My Review of Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home: hopeful, heart-breaking and humorous novel with a quirky protagonist providing a rare insight into life in the old asylums  #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home: A hopeful, heart-breaking and humorous novel with a quirky protagonist providing a rare insight into life in the old asylums by [Anne Goodwin]

I received this book from the author, Anne Goodwin, as a member of Rosie Amber’s book review team, #RBRT, in return for an honest review

Book Descriptiuon:

In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.

Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.

As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.

Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.
A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?

Told with compassion and humour, Anne Goodwin’s third novel is a poignant, compelling and brilliantly authentic portrayal of asylum life, with a quirky protagonist you won’t easily forget.

The Secret Scripture crossed with Elizabeth Is Missing and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Chosen by Isabel Costello as a Literary Sofa Summer Read: “The light wins in this novel, which manages to be warm, uplifting and surprisingly funny for all the sadness and injustice portrayed.”

My Review:

The one thing that was going through my mind as I read Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home was that there is only us inside our own heads. Obvious I know, but no one has an insight into anyone else’s thoughts, whatever the state of our mental health. And, quite often, it’s a case of second guessing on anyone’s reasons for their actions.

In this powerful and moving story, Anne Goodwin has shown the frailties and strength of each of her main characters through their internal dialogue, their actions, and their reactions to what is happening to them.

  Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is narrated by three characters:

Matilda (Matty) herself; cruelly and discriminatorily incarcerated for fifty years in a psychiatric hospital, this seventy-year-old woman tells her own story in her own inimitable way – skewed as it is by increasing confusion – yet still with some individual insight that brings out wry and compassionate smiles in the reader, even as the horror of her life story unfolds.  

Janice – a young newly qualified, newly single, social worker who, unable to mend her own broken world, seeks a project within her work at the asylum; a relic of such places that existed in the early decades of the twentieth century. Misguidedly, and seemingly unable to accept that Matty is totally institutionalised, Janice takes on the task of trying to find Matty’s long-lost family and guides her towards integration into the community, a programme devised in the nineteen nineties. I don’t like to give away any spoilers to stories – so I’ll leave that there

And then there’s Henry, now almost sixty, side-lined in his job, dithering within a clandestine relationship – and waiting for the return of his sister, a girl who left home in undisclosed circumstances. The author cleverly layers this sister in enigmatic ambiguity. It’s left to the reader to unravel the mystery.

 Each of these characters are cleverly brought to life on the page, by their dialogue, by their actions. Every turn of a page is a revelation, an insight to human emotions and the lives we think we are creating, but, more often than not, are structured through fate and inadvertent choices.

 The descriptions of the settings that the characters move through are brilliantly shown, giving a great sense of place, and evocative images. They also gave me a sense of claustrophobia for each of them, the sense of each being trapped, even as they go about, or are guided through, their individual lives.

This is such a absorbing book. It’s a complex and heart-breaking family story against a background of an historical, inflexible mental care system, tumbling into, what I think, through personal experience, was a injudicious, if well-meant plan.

Though the pace of the story is sometimes frustratingly slow, it becomes obviously necessary as the plot unfolds. For me, the denouement is enough. And Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is a book that will stay with me for a long time.

Thoroughly recommended.

About the author:

Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She is the author of three novels and a short story collection published by small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital.

My Review of The Inconvenient Need to Belong by Paula Smedley #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

The Inconvenient Need to Belong by [Paula Smedley]

I received The Inconvenient Need to Belong from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review.

I gave The Inconvenient Need to Belong 3*out of 5*

Book Description:

In the summer of 1953, twenty-year-old Alfie steals away from his troubled childhood home in London to start a new life in Exeter. His own life. And at first it’s everything he ever dreamed it would be. For the first time in his life Alfie feels like he belongs.

Today, in a care home in the Midlands, eighty-six-year-old Alfie is struggling to come to terms with his dark past.

Alfie’s story is one of regret, the mistakes we make, and the secrets even the most unassuming of us can hold. But it is also a story about family, friendship, the things we should treasure and protect, and how the choices we make can shape our lives and the lives of others.

My Review:

I found this book a difficult one to review.On the one hand there was much to enjoy about the story, it’s an interesting account of a man’s life: the friendships and relationships formed over a lifetime, the honest self realisation of someone nearing the end of his life, living within the controlled regime of a care home. A regime he rebels against in small ways,which emphasis the greater rebellion in his earlier life when he left home and the controlling rigid rules of his father. On the other I think an extra edit would have shortened and tightened the story, making it much stronger.

On the plus side I liked the portrayal of the protagonist, Alfie. Nicely rounded, the internal dialogue adds layers to the character as he recounts his life story. Unfortunately I didn’t get much of an insight to a lot of the other characters and I wonder if this is because there are too many minor ones, whose limited input add little to the story. However, there is another storyline that runs parallel to Alfie’s story, that of Julia. This is a much stronger portrayal and I think this character is worthy of a separate story of her own. But this is only my thought.

On the whole the dialogue is good and differentiates the characters. And there are evocative descriptions to give a few of the settings a good sense of place. And it is a poignant easy read that, I’m sure, will appeal to any reader who enjoys what reads as a fictional memoir.

My Review of Queen of Trial and Sorrow by Susan Appleyard #RBRT #FridayReads

Queen of Trial and Sorrow by [Appleyard, Susan]

 

I was given this book by the author as  a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in exchange for a fair review.

 I gave Queen of Trial and Sorrow  4* out of 5*

 Book Description:

A B.R.A.G. Medallion winner, this is the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of King Edward IV and the mother of the Princes in the Tower. As an impoverished widow, she was wooed and won by the handsome young king and believed her dreams had come true. But she was soon swept up in the War of the Roses, enduring hardship and danger as her husband struggled to keep his throne. When he died Elizabeth was unable to protect her family against the ruthless ambitions of the man he trusted above all others. It was the king’s brothers, the unstable Duke of Clarence and the loyal Duke of Gloucester, who would prove to be Elizabeth’s most dangerous enemies.

My Review:

 I really liked this novel. I like the author’s style of writing; told in first person point of view from Edward IV’s wife, Elizabeth, it is almost as though she is holding a one-way conversation with the reader. Although I found it a compact and exacting read that took a lot of concentration (I am a very slow reader) I enjoyed this interpretation of  Elizabeth Woodville’s life in Queen of Trial and Sorrow.  Every emotion resonates through each chapter and throughout all the years that we are following her; the happiness, the sadness, the fears and apprehensions. The main plot of her time, before, during  and after the Court years is threaded through with subplots of intrigues and politics.

There is no doubt whatsoever that an enormous amount of research has preceded the writing of this book; it’s a fascinating account of the era.

 The characters are multi-layered and some were ever-changing as time went by depending on the intrigues and striving for personal gains.  Both those characters who are portrayed as good and those shown as wickedly self serving are plausible; their actions believable – if at times inconceivably cruel or dangerous.

 The dialogue was written as I imagined was spoken at the time; the syntax and the language rang true to that period for me. And it was easy to follow which character was speaking even without the dialogue tags.

 The descriptions of the settings; the buildings and the places the characters moved around in, the clothes, the ceremonies were all very evocative. The only  problem  I had was that sometimes I felt these descriptions were a little laboured and ‘heavy’. I would have preferred a lighter touch; I thought these sections slowed the story down

However, this is a very small objection and I’m sure anyone who loves to read historical  novels will love Queen of Trial and Sorrow . I have no hesitation at all in recommended this book by Susan Appleyard

Buying links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2qGE6EB

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2pGiV77

 

 

 

Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT

Rosie's Book Review team 1

The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack

 

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4 out  of 5*

I enjoyed this collection of short stories and flash fiction. In The Experimental Notebook C. S. Boyack   presents an intriguing and fascinating mix of fantasy, science fiction and ghost stories. He has a unique and enjoyable writing style, juxtaposing believable characters and straightforward plots for the reader, even when fantastical.

Threaded with understated humour, most of the pieces are of the ‘twist in the tail’ type; surprising yet satisfying and guaranteed to bring out a whole gamut of emotions in the reader. If I had to choose I think my favourite would be the fabled The Soup Ladle of Destiny. But there is something for everyone between the pages of this book.

There is also an unusual part where the author speaks to the reader which I enjoyed and motivated me enough to look for his website. He seems to be a prolific blogger whose posts are as thought provoking as this collection of stories.

So– great cover, well-written stories with rounded characters, great dialogue, a brilliant sense of place in all; to my mind, proper short stories. And, although these are not the genre of stories I would normally read this is one collection I would recommend.

Find a copy here:

Amazon.co.uk

http://www.amazon.com/The-Experimental-Notebook-C-Boyack-ebook/dp/B014S2BA4U

Amazon.com

My Review of Inconceivable! by Tegan Wren for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team#RBRT

Rosie's Book Review team 1

I was given this book by Tegan Wren and Rosie Amber as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team (#RBRT) for a fair review. My thanks to them both.

I gave Inconceivable! 3 out of 5*

Inconceivable! is an easy, ‘quick to read’ novel’ and tells the story of Hattie, an American girl who is working abroad in a fictional European country, Toulene, and falls in love with Prince John of the royal family; a man she meets in a night club, Finn’s, where he is in disguise.

Although this book is classed as romance, as the book continues it covers the darker themes of infidelity and infertility.

My problem was that it is written in a light-hearted style with a lot of the dialogue interspersed with various slang exclamations and casual flippant inner thoughts from the protagonist which didn’t quite match the overall premise of the story.

The plot moves quickly and in detached incidents, so much so that it is difficult to get to know either of the main characters or to learn about their relationship to any depth. And so I had no empathy or real understanding of either.

To the author’s credit there are some wonderful descriptive passages that give a real sense of place and I enjoyed these very much; they gave greater depth to Ms Wren’s writing style.
There are also interesting sub plots of politics and social issues.

On a personal note I need to say that, after I’d written this review I looked for other reviews of Inconceivable! and found some on Goodreads. This book has a lot of 4& 5* reviews and many positive observations so, as a last comment, I suggest that other readers give the novel a chance and read it for themselves.

Copies of Inconceivable! are available at:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/1VFktEg

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/1FXiAAQ

My Review of The A-Z of Normal, by Helen Barbour

The A to Z of Normal by Helen Barbour

I give The A-Z of Normal, by Helen Barbour 5*

I loved The A-Z of Normal, by Helen Barbour. Just by looking at the interesting cover I knew this wasn’t going to be a conventional romance when I chose to review this book. And thank you to Rosie and Helen for this great find.

No, this is as much the poignant story of the protagonist, Clare and her struggle with the condition of  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ( OCD) which she has kept secret from her family and friends all her life. Now, with a marriage proposal from Tom, she has to face up to all the issues that living with him will face. Although the subject of OCD is inherently distressing there is plenty of what I would call ‘dark’ humour that lifts the story and makes compulsive yet challenging reading.

As usual I will not give spoilers in my review. What I will do is urge anyone to give this book a go.

Helen Barbour has a wonderfully unique writing style and interweaves the main plot around sub plots with skill and subtlety. The story moves at a satisfying pace with no lapses

Told mainly from the first point of view of Clare, both the internal and the spoken dialogue is so well written that the words echoed in my head – always a sign to me that the speech resonates with the way  that character would talk.

Each of the characters is rounded and individual in their own way. And the interaction between them is loaded with complexity and tension that could only be expected where there is such a destructive secret. Yet it is satisfying to see how, as we gradually learn about her background, the relationship with both her father and her sister evolves

As I said at the beginning of this review, this is a book I loved. It made me think long and hard about a mental issue I hadn’t considered before and how it can ruin the life of so many people. Yet this story lifted me beyond that into admiring the writing, the words on the page. I would thoroughly recommend this book and hope we will see more from this author.

Fin a copy here:

Amazon.co.uk

http://amzn.to/1JVEy2G

Amazon.com

http://amzn.to/1N98nlP

Rosie's Book Review team 1