#Blogtour By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley

It’s an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour By Her Own Design: A Novel of Ann Lowe, Fashion Designer to the Social Register written by Piper Huguley. I loved this book!

About the Author

Piper Huguley is the author of the Home to Milford College and the Migrations of the Heart series. She is a multiple-time Golden Heart finalist. Piper blogs about the history behind her novels on her website. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and son. Follow @piperhuguley on Twitter, Visit piperhuguley.com

About the book

The incredible untold story of how Ann Lowe, a Black woman and granddaughter of slaves, rose above personal struggles and racial prejudice to design and create one of America’s most famous wedding dresses of all time for Jackie Kennedy.

1953, New York City – Less than a week before the society wedding of the year where Jacqueline Bouvier will marry John F. Kennedy, a pipe bursts at Ann Lowe’s dress shop and ruins eleven dresses, including the expensive wedding dress, a dress that will be judged by thousands. A Black designer who has fought every step of the way, Ann knows this is only one struggle after a lifetime of them. She and her seamstresses will find the way to re-create the dresses. It may take all day and all night for the next week to accomplish the task, but they will do it.

1918, Tampa – Raised in Jim Crow Alabama, Ann learned the art of sewing from her mother and her grandmother, a former slave, who are the most talented seamstresses in the state. After Ann elopes at twelve with an older man who soon proves himself to be an abusive alcoholic, her dreams of becoming a celebrated designer seem to be put on hold. But then a wealthy Tampa socialite sees Ann’s talent and offers her an amazing opportunity—the chance to sew and design clothing for Florida’s society elite. Taking her young son in the middle of the night, Ann escapes her husband and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.

Based on the true story of one of the most famous designers of the twenties through the sixties who has since been unjustly forgotten, By Her Own Design is an unforgettable novel of determination despite countless obstacles and a triumph celebrated by the world.

Review

Although the story of Ann begins at the end of her life, it perhaps does her more justice, because the battles she fought and the hills she had to climb to achieve her dreams and goals – the reader thinks they know how her journey will progress or at least they think they do. 

The reality of course is that the hardships endured, the racism faced, and the courageous and dangerous decisions made, are the norm for her because she is a black woman. The white privilege she is surrounded by is a pill to be taken daily with a portion of steadily controlled seething anger. And yet at the core is the child, the girl who is plucked from innocence and thrust into the stark reality of womanhood. The girl, who learns to covet and embrace the bonds of sisterhood, maternal strength and the protection of those who endured and survived the same before her.

This is the story of an artist, a woman with an incredible talent for design and fashion, who wrote history and yet has been forgotten by those who wrote it.

I absolutely loved this book and I really hope someone makes a screen version of it – Oscar material right here. The author has fixed an injustice by bringing the important story of Ann to the forefront of our minds, and in doing so ensures that she receives her rightful place in the history of design and fashion. Kudos to the author for the storytelling, the excellent writing and for sharing this story with us all.

It is a travesty that the voices, the achievements, designs, inventions, and their pivotal input and influence on our developments and history in general, of women – especially women who belong to marginalised and oppressed groups – have been erased from historical narratives. Whitewashed from history. This is a perfect example of every detail being known to the world, except the part where a black woman designed the wedding dress of one of the most well-known historical figures of the 20th century, and yet somehow it has become the one detail that is never mentioned. I highly recommend this book – it’s an excellent read.

Buy By Her Own Design at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : William Morrow PB, pub date 21 July 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour And The Swans Began to Sing by Thora Karitas Arnadottir

Today it is my turn on the BlogTour And The Swans Began to Sing by Thora Karitas Arnadottir. It’s a heartfelt and emotional journey. Kudos to Gudbjorg for sharing it and for looking for help.

About the Author

Thora Karitas Arnadottir studied drama in Britain and is best known for the award winning TV series, Astridur, in her home country and for hosting Unique Iceland, a highly popular travel magazine show about Iceland.

Thora is currently working on her first novel, which will be released in Iceland in 2019.

Thora Karitas is an Icelandic actress and author and this is the English translation of her Icelandic debut. It’s a narrative non-fiction about her mother’s life in Iceland. Throughout her childhood Thora’s mother, Gudjborg was raped on a regular basis by her grandfather.

Follow @ThoraKaritas @Wildpressed on Twitter, Visit thorakaritas.co.uk

Buy And The Swans Began to Sing

About the book

The swans on the pond, quite abruptly began to sing. It was a singing so loud they were almost screaming. The swans were screaming, screaming as if they saw the horror of the world.

Gudbjorg Thorisdottir has been hiding from the ghost of an ugly secret for most of her life. When she finally faces the truth of what happened throughout her childhood, the ghost floats away. Painting an evocative picture of her life in Iceland, this is the story of a little girl who didn’t know how unnatural it was to experience both heaven and hell in the same house.

Thora Karitas Arnadottir (b. 1979) studied drama in the UK, and is a producer as well as appearing on stage and television. And the Swans Began to Sing is her first published book; her mother’s story, and formed the final dissertation for her MA in Creative Writing. The book was nominated for the Icelandic Women’s Literary prize Fjoruverdlaunin in 2016.Review

This is the story of Gudbjorg Thorisdottir, the grandmother of Thora Karitas Arnadottir. In a way it is her way of healing the wounds of the past by telling the world her story in her own words, even if it is through the pen or medium of her granddaughter. She is facing the gossips and the tellers of tales head-on.

I think this is one of the things that seems to hurt her – the fact others have taken it upon themselves to tell her story, her secret. People, and I am thinking of her ex-husband in particular, who believe it is their secret to share just because they think it is their knowledge to control. Gudbjorg is an adult, who has confronted her abuse, has worked through it in therapy and is trying to come to terms with it, so it is her secret to share with others.

It would be entirely different if we were talking about an ongoing situation or someone who needed help to deal with the abuse. If you do suspect a child is being abused, especially if it is a gut reaction, then don’t wave it aside. The majority of sexual abuse is ignored because adults would rather not confront a taboo or label someone by mistake. Believe me you will know, but our instinctive reaction is to ignore what we find impossible to believe. This is definitely the case when the abuser is a family member.

The other element of this tragic story that shines through is the relationship Gudbjorg has with her mother, and the question of whether she knew what was going on. I think Gudbjorg is well aware, after talking to friends and family many years after the fact, that her grandfather was a known abuser, which then leaves her with the difficult truth that her family left her in a vulnerable position. Her mother chose to ignore her instinct, and her family members turned a blind eye, because placing the truth on the table would have broken the family apart. Difficult to acknowledge, but often the case in family abuse and incest.

I think it is incredibly brave of Gudbjorg to speak out, even after all these years. I hope it brings her some peace and lessens the guilt. The guilt that doesn’t belong anywhere on her shoulders by the way. The drink didn’t make him do it, the grief didn’t make him do it, and I can guarantee you he had more victims than Gudbjorg realises.

All of that is irrelevant though, because the most important thing is that she was a child and he stole her childhood, her innocence and many first moments from her. It’s time she stopped letting him steal from her.

It’s a heartfelt and emotional journey. Kudos to Gudbjorg for sharing it and for looking for help.

Buy And The Swans Began to Sing at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for an other retailer.

Publisher: Wild Pressed Books (10th January 2019)

The Spy by Paulo Coelho

the-spyI think this is definitely a story worth telling. Mata Hari has been given quite a bad rap. Convicted and executed based on lies and circumstantial evidence.

You know what they say, if you repeat something often enough eventually it becomes the truth. The myth of Mata Hari is ten times bigger than the actual boring and yet also sordid truth.

The truth is she became a pawn in a political game during WW1. She was the means to an end to make sure a certain high profile individual could remain relevant and in a position of power. The only positive aspect of this tale of betrayal is that he got his dues soon after her death.

Coelho writes from her perspective and also from that of her lawyer. Their voices make the reader feel as if they are listening to them tell their story in a personal one-on-one setting.

What emerges is the tragedy of a young girl who was abused at an early age and who fled into the arms of an abusive husband. Then in the strict confines of a colonial lifestyle she lives through the murder of her child and subsequently the loss of her surviving child via a custody battle.

It really is no wonder she ends up embarking on a path of self-destructive behaviour. She equates attention and sex with love, because she has never experienced anything else. Reinventing her whole persona was a way of escaping the mundane, the pain and the stark reality of her life.

Coelho readily admits to changing the chronological order of quite a few events to suit the narrative. Some of those events, for instance the birth order of her children, made little sense but hey ho artistic license and all that.

Again, it’s time the great myth of the seductress and manipulative spy was dispelled. Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (Mata Hari) or Griet was a victim of circumstance and of the men who chose to use her as an object and a political tool.

After reading this I feel pity for her and also angered by the way the myth is still alive and well after all these years, but then perhaps Mata Hari would have preferred the mythical image. Margaretha perhaps not so much. She would probably have chosen not to be shot at dawn by a firing squad.

Buy The Spy at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

mata

Mata Hari

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam

carrying

Carrying Albert Home is essentially a love story, just not a conventional one. It is about a woman discovering her true love and a man understanding that to love a woman often means caring for something she holds close to her heart.

In Hickam’s case it is a nostalgic journey of memories and stories about and with his parents at the centre of it all.

For Elsie, Albert is the one thing that ties her to the man in her past. The man she believes she truly loves. It takes a long journey with an alligator, oh and the rooster, for her to discover the truth.

The people you leave behind in the past have been left there for a reason. Not only that, the grass always tends to be the same shade of green on the other side. Such a pity greener grass seekers don’t seem to understand that.

It is a light-hearted tale, a blend of fact, fiction and memories. For me it lacked a certain finesse.

The author’s notes at the end were quite fascinating. Even now he would love to hold any kind tangible evidence of some of the stories. Unfortunately he finds himself in the same position as most of us. Some parts of our parents lives will always remain a mystery to us.

Tales grow taller with the years and more dramatic by the minute. Little yarns spun to entertain us as children become the factual stories of the future. In this case however I am pretty sure there was an Albert. and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he managed to live to a grand old age after being carried home.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.