Here’s a few mini guest reviews by my mum! She’s not a book blogger herself but works in library & information services for the Royal National Institute for the Blind, getting to work with books everyday (and therefore gets to enjoy the wonders of Netgalley too!)
Title: The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock
Author: Imogen Hermes Gowar
Publisher: Random House UK
This voyage is special. It will change everything…
One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.
As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This chance meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, a journey on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost…
What will be the cost of their ambitions? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock is a wonderful tale that delighted me throughout. Set in Georgian England in 1785, the stories of Mr Hancock – a respectable merchant – and Angelica – a courtesan – are drawn irresistibly together by the random purchase of a mermaid and chances are it will be a road to disaster.
The period is brilliantly portrayed and I loved the brothel house scenes which made me laugh. There is hope, despair, fortitude and magic so delicately and enjoyably woven together that I didn’t want it to end.
An amazing debut, this is a writer to look out for.
Title: Three Things About Elsie
Author: Joanna Cannon
Publisher: The Borough Press
There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.
84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?
From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.
This is a beautifully written, carefully constructed, delicately balanced gem of a story.
Florence, 84 and in a care home, has a best friend Elsie who is with her in the home and she takes us back through her life as she lies on the floor of her room after falling, waiting for help. Almost instantly I loved Florence, wanted to travel with her and enjoy her spark and her observations of life.
There are some lovely passages that describe memories and the passing of time in prose loaded with meaning but never too drawn. In particular Florence – and Elsie – refer to a long second which is when the clock hesitates, just for a moment, long enough to give the extra time needed to make the right decision.
The book is crammed with memorable characters both good and bad and there is a mystery that teeters throughout the story. I laughed out loud at parts, and I cried a bit too.
Author: Tara Westover
Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected.
She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist.
As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far. If there was still a way home.
EDUCATED is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with the severing of the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has, from her singular experience, crafted a universal coming-of-age story, one that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers – the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.
Such a brave, honest, intelligent account of a childhood that was anything but conventional.
Despite physical and mental abuse, being made to work in conditions that no-one, least of all a young child, should and a lack of any formal education, Tara not only survived but educated herself and ultimately became a PhD. But she mourned the loss of her family along the way and even though her eyes were opened to the lies that she had been fed all her life, she still missed them and loved them despite everything. One of her brothers was clearly mentally ill, as was her father, and she suffered incredible abuse from him that her parents refused to acknowledge.
Was sexual abuse also involved and Tara cannot yet voice this? It was his treatment of her and her sister that finally caused the split with her family and a breakdown in Tara. But she began to heal and flourish, finding support within the extended family unit.
Brutal, chilling but ultimately a tale of the human spirit overcoming terrible obstacles to shine, it grows in strength as she does and in the end we are dazzled.