I so enjoyed this book – it is a wonderful mix of honest, painful emotions and romantic literary scenes of beauty. The characters are all beautifully crafted and easy to imagine and each have a specific role that they complete well – there are not wasted words or pages in this book.
The story is divided between the present day and glimpses into the Second World War in Italy – and the reader is moved between the two with care. There are threads and similarities that weave them together although ultimately one story ends much happier than the other. There has clearly been a considerable amount of research to write so eloquently about the experience in rural Italy during the war, and Petch doesn’t pull any punches – with strong storylines and revelations for several characters. There is also a realistic view of what life must have been like after the war, particularly for foreign wives coming to England.
There are lots of great descriptions of food and eating, which makes your mouth water as you read, especially the wonderful local Italian meals. There is great warmth to this book, and it has a very personal feel.
I have already read and reviewed the sequel to this story Now and Then in Tuscany, and certainly feel a great benefit from finding out more about the characters and how they met and found their home. Both books are well worth a read, and if you’d like to find out a little bit more about the author you can read her interview here.
Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther
This is such a wonderful page-turner of a book, whenever there are secrets to be revealed in a story you know that each page will bring more information and build into a crescendo of shocks and surprises. As these five old friends are reunited after 20 years, their pasts come back to haunt them – there are some things you just can’t forgive and forget.
The book has a wonderful pace and all the characters are all so beautifully human you can sympathise with them all in different ways, they are flawed and real which I find much more engaging. As I once lived in Cambridge I also enjoyed the descriptions of the city and felt very at home in the book. As the story builds it really does become a book you need to finish, and I read it over night!
Unlike so many modern novels this also has a satisfying ending, there is a sense of completion and although the story has stayed with me, I do feel my questions were answered.
If you would like to read it for yourself we have a giveaway to win a copy of the paperback, just enter via Twitter or Facebook using the link below – what could be easier?
a Rafflecopter giveaway
What a treat to be a member of the @bookollective #thebteam ! I was asked to take part in the Book Blog Tour of a new release from Helene Fermont – Because of You. I enjoy reading books that I wouldn’t necessarily pick up for myself, and have met a number of new authors by doing book reviews and then falling in love with their style. I confess to not having tried any Scandinavian Noir, and so Because of You was another new departure for me.
The story is essentially the life story of Hannah Stein, from her teen years until well into her 50’s. The book starts in the London of the Thatcher years, which for me was a place I could well imagine. Hannah has a roller coaster of a life, and is surrounded by a range of family and friends, as well as enemies who are all explored in some detail during the book. The characters are all well rounded and described down to their aftershave choices, on occasion the descriptions are a little too simplistic, and I would have liked to know, on a more emotional level, why they had become that way. The book covers such a large timescale I asked Helene Fermont whether she had planned it all from the beginning, or whether she starts writing with a basic premise and lets the characters and situations develop organically – her generous answer is here:
‘My main focus is always on characterisations. I spend a long time to get them just right. I’ve got a premise for a story line/plot yet will change everything if it doesn’t fit in with the characters. Characters, not the plot, are fundamental and lead the way so to speak but I always knew how Because of you would map out and devoted much time on research.
Because of You is the type of novel I couldn’t find in a bookseller. I’m very direct in the way I write which I believe stems from my partly Scandinavian background.
The novel has a big heart while also dealing with strong themes and characters that are relatable. It’s the main reason I’m so very grateful the current Amazon and Love Reading reviews etcetera resonate with that.’
The book deals with a number of very serious situations and life experiences that are perhaps the mark of the Noir rather than Chick Lit. Some of the scenes were very uncomfortable to read. However, I found the book as a whole very readable and enjoyed the sense of time and being with people through a large part of their lives, it was powerful to read about situations that many authors would shy away from. There were some elements that I found irritating after a while and Hannah herself became a less sympathetic character for me than some of the other protagonists. There was a good dilemma for the reader as to who was ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in all the stages of the story, there were no clear ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ and the relationships between characters were complex and real. I would definitely read Helene Fermont again, but hope with experience comes a slightly more emotional resonance with her characters.