Every year for the past four years that I’ve been blogging I’ve been privileged to spend an evening at Simon and Schuster in the company of wonderful authors including Juliet Ashton. You can read about the most recent of those evenings here. Consequently, when Megan Denholm at EDPR got in touch to invite me to participate in the blog tour for Juliet Ashton’s latest novel, The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen I was thrilled to accept.
The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen was published by Simon and Schuster on 26th December 2019 and is available for purchase through these links.
The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but Cherry Blossom Mews is a miraculous place. It’s somewhere that finds you, rather than the other way around.
Sadie McQueen has leased a double fronted space in this small cul de sac in a culturally diverse corner of central London. The cobbles muffle the noise of double-deckers roaring past the arched gates. Turn right and you are in a futuristic maze of corporate glass monoliths. Turn left and you see a wide street with many different houses. Towering above the mews are the degenerating tower blocks of an infamous estate. The old folks home and the nearby school are both in need of TLC; the private members’ club that set up shop in a listed Georgian building has been discreetly refurbished at huge expense.
Into this confusion comes Sadie. She fell in love with the street the moment she first twisted her ankle on its cobbles. Her double-fronted unit is now a spa. She has sunk all her money into the lease and refurbishment. She’s sunk all her hope into the carefully designed treatment rooms, the calm white reception space, the bijou flat carved out of the floor above.
Sadie has a mission to connect. To heal herself from tragedy. Sadie has wrapped the mews around her like a warm blanket, after unimaginable loss and unimaginable guilt. Her hard-won peace is threatened, not only by the prospect of the mews going under but by a man aptly named Hero who wakes up her comatose heart.
Sadie has a lot to give, and a lot to learn, not least that some ghosts aren’t ghosts at all.
My Review of The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen
Sadie’s been through a lot, but life isn’t necessarily about to get any easier.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen. Initially I didn’t feel the same emotional attachment I have with Juliet Ashton’s writing in the past, as it took me a while to adjust to the number of characters, but before long she had bewitched me and when I realised I had found tears in my eyes on several occasions I knew I’d become as captivated as ever.
It’s quite hard to define what makes Juliet Ashton’s writing so appealing. Anyone who has read her before will know that the people in her stories are always vivid and real, flawed and human, so that they could be part of a circle of friends for any reader, but there’s an indefinable magic here woven amongst the 80 year age span. The small consistent setting of Cherry Blossom Mews contains a microcosm of society that I adored. Even Noel the dog has a personality and all life is here with relationships as messy and convincing as any in the real world. Chloe appealed to me most, but every single person represented someone I could relate to or I feel I have met in the past. From feeling slightly apart at the very beginning, Juliet Ashton made me care about each and every one of them.
The setting of Cherry Blossom Mews is inspired so that there is a fantastic consistency of place. It feels like a beating heart at the centre of London. Indeed, I’d really rather like to move in. I loved the depiction of the tree after which Cherry Blossom Mews is named, and the significance of the tree as the narrative progresses makes it yet another vibrant ‘character’. I can’t add more without spoiling the plot but its position in the centre of the courtyard emphasises its significance to the story and the people living there.
And what a plot there is in The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen. So many of the events completely took my by surprise and I found myself exclaiming aloud. This is a real roller-coaster of a narrative. I simply did not predict so many elements and yet they are completely fitting and rewarding.
However, I think what appealed to me most about The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen is that the themes presented are ultimately positive and heartwarming. The exploration of what truly makes a family is intriguing and Juliet Ashton manages to depict love and friendship without cloying sentimentality whilst ensuring an entertaining and uplifting read. Regret, love, addiction, parenting, relationships, jealousy and trust added in to the mix provide actions and experiences that enable any reader to find a theme that resonates with their own experiences or beliefs.
The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen is enormously satisfying. I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed between its pages. It’s a book I wish I hadn’t actually read yet as I think it would be perfect to take on holiday or to read on a cold winter’s afternoon because it feels both real and entertaining. Smashing stuff!
About Juliet Ashton
Juliet Ashton was born in Fulham and still lives in London. She writes under a variety
of names, including her real name, Bernadette Strachan, and as Claire Sandy. Juliet
is a former voiceover agent to stars including Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. She is
married and has one daughter.
You can find out more by following her Juliet on Twitter @julietstories.
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