Monthly Archives: August 2015

The A-Z of You and Me by James Hannah

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The A-Z of You and Me by James Hannah

Review Date: August 2015

Author: James Hannah

Release Date:  27 August 2015 (PB)

Publishers: Doubleday

ISBN –10: 1784160067

ISBN – 13: 978-1784160067

272pp

Available in Hardback, Paperback, and Kindle.

Authors Website: http://www.jameshannah.com/

The Last Word Review

Wonderfully written debut novel that is heart-breaking yet funny. A tale of love and regret

When you open the book for the first time there is a dedication that I think sets the tone for the whole book. It reads quite simply ‘For Sheila and for You’ Sheila who was James Hannah’s wife’s (Christine) mother who’s care by the St Catherine’s Hospice in Preston provided the basis for the story but sadly Sheila never got to read the book that inspired the story and then ‘You’ being not only a reference to Ivo’s girlfriend but you the reader.

The A-Z of you and Me is a story as told by Ivo he is very sick and in a hospice, Ivo is recalling his life that is shot through of regret and lost chances it is in fact a love story. His nurse Sheila has started to encourage Ivo to play the A-Z game to keep him sane, but no ordinary A-Z game this, it is one where Ivo has to come up with a story connected to a body part. Ivo is 40 and dying and he knows all too well what is to come.

Many recollections of his girlfriend with whom he describes as just ‘you’ his Sister Laura and his best friend in life ‘Mal’ This is a story full of heartbreak and love and regret as Ivo play’s out the A-Z game and the stories that are surrounding each part of his body.

Ivo starts with A and Adam’s apple and recalls the story he was told by a vicar when he was a child, every part of the anatomy is just about covered in this game as told by Ivo.

Anyone reading The A-Z of You and Me will draw comparisons with David Nicholls One Day, it is a beautifully written story that is both full of sadness, yet warmth but also at times really quite humorous.

Writing a debut fiction novel about life, love and death is not easy and the way in which Hannah has gone about this story and weaving the these facets into a deeply moving story line is something I shall take from this book and the potential that The A-Z of You and Me will have among readers is something that only this type of novel can bring. Readers will be wanting to know more about ‘you’ and his best friend Mal with every turn of the page not to mention Ivo working through every body part. The A-Z of You and Me is quite simply beautiful, heart-breaking, and as for the ending just be ready. Like life itself this book has a beginning and an ending but just for once I really wanted this story to continue for reasons that will become obvious to anyone who buys the book. My recommendation is simple. Please go and buy a copy today. I promise you will not regret it.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Meet the Author

James Hannah

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James Hannah divides his time between London and Shropshire, UK. He has a Master’s degree in Beckett Studies from the Beckett International Foundation at Reading University. His first novel, ‘The A to Z of You and Me’ was published by Doubleday in March 2015, and was long listed for the Desmond Elliott Prize.

Competition

To coincide with the release of The A-Z of You and Me in the shops today there is a chance to win a signed copy. To enter please go to my Twitter page @Thelastword1962  and look out for the prize draw message and re-tweet the message. *The competition closes at 8pm Thursday 27 August and is open to UK and Eire residents only.

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Meet the Author – James Hannah

MEET THE AUTHOR

JAMES HANNAH

~THE A-Z OF YOU AND ME~

OFFICIAL BLOG TOUR 2015

Web Photo of James

In the latest in a series of Meet the Author Interviews I talk to James Hannah about his debut best-selling novel The A-Z of You and Me which is published in paperback today by Doubleday.

I must begin by asking as a debut novel how did the idea of The A-Z of You and Me    come about?

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‘For long and complex reasons which I’ve just explained in full and now deleted, I happened to be thinking about forces and structures to which we are all subject. Everybody uses a language, and everybody has a body of some description. It was a short hop to wonder what it would be like if you took a Gray’s Anatomy reference book and read it from cover to cover to find that the ‘body’ being anatomized was an actual character with a dramatic back-story. So that’s where the kernel of the book came from.

From there I engaged in a mechanical process of answering the questions that the structure posed: Why is our character dividing up his body like this? Answer: he’s playing a listing game. Why? To occupy his mind. Why? His mind is fretful. Why? He’s gravely ill. Why?

And so on.

So it was initially from very mechanical beginnings that I came up with the idea. It was only afterwards that a purer story began to fill in the spaces and take over from the alphabet – and it was a story that I had no notion that I was going to write’

 

 How challenging did you find the premise of the story line connecting body parts A-Z and flashbacks of the leading character ‘Ivo’?

‘Persuading the whole story to flow and connect was initially surprisingly easy and eventually surprisingly difficult. I was happy to relinquish control of precisely what happened to Ivo, so I was happy to be guided by whatever body parts were around at the time. Whatever stories I thought of, that’s who Ivo is.

The obvious place to start was at the difficult letters: what was going to happen at Q? X? Z? So these were the body parts I started with, and I retrofitted the rest of the alphabet around the more stubborn plot points.

So far, so good.

The further I progressed, however, the more the story began to take over and strain against the body parts. The example that always leaps to mind is ‘G’. It became apparent that the ‘love/romance’ plot (between Ivo and Mia) needed to get moving at around the G section. Any sooner and I wouldn’t have had to time to establish other elements; any later and it would become too much of a squeeze on the rest of the plot. ‘G’ is, it so happens, a singularly unpromising zone of the body-part alphabet to get any kind of romance going. So, establishing Ivo and Mia’s relationship took some creative mirroring and echoing across the E, F, G, H sections. It was very hard work.

What remains in the final book is a tight negotiation between what the story wanted to be, and what the body parts would permit. I wouldn’t have it any other way: this story has really had to fight to be told’

 

 It is story of love and regret but with some wonderfully funny moments, was the storyline a difficult one to write? How long did it take to write The A-Z of You and Me?

‘I felt my primary task in choosing this already-sad subject was to realise it in as kind and funny and humane a way as possible. That generates pathos, which helps in contemplating certain awful situations; it’s still possible to smile when you’re crying.

I owe it to the hospices that have hosted such experiences in my family’s life to represent them without melodrama. Rather than being difficult, writing The A to Z of You and Me served as a way to process the grief and other experiences my family and friends have been through in recent times.

Certain elements of the back story – the plot involving Amber and the woman in the room next door – emerged unbidden to coax my main plot into a better, more progressive place.

I like the fact that you can say the same about the book that you can say about a hospice: OK, this is a sad place, but there’s a lot of wrong things people would presume about it. There’s a lot of love and pleasure in it too’

 What was the last book you read?

I tend to have a couple of books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. The non-fiction book I most recently finished was ‘Threads’, the biography of artist/fisherman John Craske by Julia Blackburn, which invades and occupies your mind in a quite fantastic manner. One can only aspire to generating such a connection with one’s subject.

Aside: Do you think the pronoun ‘one’ will soon be obsolete? Or is it the gender-neutral answer we’ve all been asking for? Discuss.

Fiction-wise I’ve just finished the soon-to-be-published The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon, a cautionary tale of curtain-twitchers who take against one of their number. Keep and eye out for it; it’s really sparkily written, thought-provoking and compassionate in its portrayal of difference in suburbia.

Are you writing a new novel and will this be something completely different to that of your first book?

‘At the moment I’m concentrating on being a good husband and father after many years of editorial hair-tearing, hand-wringing and head-hanging. And that’s just the Hs.

But when the time arrives I’d like to work to another ‘universal’ structure and see what the dynamics are in that. In theory I could spend my entire time rewriting the alphabet over and over while choosing different paths from the start. But maybe I should try something else’

 I am extremely grateful to James Hannah for taking the time to take part in ‘Meet the Author’. If you would like more information on James Hannah’s work or further details of The A-Z of You and Me please visit http://www.jameshannah.com/

The Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon

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The Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon

Review Date: 22 August 2015

Author: Sarah Jasmon

Release Date:  13 August 2015

Publishers: Black Swan, Transworld Publishers

ISBN -10: 0552779970

ISBN – 13: 978-0552779975

352pp

Available in Paperback, Kindle and Audio

Authors Website: http://sarahjasmon.com/

 

The Last Word Review

A debut like none I have come across. This is to be cherished like a timeless classic because it will become just that

When a debut novel lands on my desk there is always a little apprehension as to what lies between the covers. When a debut novel lands on my desk that very quickly impresses me and then turns out to be something very special I sit up and take notice. The superlatives that I would use would be insufficient. This is something very unique and very special. Thank you to Ben Willis at Transworld Publishers for sending a review copy.

What are your memories of the summer of 1983. For me it was an exciting time I was lot younger for one thing and days where long and memories that will live long. Here we have in Sarah Jasmon’s The Summer of Secrets a story in two parts.

The story starts in the very summer of 1983 and is told by Helen reminiscing about her youth, then a sixteen year old girl whose controlling mother has left the family home and now Helen is cared for by her father who has become lost in his own world and drink. Helen was looking forward to spending another summer by the river while her father spent his time on his boat while neglecting his daughter. But something was about to change all that.

The Dover family arrived on the scene and moved in to a house close by. They have a daughter also in her teenage years and is somewhat carefree and this intrigues Helen and the pair strike up a friendship and while away the summer days together. Helen is beguiled by the Dover family and their lifestyle and tries to get closer to the family until Victoria decides she has got too close. Then something happens and the Dover family suddenly disappear with no warning. You sense something is about to happen it is building at every turn of the page there are undercurrents in the story line that you feel at some point that would really explode.

Using the premise of looking back at the summer of 1983 and then as the story is narrated 30 years later to 2013. Helen is now 46 and has not seen or heard of the Dover family since that summer all those years before a summer that has left a scar on Helen. This is a story that moves along at a pace that will make you think about the story when you are not reading it and you will want to catch up at every opportunity.

Now Helen discovers that Victoria is running an art exhibition close to where she lives, this is an opportunity to discover what really happened that fateful night and what made the Dover’s flee. Will Helen finally find out the truth finally?

The Summer of Secrets is a book that I truly loved it made me think when I was away from the story it is so beautifully written and Jasmon’s prose is something I will take from this coming of age story that will appeal too many it deserves to become a classic both in story and writing.

So for me the memories of the summer of 1983 are now back fresh in my mind, the soundtrack of my life sadly a time that now seems lost to the era in which we now live.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 

 

Meet the Author

Sarah Jasmon

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Sarah Jasmon lives on a canal boat near Manchester with her children. She has had several short stories published, is curating a poetry anthology, and has recently graduated from the Creative Writing MA course at Manchester Metropolitan University. The Summer of Secrets is Sarah Jasmon’s first novel published by Black Swan. To find out more, visit http://sarahjasmon.com/

Waiting for Doggo by Mark B. Mills

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Waiting for Doggo by Mark B. Mills

Review Date: 19 August 2015

Author: Mark B. Mills

Release Date:  13 August 2015

Publishers: Headline Review

ISBN –10: 1472218337

ISBN – 13: 978-1472218339

224pp

Available in Hardback, Paperback, Kindle and audio.

Authors Website: http://www.markmills.org.uk/

 

 

The Last Word Review

A story of a man and a dog, it’s witty and heart-warming. A feel good tale of love and friendship

Waiting for Doggo is one of the lovely Sunday afternoon reads that you can curl up with, with a relaxed style of writing. This is a book that you can easily read in one sitting.

The story opens with Daniel’s long term girlfriend Clara leaving him a ‘Dear John’ letter she has packed up and left to go and find herself. Thing is Dan is not being left on his own Clara has left him with ‘Doggo’ Clara found him at Battersea Dogs Home but Doggo is described in the book as ‘ugly’ and nearly bald to go with it. Daniel is really down on his luck and his life is just falling apart around him and the last thing he needs now is to be left with ‘Doggo’ Clara’s ugly dog.

So the next step for Daniel is to try and return Doggo to Battersea Dogs Home and even that goes wrong when they insist that Doggo must lose his ‘Manhood’ as part of the agreement on entry to the dogs home. So Daniel returns home with Doggo. The story begins for Daniel and Doggo and the pair are very soon inseparable. The story from here is quirky, funny and one you just find impossible not to like.

One quirking characteristic about Doggo he loves Jennifer Aniston as Daniel finds out one day when the pair are sat watching one of her films the bond between the two really grows and Doggo starts to play an increasing role in Daniel’s life, whether that be at home, in the workplace as part of Daniel’s new job yes he does take him to work every day or just the daily traumas that go through Daniel’s life Doggo is there. Regardless of where the story takes us you can be sure that it will all lead to Doggo.

This is a beautiful told story it is not long in just over 200 pages but a real feel good book that even guys will be happy to read even if they will not admit to it. Waiting for Doggo is a funny heart-warming tale of a man and his dog. I just have the feeling that we may not have heard the last of Daniel and Doggo.

RECOMMENDED

Meet the Author

Mark B. Mills

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Mark Mills graduated from Cambridge University in 1986. He has lived in both Italy and France, and has written for the screen. His first novel, ‘The Whaleboat House’, won the 2004 Crime Writer’s Association for Best Novel by a debut author. His second, ‘The Savage Garden’, was a Richard and Judy Summer Read and No 1 bestseller. He lives in Oxford with his wife and two children.

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

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The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

Review Date: 16 August 2015

Author: Stephanie Bishop

Release Date: 13 August 2015

Publishers: Tinder Press

ISBN -10: 1472230612

ISBN – 13: 978-1472230614

304pp

Available in Hardback, Kindle & Audio

Authors Website: http://www.stephaniebishop.com.au/

 

 

The Last Word Review

A story that will stay with you long after you have finished, outstanding prose. Full of emotion but a beautiful book

 

The advance reviews for The Other Side of the World have been outstanding, so I was pleased to have been asked to write a review.

This is not a fast paced novel, by Stephanie Bishop, it is a book that moves along at a steady pace that allows the reader to be drawn into the mesmeric prose, if that was part of the plot for the story then it really works. I fell for the story line very quickly.

The start of The Other Side of the World is set to a backdrop of Cambridge and Charlotte is a young wife and mother and is struggling with the idea of being both. On the other hand Charlotte’s husband Henry as born in India it is the year 1963 and another cold wet winter looms.

Something happen that is about to change their lives, a leaflet drop through their door one day, this starts Henry to think of Australia, a new start, warmer weather, all the usual things that comes along, health, wealth and happiness. Basically a new life.

Anyone setting off to the other side of the World is bound to miss home, family and friends, Charlotte is more than aware of this fact and it is playing on her mind. Charlotte is wary of moving to the other side of the world, but reluctantly she agrees and the young family are transported to a new life in Perth, Australia.

From here on the story is one of sadness and at times heartbreak as the promise of ‘The new life’ never really materialises and soon both Charlotte and Henry become ‘lost’ the strain of being a young mum so far away from home starts to tell. Meanwhile for Henry the promise of the career never really takes off. What we start to see from here is the sheer sadness as you watch their marriage start to come undone. What I found upsetting was how Charlotte started to take it out on the two little girls it is utterly heart-breaking to read, but Bishop writes with such prose that you are drawn in to the story but you feel helpless to do anything.

What the author writes with such clarity is Henry’s devout love to Charlotte despite his wife’s doubting of herself at times you read of the strong bond between the two but all through there is Charlotte self –doubting even self-loathing to a degree, can Henry save their failing marriage? We read of two countries one being home and the other Australia a brave new world but starting to mature and how Bishop weaves into the storyline about climates, this is done with such brilliance. I loathed to go give anything further away regarding the story as I think The Other Side of the World deserves to be read.

This is a novel destined for many good things in the months ahead and thoroughly deserves the success that will surely come its way.

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Meet the Author

Stephanie Bishop

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A stunning emerging Australian writer, Stephanie Bishop’s first novel was The Singing, for which she was named one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelists. The Singing was also highly commended for the Kathleen Mitchell Award. Her second novel, The Other Side of the World was recently shortlisted for the 2014 Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award under the title Dream England.

Stephanie is a frequent contributor to The Times Literary Supplement, The Australian, The Sydney Review of Books, The Australian Book Review and the Sydney Morning Herald. She holds a PhD from Cambridge and is currently a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of New South Wales. Stephanie lives in Sydney.

Losing Israel

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Losing Israel by Jasmine Donahaye

Review Date: 15 August 2015

Author: Jasmine Donahaye

Release Date: 18 June 2015

Publishers: Seren Books

ISBN –10: 1781722528

ISBN – 13: 1781722527

206pp

Available in Hardback

 

The Last Word Review

A moving memoir of a past a search for the truth and an enduring love for Ornithology that is beautifully written

 

I am grateful to both Seren Books and to Jasmine Donahaye for a review copy of Losing Israel. What we are presented here by the author is beautifully written an open and deeply honest account of a troubled landscape and the search for the truth. This is also a riveting travelogue and also an account of Donahayes lifelong passion for Ornithology.

British born Donahaye reflects on her memories of past visits to her parent’s homeland, they left Israel before the author was born but paid many visits to Israel with the first one at the age of ten. Visiting had an effect on Donahaye. Visiting for the first time and seeing how her parents interacted with the locals especially her mother had the desired affect and it became a land she also came to love, many more visits where made and with it the chance to  explore the land and discover the birdlife of Israel, which is a major part of Losing Israel.

It was many years later that Donahaye discovered that in 1948 her grandfather was involved in driving out Palestinian’s from their homes and villages which were also destroyed, this became a catalyst for the author to search the history of this troubled land a land she still feels affection for to this day.

The truth sometimes is disturbing and also can hurt, this is where Donahaye excels in the style she writes through this book, and it is an open and deeply honest and passionate account. Some readers may find the tone of the book a little melancholy as she reflects on the past and searching for the truth not only in her family’s history but also the social history of Israel. The reader is will sympathise in the way she tells the story of her search for the truth and the way the Palestinian’s were treated and still are to this day.

As a review I was drawn to the way Donahaye weaved the story from one of searching the history of this land to one of a travelogue and describing the rich diverse birdlife of Israel. Home is now West Wales where the wet landscape surrounding the authors home is also explored, there is an affinity between the two lands and the rich wildlife contained within.

This is a book that may not add to the ongoing debate of this troubled part of the World but it is one woman’s emotional journey so eloquently written which makes Losing Israel a book that deserves to be read.

HIGHLY COMMENDED

 

Meet the Author

Jasmine Donahaye

Poet, writer and editor JASMINE DONAHAYE at her home in Lledrod Ceredigion Wales UK

Jasmine Donahaye’s publications include poetry, cultural criticism, fiction and creative non-fiction. Her poetry collection, Misappropriations (Parthian, 2006), was shortlisted for the Jerwood Aldeburgh first collection prize, and Self-Portrait as Ruth (Salt, 2009) was longlisted for Wales Book of the Year. Her monograph Whose People? Wales, Israel, Palestine was published in 2012 by the University of Wales Press. She is a creative writing lecturer at Swansea University, specialising in creative non-fiction and poetry. Losing Israel was published 18 June 2015 by Seren Books.

Losing it by Helen Lederer

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Losing It by Helen Lederer

Review Date: 9 August 2015

Author: Helen Lederer

Release Date:  12 February 2015

Publishers: Pan Macmillan

ISBN –10: 1447267648

ISBN – 13: 978-1447267645

480pp

Available in Paperback, Kindle and Audio.

Authors Website: http://www.helenlederer.co.uk/

 

The Last Word Review

A wickedly funny, witty debut novel from one of the funniest women in show business

 

Well this has been a long time coming. One of the Countries best loved Comedienne’s has finally written a debut novel, and this has been worth the wait.

Losing It is a very easy to ready novel that you will find hard to leave alone, it moves along at an easy pace and is packed with laugh out loud moments.

Set in London and the central character Millie who has reached a mid-life crisis a divorcee now facing losing her home, short of money and rapidly short of patience and add to this depressed. Millie was a successful writer as an agony aunt for a Women’s magazine but her star has waned in recent times and now Millie is struggling to cope with her world that seems to crashing all around her, the only thing on the ‘up’ is her weight and here the story really starts.

Out of the blue, Millie has been approached to become the face of a new diet pill and all the fame and more importantly fortune that goes along with this. There is of course one drawback (as there always is) Millie has to lose three stone in three months.

It is impossible not to like Millie and even some of her ‘friends’ as you will discover when you read Losing It. Millie decides to ask for an advance ahead of the weight loss and heads off to foreign shores to visit Mary, her daughter. While there she hopes to pick up a rather nasty illness that will make her weight loss easier if that is at possible. Add to the plot loan sharks who are after their money and various hideous weight loss programmes such as colonic irrigation, laxatives and various other dubious ideas.

When you read Losing It there is a chance that you will lose it, this reviewer read this while in hospital having a major colon procedure so it is at times really very funny and has so many great moments that many will relate to. Though how many will admit to colonic irrigation as an aid to weight loss that point I think we will gloss over quickly.

For a debut novel Lederer has written a charming, at times moving but most memorable a very funny book that is worth visiting.

RECOMMENDED

 

Meet the Author

Helen Lederer

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Helen is probably best known for her role as the dippy Catriona in Absolutely Fabulous, in which she appeared alongside Jennifer Saunders in all six series of the show as well as creating the ‘girl at the bar’ in Naked Video. However, to many she is known for her unique brand of wit and observational humour. A comedy writer with an extensive portfolio that includes writing and performing her own material, Helen has starred in a great number of top TV comedy and radio shows.

Helen was part of a group of early 1980s comedians, including French and Saunders, the late Rik Mayall, and Ben Elton, who made their names at London’s famous Comedy Store. She was a guest on ITV’s Saturday Night Live with her solo comedy act, as well as performing at the first Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal along with Lenny Henry. TV appearances span such shows as The Young Ones, French and Saunders, Happy Families, One Foot in the Grave, Bottom, Love Soup, Miss Marple, Casualty and Hollyoaks. She plays Miss Bowline-Hitch alongside Bernard Cribbins in the much-loved children’s TV series Old Jack’s Boat. Helen also played Rich Aunt Ruby in Horrid Henry: The Movie.

On BBC radio, she has been a regular panellist on shows including Just a Minute, Quote . . . Unquote, Open Book, A Good Read and Woman’s Hour, as well as writing and performing in two of her own comedy series, All Change and Life with Lederer. Her columns include Woman & Home, the Independent, the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Telegraph, and she is currently the ‘agony aunt’ for Woman’s Weekly. Helen’s comedy books include Coping with Helen Lederer and Single Minding. She’s done a variety of theatre work, following hot on the heels of Julie Walters in Educating Rita, playing Doreen in Alan Bleasdale’s Having a Ball, as well as appearing in The Vagina Monologues, Calendar Girls and The Killing of Sister George in London’s West End, interspersed with many fringe theatre plays.

Losing It is Helen’s first novel released by Pan Macmillan in February 2015.

 

Not Far From Dreamland by Val Hennessy

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Not Far From Dreamland by Val Hennessy

Review Date: 6 August 2015

Author: Val Hennessy

Release Date:  1 June 2015

Publishers: Quartet Books

ISBN –10: 0704373874

ISBN – 13: 978-0704373877

256pp

Available in Hardback

 

The Last Word Review

More stimulating than a dose of Viagra, this will make you laugh and cry for more

It is not that often that I receive a request to review a funny and humorous book, so my thanks to Quartet Books for sending me a copy. Yes this really is funny.

Allow me to whisk you away to a place called windy place called Saltmarsh situated on the Kent coast and here we meet Ronald Tonks, and he lives in a place he calls ‘The Shack’ the roof leaks he shares his home with his dog (Bingo) who is going bald in places and he is always short of money, Ronald is a feisty chap now at the ‘collecting pension’ stage of his life he is 71, his body is rapidly falling apart, he suffers the ongoing saga of his 90 year old mother who daily gives him many things to worry about then we have his 45 year old Son.

This is based around the year in the life of Ronald Tonks (2012) and the group of ‘platonic’ friends that Ronald surrounds himself with, the trouble is they are all very much in the same position as Ronald. There is one woman that Ronald does not just want a platonic friendship with but rather a bit more her name is Daphne but their friendship is more of an on/off friendship. Ronald became my hero reading this, a real trooper, a campaigner one who carries his bus pass with pride like the wearing of a Blue Peter badge. At times you find yourself laughing so much it is so superbly written.

This is a genuinely funny and witty read, I loved the way that Hennessy has created the characters at this time in their lives and that many will love. Not Far From Dreamland will appeal to much wider audience than the age group of the leading characters in Not Far From Dreamland many will fall for Ronald and his ‘platonic’ group of friends.

There is scope within this book for a sequel and I can only hope that Hennessy is right now penning that very book and I for one would be happy to review the sequel.

RECOMMENDED

Meet the Author

Val Hennessy

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Val Hennessy taught English and drama before commencing a writing and journalistic career with the Brighton Voice, Peace News and Big Scream.
Hennessy later became a Fleet Street freelance journalist, an associate editor of Time Out and a columnist for Saga Magazine. She was described by Auberon Waugh as “a handsome if elderly (by punk standards) and inescapably middle-class journalist She is best known for her work as chief literary critic for the Daily Mail from 1989 to 2004. As of 2014, she continues to write for the Daily Mail ’s ‘Retro Reads’ column. Having reviewed thousands of English fiction books, Hennessy is a significant critic of British women’s writing. Hennessy has interviewed Luciano Pavarotti, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Annie Lennox, Michael Douglas, Terence Stamp, Martin Amis, Vivienne Westwood, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Geldof, David Bailey, Jeffrey Archer, Germaine Greer, Laurie Lee and José Carreras.
Throughout her career, she has also written for The Guardian, The Observer, New Society, You Magazine, Spare Rib, City Limits, and London Evening Standard.
Not Far From Dreamland was released on 1 June 2015 and is published by Quartet Books.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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A LIttle Life

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Review Date: 1 August 2015

Author: Hanya Yanaihara

Release Date:  13 August 2015 (HB)

Publishers: Picador

ISBN –10: 1447294815

ISBN – 13: 978-1447294818

736pp

Available in Hardback and Kindle.

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The Last Word Review

Harrowing and disturbing account of child abuse that will leaves the reader shattered

This is only the second novel written by Hanya Yanagihara after The People in the Trees (2014). Remarkably this took Yanagihara around 20 years to write, this time round A Little Life took just 18 months from start to finish despite it being a mammoth 736 pages long.

This is a story of friendship and a harrowing account of child abuse and self-harm to the leading character. Do not be put off by this as there is more to this story that is also an emotional intelligent and a beautifully written novel that is set to become a modern day classic.

The story starts with four classmates in New York now venturing into the wide World and to start their respective careers. I thoroughly liked the way that Yanagihara introduces each of the four characters and their in-out friendships and relationships at times raw, but this is story that will stretch the boundaries this is humanity laid bare and will at times really test the reader.

As the story unfolds and Jude the lead character comes to the fore he is now a very successful lawyer in New York the story now takes on a much darker tale one that some will find very difficult and upsetting, at times I had to put the book down and catch my breath and think about what I have been reading. Here the story of Jude as a child and his memories being abandoned at birth exploited and abused by Monks, forced into child prostitution and then badly injured after he is taken captive and tried to escape the need to self-harm is one of desperation, I became quite attached to Jude some will think differently. He is mentally scarred and physically disabled. Yanagihara has written the book in a way that does not shy away from the horrors of child abuse and the consequences for the character and at times it is deeply harrowing. He is as he says ‘Trapped in a body he hates with a past he hates’ this is self-loathing as it can get. Yanagihara does not trap herself here as the story could become totally submersed with Jude, but in the end the main story line that comes out is one of love and compassion even tenderness that can only be found through the love of those that really do care and have his best interests at heart.

The beauty of the book for me lays in the first 70 pages, it leads you to think that this is just a story of four friends starting to make their way in life, some may find this slow considering the length of the book, but not me, it leads you in sucks you in even, it takes you on a journey then the who book then opens up to the reader.

Is this something that Yanagihara learnt from her first novel The People in The Trees time will tell but I have a feeling when this book is launched many will seek out her first novel and will be immersed in an outstanding debut novel. A Little Life is destined for greater things. As I write this Yanagihara’s A Little Life has been Long Listed for the 2015 Man Booker Prize and is more than a worthy winner now destined to become an all-time classic.

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Meet the Author

Hanya Yanagihara

hanya-yanagihara

Hanya Yanagihara is an editor at Conde Nast the author of The People in The Trees, a book which she says she started writing when she was 21, and which took her nearly 20 years to complete.

She started her career in New York working in the publicity department of Vintage Books working for a number of New York publishers. From 1998 to 2005 she edited The Asian Pacific American Journal, before joining Conde Nast Traveler in 2005. Her ‘Word of Mouth’ section was noninated for a National Magazine Award in 2007.

Yanaihara has edited several books and served as a New York Foundation for the Arts Literary Fellow in both 2001 and 2008. She currently lives in New York. A Little Life is her second novel and has now been Long Listed for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.        

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