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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Zodiac by Anamaria Ionescu


by Anamaria Ionescu.

Published by Corylus Books
on 26th December 2019.

When investigator Sergiu Manta is handed the investigation into a series of 
bizarre murders, he can't sure what he's getting involved in 
as he has to work with regular detective Marius Stanescu, 
who has his own suspicions about the biker he has been told to work with, 
and wants to get to the truth. 

The twists and turns of their investigation takes them 
from the city of Bucharest to the mountains of rural Romania, and back.

Zodiac is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer
or via the link here.

About Corylus Books

Corylus Book is a new venture aiming to publish fiction translated into English. The people behind the company have very different backgrounds, but what brings us together is a deep appreciation of crime fiction and a strong interest in books from countries that so have been under-represented in English.

It took a while before it turned out that everyone’s thoughts had been on similar lines – that we wanted to take a chance on presenting some of the great European crime fiction that wouldn’t normally make its way into English. With a mixture of language, translation and other skills between the four of us, it seemed the logical next step to take.

The first Corylus books are a pair of Romanian crime novellas, Living Candles by Teodora Matei and Zodiac by Anamaria Ionescu.

There’s more to come in 2020 – starting with Romanian novelist’s Bogdan Teodorescu’s Sword, a powerful political thriller that has already been a bestseller in Romania and in its French translation. Sword will be available in May and will be followed later in the year by the first of two books by Icelandic crime writer Sólveig Pálsdóttir. The Fox will be available in the second half of this year, followed by Shackles in 2021.

And there’s more to come, with a novel by Bogdan Hrib set partly in Romania and partly in the north-east of England, a second novel from Teodora Matei, and we’re talking to more exciting writers from across Europe about what we can do together...

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Another Us by Kirsten Hesketh


Another Us by Kirsten Hesketh
Published 14th May 2020 by Canelo.

What if Emma isn’t the person she thought she was?
Her younger son has just been diagnosed with autism.

She’s accidentally quit her job.

The marriage she was dedicated to suddenly seems like a sham.

She’s pretty sure that she is going to have an affair with a hot new dad at the school.

The only thing that stays the same is everyone else. Emma realises it’s not them – it’s her. But if she’s not who she thought she was, can her old life fit in with the new Emma?

Compassionate, funny and poignant, Another Us is perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and Fiona Gibson.

Available to pre-order now here.

Monday, March 23, 2020

How Pale The Winter Has Made Us by Adam Scovell

How Pale The Winter Has Made Us by Adam Scovell.
Published 13th February 2020 by Influx Press.
Read March 2020.

Just after her partner has left to study in South America, Isabelle receives the news that her artist father has committed suicide by hanging himself in Crystal Palace Park.

Rather than returning home to deal with the aftermath of her father's death, and the demands of her harridan mother, she decides to stay in Strasbourg for the winter, alone in her partner's flat.

But, the death of her father, a man she hated, has affected Isabelle in most unexpected ways and she becomes obsessed with researching Strasbourg's history and the links between some of its famous inhabitants.

She is also becomes convinced that she has become prey to a supernatural spirit called the Erl-King, who is using her for his own pleasures and sapping her inner strength.

As Isabelle becomes more and more disconnected from those who were formerly close to her, her grip on reality starts to slip. Something within her seems to have died along with her her father and the ghosts of the past are becoming more important than her own future. Can she break free from this dangerous melancholy?


There is no doubt that How Pale The Winter Has Made Us is a weird, but wonderful, book. The writing is simply gorgeous and it is one of those books where the silky prose glides off the page. The cover of this book is also absolutely beautiful, if you like that sort of thing - which I unashamedly do!

Part travelogue through the history of Strasbourg and part account of one woman's descent into madness sparked by grief, it is strangely compulsive reading. It becomes clear that the suicide of Isabelle's father has deeply affected her, although she purports to have hated him, and has brought to a head her feelings about her relationships with both of her parents and her partner, and something within her has fractured as a result. 

Dark shadows begin to lurk at the periphery of her vision - sometimes accompanied by the conviction that she can see her father's legs dangling, as they must have done from the tree in Crystal Palace where he chose to end his days - shadows that she comes to attribute to the presence of the Erl-King, a demon king who she learns of from her research into local folklore and the poetry of Goethe.

As her obsession with researching the history of Strasbourg takes over her life, so does her belief that the Erl-King has chosen her as his latest victim, even to the extent of believing that he visits her at night to use her body for his wanton pleasures - a body that is wasting away as she loses her grip on real life.

The format of the book emphasises the disconnect Isabelle feels from her surroundings rather well, as her account of the winter is broken up by long passages of detailed histories of the characters and places connected to her research. I must admit that while the majority of this research is completely fascinating, I did think that there was maybe a little too much, as I was desperate to get back to Isabelle's own story and found these interludes a bit distracting as the book went on. But there is no doubt that I learned lots about Strasbourg and some of its famous residents along the way, which sent me off on my own tangents to search out more information on good old Google, so I suppose it serves its own purpose of highlighting how we can all get caught up in strange time bubbles that drag us away from the real world.

As someone who played in Crystal Palace Park when I was young, I must admit that Isabelle's link with my childhood playground gave me pause for thought. A man hanging himself among the dinosaurs is certainly something to picture, and perhaps a connection I would prefer to forget - and yet there is something so bizarre about it happening in a place that I have so many happy memories of that it becomes darkly ironic rather than macabre. So thankfully, you haven't spoiled it for me Mr Scovell - although, if I ever go back there, perhaps I will find myself looking a bit warily at the trees? 

This is one of those books that I will be musing about for some time to come and pondering over what happens to Isabelle after I have left her in Strasbourg at the end of the winter. I have my own thoughts on where she goes next, but will keep them to myself, so you will have to read this one to make up your own mind.

I highly recommend this strange and absorbing book, if you like a quirky read. 

Thank you to Influx Press, Adam Scovell and Turnaround Publisher Services for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

From the cover of the book:

Isabelle is alone in Strasbourg. The day after her partner leaves to travel abroad, she receives news of her father's suicide, his body found hanging in a park back home in Crystal Palace. Isabelle misses her flight back to London and a new university job, opting to stay in her partner's empty flat over the winter.

Obsessed with the many strange coincidences in Strasbourg's turbulent history, Isabelle seeks to slowly dissolve into the past, succumbing to visions and dreams as she develops her meticulous research about the city. Stalked by the unnerving spirit of the Erl-King she fears something else has died along with her father; the spectres of Europe communicating a hidden truth beneath the melancholy.

How Pale the Winter Has Made Us rummages through the crumbling ruins of a life, building cartographies of place and death under a darkening sky.

About the author:

Adam Scovell is a writer and filmmaker from Merseyside now based in London.
His writing has featured in The Times, BFI, Little White Lies and The Quietus. 
He runs the website, Celluloid Wicker Man, and his film work has been screened at a variety of festivals and events. 
In 2015, he worked with Robert Macfarlane on an adaptation of his Sunday Times best-seller, Holloway, and has worked on films alongside Stanley Donwood, Iain Sinclair and BAFTA-nominated director, Paul Wright. 
His first novel, Mothlight, was published by Influx Press in 2019.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.
Published 4th September 2018 by Penguin.
Read March 2020.

When the Greek Queen Helen is kidnapped by Trojans, the Greeks sail in pursuit, besieging the city of Troy.

Trapped in the Greek soldiers' camp is another captured queen, Briseis. Condemned to be bed-slave to Achilles, the man who butchered her family, she becomes a pawn in a menacing game between bored and frustrated warriors.

In the centuries after this most famous war, history will write her off, a footnote in a bloody story scripted by vengeful men - but Briseis has a very different tale to tell . . .


Everyone thinks they know a little bit about the legendary Trojan Wars - when the Greeks sailed to Troy to retrieve the beautiful Helen (she of the face that launched a thousand ships), after she ran off with the handsome young Paris, and where they stayed for nine long years before they cold breach the walls of the city.

Names of the famous heroes of the Trojan Wars, such as Achilles, Patroclus, Paris, Agamemnon, Hector, Odysseus and the like, trip off the tongue with ease, and there have been some excellent retellings of the male side of this story in recent years - such as Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles. But we rarely hear much of the women who were involved. War was seen to be the business of men,after all.

The Silence of the Girls gives us a glimpse of a completely different side of the story - the story of the women caught up in the siege of Troy. The women who were taken as slaves after their menfolk fell in battle; the women who were treated as the rightful possessions of the victors.

Pat Barker gives voice to these women in the form of Briseis, Queen of Lyrnessus, who was taken as a prize when her city fell and given to Achilles as his bed-slave - the man who butchered her husband and brothers. Unusually, a woman who we do know a little about, since she was the cause of discord between Achilles and Agamemnon.

Through Briseis we get to see what the life of a woman taken in war and forced to become the slave of her enemy is really like - not just from her own experiences, but also from those of the other women around her in the Greek camp.

Much of this story is heartbreaking and anger-inducing, but it also brings a whole new depth and roundness to The Iliad that is immensely enjoyable, and an understanding of how the memory of the fallen lives on through the women that survive.

The relationships between the characters became real in a way I have not experienced before and they seem to come alive under the pen of Pat Barker. This is outstanding writing and it is easy to see why this book has been included in many book prize selections, since it was published.

I have also had the privilege of listening to the wonderful audio book of The Silence of the Girls, which is narrated by Kristen Atherton as Briseis and Michael Fox as Achilles. This has to be one of my favourite audio listens so far, as it is simply mesmerising - I particularly liked the way that the narrators used regional accents for some of the other characters during their conversations, to emphasise the wide cultural make-up of the Greek camp.

I think you really need to know a little about the Trojan Wars to get the best out of this one, but there is still plenty here for those of you that only have a vague idea of what it was all about, because this is essentially a story of love, hate, jealousy, understanding, war, pride, violence, submission and silent rebellion.

This is the most human telling of the tale of Troy that I have ever read, because it can finally be seen from the sides of both the men and women who are part of the story.

Containment by Vanda Symon

Containment (Sam Shephard Book 3) by Vanda Symon.
Published 5th March 2020 by Orenda Books.
Read March 2020.

Detective Constable Sam Shephard's quiet weekend in sleepy Aramoana, on dog-sitting duties, comes to an abrupt end when a container ship comes aground and washes some of the containers onto the beach.

For some reason, the locals have assumed a "Whisky Galore" attitude to the contents of the containers and are busy helping themselves to all manner of goodies, but when their foraging uncovers a human skull and the police put in an unwelcome appearance, things get out of hand. Unfortunately, Sam finds herself in an ambulance after receiving a beating from one of the scavengers - a man who has also been beaten to within an inch of his life.

Once a somewhat worse for wear Sam is back on the job, a case which at first appears to be one of simple cargo running, turns out to be much more complex, when a body is pulled from the sea - a body which was clearly already dead before being squeezed into a diving suit.

As the plot thickens, it becomes clear that this is more than just a case of a few stolen personal items and someone is desperate to recover what was spilled from the containers in Aramoana.

Can Sam get to the bottom of the mystery, before anyone else is killed?


Containment is my first Vanda Symon, but it will most certainly not be my last! Interestingly, I think this may be my first police procedural set in New Zealand too, which made it all the more enjoyable.

I absolutely love Sam Shephard and she makes a fine protagonist. She is unapologetically feisty, knows her own mind (mostly), and is not afraid to stick her neck out to save those she thinks are in trouble. 

He leaned forward and shifted his gaze 
so it felt like it pierced right into my brain. 
'Because you saved him. You saved me. You...' 
he struggled to find the right word before faling back to 
the tried and true '' 
And gave a little shrug, like it was obvious.

But she is human too, with the incumbent emotions this implies - and underneath the tough exterior that she needs for her job, she has her jealousies, insecurities, and worries for people she cares about, which really brings her alive on the page.

Vanda Symon works the threads through this book beautifully, ties up the ends with aplomb and takes you on the most entertainling journey along the way. Containment has bags of content for the lover of the police procedural, but also enough clues, red herrings and suspicious characters for even the biggest Agatha Christie fan too. Something about the setting in New Zealand gives it a "small town" atmosphere with its feeling of simmering passions and violence just under the surface that makes it deliciously compulsive. I am hooked!

Although this is book three in the Sam Shephard series, it works well as a stand-alone so you do not need to have read the previous books. But it does drop some tantalising little snippets about Sam's past and I will be reading both of her previous outings before too long - in fact, Overkill and The Ringmaster are already on my shelves waiting to be consumed while I type. I can't wait!

Containment is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Vanda Symon and Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of this book, in return for an honest review, and to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

Chaos reigns in the sleepy village of Aramoana on the New Zealand coast, 
when a series of shipping containers wash up on the beach and looting begins.

Detective Constable Sam Shephard experiences the desperation of the scavengers first-hand, 
and ends up in an ambulance, nursing her wounds and puzzling over 
an assault that left her assailant for dead.

What appears to be a clear-cut case of a cargo ship running aground soon takes 
a more sinister turn when a skull is found in the sand, and the body of a 
diver is pulled from the sea … a diver who didn’t die of drowning…

As first officer at the scene, Sam is handed the case, 
much to the displeasure of her superiors, and she must put together 
an increasingly confusing series of clues to get to 
the bottom of a mystery that may still have more victims…

About the author:

Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors.
The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. 
She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

About Orenda Books:

Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016.

In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been short- or long-listed for the CWA Daggers.

Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Mine by Claire Empson

Mine by Clare Empson.
Publishing in paperback on 19th March 2020 from Orion.
Read March 2020.

A & R man, Luke has always felt like a bit of an outsider, which he puts down to finding out when he was a child that he was adopted.

Although, on the surface of it, he seems to have to ideal life - a job he loves and a girlfriend, Hannah, he adores - the arrival of their new baby son, Samuel, has made Luke realise that he really needs to find out something about his roots. Maybe his life will then be truly complete?

When Luke finally meets his birth mother, Alice, he is overjoyed to feel an instant connection with her. She seems to fit into Luke and Hannah's life so beautifully - and Samuel loves her too.

So, when Hannah goes back to work, Alice seems like the ideal person to look after Samuel, especially since it will help her get over the grief of losing Luke all those years ago. But although things start off well, Luke soon feels that he is losing his connection with Alice, as she becomes more and more obsessed with Samuel.

Something is definitely not right with Alice and the way she relates to Luke's child, but can Luke get to the bottom of what is going wrong before it is too late?


Mine is a cracking story from start to finish - and so much more than your usual psychological thriller!

The chapters alternate between the points of view of  Alice from the past, and Luke from the present, so it cuts deliciously back and forth between the heady 1970s and the events which follow when Luke is reunited with his birth mother. Through this, we discover that the past is not quite as Alice has portrayed to the grown up Luke, that she is hiding something from him, and the suspense begins to ramp up.

I really liked that the chapters from Luke's side of the story are preceded by quotes from a expert about adoptive children, as each one gives us a little prophetic snippet about where the story is heading. At each stage we get a view into how Luke sees his developing relationship with Alice and why he begins to feel unhappy about where things are going. The similarities between Luke and his real father are also pretty interesting and give a real "nature over nurture" feel to the story.

The thriller element is strong with this one, and will have you perching on the edge of your seat as Luke starts to have suspicions about Alice's motives and behaviour. But being able to understand why Alice's sanity starts to fracture as events progress gives an unusual depth to the story that is quite special - although it doesn't make it any less chilling - and the glimpse into Alice's rock and roll/artistic youth is very evocative.

This a very emotional tale and really rather sad, but is an absolutely gripping read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am now off to investigate Clare Empson's debut novel Him, which was published last year - she is definitely an author I will have my eye on from now on.

Mine is published in paperback on 19th March 2020, and is available to pre-order from your favourite book retailer now, or via this link: Amazon

Thank you to Clare Empson and Orion for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

'Who am I? Why am I here? Why did my mother give me away?'

On the surface, Luke and his girlfriend Hannah seem to have a perfect life. He's an A&R man, she's an arts correspondent and they are devoted to their new-born son Samuel.

But beneath the gloss Luke has always felt like an outsider. So when he finds his birth mother Alice, the instant connection with her is a little like falling in love.

When Hannah goes back to work, Luke asks Alice to look after their son. But Alice - fuelled with grief from when her baby was taken from her 27 years ago - starts to fall in love with Samuel. And Luke won't settle for his mother pushing him aside once again...

About the author:

Clare Empson is a journalist with a background in national newspapers and has worked as a small business editor, finance correspondent and fashion at the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Express. Clare freelances for The Sunday Telegraph, The Sunday Times, the Evening Standard and Tatler amongst others. She currently works as editor/founder of experiential lifestyle website

Him is her debut novel. Her second novel Mine is an exploration of the fraught relationship between a birth mother and her adopted son set against a backdrop of a passionate love affair in the 70s. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Night Before by Wendy Walker (Paperback release)

The Night Before by Wendy Walker.
Publishing 19th March 2020 in paperback by Orion.
Read May 2019.

Rosie and Laura are sisters, but are different as can be. Rosie was their parents' golden child, while Laura was the difficult sister. They have grown up in the Connecticut woods, running wild with their close friends Joe and Gabe, in what should have been a happy childhood - but all families have secrets.

Rosie has always tried to protect fierce little Laura, especially after their father walked out on them as children, but Laura's past is troubled - there is a darkness about her that seems unfathomable, and she has found it difficult to get over the brutal murder of her first boyfriend one night in the woods around their home. No one is really sure what happened that night, including Laura.

In the present, Rosie is happily married to Joe, and they have a young son together. They are content. Gabe still lives nearby, but Laura has moved away - trying to escape her past and find the love that she feels has always been missing from her life.

Laura goes from one doomed relationship to the next. Her latest relationship has broken down and she has left her high-powered Wall Street job and New York apartment to return home to spend some time with Rosie and her family.

One night, Laura goes on a blind date with a man she has met on an on-line dating site, still trying to find the man who will offer her everything she needs. Rosie is concerned that Laura is taking things too fast, after the latest break-up, but tries to be as supportive as she can.

Unfortunately, Laura does not come home from her date. Where is she? Is she safe?
Rosie starts to question Laura's state of mind, as the search for her missing sister gets underway. Should she be worried about Laura, or should she be concerned for the man she was dating instead? What is Laura really capable of?


The Night Before is a really pacy thriller, with some excellent twists that I did not see coming at all. This is one of those books that pulls you in and you will not be satisfied until you have read to the very end - it is always good when that end is satisfying too, which this one definitely is.

The story alternates between the night before the date, mostly from Laura's point of view, and the day after, when Laura is found to be missing and the search begins - with snippets of Laura's sessions with her therapist thrown in. I really liked this, as it builds suspense well and slowly reveals the horrifying truth about what happened "the night before"......and all those years ago in the woods.

I have read more than a few psychological thrillers, some of which were hyped to the max, but this is actually one of the most exciting I have consumed. The story is gripping, the pacing is good, and the twists actually work. Good job, Wendy Walker!

The Night Before is available in paperback from your favourite book retailer from 19th March 2020.

Thank you to Wendy Walker and Alainna Hadjigeorgiou at Orion for gifting me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

From the cover of the book:

Rosie Ferro and Laura Heart are sisters, but as different as it is possible to be. One is lucky in love and has a conventional family: a husband, and a small son. The other has a troubled past she is still struggling to break free from.

When Laura disappears after going on a date with a stranger she met online, Rosie, her protector since they were young, springs into action to look for her. But as she slowly uncovers more about the situation, Rosie begins to fear that her sister might have been more of a danger than the man she went out with.

Told in duel timelines - the night of and the night before, Wendy Walker's new novel is a riveting examination of family loyalty, obsession, and how just how far we will go for love.

About the author:

Wendy Walker has worked as an attorney specialising in family law. She lives in Connecticut where she is at work on her next novel.

Friday, March 13, 2020

A Good Neighbourhood by Therese Anne Fowler

A Good Neighbourhood by Therese Anne Fowler.
Published 10th March 2020 by Headline Review.
Read March 2020.

Oak Hill, North Carolina: A leafy, respectable neighbourhood, full of established family homes. A quiet and close knit community, where professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt has been raising her mixed race son as a single mother for the past eighteen years. Valerie is immensely proud of the fine, talented young man her son Xavier has grown into and she knows she is going to miss him terribly when he goes off to music college in San Francisco in the autumn.

All is well until the old house next door is knocked down and the garden full of trees razed to the ground, and instead, a huge, modern home, complete with pool and paved yard takes its place. along with a new kind of Oak Hill family - the Whitmans.

Although, on the surface, the Whitmans look like a traditional family unit, they are all about new money, flashy possessions and ambition, with a secretly troubled teenage daughter, Juniper. They have little in common with their near neighbours, the Alston-Holts - something that is clearly apparent from the off, when Mr Whitman mistakes Xavier for the hired help.

After an uncomfortable and tentative start, the neighbours reach a kind of peace, and it even seems that Mrs Whitman and Valerie can become friends, but they are soon at odds over the historic oak tree that lives in the Alston-Holt's garden. This tree is Valerie's pride and joy and it has been damaged by the construction of the Whitman's property, so she initiates a law suit against the city, builder and crucially, against the Whitmans.

In the face of the legal battle and strained relations, no one seems to notice a romance is developing between Xavier and Juniper. A romance that will lead to tragedy.


Where do I even start with this incredible book?

From the very beginning, we know that our tale does not end happily, from the words of the narrator - a faceless and nameless person, telling the story on the part of the community of Oak Hill. 

As the story plays out, the weight of disaster to come builds inexorably, until there is an inevitable tipping point beyond which our young lovers speed faster and faster towards their tragic fate. You find yourself yelling at them to stop and see sense, to realise the danger of their relationship, so many times, but are powerless to prevent what must surely come. It is all so beautifully done, that you are compelled to keep reading until the final page, even though you know the ending will surely break your heart.

There are so many lovely themes in this book - a veritable array of meaty subjects to pick over after the event. So I can only cover a few here in this review. This is a book you will want to read, so you will be able to savour them all yourself anyway!

Inescapably, there are the themes of star-crossed lovers, families at war and forbidden love - our doomed Romeo and Juliet. But a hell of a lot more has been shoehorned into these pages by our skillful author too - control, stereotyping, racism, screwy patriarchal ideas about purity, environmental protection, the arrogance of new money..... I could go on and on.

One of the most interesting ones for me, was the theme of coercive control, as evidenced by the skewed relationships in the Whitman family. I don't want to give away too much here, but the delicious thread of manipulator masquerading as a saviour is written so well here by Therese Anne Fowler. You will get angry, indignant and down right terrified by the goings in the Whitman household.

I particularly enjoyed the way our author cleverly introduces the tiny seed of a shocking idea to your mind by introducing Vladimir Nobokov's Lolita as a book for Valerie's book group. From little acorns do mighty oak trees grow, if you will pardon the obvious pun, and an idea slowly takes hold in your mind that chills you to the core. Ever so nicely done it is too. 

There is an intriguing thread about purity vows too. Personally, I find it extremely creepy that a daughter would pledge her virginity to her father and the pseudo-marriage ceremony involved makes me feel nauseous. But I did enjoy how Therese Anne Fowler dealt with the subject in this book. Rather that portray the concept of a purity vow as wrong, she allows Juniper a voice here - and we are therefore, given to understand why a young girl might find this an attractive idea. It did give me food for thought, but I am still firmly of the mind that this is a disturbing idea and one which is all about patriarchal control - somewhat borne out by events too.

I loved the way our author turns some stereotypes on their head in this story - for example, the highly educated, black professor with a high achieving son; the idea that a good provider makes the best father - but she also shows us that some stereotypes are deeply ingrained and can still cause a lot of damage.

I could ramble on for ever, but I think I will stop here. This is a book that will set you talking and will be a gift for book clubs around the globe. Let me finish by saying that this book is outstanding. I could not put it down once I had started and polished it off in less than a day. It is fair to also warn you that this tale completely destroyed me emotionally and I sobbed my heart out at the conclusion. Would I go back and wish it unread? Absolutely not! Read it and you will see why.

A Good Neighbourhood is available to buy from your favourite book retailer now.

Thank you to Louise Swannell of Headline for gifting me a copy of this glorious book, in return for an honest review.

From the cover of the book:

In Oak Knoll, a tight-knit North Carolina neighbourhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door - an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenage daughter.

With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds over an historic oak tree in Valerie's yard.

But as they fight, they fail to notice that there is a romance blossoming between their two teenagers. A romance that will challenge the carefully constructed concepts of class and race in this small community. A romance that might cause everything to shatter...

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen.
Published 20th February 2020 by John Murray.
Read March 2020.

Majella's life revolves around routine and this allows her to cope in the little world she has made for herself.

Shuttling between her job at the chip shop, being tucked up in her room watching Dallas, and the occasional night out at the pub, she does her best to ignore the parts of life she doesn't really understand - and keep a distance from her drunken mother as much as she can. Other people certainly find her strange, but she keeps herself to herself and finds her rituals comforting.

But change is coming Majella's way, whether she likes it or not. After her grandmother is attacked and dies, Majella begins to realise that she may be missing something and she may not be able to keep shutting in the upsetting parts of her life forever.

Is it time for this big girl to make her mark in this small town?


I love a book that throws you in at the deep end with it's use of language and this one certainly does that - forcing you to start out like a wean splashing around trying to stay afloat, but turning you into a true pro who can co-ordinate their oxters into a pretty convincing butterfly by the closing pages. I haven't enjoyed myself quite so much negotiating vernacular since Trainspotting! Good job, Michelle Gallen!

So, what is Big Girl, Small Town all about? Well imagine a lovechild between Anna Burn's Milkman and Derry Girls, and it will give you an idea. Majella, our lovely autistic hero, breaks down her days in terms of the lists of things she likes and dislikes about her life in the border town of Aghybogey - and the wisdom she has learned from repeat viewing of videos of Dallas.

Routine is what gets her by and her rituals keep her more or less sane in a world that she does not understand. Who does, Majella, who does?
She has learned that sometimes you have to respond to conversation, and with a few standard responses/shrugs she manages to get by - she is a dab hand at the "blank face" - but really she just wants to be left alone.

But change is coming for Majella, and maybe the time is right for her to have some of the things she has been missing? Time to escape? You go girl! And being along for the ride has been an absolute pleasure!

I am totally in love with this wonderful experience of a book, having found myself rooting for Majella from page one. It is hilarious at times, deeply emotional and often surprisingly profound. I am not ashamed to say that I did not want it to end and cried my eyes out when it inevitably did.

"WhatcanIgetchew?"... more Michelle Gallen, please!

From the cover of the book:

Routine makes Majella's world small but change is about to make it a whole lot bigger.

*Stuff Majella knows*

-God doesn't punish men with baldness for wearing ladies' knickers

-Banana-flavoured condoms taste the same as nutrition shakes

-Not everyone gets a volley of gunshots over their grave as they are being lowered into the ground

*Stuff Majella doesn't know*

-That she is autistic

-Why her ma drinks

-Where her da is

Other people find Majella odd. She keeps herself to herself, she doesn't like gossip and she isn't interested in knowing her neighbours' business. But suddenly everyone in the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up wants to know all about hers.

Since her da disappeared during the Troubles, Majella has tried to live a quiet life with her alcoholic mother. She works in the local chip shop (Monday-Saturday, Sunday off), wears the same clothes every day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, nuked in the microwave) and binge watches Dallas (the best show ever aired on TV) from the safety of her single bed. She has no friends and no boyfriend and Majella thinks things are better that way.

But Majella's safe and predictable existence is shattered when her grandmother dies and as much as she wants things to go back to normal, Majella comes to realise that maybe there is more to life. And it might just be that from tragedy comes Majella's one chance at escape.

This Lovely City by Louise Hare (Audio Book)

This Lovely City by Louise Hare (Audio Book).
Released 12th February 2020 by HQ. Also available in hardback and ebook formats from 12th March 2020.
Listened to/read February 2020.

The Blitz is over and London is recovering from WWII. The call has gone out for workers from the Commonwealth to come over and help Britain get back on her feet.

Fresh off the Empire Windrush, musician Lawrie Matthews has come to make his fortune, but things are not quite as he imagined in this, so called, land of opportunity. It has been harder to make London his home that he thought, and the climate is not helping, but he has finally got himself a steady job, even if he is laying his head down a tiny room in Brixton....but the best thing to happen to him by far is that he has fallen in love with Evie, the girl next door.

Touring the streets of Soho at night, plying his trade in a band with some of his friends, and working as a postman during the day, keeps Lawrie busy, and he hopes this promising start will enable him to ask Evie to marry him before too long - so his new life can really begin.

However, one morning, Lawrie finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and becomes a suspect in a shocking crime that has stunned the local community. Feelings are riding high and the rising tension is threatening to tear the city apart.

Can Lawrie really find happiness in this lovely city?


How I loved this compelling tale of young love, racial tension and mystery set against the backdrop of a city trying to find its way after the upheaval of WWII!

Lawrie is part of the Windrush generation, called to England with the promise of a warm welcome and opportunities galore. But when Lawrie gets here, he realises that he has been sold a bit of a pup. He and his fellow immigrants are living in squalid and cramped conditions and fighting for a chance of employment in workplaces that simply do not want them.

What saves Lawrie and makes him persevere? Well the answer is quite simply the love of a young girl he meets quite by accident....someone he is sure he can be happy with.....and that is Evie - a girl who is something of an outsider herself, as the mixed race daughter of a single mother, although she has lived in London all her life.

Louise Hare beautifully mixes the tales of Lawrie and Evie to highlight the racial tension bubbling under the surface of post-War London, and the hard life associated with being a single mother at this time. Trouble is afoot - secrets and lies, which seemed well buried, are going to be exposed before long. A heinous crime has been committed and new arrivals make easy targets in the blame game.

The blatant racism of the time is both brutal and uncompromising, and makes for some difficult reading in this story. There is plenty of tragedy and heartbreak too, but there is also hope for the future and an overwhelming sense that love and comradship can conquer all in the end.

I felt myself totally immersed in post-War London, with its rationing, black market shenanigans, lingering Blitz spirit, bomb-damaged buildings, and the tense atmosphere of a population trying to adjust to new times. A different age is being ushered in, not only in the face of recently arrived immigrants from far flung places, but also in terms of men returning home to womenfolk who have had a taste of an independence they had never experienced before - a freedom they are reluctant to give up. All the signs point to the difficult birth of a new era - of social and cultural change on the horizon.

But this is also a story of an investigation into a crime so shocking that it fractures the already fragile peace on London's streets. The long arm of the Law becomes an insidious presence for our community of immigrants, and their fear is palpable. It seems no one is safe from the attention of the Police.

All these threads come together beautifully at the hands of Louise Hare, until the devastating truth is revealed at the end of the tale. Outstanding!

The audio version of this poignant debut is magnificent. The narrations from Theo Solomon and Karise Yansen, as Lawrie and Evie, are magical and their voices completely draw you in. The soundtrack also features an original piece of jazz music, composed and performed by AZAD, a second year band from East London Arts and Music School (ELAM), which will have the jazz spirit pumping in your veins.

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this wonderful debut from Louise Hare. This Lovely City has every hallmark of being one of this year's must reads - or must listens, in the case of this cracking audio book. Trust me, this is one you are not going to want to miss out on!

This Lovely City is available from your favourite audio retailer now, and is out in print/ebook soon.

Thank you to Louise Hare and HQ for providing me with a copy of this audio book, in return for an honest review, and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover:

The drinks are flowing.
The music is playing.
But the party can’t last.

With the Blitz over and London reeling from war, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for help. Fresh off the Empire Windrush, he’s taken a tiny room in south London lodgings, and has fallen in love with the girl next door.

Touring Soho’s music halls by night, pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home – and it’s alive with possibility. Until, one morning, he makes a terrible discovery.

As the local community rallies, fingers of blame are pointed at those who had recently been welcomed with open arms. And, before long, the newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy which threatens to tear the city apart.

Atmospheric, poignant and compelling, Louise Hare’s debut shows that new arrivals have always been the prime suspects. But, also, that there is always hope.

About the author:

Louise Hare recently completed the MA Creative Writing at Birkbeck. Her debut novel ‘This Lovely City’ was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Prize for Fiction 2017 and will be published by HQ in March 2020. Her short story ‘Panopticon’ was written on the MA and has been published in ‘The Good Journal.’

Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Foundling by Stacey Halls

The Foundling by Stacey Halls.
Published 6th February 2020 by Manilla Press.
Read March 2020.

London, 1748: Hawker, Bess Bright, finds herself a single mother with no way to support a child. Taking the heart-rending decision to place her daughter, Clara, at London's Foundling Hospital, she leaves her there on the day of her birth - vowing that one day she will return to claim her.

Six years later, Bess heads to the hospital to collect the child she has never known, hoping that she is still alive and waiting for her. But when she gets there, she is told that someone giving her name and address collected Clara the day after Bess left her there. Who can have taken her daughter, and why?

Only a short distance from where Bess lives, a young widow has become a recluse and has not left her home in more than a decade, except to attend church. Her friend, who is a young doctor at the same foundling hospital where Bess left her child,  has persuaded her to hire a nursemaid to care for her daughter, but she is reluctant to let anyone new into her home. The past haunts her and the time has come for a reckoning.


If  you have read Stacey Halls' mesmerising debut The Familiars then you will know exactly how her writing can completely transport you to another time and place. If you have not read it and love beautifully crafted historical fiction - in this case about the infamous Pendle Witch Trials - then you really should.

This time, with The Foundling, takes us to Eighteenth Century London and a young woman forced to leave her child in the care of The Foundling Hospital. Her heartbreaking decision based on the hard facts of a life on the breadline, not to mention the difficulties surrounding being an unmarried mother at this time in history. But this is not just a story of heartbreak and loss, we also have the mystery of a missing child, when our young mother returns full of hope to reclaim her babe. Where can she be?

The Foundling also takes us to the other side of London life - the life of the wealthy in Bloomsbury and a woman with a haunting past - a young widow scared to let the outside world in and determined that her daughter should have no part of it either.

This is a tale of what it means to be a mother. Is it the giving birth to a baby? Is it the care of a child? what does your heart tell you?

But enough of all's wonderful, evocative, and deeply emotional. It will churn you up in side and make you cry your eyes out and boil over with rage.

Buy it. Read it. You will be glad you did.

The Foundling is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Stacey Halls and Zaffre for providing me with a copy of this book, in return for an honest review, and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

From the bestselling author of The Familiars, and set against the vibrant backdrop of Georgian London, The Foundling explores families, secrets, class, equality, power and the meaning of motherhood

A mother's love knows no bounds . . .

London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London's Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst - that Clara has died in care - the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed - by her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl - and why.

Less than a mile from Bess' lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend - an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital - persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.

About the author:

Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at, and has also worked as a journalist for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine. TV rights of The Familiars shave been sold to The Bureau production company.

Bought in a nine-way auction, The Familiars was received with much praise and is nominated for an HWA award. Say hello @Stacey_Halls on Twitter and @StaceyHallsAuthor on Instagram.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Rust by Eliese Colette Goldbach

Rust by Eliese Colette Goldbach.
Published 3rd March 2020 by Quercus.
Read March 2020.

From a very young age, Eliese Goldbach was convinced that her calling was to become a nun. Raised as a devout Catholic, in a staunch Republican household, Eliese saw this is the perfect way to help those less fortunate than herself.

But, twenty years later, horribly disillusioned and having lost all direction, Eliese instead found herself working in a Cleveland steel mill - during the 2016 election campaign.

How did she get here and what was happening to her country, if a man like Donald Trump was a serious contender for becoming the President of the United States of America?

Rust is part memoir, part examination of the times Eliese found herself in - a look at the way her attitudes have changed over the years, as a product of her experiences in childhood, at college and as a young woman. She no longer fits the mould her parents cast for her, but instead has learnt that understanding is the key to bridging the divide that splits her country in two.


For me, Rust is the perfect memoir - one which is a very personal account of a life which has taken an unexpected turn, and one which is also able to teach me about something I knew nothing about before.

This story of a college girl who found herself a steel worker is both a fascinating and compelling and one which had me engrossed from page one. The detailed account of the workings of the steel mill was interesting enough in itself, especially as that of a woman in a man's world, but when you add to this the glimpse into the lives of Eliese's fellow workmates this book becomes so much more. It is so easy to see the workers of the Rust Belt as a bunch of sexist, Republican supporting, beer swilling types, but Eliese serves to show that they are in fact, made up of a wide range of individuals with very different experiences, beliefs and desires - and although mainly men, there are more woman working this job than I realised.

Eliese is very frank and honest about her own experiences in these pages, from her very youngest childhood years as a devout Catholic who yearns to serve God, through to the fracturing of her mental health as a result of rape during her college years, and her struggles to maintain a steady job and relationship as an adult. The sadness she felt as all her childhood dreams came crashing down is heartbreaking and I could not but feel very angry at the way she was treated by the very people who should have been protecting her - at times, even towards her own parents, whose logic often defies understanding. But the change in the course of her life that resulted has helped her to find other, surprising ways to express herself.

Throughout it all, the election campaign which brought Donald Trump to power is playing out in the background. From a Republican upbringing, Eliese has now settled on a left-of-centre position and it was both eye-opening and more than a little worrying to read about her conversations with her own parents, as she confronted them about the reality of Trump's poisonous message. Whilst the irony of Trumps arguments shines through, it is in fact easy to see how he was eventually victorious against all the odds - when you are convinced that the opposition is evil, it becomes oh too simple to accept an alternative that is far from perfect.

Yet, through all that life has thrown at her, Eliese still radiates a message of hope in this book. Her personal message is one of finding understanding where she was taught to believe there was only a desire to undermine the sanctity of the American Dream. She can acknowledge that although she does not see eye to eye with everyone, she understands that their actions are often based on fear - and this does not stop her loving her parents or them loving her back. If she can bridge this divide, perhaps others can too? 

Rust is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Katya Ellis at Quercus for providing me with a copy of Rust, in return for an honest review.

From the cover of the book:

When Eliese Goldbach was nine years old, she decided to become a Catholic nun. Twenty years later, with a Master's degree, she found herself making steel in the Rust Belt during the 2016 US election season. A small part of her wondered if she'd got stuck inside a dream that had gone horribly wrong. Trump was supposed to be golfing in Florida, not vying for the presidency. She was supposed to be saving souls, not stirring a vat of molten metal. The trajectory of her life had fallen short of expectations. The trajectory of the USA was going haywire.

Part memoir, part social commentary, framed by Eliese's experiences as a steelworker, Rust is about perspective, and shifting perspective: it's about change. Much of Eliese's life connects the identities that seem to be driving the USA apart, and the parallels with a post-Brexit UK are uncanny. She's a former Republican turned Democrat; a feminist with Christian roots. Anti-abortion - until she herself was subjected to sexual violence - a supporter of the right to choose. She doesn't fit neatly into any one box.

Appealing to readers of Hillbilly Elegy and Educated, Rust explores Eliese's transformation from far-right to left-of-centre, detailing her first year as a steelworker, and the path that brought her to the mill in the first place. It is an American tale, but could just as easily be Sunderland, UK, as Cleveland, USA.

Raw and luminous, Rust explores the USA's, and the world's, most pressing issues in an attempt to amplify our understanding of one another across the divide. It's a rally cry to a nation at a crossroads

About the author:

Eliese Goldbach is a steelworker at the ArcelorMittal Cleveland Temper Mill. She received an MFA in nonfiction from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts Program. Her writing has appeared in Ploughshares, Western Humanities Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and Best American Essays 2017. She received the Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Award and a Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant from the Ohioana Library Association, which is given to a young Ohio writer of promise.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Holdout by Graham Moore

The Holdout by Graham Moore.
Published 20th February 2020 by Orion.
Read March 2020.

Ten years ago, Maya Seale was part of the jury that presided over the fate of  Bobby Nock, on trial for of the murder of his fifteen-year-old student, Jessica Silver.

The trial had seemed an open and shut case, but, for Maya, there were problems that could not be ignored. She was the only juror who believed Bobby Nock was not guilty, but she made it her business to bring the others to her way of thinking - and so he went free.

There were many who believed that a guilty man had got away with murder - including the Jessica's parents, and most notably Maya's fellow juror Rick, who went on to write a book blaming her for a miscarriage of justice. The controversy surrounding the case went on to hound the members of the jury for years afterwards.

Ten years have passed and the Jessica Silver case is in the headlines again. A television company is planning to gather together the original jury and go over the evidence in the case one more time - offering new and incontrovertible proof that Bobby Nock was guilty.

Maya, now a respected defence attorney, is not keen to join this reunion, but given little choice in the matter she eventually meets up with the old gang at the hotel were they were sequestered while they deliberated their verdict all those years ago. She is intrigued about what the new evidence could be.

But then, one of the jurors turns up dead, before the show even begins, and Maya is the prime suspect in his murder...

Who is the real killer and what is the motive? Is Maya paying the price for her actions ten years ago?


This book was such a lot of fun, and I devoured the whole thing in one sitting!

The story alternates between the present and the events surrounding the original case - from the very beginning that the jurors were chosen, right through to the controversial verdict - so we get a lovely mix of courtroom drama, murder mystery and Maya's desperate quest to find out not only who killed her fellow juror, but also whether or not Bobby Nock was guilty after all.

We get to know each jury member pretty well and all their little secrets come to light before the end of the story, and as you put together all the pieces of the puzzle alongside the evidence presented at the original case and during Maya's current investigation, the shocking truth is finally revealed - along with the most delicious and surprising of twists.

No spoilers from me, but this is a thrill ride of a book - intelligent and exciting in equal measure, and more than a little thought provoking too. I loved it!

The Holdout is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer!

Thank you to Graham Moore and Orion for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

'Ten years ago we made a decision together...'

Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar fortune, vanishes on her way home from school. Her teacher, Bobby Nock, is the prime suspect. It's an open and shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed.

Until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, persuades the rest of the jurors to vote not guilty: a controversial decision that will change all of their lives forever.

Ten years later, one of the jurors is found dead, and Maya is the prime suspect.

The real killer could be any of the other ten jurors. Is Maya being forced to pay the price for her decision all those years ago?

About the author:

Graham Moore is a New York Times bestselling novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter. His screenplay for The Imitation Game won the Academy Award and WGA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2015 and was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. The film, directed by Morten Tyldum and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, received 8 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.

Monday, March 2, 2020

What Remains At The End by Alexandra Ford

What Remains At The End by Alexandra Ford.
Published 30th October 2019 by Seren.
Read February 2019.

The time has come for Marie Kohler to admit defeat and acknowledge that her marriage has been over for some time. She has met a mysterious man, called David, who promises the chance of a new romance.

The death of Marie's beloved grandfather and her grandmother's Alzheimers are adding to her feelings of being untethered somehow, and are feeding a need to explore her roots via the history of her grandparents' flight from Yugoslavia to America, following the end of World War II.

Marie is shocked by what she discovers - her grandparents were caught up in the hidden genocide of the indiginous ethnic Germans of Yugoslavia, by Tito - and she had no idea about their tragic history, eventhough they raised her from birth.

When David offers to take Marie on a journey to her grandparents' former homeland, she jumps at the chance and is overwhelmed by his generosity. But the journey is harder than both Marie and David thought and the emotions that are thrown up by the things they discover create some difficult moments between the fledgling lovers.

Alternating between Marie's journey in 2012 and the horrific events of the past, What Remains At The End explores the human toll of what happens when we search for the truth among the terrible secrets of the past.


I was blown away by the power of this book - it certainly packs an emotional punch.

The story weaves back and forth between Marie's journey,  and her musings on her relationship with her beloved grandparents, the failure of her marriage, the beginnings of her new relationship with David, and the terrible events of the past (mostly just after the war, but also with an intriguing glimpse around the time of Tito's death) - so the present (2012) is interspersed with the experiences of Tito's victims.

I was aware of the name Tito, somewhere in the back of my mind, but I knew next to nothing about the man that went on to become the dictator that held sway over Yugoslavia for so many years, until his death in 1980. I most certainly had not heard at all about the ethnic Germans who were forced out of Yugoslavia in the aftermath of WWII - not to mention, the forced labour camps and downright extermination meted out to these people. This was a revelation, albeit an uncomfortable and shocking one. Interestingly, it seems this episode in history remains as one which is hidden from sight, like a dirty secret.

This book is best described as haunting. It is true to say that this is not a book with any sense of light relief in its pages, and it is quite a serious read as a result, but it has a very important message. The weight of the past and hidden secrets hang heavy and Alexandra Ford uses this beautifully against the ups and downs of both a marriage that has failed and the new shoots of a burgeoning romance - and the feeling of oppression is echoed in the atmosphere of the places Marie and David visit on their journey, where great efforts have been made to keep the truth hidden from sight.

What Remains At The End is a very impressive and powerful debut indeed and a book that I will be thinking about for a long time to come.

Thank you to Alexandra Ford and Seren Books for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Kelly Lacy of Love Books Tours for inviting me to be part of this tour.

What Remains At The End is available now from your favourite book retailer, or via this link on Amazon UK.

From the cover of the book:

In the aftermath of World War II, hundreds of thousands of Yugoslavia's ethnic Germans, the Danube Swabians, were expelled by Tito's Partisan regime. A further sixty thousand were killed.

Seventy years later, Marie Kohler's marriage is falling apart. She's seeing someone new, an enigmatic man named David, who takes her to the former Yugoslavia to find the truth behind her grandparent's flight to America.

Alternating between the late 1940s and contemporary Serbia, Marie's story is interwoven with those of Tito's victims - a young survivor who has lost his mother and his identity, a woman held captive in a sugar factory, a refugee girl living in Austria under the din of air raid sirens. Marie's journey follows the Danube in search of connection in the face of loss. Connection to the lost souls, to the memory of her grandfather, to the man beside her, to her grandmother suffering Alzheimer's back home.

What Remains at the End considers what happens when the truth goes unspoken, and asks how it can be recovered, if there is anything left to recover, in the face of so many secrets. Alexandra Ford has written an intriguing debut novel of personal relationships played out against some of the very worst results of realpolitik, where human life is subjugated to political and national ideology.

About the author:

Alexandra Ford was born near Philadelphia. She earned her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her BA from Virginia Tech.

Her writing appears in The Rumpus and No Tokens Journal, among others. 

She lives on a smallholding on the border between England and Wales. Her first novel What Remains At The End is available now.