You’re Being Ridiculous by C.E.A. Forster

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C.E.A. Forster: You’re Being Ridiculous

Published By: C.E.A. Forster

Buy it: here

 

What the Blurb Says: 

A new authorial voice relaying true stories that are likely to both horrify you and make you laugh out loud. Events and conversations are told with pace, humour and humanity as the author shares with you her memories of the situations she has lovingly endured while at the mercy of her numerous foster boys.

It is heart warming, heart breaking and heartfelt in equal measures. It is a memoir of sorts but it is definitely not a misery memoir. C.E.A. Forster is youngish, conceivably pushing middle age, although she would argue as to where that line is drawn, and she is just wanting to share with you the trials, tribulations and sheer joy of her time as a foster carer.

She writes of the sounds of bystanders that she can still to this day hear ringing in her ears, tutting at her apparent inability to control the children in her care and of the mayhem that follows them everywhere, along with her repeated admonition to them of “you’re being ridiculous!” .

Claire has experienced those awful questions in the most public of places concerning the differences between boys and girls and has been informed by a six year old on the habits of mating Turtles. Have you ever heard of pee wars? Have you ever crash landed in a World War II plane and lived to tell the tale? Not to mention some of the topics discussed at the dinner table that would make even the most bold of us blush.

Claire won’t mind you laughing at her or with her and she will leave you knowing, in no uncertain terms, just how much she grew to love these boys and how they will always have a special place in her heart. She hopes that maybe one day they will come back into her life to remind her of their own memories.

What I Say:

Thank you very much to C.E.A. Forster for supplying me with a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.

I have to admit that I wanted to review this book because I was curious about the world of fostering, having had no experience of it whatsoever.  I naively assumed that because I am a parent, I would understand what it takes to be a foster carer  – I could not have been more wrong!

You’re Being Ridiculous is the story of how Claire started fostering children and how she dealt with the everyday and not so everyday situations she found herself in!

What I found really refreshing about this book is that Claire does not claim to be any sort of foster carer expert, instead we see each situation as she deals with it, and the questions she has to ask herself as to how she should react appropriately.

As a mum, you can pretty much react in any way you want, and say whatever gets you through the tricky situation – as a foster carer, there is an added layer of responsibility and set of guidelines you are expected to follow which only adds to Claire’s dilemmas as she deals with the children in her care.

The situations that Claire and her foster children find themselves in are at times simply hilarious, and the scene in Aldi (you have to read it to believe it!), made me really laugh out loud. That is undoubtedly down to the no nonsense,  relatable way in which Claire writes.

It was also interesting to see how other people in the big wide world react to the sometimes unpredictable behaviour of the children, and that tutting is definitely the universal language of misunderstanding!  As a parent of a child with special needs that really resonated with me, as I have lost count of the number of times I have had to deal with stares and exaggerated tutting when my son doesn’t behave in a certain way.  I always think it would be very interesting to see how people would behave if they had to walk a mile in my shoes, and am sure that Claire must feel the same!

This is not to say that the book is just about the funny things that happen as Claire ventures into the world of fostering.  It is also balanced by the reality of what the young people in Claire’s care are going through.  We don’t know what place they are in their lives, and what they have seen or heard, and cannot begin to comprehend what they are thinking about as they find themselves in the house of a stranger for the first time.  Some of the most poignant scenes are where the children are trying to process what is happening to them, and how they deal with having been placed in Claire’s house.

For me, this is the strength of You’re Being Ridiculous – it could have been a flippant book filled with funny stories, but you can really feel the passion and love that Claire has for what she is doing.  As she gains experience (and that you need to have spares of everything just in case!), she learns how to adapt to each child, and that though one child may be really introverted and another is a non-stop dynamo, the most important thing you can do is just be there for the child when they need you.

You’re Being Ridiculous is not a long book – it comes in at two hundred pages, but it is full of emotion, laughter and compassion, something that jumps out at you from every page.  Claire has clearly found her vocation in foster caring, and her ability to tell her story so well and with so much love for the children who are lucky enough to come into her care, is a joy to read.

I hope that she is going to keep writing it all down for us, and hopefully we will see a sequel to You’re Being Ridiculous soon!

 

Something In The Water by Catherine Steadman

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Catherine Steadman: Something In The Water

Published By: Simon & Schuster UK (26 July 2018)

Buy It: here

 

What The Blurb Says:

Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough; Mark a handsome investment banker with a bright future. They seem to have it all, until Mark loses his job and cracks start to appear in their perfect life.

But they’re determined to make it work. They book their dream honeymoon and trust that things will work out – after all, they have each other.

On the tropical island of Bora Bora Mark takes Erin scuba diving. Mark is with her – she knows he’ll keep her safe. Everything will be fine. Until they find something in the water.

Erin and Mark decide to keep their discovery a secret — after all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events…  which will endanger everything they hold dear.

What I Say:

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster UK for an advance e-copy of Something In The Water, in advance for an honest review.

There has been so much buzz about this novel already, and at the time of reading and writing my blog, Reese Witherspoon has selected Something In The Water as her June Book Club Selection, so with credentials like that, you know that this is going to be something special!

The other issue, is that the opening chapter sets the scene for the whole novel, and without giving away any massive plot spoilers, suffice it to say, it’s one of the best first chapters I have ever read.  That unsettling start, sets the tone for the entire novel – nothing is as it seems, and everyone is out for something.

To make sure we understand how we have got to that point, we move back to the very start of the story – when Erin and Mark met and fell in love.

Erin Locke and Mark Roberts seem like the couple who have it all – she is a film maker about to make a career changing documentary, and he is an investment banker who is on a career high.  Life for the two of them is perfect – until Mark loses his job, and the reality of him not being able to find a new one suddenly starts to hit home.

They are supposed to be getting married, but both realise that the expense of a wedding, coupled with an expensive mortgage and no immediate job offer for Mark, their once Instagram Perfect life looks like it could be snatched away from them.

Erin is making a documentary about the lives of three prison inmates – Holli – a young woman who committed arson during the London Riots, Alexa – who assisted in her terminally ill mother’s suicide and Eddie – who has mob connections and a sentence for money laundering.  It also seems that Eddie appears to have numerous connections to the criminal underworld and has an intense interest in what Erin is doing – in her personal life as well as in her career..

In an attempt to try and reconnect and decide how they can move forward with Mark out of work, they decide to go on their honeymoon to Bora Bora.  After a horrendous storm, Mark and Erin go scuba diving.  On the way back, something hits the side of the boat, and they decide to bring the seemingly innocuous duffel bag on board.

After an agonising should they, shouldn’t they debate, Erin and Mark open the bag, and realise that the four packs of contents inside, have the power to change their lives forever.

From that moment on, Something In The Water shifts up another gear as Erin and Mark’s life changes irrevocably.  The seemingly stable and perhaps smug world they have inhabited is shattered, and the question that dominates the novel is – when your life is on the line, who can you really trust?

Mark and Erin are forced to make a number of decisions – some measured, many rash,  and are becoming increasingly out of their depth, in a world of silent voicemail messages and evil people. They start to question not only what they have got into,  but also the strength they have within themselves to ensure that they can survive.

Of course, I could tell you what was in the duffel bag, and what happens to Erin and Mark, but as any good book blogger knows, that is not how I operate!  So, all I can say, is you need to get a copy of this book – because I guarantee that everyone will be talking about it this Summer.

Something In The Water is a sumptuous read, packed with numerous cinematic scenes and a plot that will make your head spin.  It is brilliantly written, the characters are flawed but relatable, and it is truly ambitious in its scope and premise.  Catherine Steadman has achieved that rare thing in a novel, where you care deeply what happens to Erin, but also understand at how in times of crisis, people will do whatever it takes to protect what really matters to them – whatever the cost…

I loved it.

 

 

Mine by Susi Fox

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Susi Fox: Mine

Published By: Penguin

Buy It: here

What The Blurb Says:

You wake up alone after an emergency caesarean, dying to see your child.

But when you are shown the infant, you just know . . .

This baby is not yours.

No one believes you.

They say you’re delusional, confused, dangerous.

But you’re a doctor . . .

Do you trust yourself?

Because you know only one thing – You must find your baby.

What I Say:

Many Thanks to Sam Deacon at Penguin for a review copy of Mine, in exchange for an honest review and for a chance to participate in the Mine Blog Tour.

At the moment, when you go to buy a book, you are faced with a wall of psychological thrillers.  Books that promise you have never read anything like it, that you will never work out the twist, that this is the book everyone will be talking about.  I have to admit, that sometimes I have felt completely overwhelmed by the choice and come away empty  handed.

Mine is a psychological thriller, but I promise you, from one book lover to another, it is a novel you absolutely should read.  It plays on every mother’s deepest fear, makes you wary of the authenticity of every character, and the intense claustrophobic atmosphere means you question every chapter as you hurtle towards the conclusion.

Sasha and Mark Moloney have been trying for a child for a long time.  They have endured miscarriages and the need to have a child has placed their marriage under immense strain.  Her pregnancy is tinged with sadness, as Sasha admits she was considering leaving Mark just before she discovered she was pregnant again.  From the start, you sense that Sasha feels somewhat trapped in her marriage, and that the desire for a successful pregnancy is the only strand holding them together.

The narrative switches from past to present, interweaving key points in Sasha and Mark’s life with the unfolding drama in the hospital.  I liked this device as it helped build up a real picture of how Sasha and Mark got to this point, and how their lives and experiences made them who they are today.  I also thought that this was a subtle way of quietly unnerving the reader, shifting our sympathies back and forth – quite simply because we are never really sure of who really is telling the truth.

When Mark and Sasha go out for a drive, they swerve to avoid hitting a kangaroo and Sasha goes into labour.  She is 35 weeks pregnant, and has to have an emergency caesarean, which means she is no longer following her own birth plans, and instead is reliant on the decisions of others around her.

As Sasha comes round after her operation, Mark is not there – and nor is her baby.  Disorientated and unconscious during birth, she now has to battle with Ursula (a truly ferocious and unfeeling nurse), to go and see her child in the Special Care Unit.  Susi Fox is masterful at conveying Sasha’s bewilderment coupled with the stifling atmosphere of the Hospital wards – where the heating is permanently turned up and the windows are barely open.  There is definitely a sense of Sasha being trapped throughout the novel and that every sense is exaggerated as she becomes increasingly isolated.

As she finally sees her son for the first time, she is sure of one thing.

The baby in the crib is not her child.

Sasha tells everyone – and no one believes her.  It is every mother’s nightmare, and an interesting theme that runs throughout Mine – that the concerns Sasha have, are refuted by those in authority.  Her protestations are interpreted as the ramblings of a woman who must have mental health issues, because her mother did, as oppose to a mother who unwaveringly knows she has the wrong child.

What adds a deeper level to Mine, is that Sasha is also a pathologist, aware of hospital procedures and that this hospital is not blame free. Previous mistakes have been made here, and as she looks on Google, the chilling reality that babies have been mistakenly swapped all over the world makes her believe she has the evidence she needs.

Sasha faces the fight of her life, as Mark still desperately tries to convince her she has given birth to a son, and that he is lying in the crib next to her.

Sasha knows only one person will believe her, and she turns to Bec, the friend she grew up with, the daughter of Lucia, the woman who stepped in to raise Sasha after her own mother apparently disappeared.

We learn that Sasha and Bec’s relationship has become increasingly strained as both struggled to conceive.  When Sasha most recently became pregnant, Bec distanced herself, and now Sasha knows she must get through to her to get one person on her side.  It is due to Bec’s unwavering belief in Sasha’s intuition, and her advice that in order to find her child, she must play the hospital game, that we see Sasha admitted to the Mother and Baby Psychiatric Unit in the hospital.

In order to prove herself, and leave the Unit, she has to convince anyone who matters that they are right and she is wrong.  Sasha has to be the perfect patient to discover the truth, and find out what has really happened to the baby she gave birth to.  Of course, as any book lover knows, I am not going to tell you what happens – you need to read Mine!

Mine is a stunning novel, delving into the highly emotional issues of birth, motherhood, and the age old question of when it comes to our own children, who is really the expert?  It is not an easy read at times, and as it moves towards its conclusion, the scenes are often intense and shocking, but this only served to increase the unfolding drama and tension.

Why?  Because Susi Fox really makes you care about what happens to Sasha and her child.  You understand the frustration and panic that she feels, the fact that she is fighting with every bone in her body for her child, and that processes and procedures mean more than the instinct she has.  I also felt that Mark, who should have been a pillar of strength and the one person she can rely on, lets her down in every single way.

I thought that the other characters such as Ursula, Bec and Brigitte were perfect in their pitch and not a single scene was wasted.  It was interesting to see that even when people are placed in an non-judgemental environment which is meant to be one of healing and recovery, we are all plagued by the notion that we have to keep up the facade of proving how perfect we are, be it as a professional, partner or mother.  To admit defeat, to ask for help is seen as a sign of weakness and a sense that we have failed.

Mine is a fast paced, clever and thoughtful examination of the lengths that we will go to for our children. It is brilliantly written, perfect in its execution and I finished it in two days.

Susi Fox has written a psychological thriller that shakes you to your core and doesn’t let you forget it.  I was still thinking about Mine long after I finished it, and I know you will be too.

I loved it.

The Mine Blog Tour continues with these amazing fellow bloggers – don’t just take my word for it, see what they have to say too..!

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Eat Drink Run by Bryony Gordon

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Bryony Gordon: Eat Drink Run

Published By: Headline

Buy It: here

What The Blurb Says:

Bryony Gordon was not a runner. A loafer, a dawdler, a drinker, a smoker, yes. A runner, no. But, as she recovered from the emotional rollercoaster of opening up her life in her mental health memoir MAD GIRL, she realised that there were things that might actually help her: getting outside, moving her body and talking to others who found life occasionally challenging. As she ran, she started to shake off the limitations that had always held her back and she saw she had actually imposed them on herself. Why couldn’t she be a runner?

In April 2017, Bryony Gordon ran all 26.2 miles of the London Marathon. In Eat, Drink, Run., we join her as she trains for this daunting task and rises to the challenge one step at the time. Of course, on top of the aching muscles and blistered feet, there’s also the small matter of getting a certain royal to open up about his mental health. Through it all, Bryony shows us that extraordinary things can happen to everyone, no matter what life throws our way.

What I Say:

Thank you so much to Georgina Moore at Headline and Bookbridgr for my advance copy of Eat Drink Run in exchange for an honest review.

I had heard of Bryony and her work with the amazing Mental Health Mates, but had never read any of her books. Eat Drink Run is the story of how Bryony trained for and ran the 2017 London Marathon for Heads Together, the mental health charity established by Prince Harry, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge. Believe me, the scene where Bryony inadvertently agrees to run the marathon is absolutely worth the cover price of this book alone!

One of the many things I loved about Eat Drink Run, is that this is not some self-righteous motivational manual, it is a refreshing look at someone just like you or me deciding to make a change in their life. For me, it felt like having a chat with your best friend, over a couple of glasses of wine and that is a real credit to Bryony’s writing.

Having agreed to run the London Marathon, we see Bryony go from elation, to the shocking realisation of the enormity of what she has decided to do. As a backdrop to this, and throughout the book Bryony openly and honestly explains how her own mental health issues impact on how she tackles this immense task. She does not patronise us by claiming she has had some major revelation, and that her way is the only way. It is more as if you were sitting down with one of your friends, and you were talking about how bloody hard and unglamourous training for a marathon really is. Nothing is off limits – from Bryony going to a luxurious boot camp in Ibiza where she has to get help to get into her sports bra, to the rather unfortunate effects certain energy boosting drinks have on her bowels….

Eat Drink Run also gives a voice to the people who Bryony meets through her Mental Health Mates walks. We gain a real insight into what it means to have a mental health issue, and how this is something that does not discriminate, and has such a massive impact on the day-to-day ability of someone to function. For me, this was one of the most poignant parts of the book, as it was an opportunity to really understand what it means to feel like this, and how talking and normalising mental health is the first step to this becoming something in our lives that no longer carries any stigma or prejudice.

Alongside Bryony’s training, and trying to balance all the aspects of her hectic work and personal life, we see how she forms a unique connection with Prince Harry. His willingness to talk to her about his own mental health issues and having to very publicly deal with the death of his mother, brought this topic to the attention of the British public and press. I have to say that the transcript of Bryony’s podcast with Prince Harry is one of the most emotional and moving interviews I have read.

Just as a personal aside, I read the podcast interview during the weekend of Prince Harry’s marriage to Meghan Markle. I was 26 in 1997, and vividly remember William and Harry walking behind Princess Diana’s hearse, an image that broke a million hearts and showed the reality of two little boys who had lost their Mum. To now watch Harry walk to St George’s Chapel with William, and then to see him visibly moved by the sight of his bride, his Mum not there, was an immensely moving and timely backdrop to the interview. I promise you that by the end of that chapter, you will want to reach into the pages and hug him and tell him know how proud his Mum would have been.

Bryony’s journey from a woman who had to battle to get her head out above her duvet, to a runner completing the London Marathon is one that is packed full of humour, honesty and is a whip smart lesson in having the confidence to believe in yourself.

This is a glorious, life affirming book, that captivates from the first page and draws you in completely, willing Bryony to succeed. I am being totally honest when I say, that Bryony’s book has absolutely inspired me. After a period of huge self doubt and believing that all my reading and blogging was pointless, Bryony and the people we meet in Eat Drink Run, have given me to have the courage to keep my blog going (and walk a lot more too!).

Thank you Bryony.

To the rest of you – go buy Eat Drink Run!

The Trick To Time by Kit de Waal

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Kit de Waal: The Trick to Time

Published By: Viking

Buy It: here

What The Blurb Says:

Mona is a young Irish girl in the big city, with the thrill of a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding house. On her first night out in 1970’s Birmingham, she meets William, a charming Irish boy with an easy smile and an open face. They embark upon a passionate affair, a whirlwind marriage – before a sudden tragedy tears them apart.

Decades later, Mona pieces together the memories of the years that separate them. But can she ever learn to love again?

The Trick to Time is an unforgettable tale of grief, longing, and a love that lasts a lifetime.

What I Say:

This is not a planned blog post, where usually I will have taken notes, written out poignant quotations, and analysed the themes and narrative.

I have consciously been taking a break from blogging these past few weeks for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I have a LOT of books to read and review over the next few months and wanted to concentrate.  Secondly, I have been finding that keeping up with social media and liking and retweeting, and following (and in some cases unfollowing), meant one simple thing was getting overlooked.

I had stopped reading selfishly, for myself, and was in danger of going against everything Years of Reading is about.

I knew that I just wanted to read The Trick To Time without distraction.  I loved Kit’s previous novel, the astounding My Name Is Leon, and the premise of this one, ” If you lost the love of your life, what would you do to live again” sounded perfect for me.

Quite simply,  I loved The Trick to Time so much, I needed to tell everyone about it.

The Trick to Time is the story of Mona and William.  Mona, a young Irish woman on moving to Birmingham in the 1970’s, meets and falls in love with William, a young Irish man.  Together they live and love, decide to get married and tentatively navigate their way through their new life together.  Mona has had a good relationship with her father, after having lost her mother to cancer as a young girl, and William, initially evasive about his family, is determined that he will be a better father than his alcoholic Dad was to him. Kit masterfully details the day-to-day realities of life for a young married couple in the 1970’s, where three day working weeks were a reality, and there always had to be a supply of coins to feed the gas meter. As Mona and William’s story develops, we also see how the world around them is becoming increasingly hostile to Irish people following a spate of bombings.

The narrative switches between Mona’s younger life, and where she finds herself now.  Mona is alone, living in a block of flats in a nondescript seaside town in Kent.  Her days, and often nights, are filled with making dolls and their outfits for a shop she has in the town.  She thrives on imaginatively sourcing and creating outfits for the dolls she makes.  Aside from her bespoke dolls, Mona has also created a place where women who have lost babies come, to ask for the baby they have lost to be made for them.  Mona works with a local carpenter to create the dolls which weigh and feel like the children they have lost.  The dolls are given to the bereaved women, who tell Mona the story of what their children would have become, and with Mona’s guidance, they learn to accept what has happened.

How has Mona arrived at this point in her life, no longer with William or living in Birmingham?  The novel moves backwards and forwards, filling in the missing chapters of their life, revealing the twists and turns and overwhelming tragedy that has led Mona to this place.

Mona is now approaching 60, and she starts to question herself and the choices she has made – we see her struggling to decide whether she should finally move on from William.  Mona makes tentative steps to get to know a seemingly sophisticated neighbour called Karl, but her heart never really seems to be in it. As Mona decides whether or not she should get to know Karl better, she discovers that appearances can be deceptive.  It is apparent that we all have our frailties and faults, our fears and resentments as we attempt to determine our place in the ever-changing and unfamiliar world.

The novel is so exquisitely written, often very understated, but is filled with an overwhelming emotional power that draws you in and absorbs you completely.  Mona is a woman of immense strength, tenderness and resilience which means she spends the majority of her time ensuring everyone else is looked after, whilst constantly suppressing her own emotions. She has had no other choice but to keep soldiering on, and has never had the luxury of time to herself to be able to process and recover from what she has had to endure.

Mona comes to the realisation that she is tired of always having to survive, of living a life she has not chosen, and the final chapters of The Trick To Time show how she starts to take charge of her future.  She longs to return to Ireland, to finally go home, and her choice means that she also has to decide if she has the strength to find William and bring him back with her.

The Trick to Time is a beautiful, haunting and elegiac novel.  It shows us that although love is what we all need and strive for, that grief is just as important and needs to have a voice for us to be able to deal with it.

This novel will stay with you long after you have read it, as will Mona and William, whose story is testament to the compelling power of love.

 

 

The Map of Us by Jules Preston

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Jules Preston: The Map of Us

Published By:

Buy It: here

 

What The Blurb Says:

A story of love and lost directions

Violet North is wonderfully inconvenient. Abandoned by her family and lost in an imagined world of moors and adventure, her life changes in the space of just 37 words exchanged with a stranger at her front door.

Decades later, Daniel Bearing has inherited his father’s multi-million pound business, and is utterly lost. He has no idea who he is or where his life is headed.

When Violet’s granddaughter’s marriage falls apart, Tilly, always adept with numbers, compiles a detailed statistical report to pinpoint why. But the Compatibility Index Tilly creates has unforeseen consequences for everyone in her world.

Tilly and Daniel share a secret too. 10.37am, April 22nd.
Soon, a complex web of secrets and lies is exposed and an adventure begins with a blue typewriter…

 

What I Say:

Sometimes, a book comes along that you hadn’t really heard of, you choose it because the premise sounds a bit different, and then you realise that it is one of the most innovative, unique and eloquent novels you have read for a long time.

Well, hello and step forward The Map of Us…

The story tells of the North family, starting with the Grandmother Violet, who, having contracted polio, is abandoned by her family in a rambling house with an untamed garden, with only her imagination and a blue typewriter for company.

Violet creates the character of Arthur Galbraith, who takes walks in an imaginary landscape, entirely of her own making.  She starts to type up the journeys, illustrating and devising a whole world where Arthur has travelled, using the walls in her room as the canvas for her ideas.  Violet becomes a published author – under Galbraith’s name, and his landscapes become her escape from the loneliness she feels.  One day, a man called Owen arrives seemingly from nowhere, with a wheelbarrow and a dog, ready to clear and maintain the gardens for Violet.  As she starts to see the garden being restored to its former glory, she too emerges from the shadows of the house and falls in love with Owen.

The action moves between Violet’s story, and that of her family –  Owen, their daughter Rose, and her grandchildren Tilly, Katherine and Jack.  We also learn about Daniel Bearing and his father, two men who have put the profits of their health food company before living and loving.  As the novel progresses, the seemingly unconnected families edge closer together in a roundabout but absolutely unavoidable way.

The Map Of Us is made up of very short, snappy chapters and can be read like individual anecdotes.  The style of the novel is like nothing I have read before, and I have to admit that initially I found it a little unusual.  The chapters are sometimes in prose, sometimes they seem to be poetry, and the chapter titles are things like ‘N’, ‘more sofa’ and ‘64.726%’.  Don’t let it put you off.  It is a clever device to keep you intrigued and to engage you while you try to work out how on earth this novel is going to work out.

The sheer brilliance of the writing and the truly clever narrative structure means that as you read, you realise that every chapter has a point to make.  There is always a reason it is there, a way to understand the character, their life and why they are who they are.  Little by little, chapter by chapter, the novel expands to provide us with a complete history of the North family.

As we learn about the grandchildren, we see how they attempt to navigate their way through their daily lives.  Tilly is methodical and analytical, with a way of telling things exactly how they are, and an unwitting knack of saying what everyone is really thinking!  Her way of coping is to rationalise everything by applying statistical analysis, even working through her marriage breakdown by constructing a Compatibility Index to understand why it happened.

Katherine hides her sadness by buying handbags she doesn’t really need, with a pitch perfect patter in justification and a husband who loves her but doesn’t know how to reach her.  Their marriage seems to be stalled at a stage where you sense from the writing that their communication, like many couples in long-term relationships is characterised more by what is not said as oppose to what is…

Jack meanwhile, has become the world’s leading authority on the colour blue (I told you that this was a unique novel!), who is seemingly the most contented and free of the three siblings.  However, his world is genuinely shattered when the woman he falls for turns out to be not what she seems, and as he slowly regains his connection to the world around him, he finds solace and hope in the place he least expects.

Every character in this novel feels real. They are far from perfect, they have their flaws and faults, but Jules’ skill in not being afraid to show them means we love them all the more for it.  As we learn more about the Norths, and see their story weave around and through the novel, for me, the overwhelming theme is one of finding your place in the world.  It may not be how you imagined it, it may be scary and difficult to imagine, but when you have the courage to be true to yourself, the rewards make it all worthwhile (and no, I am not going to spoil it by giving anything away – read it and find out!).

The Map Of Us is a beautifully crafted, intelligent book, which plays with the traditional form of the novel to tremendous effect.  The characters spill out of the pages and into your heart, and it is a joy to read.  It deserves to be a huge success, and Jules Preston has created a novel which will stay with you a long time after you have finished the last page.

I absolutely loved The Map Of Us, and I hope you do too.

Thank you to @Netgalley for an advance e-copy of The Map Of Us in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet

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Rebecca Fleet: The House Swap

Published By: Doubleday 3rd May 2018

Buy It : here

What The Blurb Says:

‘No one lives this way unless they want to hide something.’

When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap, they jump at the chance for a week away from home. After the difficulties of the past few years, they’ve worked hard to rebuild their marriage for their son’s sake; now they want to reconnect as a couple.

On arrival, they find a house that is stark and sinister in its emptiness – it’s hard to imagine what kind of person lives here. Then, gradually, Caroline begins to uncover some signs of life – signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music in the CD player might seem innocent to her husband but to her they are anything but. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone she used to know; someone she’s desperate to leave in her past.

But that person is now in her home – and they want to make sure she’ll never forget . . .

What I Say:

The House Swap is a novel that I had heard a lot about – Psychological thrillers are everywhere at the moment, each with a unique twist or new take on a genre that is highly popular and always looking for the next new angle or theme.

I have to admit that when I was sent a copy, I did have some preconceived notions about what I would be reading. I also have to say that I wasn’t sure how there was anything different to be said, and was ready to be underwhelmed.

I was absolutely wrong!

The House Swap tells the story of Caroline and Francis, who swap their flat in Leeds for holiday in a house in Chiswick. They are not at a good place in their marriage, Caroline has had an affair with a work colleague, and Francis has been battling an addiction. With Caroline’s mother offering to look after their son, Eddie, the house swap offers them the chance to finally spend some time alone, to work on their marriage.

So far, so normal..until they open the door. The house is exactly that – not a home, but a sparsely furnished house, with little signs of someone living there day to day. The sense of unease that Caroline instinctively feels is played out brilliantly in the understated and calm narrative.

The tension is subtly increased through the novel, and the cleverness of Rebecca’s writing is that you are completely disorientated from the start. Like Caroline and Francis, you know that things aren’t quite right, but also things are not so obviously wrong that you can’t put your finger on it…and that is one of the many reasons why I really enjoyed this story.

As the novel progresses, we go backwards and forwards in time to understand how Caroline and Francis ended up at this fractured point in their marriage. We learn how the choices they made and the secrets they hid from each other means that they are now at a critical point in their relationship, where neither completely trusts the other. I thought that this was also a clever plot device, because I have to admit, I wondered if one of the couple was attempting to get revenge on the other – but I was very wrong..!

With this sense of estrangement, the house now starts to reveal its own secrets; music that means something to Caroline is heard, a bouquet of familiar flowers unsettles her.

From this point on, Caroline and Francis’ world quickly starts to unravel, the couple are increasingly at war with each other, every thought and word between them is examined and evaluated, gestures and reactions are interpreted and misconstrued. As they attempt to work through their issues, any chance of tenderness is destroyed as Caroline realises that the woman across the road she befriends is living with her ex-lover, Carl.

Coupled with this awful coincidence, we are also party to the thoughts and actions of the person who has swapped houses with Caroline and Francis. The truly staggering ease with which that person exacts their revenge is plausible, because they do it in a quiet and controlled way that doesn’t ever seem too extreme or unrealistic. They tap into the things they know will cause the most damage for the couple, such as hijacking their social media, and cutting up family photographs to physically remove Caroline from their gaze. They even attempt to strike up a friendship with Caroline’s mother and son to get closer to Caroline and Francis- the most possibly chilling and calculated move possible, to destroy the most precious thing they have.

However, the difficulty in reviewing a brilliant novel like The House Swap, is that to tell you too much will spoil it for you. Do you need to read this novel? Yes, absolutely! Will you guess who has moved into Caroline and Francis’ flat and is their tormentor? Absolutely Not! I genuinely had no clue, and for me, that it the brilliance of The House Swap and what I want from a novel. I don’t want it to be safe, or for me to work out in the first few chapters what has happened, I want to be thinking about it afterwards too.

As the novel races towards its conclusion, Francis finally meets the person who has made it their lifelong mission to destroy him and Caroline. For me, this was one of the most poignant scenes in the novel. Why? Because you finally understand why this has all happened – and interestingly, that I didn’t hate the person for doing it. It also makes you realise that all actions have consequences, and the far reaching effects of them go way beyond what we can often comprehend at the time.

If you are looking for a very different type of psychological thriller, a novel which cleverly plays with the genre and portrays characters who are flawed, but who are all looking for a sense of peace and resolution, then this is the novel for you. I loved The House Swap, and hope that you do too.

I was given a proof copy of The House Swap, in exchange for an honest review of the book.

Thank you to @PoppyStimpson at Transworld Books for my proof copy and a chance to take part in the brilliant book blog tour.

You can follow Rebecca Fleet here

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