My enormous thanks to Hannah Groves at Endeavour Media for sending me a copy of A Single Journey by Frankie McGowan in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to have my review to share with you today. Even better though, I’m so pleased that Frankie McGowan has agreed to stay in with me and tell me a bit more about the book.
A Single Journey is available for purchase here.
A Single Journey
Harriet has begun to despair of her life.
With a failed relationship behind her, a business on the rocks and a flat that’s falling apart around her ears, she could really use some luck.
Elena Banbury, née Guseva, an elderly but imposing Russian woman who is Harriet’s neighbour and landlady, frequently entertains the punters at Harriet’s jewellery stall with tales of the palaces of St. Petersburg and the treasures of Fabergé. But Harriet sometimes feels, guiltily, that she could do without the endless errands that seem to fall to her as Elena’s friend.
Then, unexpectedly, when Elena dies, she leaves all her worldly goods to a grateful Harriet. In time, however, it becomes clear that others are shocked by Harriet’s good luck, too. Shocked… and very, very unhappy.
Challenged in court by Elena’s family who live in Berlin, Harriet is forced to give up her inheritance and long-dreamed-of plans for a new business, and start her life again. But with her reputation in tatters and the memory of Elena tainted, Harriet knows a great injustice has been done.
Against the advice of her friends, family and lawyers, Harriet sets off on her own, very singular journey to Berlin.
In the weeks that follow she meets rich and poor, the glamorous and the criminal, the honest and the secretive, and begins to see that perhaps she has something to learn from them all. Something to learn about herself, and something to learn about her priorities.
She knows she has to fight for justice. But, when she meets the scholarly, perceptive Neil, who generously tries to help Harriet in her mission, but who is struggling with a complicated marriage, she must also decide if she’ll fight for love, too.
A Single Journey is a compelling and lively story, combining colourful characters with a page-turning plot and romantic highs and lows.
Staying in with Frankie McGowan
I’m delighted to welcome you to Linda’s Book Bag Frankie. I’m delighted you’re here. I think I know the answer but which book have you brought along this evening?
I’ve brought A Single Journey, my latest novel, which was the only book out of the dozen or so I’ve written that took me well out of my comfort zone while researching it. I went from mugging up on antique jewellery, to understanding the lives of women in Berlin in the aftermath of the Second World War. I became incapable of knowing where to cast off, even when it strayed completely from the point of my story. History had taught me about the dreadful atrocities that took place at that time, but it needs to be a book on its own, so who knows? Maybe one day.
(Well if A Single Journey is anything to go by, I can’t wait for that one Frankie.)
Between you and me, Linda, fairly early on during the writing phase, I was so annoyed when I realised I would have to delete a whole irrelevant chapter along with all that research, I was forced to eat practically my bodyweight in Galaxy to get me through. Well, I say forced, but you know what I mean…
(I do indeed! And actually, I can offer you another square or two now if you like. There’s always ’emergency’ chocolate available in this house!)
I know the answer as I’ve already read it, but what can those who haven’t expect from an evening in with A Single Journey?
First of course, I’m just really hoping that readers will find it interesting enough to read to the last full stop.
(Oh they will! I speak from experience!)
My first reaction to a good review is always one of relief to know that I haven’t been wasting their time. Frankly I genuinely think readers who bother to write and tell me, or post a review online – and I take all their points really seriously – are so nice, actually trying to adopt them has crossed my mind. Although perhaps not the one who thought his pet dog had a greater grasp on writing than me – only it turned out when he sent me an apologetic email, that he’d meant it for someone else. But still it gave me a nasty turn I can tell you! However, I’m still basking in the view of that brilliant thriller writer, Lisa Hall, who said that A Single Journey was: ‘the perfect epic holiday read’. Excuse me a mo, Linda, need to jump up and down again.
(I bet you do! I might join in actually – if we’re going to keep eating all that chocolate we need to burn off some calories!)
But I also hope that in reading A Single Journey, readers will discover the more sobering fact that often the law has very little to do with justice. Take Harriet, my heroine, making just enough money to get by, but in no way able to raise the funds needed to pay lawyers to challenge the ambitions of a very rich – actually obscenely rich – man. She has no choice but to rely on her wits, good friends and a burning sense of injustice to have any hope of competing with his money and power to succeed. Frankly, I think buying Belgium would be cheaper.
Now, I’d vote for anyone who can find a way to make sure that money, now matter how empty or deep their pockets, is not necessarily the winner, when it comes to the price of justice.
(I loved this aspect of the novel actually. I hate injustice and felt quite enraged at times…)
Finally, so far I’ve never written a straightforward romance because, to be honest, I’m not sure I’m all that romantic myself. Well, especially not after that business last Christmas when I mistakenly thought the host was gripped with indigestion when it turned out he was trying to come on to the woman sitting next to him, and, truly concerned, I asked him if he was feeling alright. Very awkward that.
The problem is, I’m not good at writing when it comes to the smouldering looks department, so I long ago decided to leave it to others in the Pulitzer class to do it convincingly and believably. These days I feel more comfortable with more realistic heroes who tend to have flaws. Neil, for example, in A Single Journey, is a Maths professor who knows more about right angles than romance and is constantly concerned for his health.
(He’s still a hero though!)
The truth is though, I do thoroughly enjoy reading romance – big classics like Jane Eyre or Persuasion – and I would have added Gone with the Wind only where to find the time? – are re-reads for me, but I find it difficult – and don’t think I haven’t tried – to write a convincing description of anyone who is apparently capable of making the knees of every woman within reach of his chiselled jaw and manly chest turn to rubble and – sorry, Linda, laughing so much at such an image, I can’t finish that sentence!
(Ha! My hero is Bryan Ferry and I don’t think his chest is especially manly! Have another square of Galaxy whilst you compose yourself and I’ll ask another question.)
What else have you brought along this evening and why have you brought it?
Well a good Merlot – of course.
But I wouldn’t mind having Atticus Finch along to share a glass. No, he doesn’t exist, but I’ve just watched To Kill a Mockingbird again, and wonder how he might have dealt with Harriet’s dilemma. Not to mention a few other current cases in court. However, having enjoyed the decades old movie – I know, I know, I should have been writing – I might well have got him muddled up with Gregory Peck, you can’t be too careful with me. Anyway, I’m sure either way we’d find both gentlemen compelling.
(Oh yes indeed. And he has a touch of Bryan Ferry about him don’t you think…)
Also, this Edwardian fan with hand painted roses and butterflies, sequins and lace. I saw one just like it while I was wandering around antique markets researching A Single Journey, dead cheap too it was, when you think what fans can go for. But I dithered, and then when I went back a few days later, it was gone. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I saw this one online, and for a moment thought it was the same one I’d seen all those months ago. It wasn’t, but it is as near as dammit.
(A lesson there then. Get it whilst you can…)
Having just finished A Single Journey and still full of Elena Guseva – who would, I know, have had several more ornate and covetable fans – I bought it anyway from a lovely lady called Hannah at QuaintlyQuirky and love it.
(And I know Hannah has posted all about the fan and A Single Journey on her Instagram page too!)
Thank you so much for staying in with me Frankie. I’ve loved hearing more about A Single Journey because I so enjoyed reading it. In fact, here’s my review so you can see what I thought…
My Review of A Single Journey
Harriet’s business is about to be scuppered and just when she thinks life can’t get much worse – it does!
Well. I was not expecting that! From the blurb and the cover I was anticipating reading a perfectly pleasant, chick-lit style, novel that I would enjoy and then forget. How wrong could I be? A Single Journey has a depth, substance and, above all, a corker of a plot I simply wasn’t expecting.
I so enjoyed this novel. Firstly, I found Frankie McGowan’s style really engaging. She uses such a brilliant range of sentences and her syntax is is quite unique so that direct speech feels natural and real. I thoroughly appreciated the way in which her descriptions are woven throughout the narrative so that they provide vivid images without ever feeling forced. I loved being transported to Berlin.
Harriet is such a well defined character. She’s flawed, frequently behaves impetuously and rashly, and makes decisions that the rest of us can see are going to cause her problems but we are still with her all the way. It seems somewhat exaggerated to say I respected her but it’s true. She is so much more than an author’s words on the page. I found her to be the kind of woman I’d like to be friends with.
And actually, that’s true of the whole novel. A Single Journey offers so much more than a mere story, albeit a cracking one at that. There’s mystery and intrigue, romance and menace, loyalty and vengeance – far more than I had imagined when I first began reading. The underpinning theme of violent relationships is magnificently handled. Whilst it forms the glue holding the narrative together, it is never overdone so that Frankie McGowan has produced a totally believable and all the more realistic story as a result.
A Single Journey was not the book I expected to read. I was completely absorbed in the story, the people and the themes. I didn’t want to stop reading and was completely entertained. I think it would make a corker of a film or television series and I’m so glad I have had the opportunity to read it.
About Frankie McGowan
My career began on teenage magazines before joining Fleet Street writing features for among others, The Sunday Times, The Times, The Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror (where I was an assistant editor and columnist).
Later as a magazine editor and while bringing up Tom and Amy, my now grown up children I launched and edited New Woman and Top Sante before switching to writing the first of my novels. My short stories have been published in a variety of magazines, including You, (Mail on Sunday) Women’s Own, Home and Life, Image (Ireland), Redbook (US) The Lady and Woman’s Weekly.
You can find out more on Frankie’s website.
There’s more with these other bloggers too: