Saturday, 30 March 2019

Between A Mother and Her Child by Elizabeth Noble - Emotional, but Uplifting

If you are looking for an emotional, but uplifting book to read this Mother's Day weekend, then
Between A Mother and Her Child by Elizabeth Noble is for you.

Maggie met Bill when he was over on his gap year in Australia. She was a champion swimmer with a chance for the Olympics, but when she became pregnant, they married and returned to the UK where Jake was born.

Life was beautiful: they had two more children, Aly and Stan, and Bill's building business was going well. Then shockingly, when Jake was on his gap year with two friends in Thailand, he drowned in the Boxing Day tsunami.

The fact that this happens before the novel starts doesn't lessen the heartbreak for Maggie and Bill who deal with it in their different ways; she staying at home to try to come to terms with Jake's death and he going out to Thailand to find his body and give help to the people there in any way he could.

Kate has her own problems. In her sixties, she now lives alone, her life once so full of colour, is now monochrome. And it is Livvy, Maggie's younger sister, over from Sydney for Christmas, who suggests that she finds a 'companion' for Maggie now that Bill has moved in with young widow, Carrie, who he's met at his bereavement group, and who finds Kate through an advertisement.

It was intriguing to find out if Maggie would accept Kate and what impact she would have on Aly, aged seventeen, doing her 'A' Levels, but increasingly withdrawn since her brother's death, and Stan, aged ten, who suffers from dyslexia and dyspraxia and who is a challenge at the best of times.

Elizabeth Noble tenderly explores the relationships between all the characters, drawing a vivid picture of each one, but concentrating on the one between Maggie and Jake which is at the heart of this novel. It is emotional, but it is uplifting, and I was hooked until the touching end.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Still Me by Jojo Moyes - Louisa Clark Gets a Job in New York!

Still Me is Jojo Moyes' third marvellous book about Louisa Clark. You can read my reviews of the others, me before you and after you, here and here.
Louisa wants to prove herself and get over Will Traynor, but will she ever be able to? Nathan, who used to be Will's physio, finds her a chance to work in New York as an assistant to Agnes, Mr Gopnicks's young second wife. Sam, her paramedic boyfriend, encourages her to go  because he doesn't want to curtail her freedom, and anyway, it's only for one year, what could go wrong?
The Gopnicks live in a wonderful Fifth Avenue apartment in the Lavery, but Agnes is not happy. Louisa does her best to help with her demands, including a daily early morning run in Central Park, and waiting outside an artist's studio with Garry, their chauffeur, whilst Agnes learns to paint, but strangely, never brings any paintings home.
At one of the many charity functions that the rich and famous attend in New York, Louisa falls for Josh who is gorgeous and kind, but is it because he reminds her so much of Will?
But then, she is dismissed by Mr Gopnick for something she did in all innocence to help Agnes. Whilst back in England, Sam gets an attractive new partner to work with who seems to be taking Louisa's place in his heart.
How can she stay in New York with no job? Yet, how can she go back to Sam?
This is another wonderful book by Jojo Moyes with a cavalcade of characters like Mrs De Witt and her dog, Dean Martin, who lives on the same floor in the apartment block and who hates Agnes' piano playing; Ashok, the kind and helpful porter at the Lavery; Ilaria, the Gopnicks' cook, and Garry who learns Spanish whilst they wait for Agnes in the car.
Jojo Moyes also describes New York so well, it makes you want to jump on a plane and walk through Manhattan singing Let the Rivers Run, just like Louisa.
And yes, she still wears those tights that are striped like a bee!

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce - Uplifting Comfort Reading at its Best!

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce is a truly uplifting book about the courage and fortitude of those living through the Blitz in 1941, told with humour as well as tears.
Emmy, or Emmeline Lake's ambition is to be a War correspondent like those she's read about in the newspapers: brave women who can impartially report on the facts before them without getting involved.
She gets a job at Launceston House, the home of the Evening Chronicle in Fleet Street, thinking this will be her first step to stardom, but the job turns out to be at the foundering Women's Friend magazine upstairs, with the redoubtable acting editress, Henrietta Bird.
Emmy had been so excited at the interview that she didn't listen properly to hear that the job was to sort through the readers' problem letters, and hand them over to Mrs Bird for her to answer, but how was she to become a respected woman journalist doing that?
She is dismayed at all the readers' letters that she has to cut up and bin because of what Mrs Bird calls  'Unpleasantness'. The acting editress will only answer questions about such things as fat arms or chilblains, but nothing at all about any sort of relationship, pre- or post-marital; sex; political or religious activities; or the war, which pretty much covered all the problems that the readers have. So she decides to answer the letters herself in secret which gets her in to all sorts of trouble.
AJ Pearce has drawn some wonderful characters including Bunty, her best friend who works a the War Office, and shares her granny's flat with Emmy; Bunty's fiancé, William, a fireman along with Roy, and Thelma, Joan and Mary who also work on the telephones with Emmy in the evenings at the fire station. But we don't see Edmund, Emmy's fiancé, who is away fighting.
The language, and descriptions of the fashions and wartime London are just right too. My mother was in the AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) like Emmy, sending out fire engines as the bombs fell. She didn't tell me a lot about it, not many people wanted to talk about the war, so this book was a chance for me to discover what it was really like.
Louisa Young, author of A Heroes' Welcome, advises that we should immediately catch a cold and retire to bed with this book. And, Dear Reader, I did!
I'm also pleased to hear that AJ Pearce is working on a sequel: I shall have to catch another!! Comfort reading at its best!