Historical Fiction

All posts in the Historical Fiction category

Book Tag – Books Beginning With S.P.R.I.N.G.

Published March 21, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and hope you’re all well! Today I’m celebrating Spring as yesterday was the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. I came up with this idea after seeing one of my favourite book tubers, Lauren from Lauren And The Books do a video at Christmas. She took each letter of the word CHRISTMAS and presented a title from her bookshelves that began with that letter. I’m going to nab that great idea and today I will be taking each letter of the word SPRING and showing you a book from my TBR that begins with that letter which I hope to get round to very soon. So without further ado, let’s get on with it!


What’s it all about?:

Martinique, 1765, and brothers Emile and Lucien are charged by their French master, Father Cleophas, with a mission. They must return to Grenada, the island they once called home, and smuggle back the 42 slaves claimed by English invaders at the hospital plantation in Fort Royal. While Lucien, barely in his teens, sees the trip as a great adventure, the older and worldlier Emile has no illusions about the dangers they will face. But with no choice other than to obey Cleophas – and sensing the possibility, however remote, of finding his first love Celeste – he sets out with his brother on this ‘reckless venture’.

With great characters, a superb narrative set up, and language that is witty, bawdy and thrillingly alive, Sugar Money is a novel to treasure.

I’m so excited to read this book after loving Jane Harris’ previous novels, The Observations and Gillespie And I. If you haven’t read her before, I highly HIGHLY recommend her. She writes such beautiful historical fiction you could almost believe you were right there with her characters.


What’s it all about?:

A fiercely imagined fiction debut in which two young women face what happened the summer they were twelve, when a handsome stranger abducted them 

Everyone thought we were dead. We were missing for nearly two months; we were twelve. What else could they think? –Lois

It’s always been hard to talk about what happened without sounding all melodramatic. . . . Actually, I haven’t mentioned it for years, not to a goddamned person. -Carly May

The summer precocious Lois and pretty Carly May were twelve years old, they were kidnapped, driven across the country, and held in a cabin in the woods for two months by a charismatic stranger. Nearly twenty years later, Lois has become a professor, teaching British literature at a small college in upstate New York, and Carly May is an actress in Los Angeles, drinking too much and struggling to revive her career. When a movie with a shockingly familiar plot draws the two women together once more, they must face the public exposure of their secret history and confront the dark longings and unspeakable truths that haunt them still. Maggie Mitchell’s Pretty Is beautifully defies ripped-from-the-headlines crime story expectations and announces the debut of a masterful new storytelling talent.

I love to support debut authors whenever I can and this synopsis looks too good to be true! I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of this novel from the publishers and I still cannot believe I haven’t got round to it yet.


What’s it all about?:

The twenty-one stories in Reader, I Married Him – one of the most celebrated lines in fiction – are inspired by Jane Eyre and shaped by its perennially fascinating themes of love, compromise and self-determination.

A bohemian wedding party takes an unexpected turn for the bride and her daughter; a family trip to a Texan waterpark prompts a life-changing decision; Grace Poole defends Bertha Mason and calls the general opinion of Jane Eyre into question. Mr Rochester reveals a long-kept secret in “Reader, She Married Me”, and “The Mirror” boldly imagines Jane’s married life after the novel ends. A new mother encounters an old lover after her daily swim and inexplicably lies to him, and a fitness instructor teaches teenage boys how to handle a pit bull terrier by telling them Jane Eyre’s story.

Edited by Tracy Chevalier, and commissioned specially for Charlotte Brontë’s bicentenary year in 2016, this collection brings together some of the finest and most creative voices in fiction today, to celebrate and salute the strength and lasting relevance of a game-changing novel and its beloved narrator.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for so long! Stories inspired by one of my all time favourite books (and definitely my favourite classic)? YES PLEASE.


What’s it all about?:

‘Even if medical tests cannot explain your pain or tiredness or disability, it does not lessen your suffering. The pain of medically unexplained illness is every bit as real as any other and, if anything, is multiplied by the lack of understanding.

Most of us accept the way our heart flutters when we set eyes on the one we secretly admire, or the sweat on our brow as we start the presentation we do not want to give. But few of us are fully aware of how dramatic our body’s reactions to emotions can sometimes be.

Take Pauline, who first became ill when she was fifteen. What seemed at first to be a urinary infection became joint pain, then food intolerances, then life-threatening appendicitis. And then one day, after a routine operation, Pauline lost all the strength in her legs. Shortly after that her convulsions started. But Pauline’s tests are normal; her symptoms seem to have no physical cause whatsoever.

Pauline may be an extreme case, but she is by no means alone. As many as a third of men and women visiting their GP have symptoms that are medically unexplained. In most, an emotional root is suspected and yet, when it comes to a diagnosis, this is the very last thing we want to hear, and the last thing doctors want to say.

In It’s All in Your Head consultant neurologist Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan takes us on a journey through the very real world of psychosomatic illness. She takes us from the extreme — from paralysis, seizures and blindness — to more everyday problems such as tiredness and pain. Meeting her patients, she encourages us to look deep inside the human condition. There we find the secrets we are all capable of keeping from ourselves, and our age-old failure to credit the intimate and extraordinary connection between mind and body.

Science/health books are amongst my favourite non fiction topics to read about (anything about animals coming a close second). This book speaks to me on a personal level as I struggle with a chronic invisible illness and have done for the past seven years. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into this one.


What’s it all about?:

Historian Anna Bennett has a book to write. She also has an insomniac toddler, a precocious, death-obsessed seven-year-old, and a frequently absent ecologist husband who has brought them all to Colsay, a desolate island in the Hebrides, so he can count the puffins. Ferociously sleep-deprived, torn between mothering and her desire for the pleasures of work and solitude, Anna becomes haunted by the discovery of a baby’s skeleton in the garden of their house. Her narrative is punctuated by letters home, written 200 years before, by May, a young, middle-class midwife desperately trying to introduce modern medicine to the suspicious, insular islanders. The lives of these two characters intersect unexpectedly in this deeply moving but also at times blackly funny story about maternal ambivalence, the way we try to control children, and about women’s vexed and passionate relationship with work. Moss’s second novel displays an exciting expansion of her range – showing her to be both an excellent comic writer and a novelist of great emotional depth.

I have to admit, I bought this book a while ago for the cover initially, isn’t it gorgeous? Then I read my very first Sarah Moss, The Tidal Zone recently and absolutely loved it. I’m excited to get stuck in to more of her work.


What’s it all about?:

The first new collection in almost a decade from a bewitchingly original writer hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction.”

One of today’s most celebrated short story writers, Kelly Link creates brilliantly detailed, layered fictional worlds pulsing with their own energy and life. The situations are at first glance fantastical, but the emotional insights are piercing and the characters vividly real. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural Florida serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You,” a one-time teen idol movie vampire takes a disturbing trip to the set where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a bizarre new reality show; in “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present, a new animated doll. Funny, uncanny, always deeply moving, these stories demonstrate a writer of wondrous gifts operating at the height of her powers.

Another collection of short stories, this book was recommended to me in a book spa by the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath. I’ve never read any Kelly Link before and have heard such great things about her writing that this just needs to be done!

Well everyone, that’s the end of my Books Beginning With S.P.R.I.N.G. post! Hope you enjoyed reading it, I’d love to see books from your TBR that make up the word S.P.R.I.N.G. If you decide to do a post, please leave a link in the comments so I can check it out or leave your answers in the comments below, it would be fun to see. I’m hoping to get to all of these books in the next few months and then I’ll be showcasing my books beginning with S.U.M.M.E.R so watch out for that post, coming later this year!


Tangerine – Christine Mangan

Published March 20, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Little, Brown publishers for getting in touch with me via email and secondly, for allowing me to read an advance reading copy from this exciting new voice in crime fiction via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. As this book is released today (happy publication day!) I have seen relatively few reviews of it knocking around but comparison to Patricia Highsmith and Donna Tartt is never a bad thing and made me very keen to check it out and see if it stood up to the hype. It does, without a question. Tangerine is one of the most evocative and compelling debut thrillers I’ve had the pleasure to come across and it managed to lift me right out of a massive reading slump so of course, I thank the author for that! I also thank Christine Mangan for providing such a fascinating plot, interesting characters and although the reader is aware fairly soon what is happening in the novel, nothing can be taken for granted purely because of the unreliability of our narrators.

As with most thriller novels, I don’t want to give too much away but I’ll try to give you the bare bones of the synopsis if I can. This is the story of Alice Shipley who is living in Tangier, Morocco with her husband in unfortunately quite an unhappy marriage where she is forced to turn a blind eye to his numerous faults. The match was loosely arranged as very much one of convenience by her Aunt, who also happens to be her only guardian after Alice’s parents were killed in an accident. One day, an old college friend, Lucy Mason turns up unexpectedly on the doorstep of Alice’s apartment in Tangier and although in some ways, Alice is happy to see her friend, it takes her right back to an incident many years ago that the friends have never really discussed or come to terms with. Alice is thrown right back into that close, intimate relationship with Lucy until her husband abruptly disappears which causes both women to start re-examining everything, including each other.

One of the best bits about this novel, as I alluded to in the first paragraph is the unreliability of our two female protagonists. Both Alice and Lucy have their own issues in the past and these issues have continued into their present and still haunt them on a daily basis. It reminded me a little bit of those heady days of adolescence female friendships when things could get a little intense – obviously rarely to the extreme, but does anyone else remember the ferociousness of those feelings? This is what Tangerine felt like to me. At certain points of the narrative, I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was going on, basically with the fragility of both girls let me just say, things could have gone either way. As things started to unravel, piece by piece, we began to get a very unnerving picture of what is happening and how it may turn out for each character and it’s absolutely gripping. I read this book in under forty-eight hours, I found myself hooked and appalled in equal measure and it became completely necessary to keep reading until I knew how it was all going to end. Christine Mangan is a fresh and exhilarating new talent in the world of crime fiction, I adored every minute of this and can’t wait to see what she writes next, I’ll definitely be watching out for it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown

Published March 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:


Based on the shocking true story of the infamous witchfinder Matthew Hopkins, this haunting and gripping novel is perfect for fans of The Miniaturist, Sarah Waters and The Essex Serpent.

‘The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…’

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

What did I think?:

I’ve been familiar with The Witchfinder’s Sister for a little while now after my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads read and reviewed it as part of a blog tour. So when Richard and Judy picked it for their Spring Reads 2018 here in the UK, I was intrigued to finally discover what it was all about, particularly when I re-read the synopsis and realised it was a work of historical fiction based on events that really happened and people that actually existed in history. I love a good historical fiction, particularly one that is based largely on fact and it promised to be an intriguing read that I was hoping would keep me captivated. Generally, this is a good read, especially for anyone interested in the time period when many women were accused of witchcraft and subjected to horrific tortures in order to prove their guilt. However, by the end, it just didn’t grab my attention as much as I would have hoped and unfortunately, I wasn’t as blown away by the narrative as I had expected to be.

The Witchfinder’s Sister is told primarily from the point of view of Alice Hopkins, who has recently lost her husband in a tragic accident and is forced to return home to her brother’s house whilst in the early stages of pregnancy to beg for his help and shelter. Alice hasn’t seen her brother, Matthew Hopkins for a while and they parted fairly acrimoniously last time they spoke, with Matthew not having many kind words to say about Alice’s choice of husband. However, when Alice is finally reconciled with him, she is surprised by just how much of a difference she sees in her brother. After hearing rumours from the servants, she finds out that Matthew is keeping a list of women in the town that he suspects to be witches. Worse still, he is heavily involved with the apprehension, questioning and indeed, torture of these alleged witches and is so determined to convict as many women as possible, it is frightening. This novel follows Alice and Matthew as the former tries desperately to talk sense into her brother and the latter becomes hell-bent on pursuing this path, for various hidden reasons of his own.

As a piece of historical fiction, The Witchfinder’s Sister is luminous in both detail and atmosphere and this all leads to an instantly compelling narrative. I really felt for Alice at the beginning of the novel, having lost the love of her life and being forced back into a situation that causes her great anxiety. Then we learn a little more about Alice and the number of pregnancies that she had which resulted in miscarriage, a topic which is sadly very close to my own heart. As the novel continued however, I found myself becoming quite frustrated with Alice, mainly because I felt she didn’t stand up to her brother enough (I do note that women were meant to be submissive in this time period but Alice did seem like she should have had enough fire in her belly to dispute Matthew’s goings-on!).

Furthermore, there was a point in the narrative where something quite supernatural occurs which I thought was quite an interesting direction to take the story. However, nothing more really happened in this vein and I wondered what the point was of having it within the tale in the first place. Aside from these minor issues, I did think this was a solid novel and the author sets the scene absolutely beautifully with intricate descriptions and the inclusion of some very interesting parts of Matthew’s notebook which I fully appreciated. I think fans of historical fiction or those that love a good “witchy” story will really enjoy this and I must assure you, I do think it’s a good read, it just wasn’t an amazing one for me, personally speaking.

Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

The Witchfinder’s Sister was the twenty-first book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Clay Girl – Heather Tucker

Published March 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Vincent Appleton smiles at his daughters, raises a gun, and blows off his head. For the Appleton sisters, life had unravelled many times before. This time it explodes.

Eight-year-old Hariet, known to all as Ari, is dispatched to Cape Breton and her Aunt Mary, who is purported to eat little girls . . . With Ari on the journey is her steadfast companion, Jasper, an imaginary seahorse. But when they arrive in Pleasant Cove, they instead find refuge with Mary and her partner Nia.

As the tumultuous ’60s ramp up in Toronto, Ari is torn from her aunts and forced back to her twisted mother and fractured sisters. Her new stepfather Len and his family offer hope, but as Ari grows to adore them, she’s severed violently from them too, when her mother moves in with the brutal Dick Irwin.

Through the sexual revolution and drug culture of the 1960s, Ari struggles with her father’s legacy and her mother’s addictions — testing limits with substances that numb and men who show her kindness. She spins through a chaotic decade of loss and love, the devilish and divine, with wit, tenacity, and the astonishing balance unique to seahorses.

The Clay Girl is a beautiful tour de force that traces the story of a child, sculpted by kindness, cruelty and the extraordinary power of imagination, and her families — the one she’s born in to and the one she creates.

What did I think?:

I really don’t know where to start with this review and I’m really hoping my ramblings make some sort of sense but we’ll see how we go. The Clay Girl was the last book that I predicted I would give five stars to in my Five Stars TBR Prediction post after I had seen so many positive reviews and couldn’t resist it after reading those powerful first few sentences of the synopsis. It didn’t end up being a five star read for me personally, I had a few teeny weeny little issues with it that prevented me giving it the big five but interestingly enough, it’s a book that has stayed with me ever since I finished reading it. It’s up there with some of the most creative and quirky writing styles that I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across and although the subject matter at points made for a very difficult reading experience, I’m infinitely glad that I put myself through it.

This novel tells the story of Ari (Hariet by birth but her mother made a spelling mistake when naming her) and her imaginary seahorse companion, Jasper. Ari relies on Jasper to keep her company, keep her strong and keep her sane through her traumatic childhood with an abusive father and an alcoholic mother. After her father dies, she is peddled off to her Aunt and her partner to live and she begins to feel she could at last be happy but unfortunately, not for long. Her mother regains custody of her and she is forced to re-enter a world of indifference and neglect with a mother who just couldn’t care less. At first, she has another person in her life to make things a bit brighter but when fate shows its hand again, Ari is once again left in a circle of abuse with another “father figure” to make her and her siblings life a living hell. Ari depends on her seahorse Jasper, her vivid imagination and huge strength of character to make it through the precarious nature of her childhood to a place where she can finally escape back to her aunts and be happy once more.

I think that’s pretty much all I want to say about the plot but I just want to reassure readers that even though it sounds like a cycle of unrelenting misery for our female protagonist (and to be honest, it kind of is!), the gorgeous language that Heather Tucker uses to tell Ari’s story makes this awful story well worth the heart-ache. The things that Ari goes through from childhood right through adolescence and early adulthood are tricky to read about but the journey she goes through as a person makes it well worth your time. This isn’t going to be a book for everyone, I have to say. The narrative can be very strange and confusing at times, even the way sentences are structured and grammar is used and sometimes I felt like I had to go back and re-read whole chunks of it as I wasn’t fully concentrating at the time of reading it. However, if you’re in the mood for something a bit different with a stunning literary edge, I would highly recommend trying The Clay Girl and seeing what you think. The stranger, dream-like, more hazy parts of the narrative didn’t pull me in as much as I would have hoped but I have to admit, I would read anything Heather Tucker writes purely for the beautiful way she uses words.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


Look out for my Five Star TBR Predictions – Round Two coming soon to bibliobeth.

Talking About The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne with Chrissi Reads

Published March 12, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?

Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead.

At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more.

In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: This book has been very hyped by others in the blogosphere. Did the hype worry you? We all know about that dreaded hype monster…

BETH: I think we all worry about that horrible hype monster. There’s been so often where I’ve heard nothing but good things about a book and for some reason, I just haven’t connected with it as much as other readers. But for some strange reason, I didn’t have that worry with this book. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve read a few of John Boyne’s books now so I’m already familiar with his style of writing (and I was pretty certain I was going to love it!) or if I’ve read enough reviews of it now that I knew I’d be into it purely on the plot alone. This was definitely the case with me, I knew I was going to love it, what WAS unexpected was just how much I would adore it.

BETH: What did you make of the relationship between Cyril and his adoptive parents, Charles and Maude?

CHRISSI: SO VERY STRANGE. I really felt for Cyril. I felt like Cyril’s adoptive parents merely adopted him just because it was ‘right’ thing to do, to have a child. I don’t feel like there was much love there which was a great shame. Charles and his constant need to remind Cyril that he wasn’t a real Avery. Ooh his Dad really made me cross. Ha! I find it funny that I’m still so annoyed about Cyril’s parents!

CHRISSI: Following Cyril through the course of his life takes us through much of the twentieth century. How was each decade most vividly brought to life for you?

BETH: Great question. We see Cyril from a very young boy, right through school and teenage years to a young adult, middle aged man and then an old man. Different things happen to him in each decade that affect his life irrevocably and it seems each decade also comes with a different challenge for poor Cyril. I think his life was brought into vivid detail by these experiences that he goes through and also the host of colourful characters that he meets along the way that all touch his life in some way, either for better or for worst.

BETH: How well do you think this novel explored what it’s like to be gay in Ireland from the fifties onwards?

CHRISSI: I found this novel to be incredibly intriguing as to what it was like to be gay in Ireland from the 50s. I guess I always knew in the back of my mind about what Ireland experienced, but I don’t think I’ve ever read something so memorable about Ireland’s history with homosexuality. I think the novel explored it well and in a way that was heart-breaking but incredibly memorable at the same time.

CHRISSI: Discuss the ending, how else might you have concluded Cyril’s story?

BETH: The ending was quite bitter-sweet for me but I’ll try not to give away any spoilers. I’m really happy we got to see Cyril as a seventy year old man coming near the end of his life. However, this was also really sad (and sounds a bit silly) but even though I’m aware he’s fictional, I just wish he hadn’t aged so quickly! By the end of the novel, he seems to have achieved some sort of closure about the events that have happened to him over the years and has made peace with those he needed to which was lovely to read. Some of the parts really broke my heart though, especially when you find out his future and when he’s talking to his nearest and dearest that he hasn’t seen for years.

BETH: There is a large cast of very different characters in this novel. Which character did you most warm to and why?

CHRISSI: There really is a large cast of characters. However, only one stole my heart and that was Cyril. I absolutely loved following his story across his life. I loved seeing him grow over time from teen, to young adult, adult to the elderly Cyril. I loved being along for the ride. I grew so close to Cyril and was desperate for everything to turn out right for him.

CHRISSI: How do you think this book compares to John Boyne’s other books that you’ve read?

BETH: I’ve read probably his most famous – The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, Mutiny On The Bounty and Stay Where You Are And Then Leave. Although I rated the latter of these five stars on Goodreads, I would have to say without a doubt, The Heart’s Invisible Furies is my favourite book by John Boyne so far. It has the most beautiful writing, the most fantastic characters and was a novel that had me laughing and crying in equal measure. It’s easily made it’s way to my favourites shelf and is probably one of my all-time favourite books that I’ll be talking about and pushing into other people’s hands for a long time yet.

BETH: The Heart’s Invisible Furies is both funny and sad. Why do you think the author chose to use humour in the telling of this story?

CHRISSI: I think it’s really important that stories have a balance of funny and sad. Despite bad things happening, life does have its funny moments. I think if stories always dwell on the sad then it can be very tough to read. I like it when there are lighter moments in this story. I think the author included some lighter moments because some particular moments were difficult to read.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):


CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):


The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne was the nineteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

Published March 9, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The New York Times Top Ten Bestseller

The Immortalists is about as good as it gets’ Karen Joy Fowler

‘Like literary nectar’ Hannah Beckerman

‘I couldn’t put it down’ Carys Bray

It’s 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York’s Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they’re about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes.

Over the years that follow, the siblings must choose how to live with the prophecies the fortune-teller gave them that day. Will they accept, ignore, cheat or defy them? Golden-boy Simon escapes to San Francisco, searching for love; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician; eldest son Daniel tries to control fate as an army doctor after 9/11; and bookish Varya looks to science for the answers she craves.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists is a story about how we live, how we die, and what we do with the time we have.

What did I think?:

It is a truth universally acknowledged (well, by me for certain!) that Tinder Press have been publishing some fantastic novels recently and I can always guarantee when I read a book by this publisher that I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it. Thank you so much to Caitlin Raynor and Tinder Press for sending this wonderful surprise my way late last year in exchange for an honest review and as expected, I completely adored it. The proof copy I was sent was brilliantly simple with just two sentences on the front and back of the book respectively. The front cover said: “How would you live your life if you knew the day you were going to die?” and the back cover said: “New York, 1969. Four siblings, too young for what they are about to hear, seek out their fortunes.” Well, the marketing was pure perfection as this was all that was needed to hook me in and made me unbelievably excited to learn the stories of our four protagonists.

Oh my goodness and what stories they are! The Immortalists is a delightfully slow-paced and beautifully detailed look at each sibling and how learning the date of their death changes the way they might live their lives as a result. We have Varya, the eldest and most sensible, her brother Daniel who becomes a doctor for the military, Klara who becomes a magician in San Francisco and lives with the youngest sibling, Simon who trains as a dancer in the same city. As I mentioned, the date that each sibling is given affects them all in different ways and perhaps encourages them to make different or riskier life decisions that they might have normally. Klara and Simon are the risk-takers of the family and run off together to make a new life where they can both be happy away from the sometimes constraining nature of their Jewish family but unfortunately, their own personal demons do return to haunt them. Meanwhile, Daniel and Varya remain at home to look after their sensitive mother and are more wary about making choices that could affect the quality/length of their lives. It is Varya however who has arguably the most interesting job and reaction to the prophecy, as a research scientist investigating what levels you can go to to extend the human life span.

This novel took me on the most amazing journey that I never wanted to end. We follow each sibling in turn from the late sixties until the present day as each of them reaches the day that they are expected to die, according to the fortune teller. We learn about all their hopes and dreams, all their worries and especially, the struggles and trials that they face as they each reach adulthood and are confronted with the inevitable spectre of Death. It covers so many different themes, like the bonds between families, religion, homosexuality, mental illness and of course, life and death. It’s rare to read a novel where you connect with every single one of the characters but for me, this is exactly how I felt, I loved them all for very different reasons and cried and laughed with them at each struggle and triumph.

Every era of time that is captured, from the easy, open environment of San Francisco to New York in the age of modern technology is drawn fantastically, with so much atmosphere and intricate detail that you can almost imagine yourself by the side of each sibling, experiencing exactly what they do in each moment. Chloe Benjamin has created something truly magical with The Immortalists with characters that have touched my heart, many of whom made me so emotional regarding the direction that their lives ended up and the choices that they made. It really made me think (and I’d love to discuss with you in the comments below), if you had the opportunity to know the date you were going to die, would you want to know? If yes/no, why? Let me know!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):




The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin was the eighteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

All Day At The Movies – Fiona Kidman

Published March 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When war widow Irene Sandle goes to work in New Zealand’s tobacco fields in 1952, she hopes to start a new, independent life for herself and her daughter – but the tragic repercussions of her decision will resonate long after Irene has gone.

Each of Irene’s children carries the events of their childhood throughout their lives, played out against a backdrop of great change – new opportunities emerge for women, but social problems continue to hold many back. Headstrong Belinda becomes a successful filmmaker, but struggles to deal with her own family drama as her younger siblings are haunted by the past.

A sweeping saga covering half a century, this is a powerful exploration of family ties and heartbreaks, and of learning to live with the past

What did I think?:

8th March is International Woman’s Day, commemorating the movement for women’s rights, equality between the genders and celebrating all the achievements of women around the world. To celebrate this day, I’d like to showcase a very much new to me author (although incredibly prolific in her native New Zealand), Dame Fiona Kidman with her wonderful novel, All Day At The Movies which was brought to my attention by Gallic Press. A huge thank you to them for opening my eyes to a talented writer I have only now had the good fortune to come across and for the copy they kindly sent me in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed every sweeping moment of this narrative, packed full of drama, heart-ache, testing times and indeed, triumphs of one particular family. I loved how the author put so much heart into each character that she created and this only served to make me feel more connected and invested in each of them individually as a reader.

All Day At The Movies is an epic family tale spanning about sixty years focusing on a few members of a family down the generations. At first, we meet a determined mother, Irene Sandle who tragically, has become widowed with a young daughter, Jessie to support. She is forced to work in the tobacco fields of New Zealand in the early fifties which does not pay much and is back-breaking work but provides a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. However, in trying to provide a stable life for herself and her daughter, Irene becomes embroiled in a life that she hadn’t planned and unfortunately, will have severe repercussions for the rest of her children down the line as their story continues once Irene is gone.

I cannot say anymore than this – to do so would be to give far too much away! Let me just say, we follow a few of Irene’s children and how they deal with the struggles in their lives once their mother has gone and they are forced to navigate the world without her, without much support or strength from the other responsible adults in their lives. We hear very little about Jessie as she runs away entirely from the situation but it is obvious that the damage has already been done. We see a more prominent effect on the children left behind i.e. Belinda, Grant and the youngest girl, Janice who you could suggest goes through the most traumatic experiences. However, all children are affected in some way or another and even though Belinda does manage to make some success of her life after a rocky start, there are still demons that return to plague her, especially those connected with her siblings.

I absolutely adored the structure of this novel. It’s almost like a series of short stories, beginning in 1952 with Irene’s story, meandering right through the seventies and eighties and ending in 2015, where we begin to realise the full extent of how each of Irene’s children have been affected by their past experiences. It’s rare to find a perfect family of course, and relationships between certain members of our families can be tricky at times but Fiona Kidman illustrates these difficulties beautifully with a very sensitive analysis of the bonds that hold us together as a family and how tenuous these links can be, especially where there are issues of trust or neglect. I certainly wasn’t expecting some of the themes that the author covered, including emotional and sexual abuse, death, racism, poverty, adoption, mental illness…. I could go on, I’ve just scratched the surface with the amount of issues addressed here!

Finally, I just want to touch on the fact that the author also uses events in New Zealand’s history (which I know shamefully little about) to make an already action-packed narrative even more exciting. I was completely swept away, surprised and delighted by this fantastic novel which was a real joy to experience and I was quite sad to come to the realisation that we were in 2015 and there were no more generations of Irene’s family to follow just yet! I could have read about them for much longer and there’s certainly a few of the characters stories that will stick in my mind for a long while yet.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


All Day At The Movies by Fiona Kidman was the seventeenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!