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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):

four-stars_0

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!

 

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After the Fall – Charity Norman

Published March 9, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?

What do you do when your family’s dream becomes a nightmare? Combining the skill of Jodi Picoult with the warmth of Anita Shreve, Charity Norman explores – with heart-thumping tension – a fresh start which goes very badly wrong.

In the quiet of a New Zealand winter’s night, a rescue helicopter is sent to airlift a five-year-old boy with severe internal injuries. He’s fallen from the upstairs veranda of an isolated farmhouse, and his condition is critical. At first, Finn’s fall looks like a horrible accident; after all, he’s prone to sleepwalking. Only his frantic mother, Martha McNamara, knows how it happened. And she isn’t telling. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

Tragedy isn’t what the McNamara family expected when they moved to New Zealand. For Martha, it was an escape. For her artist husband Kit, it was a dream. For their small twin boys, it was an adventure. For sixteen-year-old Sacha, it was the start of a nightmare.

They end up on the isolated east coast of the North Island, seemingly in the middle of a New Zealand tourism campaign. But their peaceful idyll is soon shattered as the choices Sacha makes lead the family down a path which threatens to destroy them all.

Martha finds herself facing a series of impossible decisions, each with devastating consequences for her family.

What did I think?:

This book was another good choice for the Richard and Judy Spring 2013 book club. Martha and her family have been having troubles – both financial and emotional. They decide to emigrate (or escape?) to New Zealand, hoping to make a fresh start and ease some of their burdens. We first meet Martha after they have been in New Zealand for about a year and  just after one of her sons has taken a nasty fall, and it is touch or go whether he will survive. The story then alternates from the present time, where Martha is in the paediatric intensive care unit with her son, and then describes the events leading up to the horrific event. Although there is nothing unique in this set up, I enjoyed flitting between the two scenarios and felt it gave the story a bit of suspense and an extra thrill.

One of the things I most admired about this novel was the author’s ability to describe locations. New Zealand is described in such breath-taking terms, that I may actually have to emigrate now to see what all the fuss is about! The characters are also well-defined and I found myself caring deeply about what happened to them. My only criticism is that it felt a bit “samey” to other books in the genre, and there were nothing unique that I hadn’t encountered before. That’s not really a disadvantage as it’s a great, easy-to-read story that I think a lot of people will enjoy.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars