Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery THE ALEXANDRITE by Dione Jones

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Alexandrite by Dione Jones

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I purchased the book for review as a member of Rosie Amber’s book review team.

This book covers multiple generations of the titled Scawton family of England. The center of the story is the current Lady Scawton, Pamela, who discovers the body of a stranger in the woods near the family home of Ashly House.

Pamela represents perhaps the last generation of the English upper class raised to be waited on and respected for their title alone, but she is, in fact, rather down to earth. She endured years of emotional and psychological trauma at the hands of her husband, CJ, and her only son, Charles, now Lord Scawton, is as selfish and overbearing as her husband.

In the pocket of the stranger is a letter addressed to Lord Scawton and an odd stone, one which changes color from green to pink, depending on the light. Pamela has no idea why the stranger, who had come to England from New Zealand, wanted to see her husband, what the abbreviated letter means, nor the reason for the stone. Eventually, she, against the strong wishes of her son, travels to New Zealand to get answers. The stone, an alexandrite, mined in Tsarist Russia, gives its name to the book.

The book has numerous flashbacks to scenes involving the family and their servants during the two decades after WWI, and from Ashly House to New Zealand farmland. Pamela’s trip reveals how the flashbacks to events after WW I are woven into the present.

I enjoyed the book, but for me it was a long read, with a great deal of exposition and some confusion with the many characters in the various time lines and places and multiple points of view. A character list at the beginning of the book would have been helpful. The site transitions within chapters also created some difficulties for me as I struggled to identify and remember the characters.

That being said, the author does a wonderful job creating the main characters. I felt pity for Pamela having such a difficult married life, knowing she was trapped there, and having a son who treated her disrespectfully. She is such a good character that I wanted to shake her and tell her to stand up for herself. It was gratifying that eventually she did. Her son Charles, the butler Godfrey, Ginny, the daughter of Pamela’s friend Di Williams and Theodore Cook, the brother of the dead man and a shambling old wreck in and out of his memories, made strong impressions. I also liked the scenes set in New Zealand, where the author resides, especially the sheep shearing and Karekare Beach.

Another strong element for me was the description of the different roles of women set against the British class system, class conflicts and changing societal values.

This book had much to recommend, but the numerous characters and their relationships are  difficult to sort out through the various stories winding within the book.

Book description

Who is the stranger found dead in the woods, outside Pamela Lady Scawton’s family home? Why was he carrying a stone that changes colour and a threatening letter?
The quest leads from World War One to the present day and from an English village to New Zealand farmland, to discover how past events are intertwined with the present. To unravel the mystery Pamela is forced to confront truths that shatter her beliefs about her family and their place in the world.
The Alexandrite is a story of class conflict, hidden sins, and deceit.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview #Histfic Family Saga The Girl From The Mill by @WalshChrissie ‏@Aria_Fiction

The Girl from the MillThe Girl from the Mill by Chrissie Walsh

4 stars

The Girl From The Mill is an historical family saga set in Yorkshire during World War I.

The story centres around textile mill employee Lacey Barraclough. Lacey is a loyal but ambitious young woman, who plays her part in fighting for the better working rights for herself and her fellow women workers.

Lacey is also an accomplished seamstress and it’s not long before her skills are noticed by prominent  woman in the Garsthwaite community. In her personal life, Lacey has caught the eye of Nathan Brearley, the mill owner’s son, but their difference in class is hard to overcome.

When the war breaks out, changes occur on the home front. Families must survive without menfolk, there are new bargaining powers at the mills for the workers, and Lacey’s own life changes when she marries Nathan.

This is an easy read story filled with nostalgia from the era and plenty of local colloquialisms. Ideal for those who enjoy historical style family sagas.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

In the drab Yorkshire town of Garsthwaite, Lacey Barraclough works hard in the textile mill, determined to fight for improvements to the dismal working conditions she and her fellow weavers face. But she hadn’t reckoned on falling in love with the boss’s son, NathanNathan returns her love, but to succeed they must overcome the class divide, as well as persuade their families that their love for each other is real.

Before Nathan and Lacey can make a life together, World War I breaks out and Nathan enlists to fight. When Nathan heads off to the Front, he takes Lacey’s dreams with him, and she must find a new way to face the future. As hard times come to Garsthwaite, will there be a home for the returning heroes to come back to?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WW1 Fred’s Funeral by @sandeetweets #SundayBlogShare

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day

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My review:

I am writing this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie and the author for providing me a copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This is a short book, but it punches well above its weight. The book, written mostly from the point of view of Fred Sadler, a Canadian veteran of WWI who never quite recovered from the war and spent years in and out of mental institutions (such as they were at the time), takes its readers on a journey through Fred’s memories (he has just died, so I guess I should say his ghost’s memories, but, in many ways, Fred had been a ghost of his former self for many years already) and those of the relatives who attend his funeral. We have brief hints at times of what other characters are thinking or feeling (as Fred’s consciousness becomes all-encompassing), but mostly we remain with Fred. We share in his opinions and his own remembrances of the facts his family members (mostly his sister-in-law, Viola, who is the only one left with first-hand-knowledge of his circumstances, at least some of them) are discussing.

Fred’s story — based on the life of a relative of the author and on documents and letters he left behind— will be familiar to readers interested in the history of the period, and in the terrible consequences the war had on the lives and mental health of many of the young men who fought and suffered in the war. Shell-shock (now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD) was little understood at the time and psychiatry (that is not a hard science at its best) was pretty limited in its resources at the time. Even nowadays, delayed onset PTSD is rarely diagnosed and not well-understood, and the condition results sometimes in permanent changes in the personality of the sufferer, who might end up with all kinds of other diagnoses and are often misunderstood and mistreated.

Sandy Day’s beautifully descriptive and, at times, lyrical writing —the author had previously published a poetry book— captures both strands of the story: the terrible disintegration of the life of such a promising young man, and the changes in his family and the society around him, which he was only a spectator of (and was never allowed to take an active role in). His brother married and had children, his parents died; the family property, so dear to him, was split up and eventually sold, and he was only the weird uncle nobody knew much about.

The novel (as it is a fictionalization of the events) succeeds in giving Fred a voice, in bringing forth the fear, the thrashed hopes, the puzzlement, the resignation, the confusion, of this man who put his life on the line and got only pain in return. It is a poignant and beautiful memorial to the lives of many soldiers whose trauma was misunderstood and whose lives were destroyed. The writing is compelling and gets the readers inside of Fred’s head, making us share in his horrifying experiences. The book can be hard to read at times, not so much because of graphic content (although the few descriptions are vivid), but because it is impossible not to empathise and imagine what he must have gone through. But there is also a hopeful note in the interest of the new generations and the fact of the book itself.

There are time-shifts, and some changes in point of view (because Fred’s ghost can at times become the equivalent of an omniscient narrator), but past events follow a chronological order and are clearly demarcated and easy to follow, and the device of the funeral helps anchor the story and provide a frame and a background that give it a more personal and intimate dimension. The Canadian landscape and setting also add a touch of realism and singularity to the story.

Although the book is very short, I could not resist sharing at least a tiny sample of the beautiful writing with you:

He looks down half-blindly as his old Canadian Expeditionary Force Uniform dissolves into a constellation of colourful snowflakes, twirling away from him in a trail. Beneath the uniform he is nothing. He has no name or age. He is at once as old as a flickering blue base at the wick of a candle and as young as a flame surging into brilliance.

This is a poignant and lovingly written ode to a man who returned from WWI (at least in body) but was as lost as many of the men who never came back. A story about an unsung hero that should be cherished and its lessons learnt. I cannot recommend it enough.

Book description

Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to WWI, and the ghost of Fred Sadler hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish sister-in-law, Viola. As she dominates the remembrance of Fred, he agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.

Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he locked up most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Could his family not have done more for him?

Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.

About the author

Sandy Day is the author of Poems from the Chatterbox and Fred’s Funeral. She graduated from Glendon College, York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy spends her summers in Jackson’s Point, Ontario on the shore of Lake Simcoe. She winters nearby in Sutton by the Black River. Sandy is a trained facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and book coach.

Sandy Day

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #WW1 Survivor FRED’S FUNERAL by @sandeetweets #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day

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4.5 out of 5 stars

Fred’s Funeral is a long novella, beginning with the death of Fred Sadler, in 1986.  As he dies, his ghost floats up and observes his relatives at his bedside, and follows them to the funeral and back to his family home as they share their memories of him.  The book then dips back and forth between present and past, to his childhood in Jackson Point, near Toronto, to his horrific experiences in the First World War, to the many years afterwards when he was trying to find his feet.

Fred led a difficult life, always the outsider.  His family history is complicated, with many undercurrents, resentments and complex issues.  Little went right for him after WW1, which was, of course, closely followed by the Depression.  He suffered from shell shock for many, many years, but this was not understood in those days; his family tried to get him a disabled war veteran pension, or into a hospital for those who suffered with this malady, but they were to discover that the doctors were in cahoots with the military: if a patient was diagnosed with a different sort of mental illness, the War Office would not have to pay.

Fred is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and goes through much in the various hospitals he is sent to.

As Ghost Fred watches his family, he feels in turn angry, misunderstood, unloved and, occasionally, pleased by what he hears.  He was thought of as ‘mad old Fred’, and there is much in this book that is so sad; it made me want to find the younger man and make everything alright for him.  As the book dots about between times, I kept being lifted out of one era and put down in another but they fit together nicely, I became quickly engrossed in every snapshot of his life, and gradually the jigsaw fitted together.

The book is so readable and well written, and I enjoyed how the story built up, not only in Fred’s life but from a sociological history point of view.  It’s interesting (if frustrating) from the point of view of family wrangles, and builds such a tragic picture of the poor men caught up in the pointless carnage of WW1.  I really liked it.

Book description

Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to WWI, and the ghost of Fred Sadler hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish sister-in-law, Viola. As she dominates the remembrance of Fred, he agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.

Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he locked up most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Could his family not have done more for him?

Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.

About the author

Sandy Day is the author of Poems from the Chatterbox and Fred’s Funeral. She graduated from Glendon College, York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy spends her summers in Jackson’s Point, Ontario on the shore of Lake Simcoe. She winters nearby in Sutton by the Black River. Sandy is a trained facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and book coach.

Sandy Day

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WW1 #PTSD Novella FRED’S FUNERAL by @sandeetweets

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day

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Fred’s Funeral is a novella by Sandy Day, inspired by hundreds of letters written by the author’s Great Uncle Fred, but a wonderful concoction of her imagination.

Fred Sadler has just died in his room in a hospital for the mentally ill. He sees his cousin and his brother and a whole family of those who died before him, congregating on the other side of an ethereal divide. The problem is, he can’t cross the divide. He finds himself – or at least his consciousness – watching from the ceiling of his room, as his priggish sister-in-law, Viola, and her brother, Thomas, open his one possession, an old battered suitcase. It is Viola who gives her interpretation of Fred’s life based on old memories and the contents of the suitcase.

As they paw through his belongings, Fred is shocked to find Viola’s version of the events of his life is not as he remembers it. Why had he spent so many years locked up in Whitby Hospital for the Insane?

As Fred moves through his funeral and the gathering of the family afterward, and between his memories and the pronouncements of Viola and others, we learn that the young Fred went off to fight in World War I and came back damaged: addicted to binge drinking, constantly angry and full of anxieties. At that time, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome was not recognized, and the remainder of his life was consumed by his trying to govern his emotions and fit in, his family’s attempts to provide and adjust for him, and finally, his placement in the hospital. We are reminded of the barbarity of the so-called modern treatments for patients at that time in such institutions.

What I particularly liked about this story are the ways different people look at the same events, and the ability to see how his confusion, frustration, and mental breakdown – now so understandable – were met with misunderstanding by his family. Fred desperately wants to gain control of his life, to spend his life in the home and with the family he so values, but can’t help pushing them away.  The reader can feel his angst and understand his actions, but at the same time see themselves in the family’s shoes. The author does a wonderful job of describing family relationships and deep-seated feelings.

This is a short, but very profound read.

Book description

Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to WWI, and the ghost of Fred Sadler hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish sister-in-law, Viola. As she dominates the remembrance of Fred, he agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.

Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he locked up most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Could his family not have done more for him?

Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.

About the author

Sandy Day is the author of Poems from the Chatterbox and Fred’s Funeral. She graduated from Glendon College, York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy spends her summers in Jackson’s Point, Ontario on the shore of Lake Simcoe. She winters nearby in Sutton by the Black River. Sandy is a trained facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and book coach.

Sandy Day

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Robbie Reviews #WW1 #PTSD Survivor Story FRED’S FUNERAL by @sandeetweets

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

#RBRT Review Team

Robbie has been reading Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day

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My review

Fred has just died in his small room in a hospital for the mentally ill. Fred finds himself a ghost, stuck between this life and the next and forced to watch his prissy sister-in-law, Viola, arrange his funeral. Fred seems tied to Viola and his brother, Thomas, and watches on, silent and powerless, as his life is rehashed by Viola to his relatives after the funeral. Viola’s version of the events of his life are unfavourable and cause Fred to think back to recollections of these same events.

Fred went off, as a young man, to fight in World War 1 and came back damaged and unable to manage to do the usual things in life such as hold down a job, get married and raise a family. Post his combat years, Fred suffers from huge anxiety and fear and this manifest itself in his binge drinking and uncontrolled behavior and angry outbursts. This condition is commonly known as “shell shock” or post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”).

The author gives some interesting insights into the character of Fred as she provides his version of events and describes beautifully his confusion and frustration with himself as he finds himself unable to control his anxiety and the resultant behavior. Fred continuously feels that he is right on the edge of regaining control of his life.

His father shipping him off to a hospital for the insane puts Fred on the sad path to complete misery and metal collapse as he is removed from the home environment that he values and longs for. His brother is not convinced that the mental hospital is the best place for Fred but his doesn’t have the strength of character to stand up to his wife and father.

A well penned story of a man’s struggle to overcome PTSD against the overwhelming prejudice and misunderstanding of the time as well as the horrific treatments imposed on mental patients in hospitals.

I rated this book four stars out of five.

Book description

Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to WWI, and the ghost of Fred Sadler hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish sister-in-law, Viola. As she dominates the remembrance of Fred, he agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.

Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he locked up most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Could his family not have done more for him?

Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.

About the author

Sandy Day is the author of Poems from the Chatterbox and Fred’s Funeral. She graduated from Glendon College, York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy spends her summers in Jackson’s Point, Ontario on the shore of Lake Simcoe. She winters nearby in Sutton by the Black River. Sandy is a trained facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and book coach.

Sandy Day

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS