Review: The Girl in the Photograph – Kate Riordan

The Girl in the Photographby Kate Riordan

When Alice Eveleigh arrives at Fiercombe Manor during the long, languid summer of 1933, she finds a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets. Sadness permeates its empty rooms and the isolated valley seems crowded with ghosts, none more alluring than Elizabeth Stanton, whose only trace remains in a few tantalizingly blurred photographs. Why will no-one speak of her? What happened a generation ago to make her vanish?

The storyline centres on motherhood, the shame and disgrace of being an unmarried mother, as well as post-partum depression – something which we rarely get to view in the Victorian era. These elements are weaved into a tale around Stanton house and its buried secrets.

There were some very evocative and poignant descriptions in this 400 page novel. The story was interesting, though the pace a little to slow for my taste, which made the read slightly tedious to complete. The dual narrative introduces you firstly to Alice, a young unmarried lady in the Edwardian era, who is sent to Stanton House to await the birth of a child that she may be forced to give up, and Elizabeth Stanton, an upper class woman suffering multiple miscarriages and post partum depression who had lived at Stanton many years before.

If you are a reader who wishes to savour deeply colourful description and slow building suspense this is a perfect choice. There were instances where the book did feel hauntingly atmospheric, though sometimes I felt the intertwining stories were a little enforced.

‘Gripping’ is not how I would describe this read, but the author’s exploration of the maternal themes mentioned above were interesting enough to hold my attention, and the air of mystery throughout the book prevailed until the very end.

 

 

 

Review: My Dream of You by Nuala OFaolain

mydreamofyouMy Dream of You is one of those powerful stories that stays with you long after reading.

The story is narrated by Kathleen, a travel writer from Ireland, who at the death of a close colleague and friend begins to evaluate her life at the age of fifty. Struggling with loneliness and a deep lack of fulfilment she embarks on a journey back to the Ireland she left at the age of seventeen in order to confront her roots and deal with the demons of her past.

Much of the book is devoted to Kathleen’s memories of her sketchy and sad childhood which is slightly reminiscent of Frank McCourt’s, Angela’s Ashes. No mistaking here that the authentic dialect and descriptions add a beautiful visual depth to this story in a similar fashion. There are also reflections throughout the book on the potato famine, and many times the heartfelt emotions which were conveyed simply swept you up and away in a sometimes uncomfortable but pleasant way, in that you felt you were not just reading a sentence but indulging in some beautifully articulated irish literature.

The heart of the story is Kathleen’s inner struggle to feel loved and whether or not she will ever again find a passionate lover, an experience which she had only briefly tasted once in her younger years. When married ‘Shay ‘ appears in her life he becomes a fulfilling lover, if only for a fleeting time. Soon Kathleen is faced with the difficult choice of facing life as a middle-aged woman indulging in only sporadic unions with her lover, or the alternative option of never encountering a soul-bonding sexual experience ever again.

The ending ties together all her thoughts, self-discoveries, and final choices as she embarks on a new life without the people she has loved, and let go, both in the past and the present.

Overall the book was riveting and I found myself lost in its prose. For those who appreciate self-exploratory books with a deeper connection I truly recommend it as a pleasurable read.

My Dream of Youis available on Amazon.

The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep – And So Do The Parents!

91BrbGINsbL._SL1500_I’m not much into covering news of book story major successes, but author Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin seems to have had his big dream come true as a self published author. His children’s book, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep has just landed itself in the summit of amazon’s rankings, even nudging aside the hugely popular – The Girl on The Train, catapulting to the top of Amazon’s charts in the last few days.

The book itself is said to concentrate on helping young one’s fall asleep. The main character Roger Rabbit intends on visiting Uncle Yawn, then on his way meets sleepy snail and heavy-eyed owl. Is it me or does this sound very reminiscent of a very famous children’s book where a certain farm animal clucked his away along under a blue sky towards a castle, meeting various other poultry along the way, until finally being duped into getting eaten by a wolf?

What is quite astonishing too is the amount of positive feedback this book has successfully garnered, with over 100 readers offering a 5 star rating, compared to 60 rating it 1 star. Some even expressed the book as ‘magical’ with a large percentage of the reviews showing quite an interesting contrast:

Read this book to my Grandson and when I had finished he turned around and fell into a deep sleep! I read it to my other 2 Grandchildren on a sleepover and they fell asleep halfway through!
Brilliant

On a more pessimistic angle, another reviewer who gave the book just 1 star, wrote:

Perfect if you are trying to bore your child to death. It worked on me but had absolutely no effect on my four year old.

With that in mind, does it not indicate that it really depends on the child in question? Surely this tale can’t be more magical than Peter Pan or any other well known classic?  Perhaps it’s the simple case of the book helping the parents yawn (not a hard task given the anguish most parents face at bedtime) which thus produces a sleep-inducing effect on the child.

On the whole I would be very interested to try this story out and see whether it does indeed hold some magical qualities. I also wonder if, on the back of his success, will Erhlin produce a similar title for the millions of pill-popping insomniacs in the world?

Check out this book at the Amazon store.

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep is Surely The Stuff of Nightmares – Imogen Russell Williams (The Guardian)