#Blogtour She, You, I by Sally Keeble

 It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour She, You, I by Sally Keeble

About the Author

Sally writes about the things she’s passionate about—the triumphs and tragedies of people’s everyday lives. It’s what originally took her into journalism and then politics, and keeps her active there still.

Growing up in a diplomatic family, she spent much of her early years in the USA, Switzerland and Australia, returning home to the UK after working as a journalist in South Africa. She made the switch from journalism to politics, first as a South London council leader during the turbulent 1980s and then as one of the big intake of Labour women MPs who changed the face of British politics in 1997. She became a minister in local government and then international development.

Itchy feet don’t stand still. After losing her seat, she set up an international development agency for the Anglican Communion, and travelled widely, especially in Africa and South Asia. She’s written nonfiction previously, especially on women’s issues and social policy, but “She, You, I” is her first novel. To learn about creative writing, she did courses with City Lit and Jericho Writers, and has had pieces of flash fiction shortlisted in competitions. 

Some of the storylines in “She, You, I” draw from insights gained from her personal and political life. Sally splits her time between Northampton, where she was MP, and Bawdsey, a village in coastal Suffolk close to her family roots. She and her husband Andrew have two adult children. Follow @Sally_Keeble on Twitter

About the book

When Skye Stanhope returns to her grandmother’s childhood home, she’s looking for the roots of her life story. Why her tough-minded granny Maisie ran away to war. And why her brilliant mother Isla died. Her search for the truth stretches across almost a century of conflict, peace, boomtime and bust, into the uneasy calm of post pandemic Britain.

“She, You, I” is the debut novel of Sally Keeble, a former journalist and MP. She has written non-fiction previously, focussing on social and feminist issues, and many of these themes run through her novel.

For Maisie, signing up to fight in the second world war provides a way to escape poverty and violence at home. But she finds herself caught up in new tragedy, and her unresolved grief is played out in the lives of her own daughters. It’s only in the third generation that her granddaughter Skye is able to heal the wounds. Woven through the women’s lives is Hsiao Ling, a seamstress whose ancestor disappeared in wartime France.

It’s an emotional journey, from a Scottish tenement to an airbase in wartime Suffolk, through London’s fashion and finance industries, to a coffee cart by the south coast. Through each woman’s story, “She, You, I” holds up a mirror to the complexity of family relationships and answers the question, How many generations does it take to recover from abuse.

For the author, “She, You, I” is a chance to explore in fiction some of the issues that she campaigned on during her time in politics. It shows how women’s lives have changed, and the challenges we’ve faced. It also tells a story of hope and reconciliation that aims to make readers laugh as well as cry.

Review

I have to admit it wasn’t what I expected or presumed it would be, which was a story about women, their loves, their children and grandchildren. A Catherine Cookson with plenty of upheaval and a fulfilling ending to the heartbreak and sorrow. Not that it wouldn’t have been a good read, but this is so much more.

The author picks apart the generational trauma that simmers quietly underneath and becomes evident in different ways, as the torch is passed through the decades and the changes in the world. How the love between mother and daughter can be both an unbreakable twine that defines their relationship, and simultaneously be a precarious string burdened by guilt, anger and disbelief. 

Also the way these emotions and trauma are passed on via the relationships, despite younger generations being unaware of said burden. The experiences of a child with their parent/s define the person they become and how they navigate their own lives, expectations and relationships moving forward.

I enjoyed the lack of drama, the way each era and daughter is written as their own scene and story almost. A staccato experience of chapters – Kodak moments of personalities and key moments or events. The author has captured the nuances and complexities with a brusque accuracy and also the often forgotten element of six degrees of separation. 

I really enjoyed it. I think it spoke to me because it didn’t focus on the reason for the destruction and cause of the trauma, but rather on the denial, coping mechanisms, and the way women have been taught to make do with the cards we are dealt. You made your bed, now you must lay in it. As the women in the family move beyond that mentality the strength and determination lets them create their intended path. Blood and family doesn’t mean loyalty and blind acceptance, especially if doing so means your own downfall.

Buy She, You, I at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Eleanor Press, pub date 11 Jan. 2023. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour One Woman’s War by Christine Wells

 It’s my turn on the Blogtour One Woman’s War by Christine Wells.

About the Author

Christine Wells writes historical fiction featuring strong, fascinating women. From early childhood, she drank in her father’s tales about the real kings and queens behind popular nursery rhymes and she has been a keen student of history ever since. She began her first novel while working as a corporate lawyer and has gone on to write about periods ranging from Georgian England to post World War II France.

Christine is passionate about helping other writers learn the craft and business of writing fiction and enjoys mentoring and teaching workshops whenever her schedule permits. She loves dogs, running, the beach and fossicking for antiques and lives with her family in Brisbane, Australia. Follow @ChristineWells0 on Twitter

About the book

From the author of Sisters of the Resistance comes the story of WWII British Naval Intelligence officer Victoire Bennett, the real-life inspiration for the James Bond character Miss Moneypenny, whose international covert operation is put in jeopardy when a volatile socialite and Austrian double agent threatens to expose the mission to German High Command.

World War II London: When Victoire “Paddy” Bennett first walks into the Admiralty’s Room 39, home to the Intelligence Division, all the bright and lively young woman expects is a secretarial position to the charismatic Commander Ian Fleming. But soon her job is so much more, and when Fleming proposes a daring plot to deceive the Germans about Allied invasion plans, he requests the newlywed Paddy’s help. She jumps at the chance to work as an agent in the field, even after the operation begins to affect her marriage. But could doing her duty for King and country come at too great a cost?

Socialite Friedl Stöttinger is a beautiful Austrian double agent determined to survive in wartime England, which means working for MI-5, investigating fifth column activity among the British elite at parties and nightclubs. But Friedl has a secret—some years before, she agreed to work for German Intelligence and spy on the British.

When her handler at MI-5 proposes that she work with Serbian agent, Duško Popov, Friedl falls hopelessly in love with the dashing spy. And when her intelligence work becomes fraught with danger, she must choose whether to remain loyal to the British and risk torture and execution by the Nazis or betray thousands of men to their deaths.

Soon, the lives of these two extraordinarily brave women will collide, as each travel down a road of deception and danger leading to one of the greatest battles of World War II

Review

I often wonder, especially after reading stories like this one, regardless of whether they are fictional or not, how many people are still bound by the Official Secrets Act and the operations they took part in during the war. How many secrets have died with brave people who risked everything for their country or did things in the name of patriotism.

How many men and women who just melded back into society as if nothing had ever happened, knowing that their stories who probably go untold forever. I think abiding by the rules of stumm is possibly even more impressive, than having a secret past as a spy, operative or an invisible face who steered events in a certain direction.

Paddy is used to a life of privilege and perhaps luckily also gifted with the talent of being able to improvise on the spot, which comes in handy when she is stranded on the other side of the channel on the cusp of France surrendering to the Nazi regime. A path that leads her into the inner sanctum of secret operatives fighting to keep the country and its people safe.

Simultaneously Friedl is being forced to choose between keeping her loved ones safe or betraying a country she knows little about. The women cross paths and are drawn into a dark world of suspicion, secrets and double bluffs.

It’s an interesting venture into historical war fiction. Fictional, and yet believable.

Buy One Woman’s War at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: William Morrow – Harper360, pub date 4 Oct 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour Ahead of the Shadows by A.B. Kyazze

It’s my turn on the Blogtour Ahead of the Shadows by A. B. Kyazze.

About the Author

A.B. Kyazze is a British–American writer and photographer. She spent nearly two decades writing and taking photographs around the world in conflicts and natural disasters – in Africa, Asia and Southern Europe. Her photographs and non-fiction work have been published in travel magazines, The Huffington Post, The Washington Times, The International Review of the Red Cross, and by Oxfam, Save the Children, and the British Red Cross. 

Into the Mouth of the Lion, A.B. Kyazze’s debut novel, was published in May 2021. Set in the final days of Angola’s civil war, it is the story of a young photographer looking for her missing sister in a very dangerous landscape. This is followed by Ahead of the Shadows, published in September 2022. Ahead of the Shadows is set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan (Darfur) and Paris. It is the continuing story of humanitarian workers labouring under intense conditions, and how this can strain relationships to breaking point. It is also about the impact on the next generation, and how one unconventional boy might be able to break the cycle. 

A.B. Kyazze has also published the Humanity in the Landscape photography book series, and a number of flash fiction short stories, articles and book reviews. Today, she lives in southeast London with her young family, writing, mentoring other writers, and running a freelance editing business. 

In May 2022 A.B. Kyazze was awarded a London Borough of Culture grant as part of the We Are Lewisham initiative, in order to facilitate creative writing workshops in schools and libraries. She is a trustee for a new creative writing charity, the Oxford Centre for Fantasy. Follow @abkwriting on Twitter

About the book

When a photographer witnesses war crimes, will she have to abandon her calling to save herself?

As Lena and Kojo work in conflicts across East and Central Africa, there is immense psychological pressure, and it’s not certain if their relationship will survive.

Eighteen years later, Bene walks the gritty back streets of Paris for one night in a music festival. He is on his way to meet his father in Kenya, a man he’s never met.

Ahead of the Shadows is about the intense relationships that come from work in war zones, the transmission of trauma from one generation to the next, and how one unconventional boy might be able to break the cycle.

Review

I recently read another book about a person who volunteered in a war zone and in deprived areas. I think it’s easy to experience awe in the presence of selflessness or when you are around someone who has ventured into the mouth of the beast. – I’d just like to point out that I know that sounds very much the response to white saviour actions, because it is in a way. The human beings who live in these situations and areas are often forgotten; despite the fact it is their reality.

This story, as does the first by this author, follows Lena, this time as she navigates the difficulty of working and volunteering in a war-torn country. It speaks to the trauma, the PTSD, the frustration and the helplessness people feel when they try to change the outcomes for so many vulnerable people and yet it is never enough.

Aside from the fear that becomes a constant companion there is also the apathy that sinks in after a while. The realisation that one person can do very little to change the status quo.

This time Lena connects in a variety of ways. She finds passionate love and simultaneously she feels deep guilt about leaving behind such pain and misery. The story for the reader begins with her son Bene starting his own journey to meet the father he has never met. 

It’s mixed bag of emotions, which have to be separated to some extent. There is the Lena who wants to change life for the victims of war, and then there is the Lena who has to make the best decision for herself – the two decisions overlap in no way other than Lena is on the middle of both scenarios.

The author opens the door to the uncomfortable and brutally frank moments behind the headlines the rest of the world often reads about but can never quite fathom what that means for victims or for the volunteers. It’s a topic with a wealth of information and a story that is a riveting read.

Buy Ahead of the Shadows at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Publisher‏: ‎Humanity in the Landscape Publishing; pub date 30 September 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour The Invisible by Michelle Dunne

 It’s my turn on the BlogTour – The Invisible by Michelle Dunne.

About the Author

Born and raised in the harbour town of Cobh, Co Cork, Michelle joined the Irish army at the age of 18, where she went from recruit to infantry soldier, to Peacekeeper with the UN, to instructor back home in Ireland.

During her time in Lebanon, she got to experience first-hand the camaraderie between soldiers and the sense of humour that got them all through some frightening situations. She also got to experience how ordinary families tried to live in conflict zones and these experiences have inspired so much of her work to date.

The Invisible is Michelle’s fourth book, but the second in The Lindsey Ryan series, following on from While Nobody is Watching, which is currently in development for television and inspired by her military experiences and the types of relationships that form within army ranks. Follow @NotDunneYet on Twitter, Visit michelledunnebooks.com

About the book

A migrant crisis. A corrupt harbour town. Who will stand for those who have become invisible to the rest of the world?

People have become one of the world’s most valuable commodities. Trafficked on the promise of a new life only to be hidden away as modern-day slaves. When Lena, a raped and badly beaten Syrian woman, literally falls into Lindsey Ryan’s life, she’s left with no choice but to find her part in this new war and play it as best she can.

But before she can work out a safe plan to get Lena away from her very own hell at the hands of Patrick Adebayo, Lindsey hears of an unconscious child being smuggled into Patrick’s building just two doors up. Despite having Patrick’s unwanted attention, she has to help the child and get Lena to safety regardless of the cost. In doing so, she finds herself face to face with the worst of humanity.

Added to her own private battle with PTSD, former soldier Lindsey Ryan is in a race against time and must once again fight for her life. But if she fails to protect those around her, what if anything, will that life be worth?

Review

This is a raw experience. There is no unicorn fluff to pad the brutal truth and soften the blow, which is what makes this a great read.

Lyndsey is followed by flashbacks, day mares linked to past trauma. It’s hard to keep them at bay in order to function, and yet they are also equally responsible for the inner ear that listens to the extra layer of gut instinct. 

Those instincts serve her well when she is tasked with dealing with the bottom-feeders who traffic the vulnerable and desperate. Lives are expendable and worth only what they can used for. The lives of children and young people included – something Lyndsey won’t turn a blind eye to.

Although the thriller and crime story in the midst of this is a good read, the world and character building of the main character is the more poignant element. It cocoons the story in its entirety, which is perhaps a metaphor in itself. When a person is dealing with PTSD it can become a tentacled being that wraps its arms around every interaction and situation, sometimes with disastrous results. Daily life can be a constant adapting of coping mechanisms.

Buy The Invisible at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: ‎ Bad Press Ink pub date 25 April 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour The Forgotten Promise by Paula Greenlees

 It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour The Forgotten Promise by Paula Greenlees.

About the Author

Paula has lived in various places, including Singapore, where she was based for three years. It was while living in Singapore that the first seeds of her debut novel, Journey to Paradise, developed. The crumbling buildings and the modern high-rises popping up almost overnight seemed to be a metaphor for the social diversity and change in Singapore at that time. However, as a young mother living there, she wondered what it must have been like as a post-war colonial wife living miles away from the familiarity of home. Despite the gloss and glamour of colonial living, women were frequently stuck in unhappy marriages, often unable to follow careers or have the independence to divorce if things went wrong – which they inevitably did. 

Her writing, although set against exotic backgrounds, is set on the cusp of change – the shift from colonial dominance to independence. She likes to dig into a variety of issues and her main protagonist is, in many ways, a metaphor for the political and social events surrounding her at that time. It isn’t always an easy journey, but in the end, success comes her way. 

The Forgotten Promise tells the story of Ella, a young Eurasian woman, whose life is turned upside down by the Japanese occupation of Malaya, and it is through her lens and that of Noor, her cook, that the narrative is revealed.

As for Paula – she has always wanted to be a writer. As a little girl she used to spend hours writing stories and turning them into books, even using flour and water as paste to stick the pages together.  She spent hours writing poetry and plays as a teenager and has always written short stories in her spare time. It is this need to write and a love of reading that led her to take a degree in English and European Thought and Literature, and later a Masters Degree in Creative Writing.

Apart from her writing, Paula hosts a regular author interview on her website. You can find out more about new and existing historical fiction authors, such as Liz Trenow, Frances Quinn and Louise Fein, by hitting the ‘author interview tab.’ 

As a writer, she feels it is important to have a wide range of interests – not only does it adds flavour and layering to prose, but allows it allows time for ideas to mull and to percolate. People watching in cafés is one, long walks is another. And food! Good food is essential to her and she loves to cook using the best ingredients she can find.  As well as a love of travel, she is a keen amateur photographer and her next trip takes her to Cambodia where she is hoping to discover an exciting hook for a new book – you can find out more about her progress there by following her on Instagram.

Paula has a grown up daughter and lives in Warwickshire with her husband and an extremely friendly Labrador. Follow @PGreenlees on Twitter, Visit paulagreenlees.com

About the book

Malaya, 1920: Two girls make a promise in the shadows of the jungle. A promise that life won’t let them easily keep.

Malaya, 1941: Ella is running her late father’s tin mine in the Kledang hills, while Noor works as her cook. When the war that felt so far away suddenly arrives on their doorstep, Ella is torn apart from her family. Her daughter Grace is left in Noor’s care as Japanese soldiers seize the mine.

Ella is forced to make an impossible choice that takes her to England, thousands of miles from home. She is desperate to be reunited with her loved ones. But will the life she returns to be anything like the life she left behind?

Review

We meet Ella as a child, when the first invisible boundaries between herself and her friend become visible to herself and others. Then later as she lives the life of a tin mine owner, her friend now the family cook. The two of them separated by social and class structures. As the story progresses we return to the two, who have had to make extremely difficult choices to ensure their survival as their home and country is invaded during WW2.

Although the title references the bond between two young girls and a promise they make in all innocence, it is also about the way we deal with curveballs in life. Adapt and survive. Making hard decisions, sometimes at the expense of others and often made in the moment.

Despite the fact Ella is Eurasian, she is very much a product of white colonisation and privilege. I think it is frequently evident in her reactions when she returns to Malaya – the lack of understanding of a place and people who have had to adjust to extreme conditions of an oppressed country.

The destruction, pain, torture and war crimes committed by the Japanese during WW2 often take a second place to the atrocities and warfare in Europe during the same period. This opens a small window to some of it, whilst maintaining the essence of the family saga and dynamics. It was a pleasure to read.

Buy The Forgotten Promise at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎ Penguin pub date 1 Sept. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#Review Two Storm Wood by Philip Gray

Recently featured on BBC2’s Between The Covers, this is a fantastic read!

About the Author

Philip studied modern history at Cambridge University, and went on to work as a journalist in Madrid, Rome and Lisbon. He has tutored in crime writing at City University in London and serves as a director at an award-winning documentary film company, specialising in science and history.

Philip’s grandfather was a captain in the Lancashire Fusiliers and fought through the First World War from start to finish, losing his closest friends along the way. Years after his death, Philip came across a cache of trench maps and military documents that his grandfather had kept, and in which he had recorded the events that befell his unit. Philip was inspired to write his thriller Two Storm Wood when the pull of his grandfather’s legacy felt too strong to ignore. Follow @PhilipGrayBooks on Twitter, Visit philipgraybooks.com

About the book

1919. On the desolate battlefields of northern France, the guns of the Great War are silent. Special battalions now face the dangerous task of gathering up the dead for mass burial.

Amy Vanneck’s fiancé is one soldier lost amongst many, but she is not ready to accept that his body may never be found. Defying convention, hardship and impossible odds, she heads to France, determined to discover what became of the man she loved.

Captain Mackenzie is a survivor of the war, but still its prisoner. He cannot return home until his fallen comrades are recovered and laid to rest. His task is upended when a gruesome discovery is made beneath the ruins of a of a German strongpoint.

It soon becomes clear that what Mackenzie has uncovered is a war crime of inhuman savagery. As the dark truth leaches, both he and Amy are drawn into hunt for a psychopath, one for whom the atrocity at Two Storm Wood is not an end, but a beginning.

Review

Amy is in limbo. Like many others who receive a MIA notification there is no closure and always an element of hope, despite the fact they know that their loved one is dead. Amy doesn’t want to accept the inevitable truth and sets out on a dangerous journey to find the truth – one way or the other.

In the ruins of human misery she finds more than she bargained for and Captain Mackenzie, a man who is unable to let go of this deeply ingrained sense of duty towards his fallen comrades. The two of them uncover a layer of depravity neither of them are prepared for. 

Leaving aside the main premise of this book, I want to take a moment to give the author credit for the aspect of the war he uses to frame the essence of the story. I have read many books on the war, both the Great War and WW2, and they tend to concentrate on the combat, pre-war and post-war, but post-war as life unfolds afterwards. Not many focus on the aftermath and the actual reality of death and the dead, the fields and land strewn with the remains of the dead.

Rotting corpses, pieces of human beings, sometimes not even that. Often the only link to identity would be an item that hadn’t decomposed and become part of the fabric of the land forever. There is hardly a mention of the soldiers and civilians tasked with ensuring as many victims of the war were identified. This aspect of the story is exceptional – just saying.

I wouldn’t hesitate to return to this author. I really enjoyed the style, the scene setting, and the ability to create this level of magical realism drenched in horror and built upon a layer of factual reality. You can feel the fear, the pain and the sorrow – and that’s without even venturing into the core of the plot.

Buy Two Storm Wood at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Harvill Secker pub date 13 Jan. 2022. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Harvill Secker.

#BlogTour A Gypsy in Auschwitz by Otto Rosenberg

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour A Gypsy in Auschwitz by Otto Rosenberg, as told to Ulrich Enzensberger and translated by Maisie Musgrave.

About the Author

Otto Rosenberg was born in East Prussia in 1927 and grew up in Berlin. He was 9 when he was sent to the Roma and Sinti camp in Marzahn, ahead of the 1936 Olympic Games, and 15 when he was sent to Auschwitz. He was then detained in Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps before being freed in 1945. 

In later years, Rosenberg was the chairman of the Regional Association of German Sinti and Romanies Berlin-Brandenburg and fathered seven children. He passed away in 2001.

Otto’s daughter, Petra Rosenberg, is the current Director of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma Berlin-Brandenburg.

About the book

Otto Rosenberg is 9 and living in Berlin, poor but happy, when his family are first detained. All around them, Sinti and Roma families are being torn from their homes by Nazis , leaving behind schools, jobs, friends, and businesses to live in forced encampments outside the city. One by one, families are broken up, adults and children disappear or are ‘sent East’.

Otto arrives in Auschwitz aged 15 and is later transferred to Buechenwald and Bergen-Belsen. He works, scrounges food whenever he can, witnesses and suffers horrific violence and is driven close to death by illness more than once. Unbelievably, he also joins an armed revolt of prisoners who, facing the SS and certain death, refuse to back down. Somehow, through luck, sheer human will to live, or both, he survives.

The stories of Sinti and Roma suffering in Nazi Germany are all too often lost or untold. In this haunting account, Otto shares his story with a remarkable simplicity. Deeply moving, A Gypsy in Auschwitz is the incredible story of how a young Sinti boy miraculously survived the unimaginable darkness of the Holocaust.

Review

Otto is a mere nine years of age when he and his family are ripped from the comfort of their community and forced to fight to survive in the Marzahn camp. A labour camp with no housing or facilities that was filled with Sinti and Roma. They were targeted with a similar frenzy as the Jews were, because of their alleged racial impurity.

This is the story of a young boy who managed to survive the most vicious and deadly of concentration camps. A child who lost his family and friends, and yet despite his age was brave enough to try and stand up for himself and others by joining a revolt against his captors.

It’s not unusual for someone who has suffered extreme trauma to disassociate themselves from the events, which is why autobiographies and first-hand accounts can sometimes appear a little to be told or written with a lack of emotion. It’s a coping mechanism, keeping the memories and distress at bay, whilst making sure loved ones and victims are never forgotten.

What’s equally important is the intergenerational trauma – epigenetic trauma is fascinating and tragic. Imagine being so traumatised that it seeps into the very fabric of your being, your chemistry even. Post-war Holocaust generations are aware of this and the impact, despite often never being privy to the real details and finer details of said trauma.

It remains vital that the stories of Holocaust survivors are told and heard, regardless of whether they are alive or not. Documentation, eyewitness accounts and first-hand stories are pivotal, as the years pass and the younger generations are introduced to either a whitewashed version, alternative facts such as ludicrous denials or simply no information at all. 

I have read a lot of Holocaust accounts, and am simultaneously disappointed and disturbed that there are still so many facts and stories hidden in the folds of history. The Roma and Sinti persecution tends to stand in the shadow of the other persecuted groups. I think what really rattled my cage about Otto’s account was recognising the bureaucracy of the German nation, which is still a foundation of their structure today. The bureaucracy that stops the nomad community from receiving their financial dues, ergo still oppressing them with the efficiency of the Nazi party. 

The way they meticulously transcribed everything, and as we can see in this book those records and the use of that data, become relevant and remaining so for many years afterwards. Also that the way these war criminals, and they are criminals, just slid into important roles in every industry in the post-war era. No punishment or accountability, instead the victims were victimised further by having to watch the guilty live without the burden of trauma, and what’s worse they have to live with the murderers among them.

It’s an important read – one that should be taught in school and one we should be telling and retelling, so Otto and his experience never fall foul of the system that forgets and history that swallows up the voices of so many innocents. I won’t forget Otto, his family or his community.

Buy A Gypsy in Auschwitz at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour #IWM Mr Bunting at War by Robert Greenwood

It’s my turn on the BlogTour Mr Bunting at War by Robert Greenwood, it’s another novel in the Wartime Classics series by the Imperial War Museum. Mr Bunting at War will cost £8.99. It is published by IWM and can be pre-ordered at their online shop here: Mr-Bunting-at-War-(IWM-Wartime-Classic)

Written in 1941, the novel itself is very much of its time and thus extremely patriotic in its depiction of the reaction to the Blitz, as well as showing Mr Bunting’s own fears.

Both the book and the film were propagandist, depicting an ordinary family living on the outskirts of London and ‘sticking it out’ during the Blitz. However they also importantly demonstrate the significance of the home front in the wider narrative of the Second World War; a microcosm of suffering and sacrifice, and an illustration of the resilience it takes to make it through. – Alan Jeffreys, 2022

About the Author

Robert Greenwood ((1897 – 1981) was a novelist and writer. His first novel depicted the family and working life of the eponymous Mr Bunting (1940). His next novel, Mr Bunting at War (1941), continued this story in the first two years of the Second World War.

Mr Bunting at War was subsequently made into a film the following year entitled Salute John Citizen (1942), which proved tremendously popular at the box office. Greenwood’s other novel about the war was The Squad Goes Out (1943), which depicted the work of a voluntary ambulance squad during the London Blitz. 

Greenwood wrote eleven novels in total as well as a number of short stories, including Mr Bunting in the Promised Land (1949) which tells the story of the Bunting family in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. He died in 1981.

About the book

George Bunting, businessman, husband and father, lives a quiet life at home in Labournam Villa in Essex, reading about the progress of the war in his trusty newspaper and heading to work every day at the same time to the warehouse where he has been employed for his entire adult life.

Viewed with an air of amusement by his children, Mr Bunting’s war efforts subsist mainly of ‘digging for victory’ and erecting a dugout in the garden. But as the Second World War continues into the summer of 1940, the Battle of Britain rages in the skies and the bombs begin to rain down on London, this bumbling ‘everyman’ is forced to confront the true realities if the conflict. He does so with remarkable stoicism, imbuing him with a quiet dignity.

Review

I kinda think this is an interesting one, especially when you read the introduction. Given the timeline of Britain first being in the so-called Phoney War, ergo becoming perhaps a little complacent and thinking that everything would be an easy ride, then entering the Second World War in earnest with the subsequent losses and difficulties – it puts this story into perspective.

Essentially a propaganda piece to keep moral high and present the kind of enduring, strong and fearless family, who live duty to country before all other things – what could be more convincing to the readers. In the first year of engagement the in country fatalities were higher than out of country. The importance of people left at home keeping everything running and support systems in place was paramount to the defense strategy.

Even taking all of the above into consideration, the story of the Bunting family and very much Mr Bunting, is also one about coping mechanisms. Often Mr Bunting reacts with denial to the events happening around him. Living in a bubble of self-deception is a way of keeping the trauma, the fear and the reality of their situation at bay. 

Keeping a stiff upper-lip and a ‘everything for my country’ stance is perhaps also the only way to keep the pain of personal tragedy from breaking an individual.

Buy Mr Bunting at War at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏:  Imperial War Museum pub date 21 April 2022. Buy at Imperial War Museum.

#BlogTour The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

‘From the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir comes an unforgettable story inspired by the true events of a BBC-sponsored wartime cooking competition.’ It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan.

About the Author

Jennifer Ryan is the author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. She lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. Originally from Kent and then London, she was previously a non-fiction book editor. Follow @JenniferiRyan on Twitter

About the book

Two years into the Second World War, and German U-boats are frequently disrupting Britain’s supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio programme called The Kitchen Front launches a new cooking contest – and the grand prize is a job as the programme’s first-ever female co-host.

For young widow Audrey, winning the competition could be a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. However, her estranged sister, Gwendoline, is equally set on success even if her own kitchen maid, Nell, is competing against her. And then there is Zelda, a London-trained chef desperate to succeed in a male-dominated profession – and harbouring a secret that will change everything . . .

Review

This story is fiction woven with facts, based loosely on programmes the BBC actually had during wartime and times of rationing. In an attempt to teach people how to create meals from less a cooking competition is started and includes four very different women who are determined to win. One of those women is the young mother and recently widowed Audrey.

Winning would mean being able to take care of her already vulnerable children, and you would think that her family would line up to be her biggest supporter, well everyone except for her sister who also has her mind set on winning. What follows is a healthy, funny and often emotional race to the finishing line.

The book is filled with the connection to food, the love of the one thing that brings all people together. My parents are ration babies and my father in particular has many stories to tell, and he is also capable of whipping up a meal out of anything at all. The most basic of ingredients with a tenfold ways of creating nourishing food.

The story is filled with the spirit of sisterhood and friendship, even though it takes a while to get there for some. The trauma of the times they live in call for extraordinary measures, and I think a lot of those have never really left certain countries. Stories are passed on, as are memories, and more importantly those ways and attempts to unify, comfort and support have been passed on also.

It’s contemporary read, despite the fact it is historical fiction. The important elements of humanity, friendship and even the more nuanced aspects of rivalry and competitions, all of these things resonate now as they did then. 

Ryan writes a jolly good yarn, one readers can connect with, whilst drawing parallels and feasting on memories and nostalgia. A Home Fires vibe, mixing the staunch upper lip and iron will to survive and persevere with the devastation of loss, change and new beginnings. It’s a read I think many will enjoy.

Buy The Kitchen Front at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Pan; 3 Mar. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite Clayton

 It’s my turn on the BlogTour The Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite Clayton.

About the Author

Meg Waite Clayton is a New York Times bestselling author of six novels, most recently Beautiful Exiles. Her previous novels include the Langum Prize–honored The Race for Paris; The Language of Light, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction (now the PEN/Bellwether); and The Wednesday Sisters, one of Entertainment Weekly’s 25 Essential Best Friend Novels of all time. 

She has also written for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes, and public radio, often on the subject of the particular challenges women face. Follow @MegWClayton on Twitter, Visit megwaiteclayton.com

About the book

The New York Times bestselling author of The Last Train to London revisits the dark early days of the German occupation in France in this haunting novel—a love story and a tale of high-stakes danger and incomparable courage—about a young American heiress who helps artists hunted by the Nazis escape from war-torn Europe.

Wealthy, beautiful Naneé was born with a spirit of adventure that transcends her Midwestern roots. For her, learning to fly is freedom. When German tanks roll across the border and into Paris, this woman with an adorable dog and a generous heart joins the resistance. Known as the Postmistress because she delivers information to those in hiding, Naneé uses her charms and skill to house the hunted and deliver them to safety.

Inspired by the real life Chicago heiress Mary Jayne Gold, who worked with American journalist Varian Fry to smuggle artists and intellectuals out of France, Meg Waite Clayton has fashioned a sweeping tale of romance and danger, set in a world aflame with personal and political passion. The Postmistress of Paris is the haunting story of an indomitable woman whose strength, bravery, and love is a beacon of hope in a time of terror.

Review

Naneé is woman who loves being one with the air and nature, and yet simultaneously also enjoys the way others embrace and then express the way they perceive life. As the evil ideology of the Nazi regime slowly encroaches upon her life and the lives of those around her, she makes a choice. She becomes part of the solution and part of the resistance.

A story born from an inspirational story leading into and during World War 2. The author takes that inspiration and creates an emotional, caring story around it. It’s not just about love, it’s about endurance and being willing to go that extra mile under extreme circumstances for the people you love or in this case people who are stuck in the eye of a deadly storm. The courage of individuals sometimes leaves the smallest footprint, but makes the most lasting and important impression.

It’s historical fiction with plenty of amusing and endearing moments, whilst giving the historical importance of this period in time due diligence. It also opens the door into less often discussed events during this period, especially in regards to the attitude and position towards the creative arts and their creators. 

Buy The Postmistress of Paris at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎ Harper pub date 30 Nov. 2021. Buy at Amazon com. At Harper Collins.