Eleanor Oliphant a well deserved winner of the 2017 Costa Book Awards


I was completely blown away by this book.
Gail Honeyman so deserved the Costa Book Award for this amazing debut novel. I had read the reviews of course and was expecting a remarkable read, but this book exceeded my expectations. I enjoy trying to work out the underlying psychological issues that shape a character. Eleanor Oliphant was a fascinating character. Quirky, bold and to some extent brave.
In the beginning, I briefly thought that Eleanor might be on the Autistic spectrum, but as the story progressed I realised that she had suffered from a deep and disturbing childhood event. The character of Raymond was a brilliant foil for Eleanor and I enjoyed the way his gentle thoughtfulness and compassion was the catalyst in her changing perspectives. Throughout the story, the reader is given little nuggets of information, relating to Eleanor’s past. I didn’t know what to expect as the story came to a close and was genuinely surprised when I read the newspaper article.
This is a very refreshing and original story that combines both sadness and humour.
Many congratulations to Gail Honeyman.

The Little Breton Bistro. Book review.

 

I have very recently read this delightful book and given it a very well deserved five-star review. 

The Little Breton Bistro written by Nina George is an absolute delight to read. This is another five-star story, hot on the heels of ‘The Little Paris Bookshop.’  Once again Nina George introduced us to the delights of France. This time Brittany. However, the story begins in Paris, when Marianne Messmann, the wife of a German Officer, tries to escape from her controlling husband and from a marriage that she believes is loveless.

Her attempted suicide in the River Seine is unsuccessful when she is rescued by a passerby. And so begins a new chapter in her life. The prompt to her choice of destination is a painting of a beautiful port town on a tile, which she coverts and believes is some kind of subliminal message, calling her to her destiny. Marianne arrives at Kerdruc with nothing but her handbag and the clothes she wore.however, she very quickly befriends a host of interesting people who gather in a seaside bistro called ‘Ar Mor’.

The characters who Nina George has created are very well developed, allowing the story to come alive. Marianne begins to blossom around these people. Her true personality and talents begin to emerge. She becomes as though she is a woman unleashed, something that she struggles to accept. She is passionate, carefree and believed to be powerful by the superstitious local people.

Her husband reported her missing and when an image of Marianne appears on the French news channel, her world begins to tumble around her like a pack of cards.

This is a wonderful read and I have no hesitation in recommending this delightful book.

 

 

Imagine a world without books!

Imagine a world without books!

This thought had never occurred to me until the day I visited Blickling Estate, a National Trust property in Aylsham, Norfolk.

Along with my husband in June this year, we visited this breath-taking Jacobean mansion that this year is all about my favourite subject. BOOKS.

 

                                                                                Cibsky photography

 

The library on the estate contains over 12,000 volumes, it is the most prestigious book collection held by the National Trust. As part of the trusts New Art programme, this significant collection of books is being brought into the spotlight as a means of highlighting the threats posed to books and the written word in 2018.

I must confess that as I walked around the estate and viewed the seven installations, each with their own story linked to the theme of books under threat; I was saddened. The installations created by Theatre Company Les Enfants Terribles as a piece of contemporary art are so powerful in the message they send, that I was blown away.

Allow me to give you an example.

In the installation named, THE WORD SUPERSEDED, there is a huge cabinet which is hanging open with swathes of charts and maps spilling out onto the floor. This highlights the transition from paper maps and charts to online and satellite GPS-based services that can be updated remotely.

Below is an image of the installation in the Long Gallery Library. This represents books defiant in the face of threat.

( Please note, all the books you see were rescued from being recycled.)

 

                                                                                         Books Defiant.

                                                                                         Cibski photography.

The installation that affected me the most, was not related to the loss of manuscripts but the redaction of words. THE WORD REDACTED is a simple yet powerful installation about the way that the U.S Department of Defence bought and destroyed the entire print run of 9,500 copies of the book ‘Operation Dark Heart’. The memoirs of U.S Army Lt Colonel Anthony Shaffer during his five-month tour in Afghanistan. Eventually, the Pentagon agreed to a second print run subject to 433 redactions. How about that for distorting the truth?

 

Are we moving to an age where books will be replaced by the digital version? I understand the need for progress, I have my own Kindle that I find invaluable at times. However, imagine a world without books, a world without music and art. Imagine a world without our magnificent Libraries? The London Library founded in the year 1941 is the UK’s leading literary institution and long may it last.

 

Does anyone else feel the need to check out the local library when visiting a new location or is that just me? I can’t help but feel curious about libraries. Big and small, they all hold my interest. I love to see parents with their small children in the children’s section and often have an overwhelming desire to shake their hand and say ‘I’m proud of you’. The library is an institution in its own right, bringing together people of all ages and from all walks of life. I would hate to see this fine institution become obsolete as we move forward into the digital age.

 

Book Review The Family Divided (The Guernsey Novels, #4) by Anne Allen

Book Review

The Family Divided (The Guernsey Novels, #4) by Anne Allen

This is the fourth novel in the series I have read so far and once again Anne Allen brings to life the beautiful Island of Guernsey. The story is linked back to previous characters; it is almost like meeting an old friend again.

The protagonist, Charlotte appeared in the third book ‘Guernsey Retreat’ this time returning back to ‘La Folie’ a health retreat for a spot of pampering and a chance to look forwards in her life after the breakdown of her marriage. She is financially wealthy but emotionally starved of her mothers love, something she finds difficult to understand.

Although not looking for a new relationship, she meets divorcee, Andy who is troubled by his family history and is desperate to understand the truth. Here the story links back to the time of the German Occupation, when his grandfather, Edmund was branded a traitor and informer. Andy is determined to discover the truth about Edmund. Charlotte who is a publisher with desires to write her own novel assists Andy with research into his grandfathers past. In doing so, not only does she discover the truth, but also falls in love with Andy.

There is a lot of eating and drinking in this novel, with mention of a number of restaurants and very descriptive locations.
I found the story of Edmund and his brother Harold interesting which highlighted sibling rivalry and how it can get out of hand. The character of Harold was well developed, I hated him from the moment he was introduce.

I was a little confused about the relationship between Louisa and Paul and would have liked more depth into their situation. Louisa’s father Malcolm and his new lady friend were a breath of fresh air. I like the way that these stories stand alone, yet are a series.

I very much enjoyed reading this well written descriptive novel and I have rated The Family Divided Five Stars.

Win a two-night break courtesy of The Guernsey Novels by Anne Allen

Would you like to visit gorgeous Guernsey? Well, here is your chance to win a two-night trip to this beautiful island, courtesy of Anne Allen, author of the riveting book series, The Guernsey Novels.

The Guernsey Novels

Anne Allen’s fascinating book series, The Guernsey Novels, comprises six standalone novels. All the stories in her novel series, take place predominantly on the island of Guernsey and are linked by characters popping up from one book to another.

They provide an ongoing story of a ‘village’ spread, so far, over 6 years. Each book is standalone with fresh new lead characters with their own links to the German Occupation during World War 2, having an impact on the present.

The Guernsey Novels are a mix of mystery, family drama, and love story and influenced by the author’s love of the island where she spent many happy years. Guernsey itself is always a main character in the books, offering a gorgeous backdrop to all the sorrows, joys and tragedies she describes.

The Guernsey Novels are available from all leading bookstores:

Book #1 Dangerous Waters

Book #2 Finding Mother

Book #3 Guernsey Retreat

Book #4 The Family Divided

Book #5 Echoes of Time

Book #6 The Betrayal

About the Author Anne Allen

Anne Allen, author of The Guernsey Novels

Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby. She was born in Rugby, to an English mother and Welsh father. As a result she spent many summers with her Welsh grandparents in Anglesey and learnt to love the sea.

Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.

By profession Anne was a psychotherapist but has long had creative ‘itches’, learning to mosaic, paint furniture, interior design and sculpt. At the back of her mind the itch to write was always present but seemed too time-consuming for a single mum with a need to earn a living. Now retired from the ‘day job’, there’s more time to write and Anne has now published six books in The Guernsey Novels series. She will be publishing her seventh novel later in the year.

To find out more about Anne visit her website: you can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Enter the prize draw to win a two-night break at Hotel Ziggurat in Guernsey

Enter The Guernsey Novels Prize Draw

Read more details about the prize draw, including the Terms and Conditions on Anne Allen’s Website

Blog Tour Organised by The Globeflower Agency Ltd

The Globeflower Agenc

Happy Birthday to our wonderful NHS.

Happy birthday to our wonderful NHS.

 

 

For those of you who have read my previous blogs and interviews, you will no doubt be aware, that I have been singing the praises of our NHS for a very long time.

Of course, I am a little biased in my praises as I was employed by this amazing institution for forty-six years. Having worked in a variety of roles from being front-line in the accident and emergency department, operating theatre and Intensive care to my later years in primary care.

 

May I take this opportunity to say a huge, heartfelt thank you to Mr Aneurin Bevan, who established our Welfare state seventy years ago on July 5th.

 

 

It is a privilege to live in our country, where we have twenty-four-hour access; day in, day out free healthcare from cradle to grave. Regardless of our status this amazing institution lovingly cares for our health and wellbeing.

Up and down our country, we are celebrating this birthday in a number of different ways. For my part, I would like to share with you, a little of my own experience.

 

I began my nursing career in 1972, by which time the NHS had been an established and a well-loved institution for twenty-four years. As I approached my eighteenth birthday, my excitement at finally becoming of age to apply for a training position was mounting by the day. When I eventually put on my nurse uniform and cap, I could not have been more proud. Those were the days of frilly caps and cuffs for the qualified staff. However, learning to make up my stiff, plain fabric hat, secured with a white double button and gripped in place with white hair grips, was akin to learning origami.

Here I am with a fellow student nurse outside of Ward Three Female Medical, Kilton Hill Hospital Worksop. Circa 1972.

As a writer, I have many of my memories and special times that I encountered in my long career, written down succinctly in my journal. One day, in the not too distant future, I plan to write a book about these experiences. Watch this space for the emergence of a Nurse with a very amusing name.

 

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

   Mental Health Awareness week  2018.      14-20 May.                                                                

                       

 

 

 

Organised by the Mental Health Foundation, this year the main subject of the day is Stress.

In everyday life, this word is used loosely and often incorrectly to describe an emotion that may or may not be linked to a physiological change in the body.

An Acute stress reaction can occur in individuals without any other apparent psychiatric disorder, in response to exceptional physical and/or psychological stress. The symptoms can show considerable variation.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Arises as a delayed and/or protracted response to a stressful event or situation of an exceptionally threatening nature.

There are a number definitions related to stress, but the bottom line is that the autonomic nervous system and the hypothalamic and pituitary-adrenal axis respond to the trigger. The well-known reaction referred to as the fight or flight response is activated through a number of different pathways, with the overwhelming cascade of symptoms.

Is stress a mental health problem?

 Research has shown that there is a strong correlation between true stress and the onset of mental health issues. Although stress isn’t a psychiatric diagnosis, it is closely linked to mental health in two important ways.

An example of this is, if you struggle under pressure to the point of becoming overwhelmed by stress, then these feelings could lead to anxiety or depression.

Raising awareness of stress being a key factor in some mental health conditions, it follows that stress management is key to successful treatment.

There are many avenues of help available. It is important to talk to loved ones and friends. Visit your GP or Practice nurse who can signpost you to the appropriate professional who is specifically trained to deal with stress and mental health conditions. In addition, there are a number of extremely useful websites:

https://www.mind.org.uk/…/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stress

www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/

 

Check out the story of ‘Alice’ written by K L Loveley and published by Austin Macaulay. This family drama raises awareness of how stress can lead to a breakdown in mental health.

 Alice by K.L Loveley

 


‘Alice’ is available from Amazon, Waterstones and other leading bookstores!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temporary loss of my writing retreat.

 

Our cottage on the water, otherwise known as our lovely Canal Boat, is to be out of action for the next six weeks, while the boat exterior is painted and generally spruced up. As regular readers of my blog posts will know, this is my special writing retreat, a place where I can let my imagination go into overdrive.

However, the good news is that I have now completed the first draft of my next novel Union Blues, which will also need to be spruced up, by way of editing and proofreading.

We have just returned home after sailing the boat to Kegworth for the said paint job; by way of Sawley on the River Trent.  We moored overnight close by Sawley Marina and much to my husband’s amazement and delight we discovered a wonderful bonus awaiting us.

I knew something good had occurred when my husband returned to the boat grinning after going out to check the river level in preparation for our onward travel.

‘ Guess where I have been?’  he said while trying to contain himself.

Knowing that he was pleased with himself about something, I tried to play it cool and replied.

‘To the next lock perhaps.’

‘Katie, there is a micro pub right next to the locks, it’s brilliant, do you fancy going tonight?’

So after our evening meal, we walked along the canal towpath to The Lockkeepers Rest.   It was originally the old Lock keepers cottage and belonged to the British Waterways. I must admit, it was the quaintest little micro pub I have had the pleasure of visiting.  The interior of this friendly pub is fascinating, especially if you are interested in the inland waterways. There is a good selection of  Real Ales and Ciders. If you enjoy this kind of place, then it is well worth a visit.

Adjoining the pub is a fabulous coffee shop with outdoor seating and a nice terrace, brilliant for families.

I guess when we return the boat back to our moorings at Mercia Marina in six weeks time, we will be once again visiting this quaint little watering hole.

 

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Society Film Review

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                

 

When I first encountered the publicity around this film, my first thought was. ‘Wow, that’s a long title.’ However, it certainly got my attention, therefore it was an ingenious move on the part of the author. Sadly the original author of the book (Anne Shafter) did not survive to complete the story and from what I understand; it was finalised by her niece (Annie Barrows).

Now if you are a regular reader of my Blog Posts, you will be aware of my interest in Historical films. You can, therefore, imagine my delight when this film hits the screens and not only is it a historical production, it is also a story about a young author? A perfect combination of my love for all things literary.

Set in post-World War Two Britain, we are first introduced to Juliet (Lily, James) as a young, wealthy but dissatisfied author. Juliet is a very attractive, upper-class young lady who has a passion for adventure that takes her to Guernsey; having corresponded with  Dawsey (Michael Huisman)

Dawsey, a book lover and Pig Farmer, who she later discovers is a member of the Society, found her name in a second-hand book. At this point, he wasn’t aware that the name belonged to an author.

With books being scarce as a result of the German Occupation during the war, he corresponds with her, resulting in Juliet sending him a book to read. This connection leads her to visit Guernsey and her intention to write a newspaper article about ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society’ which Dawsey mentioned in his correspondence.

This is a story of romance and mystery. The flashbacks to the wartime German Occupation provides the background information to the very quickly formed Society. Juliet soon realises that there are many secrets related to the time of the occupation, resulting in the locals abiding by the saying. ‘Loose lips sink ships.’ It takes some time for her to get to the bottom of the mystery that the society wishes to keep to themselves. However, along the way, a romance develops between the author and pig farmer; much to the disdain of Juliet’s wealthy American Fiancé.

Without giving away too many spoilers, I can report that this is an endearing film that kept me interested throughout. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the occupation in Guernsey and the social history related to the Islanders.

As a result of watching the film, I have been on the lookout for similar books and have discovered, The Guernsey Novels’ written by Anne Allen. The novels are all stand alone, however, I started with ‘Dangerous Waters’ and have since read the second book in the series. I highly recommend these books, if you wish to be transported back to Guernsey and the Channel Isles. https://amzn.to/2Hm7tb2

 

 

 

A Poem to make Grown Women Cry.

                                                              A Poem to move one to tears.

 

This year, for Mother’s day, I received Poems that make Grown Women Cry. My daughter, knowing how much I enjoy reading and writing poetry, gave me this anthology; edited by Anthony and Ben Holden.

The collection includes masterpieces chosen and introduced by some of the world’s most eminent writers, actors, artists and academics. In addition to this list of famous and respected people are broadcasters and activists; making for a fascinating collection of poems.

Whilst I have enjoyed reading the whole collection, there was one in particular that really did make me cry.

Written by the English war poet, Siegfried Sassoon (1886 – 1967) this poem sends out a clear and painful message about a young soldier who died in the ‘hell we’ll never know’ in the First World War trenches.

 

Suicide in the Trenches.

I knew a simple soldier boy

Who grinned at life in empty joy,

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,

And whistled early with the lark.

 

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,

With crumps and lice and lack of rum,

He put a bullet through his brain.

No one spoke of him again.

 

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye

Who cheer when soldier lads march by,

Sneak home and pray you’ll never know

The hell where youth and laughter go.

 

 

Simply writing down these few powerful words is enough for me to visualise the trauma these young men must have suffered in the hell we will never know. Driven to the point of taking their own life as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder; the families of these so-called cowards were made to feel ashamed. At that point in time, it was considered an act of treason to commit suicide in order to remove oneself from combat.

I find it so hard to believe that a parent was unable to grieve as they would have done, had their son died in combat. The words, ‘no one spoke of him again’ I find particularly sad.  My sadness transforms into anger as Siegfried Sassoon delivers the final punch. ‘You smug-faced crowds.’

 

Autism Awareness Day

 

World Autism Day 2018

 

We are approaching the eleventh annual autism day of 2018. A day when autism organisations around the world, celebrate the day, by way of unique fundraising events and raising awareness of the condition.

Raising awareness is fundamental in the strides forward that need to be made in order for this developmental disability to be recognised and fully understood.

Autism is a developmental disability that remains with a person for their entire life. Each child or adult with autism is unique. For this reason, a person is described as being on the spectrum. This describes the condition as having a range of similar traits of various degrees.

Most notably autism is characterised by noticeable impaired social skills, difficulty with communication and restrictive and repetitive behaviour.

This spectrum is why each person with autism, is unique and as such, their treatment plan should be bespoke. Early intervention, involving the entire family is the most effective treatment.

Asperger’s is a form of autism. It is characterised by impaired social skills, repetitive behaviours and often a narrow and limited set of interests. However, linguistic and cognitive development is not delayed.

Asperger’s is explored in the story of Alfie, the protagonist in Love, Secrets, and Absolution. Love, Secrets, and Absolution - novel

Alfie is not like other little boys, that much is clear from a very young age. He is a lonely boy, full of obsessive thoughts and repetitive behaviours. His young life is one long struggle for him.

Before the increased awareness of Autism, such children, all over the world were considered naughty and strange. No professional help was offered, or even available, and their lives and the lives of their families was made difficult.

 

Thankfully, the whole world is moving forward with the understanding of this neurobiological condition.

                                                                   Together we can make a difference.The Inner Wheel club of Warsop has been hosting events in support of Autism East Midlands.