The Women of Troy by Pat Barker (Review)

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker

Blurb

Troy has fallen. The Greeks have won their bitter war. They can return home victors, loaded with their spoils: their stolen gold, stolen weapons, stolen women. All they need is a good wind to lift their sails.

But the wind does not come. The gods have been offended – the body of Priam lies desecrated, unburied – and so the victors remain in limbo, camped in the shadow of the city they destroyed, pacing at the edge of an unobliging sea. And, in these empty, restless days, the hierarchies that held them together begin to fray, old feuds resurface and new suspicions fester.

Largely unnoticed by her squabbling captors, Briseis remains in the Greek encampment. She forges alliances where she can – with young, dangerously naïve Amina, with defiant, aged Hecuba, with Calchus, the disgraced priest – and begins to see the path to a kind of revenge. Briseis has survived the Trojan War, but peacetime may turn out to be even more dangerous…

Review

When I saw this book I knew I had to read it, especially as I studied the women of Troy last year for an assignment. We sadly don’t know much about Briseis and we definitely don’t know for sure what happened to her once Achilles was killed. Some believe that Achilles gave her to one of his comrades in arms and this is the story line that Barker has gone with for this book.

We start the story with the sacking of Troy and the death of Priam. After the battle the story is mainly told by Briseis but is occasionally seen from Calchus the high priest and Pyrrhus’ point of view. 

Briseis is not a slave like the other women of Troy because she is now married to Alcimus, so she has more freedom around the camp. However, Briseis knows what it is to see her family killed and to be taken as a slave by the Greeks so she endeavours to help the women of Troy as much as she can. 

Briseis is a wonderful character in this book as she has troubles of her own but she really tries to help the women of Troy. However, at times I did find her rather naive and that did annoy me slightly. 

Hecuba was perfect in my opinion and as I always imagined her. Even though her kingdom has fallen and she is now a slave owned by Odysseus she still has her pride. The only thing that knocks her is her grief but she still keeps on going. Cassandra was a rather a surprise because sadly she is usually portrayed as insane but Barker was very kind about her. Pyrrhus was another mystery but really he is a lost little boy trying to fill his father’s shoes and always feeling lacking. 

I really found this take on the aftermath of the fall of Troy very refreshing and it was wonderful to have a story about one of the women of Troy that isn’t Helen. I really enjoyed this book but I was disappointed at the end because I really wanted to find out what happened with Briseis’ and Alcimus’ relationship, all it needed was a couple of extra pages. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons and I thank NetGalley and Penguin UK for giving me an ARC of this book.

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Purchase Links

(Due for publication on the 26th August 2021)

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Pat Barker was born in Thornaby-on-Tees in 1943. She was educated at the London School of Economics and has been a teacher of history and politics. 

Her books include the highly acclaimed Regeneration trilogy Regeneration; The Eye in the Door, winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize; and The Ghost Road, winner of the Booker Prize; as well as seven other novels. She’s married and lives in Durham, England.

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Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (Review)

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Blurb

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?

Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel

Review

I do love a Greek myth retelling especially if it is fairly faithful to the actual myth. This Greek myth was a refreshing read because it was told from the viewpoint of the women instead of the usual male heroes. 

The main voice we hear in this story is Ariadne. Ariadne is the granddaughter of Helios but the only sign of this is her beautiful blonde hair. Ariadne’s life in Crete is not easy once her brother the Minotaur is born, her life is haunted by the sound of the Minotaur living beneath her feet. However, a way out of this existence presents itself and Ariadne grabs it with both hands. 

The other voice that we hear from is Phaedra who is Ariadne’s younger sister. Phaedra is the complete opposite to her sister, she is full of spirit and is not afraid of anything and has the ability to rule. 

This retelling really highlights what is always there in the original myths but always remains in the background. Men strut around being heroes, fighting the monsters and vanquishing enemies, they draw the attention to the gods and when they upset the gods the gods make them pay by making their wives and female relatives pay. I think that is the main vein of the story that runs through this book, women are always the ones who pay the price and poor Ariadne really does pay. 

I loved this retelling and although there were a few historical inaccuracies which I only picked out because I’m a classics student, the story was beautifully written and one that I couldn’t put down. I really felt every hurt and wrong that poor Ariadne and Phaedra suffered but at the same time I loved their strength and belief in standing up for themselves. I also loved how the male characters within this story took a backseat, Theseus, Perseus and Dionysus have had far too much attention over the years. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Jennifer Saint grew up reading Greek mythology and was always drawn to the untold stories hidden within the myths. After thirteen years as a high school English teacher, she wrote ARIADNE which tells the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur from the perspective of Ariadne – the woman who made it happen. Jennifer Saint is now a full-time author, living in Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two children.

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The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Review)

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Blurb

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves

A female cop with her first big case

A brutal murder

Welcome to…

The Thursday Murder Club

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. 

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late? 

Review

I am always a bit dubious about reading books by celebrities because sometimes I find that they have only been published because they are already famous but I heard so many good things about this book I decided to give it a go and I am pleased I did.

I started this book and I was immediately hooked. The introduction is so intriguing you can’t help but be hooked. One old lady asking another old lady her opinion on whether someone with multiple stab wounds could have been saved and how long it would take for them to bleed out if left untreated can’t help but intrigue the reader. These two characters are Joyce and Elizabeth. Joyce is a dear lady who is a retired nurse who just wants everyone to like her. She is also clearly rather lonely and loves her new found friends in the Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth clearly has an interesting past and is an interesting character but she also has her problems but she is very good at hiding them from the outside world.

The other two members of the club are Ron and Ibrahim. Ibrahim is a retired psychiatrist and knows how to read people. Ron, who was my favourite character, is very good at speaking out against any injustice and made a name for himself when he was younger. Ron is a real character, who is clearly a tough guy but who also has a heart of gold and is always the man to give a consoling hug. 

The two official investigators are Donna and Chris. They become members of the Thursday Murder Club. I do feel sorry for Chris and Donna. They are trying to do their jobs but are also trying to control four elderly people who insist on interfering. 

I really enjoyed the beginning of this book but I will be honest I got a little bored in the middle and lost interest but thankfully I kept reading and it picked back up towards the end. I was also rather pleased that I had worked out who the murderer of Tony Curran was although I struggled to work out who the killer of Ian Ventham was. 

This book was humorous, well written with some wonderful characters that I would happily read about again. I give this book 3 out 5 Dragons just because I lost interest in the middle.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Richard Osman (1970) is an English television presenter, producer, comedian and writer best known for being the creator and co-presenter of the television show Pointless. 

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Maigret and the Wine Merchant by Georges Simenon (Review)

Maigret and the Wine Merchant by Georges Simenon

Blurb

When a wealthy wine merchant is shot in a Paris street, Maigret must investigate a long list of the ruthless businessman’s enemies before he can get to the sad truth of the affair.

Review

Another Maigret novel, I have been on a roll with reading Maigret books but now I have run out so this will be the last one until I get some more and I will definitely be getting some more. 

I was surprised at the lack of alcohol in this book in comparison to the two previous books but Maigret still drank more than the average human being.

This book was a little different to the previous two books, instead of Maigret finding all the pieces of the puzzle the puzzle appeared in front of him instead. However, what Maigret did piece together was the true nature of the murder victim and I must admit he was not a very nice man and it was understandable why someone had decided to kill him. 

There were some interesting characters in this book and one of my favourites was the one nicknamed Grasshopper, she was a real character and I really liked it when she was in the book. This book really showed the class differences and how the very rich seemed to have very loose morals and the lower classes a much higher moral standard and to be honest the characters who weren’t made of money were the better people to be friends with in this book.

I really enjoyed this book and found it rather different to the two previous books I had read. Maigret is such a good character and I just love reading about him solving cases. I give this book 4 out 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

About the author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels and many short stories. Simenon is best known as the creator of the Maigret stories.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Maigret and the Saturday Caller by Georges Simenon (Review)

Maigret and the Saturday Caller by Georges Simenon

Blurb

A man visits Inspector Jules Maigret at his home to tell him he wants to kill his wife and her lover. Although it is not an official case, Maigret is interested, particularly when the man later disappears. 

Review

My second Maigret book and yet again I was shocked by the amount of alcohol that Maigret consumed. I also loved how Maigret was convinced he had a cold brewing so he kept drinking lots of hot rum as a remedy to prevent it.

This book started off very mysteriously with the man nicknamed by Maigret’s colleagues as ‘the Saturday Caller’. This strange ‘Saturday Caller’ has been appearing at the police station like clock work every Saturday but the man never says anything and runs away before anyone speaks to him. However, one evening when Maigret walks through his door he finds ‘the Saturday Caller’ in his living room.

Maigret eventually manages to get the ‘Saturday Caller’ to tell his story, with the help of several glasses of plum brandy. The story unfurls that ‘the Saturday Caller’ wants to kill his wife and the wife’s lover who lives with them. I must admit I felt so sorry for this man as he tells his story to Maigret and you can tell that Maigret also feels the same. Even though there is no crime committed Maigret takes an interest in this man’s story and so agrees with him that they will talk on the phone everyday. 

As soon as Maigret goes back to work he starts his investigations into the non-existent crime and things start to unfold. Maigret does what he does best, he gathers every little scrap of information and builds the picture up. 

I really enjoyed this book and I loved seeing the little tricks that Maigret got his men to use to get the information required even if they were a little underhand. I also loved that the police have a new forensics man who helps them with some signatures and Maigret finds these modern techniques very interesting. I finished this book in less than 24 hours and loved it. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

About the author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels and many short stories. Simenon is best known as the creator of the Maigret stories.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Maigret and the Calame Report by Georges Simenon (Review)

Maigret and the Calame Report by Georges Simenon

Blurb

In ‘Maigret and the Calame Report’ the detective is reluctantly drawn into the seedy world of political manoeuvring and corruption when 128 children are killed in a collapsing building.

Review

The first impression I had of this book is how does Maigret’s liver cope? I fully expected him to need a new liver at the end of this book. Everywhere he goes he has an alcoholic drink! It did make me giggle when Maigret admits he doesn’t get on with driving as he finds his mind wanders and he has only just managed to avoid an accident whilst driving in the past. I’m not sure about his mind wandering but I am sure the alcohol he is consuming is affecting his driving.

So this is my first Maigret book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Maigret deals firmly with facts and good old fashioned police work which often involves the use of his officers to gather all the facts he needs to build his case. Maigret lives a simple life of going to work and coming home to his wife who always has his slippers ready and tea on the table and who never complains if he is late or summoned out of the house at random hours. However, there is one thing that Maigret likes to avoid and that is politics but sadly with this case politicians need him to solve the case. Maigret must find the person who stole the all important Calame Report and he needs to do it fast.

The thing I loved about this book is that Maigret is unlike other detectives you read in other detective books. Sherlock Holmes for instance will deduce things and make assumptions on the evidence he has before him but Maigret does not do that. He carefully and painstakingly gathers every little fact and piece of evidence he can find and he starts to build the picture until he has a result. He never tries to predict or assume anything and won’t do anything unless he has all the facts. As the story unfolds Maigret builds the picture of what happened and the reader sees it all happen with Maigret. 

The book is only short and in reality it could be read in one day but due to tiredness it took me nearly a week but I really enjoyed the book and I can’t wait to read the next one and see what Maigret is up to next. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels and many short stories. Simenon is best known as the creator of the Maigret stories.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom (Review)

Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom

Blurb

Summer, 1540. Matthew Shardlake, believing himself out of favour with Thomas Cromwell, is busy trying to maintain his legal practice and keep a low profile. But his involvement with a murder case, defending a girl accused of brutally murdering her young cousin, brings him once again into contact with the King’s chief minister – and a new assignment . . . 

The secret of Greek Fire, the legendary substance with which the Byzantines destroyed the Arab navies, has been lost for centuries. Now an official of the Court of Augmentations has discovered the formula in the library of a dissolved London monastery. When Shardlake is sent to recover it, he finds the official and his alchemist brother brutally murdered – the formula has disappeared. Now Shardlake must follow the trail of Greek Fire across Tudor London, while trying at the same time to prove his young client’s innocence. But very soon he discovered nothing is as it seems . . .

Review

I was so excited to read another story about Matthew Shardlake as I thoroughly enjoyed the first book Dissolution. This book is set three years after the first book and finds Shardlake no longer in the employment or favour of Cromwell but quietly working as a lawyer in London.

Shardlake is defending a girl who is accused of murdering her cousin and must work quickly if he has any chance of saving her. However, during this time Cromwell throws a spanner in the works by giving Shardlake another case and not an easy one. Cromwell also gives Shardlake a rather uncouth assistant to help him called Barack who likes to call  people he doesn’t like a rather rude name.

Shardlake and Barack have to work on the two cases at the same time but the one for Cromwell is hampered constantly. People are trying to kill Shardlake and Barack and the people involved that could help the investigations are killed before they can help. The other problem is that Shardlake and Barack always seem to be one step behind the bad guys.

This book really kept me on my toes and I never worked out who was guilty for either crime until it is revealed until the end. I also enjoyed reading about how the Tudors considered humours to be the source of health and illness as I have just finished an assignment on health in ancient Greece and Rome and their health and treatments also relied on the balance of humours.

There are so many twists and turns in this book and it never stopped for a moment. I couldn’t put this book down and throughly enjoyed it, in fact I think I enjoyed it more than the first book in the series. I can’t wait to read more about Shardlake and I give this book 5 out of 5 books. 

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Purchase Links

 Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

C. J. Sansom was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Sussex.

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie (Review)

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie 

Blurb

Tommy and Tuppence, two young people flat broke and out of work, are restless for excitement. They embark on a daring business scheme- Young Adventurers Ltd- ‘willing to do anything, go anywhere’.

Their first assignment, for the sinister Mr Whittington, draws them into a diabolical political conspiracy, and they find themselves plunged into more danger than they ever imagined…

Review

This is my first Tommy and Tuppence full length novel. I read a short story about them over Christmas and wanted to read more stories about them so this book was a good start as it is the story of how Tommy and Tuppence became the Young Adventurers. 

Tommy and Tuppence are broke and in dire need of money and so they come up with a plan to advertise themselves as the Young Adventurers who are willing to do anything, anywhere. I must admit when Tuppence came up with this idea I did think it was rather risky as they could be asked to do anything but it is the reader’s first introduction to Tuppence’s impulsive and adventurous nature. 

Tommy is a lot more reserved than Tuppence and does tend to think before he jumps but that doesn’t mean he shirks away from adventure and gets into a fair few scraps in this story as does Tuppence. 

Tommy and Tuppence find themselves hunting for the mysterious Jane Finn and they must find her in time to stop a major political catastrophe or possibly even war. This leads them into danger and not knowing who to trust. 

I must admit that at the beginning I really couldn’t put this book down but then as I got further along my fervour waned. I will be honest I worked out who the illusive Mr Brown was rather early on and was frustrated with Tommy and Tuppence that they did not work it out sooner. The only surprise for me was the identity of Jane Finn but I loved the characters Tommy and Tuppence and I can’t wait to read further novels about them. This was only the second book Christie wrote and I can see this within the book as it lacks maturity in the writing. I give this book 3 out 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

 Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was an English writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. She also wrote the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap. She also wrote 6 novels under the name Mary Westmacott.

Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey (Review)

Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey

Blurb

For generations, the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artefact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has emerged to build a massive structure outside the orbit of Uranus: a gate that leads into a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artefact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

Review 

Another fantastic book in The Expanse series. I can’t believe how they just keep getting better and better with each book in the series. This one I could not put down.

As usual each chapter is from a certain character’s perspective. The four characters are Anna, Bull, Clarissa and of course Holden. Now my favourite character has always been Amos but Anna was a brilliant character and very different from Amos.

Anna

Anna is a pastor and has been chosen to go on an Earth ship with other religious leaders and important people to look at the alien artefact. Anna lives by the code act first, ask for forgiveness later and I must admit this does get her into some dangerous situations but if she believes something is right and just she fights for it and will do anything to protect her flock and others. 

Bull

Bull is an Earther but works for Fred Johnson. Bull knows how to run a ship and knows how to get a job done. I loved how Bull gained respect from the Belters and got those who didn’t respect him to at least obey him. He might be rough around the edges but he always does the right thing.

Clarissa

I don’t want to say much about Clarissa as I don’t want to spoil anything but I will say she is a very troubled woman who desperately needs help and somebody to love her. 

This book revolves around the alien artefact and shows the human race at its best and its worst. I wish there had been more of Alex and Amos but hopefully there will be more of them in the next book. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

James S. A. Corey is the pen name of fantasy author Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, George R. R. Martin’s assistant. They both live Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Reviews in the series so far

Leviathan Wakes

Caliban’s War

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Review)

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Blurb

Drawing on Maggie O’Farrell’s long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play, HAMNET is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child. 

Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet. 

Review

Always seduced by a pretty cover I got this book because of the special Waterstones edition that is very attractive.

I do love the work of Shakespeare and have been trying to read all of his works. Although I will be honest I always felt very sorry for his wife who was left behind all that time whilst he was in London.

Hamnet is based on Shakespeare’s son, Hamlet or Hamnet but really it is more to do with Shakespeare’s marriage. The story moves backwards and forwards to the present day and to the past based around Agnes and William as children and how they came about meeting and getting married.

Agnes or Anne as she is more commonly known, is described as a woman with peculiar talents. Agnes can see the dead and also see snippets into the future and she understands the properties of herbs and can heal people with them. This means that people both fear her and need her in equal measure.

William is introduced as the eldest son of a glove maker who does not get on with his father. His father sees him as a waste of space and does not understand why his eldest son does not want to take the family business on. William is acting as tutor to earn a living but is not enjoying it and is getting more and more depressed and frustrated until he makes the move to London.

The book shows us how Agnes and William cope as parents, living so far apart and having to deal with the death of a child. I found this section very emotional but I must admit I got very frustrated with William and Agnes at times and felt very sorry for their daughters.

I enjoyed the story and found that O’Farrell had taken an interesting take on the people we know so well from history and yet know so little. I will be honest I could have done without the chapter about a flea and just found it rather unnecessary. I also discovered there were a few sections that I found unnecessary and could have done without but overall I did enjoy this piece of historical fiction and give it 3 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Maggie O’Farrell (born 1972, Coleraine Northern Ireland) is a British author of contemporary fiction, who features in Waterstones’ 25 Authors for the Future. It is possible to identify several common themes in her novels – the relationship between sisters is one, another is loss and the psychological impact of those losses on the lives of her characters.