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BOOK REVIEW: Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer

Tuesday, March 21, 2017




Beyond the Orchard – Anna Romer 


BLURB (from GoodReads)


A haunting story of yearning, love and betrayal from the bestselling author of Thornwood House


Lucy Briar has arrived home in turmoil after years overseas. She’s met her fiancé in London and has her life mapped out, but something is holding her back.

Hoping to ground herself and find answers, Lucy settles into once familiar routines. But old tortured feelings flood Lucy’s existence when her beloved father, Ron, is hospitalised and Morgan – the man who drove her away all those years ago – seeks her out.

Worse, Ron implores Lucy to visit Bitterwood Estate, the crumbling historic family guesthouse now left to him. He needs Lucy to find something– an old photograph album, the very thing that drove Ron and his father apart.

Lucy has her own painful memories of Bitterwood, darkness that has plagued her dreams since she was young. But as Lucy searches for the album, the house begins to give up its ghosts and she is driven to put them to rest.

And there, held tightly between the house, the orchard and the soaring cliffs, Lucy uncovers a long-hidden secret that shattered a family’s bond and kept a frightened young girl in its thrall ... and Lucy discovers just how fierce the lonely heart can be.


MY THOUGHTS:

A story that moves between the past and the present, with intrigue, passion, betrayal and the metafictive use of a dark fairy-taleit’ll be no surprise to anyone that I loved Beyond the Orchard, the first novel of Anna Romer’s that I have read.
 

I loved the name of the heroine – ‘Lucy Briar’ - and the name of the house – ‘Bitterwood’. Names are always very important to me, and I love it when an author takes care in crafting their names. I also loved the setting – an old house set on cliffs with a creepy ice house in the gardens. The scenes set in the 1930s were particularly powerful, and I loved the us evocation of the Australian landscape.

The story is a complex one, with a great many characters and numerous different time periods, but I thought the numerous narrative threads were woven together with a light hand, and I never got confused about who was who and when was when. 

The mysteries hidden in the past were truly suspenseful, and I found myself turning the pages faster and faster, really wanting the secrets to be revealed

All in all, Beyond the Orchard is a tantalising mix of mystery and romance – Anna Romer weaves together the past and the present with a deft hand, creating a compelling page-turner with a shadowy fairy-tale-like atmosphere.

Love parallel narratives? Lots more reviewed here!


ANY RECOMMENDATIONS OF SIMILAR BOOKS FOR ME? Leave them in the Comments below :)

BOOK REVIEW: The Wife's Tale by Christine Wells

Wednesday, May 25, 2016




The Wife’s Tale  - Christine Wells 


The Wife’s Tale is a dual timeline novel that alternates between the point-of-view of Liz Jones, a young Australian lawyer whose ambition and drive to succeed have put her marriage at risk, and Delany Nash, who was at the centre of an infamous scandal in the 1780s.  Most of the action is centred on Seagrove, a grand old house on the Isle of Wight, as Liz becomes fascinated with Delany’s story and begins to dig deeper. However, the secrets she uncovers puts at risk her newfound relationship with the owners of Seagrove, and indeed her own future.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love a dual timeline novel, yet they can be difficult to write. Often one storyline works and the other doesn’t, or there’s a slippage between the two distinct voices that jars. Christine Wells has pulled it off brilliantly. Both story lines are intriguing, and the suspense builds steadily. The two women are very different, yet both have hidden strengths that make them very appealing. And I loved the romance!

I was given an advance copy of The Wife’s Tale to read, in case I liked it enough to give it an endorsement. And I did! So the cover has my thoughts on it: ‘A captivating story of love, secrets and obsession – I enjoyed every word!’ 

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

I have lots of other reviews of parallel narratives, if you love them too - check them out here!



BOOK REVIEW: WILD WOOD by Posie Graeme-Evans

Wednesday, March 02, 2016



THE BLURB:

For fans of Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander series comes a gripping and passionate new historical novel. Intrigue, ancient secrets, fairy tales, and the glorious scenery of the Scottish borders drive the story of a woman who must find out who she really is.


Jesse Marley calls herself a realist; she’s all about the here and now. But in the month before Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981 all her certainties are blown aside by events she cannot control. 

First she finds out she’s adopted. Then she’s run down by a motor bike. In a London hospital, unable to speak, she must use her left hand to write. But Jesse’s right-handed. And as if her fingers have a will of their own, she begins to draw places she’s never been, people from another time—a castle, a man in armor. And a woman’s face.

Rory Brandon, Jesse’s neurologist, is intrigued. Maybe his patient’s head trauma has brought out latent abilities. But wait. He knows the castle. He’s been there.

So begins an extraordinary journey across borders and beyond time, a chase that takes Jesse to Hundredfield, a Scottish stronghold built a thousand years ago by a brutal Norman warlord. What’s more, Jesse Marley holds the key to the castle’s secret and its sacred history. 

And Hundredfield, with its grim Keep, will help Jesse find her true lineage. But what does the legend of the Lady of the Forest have to do with her? That’s the question at the heart of Wild Wood. There are no accidents. There is only fate.

WHAT I THOUGHT OF THIS BOOK: 

WILD WOOD is a dual timeline narrative that moves between the Scottish Borderlands in the 14th century and an unhappy young woman in the 1980s who finds herself compelled to draw the same Scottish castle over and over again.

I love stories with parallel timelines, particularly with a good dash of romance, history and magic added in, and I love books set in Scotland, so all the ingredients were in place for a really wonderful read.

I must admit I loved the scenes set in the past more – the story of the mute fairy wife, the battle-hardened warrior and the medieval castle were all so intriguing.

The contemporary scenes did not work quite so well for me, perhaps because the 1980s is not a decade that really inspires me. 

However, the story of Jesse and her eerie connection with the past eventually drew me in, and the story really began to gallop along.

I LOVE TO HEAR YOUR COMMENTS:

BOOK REVIEW: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Saturday, August 15, 2015



The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The Blurb from GoodReads

A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton. 

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra's life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family. 

Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace - the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century - Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.

What I Thought


The Forgotten Garden is one of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors, and a pleasure to revisit. It has everything I could possibly want: a foundling child, an old book of mysterious fairy tales, a maze that leads to a secret garden, a mystery to be solved, and a love story – its as if Kate Morton set out to write the perfect book for Kate Forsyth.   

The book is cleverly structured like a Russian doll, with stories within stories, histories inside histories. Modern-day Cassandra inherits a mysterious house in Cornwall after her beloved grandmother Nell dies. As she explores the house and its forgotten garden, she discovers that there was much about Nell she did not know – and indeed, that Nell did not know. For Nell was a foundling child, and does not know her own history.

At the heart of the novel is the old book of fairy tales written by the Victorian Authoress, Eliza Makepeace. Like so many old tales, Eliza’s story have two levels of meaning … and if Cassandra can just decipher the secret the stories hide, she may find out the truth about her grandmother’s dark past. 

 

I’m not alone in my love of Kate Morton’s books – millions of readers attest to her popularity – but if my chance you have not read this wonderful book, I’d urge you to grab it now. 


PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT - I LOVE TO KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS

BITTER GREENS: Juliet Marillier interviews me about the writing of my novel 'Bitter Greens'

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Today I am appearing at the PERTH WRITERS FESTIVAL with Juliet Marillier, Joe Abercrombie and Robyn Cadwaller and so to celebrate, I thought I'd run an interview I did with Juliet about my ALA Award winning novel BITTER GREENS, a retelling of Rapunzel interwoven with the true life story of the woman who first wrote the tale.



When BITTER GREENS was first published, Juliet Marillier interviewed me on Writers Unboxed - here is that interview for your reading pleasure:  

JULIET: 
Kate, congratulations on this wonderful new novel and thanks so much for agreeing to talk to Writer Unboxed. Bitter Greens is one of those books that breaks out of recognised genre moulds – it’s part historical novel, part fairy tale, and part serious examination of gender roles, power and cruelty in 16th and 17th century France and Italy. What would you like our readers to know about the story ?

KATE:
I began wanting to retell the Rapunzel fairy tale, which has fascinated and puzzled me ever since I first read it as a child. I’ve always loved both fairy tales and retellings of fairy tales, but it seemed to me that most reworkings of the Rapunzel story sidestepped the biggest problems in it. For example, why did the witch want to lock her in a tower. Why was Rapunzel’s hair so impossibly long? Why didn’t Rapunzel ask the prince to bring a rope so she could climb down and escape? 

The other big problem with fairy tale retellings, I think, is that they can lack surprise and suspense, the two ingredients I consider the most important in creating a compelling narrative. The stories are so well-known that it’s difficult to build suspense, or create switches and reversals, when the reader knows the story so well. Most writers solve this problem by subverting the tale, but this usually fails to surprise as well. I wanted to be faithful to the haunting, beautiful feel of the familiar tale, while still writing a gripping, unputdownable novel. 

JULIET: I loved the complexity of the novel, especially the way you intertwined the stories of three very different women.  Each thread is told in a different voice and each is distinctive in style. Did you plan from the first to structure the book that way? How did you go about putting the three threads together ?

KATE
I am a fervent believer in the importance of planning the internal architecture of a story. I think structure is the invisible underpinnings of the narrative, and any book which fails usually does so because of a poor internal structure. So I always think very carefully about how I’m going to build my narrative. 
My initial plan was to have the three narrative threads being equal in length, and braided together like a plait, so that the structure of the novel symbolically reflected the key motif of the Rapunzel fairy tale, the impossibly long plait. 

Usually I write in third person multiple POV, but I felt very strongly that the frame narrative, the story of Charlotte-Rose and how she came to write her fairy tale, should be told in first person. I had never written in first person before, but I really enjoyed it, and I found Charlotte-Rose’s voice came to me strongly right away. I wrote the entirety of Charlotte-Rose’s story, from the beginning to the end, indicating where I thought I would intercut with my other two narrative threads. 

I then told the story of Margherita (my Rapunzel character) in third person, and in a far more simple style, because this was a tale being told to Charlotte-Rose by another. Once I had finished the whole story, I then wove these two together, making sure I kept a fine balance between the two different tales. 

Only then did I turn to the third narrative thread, the tale of the witch Selena Leonelli, who is a Venetian courtesan, and muse to the artist Tiziano. Her story was much darker, and seemed to me to have a kind of potency or intensity, that would be dissipated if I broke it up to interweave with the other two tales. It woudl also mean too much chopping and changing. So I changed my plan, and made the witch’s tale the dark heart of the novel, the unexpected midpoint reversal which changed everything you thought you knew about Charlotte-Rose’s and Margherita’s stories. 


JULIET: You’re an extremely versatile writer, with a body of published work including award-winning novels for children and young adults, two best-selling fantasy series for adult readers, collections of poetry and an earlier literary novel. What drives you to keep challenging yourself as a writer?

KATE:
I always think that the great dangers for any creative artist are smugness and predictability. Market pressures mean that writers are constantly being asked for more of the same, yet it is very difficult to keep writing the same storyline, with the same characters, and not start to feel stale and monotonous. 

I always want to write better than I have before, to keep pushing myself to create something fresh and unusual and exciting. I want my readers to know they will find a vivid, compelling, surprising and emotionally moving story every time they sit down with one of my books. It’s easier to win new readers than it is to win back dissatisfied readers. 

Of course, every time someone loves one of my books, they write to me begging me to write a sequel, or another just like it. I always tell them that I hope they’ll read my other books too, and love them just as much.


JULIET: 
I know Bitter Greens was written as part of your work on a doctorate in fairy tale retellings at the University of Technology in Sydney (correct me if this is wrong.) How different was this experience from writing your earlier adult novels? Did the academic side of things put any constraints on the way you created the book? Was your process different?


KATE:
I thought, when I first began to conceive and develop the idea of doing a retelling of Rapunzel, that it would make a fascinating doctoral project.  ‘Bitter Greens’ was a very research-intensive book to write, and it seemed a good way to maximise all those long hours reading through scholarly fairy tale articles.  I had actually written a novel before under university supervision – my novel ‘Full Fathom Five’ was written as my thesis for my Master of Arts in Writing. (Although I wrote it in my 20s, it was my eighth published novel).
I do not feel my doctorate put any constraints on me in a creative sense. My supervisor, the novelist Debra Adelaide, was more concerned in helping me find the voice of my protagonist, and to help me learn to be a better writer. 

I am always eager to learn, and so I was grateful to her for her close scrutiny of my work. I’m not used to showing my early drafts to anyone and so I did find that difficult, but she was very tactful.

I actually love writing articles and essays as well as poems and novels, and so I’ve been enjoying the theoretical aspect of the doctorate as well. I like to know everything I possibly can about a time or a place or a person or a subject before I write about it, and so I would have studied just as intensively for the novel as I am now doing for my exigesis. I am writing about the many different retellings of Rapunzel, from the earliest Maiden in the Tower tales right down to Disney’s ‘Tangled’ and the use of Rapunzel motifs in advertising and popular culture. It’s fascinating. 

JULIET: There must have been a huge amount of research behind Bitter Greens, though you use your historical material with a storyteller’s light touch – it’s never laid on too heavily. I understand you travelled to France and Italy with your children to do research. Tell us a bit about that.

KATE:
I did! It was wonderful. I have always taken my children with me on research trips. They’ve been to London, Paris, Venice and Edinburgh, to the Isle of Skye, Sussex, Gascony and Lake Garda. They’re lucky children!

I feel it very important to actually go to the places I describe in my books. A writer doesn’t simply describe a mountain, or a lake, or a castle, or a city street. They need to imbue that scene with some kind of emotional significance. They need to know what the characters would hear, and smell, and feel. 

Kate writing in Florence

JULIET: 
The book is beautifully structured. I particularly loved the Rapunzel poems by various writers that stand at the start of each section.  What do you think it is about this particular fairy tale that grabs people’s imagination?

KATE: 
Rapunzel is a tale about love, sex and power. Psychologically speaking, it is normally interpreted as a tale about a young girl on the brink of puberty who is kept locked away from the world by a mother-figure who seeks to protect her. Only by defying her mother, and coming to terms with her own sexuality, is the girl able to grow into maturity. However, like all fairy tales it is open to much deeper interpretations. 


JULIET: Some passages of Bitter Greens must have been exceptionally challenging to write. I’m referring in particular to scenes of sexual violence, part of your realistic depiction of the society those women lived in. I found parts of the book extremely disturbing to read. What were your reasons for choosing to present this material so openly?


KATE:
It is true a few scenes were exceptionally difficult to write. In particular, the gang rape of Selena’s mother. I had to get up and leave the computer, and come back to it, only to flee again. Yet it felt important to me, both psychologically in the development of an understanding of what drove Selena to do what she did, and historically, to illuminate what life was like for women of that era. One of the things that most fascinated and disturbed me about the Rapunzel tale is that it is a woman who imprisons another woman. Why? What led her to do such a terrible thing?  Most retellings of Rapunzel never truly examine this, and yet it was one of the questions that first spurred me to explore the tale.

Although it was so awful to write, it seemed to have a ring of truth about it.

JULIET: 
When you were first considering writing this, you said it would be ‘a dark gothic retelling of a dark gothic fairytale.’ It’s certainly a gritty and challenging story, revealing among other things the unsavoury reality behind the frothy and glamorous French court. Do you think most fairytales have that shadow about them, the darkness beneath the charming surface? 


KATE: 
I do indeed. It is one of the things that most intrigues me about fairytales. I love the haunting beauty of them, the magical strangeness, the joyous triumph over adversity. Yet I am also drawn by the darkness of them, the sense of a cost to be paid for that joy. 


JULIET: I understand you’re already well into a new project, a novel about Dortchen Wild, the Grimm Brothers’ ‘girl next door’. And it includes a retelling of a Grimm fairytale, ‘Allerleirauh’ or ‘All Kinds of Fur.’ Can you tell us about the new novel? 


KATE: Oh, yes, I’m completely obsessed with Dortchen Wild now, just like I was completely obsessed with Charlotte-Rose de la Force last year. I think I’m drawn to the forgotten, cobwebbed corners of history, particularly when it relates to extraordinary, neglected women.
A drawing of Dortchen Wild by Ludwig Grimm

Dortchen Wild was twelve when she met the Grimm Brothers. She lived next door to them, above her father’s apothecary shop, and was the source of some of their most compelling and unusual stories. She told Wilhelm Grimm ‘Rumpelstiltskin’, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Frog King’, ‘Six Swans’ (a favourite of mine as you well know, Juliet!) and ‘The Singing Bone’ (about a murdered boy whose bones are used to make a harp that then sings to accuse his murderers). She told a very gruesome version of ‘Bluebeard’ called ‘Fitcher’s Bird’, the primary difference being that the heroine saves herself and her sisters, and a very beautiful version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ called ‘The Springing, Singing Lark’. A key tale of hers was ‘Allerleirauh’ or ‘All Kinds of Fur’, better known as ‘Deerskin’ or ‘Catskin’ about a princess whose father wants to marry her. 

I’m interweaving the beautiful and rather tragic story of Dortchen and Wilhelm’s love affair with her tales, drawing upon ‘All-Kinds-of-Fur’ in particular (Dortchen’s father was a very stern and strict man who forbade her to see her one true love, and who may indeed have abused her). 

INTERVIEW: Josephine Pennicott, author of Currawong Manor

Friday, August 29, 2014

I'm very happy to welcome my dear friend and writer Josephine Pennicott to the blog today. She is the author of the brilliantly creepy and suspenseful Gothic murder mystery Currawong Novel, which I enjoyed immensely.



Are you a daydreamer too?

Definitely! I’ve always felt as if I straddle different worlds. I do meditate a lot in an attempt to quieten my mind, so I can receive the impressions of the project I’m working on. I believe in the power of daydreaming, and not overstimulating your brain in order to access deeper levels of imagination. It’s something I’ve actively pursued over many years. I’m just about to take up transcendental meditation, so I’ll be interested to note the effects on my writing. When you stop trying to control and distract your mind and allow your brain to become bored, ideas can be whispered by the muses. I often feel uneasy, when on public transport or out and about, to see so many people strapped to their little machines, not allowing the quiet space to unfurl in their mind for daydreaming and creativity to flourish.    


Have you always wanted to be a writer? 
From when I first discovered books such as Enid Blyton’s, I wanted to be a writer. I was an insatiable reader as soon as I learnt to decipher the mysterious markings that made my heart race just to look at them. Words always had a calming, soothing effect on me. I remember my mother removing my book from me at the dinner table once and I immediately began reading the labels on jars. I find bookstores and libraries calming spaces. I just didn’t think it was possible for me to actually become a writer. My classmates can still relate stories of how I held them spellbound with tales made of simple props in the classroom, such as a biro and its cap (a gnome and his helmet). My English teachers were very disappointed when I chose to enter nursing rather than pursue my writing.

My father always encouraged my love of words but I had a couple of beliefs that blocked me. One was that you couldn’t make money from writing; and I was in a hurry to leave school, see the world and make money. The second belief was that to lock yourself away writing was a self-obsessed pursuit, when you could be actively pursuing a path of service. It seems blindingly obvious to me now how foolish and untrue those mental blocks were – but I believed them. It took me becoming incredibly burnt-out and despairing about the career path I was on – and travelling to India to consult with a well-known guru – to return me to my childhood dreams and fantasies.

It’s a long story, but his basic statement was: “If you don’t use the gifts you are born with, it’s an insult to God.”

Or as that American guru, Bob Dylan also says, “Do what you must and do it well.”

When people going through cancer treatments and difficult circumstances say how much my book helped take their mind off their problems, I realise I’m actually doing the service I always wanted to do. I will always consider nursing to be one of the greatest service professions, but I knew inside myself it wasn’t my soul’s calling. 


Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?

I was born in Tasmania in Oatlands, a small village in the Tasmanian midlands. It’s a very pretty historic village which boasts of having the most sandstone buildings in Australia. I spent my early years in Papua New Guinea having a most Papuan Swallows and Amazons type childhood. I now live in the inner-west of Sydney in a tiny brick cottage with my writer husband, David Levell and our daughter, Daisy. I like to write, read, go for walks in nature. I enjoy the opera, art gallery, theatre, spiritual and cultural pursuits, but mostly I enjoy simple pleasures – a walk in nature, my book-club, birdwatching, a picnic, excursions with my family around Sydney or the Blue Mountains, a pot of tea, a good book and a bath. I am happiest when I’m in my garden shed, writing. I’ve worked a wide variety of jobs over the years to support my writing at different times. I also have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts where I majored in painting.  



How did you get the first flash of inspiration for Currawong Manor?

I had the opening line: The bush kept its secrets well. I also had an image of a young blonde-haired girl running through the Australian bush in a long white dress. I could see around her currawongs that appeared to be menacing the child as she ran through the bush. I also saw that same little girl drowned in a waterhole, and her father was holding her:  I didn’t know if he was screaming in anguish, because he had attempted to rescue her, or if he had killed her. I was curious to find out... I had the symbol of keys in my mind and a strange-fairy tale looking house in the Blue Mountains. I knew all of these elements would work well together in the gothic landscape of the Blue Mountains.

The story was also inspired by a real life murder in the Blue Mountains when my husband was working at SBS television. It made me realise how vulnerable we are when we’re alone in the bush. I spend a lot of time in the bush alone and often spook myself speculating what could be around the next corner.

And throughout my art school years I was always drawn to the 1940s Australian Modernist painters such as Albert Tucker, Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan. And I was also fascinated by the glamorous lives and personalities of the life models for artists such as Pearl Goldman, Norman Lindsay’s life model who modelled for him between 1938-1945.   

Poet’s Cottage, my Tasmanian sea-fishing village mystery, was inspired by a real-life cottage I fell in love with on a Tasmanian family holiday. The house was called Poet’s Cottage and I had several major scenes of that book down before I left. I also had an image of a little girl playing in the snow with her sister and she walks into the house and down the cellar steps where she witnesses her mother being murdered. 

I’m really very visual when I work.  


How extensively do you plan your novels?

It varies with each book. For Poet’s Cottage, which was written out of contract, I plotted very loosely and free-fell into the story. I didn’t know who had killed Pearl Tatlow until I came to that point. I remember the shock I felt when I realised the killer, and when I looked back over the manuscript I saw the plot threads had led me to that point. I love it when the subconscious works so cleverly. 

With Currawong Manor I had tighter deadlines and plotted it out a bit more. The book I’m working on now needs to be written fairly quickly, so I have to know exactly where I’m going. Because my books have twists, I need prior knowledge of some of them, but it’s always a delightful experience when the book starts to emerge on its own and surprises you. My favourite way of working is to begin with the images and ideas that I’ve been brewing away with for years and allow the story to dictate itself.  




Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?

I’ve actually woken from a dream today, which I might be able to use for a darker crime novel further down the track. Dreams often give me titles and images to work with. When I was at art school I was fascinated by the surrealist painters and their work with the unconscious. I still find dreams a really fabulous place to connect with muses.  There’s a quote by Jorge Luis Borges: “Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.”


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

One thing that did surprise me when writing Currawong Manor was the character of Dolly. From the very beginning of the book, I knew she was going to be an important character. I couldn’t figure out exactly why, or where she had come from. I realised months after finishing the book, that when I was growing up there was a young girl who lived with her mother in the bush and attended school every day. I knew they lived a very simple lifestyle in the wild and didn’t have electricity or any mod cons. She would walk for miles to attend school. I hadn’t consciously thought of this girl for many years, but my unconscious had remembered her and she became a part of Dolly. There’s also another part of the story (which I can’t mention because of spoilers) but as soon as I began writing the scenes, newspapers began reporting the twist I was writing about!

Also – Pearl Goldman turned up to speak at Norman Lindsay’s house in the Blue Mountains when I was working on an early draft. This was an amazing bonus to hear stories from one of the life models who had inspired the character of Ginger in Currawong Manor.

And in 2012 when I was working on the book, the Sydney Museum kindly put on an exhibition called Homefront Wartime Sydney: 1939-45. Perfect timing for scenes I was working on!  


Where do you write, and when?
I have a garden writing shed which we had built in our courtyard garden amongst the palm trees and large tea tree. It’s a very lovely space, and without internet access I tend to get a lot of work done. 

Elizabeth Taylor is the patron saint of the shed. I have wallpapered it in a Laura Ashley paper; my German publishers liked it so much they used it for their Poet’s Cottage cover (Dornentochter in Germany).

If I’m not in the mood for the shed, I write in bed (which I find cosy and womb-like) using a wooden lap table for my computer that my father-in-law made.

I try to write every day, seven days a week. With a nine-year old daughter, it’s not always possible, but that’s what I aim to do. I show up when I’m feeling deflated, over-it, joyous and every mood and shade in-between. My best writing is often done in the very early hours (from 4am). It’s hell to get up, but once I’m writing the words flow so much faster when the moon is still in the sky, the birds have yet to begin their morning cries and I’m surrounded by the dreaming household.


What is your favourite part of writing?

My favourite part is the early drafts of a book when the story is emerging onto the page. I love filling notebooks with images and ideas and getting to know characters. I find that process so exhilarating and joyous. It’s the work that brings me all the satisfaction.  


What do you do when you get blocked?

I don’t tend to get blocked. But when I feel I’m falling out of the story, I would try to meditate. I limit the internet and either take a walk or have a bath to find what I’m attempting to bring forth from inside myself.  

How do you keep your well of inspiration full?

Reading poetry and reading across all genres of writing. Looking at art books, Pinterest online for visual imagery. The Art Gallery of New South Wales. Nature itself always inspires me. Being in the bush, or by the ocean. I keep scrapbooks and clippings of newspaper articles that interest me. I use everything around me for inspiration. I play games with myself when I’m out, trying to notice as many things as I can, because I feel we are all on auto-pilot a lot. I un-name things as well for example: if I didn’t know that was a tree, what would I call it? If I had just arrived from another planet, what would I think a supermarket was? These games might sound silly, but they help you to think outside the box a lot and wake your brain up. Biographies of other artists help as well. You realise that success often has a huge back-story to it and it gives you inspiration to keep going.      


Do you have any rituals that help you to write?

I do tend to follow moon cycles with a lot of my writing as I believe in there being more opportune times in the natural world for new beginnings and endings. For example, with my blog, I would do posts on favourable moon days, rather than a ‘negative’ cycle. I have a few crystals around and before starting work every morning, I say a prayer, an invocation to the muses to be with me. I also find it helpful to write the journal pages that Julia Cameron talks about in her book The Artist’s Way, but I don’t do the journal pages every day. I also try to avoid social media and read instead from a few pages of a book that inspires me or a poem before I start. I’m actually a big believer in the power of ritual for creative projects. Affirmations, visualisations. I’m a believer!




Who are ten of your favourite writers?
This is an almost impossible question as there are so many I really love! Plus, I have so many writer friends that I’m terrified of leaving someone out, so to be careful I won’t name any contemporary Australian writers. But some of my long-standing other favourites are: 
Agatha Christie
Erin Kelly 
Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine 
Mo Hayder 
Donna Tartt 
Kate Mosse 
Daphne du Maurier 
Robert Louis Stevenson 
Sarah Waters 
Isabel Allende. 


What do you consider to be good writing?
Writing that doesn’t sacrifice page-turning absorption for strong, poetic imagery. And vice-versa. Characters that remain in your marrow long after you’ve closed the book. Writing that makes you see the familiar in a different way. A book that transforms your present circumstances, making you dread the last page approaching: you keep trying to slow down your reading, but you have to keep turning the pages long after the witching hour. The book you close and think, ‘God, if only I could be that good! Even half that good.”


What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
Just DO IT. Don’ t talk about doing it on blogs, twitter or Facebook. Just do it. Read a lot, write a lot. Write every day when possible, even if it’s only for twenty minutes. Support the industry you want to be a part of by buying books and don’t only buy books that you see featured in Spectrum. Support all sorts of authors. Don’t wait for the perfect moment or circumstances to evolve before you begin. Now is the perfect time. Don’t overstimulate your brain; quieten your brain. Believe in yourself even when the rest of the world doesn’t. Write the book you would love to read. Create a space where there’s no internet access to write. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Too may people give up too easily. As Stella Adler says: ”You really do have to have the skin of of a rhinoceros but the soul of a rose”.  


What are you working on now?
I’m working on another mystery novel, set in Tasmania between the 1950s and 1920s. It’s an idea I’ve had brewing for quite a few years. It relates the ripple effect of what happens in a small village when the town’s most popular girl is murdered. The working title is Sweetwater and I’m loving watching it emerge.


You can read my review of Poet's Cottage or visit Josephine Pennicott's website

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

BOOK REVIEW: Evergreen Falls by Kimberley Freeman

Monday, August 04, 2014



Title:
Evergreen Falls
Author: Kimberley Freeman
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Age Group & Genre: Historical/Contemporary Novel for Adults
Reviewer: Kate Forsyth
Source of Book: An ARC from the publisher


The Blurb:
A long-forgotten secret, a scandalous attraction and a place where two women's lives are changed forever - Evergreen Falls is the captivating new novel from Kimberley Freeman.

1926: Violet Armstrong is one of the few remaining members of staff working at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel as it closes down over winter. Only a handful of guests are left, including the heir to a rich grazing family, his sister and her suave suitor. When a snowstorm moves in, the hotel is cut off and they are all trapped. No one could have predicted what would unfold. When the storm clears they must all keep the devastating secrets hidden.

2014: After years of putting her sick brother's needs before her own, Lauren Beck leaves her home and takes a job at a Blue Mountains cafe, the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel's renovations. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect who is overseeing the project, and an attraction begins to grow. In a wing of the old hotel, Lauren finds a series of passionate love letters dated back to 1926, alluding to an affair - and a shocking secret.

If she can unravel this long-ago mystery, will it make Lauren brave enough to take a risk and change everything in her own life?

Inspired by elements of her grandmother's life, a rich and satisfying tale of intrigue, heartbreak and love from the author of the bestselling LIGHTHOUSE BAY and WILDFLOWER HILL.


What I Thought: 
I love Kimberley Freeman’s books. They are absolutely compulsively readable. The pages just race past as I read as fast as is humanely possible - I’m always desperate to find out what happens.  I always love a novel that interweaves a contemporary narrative with a historical one, but often you find one narrative thread is much more interesting than the other (with me, I usually love the story set in the past the best). This isn’t true of Kimberley, though. Her contemporary story is as always as interesting and compelling as the other. I love her mix of romance and mystery and family drama, and can only wish that she could write just a little faster! I always get that little prickle of tears at the end of one of her books that show I’ve been really moved.  

I also love her setting of the Blue Mountains outside Sydney as this is a place I know well. The setting of a glamorous hotel in the 1920s – and the same hotel, now decayed and half in ruins – is incredibly atmospheric and reminded me of an Agatha Christie book. 

In short: I loved it! A must read for anyone who loves a big, fat, heart-warming read. 


Writer’s website: http://kimberleyfreeman.com/

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


INTERVIEW: Elisabeth Gifford, author of Secrets of the Sea House

Friday, November 08, 2013

A story set in the Scottish islands, that draws on selkie fairy tales, and moves fluidly between the past and the present  ... anyone who knows me will be able to guess how eagerly I grabbed this book! Yet when I find a book I think I'm really going to love, I open it with trepidation as well as eagerness, afraid the book will not be as good as I had hoped.

Well, not this one.

I loved THE SECRETS OF THE SEA HOUSE truly, madly, deeply. It was one of the best books of the year so far.



When I really love a book, I write at once to the author to tell them so. And you want to know something eerie and wonderful? Elisabeth Gifford, the author of THE SECRETS OF THE SEA HOUSE, wrote back to me saying that she was so excited to hear from me as she had just finished reading my novel THE WILD GIRL! We worked out we must have been reading each other's books at much the same time (except, with the time difference, she was reading my book while I slept and I read her book while she slept. The universe is a magical and mysterious place sometimes).

So Elisabeth is a very special guest on the blog today. Please make her welcome.

 


Are you a daydreamer too?
By nature that’s my default setting. It used to get me into a lot of hot water as a child as I was generally facing the wrong way and with the wrong equipment at school - but having great thoughts. I don’t intend to give it up any time soon.


Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes I have, but it took a while to find the time and the confidence to decide I was allowed to spend lots of time writing. I began taking creative writing courses because I loved the process so much. From the Oxford diploma and the London University MA I found that I ended up with material for two books – and lots of inspiring friends, and now write full time.
 

Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do? 
My father was a vicar in the industrial midlands so I’m very grateful for a rich and varied childhood. I hung around a lot of churchyards and loved the history of the old churches and cathedrals. Dad would stride around in a black cassock and sometimes go off to do an exorcism in a haunted house. I lived in France for a year, and in several parts of England and am now settled in Kingston, near London. 

My husband’s family comes from Scotland so we’ve spent a lot of time there. I adore the way that writing allows you to explore and evoke time and place and love being absorbed in a book project. I love visiting places for research and so have been to China ( for a book on Chinese orphanages), the Hebrides, Spain, Sweden and soon, Warsaw for a new book.  


How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book? 
We took the children to the Hebrides several times while they were growing up, looking for somewhere quiet and unspoilt so they could run wild a bit – rather spoiling the quiet once we got there! It was like going back in time on Harris and I fell in love with the island. The scenery is stunning and Scots Gaelic is still spoken. I couldn’t believe that here was a part of the UK but with such an ancient and unique culture still in place, and its own language. 



A photo of Harris, an island in the Hebrides, by Elisabeth Gifford

We made some wonderful friends who shared stories of the last century. I loved the stories of selkies and mermaids that my small daughter told me, from her friend on the island. Then I came across the work of Gaelic historian John MacAulay and found that the legends were a form of oral history; there was in fact something very real behind the seal people myths. Through him, I came across the letter to the Times newspaper reporting a mermaid sighting by a Victorian schoolmaster in 1809 and it all began from there. 

But underlying that was an awareness how in Ireland and Skye the old Gaelic culture had been inevitably suburbanized. I felt it was important to try and record Harris as it was, because with improved access via the Skye road bridge now meaning you only have to take one boat to get there, it risks the same process. 


How extensively do you plan your novels? 
I would firmly advise planning a novel before you start it, but I’m afraid it hasn’t worked that way for me so far. I begin with some ideas and some scenes. When I see where things are going I begin to channel the work towards a story arc. Eventually I have to be strict about adding and subtracting as some things may become backstory, only for you as a writer, and don’t help the plot. Once you have a voice that begins to speak and boss you around, as happened with Moira, it can sometimes feel like the story is out of your hands! If you hold too tight, the air can go out of things. When you think the book is done, then that’s a good time to stand back and see if you need to tighten the story line. That last stage is really important.
 


Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration? 
I certainly find that I can dream what I’m really thinking about a situation and I wake up with a better understanding of it. I’ve had some surprising moments of clarity that way. The mind doesn’t always think in words! Sometimes, I like to go to bed having read some notes on a scene so that in the morning it feels active and live when I sit down to write. Once or twice, a clear dream has opened a door to the beginning of a story. I find that it’s important to value an almost dreaming attitude when creating a new scene so that you can imagine the richness you need to evoke a place. 


Are you a daydreamer too?
By nature that’s my default setting. It used to get me into a lot of hot water as a child as I was generally facing the wrong way and with the wrong equipment at school - but having great thoughts. I don’t intend to give it up any time soon.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes I have, but it took a while to find the time and the confidence to decide I was allowed to spend lots of time writing. I began taking creative writing courses because I loved the process so much. From the Oxford diploma and the London University MA I found that I ended up with material for two books – and lots of inspiring friends, and now write full time.
 
Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do? 
My father was a vicar in the industrial midlands so I’m very grateful for a rich and varied childhood. I hung around a lot of churchyards and loved the history of the old churches and cathedrals. Dad would stride around in a black cassock and sometimes go off to do an exorcism in a haunted house. I lived in France for a year, and in several parts of England and am now settled in Kingston, near London. My husband’s family comes from Scotland so we’ve spent a lot of time there. I adore the way that writing allows you to explore and evoke time and place and love being absorbed in a book project. I love visiting places for research and so have been to China ( for a book on Chinese orphanages), the Hebrides, Spain, Sweden and soon, Warsaw for a new book.  
How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book? 
We took the children to the Hebrides several times while they were growing up, looking for somewhere quiet and unspoilt so they could run wild a bit – rather spoiling the quiet once we got there! It was like going back in time on Harris and I fell in love with the island. The scenery is stunning and Scots Gaelic is still spoken. I couldn’t believe that here was a part of the UK but with such an ancient and unique culture still in place, and its own language. We made some wonderful friends who shared stories of the last century. I loved the stories of selkies and mermaids that my small daughter told me, from her friend on the island. Then I came across the work of Gaelic historian John MacAulay and found that the legends were a form of oral history; there was in fact something very real behind the seal people myths. Through him, I came across the letter to the Times newspaper reporting a mermaid sighting by a Victorian schoolmaster in 1809 and it all began from there. But underlying that was an awareness how in Ireland and Skye the old Gaelic culture had been inevitably suburbanized. I felt it was important to try and record Harris as it was, because with improved access via the Skye road bridge now meaning you only have to take one boat to get there, it risks the same process. 




How extensively do you plan your novels? 
I would firmly advise planning a novel before you start it, but I’m afraid it hasn’t worked that way for me so far. I begin with some ideas and some scenes. When I see where things are going I begin to channel the work towards a story arc. Eventually I have to be strict about adding and subtracting as some things may become backstory, only for you as a writer, and don’t help the plot. Once you have a voice that begins to speak and boss you around, as happened with Moira, it can sometimes feel like the story is out of your hands! If you hold too tight, the air can go out of things. When you think the book is done, then that’s a good time to stand back and see if you need to tighten the story line. That last stage is really important.
 
Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration? 
I certainly find that I can dream what I’m really thinking about a situation and I wake up with a better understanding of it. I’ve had some surprising moments of clarity that way. The mind doesn’t always think in words! Sometimes, I like to go to bed having read some notes on a scene so that in the morning it feels active and live when I sit down to write. Once or twice, a clear dream has opened a door to the beginning of a story. I find that it’s important to value an almost dreaming attitude when creating a new scene so that you can imagine the richness you need to evoke a place. 


Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?
When I’d finished Secret of the Sea House I was thrilled to find that there is in fact an archeological site in Arctic Norway for the vanished Sea Sami who once visited the shores of Scotland – giving rise to the sea people legends. The reported mermaid sightings died out conclusively 200 years ago and I couldn’t understand why they suddenly stopped. Then, after the book was published, I found that the Sea Sami culture also died out at exactly that time, under intense pressure to assimilate into mainstream culture in Norway and that made a lot of sense.

Through researching the new book that I’m editing now, I found that a relative had been part of a silent conspiracy around the British Embassy in Madrid to rescue Jewish refugees in 1940. A large circle of the most glamorous people there got together to rescue thousands of Jews and stranded allied soldiers who were escaping from France through the Pyrenees into Spain. It is hardly known about because of the conspiracy of silence that endured for many years after the war; the Spanish rescuers were risking a great deal defying Franco’s regime, and of course he stayed in power until the end of the seventies. 
 

Where do you write, and when? 
I have a laptop and move around the house depending on the sun and who is at home making noise! I can tune out quite a lot. My husband is an illustrator who works at home and has his own room, but I don’t want to feel I can only work in one place in case it becomes too limiting. 

What is your favourite part of writing?
I love story and the magical way it has of telling us so much about who we are. I loved how, in The Wild Girl, the fairy tales are shown to be the source of healing for some of the characters in a very real way. I read Talking of Love on the Edge of a Precipice by Boris Cyrulnik. As a Jewish child he was hidden for years in solitude during the Second World War. Now he uses story to help people tell their traumatic pasts in a way that helps them build resilience. We tell stories as entertainment of course but they can also do a deep, healing work, helping us understand ourselves, where we come from and where we want to go.


What do you do when you get blocked? 
I read. It’s so exciting to see how other writers go about things sometimes, and the way they use words. Or I might research pictures, films, and places. If I can I visit a new place that helps. Another way in is to let yourself write freely without censoring, from whatever inspires or interests you. Something can come out of that sort of writing that is fresh and exciting - it may be messy but you can go back and edit it into something with a shape. Or I write ‘in voice’ to see what a character has to say.


How do you keep your well of inspiration full? 
I used to feel guilty about how much time I spent paying attention to the wrong things, but I love being in the moment and taking in the sounds, sights and smells of a place, getting a feel for a person or a situation. Imagery comes out of those impressions, so you have to spend time being aware of your own experiences in order to top up your bank. Also, reading around a subject is such fun and keeps on opening new doors - that you then want to explore. When writing the Sea House I was lucky to be able to spend several summers on the island itself in various locations and cottages and I think I read almost all the books available about the Outer Hebrides!
 

Do you have any rituals that help you to write? 
I’ve sort of banned rituals in case they become too essential, but some things really do help. A quiet space is vital. I write in the morning, as that’s when I’m most fresh mentally, and I try and get enough sleep and exercise - with varying success. In the first stages I might wander around imagining scenes and get the writing down quickly. For the structuring phases I will sit at a desk so that I can spread out notes and schemes. Then I’ll read everything very critically to see what it feels like for the reader - lots of reading out loud to see how it runs at the editing phase. I suppose I have processes more that rituals.


Who are ten of your favourite writers? 
Marilynne Robinson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tan Twan Eng, Flaubert, Alice Munroe, Seamus Heaney, Annie Proulx, Hilary Mantel, Catherine O’Flynne and Matthew Kneale. They are all writers who make you want to read their work over and over again and who have a wonderful sense of narrative – and humour.
 

What do you consider to be good writing? 
People write as individually as they sing or talk! So I’m pretty open. I love writing that is energetic and full of texture, where the words evoke the story through the senses, the images and the detail. But I also love story and plot and read plenty of detective novels too. 
 

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
 First of all check you like to spend an awful lot of time writing. Write and read lots and lots. Keep a notebook and don’t be too critical with your initial outpourings. Read all you can about the writing process, find a group of fellow writers to workshop with, and then learn how to put on your editor’s hat and shape your writing to where you want it go. Don’t be quick to bin things. They may be the start of something that you come back to later!
 

What are you working on now? 
It’s a family saga that spans two world wars and begins with a bride who runs away from her wedding. Part of it has been published as a short story, largely about my mother’s experience as an orphan after the war – with her permission. Without realizing it, you soak up a lot of family experience from your parents and their parents. I think I wanted to hold some of the textures and history of the last century, and explore how war deeply affected our parents and grand parents. It’s also about how families keep secrets.

It sounds wonderful! I'll be looking out for it eagerly. 

BOOK REVIEW: Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford

Monday, November 04, 2013




Title: Secrets of the Sea House
Author: Elisabeth Gifford
Publisher: Corvus
Age Group & Genre: Parallel Contemporary/Historical Novel for Adults
Reviewer: Kate Forsyth


The Blurb:
Based on a real letter to the Times by a Victorian schoolmaster reporting a mermaid sighting, Secrets of the Sea House is an epic, sweeping tale of loss and love; hope and redemption; and how we heal ourselves with the stories we tell.

Scotland, 1860. Reverend Alexander Ferguson, naïve and newly-ordained, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the Hebridean island of Harris. His time on the island will irrevocably change the course of his life, but the white house on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after Alexander departs. 


It will be more than a century before the Sea House reluctantly gives up its secrets. Ruth and Michael buy the grand but dilapidated building and begin to turn it into a home for the family they hope to have. Their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery. The tiny bones of a baby are buried beneath the house; the child's fragile legs are fused together - a mermaid child. Who buried the bones? And why? But can the answers to Ruth's questions lie in her own past. 


What I Thought: 

I absolutely loved this book!

Intriguing and atmospheric, SECRETS OF THE SEA HOUSE is set in the Hebrides Islands of Scotland, with the narrative moving between the contemporary story of Ruth and her husband Michael, and the islands in the 1860s when crofters are being forced to emigrate and science and religion are in conflict.  

Ruth and Michael are living in, and renovating, the ramshackle Sea House on the Hebridean Island of Harris. Ruth is haunted by feelings of fear and grief, and worries they have made a mistake in sinking all their savings into this remote and run-down house. Then they discover, buried beneath the floorboards, the tiny bones of a dead child. Its legs are fused together, its feet splayed like flippers. The discovery unsettles Ruth, reminding her of her dead mother’s strange tales of a selkie ancestry. She begins to try and find out how the skeleton came to be buried under the house. 

The story moves to 1860, and the alternating points of view of the young and handsome Reverend Alexander Ferguson and his intelligent yet illiterate housemaid, Moira. Alexander’s obsession with mermaids and selkies, and his forbidden attraction to the daughter of the local laird, lead to grief and betrayal and death. 

The book is full of the windswept and isolated beauty of the Hebrides, and I particularly like the way in which the author has researched - and possibly explained - the origin of Selkie tales in Scotland. I had never heard of this historical basis for these beautiful myths and so I learnt something new, which always makes me happy.

I also really loved the way in which the protagonist, Ruth, has to struggle with her own tragic history and try to find some way to overcome fears that felt very real.

Secrets of the Sea House is one of my favourite reads of the year - it is haunting, beautiful and magical. 




Writer’s website: http://www.elisabethgifford.com/
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT – I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK


BOOK REVIEW: The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown

Monday, June 17, 2013



Title
: The Perfume Garden
Author: Kate Lord Brown
Publisher: Atlantic
Age Group & Genre: Contemporary/Historical Novel for Adults


The Blurb
The Perfume Garden combines the gripping storytelling of Kate Morton with the evocative settings of Victoria Hislop to tell this sumptuous story of lost love and family secrets set between modern day Valencia and the Spanish Civil War. 

High in the hills of Valencia, a forgotten house guards its secrets. Untouched since Franco's forces tore through Spain in 1936, the whitewashed walls have crumbled, the garden, laden with orange blossom, grown wild. Emma Temple is the first to unlock its doors in seventy years. Guided by a series of letters and a key bequeathed in her mother's will, she has left her job as London's leading perfumier to restore this dilapidated villa to its former glory. It is the perfect retreat: a wilderness redolent with strange and exotic scents, heavy with the colours and sounds of a foreign time. 

But for her grandmother, Freya, a British nurse who stayed here during Spain's devastating civil war, Emma's new home evokes terrible memories. As the house begins to give up its secrets, Emma is drawn deeper into Freya's story: one of crushed idealism, lost love, and families ripped apart by war. She soon realises it is one thing letting go of the past, but another when it won't let go of you.


What I Thought: 
A young woman inherits an old house in Spain, discovers clues to buried family secrets, meets a gorgeous Spaniard, and finds her true path in life ... interposed with flashbacks to her grandmother's work during the bloody and turbulent Spanish Civil War as a nurse ... this book is exactly the sort of book I love to read the most. And I did love it!

THE PERFUME GARDEN switches between two timelines. The first is set in contemporary times – soon after 9/11 – and deals with Emma’s grief and attempt to rebuild her life after the loss of her lover. The second is set during the Spanish Civil War and tells the story of Emma’s grandmother Freya, her brother Charles and a beautiful Spaniard Rosa. 

Both storylines are strong, the setting is wonderfully romantic and evocative, and Emma’s job as a perfumier adds an extra frisson of sensuous interest.

The Spanish Civil War was a bloody disaster, in all sense of the word, and these sections were sometimes heart-wrenching. I have always been fascinated by this period of history, and THE PERFUME GARDEN does any extraordinary job of bringing it to life. 

As for the house in Valencia and its old perfumed garden … well, all I can say is: I WANT! 

Afternote: (I should add here that my novel FULL FATHOM FIVE (written in my 20s and published under my maiden name Kate Humphrey) also drew upon the history of the Spanish Civil War, and so its a period I have researched thoroughly.)



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