#Review Little by Edward Carey @EdwardCarey70 @BelgraviaB #MadameTussaud #wax

Little by Edward Carey   Gallic Books October 4th 2018

There is a space between life and death: it’s called waxworks”
The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals alike, who transforms herself into the legendary Madame Tussaud.
In 1761, a tiny, odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Alsace. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and . . . at the wax museum, heads are what they do.

My review

Have you ever wondered just who  Madam Tussaud was? Many of us will have visited Madame Tussaud’s in London and wondered how it came into being, and like me be ignorant of its very full and colourful history. I was therefore very excited to receive and read a proof copy of Little, and even more excited by the illustrations that adorned the front cover and littered the narrative.

Straight away Carey plunged me into the life of Anne Marie Grosholtz, a young girl orphaned and taken in by the rather eccentric Dr Curtius and renamed Little. It is their departure for Paris and their subsequent life in the city where the novel excels, Carey, skilfully using Little as a conduit of history.

The historical detail was impressive, well researched, and brilliantly intertwined with the story of Little’s life. It was easy and her treatment by the widow, who Curtuis adored, was abysmal yet Little was strong, determined, resourceful and a survivor. I loved the images Carey drew of her life in Versailles, of her devotion to the Princess Elizabeth, of the grandeur and opulence, sharply contrasting the near slave like existence she experienced with Curtuis and the widow in the Monkey House.

If I thought her life in Versaille was interesting, it was the onset of the French Revolution where the novel and Carey’s storytelling had me enthralled.

The novel turned truly macabre, the detail, and the imagery were almost cinematic, the tension palpable and the pace fast. Famous names such as Voltaire, Robespierre and Dr Jean-Paul Marat littered the pages as Carey brilliantly brought the revolution to life. How Little survived was truly remarkable, in fact her whole story was remarkable.

If the narrative was impressive, then the illustrations were equally impressive. Carey scattered them throughout, breaking up the text, inserting small drawings and at times full page drawings depicting characters, body parts and tools. I loved how the text and illustrations complemented each other, one never drowning out the other, but enhancing and lifting the whole novel into something that was utterly mesmerising and unique.

I was sad when the novel came to an end, but am no longer ignorant of the true story of Madame Tussaud and the colour and imagery will stay with me for a long time.

What struck me whilst reading, is that Little would make a fantastic drama series, and would perfectly fit the brief for the infamous 9pm Sunday evening slot on the BBC, the only dilemma being, just who would play Little!!

I would like to thank Gallic Books for a copy of Little to read review.

About the author

Novelist, visual artist and playwright. He has written and produced several plays. His debut novel ‘Obersvatory Mansions’ (with author’s illustrations) is sold in 14 countries and was described by John Fowles as ‘proving the potential brilliance of the novel form’.

Born in England, he teaches at the University of Austin, Texas.


#Review Normal People by Sally Rooney #SallyRooney @FaberBooks #sublime #stunning

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Normal People by Sally Rooney  Faber and Faber  August 30th 2018

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.

This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney’s second novel breathes fiction with new life.

My Review

Conversations With Friends was for me one of the most accomplished and remarkable debuts I had read in a long time, hence Rooney’s second novel Normal People had a lot to live upto.

I do not envy an authors task at launching that second novel with so much expectation on their shoulders, yet Rooney need not have worried, as Normal People was just brilliant.

Why? Characters are what Rooney does best, and what Rooney managed so skilfully was to penetrate right to the very hearts of Connell and Marianne. Here were two characters from opposite sides of the social spectrum, Marianne residing in a mansion with all the trapping of wealth, Connell struggling son of Marianne’s family cleaner, living on the local estate.  They say that opposites attract and so this is the case for Marianne and Connell, yet Rooney takes it further than pure sex, instead you can sense that their shared intellect is part of the glue that holds them together, their intrinsic sense of not being good enough, of not conforming to the norm. Both are wonderfully flawed, their flaws laid bare forming the basis for much of the novel, as they struggle through life at Trinity College, trying and at times failing to navigate friendships, and relationships.

The narrative is stunning, the angst of the characters emanated from the pages, the emotions raw and unrelenting. Rooney made me invest so heavily in Connell and Marianne, and I may not have liked them at times, and  found their actions frustrating, but I knew I just wanted them to be ok, to come out of the other side intact and ready to face the future.

Normal people was, for me one of those novels, that I never wanted to end, that I savoured from start to finish wrapping myself in writing that was sublime and utterly captivating.

My only disappointment was its omission from the Man Booker Prize shortlist, a glaring oversight from this years judges, but I am sure that in the book prizes still to come it will feature and win many well deserved prizes.

About the author

Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin, where she graduated from an MA at Trinity College in 2013. Her work has appeared in GrantaThe White ReviewThe Dublin ReviewThe Stinging Fly, Kevin Barry’s Stonecutter and The Winter Pages anthology. Conversations with Friends is her first novel.

#Blogtour The Cold Summer by Gianrico Carofiglio @GianricoCarof @bitterleomonpub @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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The Cold Summer by Gianrico Carofiglio  Bitter Lemon Press  September 13th 2018

The summer of 1992 had been exceptionally cold in southern Italy. But that’s not the reason why it is still remembered.

On May 23, 1992, a roadside explosion killed the Palermo judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife and three police officers. A few weeks later judge Paolo Borsellino and five police officers were killed in the center of Palermo. These anti-mafia judges became heroes but the violence spread to the region of Bari in Puglia, where we meet a new, memorable character, Maresciallo Pietro Fenoglio, an officer of the Italian Carabinieri. Fenoglio, recently abandoned by his wife, must simultaneously deal with his personal crisis and the new gang wars raging around Bari. The police are stymied until a gang member, accused of killing a child, decides to collaborate, revealing the inner workings and the rules governing organised crime in the area.

The story is narrated through the actual testimony of the informant, a trope reminiscent of verbatim theatre which Carofiglio, an ex-anti-mafia judge himself, uses to great effect. The gangs are stopped but the mystery of the boy’s murder must still be solved, leading Fenoglio into a world of deep moral ambiguity, where the prosecutors are hard to distinguish from the prosecuted.

My Review

Ok, so lets get the negative out of the way first! The cover was not the most inspiring but the old adage, never judge a book by its cover definitely applies. Once that cover is peeled back Carofiglio drew me, the reader, into a world full of Godfathers, Santista’s and Santa’s. This was the Italy of the Mafia and the Carabinieri’s attempts to thwart the stranglehold the Mafia held over Bari in Southern Italy

Once such Carabinieri was Marshall Pietro Fenoglio, an officer who I admired for his quiet, methodical investigative techniques and his intelligence. Fenoglio was an officer with a heart, suffering the trauma of a broken marriage, yet still able to put his feelings to one side and concerntrate on the job in hand. It made such a welcome change from the myriad of gungho, violent seeking detectives that litter the crime genre.

That’s not to say the novel wasn’t without any violence, it just wasn’t in your face, just for the sake of it violence, instead Carofiglio used a series of police interviews to describe the inner workings of the Mafia, its hierarchy and its crimes. This is where the author excelled, the information presented was both fascinating and immersive, highlighting an organisation that was brutal in its need to control and amass wealth.

The Cold Summer was definitely not fast paced, it required your attention, your concentration as you immersed yourself in Fenoglio’s investigation. The plot meandered in varying directions before the pieces finally slotted together and we got a suitably dramatic ending. It was an ending that also held glimmers of a brighter future, of a job well done and the relentlessness of the Mafia onslaught abated until the next time.

It was interesting to read that the author Carofiglio was in fact a judge and anti-mafia prosecutor before turning to writing. Some of the events described actually happened and I loved the authentic and very real dimension that this added to the story. It was a novel that surprised me, that I found utterly absorbing and I would recommend to anyone who is looking for an intelligent and highly original crime novel.

I would like to thank Bitter Lemon Press for a copy of The Cold Summer to read and review and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours fro inviting \my Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blog tour.

About the author

Gianrico Carofiglio Author Picture

Award-winning, best-selling novelist Gianrico Carofiglio was born in Bari in 1961 and worked for many years as a prosecutor specialising in organised crime.

He was appointed advisor of the anti-Mafia committee in the Italian parliament in 2007 and served as a senator from 2008 to 2013.

Carofiglio is best know for the Guido Guerrieri crime series; Involuntary Witness, A Walk in the Dark, Reasonable Doubts, Temporary Perfections and now, a Fine Line, all published by Bitter Lemon Press.

His other novels include The Silence of the Wave.

Carofiglio’s books have sold more than four million copies in Italy and have been translated into twenty-four languages worldwide.

Twitter: @GianricoCarof

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#Blogtour A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes @MarianneHAuthor @AgoraBooksLDN #LittleBird


A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes  Agora Books  September 13th 2018

Besides, if you were one half evil, wouldn’t you want to know about the other half?

In the scorching summer of 1976, Robyn spends her days swimming at the Lido and tagging after her brother. It’s the perfect holiday – except for the crying women her mum keeps bringing home.

As the heatwave boils on, tensions in the town begin to simmer. Everyone is gossiping about her mum, a strange man is following her around, and worst of all, no one will tell Robyn the truth. But this town isn’t good at keeping secrets…

Twelve years later, Robyn returns home, to a house that has stood empty for years and a town that hasn’t moved on, forced to confront the mystery that haunted her that summer.

And atone for the part she played in it.

My review

The sweltering summer of 1976 is but a distant memory for myself but for Robyn or Little Bird it was as clear as if it were yesterday.  The events that happened shaped who Robyn was, how she conducted her life and her relationships with those around her. The Robyn she was then did not resemble the present day Robyn.

So who was Robyn then and now? Back in 1976 Robyn was a little girl, spending time with her friends, with a mother who adored her, a brother Kit to whom she was very close. and Matthew a stepfather who treated them as if they were his own. Yet I sensed there was something unstable about the family. Little clues began to creep into the narrative and when a stranger turned up and specifically targeted Robyn I just knew they were running away from something, something that neither Robyn or I as the reader knew anything about.

What frustrated me was that Robyn’s mother knew and despite protests from Kit and Matthew refused to talk to Robyn, attempting to rid them of the issue, despite the ensuing events and devastating consequences.

I loved Holmes’s portrayal of Robyn from the young innocent, naive little girl to the damaged, bitter women of present day who sought the truth about her past and the events that led her back home. She was a young woman with guts and determination and in the end brave and courageous. I did feel that she was the only one who really wanted the truth, that her brother Kit found it all too much, who just wanted to leave the past behind.

The narrative itself, was full of the most wonderful imagery and, at times I felt like I was in small town America rather than a village in England. The sweltering and shimmering heat almost exaggerated the actions of the characters, the intense heat added immensely to the high tension and drama that slowly built within the pages.

What impressed, was the skill by which Holmes managed to add suspense to what was essentially a family drama. You had an inkling as to the truth but it wasn’t until the latter parts that the pieces of the jigsaw slowly began to fit together, with a dramatic ending that was so befitting of this wonderful story.

It is so hard to believe that this is a debut novel, as it was so wonderfully written. The American feel Holmes conveyed, with its family dynamics and characters reminded me of the author Anne Tyler, a writer who I admire and I mean this as a complement to Holmes and her obvious skill as an author.

I cannot wait for her next novel and do hope that the wait will not be a long one.

I would like to thank Agora Books for a copy of A Little Bird Told Me to read and review and to Oliver Wearing for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Marianne Holmes - Author Photo (B&W)

Marianne Holmes was born in Cyprus to RAF parents and bounced between the UK, Germany, Kuwait and Belgium until firmly basing herself in London – well, apart from those years in the Peak District.

A love of language led to degrees in Classics and Linguistics from the University of London but her desire to pay the mortgage steered her to a career in Marketing. After distracting herself in all sorts of ways over the years – sailing, flying, plastering, consulting, volunteering and running away to India – she is now definitely, absolutely concentrating on her writing. Well, that and making sure her children get fed, clothed and entertained. Obviously.

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#Blogtour After He Died by Michael J. Malone @michaelJmalone1 @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandonThingsTours

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After He Died by Michael J. Malone  Orenda Books September 30th 2018

When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…
When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought she knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger. Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chillingreminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…

My Review

Do you really know the person you are married to, Paula reckons she did. Their marriage may not have been perfect and the distance between them edging further apart, but she knew that they still loved each other, that they could pull it all back together. But what do you do when your husband suddenly dies, and mysterious things start to happen, the silent phone calls, the unusual behaviour of friends and family as they intimate that her husband was not necessarily a good man.

Most people would curl up and swamp themselves in grief, remaining passive, but Paula was determined to discover just who her husband was. On first meeting Paula, I’m not sure I actually liked her and I don’t think she even liked herself. She appeared quite vain, a woman who enjoyed the trappings of a wealthy lifestyle and all that it brought with it. As the novel progressed, the real Paula emerged, a woman who had inner strength, and nerve, who realised that what she looked like was not more important than discovering the truth.

As in all good thrillers, the path to discovering the truth is never straightforward and Malone was particularly good at weaving a complex and at times disorienting plot. It was definitely not fast paced, but more of a slow burn, with hints and clues dropped along the way. Other characters played their part, and in particular Paula’s brother in laws. A big man with who appeared jealous of Paula and Thomas, and I just knew there was something not quite right about him and his actions. It was nice to read about Jo, the younger brother, the priest, a man who cared for Paula and looked after her, and I liked that he had his own shady secret, and was not without his flaws.

The majority of the novel may not have been fast paced but the latter parts certainly were. I think I had guessed the main culprits but certainly not the way in which their misdemeanors were revealed and it made for quite furious page turning as I raced to discover the truth.

After He Died was a dark and brooding novel, that read more like a contemporary piece of work than an outright thriller. The narrative is fantastic, the characters engaging and full of wonderful flaws, that are laid bare for the reader to see. The plot required close attention from the reader but the final reveal was deeply satisfying.

Michael J Malone is an author I have not read before but he will definitely be an author I shall read in the future.

I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of After He Died to read and review and to thank Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up
in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary
magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland
and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize
from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes:
Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The
Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a
number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines soon
followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also
worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

After He Died Blog Tour Poster

#Blogtour How We Remember by J. M. Monaco @jm_monaco2 @RedDoorBooks

How We Remember by J.M. Monaco   RedDoor  September 13th 2018

Family Secrets. Sibling Rivalries

The blood ties that have kept Jo and her brother Dave together are challenged when an unexpected inheritance fans the flames of underlying tensions. Upon discovering her mother’s diary, the details of their family’s troubled past are brought into sharp relief and painful memories are reawakened.

Narrated with moments of light and dark, J. M. Monaco weaves together past and present, creating a complex family portrait of pain and denial in this remarkable debut novel.

Perfect for fans of Anne Tyler and Sylvia Brownrigg, this is a novel that will stay with you long after you stop turning the pages.

My Review

Do we, or our family and friends always remember things as they were? Do events in our past still resonant in the present or are they forgotten, pushed under the carpet and never spoken off again? In Jo’s case what happened to her has long been buried by her family, but for her it remains as clear as the day it occurred, only Jo has learnt how to live with what happened. It would be wrong of me to divulge what happened to Jo, but suffice to say it has a huge impact on the novel and the many tensions that existed amongst Jo, her brother, her father and her wider relatives.

What Monaco does so well, is to use the death of Jo’s mother to tear apart those tensions, to re open old family wounds and grievances. Told mainly from Jo’s point of view we got a glimpse into a fractured family, torn apart by alcohol, drugs, affairs and illness. Jo herself, was one strong lady, blighted by multiple sclerosis, a career nearing an end, but a determination that you had to admire. What I loved was Monaco’s skill in getting straight to the very heart of Jo, drawing out every nuance of emotion and turmoil for the reader to experience. I felt huge sorrow for her, but I also admired her sheer guts and determination to achieve and fight for what she wanted.

I am not sure I had quite the same feelings for Jo’s brother, Dave. He may have had mental health issues, but I found him to be quite selfish, and unrealistic, offering little or no support to his sister. His father was no better, and he was in some way a typical man. He came across as very rugged, tough and intolerant of his children, caring little for family life or it seemed his wife.

Yet, families always have a way of coming together when it matters and that is what I hoped for as I read. It is not for me to say in this review if they did or not, it is up to you to pick up a copy of How We Remember and discover for yourselves.

What I can say, is that Monaco’s novel is wonderfully written. The narrative, is at times both poignant and emotive, and it drew me in as I read, fully immersing me in the world of Jo and her family.

The themes are timely and, the difference from how we would deal with them today and how they were dealt with long ago so abjectly different it made me quite cross.

What does not differ is how families operate, how dynamics can change after an event or the death of a loved one. I found the book a timely reminder to treasure those close to us, to not take them for granted and make the most of the time we have.

How We Remember is a book at I would highly recommend to anyway who enjoys a novel of family emotions, you will not be disappointed.

I would like to thank Red Door for a copy of How We Remember to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour

About the author

JM Monaco

J.M. Monaco grew up in the northeast region of the USA where she studied English and Creative Writing at undergraduate level. She worked in a variety of areas before taking up postgraduate studies in England where she completed her PhD. She now lives in a buzzing city in the South West of England with her husband and children.

Copies of How We Remember can be purchased on:

Amazon   https://www.amazon.com/How-We-Remember-J-Monaco/dp/1910453625

RedDoor  https://reddoorpublishing.com/books/how-we-remember/

For more information about the author visit the blog at ;


Follow J.M Monaco on Twitter @jm_monaco2

#Blogtour The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech  Orenda Books  September 20th 2018

Be careful what you wish for…

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t… Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined… Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it? What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything? A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart…

My Review

‘Love goes with us – it is light and has easy-to-grip handles and needs no passport’

I’m not sure how this review will go, as it is hard to put into words how this book made me feel, and most importantly how brilliantly it is written.

Louise Beech has written a novel that literally had me sobbing in my local Cafe Nero’s. Her characters were just the most intense, flawed yet likeable people you will ever read about.

First of all there is Ben, young, but troubled with an alcoholic for a father, a dead mother who he misses immensely,  and a brother in Afghanistan.  When I first met Ben he was in a lion sanctuary in Zimbabwe and straight away I knew that there was something wrong, something he was running away from. Beech doesn’t let on straight away, instead setting the scene, describing vividly the beautiful African landscape, Ben’s fellow volunteers and the majesty of the lions.

I loved Beech’s narrative, as she portrayed Ben’s relationship with his rescued lion cub, Lucy, and was so pleased it wasn’t the cute fluffy version we so often read. Instead Beech described the almost love, hate relationship they had, the respect each had to gain from the other and most importantly learning how to let go.

In some ways it mirrored Ben’s relationship with Andrew who we slowly meet as Ben thinks back to the reason he ran away. Andrew is somewhat older, alone and longing for the family he never had, his wishes kept in a box, in the  hope that one day they would come true. He had aspirations to be a children’s author, small extracts littering the start of each chapter, each sentence weighed heavy with poignancy, reflecting the various moments and events in the novel.

Andrew had the experience of age on his side, but that still did not stop him falling in love with Ben, relying on him as his health took a nosedive. But as we all know the course of true love never runs smooth, and this is where Beech excelled.

The sheer emotion, and poignancy that poured from the pages was mesmerising and I felt myself wholly immersed in these two characters, drawn into their trauma, their feelings, their despair. I can honestly say it is very rare for a novel to affect me so much and I can only attest that to the sheer quality of Beech’s writing.

It was the fragility of Ben and Andrew that Beech managed, so cleverly to convey, and in particular Ben’s pestilence, almost childlike behaviour when things didn’t go his way or he didn’t get what he wanted. You could see him grow up as the pages turned, his acceptance of responsibility and of the past slowly maturing him emotionally.

It would be easy for Andrew to take second place to Ben in the novel, but Beech managed to maintain a balance, equally writing of Andrew’s struggles and his own acceptance of the past and the present, of his maturity and life experience, trying to do what he believed to be the right thing for Ben and himself.

If you are reading this novel and expecting hearts, flowers, and fluffy African lions then this is not the book for you. This is a novel that will, quite literally take your breath away with its intensity, its emotion and ability to burrow deep within your heart.  I defy anyone not  to be affected by what they read and I want to shout out to everyone to buy or borrow The Lion Tamer Who Lost because it is simply stunning.

I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of The Lion Tamer Who Lost to read and review and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot

About the author

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Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Reader’s Choice in 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for the Not the Booker Prize. Her third book, Maria in the Moon was widely reviewed and critically acclaimed. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise is currently writing her next book. She lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Follow Louise on Twitter @LouiseWriter and visit her website: louisebeech.co.uk.

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Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale @PNovelistGale @TinderPress @PublicityBooks

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Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale  Tinder Press August 21st 2018

Leaving your childhood behind is easier said than done…

Take Nothing With You is a sad-funny comedy of resilience and survival. Fifty-something Eustace, a gay Londoner of leisure, realises in the same week that he has fallen hopelessly in love with a man he has yet to meet in the flesh, and that he has cancer of the thyroid. While being given radioactive iodine therapy, which involves spending a little over 24 hours in a lead-lined hospital suite wearing only disposable clothes and with no possessions he doesn’t mind leaving behind, he listens to hour on hour of cello music recorded for him by his best mate, Naomi. This sets his memories circling back to the 1970s and his eccentric boyhood and adolescence in his parents’ old people’s home in Weston-Super-Mare, and how his life was transfigured and his family’s stability shattered, by the decision to attend a recital by the glamorous cellist, Carla Gold.

My Review

A new novel by Patrick Gale is, in my case, a moment to celebrate, to look forward to turning the pages on what you know will be a novel that will take you away and immerse you in the wonderful world of Gale’s characters.

Take Nothing With You was no exception and from the first page to the last i could not help but become embroiled in the life of Eustace, a man of 52 when we first met him, alone, and about to embark on a battle with the dreaded cancer. When he is locked in a room for twenty four hours Eustace, took me back to 1970’s Weston Super Mare and his childhood, one that you knew was perhaps not the happiest.

This is when Gale’s characterisation excelled, depicting a young lost boy, unsure of who he was, drifting towards anonymity, with few friends, and parents that were perhaps slightly self absorbed in their own lives to take much notice of Eustace. When he began cello lessons, Gale expertly used the music, and the characters he met to show us a different Eustace, a Eustace who discovered a passion, something that he was actually very good at and a means to unlock the real him.

I know little or nothing about the cello, or musical annotation and even though Take Nothing with You was littered with musical terms and practices it had a definite place within the novel. For me it added to the intensity I felt permeated the pages, to the passion and want of knowledge, and the escape it provided Eustace from all the other troubles that plagued his life. At times it was achingly emotive and poignant and it felt deeply personal, as though Gale himself was reliving his own childhood, his own struggles with life and ultimately his sexuality. There is one particular train of events towards the end of the novel that seemed to come out of the blue, that shocked me, that made me love Eustace even more, that proved what a skilled and masterful storyteller Gale is.

It wasn’t just the poignancy of Eustace’s  character that stood out, but the myriad of wonderful imagery Gale conjured up. There was Eustace’s house full of the old and infirm, the smells that came with it almost real, Vernon’s ordered house and the homeliness of Louis and Ebrahim’s Bristol abode.

Other characters demanded your attention, none more so than his mother, so deeply unhappy, and hugely self absorbed that I found it difficult to like her, to know if deep down she loved her son.

I felt that Cara, Eustace’s cello teacher poured more love into him than his mother, and willed her young pupil to do the best that he could, always believing in him where others did not.

Other characters played their part, and events formed Eustace into the man we discover in the present.

In a narrative that was both lyrical and compelling Gale took us on a journey, a journey of a young man’s self discovery. He tugged at my heartstrings with his eloquence and poignancy, and left me bereft that I had to leave Eustace’s behind.

I now face the long wait for Gale’s next novel and will do so with great impatience!

I would like to thank Georgina Moore at Tinder Press for a copy of Take Nothing With You to read and review.

About the author

Patrick was born on 31 January 1962 on the Isle of Wight, where his father was prison governor at Camp Hill, as his grandfather had been at nearby Parkhurst. He was the youngest of four – one sister, two brothers, spread over ten years. The family moved to London, where his father ran Wandsworth Prison, then to Winchester. At eight Patrick began boarding as a Winchester College Quirister at the cathedral choir school, Pilgrim’s. At thirteen he went on to Winchester College. He finished his formal education with an English degree from New College, Oxford in 1983.

He has never had a grown-up job. For three years he lived at a succession of addresses, from a Notting Hill bedsit to a crumbling French chateau. While working on his first novels he eked out his slender income with odd jobs; as a typist, a singing waiter, a designer’s secretary, a ghost-writer for an encyclopedia of the musical and, increasingly, as a book reviewer.

His first two novels, The Aerodynamics of Pork and Ease were published by Abacus on the same day in June 1986. The following year he moved to Camelford near the north coast of Cornwall and began a love affair with the county that has fed his work ever since.

He now lives in the far west, on a farm near Land’s End with his husband, Aidan Hicks. There they raise beef cattle and grow barley. Patrick is obsessed with the garden they have created in what must be one of England’s windiest sites and which includes England’s westernmost walled rose garden, and he deeply resents the time his writing makes him spend away from working in it. As well as gardening, he plays both the modern and baroque cello. He chairs the North Cornwall Book Festival, patron of Penzance LitFest and a director of both Endelienta and the Charles Causley Trust. His chief extravagance in life is opera tickets.

To discover more about Patrick Gale and his novels, check out his website https://galewarning.org/ or follow him on Twitter @PNovelistGale

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