Join Kate’s VIP Club Now!

Follow Me

FacebookPinterestTwitter

Kate's Blog

Subscribe RSS

BOOK REVIEW: Sophia’s Secret by Susanna Kearsley

Wednesday, December 07, 2016


BLURB:

When bestselling author Carrie McClelland visits the windswept ruins of Slains Castle, she is enchanted by the stark and beautiful Scottish landscape. The area is strangely familiar to her but she puts aside her faint sense of unease to begin her new novel, using the castle as her setting, and one of her own ancestors, Sophia, as her heroine. Then Carrie realises her writing is taking on a life of its own and the lines between fact and fiction become increasingly blurred. As Sophia's memories draw Carrie more deeply into the intrigue of 1708, she discovers a captivating love story lost in time. After three hundred years, Sophia's Secret must be told.


MY THOUGHTS:

A parallel narrative set in Scotland, filled with spies and secrets and forbidden love, Sophia’s Secret (also published as The Winter Sea) is just the kind of book I love to read. 

A young author named Carrie McClelland is writing a novel about the Jacobite invasion of England in 1708, but is struggling to bring her work of fiction to life. 


On a whim, she travels to Scotland for research and finds herself inexorably drawn to the ruins of an old castle that she knows had a key role to play in the rebellion. Slowly she finds herself drawn into the stories of the past, and makes a number of baffling discoveries that logic simply cannot explain. Meanwhile, back in the past, Sophia finds herself drawn into the dangers of the secret mission to return the Stuarts to the throne, risking everything to be with the man she loves.


I really love this period of history, and I also loved Susannah Kearsley’s deft mix of suspense, romance, and magic. Her books are smoothly and swiftly paced, and the heroines of both narrative threads are strong and interesting and likeable. I’ll be reading more of her work, that’s for sure. 


Enjoy books with dual timelines? Then you may enjoy some of the many other wonderful books with parallel narratives that I've read and reviewed.


Any suggestions for me to read? Please give me your recommendations!

SPOTLIGHT: Christina Rossetti 'In the Bleak Midwinter"

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

    I have loved the poetry of Christina Rossetti since I was in my teens, and bought a volume of her poetry at a church fete. 

I had wanted her to be a major character in BEAUTY IN THORNS, my novel about the Pre-Raphaelites, but eventually decided that I could not do her poetry and life justice in the small amount of space I could have devoted to her. 



I removed all the chapters I had written about her, and put them into a separate file. 

Since then I have been thinking and wondering and playing with ideas for a book about her. Not a novel. A kind of imaginative biography.  

Then I realised that Christina Rossetti was born on the 5th December 1830, a week before another one of my favourite poets Emily Dicksinson (who was born on the 10th December 1830). 



And so now I'm thinking of writing a double biography ... though perhaps the term bibliomemoir would be more accurate. A book that looks at the lives and works of two extraordinary 19th century women, and their shaping force upon my own life. Yet it is not the type of thing I usually write. Would anyone want to publish it? I wondered. Would anyone want to read it?

Then last night I went to hear my daughter sing at her school Christmas concert. And one of the songs the choir sang was 'In the Bleak Midwinter', a poem written by Christina Rossetti which I have always loved. It was so beautiful, I had shivers all over my body. It seemed like a sign. Maybe I should write about her and Emily Dicksinson, I thought. Even if no-one would want to publish it. Just for my own pleasure. And so I've begun to put a few ideas together - it'll be something I'll play with in quiet moments and hope one day will be born and have a life beyond me.

And I've thought of a title (always a sign for me that a book has real possibilities). I'm thinking of calling it 'Hope is the Thing with Feathers', from one of my favourite poems by Emily Dickinson.       




It has uncanny echoes with a poem by Christina Rossetti:

And here, for your pleasure, is Christina Rossetti's poem 'In the Bleak Midwinter':



And another favourite poem about winter by Emily Dickinson:

What do you think? Would any of you like to read a book about Christina Rossetti & Emily Dickinson?

BOOK REVIEW: The Nightingale – Kristen Hannah

Monday, December 05, 2016



BLURB:

Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her. 

As the war progresses, the sisters' relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.


MY THOUGHTS:

I have never read any of Kristen Hannah’s books before, and at first I was not sure if I was going to like this book (even though I love books set in the French underground resistance in World War II). Kristen Hannah’s style is very straightforward and the plot seemed quite predictable to me. However, as the novel progressed I found myself turning the pages faster and faster, and I had a little choke in my throat at the end. 


It’s a story of two sisters in rural France, whose lives are turned upside-down by the Nazi invasion. They each react in different ways. Viann tries to protect her family and keep their farm safe, while Isabelle joins the resistance and fights to save as many as she can. Each of their choices led to heartbreak and sacrifice, as well as ultimately to redemption. A real page-turner!


Another novel I really loved that was set in France during World War II was ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr  or you may enjoy my blog SPOTLIGHT: Best Books on the German Resistance, which contains many of the research books for my novel set in Berlin during the Nazi years, THE BEAST'S GARDEN.


Have you get any other suggestions for great books about the Resistance to Hitler? Let me know!

BOOK REVIEW: The Other Daughter – Lauren Willig

Saturday, December 03, 2016



BLURB:

Raised in a poor yet genteel household, Rachel Woodley is working in France as a governess when she receives news that her mother has died, suddenly. Grief-stricken, she returns to the small town in England where she was raised to clear out the cottage...and finds a cutting from a London society magazine, with a photograph of her supposedly deceased father dated all of three month before. He's an earl, respected and influential, and he is standing with another daughter-his legitimate daughter. Which makes Rachel...not legitimate. Everything she thought she knew about herself and her past-even her very name-is a lie.



MY THOUGHTS:

I met Lauren Willig at the Historical Novel Society conference in Chicago a few years ago, and bought her first book The Secret History of the Pink Carnation on the strength of the cover and the blurb. Since then, I’ve read all sixteen of her books, which just keep getting better and better.


The Other Daughter is the story of Rachel Woodley, a poor young English woman who is devastated when her mother dies, leaving her an orphan. Clearing out her mother’s house, she discovers a news cutting with a photograph of her dead father. Except that the newspaper article is only three months old, and the man in the photograph is an earl. Photographed with him is his daughter, who is just the same age as Rachel. 


Realising that everything she thought she knew about her life is a lie, Rachel sets out on an elaborate game of revenge and retribution. She assumes a false name, and slowly insinuates herself into her half-sister’s glamorous social circle. Her deception soon begins to have unexpected ramifications, including Rachel falling in love with her sister’s fiancé. The result is a suspenseful and romantic historical novel with great period detail and characters. 


I also loved Lauren Willig's novel THE ASHFORD AFFAIR - you can read my review here.


PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT - I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK.

BOOK REVIEW: The Somnambulist by Essie Fox

Thursday, December 01, 2016

BLURB:

When seventeen-year old Phoebe Turner visits Wilton's Music Hall to watch her Aunt Cissy performing on stage, she risks the wrath of her mother Maud who marches with the Hallelujah Army, campaigning for all London theatres to close. While there, Phoebe is drawn to a stranger, the enigmatic Nathaniel Samuels who heralds dramatic changes in the lives of all three women. 


When offered the position of companion to Nathaniel's reclusive wife, Phoebe leaves her life in London's East End for Dinwood Court in Herefordshire — a house that may well be haunted and which holds the darkest of truths. In a gloriously gothic debut, Essie Fox weaves a spellbinding tale of guilt and deception, regret and lost love.



MY THOUGHTS


The Somnambulist is a dark neo-Victorian Gothic romance, with lots of unexpected twists and turns. The 19th century atmosphere is so vividly realised, you can hear the horses’ hooves clopping and taste the fog on your tongue. 


Phoebe Turner lives with her Bible-thumping mother and her young and beautiful aunt, who used to be a singer.  A chance encounter at a music-hall changes Phoebe’s life forever, catapulting her into a world of dark secrets. She travels to Dinwood Court to work as a companion to a reclusive woman who walks the corridors at night. What she discovers there will change everything she thought she knew about her life. 


I also really loved Essie Fox's novel THE GODDESS & THE THIEF - you can read my review here and an interview with Essie here.


HAVE YOU READ ANY OF ESSIE'S BOOKS? LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS.

THE 50/50 PROJECT: Seeing Uluru at sunset

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

This year I had a significant birthday, and so I drew up a list of fifty dreams, ambitions and desires that I call THE 50/50 PROJECT (I guess that gives away what kind of significant birthday I endured!)

The list is not static - as I think of new things I badly want to do, I add it to the list (though this means I have to remove something else.)

However, right from the start I've had on my list:


SEE ULURU AT SUNSET

So my husband and I took a romantic weekend away in early November to visit Ulura in the Red Centre of Australia. We flew into the Ayers Rock Resort on Friday night and stayed at Longitude 131, which is right inside the national park. It's a row of fifteen glamorous 'tents' with amazing views of Uluru - you can watch the sunrise over the rock from your own bed.   


Our first night there we were taken out to see the famous rock change colours as the sun goes down. It really is extraordinary - this huge monolith rising from the flat desert scrub, changing from brown to red to orange to violet as the stars begin to shine. 


We then walked the Field of Stars art installation by the British artist Bruce Munro which was just magical:



(I didn't take this photo - it was too dark by the time we got there. This photo is by Mark Pickthall from AU ABROAD)

Then we had a magical dinner under the stars, while our guides from Longitude 131 told us stories of the stars spread out above us and we listened to a local play the didgeridoo. It was really magical.

Over the next few days we walked into the gorges of Kata Tjuta, and learnt from our guide the convulsive geographical events the led to the formation of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and were told about many of the fascinating native plants and wild flowers growing in the desert. 



We also walked around the base of Uluru, and heard some of the Dreamtime stories of the local Pitjantjatjara people - you can just imagine how much I loved that. I was particularly struck by how deeply embedded the stories were in the landscape. Many myths of the world have been unanchored from place, but the stories of the Pitjantjatjara are inspired by, and proven by, the unique rock outcrops and waterholes and flora and fauna of the area, and cannot be cut free of them.



We watched the sun set and the moon rise over the great orange mound of rock, and then returned for another delicious meal of local produce - including kangaroo. 



It truly was an amazing experience and I am so glad we went. The lovely people at Longitude 131 looked after us so well, and I learnt so much. 

And I'm happy to have crossed one more thing off my list of The 50/50 Project



SPOTLIGHT: William Blake and the Pre-Raphaelites

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

William Blake and the Pre-Raphaelites 

William Blake was born today, two hundred and sixty years ago. He was a poet, painter and visionary who was virtually unknown in his lifetime. 
Nowadays he is widely celebrated, even being named No 38 in the BBC’s 2002 poll of 100 Greatest Britons. 

Yet few know that it was another young British painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who was instrumental in saving him from obscurity. 

        

     William Blake, painted by Thomas Phillips (1807)  

                      

      A self-portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, drawn in 1847 


Rossetti first became interested in Blake after reading about him in Allan Cunningham’s The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, published in 1830. He was intrigued by this man who saw angels and devils, and who implored humanity to cast off their ‘mind-forg’d manacles.’ Like Rossetti, Blake was educated at home by his mother, showed extraordinary early promise as an artist, wrote poetry as well as painted, and was interested in the work of such unfashionable artists as Raphael, Michelangelo and Durer. 

One day Rossetti heard that an attendant at the British Museum had a battered old notebook in which Blake had drafted poems and scribbled sketches, mostly in pencil. On 30 April 1847, when he was just nineteen years old, Rossetti purchased the manuscript from the attendant, William Palmer, whose artist-brother Samuel had been a pupil of Blake’s in his final years. Rossetti paid ten shillings for it, which he borrowed from his long-suffering younger brother William Michael Rossetti. 

              

Blake had begun writing and drawing in the notebook in February 1787, and continued to work in it for the next thirty years. When he reached the end of the notebook, probably around 1793, he turned it upside down and began working from the end on the back of each leaf, over-writing earlier drafts and illustrations. 

The closely-filled pages give a fascinating insight into Blake's creative process, allowing readers to follow the composition of some of his best-known work, including one of my own personal favourites, 'The Tyger'.

            

The notebook was to have a profound effect on Rossetti’s work and life, and rippled out to influence the art and poetry of his friends and family, including Christina Rossetti and Algernon Swinburne. 

Rossetti was intrigued with Blake’s rebellious reputation and with his rejection of conventional morality. The notebook is full of poems that promote free love and radical politics, including the humorous epigram ‘When a man has married a wife, he finds out whether/her knees and elbows are only glued together’, which accompanied a sketch of a man and a woman rising from a rumpled bed. 

              

The book also contained attacks on such well-known artists such as Sir 
Joshua Reynolds which chimed with Rossetti’s own rebellion against the establishment (Rossetti famously nicknamed the Academy’s first president Sir Sloshua). It was after reading Blake’s manuscript that Rossetti and his friends William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais decided to form the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood in 1848.

Rossetti showed the notebook to Alexander Gilchrist in the 1850s, which helped inspire him to write what would become the first major biography of the poet and visionary. And after Gilchrist died from scarlet fever, Rossetti helped his widow Anne Gilchrist to finish the magnus opus. 

  
Rossetti also edited Blake’s poems for publication. He has since been criticised for making changes to make the poems more palatable for a Victorian readership, but the fact remains the poems may have been lost if he had not done so.

Blake’s interest in the occult, in the Gothic and in the spiritual can all be seen to chime with the Pre-Raphaelites’ work, and his clearly delineated outlines and rich prismatic colouring can also be seen as influences. 

         

William Blake "Glad Day", c. 1794 


          

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 'Damsel of the Sanct Grael' c.1857  

The literary critic Arthur Symons has written: ‘it is to D.G. Rossetti that we owe the recovery, if not also the discovery, of Blake.’ 

I went to see the notebook (often called The Rossetti Manuscript) at the British Library when I was in London last June. They have very kindly microfiched each page so you can scroll back and forth as you please.

I really loved looking through the pages, seeing William Blake’s swift deft sketches and scribbled poems, and seeing Rossetti’s handwritten note on the inner cover, describing how he bought it. And, yes, of course, I had to put  reference to it in my novel about the Pre-Raphaelites, Beauty in Thorns, to be published July 2017. 

You can see the whole book at the British Library’s website

Here is the final manuscript version of 'Tyger, Tiger, Burning Bright', with the words below for ease of reading. 



Tyger Tyger, burning bright, 
In the forests of the night; 
What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? 

In what distant deeps or skies. 
Burnt the fire of thine eyes? 
On what wings dare he aspire? 
What the hand, dare seize the fire? 

And what shoulder, & what art, 
Could twist the sinews of thy heart? 
And when thy heart began to beat, 
What dread hand? & what dread feet? 

What the hammer? what the chain, 
In what furnace was thy brain? 
What the anvil? what dread grasp, 
Dare its deadly terrors clasp! 

When the stars threw down their spears 
And water'd heaven with their tears: 
Did he smile his work to see? 
Did he who made the Lamb make thee? 

Tyger Tyger burning bright, 
In the forests of the night: 
What immortal hand or eye, 
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


William Blake

BOOK REVIEW: Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

Tuesday, November 29, 2016



BLURB:

Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. 


She's about to find out she's also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy who enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of thin air. Trouble is, the enigmatic and gorgeous Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin. An equally hunky—and equally dangerous—dark faerie soldier named Aodhan is also stalking Deirdre. 


Sworn enemies, Luke and Aodhan each have a deadly assignment from the Faerie Queen. Namely, kill Deirdre before her music captures the attention of the Fae and threatens the Queen's sovereignty. Caught in the crossfire with Deirdre is James, her wisecracking but loyal best friend. Deirdre had been wishing her life weren't so dull, but getting trapped in the middle of a centuries-old faerie war isn't exactly what she had in mind . . .


Lament is a dark faerie fantasy that features authentic Celtic faerie lore, plus cover art and interior illustrations by acclaimed faerie artist Julia Jeffrey.



MY THOUGHTS

Maggie Stiefvater made her name with a series of teen werewolf romances that were a cut above the usual, with acutely realised characters and luminous prose. Lament is similarly a book about a teenage girl falling in love with someone not of her world, though in this book the romantic hero is an assassin sent from the faerie world to kill her. It’s a clever premise, and once again Stiefvater’s teenage characters feel real and alive. 

THE 50/50 PROJECT: Finishing my Doctorate & Publishing my Exegesis

Monday, November 28, 2016

THE 50/50 PROJECT: Finishing my Doctorate & Publishing my Exegesis

 


My novel BITTER GREENS was written as the creative component of a Doctorate in Creative Arts at the University of Technology, Sydney.

It retells ‘Rapunzel’ in a Renaissance Venice setting, entwining the fairy tale with the dramatic true-life story of the 17th century French noblewoman who wrote the tale as it is best known, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force. She was second cousin to Louis XIV, the Sun King, and a maid-of-honour at the royal court in Versailles. She wrote her story ‘Persinette’ while locked away in an impoverished convent by the king, as punishment for her wild and wicked ways (which included dressing up as a dancing bear to try and rescue her much younger lover). 




BITTER GREENS  took me seven long years to research and write, including the four years that it took complete my doctorate. 

As the theoretical component of the degree, I also wrote a 30,000-word dissertation on the history of the Maiden in the Tower tale, examining why this tale haunted my imagination above all others, and why it has continued to be told and re-told for so many hundreds of years.



I am very glad and proud to announce that my doctoral dissertation is to be published in book form by the wonderful people at FableCroft.


THE REBIRTH OF RAPUNZEL: A MYTHIC BIOGRAPHY OF THE MAIDEN IN THE TOWER will also include a number of essays and articles on fairy tales and folklore. 

FableCroft said, in their press release: “This unique collection will include Kate’s research on the Rapunzel story that underpinned her stunning, award-winning novel, BITTER GREENS … The book is not your usual reference work, but an wonderful exploration of the subject matter, written in Kate’s clever and engaging style.” 


FableCroft have released both a hardcover print edition as well as an accessible ebook version, with cover art by Kathleen Jennings.



A SKETCH OF KATE FORSYTH BY KATHLEEN JENNINGS


You can buy the book now! I hope that you  find the book a fascinating companion book to BITTER GREENS




FURTHER READING:

MY HAND-WRITTEN NOTEBOOKS FOR BITTER GREENS 

THE 50/50 PROJECT: Winning the ALA Award for Best Historical Fiction

BITTER GREENS: The story behind my fascination with 'Rapunzel'

BITTER GREENS: The facts Behind the Fiction of the Sun King & his Court 

My Rapunzel Pinterest page 



PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT – I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!



BOOK REVIEW: The Lost Sapphire by Belinda Murrell

Sunday, November 27, 2016





BLURB:

Marli is staying with her dad in Melbourne, and missing her friends. Then she discovers a mystery—a crumbling, abandoned mansion is to be returned to her family after 90 years. Marli sneaks into the locked garden to explore, and meets Luca, a boy who has his own connection to Riversleigh. 


A peacock hatbox, a box camera and a key on a velvet ribbon provide clues to what happened long ago. In 1922, Violet is 15. Her life is one of privilege, with boating parties, picnics and extravagant balls. An army of servants looks after the family, including new chauffeur Nikolai Petrovich, a young Russian émigré. 


Over one summer, Violet must decide what is important to her. Who will her sister choose to marry? What will Violet learn about Melbourne’s slums as she defies her father’s orders to help a friend? And what breathtaking secret is Nikolai hiding? Violet is determined to control her future. 


But what will be the price of her rebellion?


MY THOUGHTS:

I always love a new timeslip adventure from my brilliant sister, Belinda. In The Lost Sapphire, a teenage girl Marli is reluctantly sent to stay with her father in Melbourne. Things began to get more interesting, though, when she discovers an abandoned house with a mysterious past, and makes a new friend, a boy with his own connection to the house. Meanwhile, back in 1922, Violet lives the high life at the luxurious mansion but a forbidden friendship with her father’s Russian chauffeur opens up her eyes about the world and her own heart. 


A wonderful story for girls who like to imagine what life was like in the past.


Subscribe RSS

Recent Posts


Tags


Archive


Blogs I Follow