Historical fiction

All posts tagged Historical fiction

Etta And Otto and Russell And James – Emma Hooper

Published March 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. I will try to remember to come back.

Etta’s greatest unfulfilled wish, living in the rolling farmland of Saskatchewan, is to see the sea. And so, at the age of eighty-two she gets up very early one morning, takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 2,000 miles to water.

Meanwhile her husband Otto waits patiently at home, left only with his memories. Their neighbour Russell remembers too, but differently – and he still loves Etta as much as he did more than fifty years ago, before she married Otto.

What did I think?:

There were quite a few things that immediately drew me to Emma Hooper’s debut novel. First of all, the lovely cover with the cheeky little animal on the front (which I now know to be a coyote). Secondly, the title – I mean, four names in a title, what’s that all about? I simply had to find out! Finally, there had been a lot of comparisons of this book to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce which happens to be one of my all time favourite novels. I normally don’t like it when books are compared to others but I loved Harold Fry so much I needed to give Etta & Co a chance to stand as a story on its own merits.

So where this book is similar to Harold Fry is that it involves an adult in their eighties undergoing a long walk to get to a destination, meeting different people and well-wishers along the way. In this novel, our protagonist is Etta, 83 and slowly losing her memory. She wakes up one day and decides to walk to the ocean as she has never seen it, leaving her husband Otto a note explaining this and that she would “try to remember to come back.” The story follows Etta’s journey but is in no way chronological and dips back into the past and present as memories surface for Etta during her journey. We learn about her life as a teacher when she first met Otto. We also learn about Otto’s early life, part of a family fifteen-strong with the addition of his best friend (and current neighbour) Russell who becomes the honorary sixteenth member.

Most of Etta and Otto’s relationship is told in the form of letters, particularly when Otto has to go away to fight in World War II. Russell is Etta’s main support system when Otto is gone, unable to join up himself because of a childhood accident that left him with a lame leg. Russell is also deeply in love with Etta and when he hears about her pilgrimage later in life, immediately sets out to find her. Otto, her husband, stays at home making paper mache animals for Etta’s return and learning to bake from the recipes Etta has left him, deliberately so he can manage without her. Meanwhile on her journey, Etta meets many well-wishers and makes new friends, particularly a wily talking coyote called James who has quite the gift of the gab but encourages Etta through harder times on the road. The ending is somewhat bitter-sweet and very much left open to the readers own interpretation – it’s something I was slightly surprised by but thoroughly enjoyed at the same time.

I guess if you’ve read Harold Fry before you can see the similarities between them but I think this novel deserves to be talked about as a story all of its own. There are many differences between the stories also, particularly the magical realism part with the talking coyote, James, the dementia that Etta is sliding into and the hardships that Etta and Otto have suffered as a couple. I really fell in love with Etta as a character and the pure whimsical nature of this book (yes a talking coyote was always going to be a bonus for me, even if he was just in Etta’s mind?). It was also nice to hear from the spouse left behind, in this case Otto whose little paper mache animals and determination to learn to cook warmed the cockles of my heart. Initially, I was a bit wary of the ending of this novel and I have to admit, slightly disappointed but on closer reflection, I realise it was a perfect way for the reader to make up their own mind as to what happens. I’ll certainly be reading anything else Emma Hooper releases, this is one debut author with a bucket load of talent and beautiful writing to boot.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

 

A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale

Published March 8, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In the golden 1900s, Harry Cane, a shy, eligible gentleman of leisure is drawn from a life of quiet routine into courting and marrying Winnie, eldest daughter of the fatherless Wells clan, who are not quite as respectable as they would appear. They settle by the sea and have a daughter and conventional marriage does not seem such a tumultuous change after all. When a chance encounter awakens scandalous desires never acknowledged until now, however, Harry is forced to forsake the land and people he loves for a harsh new life as a homesteader on the newly colonized Canadian prairies. There, in a place called Winter, he will come to find a deep love within an alternative family, a love imperiled by war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism.

If you’ve never read a Patrick Gale, stop now and pick up this book. From the author of the bestselling NOTES FROM AN EXHIBITION comes an irresistible, searching and poignant historical novel of love, relationships, secrets and escape.

What did I think?:

I’ve always enjoyed Patrick Gale’s work, having read Notes From An Exhibition and A Perfectly Good Man, the latter of which I loved, but when I saw the hype that this novel was getting and read the synopsis I knew I simply had to read it. And what a story it is. Oh my goodness, without a doubt this is my favourite thing that Patrick Gale has written (er…so far, she says with quiet confidence not having read the entirety of his back catalogue!). It’s not an easy read at points and it certainly played with my emotions on multiple occasions but that’s the best kind of book for me. This is a novel that I can really feel the reverberations of the plot and the characters months after reading it and it is certainly a story I am still eagerly anticipating to re-read at a later date so the author can put me under the same spell as he did on the first read through.

The story is set in the 1900’s and when we first meet our main character, Harry Cane it is in an asylum where he is undergoing a harsh treatment regime for events that have happened in his past that the reader has, as yet, no clue about. Everything is slowly revealed as the narrative pans back to when Harry was a shy, unpresumptuous young man, married to a woman from the Wells family and utterly miserable until a chance occurrence causes him to up sticks and leave everything (including his wife) and become a member of a new, but very isolated community in the Canadian prairies which have recently been colonised. His brave decision leads to him undergoing a remarkable journey, both personal and physical as he struggles to deal with the harsh environment and deprivation, brutal weather conditions and loneliness whilst finally falling in love and dealing with people who don’t have perhaps the best or kindest intentions towards him. It’s almost like a coming of age story as Harry finally figures out who he is as a person and a man, what he wants out of life and the way he overcomes both physical and emotional hardships is truly beautiful to read.

I honestly can’t give enough praise to this book. It’s a fine piece of writing that deserves to be savoured and I found myself quite bereft when I had finished. I especially love that Patrick Gale based some of his narrative on the real adventures of his great-grandfather who left pre-war England to build a new life and farm in a remote area of Canada which only made the story more authentic and interesting for me as a reader. Harry himself was a wonderful character who made mistakes but was a good, gentle man who is so strong in the face of extreme hardship. I don’t really have any criticism about this novel to be perfectly honest. Some reviewers have mentioned the slow start but I enjoyed the build up and felt we got to know and fall in love with Harry better as a character because of it. Seriously, if you haven’t read this book and have always been intrigued about Patrick Gale, do yourself a favour and read A Place Called Winter, it’s a stunning piece of work that I won’t easily forget.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Guildford Library Talk – David Young, author of Stasi Child and Stasi Wolf, the first two books in the Karin Müller series

Published March 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

David Young was born near Hull and – after dropping out of a Bristol University science degree – studied Humanities at Bristol Polytechnic specialising in Modern History. Temporary jobs cleaning ferry toilets and driving a butcher’s van were followed by a career in journalism with provincial newspapers, a London news agency, and the BBC’s international newsrooms where he led news teams for the World Service radio and World TV.

David was a student on the inaugural Crime Thriller MA at City University – winning the course prize in 2014 for his debut novel Stasi Child – and now writes full-time in his garden shed. In his spare time, he’s a keen supporter of Hull City AFC.

Stasi Child is the first of three books in the Oberleutnant Karin Müller series – set in 1970s communist East Germany – bought by the UK arm of Swedish publisher Bonnier by former Quercus CEO Mark Smith. It reached the top 5 bestsellers on Amazon Kindle, was number one bestseller in Amazon’s Historical Fiction chart, and has been optioned for TV by Euston Films (Minder, The Sweeney etc). Translation rights have so far been sold to France.

DAVID YOUNG TALK AT GUILDFORD LIBRARY

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I was lucky enough to be invited along to an author talk by David Young, an exciting new author who is writing a series of books based in Germany around the time when the Berlin Wall separated Germany into two sides, East and West, communist and capitalist. Faye, who has a blog at A DayDreamer’s Thoughts was responsible for organising the event and she did an absolutely fantastic job! I can’t remember the last time I’ve enjoyed myself so much at an author talk.

David Young was previously a news editor for the BBC and to let off steam from time to time, he played in a band that toured Germany about eight years ago. One of the places that they played, he actually told us was his inspiration for the police headquarters in his novel. It is obvious that David has done meticulous research for his series, despite speaking very little German. He visited Germany and met the people who were detectives in East Germany at that time period and he read many German memoirs (with the help of Google translate!) to try and get a feel for the language and the situation.

David chose to present his talk in a very different way, using a projector with some photographs of Germany taken whilst he was doing his research for the books and some old photographs that illustrated some real life stories of people from that murky period of Germany’s past that inspired and shaped his writing. Unfortunately, some of those photographs are copyright protected so I cannot share them but they were very moving and I loved listening to him talk about the research he has carried out and the little gold nuggets of information that he uncovered along the way.

From the very first picture which was the bleak view from one of the viewing platforms close to the Berlin Wall to a snow-filled cemetery closely afterwards that inspired David to write the horrific scene where a body is discovered in his first book, Stasi Child, the pictures really brought to life the words that David writes in the novel. I had finished Stasi Child earlier that week and sometimes, it’s easy to forget that although the novel is historical fiction, his story is based on real life events. There was division, cruelty, poverty, people desperately trying to escape over the Wall to a “better” life in West Germany, a shady secret police force and reform schools for young people to re-educate them in the “socialist way” that completely beggars belief in today’s free society.

I certainly learnt a lot from David’s talk. One of the most touching moments was when he showed a black and white photograph of a teenage boy who was pictured behaving oddly with a ladder over his back trying to escape to the West. It was in the German papers the next day that he survived thirty-five rounds of gunfire and managed to scale the Wall into the West and escape. Unfortunately he was returned to the East the next day but I couldn’t believe the bravery of the boy and the situation he must have found himself in.

Of course there was such a dark side to East Germany. This was mostly perpetrated by the Stasi special police force who had an unbelievable amount of power and often used psychological methods to unnerve and undermine their victims, including sneaking into their houses and moving things around to deliberately mess with their minds. There was also a lot of paranoia going round (understandably!) and a well known East German leader actually did build a secret escape tunnel to the West just in case his people were to turn against him, similar to an event mentioned in Stasi Child. After the Berlin Wall finally came down, there was still obviously a lot of tension and a recent newspaper report suggested that Ikea, Siemens and Aldi all profited from slave labour during the period of communist East Germany.

David finished the talk by giving us a reading from his latest novel in the series Stasi Wolf and giving us a sneak preview of what it’s going to be about. Here’s the blurb from GoodReads:

How do you solve a murder when you can’t ask any questions? The gripping new thriller from the bestselling author of Stasi Child.

East Germany, 1975. Karin Müller, sidelined from the murder squad in Berlin, jumps at the chance to be sent south to Halle-Neustadt, where a pair of infant twins have gone missing.

But Müller soon finds her problems have followed her. Halle-Neustadt is a new town – the pride of the communist state – and she and her team are forbidden by the Stasi from publicising the disappearances, lest they tarnish the town’s flawless image.

Meanwhile, in the eerily nameless streets and tower blocks, a child snatcher lurks, and the clock is ticking to rescue the twins alive . . .

Actually cannot wait to read this one! David was also kind enough to answer questions from the audience and I asked him how long he envisions this series being. He said that he was hoping to do a book for every year that the Berlin Wall was standing (which he estimates is about fifteen years) which sounds absolutely fantastic and I’ll definitely be investing in the series. They should all involve recurring characters, especially Oberleutnant Karin Müller, but he stated that each book would be a separate case, could be read as a stand alone and that there were so many relevant stories that he could tell so he had no worry of running out of things to say which was reassuring and exciting to hear.

Finally it was time for two treats. First of all, David took us down to see his German police car from that period, blue lights and all. Loved the bit of promotion along the side David!

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On returning to the library, we then participated in a hugely fun taste test with two different chocolate spreads. One was manufactured in East Germany, one in West Germany but they were simply labelled A and B and the goal was to pick which one was which.

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I was happy (but a bit surprised) that I picked the right one and he told us a very interesting fact that the “communist” chocolate spread might taste a bit nuttier as hazelnuts were very easy to come by for East Germany in those days – fascinating! Finally, some staff from Waterstones were available at the library so you could buy either Stasi Child or Stasi Wolf and I made sure to pick myself up a copy of the latter which he was kind enough to sign.

I just want to thank Guildford Library, Faye and David Young so much for a fantastic, informative talk that I thoroughly enjoyed. You’ve definitely got yourself another fan here David and I can’t wait to pick up Stasi Wolf a bit later this month – watch out for my review coming soon.

Visit David’s website: http://stasichild.blogspot.ca/p/about_27.html

David’s GoodReads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14358496.David_Young

Follow him on Twitter: @djy_writer

Stasi Child and Stasi Wolf are available from all good bookshops and as e-books now!

 

Stasi Child (Karin Müller #1) – David Young

Published March 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

East Berlin, 1975

When Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body at the foot of the wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other: the girl was trying to escape – but from the West.

Müller is a member of the national police, but the case has Stasi written all over it. Karin is tasked with uncovering the identity of the girl, but her Stasi handlers assure her that the perpetrators are from the West ­- and strongly discourage her asking questions.

The evidence doesn’t add up, and Muller soon realises the crime scene has been staged. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Muller doesn’t realise that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home . . .

Stasi Child is David Young’s brilliant and page-turning debut novel.

What did I think?:

This exciting debut novel from David Young ticks so many boxes for me before I even started it! Historical fiction, crime, mystery, thriller, Germany during the horrific period when it was divided into East and West Germany by means of the Berlin Wall – so many things that compelled me to pick this book up and, best of all, it was a highly entertaining and well written novel in the start of what I’m sure will be a very successful series for the author. I actually lived in Germany for a period of about thirteen years off and on when my father was there in the British Forces and my mother was in Berlin that night when the Berlin Wall was finally torn down so I have a special interest in this difficult time period of Germany’s history and we have a piece of the infamous Wall in my mother’s cabinet to prove it!

The story follows Karin Müller, an Oberleutnant (the highest lieutenant officer rank in the German armed forces) in the national police force in East Germany who is called to a case of a body near to the East side of the Wall. The Stasi secret police for East Germany have taken over the investigation and Karin is ordered to keep her findings top secret. Moreover, she must only be involved in finding out the identity of the dead young girl, most definitely not the perpetrator or be worried about bringing him/her to justice. Karin finds a lot of things that don’t tally up at the crime scene and point to links elsewhere in Germany including a hideous reform school for young people that houses many dark secrets. Karin must be incredibly careful and clever in how she proceeds with her investigation as the danger to her personally becomes greater and greater.

I was lucky enough to go and watch the author, David Young, speak about Stasi Child and his new novel in the series, Stasi Wolf at Guildford Library recently (more on that in tomorrow’s post!). It was obvious that although he is a British author and didn’t speak very much German, he has carried out some meticulous research and has really captured the atmosphere, fear and horror of a country divided by two completely different ideals – communism and capitalism. It’s a fast-paced, exciting read that blends the world of crime and subterfuge with historical events perfectly and not only did I enjoy the thrilling plot but I also loved the characters that the author created. He got the woman’s voice spot on which was lovely to read from a male author and I really enjoyed the characters of the children from the reform school that are integral to the proceedings. This is a series I’ll definitely be following and eagerly anticipating and I look forward to reading the second book, Stasi Wolf very soon!

Look out for my post tomorrow where I’ll be focusing on the fabulous David Young talk at Guildford Library.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Mini Pin-It Reviews #6 – Four Random Books

Published March 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four “random” books for you that I simply couldn’t categorise – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1.) Gut: The Inside Story Of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ – Giulia Enders

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What’s it all about?:

A cheeky up-close and personal guide to the secrets and science of our digestive system.
For too long, the gut has been the body’s most ignored and least appreciated organ, but it turns out that it’s responsible for more than just dirty work: our gut is at the core of who we are. Gut: The Inside Story of our Body’s Most Underrated Organ gives the alimentary canal its long-overdue moment in the spotlight. With quirky charm, rising science star Giulia Enders explains the gut’s magic, answering questions like: Why does acid reflux happen? What’s really up with gluten and lactose intolerance? How does the gut affect obesity and mood? Communication between the gut and the brain is one of the fastest-growing areas of medical research—on par with stem-cell research. Our gut reactions, we learn, are intimately connected with our physical and mental well-being. Aided with cheerful illustrations by Enders’s sister Jill, this beguiling manifesto will make you finally listen to those butterflies in your stomach: they’re trying to tell you something important.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) – How To Be A Good Wife – Emma Chapman

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What’s it all about?:

I know what my husband would say: that I have too much time on my hands; that I need to keep myself busy. That I need to take my medication. Empty nest syndrome, he tells his friends at the pub, his mother. He’s always said I have a vivid imagination. Marta and Hector have been married for a long time – so long that she finds it difficult to remember her life before him. He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she can to be a good wife. But when Hector comes home with a secret, their ordered domestic life begins to unravel, and Marta begins to see things, or perhaps to remember them. In the shadows there is a blonde girl that only Marta can see. And she wants something…

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) Blood Red, Snow White – Marcus Sedgwick

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What’s it all about?:

Russia wakes from a long sleep and marches to St Petersburg to claim her birthright. Her awakening will mark the end for the Romanovs, and the dawn of a new era that changed the world. Arthur Ransome, a journalist and writer, was part of it all. He left his family in England and fell in love with Russia and a Russian woman. This is his story.

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Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) Daughters Of Rome (The Empress Of Rome #2) – Kate Quinn

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What’s it all about?:

A.D. 69. Nero is dead.

The Roman Empire is up for the taking. With bloodshed spilling out of the palace and into the streets of Rome, chaos has become the status quo. The Year of Four Emperors will change everything—especially the lives of two sisters with a very personal stake in the outcome….

Elegant and ambitious, Cornelia embodies the essence of the perfect Roman wife. She lives to one day see her loyal husband as Emperor. Her sister, Marcella, is more withdrawn, content to witness history rather than make it. Even so, Marcella has her share of distinguished suitors, from a cutthroat contender for the throne to a politician’s son who swears that someday he will be Emperor.

But when a bloody coup turns their world upside down, Cornelia and Marcella—along with their cousins, one a collector of husbands and lovers, the other a horse-mad beauty with no interest in romance—must maneuver carefully just to stay alive. As Cornelia tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered dreams, Marcella discovers a hidden talent for influencing the most powerful men in Rome. In the end, though, there can only be one Emperor … and one Empress.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP SOON ON MINI-PIN IT REVIEWS – Four more books from my “random” category!

Talking About The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon with Chrissi Reads

Published February 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Part coming-of-age story, part mystery, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is a quirky and utterly charming debut about a community in need of absolution and two girls learning what it means to belong.

England, 1976. Mrs. Creasy is missing and the Avenue is alive with whispers. The neighbors blame her sudden disappearance on the heat wave, but ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly aren’t convinced. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, the girls decide to take matters into their own hands. Inspired by the local vicar, they go looking for God—they believe that if they find Him they might also find Mrs. Creasy and bring her home.

Spunky, spirited Grace and quiet, thoughtful Tilly go door to door in search of clues. The cul-de-sac starts to give up its secrets, and the amateur detectives uncover much more than ever imagined. As they try to make sense of what they’ve seen and heard, a complicated history of deception begins to emerge. Everyone on the Avenue has something to hide, a reason for not fitting in.

In the suffocating heat of the summer, the ability to guard these differences becomes impossible. Along with the parched lawns and the melting pavement, the lives of all the neighbors begin to unravel. What the girls don’t realize is that the lies told to conceal what happened one fateful day about a decade ago are the same ones Mrs. Creasy was beginning to peel back just before she disappeared.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: I was already pre-disposed to like this book, I had heard really good things about it from a friend of mine and the title was just too good to resist! I almost couldn’t believe it was a debut novel when I first started reading it, it felt like I was reading a book where the author had been established and writing for years. I was initially confused by some aspects of the story – but in a good way, I just wanted to know what exactly was going on and the author is very good at the “slow reveal,” shall we say?

BETH: Who were your favourite characters in the novel and why?

CHRISSI: I really liked Grace and Tilly because I felt like their friendship was incredibly realistic. I found myself excited to read Grace’s point of view because I really wanted to read about her perspective on the whole situation. I love reading from children’s point of view because they can be so honest, be incredibly wise, yet they can be incredibly naive at the same time.

CHRISSI: The cover of this book is quite simple. Why do you think they went for this choice?

BETH: I actually love how simple the cover is. It’s a lovely shade of blue with just a single goat on the front. No sheep though! 🙂 The title is actually described quite early on in the book but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the two young girls are trying to find God and they have been told by the local vicar that God prefers his people to be a flock of sheep rather than goats. The story is quite simple in the end, coming down to separating these people into the two categories (or can they really be separated?) so I think the cover is perfect for what the novel is.

BETH: What did you think about the relationship between friends Grace and Tilly? Was it typical of a female friendship at that impressionable age?

CHRISSI: I’ve mentioned in the previous answer that I really enjoyed the relationship between Grace and Tilly. I did like reading about them because it was so realistic. I felt like Grace was the more dominant friend and I do feel that friendship at that impressionable age can be like that. I felt like Grace thought she had to watch over Tilly and I loved that protective quality that Grace had. There are moments when Grace doesn’t treat Tilly well and I think that is true of a female friendship at that age. Children can be insensitive towards others and hurt them deeply because they still have a lot to learn.

CHRISSI: What do you think the setting of the heat wave of 1976 adds to the story?

BETH: The heatwave is almost a character in itself, it is mentioned so often and people are obviously suffering because of it. I think people have heard about the heat doing funny things to people’s characters…making them snap, do odd things etc and I think the heat actually has a huge affect on the characters in the story in exactly this way. Perhaps the heat exacerbates the situation and causes people to over-react where they might not normally do so?

BETH: How do you think the mystery of where Mrs Creasy had gone was played out in this novel?

CHRISSI:  The mystery of Mrs Creasy was very intriguing throughout the story. I have to agree that it’s very much a slow reveal and at times, I did start to lose a bit of interest in the story which is why I haven’t rated it higher. I enjoyed reading about the worry of the secrets that Mrs Creasy had taken with her. I felt like that was more important to her neighbours, rather than genuine concern about where she was.

CHRISSI: Many characters in the story have secrets and regrets – how do you judge the actions they have taken? Does it make you consider how we judge people without really knowing them?

BETH: Yes, yes, yes. I don’t think any character really comes out and apologises for their behaviour outright but you can definitely sense the guilt, the regret and a cooling of tempers, especially to the object of most of the characters anger. It felt very much when I was reading it sort of like a mob mentality with each character being “egged on” by what another would say/feel or do. This kind of behaviour becomes very dangerous when multiple people jump on the bandwagon so as to speak, as we can see from the events that occur.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes! I can’t believe that this book was a debut. It seemed incredibly accomplished! I enjoyed this book.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

 

 

The Girl Who Walked On Air – Emma Carroll

Published February 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Abandoned as a baby at Chipchase’s Travelling Circus, Louie dreams of becoming a ‘Showstopper’. Yet Mr Chipchase only ever lets her sell tickets. No Death-Defying Stunts for her. So in secret, Louie practises her act- the tightrope- and dreams of being the Girl Who Walked on Air. All she needs is to be given the chance to shine.

One night a terrible accident occurs. Now the circus needs Louie’s help, and with rival show Wellbeloved’s stealing their crowds, Mr Chipchase needs a Showstopper- fast.

Against his better judgement, he lets Louie perform. She is a sensation and gets an offer from the sinister Mr Wellbeloved himself to perform in America. But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Louie’s bravery is tested not just on the highwire but in confronting her past and the shady characters in the world of the circus . . .

Fans of Frost Hollow Hall will love this epic adventure, where courage takes many different forms.

What did I think?:

The Girl Who Walked On Air is the wonderfully talented Emma Carroll’s second novel for children, aimed around the middle grade reading age but… (and this is a big BUT), I truly believe that her books can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, especially those adults who love an imaginative plot and beautifully drawn characters like Louie Reynolds, our heroine for the story.

I first came across Emma’s writing with her fantastic debut, Frost Hollow Hall which completely captured my heart and I can’t recommend highly enough. Well, if she hasn’t gone and done it again with The Girl Who Walked On Air! Set in the grounds of a Victorian circus it features a young girl called Louie who was abandoned by her mother at Mr Chipchase’s circus and is looked after by the kindly Jasper, a trapeze artist and her guardian angel. She has big dreams of being a performer, or to be exact – a “showstopper,” on the tightrope wire. She practices constantly, watched over by her loyal little dog Pip, but Mr Chipchase is determined that she is only good enough to sell tickets and mend costumes.

This sends her and new arrival at the circus Gabriel, straight into the clutches of Mr Wellbeloved, who manages a rival circus and insists on only the most death defying stunts to bring in the punters. As Louie learns more about who she is as a person, where her heart lies and just what lengths she will go to in becoming a star, she also discovers a lot about friendship and just who can be trusted in a fickle world where money and pure greed is, sadly, the only yardstick by which success is measured.

Once again, Emma Carroll has given us some brilliant characters which have stayed with me long after finishing the book. Louie, just like Tilly in Frost Hollow Hall is beautifully drawn. She is impetuous, independent, brave and indeed flawed but ever so realistic as a young girl which in turn, made her infinitely more loveable as a result. I really enjoyed reading about her relationships with Jasper and her friends Ned and Gabriel and was touched by the dark side of her past and her desperation to find out where she came from and where she belonged. The setting of the circus that the author chose was just as stunning and so descriptive that I felt I could picture events scene by scene, character by character, which led to many difficulties putting it down!

As I mentioned earlier, please don’t be dissuaded that the author writes for children, I do believe that this book can be enjoyed by adults just as much. The Girl Who Walked On Air took me right back to my childhood when I used to just sit in a room and read right until the book was finished (and if this went past my bedtime, it was continued under my duvet with a torch!). I didn’t need the torch as an adult, but I certainly read from the beginning to the end in one sitting and loved every moment.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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