Sunday 31 May 2020

Book Review: FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS by Valerie Perrin

Author: Valerie Perrin
Publisher: Europa
Read: April 2020
Expected publication: 7 July 2020
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the stars!

“A mother’s love is a treasure that God gives only once.”

Book Description:

Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Random visitors, regulars, and, most notably, her colleagues—three gravediggers, three groundskeepers, and a priest—visit her as often as possible to warm themselves in her lodge, where laughter, companionship, and occasional tears mix with the coffee that she offers them. Her daily life is lived to the rhythms of their hilarious and touching confidences.

Violette’s routine is disrupted one day by the arrival of a man—Julien Sole, local police chief—who insists on depositing the ashes of his recently departed mother on the gravesite of a complete stranger. It soon becomes clear that the grave Julien is looking for belongs to his mother’s one-time lover, and that his mother’s story of clandestine love is intertwined with Violette’s own secret past.

What attracted me to this book:

“Heartwarming”, “tender”, “tugs on the heartstrings” are some of the descriptions that came with this book, and it was exactly the kind of story I felt I needed at the time to escape into. Also, who doesn’t like some armchair travel to rural France, especially with a setting as intriguing as a small French cemetery?

My musings:

OMG this book! As I sat there, sobbing loudly and with tears and snot pouring down my face, I felt I could never do this story justice with my review. FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS was both the saddest and the most beautiful book I have read in years, and one that utterly captured my heart and soul. It broke my heart a thousand times over and then comforted me with hope, and Violette’s spirit to keep going, and keep loving. I needed to sit with the story and my own emotions for a while before I could adequately express the way I felt about it.

Violette is probably one of the most beautiful and courageous fictional characters I have ever encountered. An orphan growing up in a children’s home, married as a young teen to a much older man and then a teenage mother, she is so starved for love and yet so resilient. She was just such a beautiful soul, and my heart broke for her many times over as she endures one tragedy after another and still doesn’t lose that inner flame that shines out of the book and warmed my soul. And even though Violette was definitely the star of the story, each and every character in this book was compelling and well drawn with all their flaws and human-ness. There are many different threads wrapped up into Violette’s story, and I loved them all! Even Phillippe, Violette’s husband who treated her so badly at times, was compelling in his own right, and I could not hate him, as much as I wanted to.

Four full pages of quotes in my reading journal show how much FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS spoke to me. I can’t adequately describe here how much I loved this book. I haven’t ugly cried whilst reading for a long time, but this story made me wail so loudly that my dog crawled under the bed in fright and I had to take anti-histamines to ease the redness and swelling of my eyes before being able to go to work. As a trigger warning: the author tackles one of life’s most tragic events as a pivotal event of her novel. I don’t want to give spoilers, but if you are anything like me, the sense of foreboding and mounting dread warned me that something terrible was coming. And yet, when I reflect on the book, it filled me with hope, and warmth, and love for the human spirit like only few books can. I can see why FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS was a number one bestseller in France, and its translated version, which preserved all its original French charm, deserves to rocket to the bestseller list here as well.


In summary, FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS was the type of book that doesn’t come along very often – a story that starts a little flame in the very centre of your heart and turns into a raging inferno of emotion. Despite making me cry, it filled me with love and hope and a sense that these characters will live on in my heart for a long time to come. It was both one of the saddest and most beautiful books I have ever read, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Brilliant!

Thank you to Edelweiss and Europa for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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Monday 25 May 2020

Book Review: JUST MY LUCK by Adele Parks

Author: Adele Parks
Publisher: HQ Fiction
Read: May 2020
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ

Book Description:

For fifteen years, Lexi and Jake have played the same six numbers with their friends, the Pearsons and the Heathcotes. Over dinner parties, fish & chip suppers and summer barbecues, they’ve discussed the important stuff – the kids, marriages, jobs and houses – and they’ve laughed off their disappointment when they failed to win anything more than a tenner.

But then, one Saturday night, the unthinkable happens. There’s a rift in the group. Someone doesn’t tell the truth. And soon after, six numbers come up which change everything forever.

Lexi and Jake have a ticket worth £18 million. And their friends are determined to claim a share of it.

What attracted me to this book:

Who hasn’t ever fantasized at least once about winning the lottery? Giving up work, buying a big house, a nice car, travel, luxuries you have never even dreamed of. What intrigues me most of all is the fact that so many lottery winners go broke despite their huge winnings, and that their win turns more into a curse than a blessing. What a perfect premise for a cracking good story!

My musings:

After decades of trying for the big lotto win as part of a syndicate with two other couples, Lexi and Jake find that they have finally hit the jackpot and won over 13 million pounds. They claim that their friends have dropped out of the syndicate after a falling-out the previous week, which now means that they don’t have to share their good fortune. Or do they? Their friends argue that they never stopped paying into the lotto kitty, and should be entitled to their fair share. So who is lying?

I admit that as soon as the story of Lexi and Jake’s win unfolded, I spent the majority of my reading time in a heightened state of anxiety. If you think that winning 13 million pound should solve all your problems, think again. It doesn’t help that Jake is a bit of a dickhead, who immediately rushes out to buy a jaguar and brags about his win to all the neighbourhood, before the money has even landed in their account. And even after the lottery people advise caution, he will not be deterred from flaunting his wealth, with consequences that are immediately obvious to the reader, but not poor sweet Lexi, who makes one excuse after another for her stupid spouse’s behaviour. You can see that I was not a fan of dear Jake, and could have throttled him with my bare hands multiple times throughout the story.

This is my first book by Parks, and I appreciated the way she is not afraid to paint a less than flattering picture of her characters and expose some of the darker corners of their minds. Even sweet Lexi has some things to hide. To be honest, except for Lexi, I found none of the friends particularly endearing, which still did not settle my nerves as they all stumbled into the mess of their own making. If the author wanted to make a point that money is not the ticket to happiness, she did a good job! Saying that, I personally know two lottery winners, who did just fine with their (admittedly a bit more modest) wins. I was trying to pinpoint exactly why I didn’t enjoy this story as much as I had hoped, but could only put it down to character development. Whilst I really enjoyed Lexi’s portrayal as she is coming to term with her newfound wealth, Jake and some of the peripheral characters came across as a bit clichΓ©d and black-or-white rather than shades of grey I could have related to a bit better. The second character who redeemed the story for me was Toma, who is not only one of the only decent human beings featured there, but also has a fascinating backstory.


JUST MY LUCK  is the sort of book that will appeal to readers who enjoy stories of extraordinary things happening to everyday, ordinary people, and like the heart pounding adrenaline rush of watching your characters stumble headlong into a disaster of their own making. It’s a fast romp of a read and certainly entertaining, in a stressful sort of way. I can’t say that I was particularly emotionally involved in any of the characters, but enjoyed the story nonetheless. This would make a great beach or holiday read when you don’t want anything you need to think about too deeply.

Thank you to HQ Fiction for the free copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

If the theme of a lotto win interested you, you may also like:

The Winner The Winner, by David Baldacci

Thursday 21 May 2020

Audiobook Review: SAINT X by Alexis Schaitkin

Title: SAINT X
Author: Alexis Schaitkin
Read: May 2020
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ 1/2

Book Description:

Claire is only seven years old when her college-age sister, Alison, disappears on the last night of their family vacation at a resort on the Caribbean island of Saint X. Several days later, Alison’s body is found in a remote spot on a nearby cay, and two local men – employees at the resort - are arrested. But the evidence is slim, the timeline against it, and the men are soon released. The story turns into national tabloid news, a lurid mystery that will go unsolved. For Claire and her parents, there is only the return home to broken lives.

Years later, Claire is living and working in New York City when a brief but fateful encounter brings her together with Clive Richardson, one of the men originally suspected of murdering her sister. It is a moment that sets Claire on an obsessive pursuit of the truth - not only to find out what happened the night of Alison’s death but also to answer the elusive question: Who exactly was her sister? At seven, Claire had been barely old enough to know her: a beautiful, changeable, provocative girl of eighteen at a turbulent moment of identity formation.

As Claire doggedly shadows Clive, hoping to gain his trust, waiting for the slip that will reveal the truth, an unlikely attachment develops between them, two people whose lives were forever marked by the same tragedy.

What attracted me to this book:

SAINT X was such an unexpected reading pleasure for me – it came up as “new on audio” on my library website and I clicked on it on a whim. With a hold that was estimated to come through around Xmas, I did not expect to get to it any time soon, but it came through early and here I am!

My musings:

A young girl’s death on a Caribbean tourist island has lasting consequences for those around her, in particular her sister Clare and the young men who were last seen with her. Due to lack of evidence, the cause of her death has never been explained.  The story follows adult Clare, who becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened on that fateful holiday.

Even though the story started like a traditional type of mystery, it was instantly obvious to me that the author has a real flair for social critique, examining the motives of her rich cast of characters and exposing their most innermost thoughts and flaws for the world to see. I loved the way she achieves this by including snippets of different characters’ lives into the narrative, all of whom have had some contact with the victim prior to her death. Each snapshot tells us a lot about these peripheral characters, also adding a piece of the puzzle to discover the real Alison. Photographic detail and the courage to lay bare some of our most shameful assumptions and habits make this tale roll out in almost cinematographic fashion in front of the reader’s eyes. For me, the focus was not on the mystery of Alison’s death, but on the effects of a violent death on those whose lives she had touched, in particular her little sister.

There are many interesting themes that run like threads through the story: racism, the effects of tourism on a remote paradise, loss of innocence, privilege, coming of age, the aftermath of trauma and the lasting consequences for those involved. I was glad that I chose the audio book version, because here the slow burn of the story really worked, especially with the rich cast of narrators, who each brought their own magic to the story.


I think that SAINT X will appeal to readers who appreciate a character study as much as a slow burning mystery, because to me the mystery component took a backward step here, which made the book unique and interesting. It made what could have been a standard, run-of-the-mill mystery into something so much more, and I really enjoyed the journey. The author’s descriptive writing was a real treat, her honesty and social critique refreshing and thought provoking, and her characters life-like and well rounded. I really look forward to reading more from this author in future.

Sunday 17 May 2020

Book Review: TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH by Gilly Macmillan

Author: Gilly Macmillan
Publisher: Random House UK
Read: May 2020
Expected publication: 25 June 2020
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the stars!

“Fiction isn’t just what you find in books, it’s the lies we tell ourselves. [...] The only way to avoid creating your own fiction is not to think at all.”

Book Description:

To tell you the truth . . . everybody lies.

Lucy Harper’s talent for writing bestselling novels has given her fame, fortune and millions of fans.  It’s also given her Dan, her needy, jealous husband whose own writing career has gone precisely nowhere.

Now Dan has vanished. But this isn’t the first time that someone has disappeared from Lucy’s life. Three decades ago, her little brother Teddy also went missing and was never found. Lucy, the only witness, helplessly spun fantasy after fantasy about Teddy’s disappearance, to the detectives’ fury and her parents’ despair. That was the start of her ability to tell a story—a talent she has profited from greatly.

But now Lucy’s a grown woman who can’t hide behind fiction any longer. The world is watching, and her whole life is under intense scrutiny. A life full of stories, some more believable than others. Could she have hurt Teddy?  Did she kill Dan?  Finally, now, Lucy Harper’s going to tell the truth.

Cross her heart.

And hope to die.

What attracted me to this book:

Ever since she broke my heart with BURNT PAPER SKY, Gilly Macmilland has been on my list of favourite mystery writers. Whilst all her books are vastly different, they share the same sense of tension and urgency that makes for a compulsive all-night readathon. It’s funny how sometimes you just know within the first few pages that you’re going to be in for a treat – here it took only a couple of paragraphs to get me hooked.

My musings:

Lucy Harper, a crime writer whose main character has taken on a life of her own, must be one of the most disturbing and yet compelling women I have ever encountered in a mystery. If you like an unreliable narrator, then rest assured that Macmillan has run with this theme and taken it to new heights. On one hand, Lucy is a woman whose past is still haunting her. She may have settled into a comfortable marriage, but her guilt and insecurities have always given Dan the upper hand in their marriage. How would you feel if your husband bought a house with your money without consulting you? Or, even worse, if the house was in the very neighbourhood of your worst childhood memories surrounding the disappearance of your baby brother, a fact that Dan is fully aware of?

So here is Lucy, a lonely woman, a bit frumpy, a bit insecure, tucked away in her studio working on a sequel to her famous Eliza Grey detective series. Her fictional character Eliza has been with Lucy since childhood. Starting off as her imaginary friend, Eliza has become a star in Lucy’s novels and a key to her success. On the shadow side of her fame, Eliza has taken on a life of her own, an almost flesh-and-blood quality who is with Lucy all the time. Unlike Lucy, she is strong, focused and capable. So can you blame Lucy if she lets Eliza take control sometimes when she needs her most?

When Dan disappears in the same mysterious way Lucy’s brother did all those years ago, the police come looking for answers. From here on, the book is a heck of a ride. Tense and atmospheric, with a backdrop of the sinister woods bordering Lucy and Dan’s property, the suspense and constant underlying thread of menace and danger had me reading late into the night. I could not put this book down! Could I trust Lucy? Supported by a rich support cast of characters who are all hiding something themselves, and the mysterious figure of Eliza always hovering in the periphery, the tension gradually mounted to its satisfying finale. I applaud the author for finding the perfect ending for this tale, which will keep the story in my mind for a long time to come.


All in all, TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH was a fantastic read. Taut, gripping, multi-layered and unbearably tense, it constantly challenged my perception of reality and the trustworthiness of each and every character. With the shadowy figure of Eliza, a fictional character, always hovering in the peripheries, the book took on a haunting quality that made me frantically turn the pages. And whilst some writers may have been tempted to insert that infamous “killer twist”, the ending here was like a breath of fresh air and satisfying in every way. Making TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH one of the best mysteries I have read this year, and cementing Gilly Macmillan firmly on my list of favourite mystery writers.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Image result for 5 stars

You may also enjoy:

After She Wrote Him After She Wrote Him, by Sulari Gentill

Eight Perfect Murders Eight Perfect Murders, by Peter Swanson

Book Review: THE OTHER PASSENGER by Louise Candlish

Author: Louise Candlish
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Read: May 2020
Expected publication: 1 July 2020
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸ

Book Description:

It all happens so quickly. One day you're living the dream, commuting to work by riverbus with your charismatic neighbour Kit in the seat beside you. The next, Kit hasn't turned up for the boat and his wife Melia has reported him missing.

When you get off at your stop, the police are waiting. Another passenger saw you and Kit arguing on the boat home the night before and the police say that you had a reason to want him dead. You protest. You and Kit are friends - ask Melia, she'll vouch for you. And who exactly is this other passenger pointing the finger? What do they know about your lives?

No, whatever danger followed you home last night, you are innocent, totally innocent.

Aren't you?

What attracted me to this book:

I really loved Louise Candlish’ previous books, OUR HOUSE and THOSE PEOPLE, especially the way she explored the dark side of suburbia and dynamics between neighbours and friends. Also, I’m one of those readers who enjoyed GOTT, so the commuter aspect of her latest novel THE OTHER PASSENGER really appealed to me.

My musings:

Jamie, a forty-something man with a dead-end job as a cafe barista and a fear of crowded public transport (this book was written before the covid crisis, so at the time those fears were not commonly shared by millions of others) befriends a fellow commuter on a London riverboat and finds himself as a suspect in his murder. Told through the eyes of Jamie and flipping back and forth between the past and the present, Candlish explores the events that got Jamie into his current unfortunate position.

As with her previous novels, Candlish doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to her characters’ less endearing qualities. So here we have Jamie, who has given up his career and is now aimlessly drifting through life, working in an underpaid dead-end job and living off his wealthy girlfriend Clare, who also owns the luxurious townhouse the couple live in. Far from being grateful for enabling his lifestyle, he has no qualms whatsoever about cheating on her with a woman two decades younger than her, justifying it with the fact that Clare has become less attractive and exciting to him as she is getting older. If you think that he is a bit of an asshole, you won’t find any of the other characters to be any more endearing. Kit, Jamie’s commuter acquaintance and pseudo friend, is constantly complaining about Clare’s inherited wealth and the fact that he and his girlfriend Melia have to live in a basic flat and aren’t able to afford any luxuries (boo-hoo!). Meanwhile, Melia is busy sleeping with Jamie whilst pretending to be Clare’s friend. What an utterly despicable bunch of characters!

My inability to feel even the slightest bit of warmth and empathy towards any of this lot was probably my big downfall here, because in its own right, the story was entertaining enough and contained enough twists to keep me guessing. But did I really care about the fate of any of them? Nope. To be fair, my timing was probably not great, because starting this book at the height of the coronavirus anxiety here, the many scenes of crowded commuter trains, parties, furtive sex in for-sale houses and parties felt not only unreal but also wrong – where is your social distancing, people? However, I am the sort of reader who needs at least one tiny redeeming feature in a character to be able to root for them, which was totally lacking for me here.


All in all, whilst I appreciate Candlish’ penchant for exploring the dark dynamics between friends, neighbours and partners, the cast of totally unlikeable characters kept me from fully enjoying the twists and turns of her latest mystery. Whist the general plot was clever, my utter dislike of each and every character made me reluctant to pick up the book and left a shadow of a deep dark depression over the state of modern society. I had to get together with my own peer group to remind myself of the good in people. If you like twisty mysteries featuring ruthless and unlikeable characters, then you will hopefully enjoy it more than I did.

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Book Review: THE GIRL FROM WIDOW HILLS by Megan Miranda

Author: Megan Miranda
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Read: May 2020
Expected publication: 23 June 2020

"A story about you doesn't necessarily belong to you. It belongs to the writer. To the witness. To the teller."

Book Description:

Everyone knows the story of “the girl from Widow Hills.”

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows—from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again, in this propulsive page-turner from suspense master Megan Miranda.

What attracted me to this book:

I have always enjoyed Megan Miranda’s writing style, especially her ability to create characters who are just the right mix between likeable and yet mysterious,  as well as atmospheric settings that provide a great backdrop to her mysteries. 

My musings:

It is a special skill to be able to create characters the reader can instantly bond with. It’s a different ballgame altogether to let that characters hold back just enough to make them appear mysterious without giving the impression to the reader that they are getting duped, and breaking that special bond. Miranda is treading that fine line as skilled as an accomplished high-wire balancing act. I really liked Olivia, related to her, and yet always had a shadow of doubt about her honesty that created a sense of tension and foreboding whilst reading her story. I remember feeling like this with both of her previous books, and how much it added to my reading pleasure.

Oliva, our main protagonist, is living under an assumed name in a little one-horse town that is remote enough to escape her past. When she was only six years old, she was swept away by floodwaters whilst sleepwalking one night, sparking a huge rescue operation that made headlines around the country. Olivia’s story of survival captured the heart of a nation and earned both her and her mother a steady income from donations and a book deal, but over the years the limelight has soured and forces Olivia to go into hiding. However, the past will not be so easily deterred – one night Olivia finds herself in her garden with the body of a man at her feet who is linked to the day of her rescue, and no idea how she got into this situation.

Miranda brings up interesting concepts of childhood trauma, fame and the subsequent claim of ownership of the public over the girl whose fate they followed so closely during the rescue mission. Do their donations and offers for help entitle them to have any say over the little girl’s future? Unlike celebrities, Olivia has had no control over her rise to stardom, and the only way she could escape the public eye was to assume a different identity. But even her new name has not loosened the grip of the traumatic memories that still haunt her. A fascinating and somewhat frightening premise, which Miranda has skilfully woven into the type of compelling mystery she is famous for.

I really enjoyed the mixed media inclusions in the story, which break up Olivia’s narrative: excerpts from newspaper articles, interviews, police reports and eye witness accounts. As the mystery surrounding Olivia’s childhood trauma slowly unfolded, there was a surprise in store for us I had not seen coming!


All in all, THE GIRL FROM WIDOW HILLS fully lived up to its intriguing title. With a mystery from the past entangled with a present day murder, the book explored some intriguing themes surrounding childhood trauma and reluctant fame gained through tragedy. As is her hallmark, Miranda has created enigmatic, rounded characters who drove the story and enabled full emotional involvement in their fates. Perfect for people who enjoy a mystery that offers a solid breadcrumb trail of clues, but still manages to hold a few surprises in the end.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Saturday 9 May 2020

Book Review: MR NOBODY by Catherine Steadman

Author: Catherine Steadman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia
Read: April 2020
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

Who is Mr. Nobody?

When a man is found on a British beach, drifting in and out of consciousness, with no identification and unable to speak, interest in him is sparked immediately. From the hospital staff who find themselves inexplicably drawn to him, to international medical experts who are baffled by him, to the national press who call him Mr. Nobody, everyone wants answers. Who is this man? And what happened to him?

Some memories are best forgotten.

Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Emma Lewis is asked to assess the patient in a small town deep in the English countryside. This is her field of expertise, this is the chance she’s been waiting for, and this case could make her name known across the world. But therein lies the danger. Emma left this same town fourteen years ago and has taken great pains to cover all traces of her past since then.

Places aren't haunted . . . people are.

But now something—or someone—is calling her back. And the more time she spends with her patient, the more alarmed she becomes that he knows the one thing about her that nobody is supposed to know.

What attracted me to this book:

I always feel drawn to premises revolving around amnesia. If done right, they have the potential to be intriguing, twisty and tense. Other times they just fall flat, but it’s a chance I am willing to take!

My musings:

So, you ask, which one was it: an epic psychological thriller, or a dud? Let me begin by saying that this my second attempt at reading this book. I picked it up late last year, didn’t click with it and put it aside. Drawn again to the premise, I recently spotted it among my TBR pile and was very happy to find that the second time around I was quickly drawn into the story. I really liked Dr Emma Lewis, the young, driven neuropsychologist with a deep dark secret of her own in her past. Emma struck just the right balance between vulnerability and ambitious, intelligent career woman. Having some skeletons in her family closet added to the mystery, as I was looking forward to finding out what had made her this reclusive character, when she seemed otherwise young, capable and liked by those around her. Getting two mysteries for the price of one, I thought – bonus!

I also really enjoyed the author’s willingness to divulge some of Emma’s knowledge obtained by her profession, especially related to retrograde amnesia and how the brain functions, as observed in Emma’s mysterious patient Mr Nobody. With this background information, the situation the man has found himself in seemed not only more plausible, but also a lot more fascinating.

The picture painted, and all my senses on high alert as I was trying to unravel some of the strands of the story, I eagerly turned the pages and was loathe to put the book down. Tension mounted as Emma found herself in a secluded house in the English countryside, and her patient appeared to be hiding some mysterious abilities, including the knowledge of some of Emma’s most intimate secrets, even though she has never met him before. Or has she? Chris, a character from Emma’s past, and his wife Zara made for an enigmatic support cast and alternative POV, and I was well and truly hooked. At this stage, anything was possible, and it all looked great.

Then comes the pivotal point in a book that either wraps it up in a satisfying finale or brings out some convoluted twists and farfetched plot points that is the make it or break it moment in the story. Sadly it was the latter for me here. I remember almost groaning at one stage in the story when I realised that the author was trying to inject something unexpected into the plot that totally backfired for me. Which is a shame, because up to that point it could have easily gone either way. Let’s just say that I don’t mind a “killer twist”, a total change in direction the story is taking, as long as I can follow its logic and it is somewhat believable. But after turning the last page, I am still not comfortable with some of the pivotal plot points here.


All in all, MR NOBODY was an intriguing story of a man who finds himself washed up on a beach with no idea who he is and how he got there. With the framework of real facts about the neuroscience behind retrograde amnesia, and an enigmatic main protagonist who is determined to help Mr Nobody discover his true identity, the book quickly drew me in and hooked me. But even though the ending was certainly original and unusual, it left too many unanswered questions and loose ends to bring it to a satisfying close. So it fell a little bit flat, like a pancake cooked just right at the bottom but flipped too vigorously that splattered and crumbled all over the pan. Still edible but not as tasty as it could have been. That said, I really enjoyed the author’s writing style and will definitely read her previous novel INTO THE WATER.

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

If you enjoyed the amnesia or neuroscience component of this book, you may also like:

The Echo Maker The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers

The Other You The Other You, by J.S. Monroe

Forget My Name Forget My Name, by J.S. Monroe

Before I Go to Sleep Before I Go To Sleep, by S.J. Watson

What Alice Forgot What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty

The Truth About Melody Browne The Truth About Melody Browne, by Lisa Jewell

The Asylum The Asylum, by John Harwood

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Book Review: THE SILK HOUSE by Kayte Nunn

Author: Kayte Nunn
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Read: April 2020
Expected publication: 30 June 2020
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

Weaving. Healing. Haunting. The spellbinding story of a mysterious boarding school sheltering a centuries-old secret by the bestselling author of THE BOTANIST'S DAUGHTER.

Australian history teacher Thea Rust arrives at an exclusive boarding school in the British countryside only to find that she is to look after the first intake of girls in its 150-year history. She is to stay with them in Silk House, a building with a long and troubled past, where the shadows hide more mysteries than she could ever imagine.

In the late 1700s, Rowan Caswell leaves her village to work in the home of an English silk merchant. She is thrust into a new and dangerous world where her talent for herbs and healing soon attracts attention.

In London, Mary-Louise Stephenson lives amid the clatter of the weaving trade and dreams of becoming a silk designer, a job that is the domain of men. Arriving in the market town of Oxleigh, she brings with her a length of fabric woven with a pattern of deadly plants that will have far-reaching consequences for all who dwell in the silk house.

What attracted me to this book:

A mysterious old boarding school. Women that harbour knowledge that is as much feared as it is revered. A centuries-old secret that is about to be revealed.

Don’t you just love mysteries that feature old mansions with a dark past?  Especially those creepy ones where things go bump in the night and one can never be sure if there is a rational explanation or it’s due to ghostly activity. I am happy to report that Silk House made for a perfect setting! With two timelines slowly exploring a past mystery going all the way back to the 1700s, I knew I was in for a treat.

My Musings:

When Australian English teacher Thea Rust arrives to take on a teaching position in an exclusive boarding school in the English countryside, she is not prepared for the dark secrets the old house is harbouring. As the reader, I had a definite advantage over Thea by being fully prepared and ready for the skeletons to come out of the closet, and I was ready for the ride!

It can’t be an easy task for any writer to weave together two separate timelines and several characters from varying backgrounds into a story that flows smoothly and keeps the reader’s interest equally through all POVs, but Nunn totally pulled this off for me. Thea, with her antipodean expectations of equality and fairness is not prepared for the misogyny and favouritism she encounters from the heads of the exclusive boarding school, who have been forced to allow girls to attend for the first time in the school’s history. I thought Thea to be a well-rounded and relatable character, her innocence (or naivetΓ©) from growing up in a very different cultural environment obvious from the moment she first set foot onto British soil. She soon finds that Silk House, her new home, also offers something uniquely British –ghostly activity related to a 1700’s injustice that had been committed in these very walls.

The timeline set during the 1700’s opened up a fascinating chapter in English history I knew nothing about, the silk industry in the east of England in the early eighteenth century. Featuring floral patterns based on real botanical specimens, these fabrics set themselves apart from the French fashion at the time. As in Nunn’s book, history books show that a few women were among the designers, a trade dominated by males. Two of Nunn’s characters bring all aspects of this interesting chapter in British history to life: Rowan, who is maidservant to a wealthy silk merchant and a herbalist and healer in her own right; and Mary-Louise, an impoverished gentlewoman who follows her dream of becoming a fabric designer and incorporates images of real plants from the area into her elaborate designs.  

Strong feminist themes, including the women’s wisdom and knowledge of healing and herbalism still feared and denounced as witchcraft among the country folk in the early 18th century, made for interesting reading and a degree of foreboding and tension as our characters me their fate. I really enjoyed the spooky element of Silk House and thought that it had even more potential to be creepy, but with such a lot of elements to the story, it never quite played centre stage. My only disappointment was that the ending felt rushed and abrupt, and the very clever and unexpected twist towards the finale got a bit lost in the tying up of the many plot points. Some of the characters’ interactions towards the end also suffered from the rush to bring the story to a conclusion, which made it not as satisfying for me as I had hoped.


All in all, THE SILK HOUSE was a multi-layered gothic mystery, tying a centuries old secret to the present, which manifests itself in the spooky happenings of Silk House, the perfect setting for such a story. With the rich historical context of the British silk trade in the early to mid eighteenth century, the book made both for entertaining as well as fascinating reading and I feel like I learned something about a chapter in history I knew very little about. Readers who like strong female leads and feminist themes will appreciate the rich cast of characters here who are each fearless in their pursuit of their dreams and destinies. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.