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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.

REVIEW: THE GODDESS & THE THIEF by Essie Fox

Saturday, January 02, 2016


THE BLURB:

Uprooted from her home in India, Alice is raised by her aunt, a spiritualist medium in Windsor. When the mysterious Mr Tilsbury enters their lives, Alice is drawn into a plot to steal the priceless Koh-i-Noor diamond, claimed by the British Empire at the end of the Anglo-Sikh wars.

Said to be both blessed and cursed, the sacred Indian stone exerts its power over all who encounter it: a handsome deposed maharajah determined to claim his rightful throne, a man hell-bent on discovering the secrets of eternity, and a widowed queen who hopes the jewel can draw her husband's spirit back. In the midst of all this madness, Alice must discover a way to regain control of her life and fate..

WHAT I THOUGHT OF THIS BOOK:

Alice was born and raised in India during the time of the British Raj, and so when she is sent to live with an aunt in England, she is uprooted from all she knows and loves. Her aunt is cold and unkind – much like the weather – and scratches out a living by holding séances. 

When Queen Victoria’s beloved prince-consort dies, she consults with Alice’s aunt in a desperate bid to connect with her dead husband. Alice finds herself drawn into a conspiracy to steal the priceless – and cursed - Koh-i-Noor diamond. As the coils of obsession, desire, and murder tighten inexorably around her, Alice finds it impossible to know who to trust, or even what is real. 

Dark, suspenseful, and lushly written, THE GODDESS & THE THIEF is an utterly compelling and uncanny Victorian mystery.


DID YOU FIND THIS BOOK COMPELLING READING TOO?  LET ME KNOW! 

BOOK LIST - Books Read in August 2013

Wednesday, October 02, 2013


August is Book Week in Australia, and that means lots of authors, including myself, have been on the road, talking about our books at schools, libraries and literary festivals. With so much travelling and talking, there’s not much time for reading and so this month I managed only eight books – however, I discovered a couple of wonderful new authors and read the new work of a few old favourites and so it was a happy reading month for me. 



1. The Tudor Conspiracy – C.W. Gortner
The Tudor period was a time of turmoil, danger, and intrigue … and this means spies. Brendan Prescott works in the shadows on behalf of a young Princess Elizabeth, risking his life to save her from a dark conspiracy that could make her queen … or send her to her death. Not knowing who to trust, surrounded by peril on all sides, Brendan must race against time to retrieve treasonous letters before Queen Mary’s suspicions of her half-sister harden into murderous intent.    

The Tudor Conspiracy is a fast-paced, action-packed historical thriller, filled with suspense and switchback reversals, that also manages to bring the corrupt and claustrophobic atmosphere of the Tudor court thrillingly to life. It follows on from C.W. Gortner’s earlier novel, The Tudor Secret, but can be read on its own (though I really recommend reading Book 1 first – it was great too). 


2. Pureheart – Cassandra Golds
Cassandra Golds is one of the most extraordinary writers in the world. Her work is very hard to define, because there is no-one else writing quite like she does. Her books are beautiful, haunting, strange, and heart-rending. They are old-fashioned in the very best sense of the word, in that they seem both timeless and out-of-time. They are fables, or fairy tales, filled with truth and wisdom and a perilous kind of beauty. They remind me of writers I adored as a child – George Macdonald Fraser, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Elizabeth Goudge, or Eleanor Farjeon at her most serious and poetic. 

I have read and loved all of Cassandra’s work but Pureheart took my breath away. Literally. It was like being punched in the solar plexus. I could not breathe for the lead weight of emotion on my heart. I haven’t read a book that packs such an emotional wallop since Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls. This is a story about a bullied and emotionally abused child and those scenes are almost unbearable to read. It is much more than that, however. 

Pureheart is the darkest of all fairy tales, it is the oldest of all quest tales, it is an eerie and enchanting story about the power of love and forgiveness. It is, quite simply, extraordinary. 


3. Park Lane – Frances Osborne
Park Lane is the first novel by Frances Osborne, but she has written two earlier non-fiction books which I really enjoyed. The first, called Lilla’s Feast, told the story of her paternal great-grandmother, Lilla Eckford, who wrote a cookbook while being held prisoner in a Japanese internment camp during World war II. The second, called The Bolter, was written about Frances Osborne’s maternal great-grandmother, the notorious Lady Idina Sackville. Married five times, with many other lovers, Idina was part of the scandalous Happy Valley set in Kenya which led to adultery, drug addiction, and murder. Both are absolutely riveting reads, and so I had high hopes of Park Lane, particularly after I read a review in The Guardian which said ‘Frances Osborne will be in the vanguard of what is surely an emergent genre: books that appeal to Downton Abbey fans.’ Well, that’s me! I should have been a very happy reader. 

I have to admit, however, that the book did not live up to my expectations. This was partly because it is written entirely in present tense, a literary tic which I hate, and partly because of the style, which felt heavy and awkward. 

The sections told from the point of view of the aristocratic Beatrice are the most readable, perhaps because this is a world that Frances Osborne knows well (she is the daughter of the Conservative minister David Howell, Baron Howell of Guildford, and wife of George Osborne, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, which means she lives next door to the Prime Minister on Downing Street in London.) However, the sections told from the point of view of her servant, Grace, are less successful, and her voice did not ring true for me. Also, I was just getting interested in her story when she disappears from the page, popping up again at the end. 

The sections I enjoyed the most were those detailing the suffragettes’ struggle for the vote. These scenes were full of action and drama, and draw upon Frances Osborne’s own family history, with her great-great-grandmother having made many sacrifices for the women’s cause. I’d have liked to have known much more about their struggle and the hardships they faced (maybe I’ll need to write my own suffragette novel one day). 


4. The Devil’s Cave – Martin Walker
I really love this series of murder mysteries set in a small French village in the Dordogne. A lot of the pleasure of these books does not come from the solving of the actual crime – which is often easily guessed – but from the descriptions of the town, the countryside, and the food and wine (I always want to cook the recipes, many of which can be found on the author’s website). These books also really make me want to go back to France!

The hero of this series is the small-town policeman Benoît Courrèges, called Bruno by everyone. He lives in an old shepherd’s cottage, with a beagle hound, ducks, chickens, a goat and a vegetable garden. He’s far more likely to offer some homespun wisdom than arrest anyone, a trait I appreciate. There’s always a touch of romance, and a cast of eccentric minor characters who add warmth and humour.  

The first few books were lazy and charming; the tension is slowly growing in later books which I think is a good thing as the series may have grown just a little too comfortable otherwise. In this instalment – no 5 in the series – there is a dead naked woman in a boat, satanic rituals and chase scenes in an underground cave, a Resistance heroine to be rescued, a local girl led astray, and an omelette made with truffle-infused eggs and dandelion buds. A big sigh of happiness from me. 


5. Let It Be Me – Kate Noble
I bought this book solely on the cover – a Regency romance set in Venice? Sounds right up my alley … I mean, canal …

I have never read a book by Kate Noble before, but I certainly will again. Let It Be Me is clearly part of a series, as is often the case with historical romances, but I had no trouble working out who everyone is. 

The book was set in 1824, and our heroine is the red-haired Bridget Forrester. Although she is quite pretty, none of the men at the ball ask her to dance as she has a reputation for being a shrew. It seems she has been over-shadowed by her sister, the Beauty of the family. 

So Sarah is over-joyed when she receives an invitation to be taught by the Italian composer, Vincenzo Carpenini. After a series of troubles and complications, Bridget ends up going to Venice and before she know sit, finds herself part of a wager to prove that women can play the piano just as well as men. All sorts of romantic entanglements occur, with a wonderful musical leitmotif running through – a very enjoyable romantic read. 


6. The Sultan’s Eyes – Kelly Gardiner
I was on a panel with Kelly Gardiner at the Melbourne Writers Festival, and so read The Sultan’s Eyes in preparation for our talk together. Historical fiction is my favourite genre, and I particularly love books set in the mid-17th century, a time of such bloody turmoil and change. I set my six-book series of children’s historical adventure novels ‘The Chain of Charms’ during this time and so I know the period well. I absolutely loved reading The Sultan’s Eyes, which is set in Venice and Constantinople in 1648, and am now eager to read the book that came before, Act of Faith.

The heroine of the story is Isabella Hawkins, the orphaned daughter of an Oxford philosopher, and educated by him in the classics as if she had been a boy. She has taken refuge in Venice with some friends following the death of her father, after what seem like some hair-raising adventures in Book 1. An old enemy, the Inquisitor Fra Clement, arrives in Venice, however, and afraid for their lives, Isabella and her friends free to the exotic capital of the East, Constantinople, which is ruled by a boy Sultan. His mother and his grandmother are engaged in covert and murderous intrigues to control him, and it is not long before Isabella and the others are caught up in the conspiracies. I loved seeing the world of the Byzantine Empire brought so vividly to life, and loved the character of Isabella  - passionate, outspoken, intelligent and yet also vulnerable. 


7. The Wishbird – Gabrielle Wang
I love Gabrielle Wang’s work and I love listening to her speak, so I was very happy to be sharing a stage with her at the Melbourne Writers Festival.  Her new novel The Wishbird is a magical adventure for young readers, and has the added bonus of illustrations by Gabrielle as well, including the gorgeous cover. 

Boy is an orphaned street urchin in the grim City of Soulless who makes a living as a pickpocket. One day he has a chance encounter with Oriole, a girl with a ‘singing tongue’ who was raised by the Wishbird in the Forest of the Birds. The Wishbird is dying, and Oriole has come to the city to try and find a way to save him. She finds herself imprisoned for her musical voice, however, and Boy must find a way to help her. What follows is a simple but beautiful fable about courage, beauty, love and trust that reminded me of old Chinese fairy tales. 



8. Elijah’s Mermaid – Essie Fox
Elijah’s Mermaid is best described as a dark Gothic Victorian melodrama about the lives of two sets of orphans. One is the beautiful and wistful Pearl, found as a baby after her mother drowned in the Thames, and raised in a brothel with the rather whimsical name of The House of Mermaids. The other two are the twins Elijah and Lily, also abandoned, but lucky enough to be adopted by their grandfather, an author named Augustus Lamb. 
The voices of Pearl and Lily alternate. At first Pearl’s voice is full of street slang and lewd words, but as she grows up many of these are discarded. For the first third of the book, the only points of contact are the children’s fascination with mermaids and water-babies (Pearl has webbed feet), but then they meet by chance at a freak show in which a fake mermaid is exhibited. After that, their lives slowly entwine.
Although the pace is leisurely, the story itself is intense and full of drama and mystery. The Victorian atmosphere is genuinely creepy. I could feel the chill swirl of the fog, and hear the clatter of the horses’ hooves on the cobblestones, and see Lily struggling to run in her corset and bustle. The story’s action takes place in freak shows, brothels, midnight alleys, underground grottos, and a madhouse, and so the dark underbelly of Victorian society is well and truly turned to the light. Yet this is a novel about love and redemption, as well as obsession and murder, and the love between the twins, and between Elijah and Pearl, is beautifully done.  


This monthly round-up of my reading was first posted for BOOKTOPIA and if you want to buy any of these books, they have all the links you need.


INTERVIEW: Essie Fox, author of 'The Somnambulist

Friday, May 31, 2013


Essie Fox is an English author and illustrator, whose first book, 'The Somnambulist', is a dark Victorian melodrama featuring family secrets, a mysterious grand house, a spooky pre-Raphaelite painting, flamboyant actors and soothsayers, repressed religious cymbal-shakers, and a murder. What more could anyone ask for?

Here, Essie answers my usual questions about daydreaming, reading, writing and sources of inspiration,and talks about her new book, 'Elijah's Mermaid', which sounds utterly fascinating and is so going on my MUST BE READ list 


Are you a daydreamer too?

I have always been a daydreamer. As a child I used to lie in bed making stories up inside my head – often speaking some of the parts aloud. If I had a favourite book or television drama then I would try to continue those stories, taking the characters I loved the best (don’t’ they call that fan fiction these days?) and then hoping that I would go to sleep and continue to dream of them again. Something else that I loved to do, and still do now, was to think of my favourite fairy tales and then spin new ones around them – I think you must understand that all too well, Kate!


Have you always wanted to be a writer?
It took me a while to see the wood for the trees. I always loved reading and the study of literature. But I interpreted that interest as a desire to work on the editorial side of the publishing world. It wasn’t until I was much older, when my daughter had grown up and left home, that I actually had the time and the courage to ‘see’ what my dream really was.
 
Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?

I was born in the English countryside, in a small town in rural Herefordshire which is on the Welsh borders. I left there to study at Sheffield university and from there I came to London. Now, I am based between Bow in East London and the town of Windsor, which is very much to the west of the city. You could not really find two more different areas – and both provide settings for my work.

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?

For The Somnambulist, there were two main inspirations. One was a painting by Millais which is called A Somnambulist and which many say was itself inspired by Wilkie Collins’ sensational novel, 'The Woman in White'. 



The second inspiration was when I went to visit an old music hall in London’s East End. Even though it is now crumbling and in a sorry state of repair, the hall simply came alive for me. I could hear the popping of champagne corks, the clatter, the bang and the laughter as if it was all still lingering there, an echo from its Victorian heyday. The next morning I woke up with three distinct characters in my mind – and one of them was a singer who worked in the music halls.

For my second Victorian novel, which is called Elijah’s Mermaid, a painting was once again a great source of inspiration. This time it was A Mermaid by JW Waterhouse, and that image then led me to think about an imaginary Victorian artist who is increasingly obsessed – to the point of madness – with painting his muse as a mermaid or nymph.


How extensively do you plan your novels?

Not at all. I have that first spark of inspiration – almost like a buzz of excitement that simply can’t be shaken off until I write the ideas down. I usually know the beginning and have a fair idea of how the novel will end, but as to how I get there...that is very much unknown. I like to let things develop – for the characters to take control. 
 

Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?

Not as such – I tend to dig deep into memories. But once a book is being written, I do find myself dreaming about the characters, and often waking with fragments of their dialogue in my mind – as if my brain is still working away on the story while I’m sleeping. It’s also a bit like a crossword puzzle, in that the dormant brain can often come up with solutions to plot problems, or to clarify a dramatic situation that was less obvious when awake.


Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?

With the book that I am writing at the moment - yes! I was recently Googling a very mundane household matter, regarding some local planning applications. When I typed in my house address I was directed to a local history site where someone was discussing the life of a Victorian woman who established a house of refuge for unmarried mothers and prostitutes. That woman happened to die in my house, though she did not own it. I think she must have been a friend of the residents. Anyway, it turns out that her refuge was called The House of Mercy  - and in the novel I’m writing now, the imaginary Victorian woman who lives in and owns my (real) house is a spiritualist medium whose name happens to be Mercy – almost as if another version of The House of Mercy.


Where do you write, and when?

For the first draft of a novel, I confess that I mostly write in bed. I have a little table on legs (an invalid, or breakfast table) and my laptop fits onto that perfectly. It’s very comfortable – if not a little embarrassing if people call in the middle of the afternoon, when I might have to answer the door while still in my pyjamas.


What is your favourite part of writing?

That first buzz of inspiration when the concept of story is so exciting that you simply can’t wait to start writing. It really is the best high in the world.
 
What do you do when you get blocked?

I go for a walk with the dog. 
I also find that if I take a few days off and go to stay somewhere completely then different ideas will suddenly flow again. It’s almost as if a change of scene allows the mind to free itself – or to see things in entirely different ways.
 
How do you keep your well of inspiration full?
Oh, it’s almost too full. I have so many ideas that I would like to develop, and I know I’ll never have the time to take them all through to completion. If only novels didn’t take such a long time to write!

But, the things that I find most inspiring are almost always visual – films, scenery, paintings, objects seen on visits to museums. There will almost always be something which plants a seed in my imagination.


Do you have any rituals that help you to write?
No – only the first cup of coffee that I get up to make every morning. I don’t start to write at all until that coffee is there by my side
 
Who are ten of your favourite writers?
Oh, ten doesn’t really seem enough and this is something that changes with me from day to day, or week to week. But, at the moment...

Chaucer
Wilkie Collins
Thomas Hardy
Muriel Spark
Graham Green
Angela Carter
Sarah Waters
Kate Atkinson
Rose Tremain
John Fowles


Angela Carter (image from The Scriptorium)

What do you consider to be good writing? 
Something that has a clever and intriguing plot, with characters that I can relate to. Something that moves me and enthralls me, and that makes me think – wow – if only I could do that. 


What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
Write, write, write. But, also read, both the best in your chosen genre or style, but also as widely as you can.

Don’t try to write for the market. Publishing moves so slowly that by the time your novel is completed that ‘fashion’ may well be on its way out. Instead, write from your heart – what obsesses you – what you would love to read yourself. That passion will always shine through and help to make your work sparkle. 

What are you working on now? 

My third Victorian novel. It’s all about the theft of a sacred Indian diamond, with curses and prophecies and Hindu gods. There is a glamorous maharajah, and also a spiritualist medium, not to mention a charismatic villain and quite a lot of ghosts. It’s the most overtly paranormal novel that I’ve ever attempted to write. I’m having such fun with it.

I have to say it sounds wonderful!

BOOK LIST: Essie Fox's Favourite fairy Tale Retellings

Wednesday, May 29, 2013



Just this week my novel Elijah’s Mermaid was published in paperback – and because that dark Victorian story is very much influenced by the fairytales that obsessed me in my youth – most specifically The Water Babies and also The Little Mermaid – I thought it would be fun to choose some other novels I love that have also been based on fairy tales.





Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

Over the past year I’ve immersed myself in books that reinterpret, or else are inspired by, traditional fairy tales. I was gripped by Tender Morsels, which has been very loosely based on the well-known story, Snow White and Rose Red. Like the best of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales this is a sinister metaphor of the realities of the human soul; where love and kindness are at war with the more animal brutalities of desire. 



The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

Having first bought this collection a great many years ago, I was a little wary when coming to read again as to whether or not the stories would continue to weave their magic spell. I wasn’t disappointed. The Bloody Chamber in particular is the most sensual but gruesome revision of the Blue Beard fairy tale. Other deliciously dark encounters introduce us to werewolves and girls lost in the woods. Two of them inspired The Company of Wolves - a gothic fantasy horror film with a distinctly Freudian subtext. Directed by Neil Jordan and co-scripted by Angela Carter, the film – much like the original tales – is broodingly claustrophobic and teeming with symbolic imagery. 





The Underground Man by Mick Jackson

Somehow I missed this exquisitely crafted novel when it was shortlisted for the 1997 Booker Prize. Not strictly based on a fairytale – actually on a real life story, but nevertheless with an otherworldly quality.  Through the voices of various narrators the story is told of an eccentric Victorian aristocrat obsessed with his own physical disintegration – and also with building a labyrinth of tunnels beneath his stately home. As the novel develops we realise the reasons a man might dig so deep, to discover the secrets and tragedies concealed within his past. I loved this book and I loved the duke, whose lonely descent into madness is countered so very poignantly by the warmth and generosity apparent in his character.





The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

I listened to this as an audio book rather than actually reading, but I found it quite enchanting with beautifully crafted prose.



Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

I’ve had Kate’s book on my Kindle for some time and now have the opportunity to stop work for a few days and read it. I’ve heard so many good things.



Thank you, Essie! So kind of you to include me in your list.


Here is Essie's website

And here my own Favourite Fairy tale Retellings






BOOK REVIEW: The Somnambulist by Essie Fox

Monday, May 27, 2013

Title: The Somnambulist

Author: Essie Fox

Publisher: Orion Publishing

Age Group & Genre: Gothic Historical Mystery


The Blurb:
The Somnambulist by Essie Fox is a Victorian gothic mystery – a spellbinding tale of lost love, murder and madness that sweeps from the boisterous music halls of London's East End to a desolate Herefordshire mansion as seventeen-year old Phoebe Turner embarks on a journey to unlock the darkest of family secrets.


What I Thought:

I really bought The Somnambulist because of the cover – I really love the use of silhouettes on book covers, they always seem old-fashioned and mysterious.

I had never heard of the book or of the author, and so I came to the reading of it with absolutely no pre-conceived expectations.

It was a pleasant surprise, containing so many elements that I love – an atmospheric historical setting, a young woman on the brink of growing up, art and theatre, family secrets, mysteries and suspected murders …

Here’s the basic storyline. Phoebe Turner is seventeen years old, and innocent for her years thanks to her strange upbringing. Maud, her mother, is a member of The Hallelujah Army, and marches the streets crying out against the evils of drink, the theatre, prostitution and general immorality.

This sets up an immediate tension in the family because Phoebe’s beloved Aunt Cissy sang for her living, in theatres and music halls. 

The story really begins when Cissy dies, though it takes a while to get there – there’s a lot of complex back story and a wide cast of memorable characters to introduce first, though luckily the writing is so vivid and the foreshadowing of the mystery to come so intriguing, the slow pace is easily forgiven. And Essie Fox does a brilliant job of recreating the time and place! You can smell the yellow fog, and hear the clacking or carriage wheels on the cobblestones.

Cissy’s death means that Phoebe and her mother are in financial trouble. So when Mr Samuels, a rich and mysterious friend of Cissy’s, offers Phoebe a job as the companion of his invalid wife, she eagerly accepts the offer.

The action moves to Dinwood House, a grand gothic house in the countryside, with magnificent gardens, woods, crags, caves and waterfalls (I wanted it!)

However, the place is haunted by the strange death of Esther, the young daughter of the house …

There are many twists and turns in this story, some truly surprising, and Essie Fox does not shy away from introducing a few darker elements. These only add to the shadowy Gothic atmosphere, however.

I really enjoyed the book and thought it an assured debut – I’m looking forward to her new book, Elijah’s Mermaid, which is described as ‘in this bewitching, sensual novel, Essie Fox has written another tale of obsessive love and betrayal, moving from the respectable worlds of Victorian art and literature, and into the shadowy demi-monde of brothels, asylums and freak show tents - a world in which nothing and no-one is quite what they seem to be.’

Sounds wonderful!

BOOK LIST: Books I Read in March

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I read only nine books in March, but then its been rather a whirlwind of a month for me, travelling all around Australia talking about THE WILD GIRL. 

These are the books I read:

1 The Venetian Contract – Marina Fiorato

I loved this book so much! Fabulous historical novel with romance, intrigue and adventure in one heady brew. Marina Fiorato is fast becoming one of my favorite authors (look out for a review & interview with her next week!)



2. Finnikin of the Rock – Melina Marchetta

I was really impressed with Melina Marchetta's first epic fantasy novel. Better known for her contemporary social realist novels for young adults, Melina made a bold move switching to fantasy. Her plot is cleverly built and well-handled, the pace never flags, and her characters are all intriguing and believable. Well worth the read!


3. The Three Loves of Persimmon – Cassandra Golds 

Cassandra Golds is one of the most bewitching and original writers Australia has ever produced. Her novels are fables about love, hope, and faith, and unlike anything else being written by any other writer I know (except perhaps Kate di Camillo, whose work I also love). Her books are all utter treasures, and 'The Three Loves of Persimmon' is no exception. Look out for an interview with Cassandra, coming soon!



4 An Uncertain Place – Fred Vargas

An intriguing murder mystery with a shambling, slow-thinking and slow-moving Parisian detective. These books are translated from the French, which adds to their charm. I found it a little slow, but I loved the settings and the characters were all quite unique. 


5 Nine Days – Toni Jordan

What a beautifully written little masterpiece of a novel! I loved it. Once again, I'll post a longer review and an interview in the next few weeks. 


6. When Maidens Mourn – C.S. Harris

This is the latest in a series of murder mysteries set in England during Regency times. Think the dark underbelly of a Georgette Heyer romance novel. The amateur detective is a Viscount with a troubled past  - his suffragette wife is a delight and my favourite character in the books. 


7. The Somnambulist – Essie Fox

An intriguing and unusual book set during Victorian times, with the feel of a Victorian melodrama. The historical setting is superbly well done, with a rather creepy foggy atmosphere, and more twists and turns than a roller-coaster ride. 


8. The Last Templar  - Michael Jecks

A very enjoyable medieval murder mystery, with an appealing hero and a puzzling mystery. I'll be trying another of these.


9. On the Way to the Wedding – Julia Quinn

Frothy and funny as ever. 


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