Monthly Archives: March 2018

10th Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize – 2018 Shortlist

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DEBUTS SHINE IN FEMALE-LED SHORTLIST FOR

WORLD’S BIGGEST PRIZE FOR YOUNG WRITERS

 10th Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist announced

10th Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist announced

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Top row L-R: , Emily Ruskovich, Gabriel Tallent, Gwendoline Riley

Bottom L-R: Kayo Chingonyi, Sally Rooney, Carmen Maria Machado

NOVELS

GWENDOLINE RILEY (UK)

SALLY ROONEY (IRELAND)

EMILY RUSKOVICH (USA)

GABRIEL TALLENT (USA)

 

SHORT STORIES

CARMEN MARIA MACHADO (USA)

 

POETRY

KAYO CHINGONYI (ZAMBIA)

 

 Four debut authors make up the female dominant shortlist of six for the 10th edition of the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize which celebrates the brightest young writers in the world. Worth £30,000, it is the world’s largest literary prize for young writers aged 39 or under, open to writers from all nations, writing in English.
2017 sparked this century’s biggest gender equality movement, and this year’s female-led international shortlist brings to the fore crucial themes of sexual violence, toxic relationships, masculinity and racial divisions, that are relevant across the world, not just the UK. Just as Dylan Thomas’ universal poetry captured the grief and loss of innocence in post-war Britain, the prize showcases the breadth and diversity of literature that captures the political zeitgeist of today.

Featured on the shortlist this year are:

  • Zambian-born poet Kayo Chingonyi (31) for his debut collection of poetry Kumakanda, which explores the rites of passage boys go through to become men, the intersection of masculinity and race and what it means to be British and not British, all at once.

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  • Cuban-American short-story writer Carmen Maria Machado’s (31) debut short story collection Her Body & Other Parties explores the eroticism, violence and emotion of the female experience through a potent mix of science fiction, ghost stories and fairytales.

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  • Six-time British novelist Gwendoline Riley (39) has been shortlisted for First Love, a compelling tale of toxic love and poisonous partnerships which has been shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Goldsmiths Prize.

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  • Irish debut novelist and Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Sally Rooney (27) has been called the “Salinger for the Snapchat generation” and her runaway success Conversations with Friends.

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  • Debut American novelist Emily Ruskovich (31) is shortlisted for her thriller hit Idaho, which tells the story of a mother suddenly killing her six-year-old daughter.

 

  • American thriller author Gabriel Tallent (30) has been shortlisted for his debut novel My Absolute Darling, called “the year’s must-read novel” by The Times and ‘a masterpiece’ by Stephen King.

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2018 will be the 10th edition of The Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize, and will commemorate 65 years since the death of Wales’ most lauded writer Dylan Thomas. The winner will be announced on 10th May.

 

Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer Dylan Thomas who died at just 39 years old as one of the most important writers of the 20th century. Dylan captured the attention of the literary world at just 20 years old with his poem Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines, and had already reached international acclaim by the time his most famous work Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night was published. The prize invokes his memory to support the best young writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow.

 

In 2017, Australian writer Fiona McFarlane won The Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize for her highly-acclaimed collection of short stores, The High Places.

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Professor Dai Smith CBE of Swansea University, chair of the judges said: “The shortlist of the 2018 Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize is an amazing showcase of young writing talent from across the globe. There are two startling and searing novels from contemporary America; two other novels which engage in a forensic examination of love and loathing, from England  and Ireland; an inventively original collection of short stories from the USA and a challenging, poised work of poetry which takes us to the core of a divided Britain. The judges will have a difficult job over the next two months to find a winner from what is already a list of winners.”

 

Chaired by Professor Dai Smith CBE, Emeritus Raymond Williams Research Chair in the Cultural History of Wales at Swansea University, and historian and writer on Welsh arts and culture, this year’s judging panel also features: Founder and Director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Namita Gokhale; winner of the inaugural International Dylan Thomas Prize novelist and playwright, Rachel Trezise; poet, translator, and scholar, Professor Kurt Heinzelman; and author and Founder of London Short Story Festival, Paul McVeigh.

 

The winner will be announced on Thursday 10th May at an award ceremony at Swansea University’s Great Hall, in the run up to International Dylan Thomas Day on 14th May commemorating 65 years since Dylan Thomas’ death. The British Library will be hosting a special public event with all the shortlisted author on Tuesday 8th May.

 

The shortlisted authors will also participate in the DylanED programme, an initiative set up by Swansea University in conjunction with the prize to engage young people with international literature and Wales’ rich cultural history. The shortlist is directly involved in the programme that runs all year round, and authors have previously done workshops with local college students, given readings and talks at local schools, and given masterclasses at the University. Since 2016 Welsh students are invited to review books from the shortlist for the DylanED Book Review Competition and will present their winning reviews at a special winner’s ceremony in front of the shortlisted authors.

 

 

 

 

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My thanks to Rachel Kennedy from Midas Public Relations for that honour of bringingyou the 2018 10th Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize Shortlist.

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We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard

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We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard

Translated by David Warriner

Congratulations Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books, yet again you keep delivering some of the best books of the year and here with We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard is another example. To start with, the cover is just incredible it is eye catching and also ties in with the storyline. I just love this book. When I head to the sea in the summer this book is coming with me it needs to be read with the smell of the sea and wind in your hair. The writing is just incredible it sails beautifully, as Roxanne Bouchard describes the landscape and the sea. You can almost taste the salty sea air as you read the amazing prose.

 

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More a crime and also a mystery novel that I think makes this book stand out. Set in Canada and in the sleepy fishing village of Gaspé Peninsula. Catherine Day has left her home in Montreal to this fishing village to try and find her mother but a dead woman identified as Marie Garant is pulled from the sea. Now Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales new to the area has to solve the mystery of the death of Marie Garant. A woman who was beautiful yet both liked and also mistrusted by the local fishing community, and a death at sea always shakes the village but the death of Marie Garant has rocked this sleepy fishing village.

For Catherine Day who is seeking to find her mother, she soon realises that all is not well as the locals seem to have taken a dislike to her mother. But Catherine is looking for something more than just her mother, she is looking to find something else answers deep within herself she seems a soul lost. There was something about Catherine that I really liked and just the way that Roxanne Bouchard creates characters and brings then alive, to me really makes this a stand out novel. Character creation in any novel is really important and Roxanne seems to have found a way of weaving a story of the sea and clever interplay between them.

This may be a crime and a mystery novel but here is a book that actually really got to me, at times I was so consumed by the writing and also the story really touched me. The story flows like a calm sea and the translation by David Warriner is just outstanding. We Were the Salt of the Sea is another Orenda Books success story. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

300 Pages.

Thank you Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy of We Were the Salt of the Sea.

We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard is published by Orenda Books and is published on 30th March and will be available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

 

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From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan

 

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From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan

There are some writers that you connect with and Donal Ryan is one of those great writers who was just born to write. His latest book From a Low and Quiet Sea (Doubleday) Donal Ryan brings together three stories that may read like four short stories but in a way they are all connected by human experiences of life. Three men three experiences of life.

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The three men Farouk, Lampy and John are completely un-connected. Farouk story is set in war torn Syria. Farouk is a doctor trying to look after the sick and those caught up in the fighting and also keep safe his wife and daughter. The situation is now getting very grave and he knows no-one is safe. It takes a visit to the local square and what Farouk then sees with his own eyes is so appalling that he knows that he must get his family out of Syria to safety. Their journey into the unknown and to the safety of Europe will be tragic. This is a story that so deeply touched me and I loved how this story was told with so much sympathy.

We meet Lampy who is struggling with his own personal issues, struggling with the fact that his father never existed in his life, he family exists of his mother and grandfather. Lampy is not sure of his life and were down the road he is as his relationship with Chloe has now ended he feels empty and alone his heart broken. What do other people actually think of him really? What now for Lampy?

Lastly there is John, a life lived and by all account fulfilled but sometimes not everything may seem true and right. John’s life is coming to an end and now he realises he must seek the truth of his own life. Grief and regret come to the fore.

These three stories are just the most beautiful of stories, told with compassion for humanity and written with such empathy to everyday lives. Some books you read leave a last mark on the reader and I am sure that anyone who reads From a Low and Quiet Sea will feel that this is a book that will just linger long in the memory. There is something about the final chapter that read then re-read. This may be a small book in terms of pages but this I promise, there is something within the pages of this book that is much bigger. Anyone who has a heart and shows compassion for their fellow man will read this. “Be kind” HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

192 Pages.

Thank you Sophie Christopher for the advanced review copy of From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan.

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan is published by Doubleday and was published on 22nd March and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

 

How to follow the Blog Tour for From a Low and Quiet Sea

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Entanglement by Katy Mahood

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Entanglement by Katy Mahood

Entanglement is the brilliant debut novel from Katy Mahood that begins on a train platform at London Paddington station in 2007 and three people’s lives cross and yet there is something about these three people and how they become linked. Primarily this is a novel about the choices people make and the encounters along life’s journey and just how they can all become connected.

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The three people at the centre of this novel are Stella, Charlie and John. Is there a connection between the three people? Now this is where the novel now takes a backward step of thirty years and the lives of two couples during the 1970’s.

This is a story of people’s lives of marriages that upset parents and shattered dreams and the horror of a London pub bombing and the carnage and aftermath that this brings. For Stella she has dreams of an academic career and all this is brought to an end as she faces up to becoming a young mum and the father John, how does he take to the idea of being a father so soon?

Then there is Charlie and Beth just an ordinary couple and the everyday struggles of life. These two couples are just ordinary people leading ordinary lives yet somehow inexorable linked. A story of connections over the course of decades and most of all as the story reaches its end a story of hope. At the end of the day hope is what we all cling onto in our everyday life and Katy Mahood weaves a captivating debut novel of chance encounters. Wonderful characters and so beautifully written.

320 Pages.

Thank you to Ann Bissell (Harper Collins) for the advanced review copy of Entanglement

Entanglement by Katy Mahood is published by Borough Press and was published on 22nd March 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

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The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Imagine for a moment that you were told the exact date that you were going to die? If you believed what you had just been told, how would that change you as a person and the life that you would lead? Indeed, would it actually change anything at all?

Author Chloe Benjamin has done just that with her mesmerising novel The Immortalists (Tinder Press) and the four young siblings that take a trip on a summers day that will have profound effects on the lives that they will lead.

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It is a Summer’s day in 1969 and Simon (Seven), Klara (Nine), Daniel (Eleven) and Varya (Thirteen) take a trip that unbeknown to each of them will change how they live their lives from this moment on. They take a trip to see a fortune teller who they hear has the power to inform of the exact date a person will die. One by one they learn of the date but they do not share this information with each other but try to understand what they have just been told.

From this day forward their lives will be forever linked with this moment and the piece of information that each was given. So now what happens to the siblings after they find out the date they will die?

The book is broken down to cover each of the siblings and starts with Simon to runs away to San Francisco where he is free to live the life he has chosen within the gay community and his life that he fulfils is lit up with the people he mixes with and as he trains to be a ballet dancer. For Klara her dream is to be a magician and show the world the magic that is around them. Daniel joins the military and the daily strict guidelines that this brings but all does not bode well for Daniel and his story is one of sadness. As for Varya she has dedicated her life to science and the longevity research. Was this anything to do with the meeting with the fortune teller but her Jewish faith seems to bring her comfort.

The real beauty of this book is how Chloe Benjamin tells the story of each of the individuals. Each story is just beautifully told and with a degree of sensitivity that it deserves. Each story they share with the reader their intimate lives with love, loss family bonds and death. We all have a destiny but how do we each shape our own destiny over time, here in The Immortalists Benjamin has crafted a superb novel that will ask questions of each of the family members and is thought provoking. At times I did think the information passed on by the fortune teller started to erode members of the family and in the end their own families as time went on.

Plenty of room for talking about this novel and it would make a terrific Book Club choice as the questions that it asks through each of life’s journey’s for the siblings.

416 Pages.

Thank you Caitlin Raynor (Headline) for the advanced review copy of The Immortalists

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is published by Tinder Press and was published on 8th March and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

The Perfect Girlfriend – Karen Hamilton (Guest Post)

 

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The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

I am absolutely delighted to welcome Karen Hamilton to my Blog to write a Guest Post as part of the Blog Tour for her sensational debut novel The Perfect Girlfriend which is released on 22nd March through Wildfire. A terrifying and compelling read about an obsession and pure hatred go hand in hand at 40,000ft. Welcome to Juliette’s world. A must-read thriller for the Spring.

GUEST POST BY KAREN HAMILTON

The Perfect Girlfriend will be published nine years after I decided to take writing seriously. It was always ‘the dream’ but I only ever dabbled over the years, as I loved my job as cabin crew and enjoyed travelling. When my middle son was a year old, I decided to set myself a word count of one thousand words a day, which I stuck to (as much as possible) and began to enter competitions, attend literary festivals and author events. A big boost was when I came second in a first chapter competition for a magazine and this spurred me on.

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I wrote a (really bad) book, but at least it taught me what I didn’t want to write. I wrote a second novel however; it wasn’t good enough to attract the attention of agents. I joined a local creative writing group and it was here that I first found the courage to read my work out loud.

In 2014, having left my flying career I went on the Faber Writing a Novel course. On the first evening, our course tutor suggested that we experiment, so I decided to write about a character who had been hanging around in my subconscious for a while, someone who came to me when I was changing out of uniform one day before travelling on public transport. I had already started writing the book in the third person, but switched to the first person and this seemed to bring Juliette’s character alive. I received such support and encouragement from our tutor and everyone else on the course, that it gave me the confidence to carry on, develop Juliette’s character and finish the first draft.

At the end of the course, students are given the opportunity to read their work out loud to a roomful of agents and editors (extremely nerve-wracking) but as a result, I am now represented by a wonderful and insightful agent. The Perfect Girlfriend is the result of many drafts, and a lot of edits, but I’m so thrilled. There have been a lot of the inevitable ups and downs along the way, but seeing the cover and, this week, holding my book for the first time have been a total dream come true. I feel very grateful for all the support I’ve received from so many passionate, dedicated people.

I’m currently writing my second novel and this time it feels very different. It’s another psychological thriller with a damaged woman at its heart, but this one is not set in the airline world, so I’m involved in a lot more research. I’m looking forward to finishing the first draft as one of my favourite parts of writing is editing; it’s the time when I become totally immersed in the book and try to shut out ‘real life’ as much as possible.

368 Pages.

Thank you Becky Hunter at Headline for the advanced review copy of The Perfect Girlriend

The Prefect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton is published by Wildfire Books and is published on 22nd March 2018 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

How to follow The Perfect Girlfriend Blog Tour

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The London Cage by Helen Fry

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The London Cage by Helen Fry

Walk around Kensington Palace Gardens today and you will be forgiven to think what beautiful part of London it is with its salubrious Georgian buildings and its wealth. But turn the clocks back to the Summer of 1940 and all was a little different for behind one of these buildings lay a top secret World War II facility for interrogating captured German officers.

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The London Cage, Kensington, London.

Indeed, such was the secrecy no-one knew it existed apart from the British Secret Service. Operating from 1940 to September 1948 prisoners brought here were subjected to “Special intelligence treatment” to break them down and gather vital intelligence, sleep deprivation, beatings and water treatment were dished out to those who refused to co-operate. And it also transpires that truth drugs were also used to extract confessions.

Some of those German war criminals that passed through The London Cage were responsible for murdering Canadian POWs and also 50 British Airman who escaped from Stalag Luft II (The Great Escape). Some of the German’s that went onto trial tried to complain about the treatment they received at the hands of the British Secret Service but these seemed to be ignored in an attempt to convict those German Officers of war crimes and also their part in running concentration camps. The entire operation at The London Cage was overseen by Commander Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Scotland and it is through his ‘watered down’ memoirs that the Historian Helen Fry drew on to write this powerful and incredible book London’s interrogation centre.

Now Seventy years on, many who have read about The London Cage were shocked that these events took place, but to understand what happened here is one for historians to debate for many years come. One thing that we all must understand is that those brought to the cage were the most ardent and brutal Nazis who refused to co-operate even after the war ended. Some totally unrepentant of their involvement or deeds. Even after the war a team of British investigators were looking for any who were involved in atrocities and any that were located were then brought to The London Cage for interrogation.

Scotland ran The London Cage with a rod of iron and was determined to break those who were involved in atrocities. It is important to note that it was not just German’s who were brought here but as the war drew to a close and even after anyone who was involved in war crimes ended up at The London Cage.

This is an outstanding and well researched book by Helen Fry that opens the door to a secret and some may say controversial intelligence facility. Anyone who is interested in WWII and the British Secret Service will gain a lot from reading The London Cage. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

256 Pages.

My thanks to Rebecca Fincham and also Yale University Press for the review copy of The London Cage.

The London Cage by Helen Fry is published by Yale University Press and was published on 1st September 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

Helen Fry will be talking about her book The London Cage today Sunday 11th March at 2pm and tickets are still available by visiting the website: JEWISH BOOK WEEK – HELEN FRY

Jewish Book Week

 

 

 

 

Your Life in My Hands by Rachel Clarke

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Your Life in My Hands by Rachel Clarke

At the age of 29 Rachel Clarke decided on a change of career, a starting out in journalism in television news she decided the pull of a career in medicine was too great. After all, both her father and grandfather both had careers in medicine. So now it time for Rachel to follow in their footsteps. In Your Life in My Hands Rachel Clarke talks passionately about life as a junior doctor in the NHS.

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Many always dream of being a nurse or a doctor specialising in specific areas of medicine, but no-one prepares you for the real life on the front line that is looking after patients and dealing with the most traumatic moments that only a doctor can experience. Every patient is different, not every patient is understanding some can be rather rude. We ask a lot of doctors and what they have to except. Rachel’s accounts in her book are very eloquent and her writing style means that she comes across as though she there with you talking directly you. Just like a doctor in fact.

Reading Rachel Clarke’s Your Life in My Hands gives you a real sense of life working in the NHS.

Rachel worked in the NHS for eight years in total and so she has first-hand accounts of how the NHS was being destroyed brick by brick. Our nurses and doctors work incredibly long hours and for Rachel Clarke it was not unusual for her to work 70 hour weeks and the incredible mountain of paperwork that also had to be done.

What does come across in Your Life in My Hands is her love of the profession but also a warning that our loved NHS is stretched to breaking point and that if this carries on our incredible nurses and doctors will not be able to continue the level of professionalism that we have come to expect. Jeremy Hunt’s 2015 intervention on imposing strict new working conditions on the profession and the NHS as a whole very nearly broke the back of the NHS that very winter. And it became Rachel’s role thanks to her previous career in TV news that she became the face of TV interviews during NHS Junior doctors strikes that followed.

I hope sincerely that the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt has read Rachel Clarke’s passionate memoir but I doubt it. I am passionate about our NHS and the heroes that work in the NHS. I cannot praise Your Life in My Hands high enough. It you care about the future of the NHS then this is a book you must read. To Rachel Clarke I say thank you for writing this important book that in years to come may yet be a book every junior doctor will want to read. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

320 Pages.

Thank you to Rebecca Fincham (Bigmouth Presents Book events) and also Metro Publishing (John Blake Books) for the advanced review copy of Your Life in My Hands.

Your Life in My Hands by Rachel Clarke is published by Metro Publishing and was published on 13th July 2017 and is available in Paperback through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

 

I Love You Too Much by Alicia Drake

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I Love You Too Much by Alicia Drake

Paris the eternal city of love. A city I have come to love ever since my first visit in the early 1980’s watching young couples in love walking hand in hand by the River Seine. What images this memory conjures.

I Love You Too Much is the debut novel by Alicia Drake (Picador) and the main character is Thirteen-year-old Paul who is somewhat shy and through his eyes we see his world and those adults who inhabit Pauls world. An extraordinary novel set to an extraordinary backdrop.

 

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Paul’s parents are on the cusp of divorce, from the mother is obsessed by shopping and a father who is obsessed by his looks and making sure he stays lean and handsome. But there is beauty in Paul’s life in fact it is everywhere. He cannot escape the beauty of the women that seem to be around his life. Paul though is not loved he is something of a loner, he is addicted to the wrong type of food that contains large amount of sugar or salt and he is overweight. Now he has a baby sister, as his mother has been seeing a guy who thinks he is a rock star and dresses like one! So now Paul is getting even less attention, so his addiction to sugary snacks increases.

You instantly feel sorry for Paul as his family are real achievers in life but Paul seems to fail in his studies much to his father’s chagrin. Paul would rather sit and eat and play computer games. There is going to be a court battle over custody of this unloved boy and yet it is Paul who will lose out no-matter who wins. What this boy wants more than anything is to be loved. In fact, he is silently crying out to be loved. All the signs are there, yet his self-effacing parents just don’t see it.

Paul finds solace in a new girl in School and Scarlett is a bit of a tear-away and does not seem to be bothered by anything or anyone. So a friendship is born and soon they are spending time together after school. You get the sense there is utter heartbreak coming sooner or later and how Alicia Drake draws the reader into Paul’s world.

Our protagonist likes to watch other people and not just within his own family but those that live just across the hall from their apartment. But one day Paul arrives at his father’s apartment and his word is destroyed by what he walks into. Something that shakes his world to its very core. This has effected Paul deeply. His life is shattered.

A family hell bent on seeking admiration of those around them yet this sad and lonely boy is caught up in their own sad Parisian lifestyle. There is evident within this powerful story of self-destruction but they are all too busy with their own lifestyles to see the pain that they create.

I have to say I absolutely loved I Love You Too Much by Alicia Drake. She has created such incredible characters and the pain of adolescence. A novel so powerful and so utterly heartbreaking. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

256 Pages.

Thank you to Picador Books for the advanced review copy of I Love You Too Much by Alicia Drake.

I Love You Too Much by Alicia Drake is published by Picador and was published on 8th February 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

 

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