📚Set in France in 1969. Noelle reviews #Histfic Lake Of Echoes by @LizaPerrat, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Noelle.

Noelle blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Noelle has been reading Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat.

Book cover for Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat
Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat

Juliette lives with her father, Bruno, and her mother, Lea. Her father is headmaster at a local school, and her mother runs L’Auberge de Lea, where they live, together with her father’s mother. The marriage is gradually falling apart, both from Bruno’s apparent infidelity and also Lea’s laser focus running on the auberge, which takes all her time and most of her attention.  The mother-in-law contributes to the turmoil by her unquestioning support of everything her son does and her unending criticism of Lea.

Juliette is witness to the arguments and frequently flees the house to get away from the ugliness. One day she does not return. Neighbors and people from the nearby village are organized into search parties led a local gendarme, who at first thinks Juliette will come home. At time goes by, Lea is tormented by thoughts of what has happened to her daughter but by necessity must continue to run the auberge and face the pity of the villagers. Her sister and her neighbors, one of whom is a self-proclaimed psychic, are her only support.

As the seasons pass, Lea’s despair deepens and Bruno finally moves out, leaving his wife for the teacher with whom Lea thought he was having an affair. The reader is introduced to various men in the village, raising one question after another about who took Juliette. The author creates various paths that never seem to lead to the perpetrator!

Liza Perrat can create complex and compelling characters, and she definitely does here. The reader is privy to the mind of an eight-year-old, to the feckless Bruno, to the apparently tireless and but always prim and proper mother-in-law, and to the mad workings of the mind of Juliette’s captor. You are drawn into Lea’s anguish over her lost child, which only strengthens as time passes. She is willing, as any mother would, to hold onto any sliver of hope, no matter how tenuous, despite the months passing, and the additional impact of the breakup of her marriage. Her inner strength is remarkable. The author truly understand her characters.

This emotional tension is set against the colorful local traditions of rural France, the workings of the auberge, and sumptuous description of the changing seasons around the lake which it overlooks.  And since this in an auberge, there is always tempting French cuisine, the descriptions of which made me dig out my French cookbooks.

Orange rose book description
Book description

A vanished daughter. A failing marriage. A mother’s life in ruins.
1969. As France seethes in the wake of social unrest, eight-year-old Juliette is caught up in the turmoil of her parents’ fragmenting marriage.
Unable to bear another argument, she flees her home.
Neighbours joining the search for Juliette are stunned that such a harrowing thing could happen in their tranquil lakeside village.
But this is nothing compared to her mother, Lea’s torment, imagining what has befallen her daughter.
Léa, though, must remain strong to run her auberge and as the seasons pass with no news from the gendarmes, she is forced to accept she may never know her daughter’s fate.
Despite the villagers’ scepticism, Léa’s only hope remains with a clairvoyant who believes Juliette is alive.
But will mother and daughter ever be reunited?
Steeped in centuries-old tradition, against an enchanting French countryside backdrop, Lake of Echoes will delight your senses and captivate your heart.

Universal link: mybook.to/LakeofEchoesEbook

📚Historic Domestic #Thriller. Frank Reviews Lake Of Echoes by @LizaPerrat, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Frank.

Find out more about Frank here https://franklparker.com/

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Frank has been reading Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat

Book cover for Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat
Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat

There is so much that is great about this book that it is difficult to know where to start. So I will start at the beginning. Léa took on the business of running an Auberge beside a lake in rural France in order to give her something to take her mind off the tragic loss of her son by cot death at just 3 months old. Now, in 1969, it is clear that her marriage is on the rocks. She and husband Bruno, Head Master at the village school, are constantly bickering, blaming each other for the tragedy. During one particularly heated exchange their 8 year old daughter, Juliette, wanders off. When she does not return we have the beginnings of a tension filled mystery. And the ensuing plot is handled with consummate skill by this Australian writer who has lived in France for more than two decades.

For those of us old enough to remember them, the years embracing the end of the sixties and beginning of the seventies can offer a rosy hued vision of ‘flower power’; of Height Ashbury and Woodstock, of armed guards confronted by hippies pushing flowers into the barrels of their guns. But it was also a time of riots across several European nations and the USA, of the cold war and fears of communism and nuclear war; a time when strange cults emerged led by charismatic psychopaths who brainwashed their adherents into believing dangerous nonsense. It is this atmosphere that Perrat taps into with her mesmerising tale.

The first half of the book concentrates on Léa’s attempts to come to terms with the loss of another child. As weeks pass and nobody is found whilst more girls from the same age group disappear, we share her anger at the incompetence of the Gendarmerie. When she seeks help from a friend who claims to be clairvoyant she is treated with scorn. Meanwhile readers are provided with tantalising glimpses of the abductor and his henchwomen, his wife and sister.

The second half of the book presents a description of the lives of the girls under the discipline ordered by the abductor and administered by the women. The abductor’s master plan is revealed and tension rises as Juliette devises an escape plan.

The climax is superbly handled. There is no siege by armed gendarmes as might be the case today. I can’t tell you how the situation is resolved, for that would spoil your pleasure in reading it for yourself, something which I urge you to do.

The events are told from the different points of view of several of the characters. Each has a unique and utterly believable voice. The children, especially, are beautifully drawn. Animals, too, have important roles and their behaviour demonstrates the author’s skill as an observer of every aspect of life in rural France. So, too, do her descriptions of the landscape and climate. It is these details that bring the novel to life and make it one of the best domestic thrillers you will read in a long time. I wish I could award more than 5 stars.

Orange rose book description
Book description

A vanished daughter. A failing marriage. A mother’s life in ruins.
1969. As France seethes in the wake of social unrest, eight-year-old Juliette is caught up in the turmoil of her parents’ fragmenting marriage.
Unable to bear another argument, she flees her home.
Neighbours joining the search for Juliette are stunned that such a harrowing thing could happen in their tranquil lakeside village.
But this is nothing compared to her mother, Lea’s torment, imagining what has befallen her daughter.
Léa, though, must remain strong to run her auberge and as the seasons pass with no news from the gendarmes, she is forced to accept she may never know her daughter’s fate.
Despite the villagers’ scepticism, Léa’s only hope remains with a clairvoyant who believes Juliette is alive.
But will mother and daughter ever be reunited?
Steeped in centuries-old tradition, against an enchanting French countryside backdrop, Lake of Echoes will delight your senses and captivate your heart.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

🌅#HistoricalFiction Lake Of Echoes by @LizaPerrat. Reviewed for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT by @OlgaNM7 #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Olga.

Olga blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Olga has been reading Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat

Book cover for Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat
Lake Of Echoes by Liza Perrat

I had access to a very early ARC of this novel by Liza Perrat, the first in a new series, which I freely chose to review.

I came across Perrat’s novels through Rosie’s Book Review Team and have been an admirer and follower since. She writes historical fiction set in a variety of eras (from the Middle Ages to WWII, mostly in France) and also fiction set in the second half of the XX century, often in her native Australia. She combines complex and compelling characters (female characters usually take centre stage), with plots that grab the readers’ attention and don’t let go. That combined with a very vivid style of writing, the epitome of showing rather than telling (one can really see, smell, hear, and even taste what is happening to the characters and share in their experiences) mean that reading her novels is a truly immersive experience.

And this one is not an exception, but rather an excellent example of the best qualities of her writing.

Imagine a woman who’s already lost a child, having to live through the kidnapping of her now only daughter. Léa, who had poured her energies into her new project (an auberge by a beautiful lake) in an attempt at regaining some peace and thirst for life, is devastated, and her relationship with her husband, already strained, ends up breaking. To make matters worse, three other girls are also kidnapped and efforts to find them fail. Life becomes increasingly difficult, and the only hope Léa has comes from her two neighbours and friends, Clotilde and Bev, as Clotilde reads the cards and insists that the girls are all alive and well. Of course, nobody else believes them, time passes, and some sort of life develops, but Léa and her family keep waiting. And… Of course, I’m not going to tell you what happens, but the story deals with grief, loss, family relationships, also life in a small (French) village, prejudices and rumours, and how life has changed since the late 1960s (so close and yet so far).

I have mentioned Léa, who tells her story in the first person, with some fragments (in italics) when she remembers the past in a vivid and immersive manner that makes us identify with her, and suffer her same pain. Louise, Léa’s mother-in-law, is a strong character, one who is always proper and maintains the façade, no matter how difficult things get or what she might be feeling inside. We don’t see the story from her perspective, but we share in some of the other characters’ stories, although those are told in the third person. This is the case for Juliette, who is a delightful girl, intelligent, but she behaves like a normal eight-year-old and does not fully understand what is happening. Her interaction with the other girls and with the kidnapper and the people helping him (some more willingly than others) is tough to read but it feels believable within the parameters of the story.

We also get to share in the thoughts of the kidnapper (although we only know him by the identity he adopts and not his real one), his sister, Alice (a favourite of mine, despite her circumstances), and his wife, and there are other characters featured as well, all in the third person, with the occasional flashback. This maintains the mystery while allowing readers more insight into aspects of the story the authorities and the mother know nothing about.

It is difficult to talk about the baddy without revealing too much, but let me tell you he is a great creation, and being in his head at times is a scary and horrifying experience.

The setting is truly wonderful. Despite the horrific aspects of the story, it is impossible not to love the lake, the villages around it, the wonderful traditions, the festivals, the cooking… I am looking forward to reading more stories set in the area, and I know the author is already working on the second one.

The writing, as I’ve mentioned, is beautiful and also heart-wrenching at times. We experience the emotions of the characters, and also the wonders of nature, the change of seasons, and even the pets and animals have their own personalities and help readers feel at home there. Readers need not worry about the different points of view causing confusion, as there are no sudden changes in narrative voice, each chapter is told from a single perspective, clearly indicated, and the story is told in chronological order, apart from a few chapters, and with the dates also featuring at the head of each new chapter.

The whole of the story has something of the fairy tale, with Gothic-like houses, dangerous rivers, sometimes magical and sometimes scary woods, strange people living in the forest, and some characters that will remind us of some beloved characters. But the narrative works on many levels, and I was totally invested in the mystery as well. There are plenty of clues, red herrings, and hints dropped throughout the story, and many possible suspects. There is also a gendarme, Major Rocamadour, who grows on us as the story progresses, and we discover he is not all business. He does have a pretty tough nut to crack, though, but, without revealing too much, I can say that I enjoyed the ending, and the story ends up on a hopeful note.

I recommend this wonderfully written story to anybody who loves imagination, great characters, a strong plot, and who love a setting full of charm but also some underlying darkness and menace. Anybody who has read and enjoyed Liza Perrat’s previous novels is in for a treat, and those who haven’t met her yet… Well, what are you waiting for?

Orange rose book description
Book description

A vanished daughter. A failing marriage. A mother’s life in ruins.
1969. As France seethes in the wake of social unrest, eight-year-old Juliette is caught up in the turmoil of her parents’ fragmenting marriage.
Unable to bear another argument, she flees her home.
Neighbours joining the search for Juliette are stunned that such a harrowing thing could happen in their tranquil lakeside village.
But this is nothing compared to her mother, Lea’s torment, imagining what has befallen her daughter.
Léa, though, must remain strong to run her auberge and as the seasons pass with no news from the gendarmes, she is forced to accept she may never know her daughter’s fate.
Despite the villagers’ scepticism, Léa’s only hope remains with a clairvoyant who believes Juliette is alive.
But will mother and daughter ever be reunited?
Steeped in centuries-old tradition, against an enchanting French countryside backdrop, Lake of Echoes will delight your senses and captivate your heart.

Universal link: mybook.to/LakeofEchoesEbook

‘A fictionalised account of Project Tiger’. Georgia reviews Black Entry by Regis P Sheehan, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Georgia. She blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Georgia has been reading Black Entry by Regis P Sheehan

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Black Entry is a fictionalised account of Project Tiger, the CIA’s clandestine efforts to penetrate North Vietnam with indigenous (largely South Vietnamese) agent teams in the early 1960s.

There is a main character by the name of Jay Laird, nicknamed Jayhawk by his friends, and there’s a small cast of other characters around him but the real core of this book is all about Project Tiger. Laird was expecting to have a steady job safely behind a desk as his first posting, however due to a last minute personnel change he finds himself sending teams into the hostile lands of North Vietnam then waiting to see if they are ever heard from again. They are frequently not but even if they are their intelligence is often treated with suspicion and as though it’s been compromised.

As with the military there are plenty of acronyms in this book but fear not as they are explained, with reminders, along the way. Although fictionalised this feels very much like a factual account of this mission and I think it will interest anyone who enjoys reading about this period of history or military fiction in general.

3 stars

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ComingOfAge THE BOY AND THE LAKE by Adam Pelzman

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Boy And The Lake by Adam Pelzman

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Coming of age, teenage love, adolescence in a Jewish community, the social upheavals of the 1960s, murder mystery – all of these themes are woven together in The Boy and the Lake and set against a luminously described backdrop of life on a lake.

Sixteen-year-old Benjamin Baum is fishing from a dock on his beloved New Jersey lake, feet dangling in the water and the sounds of people having fun echoing across the water, when the bloated body of his next door neighbor Helen floats to the surface. Her loss shakes his world and he stubbornly refuses to believe she died by accident, searching for clues to her death in the insular Jewish middle class community that lives around the lake.

His mother, Lillian, is a narcissistic and emotionally unpredictable woman with a punishing attitude toward both Ben and his long-patient father, Abe. Ben is detached from his mother but clearly understands what makes her tick. He loves his father, who is hardworking and caring physician, practicing in Newark, and an enabler of Lillian’s behavior. These three have all been affected differently by the early death of Ben’s younger sister. They normally come to the lake only in the summer, but with the increasing tension and fear from the Newark riots in 1967, the family decides move to there. Ben continues to infuriate both family and friends, especially one exceptional friend and budding love named Missy, with his unwelcome search to discover how Helen died.

As time passes, fractures and truths appear in the people populating Ben’s world, and he comes to realize that the prosperity and contentment he associates with the lake community is not what is seems to be. The complexity and depth of these relationships, drawn by the author in a compelling way, keeps the reader turning the pages, following as Ben grows in maturity and understanding while maneuvering through a variety of social situations that challenge the gawky teenager. 

The author is a wonderful story teller. Ben comes across as a typical teenager for that time (one which I remember), with his mother alternating between a practical housekeeper and unlikeable shrew. I felt deep sorrow for the long-suffering Abe but also the love Ben’s grandparents have for him and which he reciprocates.  Even the lake develops a personality. He has created in exquisite detail the ambiance of a lake in summer that brought back some memories of my own, the push and pull and occasional pain of Ben’s family, and the darker undercurrents that Ben discovers in the surrounding community. The historical detail is spot on. The reader becomes emotionally invested in Ben, his plans for the future, and his awkward interactions with, and his growing admiration and affection for, Missy.

The twists and turns kept me reading quickly. I will warn potential readers, though, this book is more character-drive than a murder mystery – there are large sections where Helen’s death is not in play – even though a death opens the book and a tragedy ends it.

I recommend this book for what it is and will definitely read more by this author.

Book description

Set against the backdrop of the Newark riots in 1967, a teenage Benjamin Baum leaves the city to spend the summer at an idyllic lake in northern New Jersey. While fishing from his grandparents’ dock, the dead body of a beloved neighbor floats to the water’s surface—a loss that shakes this Jewish community and reveals cracks in what appeared to be a perfect middle-class existence. Haunted by the sight of the woman’s corpse, Ben stubbornly searches for clues to her death, infuriating friends and family who view his unwelcome investigation as a threat to the comfortable lives they’ve built. As Ben’s suspicions mount, he’s forced to confront the terrifying possibility that his close-knit community is not what it seems to be—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darker forces may be at work.

In The Boy and the Lake, Adam Pelzman has crafted a riveting coming-of-age story and a mystery rich in historical detail, exploring an insular world where the desperate quest for the American dream threatens to destroy both a family and a way of life.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Coming-Of-Age #Mystery THE BOY AND THE LAKE by Adam Pelzman

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here https://judithbarrowblog.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading The Boy And The Lake by Adam Pelzman

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The Boy and the Lake is a coming of age story that was recommended to me. I have to admit it’s the first of this genre I’ve read, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I found it to be a good story well told. It’s a steady read, introspective and very well written; I did like the author’s writing style, especially the descriptive language of the settings, the seasons, the lake.

 And it’s the lake in New Jersey (a summer retreat for the protagonist, Ben, and his family before the riots in the nineteen- sixties made it too difficult to stay in the city) that is the background of the book.

The story is told from the first-person point of view by Ben. The reader learns of his relationship with his parents, Abe and Lillian, his friend, Missy and various members of the closed, committed Jewish community he lives in. And, through his eyes we see the rituals and ceremonies that are celebrated throughout the year. Learn of his attitudes towards them, whilst all the time he is also grappling to solve what he sees as an unexplained drowning of one of the neighbours, Helen.

 The discovery of the body in the lake by Ben and his grandfather is the lynch pin for all the action, for all the contemplation by the protagonist. How Helen drowned takes up quite a lot of the narrative, and of both his internal and spoken dialogue. But there is also the angst of youth: of indecisiveness, self-doubt, infatuation, guilt for thoughtless actions. And a retreat into childhood, where he needs the love and comfort of his mother (two attributes she cannot supply) that vies with an insight to adulthood, when he sees, with pity, the weakness in his father (who refuses to acknowledge the truth of his marriage). But there is also a strong bond between father and son which will be broken when Ben leaves the life he has always known, to go to university. A bond not only broken by distance but by the results of actions of the two of them.

As I said at the beginning, this is the first of this genre I have read. There is a much to enjoy: the descriptions, the many layers and growth of the protagonist, the twist at the end of the story. For readers who enjoy a coming of age story, I have no hesitation in recommending Adam Pelzman’s The Boy and the Lake.

4 stars

Book description

Set against the backdrop of the Newark riots in 1967, a teenage Benjamin Baum leaves the city to spend the summer at an idyllic lake in northern New Jersey. While fishing from his grandparents’ dock, the dead body of a beloved neighbor floats to the water’s surface—a loss that shakes this Jewish community and reveals cracks in what appeared to be a perfect middle-class existence. Haunted by the sight of the woman’s corpse, Ben stubbornly searches for clues to her death, infuriating friends and family who view his unwelcome investigation as a threat to the comfortable lives they’ve built. As Ben’s suspicions mount, he’s forced to confront the terrifying possibility that his close-knit community is not what it seems to be—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darker forces may be at work.

In The Boy and the Lake, Adam Pelzman has crafted a riveting coming-of-age story and a mystery rich in historical detail, exploring an insular world where the desperate quest for the American dream threatens to destroy both a family and a way of life.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Coming-Of-Age #Mystery THE BOY AND THE LAKE by Adam Pelzman #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Boy And The Lake by Adam Pelzman

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From the blurb, I thought this book would be dark and plot-driven; it mentions protagonist Ben’s suspicions about a body found floating in the lake, thus: As Ben’s suspicions mount, he’s forced to confront the terrifying possibility that his close-knit community is not what it seems to be—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darker forces may be at work. I expected all sorts of sinister revelations, but Ben’s questions surrounding the death of Helen Lowenthal form the background rather than the main story—though when his answer arrives, it is shocking indeed. I love a good twist within a twist that I didn’t even half-guess, and this certainly ticked that box.

Essentially, this is a coming-of-age novel. Although I think it could have done with a little more plot, the writing itself is spectacularly good, of much literary merit, making it a joy to read. The subtleties of the characters, traditions and social protocols of the Jewish community in the 1960s were acutely observed, as were the marital problems of Ben’s parents, his mother’s neuroses, and his own burgeoning drink problem. Later, the lake by which the community lives is contaminated, which I took to be allegorical of not only the underlying problems within the society that was Red Meadow, but the 1960s themselves—the corruption and unrest beneath the image of hope, prosperity, revolution and the Summer of Love. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it.

It’s one of those books that I didn’t absolutely love because of personal preference about genre, but I can appreciate is first class of its type. Should complex family intrigue, stunningly good writing, coming-of-age dramas and the strange new world of the 1960s be totally your thing, I would recommend that you buy and start reading this immediately. And the ending is perfect.

Book description

Set against the backdrop of the Newark riots in 1967, a teenage Benjamin Baum leaves the city to spend the summer at an idyllic lake in northern New Jersey. While fishing from his grandparents’ dock, the dead body of a beloved neighbor floats to the water’s surface—a loss that shakes this Jewish community and reveals cracks in what appeared to be a perfect middle-class existence. Haunted by the sight of the woman’s corpse, Ben stubbornly searches for clues to her death, infuriating friends and family who view his unwelcome investigation as a threat to the comfortable lives they’ve built. As Ben’s suspicions mount, he’s forced to confront the terrifying possibility that his close-knit community is not what it seems to be—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darker forces may be at work.

In The Boy and the Lake, Adam Pelzman has crafted a riveting coming-of-age story and a mystery rich in historical detail, exploring an insular world where the desperate quest for the American dream threatens to destroy both a family and a way of life.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT THE LOST BLACKBIRD: An emotional dramas based on true life events by @LizaPerrat

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Lost Blackbird by Liza Perrat

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This book is certainly an eye-opener.  In the 1950s and 60s (and as late as 1970), children were taken from English children’s homes for a ‘better life’ in Australia.  Sometimes the children were orphans, other times they were in care because the parents were temporarily unable to look after them, and they were shipped off without parental consent.  A few were fortunate, and were adopted by families, but most were used as slave labour on farms, until they were sixteen, when they would be sent to cattle stations to serve an ‘apprenticeship’ – more slave labour.  Most suffered permanent separation from siblings and families in England.

This is the fictional story of Londoners Lucy and Charly Rivers who ended up in ‘care’ (a brutal, regimental establishment) after their mother was wrongly convicted of having killed their father.  When Charly was six and Lucy ten, they were put on a boat with many others, to sail to the other side of the world.

The story alternates between that of Lucy and Charly, who fare very differently.  I found Charly’s story absolutely fascinating, and it was so well written by Ms Perrat; it involved a slow brainwashing until by the time she was sixteen she was not sure what was a memory and what a fantasy or dream; the way in which she tried to capture fleeting images was perfectly illustrated, as was the behaviour of the people who perpetrated this; the gradual unravelling was riveting stuff.  Lucy’s story was so tragic and I was equally engrossed in the first two thirds or so, though I was less convinced by a couple of developments later on.

The book is certainly a page-turner, nicely structured, making me eager to know what would happen next, as hope twinkles in the distance for the characters, then disappears. The writing flows well, and I’d definitely recommend it to any readers who enjoy emotional dramas based on true life events – the fact that all this stuff actually happened gives a hugely compelling slant to the whole story.  At the end of the book, Ms Perrat writes about her research process, giving details of some of the books she used for reference, which has now added to my reading list, too!  I give her a round of applause for bringing these heinous crimes to light in this highly readable novel.

Book description

A powerful story of sisters cruelly torn apart by a shameful event in British-Australian history. Clare Flynn, author of The Pearl of Penang
London 1962. A strict and loveless English children’s home, or the promise of Australian sunshine, sandy beaches and eating fruit straight from the tree. Which would you choose?
Ten-year-old Lucy Rivers and her five-year-old sister Charly are thrilled when a child migrant scheme offers them the chance to escape their miserable past.
But on arrival in Sydney, the girls discover their fantasy future is more nightmare than dream.
Lucy’s lot is near-slavery at Seabreeze Farm where living conditions are inhuman, the flies and heat unbearable and the owner a sadistic bully. What must she do to survive?
Meanwhile Charly, adopted by the nurturing and privileged Ashwood family, gradually senses that her new parents are hiding something. When the truth emerges, the whole family crumbles. Can Charly recover from this bittersweet deception?
Will the sisters, stranded miles apart in a strange country, ever find each other again?
A poignant testament to child migrants who suffered unforgivable evil, The Lost Blackbird explores the power of family bonds and our desire to know who we are.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistFic Based On Real Events THE LOST BLACKBIRD by @LizaPerrat

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Lost Blackbird by Liza Perrat

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Liza Perrat has quickly become one of my favourite authors. I read the Silent Kookaburra at the time of its publication, four years ago, and I’ve read all her novels since, both those in the Australia series (set in Australia in the fairly recent past) and also those in her historical series “The Bone Angel”, set in France over the centuries. They all have female protagonists and centre on the lives, difficulties, and challenges women have had to face throughout history. Although the novels are thematically related, they are fully independent and readers can pick any of them and enjoy them without worrying about not having read the rest (although I’d challenge anybody to read one of these novels and not feel compelled to explore the rest).

This novel —quite close thematically to The Swooping Magpie in many ways— offers readers an insight into a shameful and horrific event in recent British-Australian history, which those familiar with the work of the Child Migrant Trust and/or who have watched or read the story behind the film Oranges and Sunshine (the book was originally called Empty Cradles and written by Margaret Humphreys) will be aware of. If The Swooping Magpie talked about forced adoptions, here we go a step further, and children were not only adopted under false pretences, but also sent to the other end of the world (near enough), so they were completely severed from their relatives and all they were familiar with, in some cases to be adopted, but in others to became forced labour and had to undergo terrible abuse in many cases.

Perrat’s fictionalised account takes as its protagonists two sisters from London, whose short lives (Lucy is 10 and Charly 5 when we meet them) had already seen much hardship and suffering, and then a traumatic event results in them ending up in care, and things only take a turn for the worse from then on. The chapters alternate between the point of view of the two sisters (Lucy’s chapters narrated in the first person and Charly’s in the third), although we have a few from the point of view of Annie, their mother (in the third person, present tense). This works very well because although initially we get different versions of the same events, which help readers get to know the two sisters and their outlook in life, later on, when they reach Australia, they are separated (despite the guarantees to the contrary they had been given) and we get to share in their two very different experiences. Although neither of them are as promised or expected, the challenges the two sisters have to face are miles apart. While the younger one gets her identity all but completely erased, the older sister is systematically abused, worked to the bone, and has to experience so many losses that she is almost destroyed in the process.

The story is not an easy read, and it deals with harsh truths and with difficult topics beyond the main historical subject (domestic violence, the institutional care system both in the UK and Australia, forced adoptions and child labour, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, prostitution, poverty, post-natal depression, pathological grief…) so although this is a compelling book, readers must be prepared to be confronted with some ugly truths. I’ve read novels that are much more explicit than this one; don’t get me wrong, but because of the degree of attachment to the characters, the nasty events hit hard.

The characters are well-drawn and believable. Both girls, Lucy and Charly, have their own distinct personalities, with Charly being quiet, a reader, and a deep thinker, and Lucy more of an action girl. She fiercely loves her mother and her little sister, but finds it impossible to keep her mouth shut and keeps getting into trouble, mostly for trying to help or defend others. She learns to be tough and to present a hard front to the world, but that also makes her resentful and unwilling to ask for help. She is mistrustful but also naïve at times, and her stubbornness sometimes works against her. There are moments when her extreme behaviour makes her difficult to like, but her reactions are quite understandable, and her circumstances are such that we can’t help but wonder if we would have done any better. The rest of the girls and boys they meet through their journey, and also their ersatz families are memorable, and some of the scenes that take place have become engrained in my brain and will keep playing there for a long time.

Perrat’s writing is flawless, as usual. She is particularly adept at making us share in her characters’ experiences, and we can see, hear, smell, taste, and almost touch, everything around them: bird songs and cries, food, clothes, the oppressive heat, the sting of mosquitoes, the joy of the first swim in the sea, the luxury of the big cruiser ship… Her depiction of the character’s mental state, their ruminations, the intrusive memories and flashbacks, are also excellent and there are plenty of action, secrets, mystery, and intrigue to keep us turning the pages. The book is also full of Australian and English expressions that will delight lovers of vernacular and casual expressions, and I’ve learned the origins of quite a few expressions I had heard and learned some new ones (blackbirding anyone?)

The ending, as the author comments on her acknowledgements at the end of the book, might not be the norm in many real cases, but it is very satisfying, and I enjoyed it (although throughout the novel we also get to see some pretty different outcomes). The author shares her sources and also thanks those who have contributed to this well researched and accomplished novel in the final pages of the book, and I advise people interested in the topic to read until the very end for further information.

I recommend this novel, and all of this author’s novels, to readers interested in books about the female experience, and also, in this case, about the forced migration of thousands of British children to Australia and other commonwealth countries over the years (this practice was only stopped in 1970). Because of the subject matter, this is not an easy read and can be heart wrenching at times, but it is a compelling fictionalised account of an episode of history that everybody should know about. It is wonderfully written, well-researched, and its characters are likely to remain with readers long after they close the book. A must-read. (Remember that you can always try a sample of the book if you want to get a taster and check if it’s for you).

Book description

A powerful story of sisters cruelly torn apart by a shameful event in British-Australian history. Clare Flynn, author of The Pearl of Penang
London 1962. A strict and loveless English children’s home, or the promise of Australian sunshine, sandy beaches and eating fruit straight from the tree. Which would you choose?
Ten-year-old Lucy Rivers and her five-year-old sister Charly are thrilled when a child migrant scheme offers them the chance to escape their miserable past.
But on arrival in Sydney, the girls discover their fantasy future is more nightmare than dream.
Lucy’s lot is near-slavery at Seabreeze Farm where living conditions are inhuman, the flies and heat unbearable and the owner a sadistic bully. What must she do to survive?
Meanwhile Charly, adopted by the nurturing and privileged Ashwood family, gradually senses that her new parents are hiding something. When the truth emerges, the whole family crumbles. Can Charly recover from this bittersweet deception?
Will the sisters, stranded miles apart in a strange country, ever find each other again?
A poignant testament to child migrants who suffered unforgivable evil, The Lost Blackbird explores the power of family bonds and our desire to know who we are.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT 1960s Australian Drama THE LOST BLACKBIRD by @LizaPerrat

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Lost Blackbird by Liza Perrat

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The Lost Blackbird is the third book by Liza Perrat that I’ve read, the others being The Silent Kookaburra and The Swooping Magpie.  This is my favorite.

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Ms. Perrat is an Australian author and she creates the world of that country with wonderful detail and ambience. Here she pays homage to the children brought to Australia from England’s orphanages and care centers in the 1960s, purportedly for a better life. These children were a costly burden to England, and the government’s solution was to ship them off to populate various other countries in its former Empire, often without any documentation of where they came from and whether they were in fact orphans. In Australia they became prisoners, working in slave labor camps with little food, clothing, or education and often beaten, degraded and subject to abuse. This is something I knew nothing about, but it is a story that has to be told.

Five year old Charly and her ten year old sister Lucy are sent to Easthaven Home for Girls in England when their mother is accused of killing their father by pushing him down the stairs and then is sent to prison for her crime. In fact, drunk and in a rage at Charly, he tripped and fell down the stairs, but Charly is too young to understand what had happened.

Easthaven is run in a brutal fashion by unforgiving women, and Lucy considers it a stroke of luck when she and her sister are chosen to go to Australia, freeing them from their awful fate in that institution. After a magical six week trip aboard an ocean liner to Australia, with new clothes, good food, games to play with their fellow migrants, and two women who care for them, Lucy are Charly are wrenched apart on the Sydney docks. Charly is adopted by a privileged family and her new parents do everything in their power to erase her past. Lucy is sent to live at Seabreeze Farm in the interior of the country, where she and some friends she made on the boat live in inhuman conditions, working as slaves, and suffering from lack of food, heat, flies, and the bullying of the sadistic owner of the farm.

As Charly begins to suspect her parents are hiding a secret, Lucy descends into despair and cynicism, although never ceasing to think about Charly and how to find her. How does Lucy survive and will Charly ever learn the truth of her beginnings and the fact she has a sister?

Liza Perrat paints a harsh picture of the orphans’ lives against the brilliant background of Australia. As a reader, my emotions meshed with those of Lucy and I also despaired of her survival, but I read on! I’m glad I did. The story is heart-breaking but told with enormous compassion. The author not only does a wonderful job of presenting the country but also creates well-rounded, real characters whose emotions are easily felt: Charly and Lucy, of course, but also the hate-filled farmer Yates, his beaten wife Bonnie, and the Ashwoods who adopt Charly, both so desperate to replace their dead daughter.

I read the book in two sittings, and it flowed so well and was engrossing. I recommend The Lost Blackbird to everyone with a heart, so everyone!

Book description

A powerful story of sisters cruelly torn apart by a shameful event in British-Australian history. Clare Flynn, author of The Pearl of Penang
London 1962. A strict and loveless English children’s home, or the promise of Australian sunshine, sandy beaches and eating fruit straight from the tree. Which would you choose?
Ten-year-old Lucy Rivers and her five-year-old sister Charly are thrilled when a child migrant scheme offers them the chance to escape their miserable past.
But on arrival in Sydney, the girls discover their fantasy future is more nightmare than dream.
Lucy’s lot is near-slavery at Seabreeze Farm where living conditions are inhuman, the flies and heat unbearable and the owner a sadistic bully. What must she do to survive?
Meanwhile Charly, adopted by the nurturing and privileged Ashwood family, gradually senses that her new parents are hiding something. When the truth emerges, the whole family crumbles. Can Charly recover from this bittersweet deception?
Will the sisters, stranded miles apart in a strange country, ever find each other again?
A poignant testament to child migrants who suffered unforgivable evil, The Lost Blackbird explores the power of family bonds and our desire to know who we are.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

54822591. sy475