📚’In short, this is a terrific read’. Noelle reviews #HistoricalFiction The Invincible Miss Cust by @PennyHaw 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 The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw.

The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw

This is the heartwarming and remarkable story of Aleen Isabel Cust, England’s first female veterinary surgeon, and a book I thoroughly enjoyed. The author explains that while the main character is real and many of the events in her life are recorded, this is not a biography. But what she’s created is completely believable.

Aleen Cust’s first memories are of her life in Ireland with her aristocratic family. She loves their animals, especially the horses, and delights in racing and hunting on horseback with her brothers. She is also unusually educated for the time because she gets to share her brother’s tutor. But she also knows that many of the opportunities given to her brothers she can’t share because she is a girl. Nevertheless, when she first meets a veterinary surgeon, she is struck with the idea that this is what she wants to be.

When her father dies, the family has to leave Ireland for England because he had been an overseer of land owned by someone else. Leaving their beloved horses and dogs behind, Aleen vows to return once she achieves her dream.  When she tells her mother of her plans for her future, and the family, especially her mother, is appalled by the idea and emphatically forbids it, citing the shame it would bring on them.

When she meets and is drawn into a family that is friends with her own, she finds their daughter shares her same passion for her own life and career. This young woman is allowed to go hunting and will train as a nurse, and Aleen’s dream is reignited. But the only thing her overbearing mother will allow her to do is train as a nurse, which she soon finds is stultifying and stifling. Working in the city instead of the country and the patriarchal relationship between physicians and nurses makes her resentful. She quits.

After some years, the heavens align (I can’t reveal how!) and she finds a way to attend the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh, which sets her on the path to her dream but which alienates her from her family forever. The trials of school and her training thereafter make a wonderful read, but what she does with the rest of her life is nothing short of amazing.

Using available research, the author has crafted a wondrous story of Aleen’s ambition, determination against all odds, and battle for equality that is won with courage, passion and friendship. The storytelling is riveting and filled with tension. The reader is left wondering How could she have done this?  when reading about Aleen’s daily challenges and obstacles and the years it took her to accomplish her goal.

Each of the characters comes alive and the reader becomes invested in their lives as well, and one can’t help feeling the same about the dogs and horses that run through the Aleen’s life. The complexity of Aleen’s relations with various members of her family, especially her mother and older brother, is both frustrating and difficult to absorb, so different from the present day, and the reader can feel the conflict between Aleen’s loyalty and love for them and her absolute certainty that the family’s plans for her future are not something she can accept.

 The historical background of England and Ireland from the late 1800s through WWI is meticulously presented and I learned a great deal about the treatment of the horses that were central to the war. The author did considerable research on veterinary surgery of the time – I am very impressed.

In short, this is a terrific read about a woman in the trenches of the war against historical patriarchy and appallingly unequal societal norms. It is also colorful, personal and filled with warmth and passion.

I reviewed the author’s previous book, The Wilderness Between Us, and gave it five stars. The same for The Invincible Miss Cust.

Orange rose book description
Book description

Aleen Cust has big dreams and no one―not her family, society, or the law―will stop her.

Born in Ireland in 1868 to an aristocratic English family, Aleen knows she is destined to work with animals, even if her family is appalled by the idea of a woman pursuing a veterinary career. Going against their wishes but with the encouragement of the guardian assigned to her upon her father’s death, Aleen attends the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh, enrolling as A. I. Custance to spare her family the humiliation they fear. At last, she is on her way to becoming a veterinary surgeon! Little does she know her biggest obstacles lie ahead.

The Invincible Miss Cust is based on the real life of Aleen Isabel Cust, who defied her family and society to become Britain and Ireland’s first woman veterinary surgeon. Through Penny Haw’s meticulous research, riveting storytelling, and elegant prose, Aleen’s story of ambition, determination, family, friendship, and passion comes to life. It is a story that, even today, women will recognize, of battling patriarchy and an unequal society to realize one’s dreams and pave the way for other women in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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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