My Daughter’s Wedding by Claire Baldry

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I can’t believe it’s almost two years since lovely Claire Baldry featured on Linda’s Book Bag with a smashing guest post about people and places when her novel Different Genes was released. You can read that post here.

Today I’m delighted to close the blog tour for Claire’s latest book with my review of My Daughter’s Wedding.

Published by Matador, My Daughter’s Wedding is available for purchase here.

My Daughter’s Wedding

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When ‘bride to be’ and single parent, Charlotte, discovers that her 61-year-old widowed mother is in a new relationship, she struggles to come to terms with it. “Why do you need to have a man, at your age?” Charlotte asks, “Can’t you just be a grandma?”

The growing tension between mother and daughter combined with preparations for the wedding impact on both family and friends.

In this compelling and unashamedly romantic tale of finding love in later life, the experience of a young care-leaver who is tasked with making the wedding bouquet, is skilfully intertwined with the family’s – sometimes turbulent– preparations for a modern wedding.

My Review of My Daughter’s Wedding

Bridezilla Charlotte isn’t keen on her mother’s new man!

What a delight to have an older protagonist in Angie as the focus for My Daughter’s Wedding. So many stories feature only 30 something characters with older people maginalised that to have a real, older and successful, woman in a new relationship with an equally older man, Martin, was a real joy. Angie’s insecurities blended with her maturity and success made her all the more vivid. I think Charlotte’s unreasonable initial attitude to their developing coupledom illustrated perfectly the usual reluctance to feature those of middle age frequently enough. Bravo Claire Baldry I say!

Speaking of Charlotte, I thought she was spoilt and quite vile. Angie has far more patience with her daughter than I’d ever have and reading about Charlotte brought out the very worst in me. I’d have quite happily climbed into the pages of My Daughter’s Wedding and given her a large and loud piece of my mind. In contrast, I slightly fell in love with Martin myself as he is a real man, not some kind of plastic superhero that can all too easily seep into women’s fiction. Claire Baldry has created a cast of people who felt real, flawed and authentic.

I found My Daughter’s Wedding very entertaining because it felt so true to life. The wedding is the plot’s hook but there us plenty more on offer too with all life, and death, between the pages. I confess to feeling an initial jolt in the second part of the story when Carly is introduced as her narrative seemed totally disparate from Angie’s but it was a real pleasure to see how Claire Baldry brought the strands together as the book progressed.

My Daughter’s Wedding felt relevant, fresh and entertaining. I very much enjoyed reading it and I think anyone who has ever been involved in a family wedding might just find themselves represented between its pages! It’s a lovely read.

About Claire Baldry

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In her hometown of Bexhill on Sea Claire Baldry is known as the local poet. She writes and performs lighthearted ‘Pam Ayres’ style poetry and donates the fees to charity. Her poems sometimes appear in the local paper or on local radio, and she is frequently invited to clubs, such as the WI, to read her work and talk about her writing. Earlier this year Claire and her husband Chris won the Diabetes UK South East Inspire Award for innovative ways of fundraising.

In 2016 Claire fulfilled a lifetime writing ambition and finally completed a novel. She describes it as an ‘easy read’ tale about love in later life, combined with a gripping mystery. The title of the book is Different Genes.

You can follow Claire on Twitter @ClaiBal and visit her website. You’ll also find Claire on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Blog Tour Updated

From Bean to Bar: A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Britain by Andrew Baker

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That I love books is obvious, but those who know me personally will be more than aware that I am quite capable of eating my own body weight in chocolate too. When lovely Vanessa Aboagye from Midas got in touch to see if I fancied a copy of From Bean to Bar: A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Britain by Andrew Baker, in return for an honest review, I thought all my Christmases had arrived at once. My enormous thanks to her for sending me a copy.

Published by the AA on 22nd August 2019, From Bean to Bar: A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Britain is available for pre-order through the publisher links here.

From Bean to Bar: A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Britain

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Chocolate arouses greater passion in its fans than any other food, and chocolate-making is one of the most exciting and dynamic areas in Britain’s burgeoning artisan food scene. This book is a celebration of chocolate-making in this country, designed to locate and bring to a wider audience the fascinating people making good chocolate in the right way.

Arranged geographically in a dozen regional chapters, each one is centred on a local hero but also casts light on other chocolatiers and bean-to-bar makers in their area. A profile of the area and its most characterful artisans is backed up in each chapter by a locator map and data on transport links, supplier websites and other foodie points of interest.

Part travelogue and part biography, always informative and entertaining, there will be practical information that readers can use to make their way around Britain, tasting as they go, or to order lovely chocolate from their armchair while reading about the people who make it.

Among the people and places to be included are Duffy Sheardown, a former Formula One racing engineer who makes bars of chocolate in a shed in Cleethorpes that are prized by chocolate connoisseurs all over the world; Willie Harcourt-Cooze, a glamorous globetrotter who grows cocoa in Venezuala and makes chocolate in Uff culme, Devon (sold in Waitrose); and the passionate young women of Dormouse, who from tiny premises in Manchester are winning international accolades.

My Review of From Bean to Bar: A Chocolate Lover’s Guide to Britain

A chocolate lover’s delight!

Until I attuned myself to the author’s style in From Bean to Bar, I initially felt quite affronted by his somewhat derogatory attitude to what he calls the ‘mass-produced rubbish’ so many of us consume and can afford. Much as I loved the descriptions of all of the chocolates Andrew Baker recommended, when I looked some of them up online I’m afraid the prices of some products made my eyes water, never mind my taste buds! To be fair, there is a range of prices but many were, sadly, beyond my purse. However, Andrew Baker redeemed himself at a stroke when he referred to his ‘fussy, elitist eye’ and because of his frequently tongue in cheek, self-deprecating and often hilarious style, I quickly forgave him; especially when he referred to a town not far from where I live as ‘a combination of the picturesque and the bland’ because if he had described that perfectly, he was probably right about other elements too! In fact, once I realised that even if chocolate is a weighty subject for him, he doesn’t take himself too seriously I found myself laughing aloud at Andrew Baker’s comments and quips so that I was royally entertained.

Consequently, from a slightly uncertain start, I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed From Bean to Bar. It’s a super book filled with everything a chocolate lover, a traveller, an historian, a sociologist and a general reader could wish for. The glorious colour images had me almost weeping with desire. It was as much as I could do on occasion to restrain from licking the pages. Turn to page 174 if you get your hands on a copy of From Bean to Bar where a box of Chococo chocolates fills the page, for example, and I defy you not to want to rip out the images and stuff them in your mouth.

I thought the way From Bean to Bar was set out was a triumph. It’s perfectly possible to read it in the order presented, though you might prefer to head straight to your local area to see what is on offer. Or maybe you would prefer to travel from Scotland and travel south meandering across areas that take your fancy? What ever route through the book you choose, each section reveals background information both about the area and its links to chocolate, directing you to places where you can buy, get involved with, taste or simply drool over chocolate, but more importantly, it introduces the people who are passionate about chocolate, working as ethically and authentically as they can, to provide the highest quality products possible. It’s in amongst these people where the real joy of the book lies. Often it was as if I were reading about a cast of characters from Dickens, whether I was encountering a mention of Bob who keeps the bees whose honey goes into some of the featured products, or the ‘curly-mopped, bespectacled’ Mikey or the ex-car fettler Duffy, each one of these vivid, almost obsessed, individuals added interest at every level. I loved seeing their photos and reading their stories. That said, the person I enjoyed meeting most was the author himself. There are so many aspects of From Bean to Bar that reveal the man behind the book that I ended my read feeling I’d discovered a man I would like very much indeed in real life. Andrew Baker has a wicked sense of humour and an appealing, lively writing style.

There’s so much to learn, as well as be entertained by, in From Bean to Bar. Web addresses lead the reader to online shops and the excellent geographical descriptions enable a traveler to visit the UK and beyond without ever leaving their armchairs. I really liked tasting notes in each section and the dedicated notes explaining how to taste chocolate properly – normally being of the type Andrew Baker describes at the start of this section – but you’ll have to read the book to see what that is!

From Bean to Bar feels for me as if Andrew Baker has written it how Paddington Bear would have written a book about marmalade – with true passion and joy in his subject. From Bean to Bar is quirky, witty, individual, thoroughly entertaining and a true celebration of chocolate. I really enjoyed reading it and Andrew Baker has inspired me to broaden my chocolate horizons and visit some of shops and places described to try as many new types of chocolate as I can. Chocolate, a book and travel – what could be better than that?

About Andrew Baker

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Andrew Baker is well known in chocolate circles for writing on the subject and is often called upon to judge international chocolate competitions. A long-established journalist, he is Features Editor of the Telegraph Weekend sections and author of Where Am I and Who’s Winning? (Random House). The son of the late, much-loved newsreader Richard Baker, Andrew is an experienced radio broadcaster for Radio Five Live and presents regular podcasts for the Telegraph. Andrew lives in London.

You can follow Andrew Baker on Twitter @ccAndrewBaker

Cover Reveal: The Christmas Calendar Girls by Samantha Tonge

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Now I know it’s only August, and we haven’t even celebrated my husband’s birthday yet (it’s tomorrow in case you’re interested), but in my family preparations for Christmas begin the day after Boxing Day when we establish whose turn it is to ‘do’ Christmas the next year. Consequently, when I heard from Rachel, at Rachel’s Random Resources, that Samantha Tonge was going to reveal her Christmas book today I had to participate.

I’m delighted to help launch Samantha’s The Christmas Calendar Girls by telling you all about the book and where you can pre-order it!

The Christmas Calendar Girls

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This Christmas fall in love with the town of Chesterwood…

Christmas is meant to be a time of giving, so with Chesterwood food bank under risk of closure Fern knows just what to do to save it. She’s going to get the town to create a living advent calendar.

Fern, and her best friends, call for help from the local community to bring this calendar to life. When Kit, the new man in town, offers his assistance Fern’s heart can’t help but skip a beat (or two).

As they grow ever closer, Fern must admit that Kit’s breaking down the barriers she built after the death of her husband. But his past is holding him back and Fern doesn’t know how to reach him. No matter how hard she tries.

In this town, Kit’s not the only one with secrets. Domestic goddess Cara is behaving oddly, burning meals in the oven and clothes whilst ironing, and Davina’s perfect children are causing trouble at school leaving her son, Jasper, desperately unhappy.

Can the Christmas Calendar Girls find a way to bring the community together in time to save the food bank, while still supporting their families and each other? Can Fern find love again with Kit?

This is a story about kindness and letting go of the past. It’s about looking out for your neighbours and about making every day feel like Christmas.

Now doesn’t that sound like the perfect read at any time of the year, never mind Christmas? 

The Christmas Calendar Girls will be published on 3rd October 2019 and is available for pre-order on Amazon, Google Play, Kobo and iBooks

About Samantha Tonge

Samantha Tonge Photo

Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely.

When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines.

She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association romantic comedy award.

You can follow Samantha on Twitter @SamTongeWriter, find her on Facebook or visit her website for more information.

Vote for @deepinglibrary!

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Regular Linda’s Book Bag readers can’t have missed the fact that I was heavily involved in The Deepings Literary Festival this year. In case you missed that particular literary event you can find out more about what I got up to here.

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Deepings Community Library

One of the driving forces behind the literary festival has always been the desire to bring the local community together. We know we have fantastic people and resources here in the Deepings and when it was announced that the Deepings Library would be closing a few years ago, the community got together and fought back and since those uncertain times the library has become a valuable, even essential, part of life in South Lincolnshire, providing friendship, education and entertainment for the whole community. It is now the most successful community library in the county.

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The Deepings Literary Festival Committee on Launch Day in the Library

Alongside all the books available in the Deepings Community Library are fantastic regular and special events, drop in sessions and wonderful staff and volunteers working to help make the most of books and reading for all; from book babies to seniors there’s something for everyone.

For example, without the Deepings Community Library, we wouldn’t have had our literary festival launch venue this year, nor the wonderful session with Judith Allnatt, author of The Poet’s Wife, A Mile of River, The Moon Field and The Silk Factory and a fascinating afternoon with The Words in My Hand author Guinevere Glasfurd.

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Author Darren O’Sullivan Cutting the Cake on Deepings Literary Festival Launch Day

When you add in the fabulous Read Dating event showcasing local authors Sarah Bennett, Margaret Castle, Tony Forder, Helen Claire Gould, Ross Greenwood, Jane E James, Eva Jordan and Tony Millington you can see what an integral part of the festival the library was.

The Deepings Community Library wants to offer even more to the community, especially to older children and young adults and needs your help. Persimmon Homes ANGLIA is backing Deepings Community Library to be a prize winner when cash awards of £100,000, £50,000 or £20,000 will be announced in October. New funds would allow the library to extend and improve the facilities it can offer the whole of the Deepings, south Lincolnshire and the surrounding area.

In order to win, the library needs as many daily votes as possible and this is where you can help. All it takes is a minute of your time over as many days as you can between now and midnight on September 27th to head to www.persimmonhomes.com/building-futures/, click on Education and vote for Deepings Community Library.

Just think what £100,000 could do for this wonderful community resource. Let’s get voting and who knows where the Deepings Community Library can take us next!

Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn by Kit Fielding

Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn

My enormous thanks to the lovely ladies at Team Bookends for sending me a copy of Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn in return for an honest review.

Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn will be published by Hodder imprint, Coronet, on 8th August 2019 and is available for pre-order here.

Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn

Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn

Six women, one aim and the stories they never told.

Each week, six women of different ages and from varying backgrounds come together at The Bluebell Inn. They form an unlikely and occasionally triumphant, ladies darts team, but it is there hidden stories of love and loss that in the end binds them.

There is the Irish widow with a heartbreaking secret; the young daughter of a gypsy family experiencing love for the first time; a cat woman alone with her memories who must return to the place of her birth before it’s all too late. Their unspoken stories are ones of heartache, dull marriages, abusive relationships, lost loves and secret hopes.

These displaced women know little of each other’s lives, but their weekly meetings at their local pub weave a delicate and sustaining connection between them all, a constant that maybe they can rely on as the crossroads in their individual lives threaten to overwhelm.

Raw, funny and devastating, all of life can be found at the Bluebell.

My Review of Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn

Six women meet at The Bluebell Inn every Thursday to play in a darts league.

When I picked up Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn I confess I thought I was about to read a perfectly readable chicklit novel written by a woman. I had no concept that the author was male and that Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn would be a moving, intimate and wonderful portrait of six very different, yet simultaneously very similar, women.

I’m not a great lover of multiple viewpoints or of narratives that have several timescales, but in Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn they are exquisite and completely magical. I was utterly captivated by every word. This is such a wonderfully written book because each individual first person narrative is distinct and affecting.

Every single one of the women is clearly and sympathetically drawn, even when she is flawed and behaving badly. I felt less that I was reading about them, and more that I was sitting in The Bluebell Inn on a Thursday night eavesdropping their conversations and their inner most thoughts. I loved each and every one of them and now I’ve finished the book I miss them.

Kit Fielding has woven so many believable strands into Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn that there truly is something for every reader. There’s death, love, political activism, abuse, passion, and above all an overwhelming sense of living, depicted here so that I hated being away from the book. It called to me so compellingly that my life went on hold until I had devoured every word. There is fabulous humour balanced so poignantly with deep feeling that Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn vibrates with raw and vivid emotion and life.

Far from being the perfectly pleasant chick lit I thought I was about to read, Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn is a novel that completely transcended my expectations. I found it funny. I found it emotional. I thought it was wonderful.

About Kit Fielding

Kit Fielding

Kit Fielding was born to a large family in the late forties. His father took agricultural work to provide for them all and they moved often, in part due to Kit’s mother who found it difficult to settle for any length of time, a legacy from her traveller roots. Kit left school at 15 to help earn money for the family. He took on various labouring jobs. He’s now happily married, but still struggles with restlessness; he lives in a caravan somewhere by the sea.

Introducing @ChapterCatcher

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Given that Linda’s Book Bag is all about sharing the book love, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a brand new quarterly magazine, Chapter Catcher, which is designed to promote reading. I’d like to thank Nicole for sending me the launch issue. I’m delighted to review it today; even if that is an irony as Chapter Catcher isn’t a review magazine, but a presentation of extracts, stories and poems that readers can dip into, with the idea ‘that readers should do their own reading’ without being told what others think about the pieces they read.

A list of Chapter Catcher stockists is available here, but you can also subscribe and receive your own copy here.

Chapter Catcher

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The brain child of John, Lord Bird and Phil Ryan, the duo behind The Big Issue, Chapter Catcher‘s mission is:

  • Supporting local bookshops through sales and greater footfall and awareness.
  • Supporting local libraries (partnering with Save Our Libraries campaign groups across the UK)
  • Creating partnerships with existing campaign groups to raise the standard of literacy across the UK.
  • Promoting a greater variety of literature from around the world, expanding upon the canon and broadening literary horizons.
  • Providing a platform to aspiring writers.
  • Visualising storytelling and bringing books to life.

My Review of the Launch Issue of Chapter Catcher

I’ve spent the whole of my adult life promoting reading and literacy and think Chapter Catcher is just wonderful; a cornucopia of bookish delight.

The first half a dozen pages concentrate on a literacy and literary news digest with helpful web addresses as well as articles and spotlights. I couldn’t agree more with John Rickets about the importance of libraries in his piece on Our Cultural Inheritance.

The remainder of the magazine is a smorgasbord of reading pleasure. Divided into sections that include Contemporary, Rediscovered, Classic, Non-Fiction and works In Process, authors included range from Stephen Fry, through F. Scott Fitzgerald to Dante and Mary Jean Chan so that there is a pleasing balance of familiar, established, writers set alongside new and innovative ones. I particularly loved Max Porter’s Crow and Border by Kapka Kassabova. Indeed, this latter proves that Chapter Catcher is already achieving what it aims to do. I normally read little non-fiction, but Border has sparked my interest in a book that would otherwise have passed me by.

Within the pages of this magazine are pieces that can be read as the fancy takes the reader. They are just the right length for a break in the evening after work, for example, or during a lunch break, or when the baby has just gone down for an afternoon sleep perhaps. I can imagine Chapter Catcher bringing joy to many when they simply don’t have the time or the inclination to read a complete book. Equally, I can envisage readers eagerly visiting bookshops and libraries to hunt down full copies of the texts they have encountered here.

However, I wouldn’t limit Chapter Catcher to just readers. There’s opportunity here for art lovers too as the pages are adorned with attractive artwork and photography and writers can not only read as writers, they can, in this issue, hone their creative skills by entering a writing competition to win dinner with a famous (mystery writer); which intrigued me as I didn’t know if the author’s identity was a mystery, whether they write mystery books or both! And that sums us Chapter Catcher for me – it leads the reader (and writer) down different avenues, to discover new and exciting aspects of books and literacy. Writers are also encouraged to submit their work for inclusion in future issues so that there is real opportunity for this initiative to go from strength to strength, broadening its own readership whilst enhancing the readership for an increasing range of authors.

I’d urge you to get involved with this initiative because I think it’s a fabulous concept. You can visit the Chapter Catcher website here, or follow Chapter Catcher on Twitter via @ChapterCatcher or the hashtag ##ReadWiderDeeper. You’ll also find Chapter Catcher on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Witches Sail in Eggshells by Chloe Turner

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Before I began blogging I rarely read short stories unless I was going to have to teach them in the dim and distant past. In recent times, however, I’ve begun to realise what a wonderful experience it can be to delve into a short story anthology and I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to Dave Borrowdale at Reflex Press for a copy of Witches Sail in Eggshells by Chloe Turner in return for an honest review.

Witches Sail in Eggshells was published by Reflex Press on 11th June 2019 and is available for purchase here where you can also read a sample story.

Witches Sail in Eggshells

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‘Witches sail in eggshells,’ I heard Meg say from behind me, and I looked back. She was pounding the shells, hard, with the palm of her hand on the flat of a knife.

Bewitched by ‘the sort of girl who’d batter your heart like a thrush with a snail on a stone’, a woman overlooks the one who really loves her.

A seaside community is overwhelmed when the sea begins to expel its life forms. But the villagers would rather raise the sea wall, whatever the cost, than confront their past mistakes.

A woman’s beloved garden withers as the baby inside her flourishes. When the pregnancy reaches its end, the progeny is not as she expects.

A widower feels like his life might have been a quiet nothing, but he’ll end it with the flight he’s always dreamed of. Even that fails, but instead of indignity, in the attempt he finds peace.

Perceptive, intriguing, and beautifully told, Chloe Turner’s debut collection explores the themes of love, loss, the little ways we let each other down, and how we can find each other again.

My Review of Witches Sail in Eggshell

Seventeen short stories of life, love and longing.

When I picked up this volume I had intended to read one of the stories from Witches Sail in Eggshells each evening, but as soon as I’d read Hagstone, the first in Chloe Turner’s collection, I was so enchanted I had to devour them all. It was if the hagstone of that first tale had cast a spell and I was unable to put down this remarkable book. I have only one complaint about Witches Sail in Eggshells and that is that any aspirations I might have about writing have been completely undermined by the exquisite beauty of Chloe Turner’s language. It is unparalleled and very few writers I have read create such grace and magic in their work.

Whilst I imagine many hours have gone in to crafting and polishing these literary gems, they never feel contrived but instead are silky smooth and extraordinary examples of writing at its most perfect. Each one, without exception, left me reeling, intrigued and mesmerised so that I felt them internally as much as read them. I know this will sound probably bonkers (and I may have been affected by the magical realism of some of the stories) but I felt as if I wanted to peel the words from the pages and shower in them to get them closer to me in the most essential way I could. I read passages aloud because I felt they were more like poetry than prose – they are luminous with meaning and emotion.

Each story is very different from all the others with action and events totally belying the brevity of length. I discovered entire lifetimes and traveled time and geographical distance as I read. There are themes of love, loss, spite, revenge, power and much, much more, providing a narrative for every reader and every change in their emotional state. Yet at the same time, there are links and echoes that make for an immersive and rewarding reading experience. There’s something almost antediluvian, for example, in the references to water and the sea that pepper these stories because Chloe Turner has captured the very essence of humanity in its most raw state; we all come from water.

I have been sitting some time, trying to find words to convey what it is about Witches Sail in Eggshells that I have found so gloriously moving and astounding, but have come to realise I don’t have the vocabulary to express how I feel about Chloe Turner’s stories. I am genuinely thrilled to have discovered her writing because my life has been enriched by it. Whether you’re a reader who wants to be entertained or a writer who wants to hone their craft, I cannot recommend Witches Sail in Eggshells highly enough. It’s magnificent.

About Chloe Turner

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Chloe Turner grew up in London and then Bath, attending St Paul’s Girls’ School, London and Clifton College, Bristol. After reading Archaeology and Anthropology at Churchill College, Cambridge, she qualified as a chartered accountant. She now lives in a village near Stroud, Gloucestershire, with her family and some chickens. Chloe won the Fresher Prize for short story in 2017, and has twice been awarded the Local Prize in the Bath Short Story Award. ‘Waiting for the Runners’ was selected for inclusion in the Best British Short Stories 2018 anthology (Salt Publishing).

You can follow Chloe on Twitter @TurnerPen2Paper for more information.