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BOOK REVIEW: The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell

Wednesday, October 03, 2018


The Blurb (From Goodreads):

Set in a fading family estate nestled within the Chiltern Hills, this is the story of two summers, sixty years apart, woven together to reveal one dramatic family story.

My Thoughts:

I’ve been waiting for a new novel from Hannah Richell for a long time, having absolutely adored her two earlier novels, The Shadow Year and Secrets of the Tides. I got a real stomach flip of excitement when I saw this book with its gorgeous cover and intriguing title.

Like her earlier books, The Peacock Summer is a parallel narrative that moves between the stories of two women. It begins in Sydney in contemporary times, when Maggie learns of the illness of her beloved grandmother Lillian. Maggie goes back home to Cloudesley, her grandmother’s home in the Chiltern Hills, only to find the old manor house falling into ruin. Lillian is not strong, and there is no money left for the upkeep of the estate. To make matters worse, Maggie needs to face up to the consequences of actions in her past which have made her an outcast in the village.

Hannah Richell’s writing is swift and elegant and a pleasure to read, and she is masterful at lacing the narrative with atmosphere and suspense:

“She runs a hand over the huge, faded tapestry hanging across the wall – then turns to climb the curved staircase to her own room. Halfway up she stops and listens. There is no scrabble of dog paws on the tiled floor, no shuffle of newspaper pages from the library, no distant murmur from her grandmother’s radio. There is nothing; not even the glug of water moving through old pipes. This house, that has witnessed so much throughout the years – dinner parties and laughter, conversation and arguments, dancing and music – a house that had seen so much life, had so many people pass through its doors, stands utterly silent. It is unnerving to be its only occupant. What echoes would she hear – what stirrings from the past – if she only knew what to listen for?

Her eyes fall upon the grandfather clock in the hall and she turns and heads back down the stairs, blowing dust from the cabinet to wind it the way Lillian once showed her. She watches with a certain satisfaction as the pendulum begins to sway, a steady tick rising up out of the old clock like a resuscitated heart beating in a chest. One small thing corrected.
She doesn’t want to think yet of all the the wrongs she still needs to set right.”

The story then moves to her grandmother’s point-of-view. Lillian is in her mid-20s and married to the lord of the manor, a handsome powerful man named Charles Oberon. Yet she feels stifled and unhappy. One day her husband hires a talented young artist to paint the walls of a room in Cloudesley. His name is Jack, and he and Lillian fall in love. Yet it’s an impossible dream. Lillian is tapped by duty and obligation, and Charles is not a man to let go of what he holds.

Back and forth the two stories weave, touching lightly across the decades as Maggie begins to learn her grandmother’s long-held secrets as she struggles to save the house she loves. It’s a story of Maggie’s personal growth and change, as well as a story of mysteries and revelations, and I adored it just as much as I had hoped.

I was lucky enough to interview Hannah Richell back in 2012, you can read it here.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

BOOK LIST: Books Read in May 2013

Sunday, June 09, 2013

I spent most of May 2013 on the road, touring to promote THE WILD GIRL. With an event most days and most nights, I didn't have much time (or energy) for reading. 

So I only read eight books, and some of these were very short. That brings my reading for the year to over 50 books, though, so I don't need to feel too ashamed. 

Enchanted April – Elizabeth von Arnim 
This beautiful book is an old classic - first published in 1922 - that I have had so many people recommend to me that I finally ordered it in. I'm so glad I did - I loved it! It tells the story of four women - strangers to each other - who rent a castle in Italy for the month of April. All four are hiding bruised souls, and all four will be healed during that magical month in San Salvatore. The style is old-fashioned and rather quaint, but suits the story, and the book brims over with the promise of being able to recover and restore our lives. It made me want to hire a castle in Italy very, very badly! I watched the video too, and I think I loved that even more. A radiant story of friendship and redemption. 

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making – Catherynne M. Valente

How to describe this wonderful children's fantasy? Its fresh, whimsical, and a little strange; it shows remarkable daring and playfulness on the part of the author, which delights me. It reminds me of authors like James Thurbur and Mervyn Peake, with less of the darkness and more of the imaginative exuberance. I'm happy to say I'll be running a longer review and an interview with Cat in upcoming weeks - keep your eyes peeled!

The Thief – Megan Whalen Turner 

I wasn't sure about this book at first. It seemed a little slow. And, although I loved the voice of the main character - an opinionated and arrogant thief named Gen - I found the world of quasi-Ancient Rome a little like other books I'd read. I voiced my opinion on twitter, and go a flood of people saying 'read on! read on!' I'm glad that I did. The world and the characters got more interesting, and then - at the very end - there is a clever twist that I honestly did not see coming. (This rarely happens to me). Now all those tweeps are  saying to me read on! read on! Book 2 & 3 are even better ... and you know what? i think I shall read on. 

The Shadow Year – Hannah Richell
I loved this book! One of the best reads of the year so far. I've interviewed Hannah for the next issue of Good Reading Magazine so I urge you to hunt down the mag and read more about it there - I will just say that this is a perfectly structured and beautifully written novel which uses parallel narratives to stunning effect. A compelling and suspenseful novel about family, love, and loss.

The Sword of the Rightful King – Jane Yolen
As one might guess from the title, this is a retelling of the Arthurian myth. I overdosed on these quite a few years ago and have been avoiding them ever since. However, this is Jane Yolen, a writer who I LOVE. So I bought and read it, and enjoyed it hugely. Jane's writing is as easy and supple as ever, the characters are vivid and alive, and the story turned inside out and made new. I can really recommend it. 

Fearless – Daniel Morden
Dark Tales from the Woods – Daniel Morden
Tree of Leaf and Flame - Daniel Morden

Daniel Morden is a wonderful Welsh storyteller - I heard him speak at the Sydney Writers Festival and loved his subtle, clever and humorous style. He has retold a number of old tales in book form, including Fearless, better known as the Grimm tale The 'Boy Who Went Forth to Learn what fear is'. Dark Tales of the Woods is a collection of retold tales from Abram Wood, called King of the Gypsies (I actually reference him in 'The Herb of Grace', Book 3 of the Chain of Charms - he is said to have introduced the fiddle into Wales) while Tree of Leaf and Flame draws upon the Mabinogi, the famous Welsh myth cycle. The tales themselves are simple but elegantly told. Some are funny, some are frightening, all are wonderful. 

BOOK LIST: My Favourite Books by My Favourite Australian aUTHORS

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Get Reading! is running a search for the favourite Australian books of all time. I've given them a list of some of my favourite books by my favourite Australian authors - here are 16 books by my favourite Australian contemporary authors. I will compile a list of my favourite classic authors very soon. 

Vote for your favourites at the Get Reading! website

Jesse Blackadder -  THE RAVEN'S HEART

Geraldine Brooks - YEAR OF WONDERS

Alison Croggon - THE GIFT 

Kimberley Freeman - WILDFLOWER HILL

Pamela Freeman - BLOOD TIES

Kate Grenville - THE SECRET RIVER


Toni Jordan - NINE DAYS

Margo Lanagan - SEA HEARTS




Belinda Murrell - THE RIVER CHARM

Hannah Richell - THE SHADOW YEAR

Kim Wilkins - ANGEL OF RUIN

Marcus Zusak – THE BOOK THIEF


Monday, December 31, 2012

This past year was the first year of The Australian Women’s Writers Challenge – a call to arms for Australians to support our women writers by reading and reviewing their books, and spreading the word about the extraordinary literary talent we have in this country.

The initiative – begun by Elizabeth Lhuede – aims to redress the gender imbalance in the way male and female writers are treated in this country. Male writers are reviewed more often and win prizes more often, even though they do not write more books than women.

I have to admit I've  always had a strong bias towards women writers – my husband will growl, ‘don’t you have any books by men?’ as he searches my many bookshelves for something to read – yet I have noticed that the major literary papers do not review the type of books I really want to read. 

So I decided to join in the AWW challenge by reviewing novels that I had read and loved on a blog which I began for that purpose. I have reviewed and interviewed both men and women, from Australia and elsewhere – and I have made an effort to read more books by Australian women writers. 

In all, I read 95 books in 2012, 26 less than in 2011.

Less than one-third of these were written by men.

Of the 63 women writers, 35 of them were Australian. All of them were utterly brilliant. If you haven’t read their novels, read them in 2013 and discover for yourself the amazing talent of writers we have in this country: 

Parallel Historical/Contemporary

1. Secrets of the Tides – Hannah Richell
A dramatic story of family secrets and lies, set in London & Devon. Hannah Richell is UK-born, but lives in Sydney so I have counted her as an Aussie. 

2. The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton 
A riveting read that moves between contemporary times and the early days of the Second World War

3. Lighthouse Bay - Kimberley Freeman
One of my favourite books of the year, this book has romance, suspense, a dastardly villain, and a cast of strong, defiant women.

4. In Falling Snow  -  Mary Rose MacColl
A fascinating look at the role of women nurses and doctors in the Second World War in France.


5. Raven’s Heart  -  Jesse Blackadder
Set in Scotland in the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, this novel is filled with unexpected twists and turns.


6. The Reasons for Marriage  -  Stephanie Laurens
7. A Lady of Expectations  -  Stephanie Laurens
8. An Unwilling Conquest  -  Stephanie Laurens
9. A Comfortable Wife  -  Stephanie Laurens
Regency romance novels that are thin on story and thick on sex – but enjoyable nonetheless. 

10. The Perfect Rake  -  Anne Gracie
11. Bride by Mistake – Anne Gracie
12. The Perfect Waltz  -  Anne Gracie
13. The Stolen Princess – Anne Gracie
14. The Perfect Kiss – Anne Gracie
15. His Captive Lady - Anne Gracie 
Sparkling Regency romances with just the right mixture of humour, pathos, intrigue and romance.


16. Sea Hearts  -  Margo Lanagan
A haunting tale of love, betrayal and selkies by one of Australia’s most extraordinary authors. 

17. Shadowfell – Juliet Marillier
The first in a romantic YA fantasy series by one of my all-time favourite authors.

18. Flame of Sevenwaters  -  Juliet Marillier
Another fabulous historical fantasy set in the otherworldly forest of Sevenwaters.

19. A Corner of White  -  Jaclyn Moriarty
A startlingly original book that moves between the parallel worlds of contemporary Oxford and the strange and magical Kingdom of Cello.


20. Poet’s Cottage – Josephine Pennicott
An intriguing murder mystery set in Tasmania, which moves between the present day and the tragic past. 

21. A Few Right Thinking Men  -  Sulari Gentill
The first in a series of murder mysteries set in 1930s.

Children’s/Young Adult

22. The Golden Door – Emily Rodda
23. The Silver Door - Emily Rodda
24. The Third Door - Emily Rodda
A new trilogy of action-packed fantasy adventure novels for 8+, by the brilliant Emily Rodda

25. The Forgotten Pearl – Belinda Murrell 
A fabulous historical novel for 10+, set during the Second World War in Darwin and Sydney.

26. The River Charm  -  Belinda Murrell
A beautiful and very moving novel that moves between contemporary times and New South Wales’ early pioneering days, drawing upon the true life story of Charlotte and Louisa Atkinson, Australia’s first female novelists and journalists (and, I proudly must admit, my sister Belinda and my ancestors)

27. Bright Angel – Isabelle Merlin
A charming romantic suspense novel for 13+ set in the South of France.

28. One Long Thread – Belinda Jeffries
A fresh and unusual coming-of-age story that moves between Australia and Tonga.

29. Moonlight & Ashes – Sophie Masson
A really brilliant retake on the well-known Cinderella story, set in a make-believe Prague.

30. The Madman of Venice – Sophie Masson
A romantic historical novel set in Venice, with lots of suspense to keep the pages turning.

31. The FitzOsbornes in Exile - Michelle Cooper


32. You’ll be Sorry When I’m Dead – Marieke Hardy

Next year I aim to read even more books by Australian Women Writers. 
What about you?

BOOK LIST: Best Books Read in 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I didn't quite make my target of 100 books this year, reading only 95, but I did discover some brilliant new writers. Here are my top reads of the year: 

Best Historical Novel

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey 

What a wonderful, amazing, magical book! I just loved this and think it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long while. I wish I’d written it. A retelling of the Russian fairytale, the Snow Child, set in Alaska at the turn of the 19th century, it seems far too accomplished to be by a debut novelist ... I can only look forward hopefully to many more books by Eowyn Ivey.

Raven’s Heart by Jesse Blackadder

I was sure I was going to love this book as soon as I read the subtitle: ‘The Story of a Quest, a Castle and Mary Queen of Scot’. And I did love it! A fabulous, dark, surprising historical novel, with a hefty dose of mystery, intrigue, passion and cross-dressing. This was one of the best reads of the year so far.

The Lady’s Slipper by Deborah Swift

Set in 1666, soon after the restoration of King Charless II, this novel tells the story of how Alice – a young wife and talented painter - discovers a rare orchid, the Lady’s Slipper, growing in a nearby wood. She is captivated by its beauty and wants to paint it, but the owner of the wood —a Quaker called Richard Wheeler, is determined to keep the flower where God intended it to grow. So Alice steals the flower, and sets off a chain of events including murder, riot, witchcraft, betrayal and exile. Brilliant historical fiction.

The Queen’s Vow by C.W Gortner

The Queen’s Vow brings Isabella of Castile, a powerful and passionate woman, to life, illuminates the forces that drove her, and paints a vivid picture of late 15th century Spain, one of the most fascinating of countries. I absolutely loved this book, and loved this place and time in history – I hope C.W. Gortner writes a lot more books, fast!

Best Parallel Historical/Contemporary Novel

Secrets of the Tide by Hannah Richell

Secrets of the Tides is a suspenseful page-turner of a family drama, taking place mainly in Cornwall and London, and moving back and forth between the past and the present. It begins with a girl jumping off a bridge into the Thames. We do not know who she is or why she is jumped, or even if she lives or dies. Slowly the answers to these mysteries are revealed, some of them very surprising. I absolutely loved it, and look forward to more from this debut author.

Lighthouse Bay by Kimberly Freeman

Lighthouse Bay begins in 1901, with a woman – the only survivor of a shipwreck - dragging a chest full of treasure down a deserted beach. The narrative then moves to contemporary times, with a woman secretly grieving at the funeral of her married lover. These two women – Isabella Winterbourne and Libby Slater – are joined through time by a lighthouse and its secrets and mysteries. I raced through this compelling and intriguing book, utterly unable to put it down. Fabulous rollicking read. 

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

The Girl You Left Behind starts in occupied France during World War I, with the main character, Sophie Lefevre standing up the local German Kommandant. He sees a painting of Sophie, rendered by her artist-husband who is off fighting the German army. The Kommandant is drawn irresistibly to the painting – and to its beautiful, red-haired subject – and begins to show her favour. This attracts the suspicion and contempt of the other French villagers, and sets in chain a series of tragic events. 
The action then moves to modern-day London, where the young widow Liv now owns the painting and becomes the centre of a legal battle by the Lefevre family to get it back. There’s romance and drama and suspense aplenty – I really loved it.

Best Historical Mystery

The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

A historical thriller set in Tudor England, this novel features a beautiful young nun, Sister Joanna, as its heroine. The book begins with the burning of Joanna’s cousin for treason, and sees our intrepid nun being thrown in the Tower and then coerced into a hunt for a mysterious crown thought to have supernatural powers. The book moves swiftly along, with lots of danger, suspense, and a little romance. An engaging read.

Where Shadows Dance by C.S. Harris

The latest in a series of great Regency murder mysteries featuring the aristocratic detective Sebastian St Cyr. I really enjoy this series, and buy each new one as soon as it comes out. Begin with the first in the series, What Angels Fear, as part of the pleasure is the unfolding relationships. 

Best Contemporary Mystery 

The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker

The latest in the delightful Bruno Courreges mysteries set in the Perigord in southern France, this one seems a little darker in tone than the previous ones, with terrorists, animal rights campaigners and archaeologists keeping Bruno busier than ever. There are the usual wonderful descriptions of French food and French countryside, and a little romance – I’m just hoping Martin Walker is writing fast. 

Best Fantasy

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

Sea Hearts is wonderful, in all senses of the word. It’s a dark, moody, storm-wracked book of love, longing, desire, and wickedness. Its central character, Misskaella the sea-witch, is one of the most powerful fictive creations I’ve read in quite some time. Her story - and that of the selkies and the men who covet them – is heartbreaking in its sadness, yet also so hauntingly beautiful, so filled with the sweeping rhythm of the sea, and pierced here and there with shafts of light, that  the lingering feeling is one of awe and wonderment.

Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier 

The sixth in the wonderful Sevenwaters series, this book is, as always, filled with wonder, peril, magic, romance, courage, wisdom and compassion. Juliet Marillier is one of my all-time favourite writers and she never, ever disappoints. A beautiful, radiant book. 

Best Children’s Fiction

The Forgotten Pearl by Belinda Murrell 

The most recent book by my beautiful sister, Belinda, The Forgotten Pearl is set in Darwin and Sydney during the Second World War. The heroine, Poppy, is a young girl who faces danger, loss, grief and new love during one of the most tumultuous times in Australian history. She lives through the bombing of Darwin and is evacuated to Sydney where she must learn to make a new life for herself. I always judge a book by whether it brings a prickle of tears to my eyes, and this book did that a number of times – a beautifully written historical novel for children set during a fascinating and largely forgotten period of Australian history. 

The Perilous Gard
by Elizabeth Marie Pope

I am so grateful to whoever it was that told me I should read this book - an absolute masterpiece of children's historical fantasy, written with such deftness and lightness of touch. It has become one of my all-time favourite children's books.

Flint Heart by Katherine & John Paterson

Katherine Paterson was one of my favourite authors when I was a child – I absolutely loved ‘Bridge to Terabithia’, and a lesser known book of hers, ‘Jacob Have I Loved’. So when I saw she and her husband John had retold an old English folktale and that it was sumptuously illustrated by John Rocco, the former creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering, I had to have it. It’s a beautiful book in every sense of the word. The writing is simple and pitch-perfect, and the illustrations are strange and sumptuous – after I read it, I gave it to my 8 year old daughter and she loved it too. A lovely antidote to all those sparkly fairy books.

Best Young Adult Fiction

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

A lovely retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale, Jessica Day George has a light touch, a sweet romance, and a clever use of knitting – I’d recommend this to anyone who loves YA fantasy and fairytale retellings. 

One Long Thread by Belinda Jeffries

This is a beautiful, moving coming-of-age novel, refreshingly original and beautifully written. It tells the story of Ruby Moon, whose family has been split in half by her parents’ divorce. The mother moves to Darwin to join what can only be described as a cult, and takes Ruby’s twin sister with her. This seems to me so insensitive, so cruel … and, sure enough, the fallout from that decision has tragic consequences. The action of the book moves from Melbourne to Darwin to Tonga – the sections set there are among my favourite in the book. I also loved the use of the silkworm as a recurring motif and symbol. This was the first of Belinda Jeffries’ books that I have read but I will be seeking out more. 

Moonlight & Ashes by Sophie Masson

I really loved this new book by Sophie Masson. I think it's her best book yet, and I'm a long-time fan of her work. 'Moonlight & Ashes' is a retelling of the Aschenputtel fairy tale, the German Cinderella. It is set in alternative Prague, and is full of adventure, magic and romance. It has the most beautiful, dreamy cover too - loved it!

by Juliet Marillier

The latest book from one of my all-time favourite authors, Shadowfell is a magical quest set in an otherworldy Scotland. I loved it!

Best Historical Romance

The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie

The Perfect Waltz by Anne Gracie

The Perfect Kiss by Anne Gracie

I read a lot of romance this year, by a lot of different authors, possibly because I am studying my doctorate and so was seeking the very best kind of comfort reading as an antidote to all the academia I was ploughing through. Nonetheless, the three top romance books I read this year were all by the Australian author, Anne Gracie. Such lightness and deftness of touch, such wit and warmth, such sparkling dialogue - she never disappoints. 

Best Contemporary Romance

I didn’t read any this year – I wonder why?

Best Non-Fiction

Napoleon & Josephine: An Improbable Marriage by Evangeline Bruce

An utterly engrossing and illuminating look at Napoleon and his Empress, this thick tome is as readable as any novel. I went it to it understanding nothing about Napoleon and his rise and fall, and came away feeling I understood everything.

1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow by Adam Zamoyski

Looking at the single year of 1812 - and drawing on thousands of first-hand accounts from both sides - this brilliant book looks at each step of Napoleon’s march on Russia and his disastrous retreat. Utterly compelling, shocking and fascinating. 

I need to make a disclaimer, of course:
1) My choice is utterly and unashamedly subjective
2) I know many of these writers, and am lucky enough to call some of them my friends. One of them is even my sister! Regardless of whether they’re friends or family, I still absolutely loved their works, though, and hope you will too.
3) Many thanks to the publishers and writers who sent me books this year– I’m sorry if I haven’t read those books yet and I will try to get to them. My reading choices are prompted purely by my own selfish pleasure and so sometimes I don’t read the books I should!
4) This means, of course, that there are many absolutely wonderful books out there which I haven’t yet discovered. I hope that I shall soon. 

You may enjoying reading my interviews with some of the above authors:


INTERVIEW: Hannah, Richelle, author of 'Secrets of the Tides'

Friday, November 02, 2012

Whenever I read a book I really enjoy, I always want to know more about the author. I do hope you are the same!

Earlier this week I reviewed Hannah Richell's  first book, a suspenseful family drama that moves from the present to the past, slowly revealing deeply hidden secrets that have torn the Tides family apart. 

As I said in my review: 'the three women at the heart of the story – Dora and her mother and sister – really rang true. I recognised many of their dilemmas and fears all too well ... a wonderful book by a new author, I’d really recommend it as a Book Club book as there’s so much in it to talk about! 

So, wanting to know more about Hannah and how she got the first idea for her book, I begged her to answer a few questions. Here are her responses:

Are you a daydreamer too?
I'm a big dreamer, both in the day and at night. One of the best things
about being a writer is that I'm essentially being paid to daydream. I just
have to make sure I get it down on the page now.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I've always adored books and reading and was drawn to the idea as a kid, and
yet 'being a writer' always seemed like an unachievable dream. I never had
the confidence or self-belief to try. After university I pursued a career in
publishing, which I loved, and that always felt about as close as I would
ever get. Then, when I washed up in Australia, I felt this urge building
inside of me to give it a go. I think I'd reached a point in my life where I
didn't mind so much if I made a fool of myself.

Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you
live, what do you like to do?
I am a Brit by birth but emigrated to Australia in 2005 with my boyfriend.
We've since married and now live in Sydney's Inner West with our two young
kids and a rather antisocial cat called Lennie. When I'm not writing I'm
usually found hanging out with the kids in parks or on the beach. My
favourite thing to do at the end of a busy day is to curl up with my
husband, a glass of wine and a good book. I'm more of a homebody than a
hellraiser but I do love a good restaurant, a great film or a few cocktails
when out with the girls.

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
One of the central themes in 'Secrets of the Tides' is motherhood. I was
inspired, in part, by my own journey into motherhood. For me, it was a time
of great joy and love, but also great vulnerability and fear. I worried I
wouldn't be a good parent and saw clearly how fragile the bonds that connect
a family could be ... how one moment could change everything. That concept
is at the heart of 'Secrets of the Tides' and became my starting point. 

How extensively do you plan your novels?
I'm definitely a planner. I like to know the beginning and roughly
understand the end, although how I get there can shift dramatically along
the way. I'm learning that often the best ideas, plot twists and character
details come to me as the story evolves. 
(This is how I work too, and I think you can tell when a book has been well-planned - all the parts of the machine fit together properly and work to drive the story forward. 'Secrets of the Tides' was beautifully structured as a result)

Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?
I've never used a specific dream, but I do like to mull over knots in my
plot just before I fall asleep. That moment just before sleep arrives is a
strange one: my mind spirals in so many different directions and I find I'll
 often have a good idea or find a solution to a problem just as I'm teetering
 on the edge of sleep. Of course I then have to leap out of bed and write it
down before I forget. 
(Me too!)

Where do you write, and when?
I have two young kids so I write whenever they are at childcare, or whenever
I can snatch a moment here or there amidst the chaos. Sometimes I write at
the kitchen table at home and sometimes I go to a writers' room in the city.
I like to mix it up a bit.

What is your favourite part of writing?
I love it when it's flowing and I look up and realise several hours have
passed and I've been totally lost in my own fictional world. I love it when
that great idea or plot twist arrives like a thunderbolt. I love it when a
character leaps off the page and tells you what they're going to do or say
next and I truly had no idea.

What do you do when you get blocked?
I go for a walk. I drink wine. I whinge at my husband.

How do you keep your well of inspiration full?
Sleep. Books. Film. Family. Friends. Solitude. The sea. Music.

Do you have any rituals that help you to write?
I like to write in the morning in a quiet(ish) room with a large flat white.
If I'm struggling to create a certain mood I might play music - movie
soundtracks can be particularly evocative.

Who are ten of your favourite writers?
Dodie Smith
David Mitchell
Jilly Cooper
Tim Winton
Ian McEwan
David Nicholls
Maggie O'Farrell
Roald Dahl
Stephen King
Toni Morrison

A picture of Dodie Smith, who wrote '101 Dalmations', and 'I Capture the Castle', an absolutle favourite of mine too

What do you consider to be good writing?
Words that take you either far outside yourself or deeply inside yourself.
Words that move you emotionally, in some way.

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
Do it - but do it purely for the love of writing.

What are you working on now?
I'm completing some edits on my second novel (as yet untitled) which I hope
will be out next year.
I'll be looking forward to that!

If you enjoyed this interview, you may also like to read my interviews with Joanne HarrisGeraldine Brooks, and Jesse Blackadder


BOOK REVIEW: 'Secrets of the Tide' by Hannah Richell

Monday, October 29, 2012

Title:  Secrets of the Tides
Author: Hannah Richell
Publisher: Hachette
Age Group & Genre: Adult Ficti
on – Parallel Narrative

The Blurb:
Every family has its secrets. Some are small, like telling a white lie or snooping through a private drawer. Others are more serious, like infidelity and betrayal. And some secrets are so terrible they must be hidden away in a deep, dark place, for if they ever came to light, they would surely tear a family apart . . .

The Tides are a family full of secrets. Returning to Clifftops, the rambling family house high up on the Dorset coastline, youngest daughter Dora hopes for a fresh start, for herself and the new life she carries. But can long-held secrets ever really be forgiven? And even if you can forgive, can you ever really learn to love again?

Secrets of the Tides is a family drama with a dark thread of suspense at its heart.

My Review:
I had been tempted to buy this book for a while, primarily because of its gorgeous cover, which shows two little girls playing on the beach. One is blonde and one is dark, just like my sister and me. I’ve been trying to be stern with myself, though, and not buy any more books until I’ve read my way through some of my tottering to-be-read pile. Of course this was a resolution just made to be broken!

After I met the author Hannah Richelle at a literary event at Pages & Pages bookstore in Mosman, I just had to buy the book, it sounded so good. I’m so glad I did! I loved it.

The book is a parallel narrative, focusing on the Tides family in the present and in the past. The main character is Dora, a young woman in a loving relationship with a sculptor who finds out she is pregnant and is flung into an emotional tailspin wondering if she could possibly be a good mother. Her neurosis is more than just the normal anxiety that overcomes anyone facing such a big change in her life. Dora’s life has been scarred by tragedy and guilt, her own family broken apart by the stresses of the past. 

Dora sets out to find some closure – and along the way discovers  the truth of what happened on that terrible day so long ago …

The thing I loved most about this book was how beautifully it was structured. Anyone who has studied creative writing with me, or been following my blogs and reviews for a while, will know how much emphasis I place on the importance of structure. Hannah Richell has built her narrative very carefully indeed, and the result is a slow-building suspense that makes the book utterly impossible to put down. 

I also thought she showed great insight into the minds of her all her characters, major and minor. In particular, the three women at the heart of the story – Dora and her mother and sister – really rang true. I recognised many of their dilemmas and fears all too well.

All in all, a wonderful book by a new author – I’d really recommend it as a Book Club book as there’s so much in it to talk about! 

If you enjoyed this review, you may also like to read about Jospehine Pennicott's novel, 'The Poet's Cottage'


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