The dangers of family secrets…

Secrets in a family are like moths in cashmere…They dig themselves in and eat their way out… Freya is a genealogist, but has never paid as much attention to her own family. When her marriage starts to collapse and her grown-up daughters seem more distant than ever, Freya’s reckless abandon startles everyone, and long-hidden secrets begin to emerge.

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Secrets, sisters, and a summer that changed everything…

Life in the Cornish village of Pendruggan isn’t always picture perfect. Penny Leighton has never told anyone why she’s estranged from her mother and sister. For years she’s kept her family secrets locked away in her heart, but they’ve been quietly eating away at her.

When an unwelcome visitor blows in, Penny is brought face to face with the past. And a postcard, tucked away in a long-hidden case, holds the truth that could change everything.

Young Ella has come back to the place where she spent a happy childhood with her grandmother. Now she’s here to search for everything missing in her life. Taken under Penny’s broken wing for the summer, the safe haven of Pendruggan feels like the place for a fresh start. Soon, however, Ella starts to wonder if perhaps her real legacy doesn’t lie in the past at all.

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A rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare…

‘A thought came to me that I couldn’t force away: What we are wearing is how we’ll be identified out in the wilderness. ‘

“Win Allen doesn’t want an adventure. After a miserable divorce and the death of her beloved brother, she just wants to spend some time with her three best friends, far away from her soul-crushing job. But athletic, energetic Pia has other plans. Plans for an adrenaline-raising, breath-taking, white-water rafting trip in the Maine wilderness. Five thousand square miles of remote countryside. Just mountains, rivers and fresh air. No phone coverage. No people. No help.”

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“…a rising star of Scandinavian crime fiction”

“Kristina Ohlsson is a gritty and intriguing writer, and this new direction and protagonist deliver the start of a thrilling diptych that goes to the darkest depths of society.

How do you vindicate a deceased, self-proclaimed killer? A criminal lawyer in Stockholm, Martin Benner sees himself as a man who has it all. Then Bobby T barges into his office one day, demanding his help…”

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One for fans of Victoria Hislop’s The Thread.

Anna thought her marriage to Max would last forever. Having raised two happy children together, she looked forward to growing old with the man she loved. But when a revelation from her husband just before their wedding anniversary shakes her entire world, she’s left uncertain of what the future holds. Needing time to herself, Anna takes up an offer from her widowed father to spend the summer on the small Aegean island of his birth, unaware that a chance discovery of letters in her aunt’s house will unleash a host of family secrets. Kept hidden for sixty years, they reveal a tumultuous family history, beginning in Greece at the beginning of the twentieth century and ending in Naples at the close of the Second World War. Confronted by their family’s long-buried truths, both father and daughter are shaken by the discovery and Anna begins to realize that if she is to ever heal the present, she must first understand the past . . .

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A new thriller perfect for Lee Child fans

He was once called Orphan X. As a boy, Evan Smoak was taken from a children’s home, raised and trained as part of a secret government initiative buried so deep that virtually no one knows it exists. But he broke with the programme, choosing instead to vanish off grid and use his formidable skill set to help those unable to protect themselves. One day, though, Evan’s luck ran out…

Ambushed, drugged, and spirited away, Evan wakes up in a locked room with no idea where he is or who has captured him. As he tries to piece together what’s happened, testing his gilded prison and its highly trained guards for weaknesses, he receives a desperate call for help.With time running out, he will need to out-think, out-manoeuvre, and out-fight an opponent the likes of whom he’s never encountered before to have any chance of escape. He’s got to save himself to protect those whose lives depend on him. Or die trying…

Notes from the 2017 Bailey’s Prize Ambassador: The Dark Circle – Linda Grant

My final #BaileysPrize book and interestingly the one I might have picked first if I hadn’t gone for random selection. Grant is an author I’ve read and liked before and the book with a just post-war setting and family saga to boot really ticks all my reading boxes!

I enjoyed this book and raced through it but apart from being a good read I don’t have a lot more to say. The characters were all fine and the bulk of the plot interesting but after the five other books on the shortlist this just felt a little flat.

It was interesting to read about the change in medical approaches at the very birth of the NHS, and also the, sadly still relevant, battle over the need for new drugs but their expense. I was also a little shocked at the post war antisemitism portrayed – in my naiveté I did think that after the shocking images from Germany at the end of WW2 that this wasn’t an issue in Britain but I am always pleased to learn things and have my assumptions challenged!

The ending of the book did seem out of kilter with the majority of the book but reading an online Twitter q&a with Grant I can now see the point of this so I am more accepting.  I suppose that as I am still thinking about this book a week after finishing it that it was a good book and a worthy contender for the Bailey’s Prize but it did feel like any other historical fiction book in many ways and certainly not as stand out as the other 5 on the short list.

I’m now weighing up my thoughts on all 6 books and trying to decide which one I really want to win the 2017 Bailey’s Prize. I’m also tempted to go back and read all of the longlist to see why it was these 6 that made the cut!

Sarah

Notes from the 2017 Bailey’s Prize Ambassador: Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

As none of the books that arrived in by #BaileysPrize shadowing box were books that had currently featured on my “to be read” pile I have approached them all with some level of caution – I might be reading well out of my comfort zone after all!

This level of trepidation rose when the fifth book I read was Adebayo’s Stay With Me but this time because of the Nigerian setting – one of my favourite books of all time is Half a Yellow Sun by Chimomanda Ngozi Adichie and could any other Nigerian set book live up to the standard of that one?

In brief the answer is yes – this was a wonderful book that for the most part managed to capture both the wide scope of Nigeria and the intimate setting of one couple’s marriage.  Yejide is desperate for a child – as it seems are her whole extended family and from this starting point an intricate tale that keeps you on your toes unfolds.

I’m not going to say more for the twists and turns, which are all believable and well written, are what make this book and I do think that coming at it with no ideas makes the best reading experience.

My only wish for this book is that perhaps sometimes there was more of the background story – I’d love to have known more about the politics driving the plot in so many ways, however with this would have come the loss of the intimate tale…

I loved this book and I hope it does well at the Bailey’s Prize on the 7th June – it is stunningly well written, thoroughly readable and has some great discussion points for book groups. Need more convincing? Ayobami Adebayo is a graduate of UEA’s Creative Writing Programme so there is a local link!

Sarah

New from local writer Ian McEwan…

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home – a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse – but not with John. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, 9-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb…

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