret information before it is transmitted to government, before even Churchill. And with knowledge comes power, and danger.
We follow the three through romances – Osla with young naval officer, Prince Philip of Greece – and bombings. There is something to like and dislike about each woman making them realistic, rounded characters. Mab was my favourite, Osla slightly irritating, while Beth changes the most throughout the course of the book. The 1947 strand becomes a hunt for a traitor as the Cold War gets colder and a former WW2 ally becomes the enemy. The girls must revisit their wartime secrets to question the nature of truth and loyalty, to each other and to their country.
The Second World War is often thought of as a time of liberation for women doing the jobs of men and in some ways it was; but Quinn shows this was a transitory advantage – temporary, class driven, certain jobs only – and women were still ultimately dependant on a man in so many ways. As the women look back at their former lives we see how much, and how little, has changed for them.
Some of the coding puzzles went straight over my head but that didn’t really matter. The Bletchley setting is great, the gossip of the weekly scandal rag, the familiar names dropped – Alan Turing, Joan Clarke – the book club and 3am kidneys on toast. I’m not sure the 1947 royal wedding deadline adds much to the narrative, there’s enough threat without it. As I was getting towards the end of the book and was interrupted, I snatched up the book again at the next possible opportunity.

If you like this, try:-
Life After Life’ by Kate Atkinson
Another You’ by Jane Cable
Life Class’ by Pat Barker

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#BookReview ‘The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society’ #romance #WW2

I prefer to come to a book without reading reviews so I can make up my own mind. But sometimes there is a book that I missed in its early days but which goes onto be hugely popular. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows is such a book. It was first brought to my attention by fellow author Claire Dyer who chose it as her ‘Porridge & Cream’ comfort read. When I asked Claire why it was her choice, she said, “it’s essentially about good people and reading it reminds me that there’s more goodness in the world than sometimes is apparent.” Now I know what she means. Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

The story is told in letter form, a structure I admit to having doubts about before I started reading. But the manner in which the letters flow and the information is dripped in means there are no information gaps, no repetitions. It is 1946 and writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a man in Guernsey who by chance owns a book that once belonged to her. And so begins Juliet’s correspondence with Dawsey Adams and his fellow members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Dawsey encourages other members to write to Juliet with their own experiences of the German occupation of the island. And so we hear from the nice, and not-so-nice characters.

What could be a superficial account of the islanders’ lives becomes a cleverly managed tale of a community that survives by mutual support, generosity, toughness, bravery and above all kindness. As letter after letter arrives from different people, we build up full pictures of the incidents that happened. Although there is a romantic thread to this tale – the rather full-of-himself Mark Reynolds – this is really a story about the survival of an island community throughout a time of unimagined difficulty.

At first Juliet is entranced by the islanders’ stories but as they write more letters she wants to meet them in person, both to put faces to her correspondents and to scout the possibility of writing a book about their experiences. The book is split into two parts; in part one, Juliet is in London; in part two she travels to Guernsey. The story takes places during nine months of 1946; this feels a tight time span for some of the emotional relationships to develop and at times the familiarity and trust seemed to progress in leaps rather than steps, but perhaps this is understandable post-war when people grasped at chances of normality and happiness.

The title suggests this is a nice, quirky read – and it places it did make me chuckle – but it also tells of brutality, torture and death and the lasting after-effects of war.

I was left wishing I hadn’t read it yet and that I had it to look forward to. Just the book to re-read when your spirit needs a lift.

If you like this, try:-
Pattern of Shadows’ by Judith Barrow
After the Party’ by Cressida Connolly
The Book of Lies’ by Mary Horlock

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THE GUERNSEY LITERARY & POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-47C via @SandraDanby

First Edition ‘The Age of Innocence’ by Edith Wharton #oldbooks #bookcovers

Published in 1920, The Age of Innocence was Edith Wharton’s twelfth novel and the one which would win her the Pulitzer Prize in 1921; the first woman to do so. This [below left] is the American first edition, published by D Appleton.

It is said the first choice of the Pulitzer judges was Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, which was rejected on ‘political grounds’. Wharton’s story first appeared in 1920 in the magazine Pictorial Review, serialised in four parts, then published in book form in the USA by D Appleton.

Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence – character study by Joshua Reynolds

It is believed the title of the novel was taken from the painting by Joshua Reynolds [above] which was much reproduced in the late 18th century and came to represent the commercial face of childhood.

Edith Wharton

Wordsworth Classics current ed 1994

The current edition by Wordsworth Classics [above] dates from 1994.

The story
Set in 1870s upper class New York society, The Age of Innocence was set around the time of Wharton’s own birth. She wrote the book had allowed her to find “a momentary escape in going back to my childish memories of a long-vanished America… it was growing more and more evident that the world I had grown up in and been formed by had been destroyed in 1914.”
Gentleman lawyer Newland Archer is due to marry the shy and beautiful May Welland until he encounters May’s cousin. The exotic Countess Ellen Olenska pays no court to society’s fastidious rules and, scandalously, is separated from her husband, a Polish count. To avoid scandal, Ellen is advised to live separately from her husband rather than pursue divorce. Newland tries to forget Ella and marries May but their marriage is loveless. Newland and Ellen meet again and as Newland falls in love with Ellen his behaviour breaks the rules of accepted behaviour. When he finally decides to follow Ellen to Europe, May announces she is pregnant.

Other editions


Edith Wharton

film poster 1993

The 1993 film [above] starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer, Michelle Pfeiffer as the Countess Olenska and Winona Ryder as May Welland, was directed by Martin Scorsese. Watch the trailer.

Edith Wharton

film poster 1934

A 1934 film [above] with the same title took inspiration from the Wharton novel but set the action two generations later. Dallas Archer has fallen in love with a married woman, to the displeasure of all his family except his grandfather Newland Archer. And in 1924, a black and white film of The Age of Innocence [below] starred Elliott Dexter as Newland.

Edith Wharton

film poster 1924

If you like old books, check out these:-
It’ by Stephen King 
Ulysses’ by James Joyce
Five on a Treasure Island’ by Enid Blyton

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First Edition THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton #oldbooks #bookcovers https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4aX via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Amy & Isabelle’ by @LizStrout #contemporary #literary

The mother and daughter portrayed in Amy & Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout are at odds with each other. The events of one long sweltering summer in Shirley Falls are simple, familiar across the ages, but are told with a hefty emotional punch. So strong is this book it’s difficult to see that it was Strout’s first novel, published in 2000 to be followed only eight years later by her Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge. Strout is adept at peeling away the layers of character and events to show the raw emotion, shame, guilt and pain beneath. Elizabeth Strout

When Isabelle Goodrow arrived in Shirley Falls with her baby daughter, she took a job at the local mill. Now, in a time that feels like 1970s America, Amy is sixteen and has a summer job in the same office as her mother. They sit and fume at each other, barely talking, brushing past each other without a word. Amy, who has fallen in love with her maths teacher, believes her upright, unemotional mother, has no idea of what she is feeling right now. Isabelle despairs of her daughter’s behaviour. Told in absorbing detail, switching between the two viewpoints, the trauma of the two women is revealed. Shirley Falls is an evocative setting, an industrial town with a river flowing through it. As the temperature rises, the river begins to stink adding to the stresses not just on the Goodrows but on the small community in which they exist. Strout excels at portraying the circle of characters which make the world of a novel so believable – Amy’s friend Stacy, Fat Bev and Dottie Brown at the mill, Isabelle’s boss Avery Clark.

Isabelle finds it difficult to fit in, has always felt like an outsider. As she judges others, she assumes others judge her. This is more about her own experience and inadequacies than about anyone else. As the summer days plod on and Amy’s affair unravels, we see hints of the truth of Isabelle’s past that go some of the way to explaining why she is as she is.

Difficult to put down, I enjoyed Amy & Isabelle very much. Both women are so real, their situations are real, you want to slap them both and hug them both. Strout writes in an extraordinarily perceptive manner about ordinary people in ordinary places, so real you feel you are in the room too.

Read my reviews of My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible, also by Elizabeth Strout

If you like this, try:-
‘If I Knew You Were Going to be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go’ by Judy Chicurel
The Museum of You’ by Carys Bray
When All is Said’ by Anne Griffin

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AMY & ISABELLE by @LizStrout #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5id via @SandraDanby