#Blogtour The Librarian Of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe @Tonilturbe @EburyPublishing @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompulsiveReaders #TheLibrarianOfAuschwitz

 

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The Librarian Of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe translated by Lilit Zekulin Thwaites Ebury  April 4th 2019

It wasn’t an extensive library. In fact, it consisted of eight books and some of them were in poor condition. But they were books. In this incredibly dark place, they were a reminder of less sombre times, when words rang out more loudly than machine guns…’

Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the secret librarian of Auschwitz, responsible for the safekeeping of the small collection of titles, as well as the ‘living books’ – prisoners of Auschwitz who know certain books so well, they too can be ‘borrowed’ to educate the children in the camp.

But books are extremely dangerous. They make people think. And nowhere are they more dangerous than in Block 31 of Auschwitz, the children’s block, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, no matter how young the transgressor…

My Review

It is not for us to imagine ourselves in a concentration camp. We can never truly understand the terror, the starvation and the harsh cruelties of its many hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. What we can do is to witness, and read the thoughts and accounts of those incarcerated and that was exactly what Antonio Iturbe set out to do in The Librarian Of Auschwitz.

It was definitely not a comfortable read and was all the more real, based on the true story of its main character Dita. The fact that Dita lived to tell her story was testament to her bravery, her strong will and unerring need and will to survive.

You read with utter disbelief the lengths and indeed conscientiousness with which she protected the eight books in the camp library. The joy she found in their contents, the escapism to another world and the love and care she took in maintaining their condition was both astounding and poignant. They gave her and others a gateway, a chance to forget their circumstances and a certain power that the Nazis would have undoubtedly taken away and punished with certain death if discovered.

Dita was the one shining light of the novel. At only 14 many young girls would have withered and crumbled but not Dita. We watched and read as, before our eyes she matured, grew up, understood the vileness of human nature whilst finding a way to live with it, to find the positives that got her out of bed every morning.

A novel set in a concentration camp was never going to be all sweetness and light but amidst the darkness was a story that had laughter, singing, love and hope. I was amazed to read of the children’s camp, the school created to provide them with learning, with a reason to run around, play games and enjoy being just what they were, children. You couldn’t help but admire Fredi Hirsch and his fellow teachers even if Hirsch hid behind alterior motives, motives that you knew did not bode well, that lingered with dreadful anticipation.

The Nazi’s were pretty much as you would expect, harsh, unwielding, fed on propaganda and the promise of a pure German state. Did they know it was wrong? For some no, for the tiny minority yes, but their own sense of entrapment and need to survive prevailed.

Iturbe’s narrative skilfully captured the fear and the anguish of his characters but he excelled in his descriptions of the camp itself. You could not help but recoil in horror as ash from the mass cremations fell from the sky like rain on the prisoners, a daily occurrence that almost became the norm. The cold, the lack of food, the squalid conditions and the constant fear of the gas chambers eerily echoed from the pages. You wondered if life could be any worse until Iturbe turned his attentions to Bergen Belsen, his descriptions on an entirely different and higher level. Having visited myself I will never forget the eerie silence, the huge mounds that covered the many thousands who perished.

The images, the smells, the sheer scale of the torture endured was never faraway, but if there was one thing that Iturbe brilliantly conveyed it was the spirit, the tenacity and the small glimpses of joy and happiness of the prisoners, the one thing the Nazi’s could never take from them.

The Librarian Of Auschwitz was a novel that would linger long in the mind and a reminder to us all to feel grateful for the freedom and the peace we now live in.

I would like to thank Ebury for a copy of The Librarian Of Auschwitz to read and review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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Antonio Iturbe lives in Spain, where he is both a novelist and a journalist. In researching The Librarian of Auschwitz, he interviewed Dita Kraus, the real-life librarian of Auschwitz. Lilit Zekulin Thwaites is an award-winning literary translator. After thirty years as an academic at La Trobe University in Australia, she retired from teaching and now focuses primarily on her ongoing translation and research projects. Dita Kraus was born in Prague. In 1942, when Dita was thirteen years old , she and her parents were deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt and later to Auschwitz,. Neither of Dita’s parents survived. After the war Dita married the author Otto B. Kraus. They emigrated to Israel in 1949, where they both worked as teachers They had three children. Since Otto’s death in 2000 , Dita lives alone in Netanya. She has four grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Despite the horrors of the concentration camps, Dita has kept her positive approach to life.

#Blogtour The Passengers by John Marrs @johnmarrs1 @EburyPublishing @Tr4cyF3nton #CompulsiveReaders #ThePassengers

 

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The Passengers by John Marrs  Ebury  1st April 2019 (e-book), 30th May 2019 (paperback)

Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide.

‘Provocative, terrifying and compulsive. Another savagely clever near future thriller’ Cara Hunter, bestselling author of CLOSE TO HOME

The new gripping page-turning thriller for fans of BLACK MIRROR from the bestselling author of HER LAST MOVE and THE ONE – soon to be a major Netflix series.

When someone hacks into the systems of eight self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course.

The passengers are: a TV star, a pregnant young woman, a disabled war hero, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife – and parents of two – who are travelling in separate vehicles and a suicidal man. Now the public have to judge who should survive but are the passengers all that they first seem?

My Review

The Passengers was different, oh so very different from anything I have read in a longtime. For the two or three days I read it pushed my imagination to the limits, put my brain into a tailspin and basically dominated my head space to the point I had to discuss with anyone who would listen!

Marrs asked us to imagine a future of driverless cars, cars programmed to avoid traffic jams and most importantly avoid collisions. Then he asked us to think about what would happen if someone hacked into those systems and had control, who wanted us the reader and a jury to decide the fate of eight passengers.

What I liked was that Marrs’s jury covered every aspect of the professional world, the doctor, the lawyer, the religious, the MP and lastly a member of the public.

Each had their own approach, each tackled the dilemma the Hacker threw at them from a differing angle. It allowed Marrs to show us their true characters. You couldn’t help but hate MP Jack Larson, selfish, egotistical, a man full of his own self importance. At the other end of the spectrum you had Libby, your average member of the public. I loved her level headedness, her compassion, her questioning nature and her ability to stand up for herself that made her all the more likeable.

The Passengers themselves were from all walks of life, of differing nationalities, religions, race and age, each with a secret they wanted to keep hidden. This is where Marrs was very very clever, where the novel excelled. What if the Hacker knew those secrets but only chose to share certain snippets of information, information that could be manipulated, twisted to influence our decision making? What if he used social media to involve the world in those decisions? As you can imagine this took the novel onto a whole new level as the opinions and the decisions of the jury became complex, the tension and anger almost unbearable. You held your breath as Marrs took everything to the extreme, as you waited for consequences that you knew could only be devastating and catastrophic.

Each chapter gave us differing perspectives as we felt the fear of the The Passengers, Of Libby’s emotions and turmoil. As time ticked away the pace of the novel became frantic as it reflected the panic of its characters. I think my own heart rate raced furiously as the sense of anticipation grew and I waited for the inevitable big explosion, for everything to come crashing down.

I loved the subtle surprise near the end, the tying up of loose ends that didn’t leave me with more questions than answers that can do often happen in novels.

The Passengers was not only high octane, it was thought provoking, intelligent and absolutely brilliant. Can someone please make it into a film or TV drama as it would make for addictive and thrilling viewing!

I would like to thank Ebury for a copy of The Passengers to read and review and to Tracy Fenton Of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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John Marrs is a former journalist from Northamptonshire, England, who spent 25 years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines. He wrote for publications including The Guardian’s Guide and Guardian Online; OK! Magazine; Total Film; Empire; Q; GT; The Independent; Star; Reveal; Company; Daily Star and News of the World’s Sunday Magazine. He recently gave up his job to write novels full time. His first car at the age of seventeen was a three-door, Ford Escort with a Batman sticker in the rear windscreen. He thought the sticker was cool at the time.

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#Blogtour Dark Sky Island by Lara Dearman @laradearman @TrapezeBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompulsiveReaders #DarkSkyIsland

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Dark Sky Island by Lara Dearman   Trapeze Books April 18th 2019 

In this thrilling sequel to The Devil’s Claw, DCI Michael Gilbert is called out to Sark – the world’s first dark sky island – after bones are found on Derrible Bay. He is followed by journalist Jennifer Dorey, driven by a secret in her own past. The remains are decades old, but after a body is discovered Jennifer and Michael fear there may be a killer on the island. Together they follow a dark trail of bad blood and a conspiracy of silence.

Everyone on the island is under suspicion. No one is what they seem. And the murderer could strike again at any time…

If you love Ann Cleeves, Peter May and Elly Griffiths, you’ll love the latest atmospheric thriller from Lara Dearman. Dark Sky Island will keep you guessing until the very last page.

My Review

Who would have thought the little island of Sark would be such a hotbed of mystery, murder and intrigue. Who could have imagined that this beautiful, peaceful and traffickless island would harbour murders and criminals and make you question if this was an island you would like to visit.

Sark was definitely the stand out character of Dark Sky Island. Dearman’s descriptions of its landscape, it’s rugged coastline and its traffic less tranquillity were wonderfully evocative. Yet you could feel the palpable tension that simmered below the surface and what you wanted more than anything was for it to bubble and erupt. I didn’t have to wait long as old bones and a murder threw the island into chaos, it’s residents under close scrutiny, old feuds resurrected.

Dearman threw a myriad of character at us, the seigneur, the billionaire, the local policeman, the old fishermen, the shopkeepers, in fact the entire population. She asked us who we would trust, who had something to hide and gave us local journalist Jenny and detective Michael to help us. What I liked what that each had their own perspective on the crimes, each wanting differing outcomes.

I loved Jenny, whose personal angle gave what could have been the harsh realities of murder a softer edge. You had to admire her dogged persistence and her, at times, foolhardy bravery which only made you like her that little bit more.

Michael, on the other hand, had a job to do, murders to solve. Dearman showed a man under pressure, a man whose belief in his fellow officers sorely tested.

I liked the relationship between Jenny and Michael, full of tension yet also mutual respect.

Dark Sky Island was no one dimensional murder, crime, thriller, it’s layers were indeed deep and complex. They beautifully showed the darker side of human nature, of greed, and self preservation to a degree you could at times not quite believe.

It showcased a community that bound itself together, that kept its secrets and pushed away those who tried to enter or challenge the status quo.

The multiple strands, the flip between past and present kept me guessing until slowly the light bulb went on as Dearman skilfully brought the strands together. The latter parts picked up at a furious pace, characters thrown together and against one another and you just knew not all would survive, or maintain their innocence until the last scintillating pages revealed all.

Dark Sky Island was the second book in the series and I loved the loose ends Dearman left dangling. She left me with an appetite for more and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for Jenny and Michael.

I would like to thank Trapeze for a copy of Dark Sky Island to read and review and to Tracy Fenton Of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Lara was born and raised on the Channel Island of Guernsey. She moved to the UK to study International Relations and French at the University of Sussex, after which she endured a brief career in finance before giving it up to be a stay at home mum to her three children. A short course in Creative Writing at Richmond Adult Community College led to Lara studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at St Mary’s University, London. She graduated in 2016 with a distinction. Having moved from Guernsey to Brighton to London to Paris to Singapore and back to London over the last fifteen years, she has now settled in Westchester, New York, with her family. Her first novel, The Devil’s Claw, combines her love of Guernsey, myths and folklore with her obsession with crime fiction and serial killers. In the sequel, Dark Sky Island, murder and mystery arrive on the beautiful and isolated island of Sark.

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#Blogtour The Island by Ragnar Jonasson @Ragnarjo @MichaelJBooks @sriya_v #TheIsland

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The Island by Ragnar Jonasson  Michael Joseph April 4th 2019

Elliðaey is an isolated island off the Icelandic coast. It has a beautiful, unforgiving terrain – and an easy place to vanish.

At the peak of her career Hulda Hermannsdóttir is sent to discover what happened when a group of friends visited Elliðaey – but one failed to return.

Could this have links to the disappearance of a couple ten years previously out on the Westfjords? Is there a killer stalking these barren outposts?

Written with Ragnar’s haunting and suspenseful prose The Island follows Hulda’s journey to uncover the island’s secrets and find the truth hidden in its darkest shadows.

My Review

Iceland, not notable for its murders but in Ragnar Jonasson’s world they somehow kept happening. This one was a little different, two bodies, ten years apart and all we had to do was wonder if there was a connection and Jonasson could certainly weave a tale of intrigue with so many layers that it made it hard to finally work out who the culprit or culprits were.

He gave us a bunch of characters, all friends, who had somehow drifted apart and all with something to hide, their lives wonderfully diverse and interesting. There was Dagur with a tragic family history, who on the surface seemed to hold it all together, yet underneath you knew was struggling, could not move on.

Benedikt was the one who seemed the most rounded, yet again there was something about him that didn’t add up, that made you question what he had to hide, or was unwilling to reveal.

The girls Alexandra and Klara were, for me, the ones who seemed more fragile, in particular Klara, who appeared odd, slightly unhinged, and I loved the the little nuances and strange behaviour thrown in by Jonasson.

Any good crime novel obviously needs a great a detective and I knew we were in safe hands with Detective Hulda Hermannsdottir, a woman who had her own tragic past and it was wonderful that Jonasson chose to reveal just that little bit more. We glimpsed more of her personality not just the hardened exterior we saw in Jonasson’s previous novel, The Darkness. That hard exterior was still there as she investigated, went above and beyond putting her own career in danger as she pushed to uncover the truth. That is what I liked about Jonasson’s portrayal of Hulda, she was never that cliche, that one dimensional detective who used brute force to get a result, she was dogged, hard working, methodical and Jonasson brilliantly put her thoughts and musings onto the blank page.

We didn’t just get to read Hulda’s thoughts, as Jonasson chose to use the individual chapters to give each character their own voice. You would have thought this would have made it easier to work out the culprit or culprits, but oh no, in fact it made it more complicated as you continually changed your mind, as they revealed more information about themselves and their relationship to the others. When all was eventually revealed it all made perfect sense, but was still, to me, a surprise.

What you could not get away from  was Jonasson’s wonderfully vivid imagery of an island that was both beautiful and remote, and even if bodies kept appearing , one you longed to visit. Maybe a tour of the murder locations could be mooted with the tourist board, as I know I for one would be signing up!

Once again Ragnar Jonasson has shown that he is at the top of his game in his chosen genre and I am anticipating great things for the next instalment!

I would like to thank Michael Joseph for a copy of The Island to read and review and to Sriya Varadharajan for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to paricipate in the blogtour.

About the author

Ragnar Jonasson is the award winning author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series and the Hidden Iceland series. He has sold over 600,000 books worldwide, thereof over 300,000 thousand books in France in just two years. His books are published in 21 languages in over 30 countries and his debut, Snowblind, went to number one in the Amazon Kindle charts shortly after publication in the UK. The book was also a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia. The second book in the series, Nightblind, also became a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia. Ragnar is also a no. 1 Crime Fiction Bestseller in France, with Blackout topping the crime fiction charts in France in 2019. Ragnar is the winner of the Mörda Dead Good Reader Award 2016 for Nightblind. His latest book in the UK, The Darkness, was selected as the Sunday Times Crime Novel of the Month and Snowblind was selected by The Independent as one of the best crime novels of 2015. His books have also won praise from publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. Ragnar is the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. Ragnar has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik. Ragnar has a law degree and works as an investment banker in Reykjavik, in addition to teaching law at Reykjavik University.

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#Blogtour Him by Clare Empson @ClareEmpson2 @orionbooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompulsiveReaders #IDestroyedHim #Him

 

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Clare Empson  Him  Orion Books April 4th 2019

Now: Catherine can’t and won’t speak to her husband, children or friends. When her doctor and nurses fail to coax her out of her elective mutism, they embark on an intensive exploration of her fractured past.

They will start with Him. Lucian. Then: Fifteen years before, Catherine was at university when she met the smart, vulnerable, funny Lucian: the love of her life.

But something terrible happens, something Catherine can never speak about without destroying Lucian.

So she disappears without explanation, and shatters his life. Years later, Lucian haunts every one of Catherine’s quiet moments. So when they are unexpectedly reunited, their love reignites with explosive force. But yet again their lives implode.

This time, however, Lucian tries to uncover the real truth of the past, with horrific consequences.

Now: As Catherine moves deeper into the past, into the heart of their love affair, the truth slowly begins to unfurl. But will she be able to reclaim herself in time to save their second chance together? Or has that, too, been lost forever?

My Review

When you go to university you expect to meet lots of new people, but how often do you expect to meet the person would turn out to be the love of your life?

That is exactly what happened to Catherine and Lucian, but as we all know the course of true love never runs smooth and Empson definitely wrote a fascinating novel that encapsulated the impact and effect it had on their lives.

For Catherine, it was marriage and children but Empson made us question if we should settle for second best, if that true love would have sustained the rigours of everyday life. It was interesting to see how Catherine carefully papered over the cracks and attempted to immerse herself in family life, yet Empson created that sense of anticipation as we wondered what the catalyst would be, that would potentially shatter her world.

For Lucian, his was a gilded world of wealth and privilege but Empson created a man who never flaunted it, who was just simply a very nice person.

I think that is what I liked about Him, that two opposite worlds collided, and you could stand back and watch as you waited for the devastating consequences it would have for all involved.

I did feel sympathy for Catherine’s husband Sam but at the same time felt he had no back bone, never brave enough to upset the status quo.

Lucien’s friends were a mix between the truly vile, self obsessed world of the rich and those that were much nicer, much more accepting.

The mix of personalities was brilliant and I was just waiting for the explosion, for the lies and deceit to be uncovered. It was almost like watching a car crash in slow motion, just waiting for that impact and wondering who the casualties would be.

Empson did not disappoint, the narrative building the tension, until finally all was revealed and what a reveal it was!

There was definitely a serious side to Him, one that explored mental health, which was both balanced and sympathetic. It certainly made me think about trauma and the differing effects it can have.

Yet, it’s overriding theme was love, love that can be superficial, for convenience but also that once in a lifetime love, that is passionate, deep and everlasting.

If there is one thing I have learnt from reading Him is that if you find that one true love, hang on to it, don’t ever let it go because you might never find it again.

I would like to thank Orion Books for a copy of Him to read and review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Clare Empson worked as a staff writer on national newspapers covering everything from collapsing merchant banks to tea with the late Barbara Cartland (everything pink including the cakes). Eight years ago, she moved to the West Country and founded the arts and lifestyle blog countrycalling.co.uk.

The idyllic setting inspired her first novel, which reveals the darker side of paradise. Clare lives on the Wiltshire/Dorset border with her husband and three children.

HIM Blog Tour

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#Blogtour Poster Boy by NJ Crosskey @NJCrosskey @LegendPress #PosterBoy

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Poster Boy by NJ Crosskey  Legend Press April 1st 2019

Broadcast live, Rosa Lincoln takes to the stage at her brother’s memorial service with a bomb concealed beneath her clothes. Being in Jimmy’s shadow was never easy, even when he was alive, but in death he has become a national hero.

When she crosses paths with the enigmatic Teresa, she discovers that those she has been taught to view as enemies may not be the real villains after all. 

The lies need to be stopped, and Rosa intends on doing just that. 

Crosskey combines the social commentary of classic dystopian works such as 1984 or The Handmaid’s Tale with the contemporary style of unreliable narration found in recent hits Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train. 

Now more than ever, readers are seeking accessible and topical social commentary, and with its combination of modern storytelling and strong narrative voice, Poster Boy is exactly what modern readers are looking for.

My Review

I’m not sure quite where to start with Poster Boy other than to say, hold on and sit tight because Crosskey has written one helluva a novel.

Let’s start with the fact it was set sometime in the future but when you are never quite sure. The world in general was still recognisable but shades or glasses had replaced mobile phones and the political landscape was just a little different.

Those differences were so subtle that they would not have looked out of place in today’s society and for me this was an absolute master stroke by Crosskey. The ruling political party the English Reclamation Party, ERP, were against immigration, Muslims, and anyone who wasn’t British accessing services. Immediately your mind went into overdrive as The British Defence League and UKIP all jumped out at you, current parties with the same manifesto and reasoning.

And then as you read, as Crosskey themes went further you started to wonder, could this be our future, was this what we would have to look forward to. I have to say that it really made me think, her fiction so close to what could ultimately be our reality.

What of the people who lived in this system. How did they cope, did they agree or did they find ways to fight back?

This is where the action began as Crosskey gave us two brilliant characters.

Rosa, a young teen, happy with her life and friends but suddenly adrift after the death of her twin brother Jimmy. To me, she was the pawn in a complex and intense game of chess. You couldn’t believe the manipulation, the lies, the propaganda she was fed. I felt her utter despair, her confusion, her anger at everyone. You couldn’t blame her for her actions, in fact if you could  have jumped into the novel you would have fought her corner, and helped her.

Then we had Teresa. It has been a long time since I have come across a female character that was so strong, so focused, so lacking in emotion, so damn manipulative. I loved and hated her all at the same time and admired her intelligence, her drive and single mindedness, she was just brilliant!

What I liked was their alternating voices, we got two sides of the story. It gave Crosskey the opportunity to dig deep into their thoughts and feelings.

The tension was palpable and in the latter parts of the novel unbearable. I think the fact that we knew from the beginning that Rosa was wearing a bomb vest didn’t help as I was impatient to know why and how. Such a brilliant tool and brilliantly executed by Crosskey to start at the end and work back to how it all began. The drama was never ending, my head permanently on fast spin, and I was totally drained by the time I turned the last page, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way as Poster Boy was utterly brilliant.

If there are any TV executives out there wanting a new drama series then I would look no further than Poster Boy.

Superb!!!

I would like to thank Legend Press for a copy of Poster Boy to read and review and to Lucy Chamberlain for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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NJ Crosskey lives with her husband and two children in Worthing, West Sussex. She worked in the care sector for almost 20 years and now is a full-time writer.

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Follow NJ on Twitter @NJCrosskey

#Blogtour Pilgrim by Louise Hall @LouHallWriter #TheMerciaPress @annecater #RandomThingsTours #Pilgrim

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Pilgrim by Louise Hall  The Mercia Press Ltd  September 14th 2018

In Dublin, fourteen-year-old Jen and her father, Charlie, are struggling to cope with the death of their mother/wife. Charlie, in particular, seems to have given up on life. When Jen’s aunt, Suzanne, convinces them to go on a pilgrimage to a strange village in Yugoslavia, there is hope that some solace or healing may be brought to their broken lives. On their arrival, however, they find a village in upheaval. An influx of pilgrims have swarmed into the village, each looking for their own miracle. Then there are the local police, who aim to suppress this so-called `revolution’. Amid all this, Jen makes a friend, Iva – one of the children who claims to have seen the Virgin Mary. Told with a deep humanity and grace, Pilgrim is a story about a man who feels he has nothing to live for, and a daughter who is determined to prove him wrong. A nuanced and moving exploration of grief and faith. Unique subject matter based around the famed Medjugorje apparitions. The author already has a dedicated readership built up from her two non-fiction books on Medjugorje. This is her first fictional take on the story.

My Review

Whats you opinion on visions, pilgrimages, shrines? I have to admit to being sceptical and am not a religious person. I remember visiting Lourdes as a child and even at such a young age, I was struck by the commercialism, by the need to make money, the religious intentions almost secondary.

For some despite all this it means everything, the last ditch attempt to find a cure or indeed a miracle to heal the physical or the mental soul. For Jen it’s her only chance to bring back her Dad, Charlie, the man she loved before Mum died tragically, leaving Charlie adrift, drinking too much and unwilling to wake up and realise what was happening around him.

Told in the alternating voices of Jen, Charlie, Suzanne and Iva, Hall gave us a multi perspective view of their pilgrimage to the remote, small village in communist Yugoslavia. It allowed Hall to immerse us in their feelings, their hopes and in some cases their scathing sceptisim.

My heart belonged to Jen, Hall’s portrayal both tender and poignant, a young teenager lost in a world with no Mum, who totally immersed herself in the whole experience. You could sense her hope, see here grow up and mature in front of us, but also gain acceptance for the way things were. I loved the friendship she forged with Iva, one of the six who saw the vision, the Gospa, their mutual loss, and longings was touching and endearing.

I felt utter frustration with Jen’s father, Charlie, to the point I wanted to scream and shout, but Hall also made us feel some empathy, as she took us back into his earlier years, his grasp of the realities of life only tangible, almost like he had never grown up, never accepted or met the challenges that life threw at him.

One character that did stand out was Iva, the young village girl, one of the visionary six. The contrast between her and Jen’s life were huge, but Hall created similarities, that you knew would draw them together, and create a bond. I wondered how such a young girl dealt with the pressure of being one of the chosen, of being paraded in front of pilgrims on a daily basis, but you knew that that was how it was, that their vision was all encompassing, almost like a drug that pulled at them, never letting them go.

Having visited Yugoslavia before the Balkan War, I felt an affinity with Halls’ vivid descriptions of the military presence, the fear felt by its citizens. What I loved more than anything was Hall’s wonderful imagery, of the hazy heat, the lush and greenness of the vineyards, and the imposing mountains that towered over the village.

There were the thronging pilgrims all desperate to touch the visionary six, their fervent belief that a miracle would happen, that their prayers would be answered and that life would change. The descriptions of the Gospa were almost magical and ethereal, you could sense the joy it gave to the six, the absolute belief that what they saw was real. Hall never pushed the religious angle, never let it take over the narrative, but used her characters to give us that balance, to give us two opposing sides. It almost didn’t matter if you didn’t believe, that theories might exist to explain the Gospa, it was the impact that it had on the six, on the pilgrims, on the small village that shone through.

You could easily see how people cling to visions, to religion especially when dealing with grief, with illness and if even if they didn’t get the cure or miracle they wanted they still went away with something, with acceptance and a lightness that helped them in their everyday lives.

It was Hall’s insight and ability to get this across to her reader that I admired, her characters relatable, and ordinary that made Pilgrim a hugely impressive novel.

I would like to thank Mercia Press for a copy of Pilgrim to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

LouiseHall

Louise Hall is from Malahide, Co. Dublin. She has previously published two works of non-fiction, Medjugorje: What it Means to Me and Medjugorje and Me: A Collection of Stories from Across the World. Her fiction has been published in The Irish Times and been shortlisted for numerous competitions, such as the RTÉ Guide/Penguin Short Story Award, the Colm Tóibín International Short Story Competition and the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Awards. Pilgrim is her debut novel.

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