The After Wife by Cass Hunter

The After Wife

My enormous thanks to Alainna Hadjigeorgiou at Orion for sending me a copy of The After Wife in return for an honest review and to her and Tracy Fenton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

Published by Trapeze, an imprint of Orion, The After Wife is available for purchase here.

The After Wife

The After Wife

“I saw you, and I knew instantly that I could grow old with you. We’d be future-proof.”

When Rachel and Aidan fell in love, they thought it was forever.
She was a brilliant, high-flying scientist. He was her loving and supportive husband.
Now she’s gone, and Aidan must carry on and raise their daughter alone.
But Rachel has left behind her life’s work, a gift of love to see them through the dark days after her death.

A gift called iRachel.

The After Wife is an emotional story about love, loss, longing and belonging. For readers who loved The Time Traveller’s WifeMe Before You and The Lovely Bones.

My Review of The After Wife

When Rachel dies, she hasn’t quite finished with husband Aiden and daughter Chloe.

My goodness me. What a book! Now, I must admit, The After Wife wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I thought I’d be reading very successful ‘women’s fiction’ and I was, but there are so many more layers to this story and so many ways in which it can be appreciated and enjoyed that I think it is quite brilliant. I hadn’t quite reckoned on the potent power of the artificial intelligence side of the writing so that I felt Cass Hunter has produced a modern, humane and totally convincing tale worthy of being compared with the very best of Isaac Asimov or Margaret Atwood, for example. I was entertained by the narrative, and highly emotionally invested in the characters, but I didn’t realise The After Wife would make me think quite so much too. As a result of reading this book I really had to question what it is that makes us human and gives us our unique identity.

And the identities of the characters are so well drawn. Cass Hunter knows exactly how grief can manifest itself and paints a compelling and affecting picture as Aiden and Chloe come to grips with Rachel’s death. I believed in every aspect of them as people and every action they carried out. Even the more peripheral characters like Jess are clear and realistic, but it is iRachel who is the most hypnotic. I couldn’t quite believe how Cass Hunter was able to manipulate my feelings towards what is, in effect, a pre-programmed robot. I wanted iRachel to succeed as she became as real to me as any character I have ever read about.

The After Wife has a hugely entertaining and interesting plot. Cynically I was expecting it to be somewhat unrealistic. It was, instead, completely convincing.  However, I feel the plot is almost incidental to the exploration of the themes of love, identity and humanity. The writing is poignant and beautifully crafted so that I felt as if I were part of the story too because my emotions were so invested in the people and outcomes. I confess I cried and had iRachel had a wrist band to monitor my heart rate she’d have had a very wide range of data to process!

I absolutely loved The After Wife. It’s such a compelling insight into who we are, what makes us human and how our lives need to be lived to the full. I’d defy anyone reading The After Wife not to look at themselves and their own relationships differently. It will resonate in my life for a very long time. I thought it was fabulous.

About Cass Hunter

cass

Cass Hunter was born in South Africa and moved to the UK in 2000. She lives in North London with her husband and two sons. She is an avid lifelong learner, and works at a London university. Cass Hunter is the pen name of Rosie Fiore, whose novels include After Isabella, What She Left, Babies in Waiting and Wonder Women.

You can follow Cass on Twitter @C_HunterAuthor or as Rosie Fiore and visit her website for more details.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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The Fake Date by Lynda Stacey

The Fake Date

My enormous thanks to Lynda Stacey for an advanced reader copy of The Fake Date, her new psychological thriller, in return for an honest review. I have been lucky enough to meet Lynda in person and to feature her on Linda’s Book Bag before so I was delighted to have the opportunity to read The Fake Date. Previously, Lynda wrote a fascinating guest post about her protagonist when House of Secrets was published that you can read here and I was privileged to interview Lynda here when she released House of Christmas Secrets.

Published by Ruby Fiction on 18th September 2018, The Fake Date is available for pre-order through the links here.

The Fake Date

The Fake Date

Nine hours and eleven minutes …

That’s how long it’s been since Ella Hope was beaten to within an inch of life and left for dead.

She lies, unable to move and praying for somebody to find her, as she counts down the minutes and wonders who could have hated her so much to have hurt her so badly.

Was it the man she went on a date with the previous evening, the man linked to the deaths of two other women?

Or somebody else, somebody who wants her out of the picture so much they’re willing to kill?

Whoever it is, they will pay. All Ella has to do first is survive …

My Review of The Fake Date

Brutally beaten and almost dead, Ella is determined to survive.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Fake Date because, although it starts in the aftermath of considerable violence to Ella, it has a greater subtlety and menace throughout than just overt violence, especially through the first person italicised sections as we are kept guessing as to the identity of the person behind them. They contrast so well with the third person structure of the rest of the story. The atmospheric references to nature too, give a satisfying balance adding light and shade to the story.

The Fake Date has an exciting plot, particularly as it reaches its denouement and right to the end I wasn’t quite sure what might happen. There are several surprises along the way making for a really engaging read, but it’s difficult to say too much without spoiling the story for others. I also enjoyed the romantic elements that give an extra dimension to the thriller aspects so that there is something for all readers to enjoy in this story.

Lynda Stacey cleverly weaves in the psychological features so that the reasons for the way the characters behave are gradually uncovered. I liked the sensitivity with which she outlined how Ella’s experience created more than physical scars for her life and those around her. I got a clear picture of how crimes ripple and affect so many, not just their immediate victims and the perpetrators, so that reading The Fake Date gave me much to ponder as well as being very entertaining. Again, it’s difficult to say too much about the characters as they are so integral to the plot, but each person is an important element and together they lead to a very satisfying narrative.

What I most enjoyed about The Fake Date, however, was the exploration of the way society behaves, particularly through newspapers and reporters. I thoroughly appreciated the depiction of a character like Bobby, or the manipulative court room scene, or the dynamics between genders because I felt Lynda Stacey was shining a highly realistic and convincing spotlight on what, sadly, does happen in the real world.

The Fake Date is such an enjoyable and engaging read on so many levels that I’m sure every reader will find an aspect that grips them. I can recommend it!

About Lynda Stacey

Lynda Stacey

Lynda, is a wife, step-mother and grandmother, she grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire.

She is currently the Sales Director of a stationery, office supplies and office furniture company in Doncaster, where she has worked for the past 25 years. Prior to this she’d also been a nurse, a model, an emergency first response instructor and a PADI Scuba Diving Instructor … and yes, she was crazy enough to dive in the sea with sharks, without a cage. Following a car accident in 2008, Lynda was left with limited mobility in her right arm. Unable to dive or teach anymore, she turned to her love of writing, a hobby she’d followed avidly since being a teenager.

Her own life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.

Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit & Whole Story Audiobooks Search for a Star competition.

She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her ‘hero at home husband’, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for over 20 years.

You can follow Lynda on Twitter @LyndaStacey, find her on Facebook and visit her website.

An Extract from Charley’s Woods by Charles Duff

Charlies Woods

As I have literally hundreds of books offered to me for review I have had to force myself to be honest and say that I simply can’t review until my TBR has reduced somewhat.

Today I am featuring one of those books that I so wanted to accept and read; Charley’s Woods: Sex, Sorrow and a Spiritual Quest in Snowdonia. I think this autobiography by Charles Duff and published by Zuleika sounds absolutely riveting and if the extract I have to share with you is anything to go by, I’ll be adding Charley’s Woods to that mountainous TBR very shortly, despite my best intentions!

Charley’s Woods is available for purchase through the publisher Zuleika and on Amazon.

Charley’s Woods

Charlies Woods

Charles Duff grew up in many worlds at once. Like an enfilade, one led into another, but each was distinct and self-contained. At his family’s country house, Vaynol, Royalty mingled with eccentric relations and glamorous socialites, supported by a colourful ensemble cast of cooks, nannies and butlers.

In London, Charley met his father’s boyfriends and his mother’s lesbian lovers, as well as leading artists, musicians and directors. Through the theatre, he discovered his vocation in academia and teaching.

But these worlds did not co-exist in harmony. As the estate faced ruin and his parents’ marriage fell apart, Charley’s relationship with his family festered. He was known to be adopted, and speculation about his identity fanned rumours that many still believe today. This exquisitely vivid memoir draws a detailed and unidealised picture of the fascinating spheres Charles Duff has inhabited. But more than anything, Charley’s Woods is the moving account of the personal and spiritual development of an adopted son: a touching meditation on class, culture and the search for a sense of belonging.

An Extract frof Charley’s Woods

PROLOGUE

THE MINIATURE

My mother’s lover, a one-time actress called Audry Carten, had given my father miniatures of my mother and myself by an eminent miniaturist. On receiving them, my father had separated the portraits. The first he put on the mantelpiece of one of the two fireplaces in the drawing room; the other, into the drawer of a desk in the small toile-de-jouy-lined morning room. Also in the drawer was a torn piece of paper, on which was written in ballpoint pen, ‘Charles David Duff’. The boy in the portrait: me. I was a solitary child in a big house, and solitary children in big houses know where things are. Solitary children in big houses wander, and they learn the contents of drawers and cupboards.

There was another piece of paper with my name on it in the drawer of a small occasional table in the morning room, and yet another in the more ornate desk in the hexagonal white and gold room next door. I was seven years old and I knew quite well to whom the handwriting belonged.

The occasions were rare that I had any contact with this very tall man with a stutter, ‘Daddy’, who seemed most unlike anyone else’s daddy.

Once, when I was tiny, he and I went for a long walk (or a walk which seemed long because it was so awkward) over the sands of Red Wharf Bay. I kept up a babble of infant chatter: firing questions to get answers, and answers indeed there came, bored and increasingly irritated. Once, he and my governess Moussia had come to see me play Mr. Badger in a scene from Toad of Toad Hall at Hill House pre-prep school, but by the time I had taken off my badger costume and gone out among the audience, he had left.

The only time I had been alone in a room with him was when I was five or six, ill in bed at Vaynol, our large, white, featureless house in North Wales. My mother was in London, and he had come into my bedroom with a glass of brandy which he suggested I drink: ‘Always good for tummies.’ I did and it was.

That year too I had been bought an ashtray (as if there weren’t enough of those already at Vaynol) to give him as a present for Easter. I was dispatched to hand it to him as he talked to guests in the rose garden in the spring sun. He had looked at me coldly, then turned his back and continued talking, leaving me still holding the ashtray.

Only once did he appear at, or was he invited to, my mother’s house, 56 Paultons Square, Chelsea. He came up to my nursery and sat on the piano stool, wearing his overcoat – had he just arrived or was he just leaving? I imitated his stutter, which seemed to me a friendly way to reach out to him, and he went white with anger while Moussia went red with embarrassment.

‘Never make fun of Daddy’s stammer,’ he said. Somehow I sensed that this was it. A line of no return had been crossed and I would never be forgiven.

Audry Carten (thirteen years older than my mother, not as beautiful but bursting with artistry, with a long face like a foal’s, fluffed-up brown hair and pale blue understanding eyes behind thick horn-rimmed spectacles) must have spent a considerable amount of her little money to commission the portraits. As my mother’s real partner, she always strove to maintain a good feeling with the nice queer man who had become the other point of the triangle. Michael told everyone that he had had no idea of Audry’s existence when he married my mother Caroline in 1949, but this, like much he said, was untrue. All the rest of their world knew. They had been together for fourteen years, since my mother was twenty-one and Audry thirty-four. Audry tried to play her part in the unconventional set-up with tact, hence the present of the portraits.

I took out my picture from the drawer and placed it on the mantelpiece next to my mother’s. Within hours it was back in the drawer again.

My father’s intention was not clarified until my teenage years, when I read Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love and learnt of Uncle Matthew’s belief in the consequence of putting names in drawers. But I remember thinking then, with a gut-twist of shock and misery, ‘Why does this man wish me dead?’

(Do you see what I mean? Isn’t this the most engaging start to an autobiography?)

About Charles Duff

charles duff

Charles Duff was born in 1949. His first book, The Lost Summer, was a history of the West End in the 1940s and 1950s. He is an actor, a lecturer in Shakespeare and theatre history, and a contributor to the national press on arts-related subjects. He has lived between Los Angeles, London, Paris and Tangier and he is now a Brother of the London Charterhouse.

A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes

A Little Bird Told Me

My enormous thanks to Oliver Wearing at Agora Books for sending me a copy of A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes in return for an honest review. I wasn’t actually going to read this one next but I happened to pick it up and …

A Little Bird Told Me will be published by Agora books on 13th September and is available for pre-order here.

A Little Bird Told Me

A Little Bird Told Me

Besides, if you were one half evil, wouldn’t you want to know about the other half?

In the scorching summer of 1976, Robyn spends her days swimming at the Lido and tagging after her brother. It’s the perfect holiday – except for the crying women her mum keeps bringing home.

As the heatwave boils on, tensions in the town begin to simmer. Everyone is gossiping about her mum, a strange man is following her around, and worst of all, no one will tell Robyn the truth. But this town isn’t good at keeping secrets…

Twelve years later Robyn returns home, to a house that has stood empty for years and a town that hasn’t moved on, forced to confront the mystery that haunted her that summer.

And atone for the part she played in it.

My Review of A Little Bird Told Me

From 1976 to 1988, Robyn has a past to deal with.

Oh yes! Fantastic! A Little Bird Told me is exactly my kind of read. It truly is fabulous. I consumed it greedily over 24 hours because I simply couldn’t tear myself away. I love it when a book makes me put my life on hold to read it.

Firstly, the quality of Marianne Holmes’ writing is superb. She creates an oppressive and threatening atmosphere through the heat of 1976, and the lurking past that permeates the action set in 1988, so that I felt quite tense at times. The plot is just wonderfully crafted. It’s rather like a Japanese puzzle box as each element is linked with and unlocked by another part making for an enormously satisfying read. I won’t spoil it for others but I will say that I felt as if I were part of the action as information is so deliciously withheld and tantalisingly revealed, making me feel like Robyn, Kit and Neil at times as they come to realise the full truth.

I loved too, the unity of place, so that A Little Bird Told Me feels perfectly harmonious whilst simultaneously being menacing, claustrophobic and gripping. I think this is incredibly skilful writing, especially when balanced with the lighter moments that come, for example, through Debbie’s malapropisms. The dual time frame is perfectly poised too.

The characters are masterly. Each one, regardless of their intentions, is flawed in some way, making them utterly human and lifelike. Having finished reading A Little Bird Told Me I want to know what is happening in their lives now because I can’t bear to leave them behind as mere characters in a book. I think they will all, especially Robyn and Kit, linger in my thoughts for a very long time.

I adored the way in which Marianne Holmes explores individual truths and intentions. She illustrates perfectly how a small lie, a partial truth and half revealed information has a far wider impact than might at first be imagined. I thought the title A Little Bird Told Me reflected the way the town existed on rumour and hearsay so aptly.

I fear A Little Bird Told Me may be a book that is overlooked because it doesn’t come from a big publisher but that would be an enormous shame. A Little Bird Told Me is superb and deserves to be acclaimed and admired for the absolute gem it is. I adored every word. Just buy it!

About Marianne Holmes

Marianne Holmes

Marianne Holmes was born in Cyprus to RAF parents but is now firmly based in London. After a sensible career in marketing, Marianne has come home to her love of language and writing.

A Little Bird Told Me is her first novel.

You can find out more by visiting Marianne’s website and following her on Twitter @MarianneHAuthor.

Family Secrets: the Inspiration behind Rosemary in Bloom by Khristy Reibel

Rosemary in Bloom

I’ve had to be really strict with myself of late and not accept new books for review until I have got my TBR reduced, but oh my goodness, I think I shall have to make an exception for Rosemary in Bloom by Khristy Reibel. Khristy has written an absolutely intriguing guest post about the background to Rosemary in Bloom that I am delighted to share with you today. When you’ve read it you’ll know why I’ll be adding Rosemary in Bloom to my TBR…

Published by Open Books, Rosemary in Bloom is available for purchase here.

Rosemary in Bloom

Rosemary in Bloom

What if war separated you from your true love? What if you married the wrong man? What if the power of love brought you together again?

When Rosemary meets Albert it is instant chemistry. But it is also the summer of 1942, and scores of young men—Albert included—feel compelled to enlist to fight the war against Hitler. Albert wants to marry Rosemary before he leaves for Europe, but she just can’t commit. Like so many young women of her time, Rosemary finds herself left behind to work and worry, desperate for love but frightened of abandonment.

Three years later, and with Albert’s fate still unknown, Rosemary meets Harry, a charming and handsome man. Rosemary feels guilty for spending so much time with Harry, but she has all but lost faith that Albert will make it safely back home, especially when she receives news of her brother’s serious combat injury. Should she wait for Albert, or settle for second best?

Inspired by a true story, Rosemary in Bloom explores faith, forgiveness, enduring love against all odds, and the difficult decisions that strong, smart women on the home front had to make during World War II.

Family Secrets: the Inspiration behind Rosemary in Bloom

A Guest Post by Khristy Reibel

Every family has its stories: some funny, some heart-warming,and some that aren’t spoken but edge on consciousness. My grandparents held these stories that spurred my imagination.  My novel, Rosemary in Bloom, was inspired by their unspoken lives. The story follows Albert and Rosemary as they navigate the landscape of World War II and the aftermath.

When I was little, maybe six years old, my grandfather was sitting in his undershirt and I saw an ugly purple scar on his shoulder. It was gnarled and twisted.  When I asked him what it was, he replied, “An old injury.”  My mom later told me not to ask him about it because he got it in the war and didn’t like to talk about it. He died as I was learning about World War II, so I never got to ask him more about it.

When I was older, I would hang out with my grandma and drink beers. By this time, I knew that she had been married before my grandpa and that she had gotten divorced in the 1940’s, which was practically unheard of, especially in a Catholic family. The more she drank, the more she talked about her life in the 1940’s. I was hooked. She brought out pictures that I had never seen of her as a young woman. She was beautiful. I also got to read the only letter she kept from my grandpa when he was fighting in WWII. His words introduced me to a man I didn’t recognize— passionate and loving. I asked my grandma what happened. She said, “I wrote him a Dear John letter.”  I told her someone should write a book about her life.

So I did. Most of the details of Streator, IL are based upon my grandmother’s memories. Some of these places still exist in my hometown, and I went to them to put myself in Rosemary’s shoes.  For places that no longer existed, and to learn more about events that happened in town during WWII and after, I visited the Streator Historical Society. War bond drives, parades, the Cantina at the train depot that served troops heading to war – so many things I did not know about were preserved in photographs. The support Streator showed to our country during the war was not unique; it was happening in towns all across America. I felt inspired to share this rich patriotic history to others who, like me, may be unaware of how their towns had captured the spirit of love for one’s country.

Albert’s story was more difficult. My grandma had his bronze star and Purple Heart medals, but no information on where he had fought during the war. Since he never spoke to my grandma or any of his children about his experience in the war, I was at an impasse. I had no idea where to start. All I had was the letter my grandma saved. Written on Red Cross stationary, dated March 15, 1945, my grandfather wrote that he was somewhere in England. With a bit of luck and help from the internet, I came across a book written about the 304th Infantry. My grandpa was listed there as a Staff Sargent in Charlie Company who was the recipient of a Purple Heart. My heart skipped a beat when I saw his name in print, and I used this book as an outline for the movement of his unit and the battles they engaged in. Writing the chapters about my grandpa were very easy, as if he were helping me to write them.

Before my grandma passed away in 2011, she read the first two parts of the novel. With a wry smile, she said, “I don’t know about that Rosie character.”  Since my grandma was not emotional, I expressed emotions that I would have felt if I were in her situation. The character is a combination of my grandma and me.

Since this story was inspired by real people, I received some negative feedback from a few relatives when they previewed the story. My aunt, whose father was my grandma’s first husband, was upset at the portrayal of her father. I explained that he was based off of my imagination and was not intended to resemble the real man. My grandpa’s sister was shocked to discover that my grandpa and grandma knew each other before the war. Apparently, Albert implied that they met after. Oops… I spilled that secret!

The stories our families carry are fascinating, and often the most interesting are those that are not spoken. My grandparents’ secrets inspired me to write my novel, Rosemary in Bloom, revealing the hard decisions that had to be made during World War II and that love can endure anything. That’s what I took away from their story— the love that endured. In this way, Rosemary and Albert live on.

(Thank you so much Khristy, for such a fascinating  – and revealing – guest post. You have so stirred my interest in Rosemary in Bloom as I think it sounds just my kind of book.)

About Khristy Reibel

Khristy

Now living in Las Vegas, Khristy Reibel grew up in rural Illinois and is still a Midwestern girl at heart. After graduating high school, she attended the University of Illinois where she received a B.S. in Marketing, which enabled her to hone her writing skills by creating advertising copy for a trade show company. In 2008, she enrolled at UNLV and later graduated with an M.Ed. In addition to writing, she now teaches high school English and German. She believes that teaching students to support their ideas in writing is the most important skill she can help them to learn.

You can follow Khristy on Twitter @KhristyReibel.

England’s Lane by Emma Woolf

England's Lane

My enormous thanks to Samuel Woolliscroft at Three Hares Publishing for sending me a copy of England’s Lane by Emma Woolf in return for an honest review.

England’s Lane was published by Three Hares on 2nd July 2018 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

England’s Lane

England's Lane

Lily: Caught up in a complicated love affair, unable to leave but unable to stay. Is this really her happy ever after?

Pippa: Sinking into despair as she discovers her marriage is based on lies. She can’t bear the humiliation, but what’s the alternative?

Harry: Torn between two women and fighting depression to make it through each day. Will love be enough to save him from going under?

England’s Lane is a tale of betrayal and forgiveness, family and friendship, loss and redemption. A painful but powerful modern love story, it explores the cost of marital infidelity and the challenges of single motherhood, the legacy of suicide and the healing power of love.

My Review of England’s Lane

Lily’s affair with Harry will have an impact far wider than she could have imagined.

England’s Lane is a book of such deep emotion and introspection for its three main characters that I felt it was a bit like reading a literary Venn diagram as their lives are affected by one another’s behaviours. Love, grief and obsession are so incisively observed that I almost felt quite voyeuristic at times. I had to read England’s Lane in short bursts as it is incredibly claustrophobic and intense and I needed to give myself time to reflect as I read.

Indeed, the structure of England’s Lane lends itself to episodic reading as it is slightly fragmented. This means that the reader experiences similar information, obfuscation and half-truths in the same way as do the main characters; Pippa in particular. I thought it was inspired to give Pippa a first person account as she could so easily have been less significant than Harry and Lily.

In England’s Lane Emma Woolf has got straight to the heart of what makes us human, of how we are frequently selfish, self-deceptive and inward looking. She illustrates with unerring accuracy the ways in which one person’s actions reverberate across the lives of others in subsequent weeks, months and years. I felt that the way the similarities between the initially seemingly disparate characters were brought together was so well attuned and although I didn’t much warm to Lily, Pippa or, especially, Harry I still found myself caring about what happened to them, understanding them and empathising with them completely.

England’s Lane is a brilliant title because, although this is the road where Lily lives, it could be any road in England where characters like these could, and probably do, live, making the reader sometimes uncomfortably aware of just how similar our own lives could so easily become. Whilst there is a clear plot to England’s Lane and I enjoyed the narrative as both as a love story and a microcosmic portrait of modern society, it was the exploration of the themes that appealed most to me. Grief, love, mental health, family relationships, guilt, jealousy and despair, passion and hope thrum through the pages of England’s Lane. I’d defy anyone to read it and not find there is something they can relate to.

I think England’s Lane may polarise readers as it feels quite oppressive at times, but I found it affecting, intense, incredibly interesting and, which surprised me, very uplifting. It’s a book to savour and reflect upon.

About Emma Woolf

emma woolf

Emma Woolf is a writer, columnist and award-winning journalist. Born and brought up in London, she studied English at Oxford University. She worked in Psychology publishing before going freelance and writes for The Times, The Independent, The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Grazia, Red, Psychologies, Top Sante and The Sun among others.

Media appearances include Newsnight, Woman’s Hour, World at One, PM Programme and Radio Five Live. Emma is a regular reviewer on Radio 4’s Saturday Review and BBC London’s Review the Day. She’s also co-presenter on Channel 4’s Supersize vs Superskinny.

Emma is the great-niece of Virginia Woolf.

You an find out more by following Emma on Twitter @EJWoolf and visiting her website.

Giveaway and Interview with Jane Delury, Author of The Balcony

the balcony

I little while ago I was privileged to read The Balcony by Jane Delury and I loved it. You can read my review here. I enjoyed it so much I was desperate to ask Jane a bit more about The Balcony and luckily she agreed to be interviewed.

In addition, the lovely folk at Hodder have allowed me to give away a paperback copy of The Balcony to a lucky UK reader and you can enter the giveaway at the bottom of this blog post.

The Balcony was published by Hodder and Stoughton on 26th July 2018 and is available for purchase here.

The Balcony

the balcony

What if our homes could tell the stories of others who lived there before us?

To those who have ventured past it over the years, this small estate in a village outside Paris has always seemed calm and poised.

But should you open the gates and enter inside, you will find rooms which have become the silent witnesses to a century of human drama: from the young American au pair who developed a crush on her brilliant employer to the ex-courtesan who shocked the servants, and the Jewish couple who hid from the Gestapo to the housewife who began an affair while renovating the rooms downstairs.

The house has kept its inhabitants secrets for a hundred years. Now, they are ready to be brought to the light. . .

An Interview with Jane Delury

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Jane. It’s such a pleasure to interview you as I loved The Balcony. It was published in paperback here in the UK exactly a month ago on 26th July 2018. What has been happening for you as a writer since then?

Thanks for having me on your blog, Linda! I’m so happy that The Balcony has appeared in the UK with Hodder & Stoughton. When I lived in France, I spent a fair amount of time in England and in English bookstores, hauling back loads of novels to read back home in Grenoble. So this publication means a good deal to me. I’ve been watching the release from Baltimore, while working on a new novel project. I’ve also been rounding out the book tour for the hardback version of The Balcony, which came out from Little, Brown last March.

It sounds as if you’ve been very busy!

Initially I was unaware The Balcony was a series of interlinked stories with a house as the iterative motif. What made you take this approach to your writing?

The Balcony has its roots in short stories that I wrote over many years and that incidentally shared the setting of a forest in France. These stories ranged in style and character, but setting was a constant. When I looked at those stories together with my eye on a book, a larger narrative about a property in the forest shone through the individual stories. An estate with a manor house and servants’ cottage became my protagonist, you might say. I then pursued that story of the estate in forming The Balcony. Each chapter is a story with its own dramatic arc, but the greater arc of the book finds its turn during World War II, when the manor house is plundered. I shaped the larger narrative around that event, moving back and forth in time to suggest the ways that the characters living on the estate can’t shake off the past.

The stories are not presented in chronological order. Why did you choose this structure for the book?

Since the characters in The Balcony can’t shake off the past, I felt that the structure of the book itself should reflect that predicament. And I wanted the reader to have an active role in piecing together the story of the estate. In the end, the reader knows more about the estate than any one of its inhabitants does. I thought that a non-chronological approach would further this active role on the part of the reader.

Oh it does indeed. I so enjoyed that approach.

As you know, I loved reading The Balcony because it made me think as well as entertained me. What effect were you hoping to create for the reader?

Well, I would hope for something just like that! I hope that the reader is carried along by the greater story of the estate and by the individual stories about its inhabitants at different moments of time. I hope the reader enjoys piecing together the puzzle of “what happened.” More importantly, though, I hope that the reader feels a connection to the characters, since I myself love all of them, even the difficult ones.

Or even, perhaps, especially the difficult ones!

I found a vivid intensity to your writing. How far is this a natural part of your style and how far is it a carefully crafted effect through editing?

I’d say that the spontaneity of the first draft and also the reflection inherent in editing determines my style. I’m a pretty upbeat, run-of-the-mill  person, but as a writer, I’m interested in exploring the darker, harder places in people, and in their lives. This predilection probably makes the subjects of my fiction more intense.

There are so many wonderful themes in The Balcony, from war to identity and from emotion to history. To what extent do these themes represent your own personal areas of interest and how far did they arise organically as you wrote?

I’ve been drawn to history from a young age, and in particular place and history. I love visiting historic homes, for instance, and imagining the lives of the people who once sat on those couches or ate at that table. And as a woman and a divorced mother, I think a lot about power and sex roles and the need to be free versus the desire to be responsible and steadfast. These themes appear in the book.

They certainly do.

If you were asked to sum up The Balcony for a potential reader, how would you describe the collection?

The story of a place and its people over time. (Sorry, I am dreadful at elevator pitches!)

In that case I’ll say read my review to see what I thought!

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Jane. Much appreciated.

Thank you Linda.

About Jane Delury

Jane Delury

Jane Delury grew up in Sacramento, California and attended UC Santa Cruz. She spent her junior year abroad in Grenoble, France, and she returned to the University of Grenoble after UCSC to complete a master’s degree and to teach English. Following several years in France, she moved to Baltimore to study fiction in the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her short stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, The Southern Review, The Yale Review, Five PointsNarrative, and other publications.

She has received a PEN/O. Henry Prize, a Pushcart Special Mention, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Story Award, a VCCA fellowship, and grants from the Maryland State Arts Council. She holds a BA in English and French literature from UCSC, a maîtrise from the University of Grenoble, and an MA from the Writing Seminars.

She is an associate professor of creative writing and English at the University of Baltimore, where she chairs the School of Communications Design.

You can follow Jane on Twitter @JaneDelury, or visit her website for more details.

Giveaway – A Paperback copy of The Balcony by Jane Delury

the balcony

I’m so thrilled to offer the chance for a lucky UK reader to enjoy The Balcony too. For your chance to enter, click here.

UK only I’m afraid. Giveaway closes at UK midnight on Tuesday 28th August 2018. Please note that once the winner has been informed I none of your data will be retained by me.