Today’s team review is from Lynne. She blogs here https://just4mybooks.wordpress.com/
Lynne has been reading the No Woman Is An Island Box Set which includes the following 5 books.
Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat
Set in Lucie-sur-Vionne, France in the year of our Lord, 1348, it follows the life of midwife Héloïse.
Over the years, Héloïse has fallen foul of many locals, who blame her for the death of their father, mother, child, dog, rat and fleas – in fact, anything they can blame her for, they will. Fortunately, more see her as the competent, respectful and caring person that she is.
However, when things take a turn for the worse, it is the naysayers who seem to have the power to control her fate, and she must use all her strength and faith in her mother’s talisman to fend them off. But it’s not easy, and her life is endangered by these suspicious and vengeful folk.
Without spilling any of the beans – plot wise – let me just say that I defy you not to be transported back in time by this book, and to feel immersed in the daily life of villagers in Lucie. Héloïse is a woman to root for, as injustices pile upon her, yet on she goes.
Hidden by Linda Gillard
I read a lot of historical fiction, mainly the WWII era. What I haven’t come across before is a story such as that told in Hidden. Esme has lost her brothers and her fiancé during The Great War but she takes the selfless – albeit naïve – step to enter into a marriage with a wounded soldier who might otherwise have no family to support him. An advertisement sees her meet with Guy Carlyle, a Captain whose mind and face has been ravaged by life in the trenches and for whom the horror of being buried alive will continue to torment and warp his mind.
Esme’s story is bookended by a modern-day story. The owner of Myddleton Mote, an actor, has died, leaving the house to a daughter who never knew of him as her father. Miranda Norton has herself escaped an abusive marriage and moves her family into the Mote which houses her father’s art collection – the Painted Ladies by Esme Howard (Carlyle)
Esme’s story is powerful, captivating and all-engrossing. I don’t think I’ve read anything so absorbing. The author presents a story so eloquent in portraying the terrors of the mind and how shell shock (as it was then deemed) can change a person so thoroughly and completely.
The Chase by Lorna Fergusson
For me, The Chase was not as engaging as the previous books in the collection mainly because I simply couldn’t get to grips with the gothic element of the dual timeline narrative. That said, the language was very moody and evocative.
The more modern story was, however, something I could get immersed in. Gerald and Netty Feldwick sell their Oxford home and make the move to France, to a region heaped in both history and British homeowners.
The overriding theme, for me, was that actions have consequences. Even when taken out of their ordinary lives, there was a clear void between Gerald and Netty, and their neighbours (new and old) were instrumental in exposing how far apart they had grown.
I enjoyed aspects of this story, and felt the author handled the Feldwick’s tragic past with sensitivity. Readers more in tune with Gothic themes will surely get more from it than I did.
The Chalky Sea by Clare Flynn
The story starts in 1940; WWII has begun and with it national conscription. Gwen must say goodbye to her husband, Roger as he leaves for a role that will mean she’ll never know where he is or if he is safe. She joins the WVS and begins to see the impact of war through the eyes of those who have far less yet seem to value what they do have so much more, especially when it comes to their family and friends.
Across the pond, in Ontario, Jim signs up and joins a Canadian battalion heading for England. Anything to put the shock of betrayal between his brother and his fiancée behind him, he doesn’t even care if he lives or dies.
When Jim’s battalion is posted to Eastbourne, he’s hopeful of a playing a proper role in the war only to find he is billeted at Gwen’s house and, unbeknownst to him, robbed her of a job translating radio messages.
Flynn’s descriptive writing beautifully brings the region alive and the sea’s mood compliments the dilemmas faced by the characters. There are certain aspects of the relationships that are quite easy to predict but I enjoyed how the author unravelled the details. A great read and a real saga to be enjoyed.
Coffee and Vodka by Helena Halme
Set in Finland and Sweden, Coffee and Vodka spans thirty years of the life of Eeva and her family.
The story is an easy read, well-written and crafted at just the right pace to draw you into Eeva’s life and hold your attention as she moves from child- to adulthood, from Finland to Sweden, from observing to understanding. It has a coming-of-age feel to it mingled with history and “a slice of life” family drama. It doesn’t pull overly dramatic punches but rather deals with themes that readers can relate to in a way that compels you to keep going to unravel the threads that weave through this tapestry of family life. There are issues of domestic abuse, alcoholism, teenage angst all of which are beautifully offset the existence of a wonderfully uniting matriarch whose passing delivers the “aha!” moment that holds everything together and promises a better future.
Subtle and compelling, it makes for a fitting final book to a strong collection of impressive women throughout history. I look forward to reading more by this author who has mastered the art of telling a simple story so very, very well.