Monthly Archives: September 2019

Dave Thomas: Guiding Me Home & Away. The Autobiography by Dave Thomas

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Dave Thomas: Guiding Me Home & Away. The Autobiography by Dave Thomas

Summary:

Socks rolled down and minus shin pads, Dave Thomas was the winger Don Revie once referred to as ‘the most exciting prospect in British soccer.’ Dave’s speed and crossing ability entertained fans of Burnley, QPR, Everton, Wolves, Vancouver Whitecaps, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth. After a fascinating career which included eight England caps, Dave lost a good deal of his confidence and independence when he was registered blind in his 50s. This is the uplifting and emotional story of how he regained control over his life again when paired with his faithful guide dog, Hannah.

 

My Review:

I am very grateful to Midas PR for the copy of Guiding Me Home and Away (Hornet Books) by Dave Thomas. His autobiography. Being a massive football fan in my young days I had the real privilege of seeing Dave Thomas play when he came up against my team. I also recall collecting football cards and swapping them in the school playground. Somewhere in my loft I still have these and among them will be Dave Thomas himself. This is his story and how it all began.

Everton

Even in his very young days the promise being showed by Dave Thomas was clear to see. He was signed by Burnley as a junior but it was Leeds United and especially Don Revie who saw what Thomas was capable of. Even to the point of meeting Dave Thomas’s parents and then the following day a Rolls Royce arrived at the family home and it was Review and the owner of Leeds United, they were determined to get their man even to the point of offering them cash there and then. But his father was a proud and honest man. He kept his word to Burnley and that was that.

Thomas made his league debut for Burnley during the 1966/67 season but it was an 8-1 defeat. But Thomas was not going to let this get him down and he went on to make 157 appearances scoring 19 goals for Burnley. Thomas then signed for Queens Park Rangers in 1972. It was the 1975/76 season that Thomas and QPR very nearly won the First Division Championship, losing out to Liverpool by just one point after leading the First Division for most of the season.

Dave Thomas went on to represent England (1974/1975) playing eight times for the Three Lions. He went on to play for Everton and then Wolverhampton Wanderers, then a short spell playing a single summer season with Vancouver Whitecaps, then home again to play for Middlesbrough and finally Portsmouth. Dave’s playing career came to end in in 1984. A career to look back on with real pride.

Fast forward to 2008 and Dave Thomas is now registered blind after progressive sight loss. Now with the help of his guide dog Hannah and also his wife Brenda. This is just a wonderful read and an insight to a footballer I recall from my younger days and also an inspirational story. Written with David Roberts (Hornet Books) after many face to face interviews. All his royalties from this book will be donated to Guide Dogs and Dave Thomas has already raised over £72,000 for the charity.

240 Pages.

Thank you to the Amber Choudhary (Midas PR) for the review copy of Dave Thomas: Guiding Me Home & Away by Dave Thomas.

Dave Thomas: Guiding Me Home & Away by Dave Thomas was published by Imperial War Museum and was published on 5th September 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle

Eight Hours From England Cover Image

Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle

 

Summary:

Autumn 1943. Realising that his feelings for his sweetheart are not reciprocated, Major John Overton accepts a posting behind enemy lines in Nazi-Occupied Albania. Arriving to find the situation in disarray, he attempts to overcome geographical challenges and political intrigues to set up a new camp in the mountains overlooking the Adriatic.

As he struggles to complete his mission amidst a chaotic backdrop, Overton is left to ruminate on loyalty, comradeship and his own future.

Based on Anthony Quayle s own wartime experience with the Special Operations Executive (SOE), this new edition of a 1945 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds new light on the fascinating true events that inspired its author.

My Review:

Many will know of Anthony Quayle the actor nominated for many awards for his roles in Lawrence of Arabia, Ice Cold in Alex and The Guns of Navarone to name just a few. But I had no idea of Anthony Quayle the author. In WWII Quayle was a British Army Officer and later served in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and served in Albania. The experiences so affected him that he found it hard to talk about. In Eight Hours from England first published in 1945 the story became a fictionalised account of his time in the SOE.

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The story follows Major John Overton who is putting his personal life behind him and now has agreed to go behind enemy lines in Albania which is under the thumb of Nazi occupation.

When Overton arrives he is confronted by the task ahead of him, he has to organise the resistance and fight the German forces but there is plenty of in-fighting within Albania and too much focus on their own civil war. What our man Overton has to overcome is the terrain and the weather conditions and despite the promise of supplies these do not arrive.

What I found from Quayle’s words was that he was relieved to get out as he did in early April 1944. The situation was deteriorating with too many factions within the country and Partisans fearing not only certain death but total destruction of their villages. For Overton the need to get out of this situation and also Albania at the same time was real.

This is a compelling account of real life SOE agent although fictionalised it really becomes clear to the reader just what agents had to face when they were sent to the Balkans.

Anthony Quayle went on to continue to serve with the armed forces until the war ended and then went on to star in many films and also many stage productions and was Knighted in the New Year’s Honours in 1985. Sir Anthony Quayle died at his home in October 1989.

212 Pages

Thank you to the Imperial War Museum and also Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle.

Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle was published by Imperial War Museum and was published on 5th September 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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Arnhem: The Complete Story of Operation Market Garden 17-25 September 1944 – by William F. Buckingham

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Arnhem: The Complete Story of Operation Market Garden 17-25 September 1944 by William F. Buckingham

 

Summary:

On 21 August 1944 German Army Group B was destroyed in Normandy and Allied troops began pressing east from the beachhead they had occupied since the D-Day landings. Within days British troops had liberated Brussels and reached the Dutch border. Encouraged by seeming total German collapse, the Allies gambled their overstretched resources on a high-risk strategy aimed at opening the way into Germany itself crossing the Rhine river.

On the afternoon of Sunday 17 September British tanks advanced into Holland in concert with 1,534 transport aircraft and 491 gliders. Their objective was a series of bridges across the Rhine, possession of which would allow the Allies to advance into Germany. In the event the operation was dogged by bad weather, flawed planning, tardiness and overconfidence, and ended with the Arnhem crossing still in German hands despite an epic nine-day battle that cost the British 1st Airborne Division over two thirds of its men killed, wounded or captured.

Arnhem, the Battle of the Bridges combines analysis and new research by a leading authority on Operation MARKET GARDEN with the words of the men who were there, and provides the most comprehensive account of the battle to date.

My Review:

With the German army driven out of France and Belgium, the allied forces decided on a bold and brave risk. To take the bridges at Arnhem and thus pave the way into Germany which could prove decisive and shorten the war. 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden. I have held back from publishing my review of Arnhem: The Complete Story of Operation Market Garden 17th – 25th September 1944. By William F. Buckingham (Amberley Publishing) until now to coincide with the anniversary.

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British Paratroppers on their way to Arnhem

It was Sunday 17th September 1944 and the first British tanks started to make the journey into Holland along with over 1500 aircraft and nearly 500 gliders the race was on to capture and hold the bridges over the Rhine which would give the allies a foothold into Germany. This was a bold and brave gamble by General Montgomery his idea of a ‘Single Thrust’ into Germany.

Everything about Operation Market Garden was based on split second timing and there could be no mistakes no delays. Take the bridges and hold until relieved. Not everyone in the Allied Command HQ backed Monty’s plan indeed everything was put into Operation Market Garden including nearly all the fuel was re-directed for the effort. Such a huge operation was fraught with danger and possible failure. In the end it was an epic battle but one of great heroism by the men who fought at Arnhem.

Three major airborne divisions were to take part in Operation Market Garden, from the US the 101st and 82 and from the British the 82nd. They would pave the way for the armoured division of the Guards to race ahead. Everything depended on split second timing and the superior German forces along with SS Panzer divisions practically destroyed the 1st Airborne division. The who operation was sadly doomed to failure. There are many reasons as to why Operation Market Garden failed and military historians for years have written pieces on how and why it failed. Allied Casualties were close to 18,000 as well as around 500 civilians.

Operation Market Garden was a complete failure with around 2,500 British trooped managing to escape back across the river. Many were captured along with the wounded who could not be evacuated. It would be another four months before the allies would cross the Rhine to defeat Germany and bring the war to an end.

I have read many accounts of Operation Market Garden since my younger days but Buckingham’s account is nothing short of meticulous. Absolutely nothing is left out. It is a hefty book at 624 pages but if you want to know everything there is to know about Operation Market Garden then this is the book you want. It is an epic account. The research is astonishing as well as the memories of those who fought an in the battle for the bridges and the civilians who witnessed the battle. There are also many photographs from Operation Market Garden. My thoughts are with the many brave men who fought bravely and never came home. Highly Recommended.

 288 Pages.

My thanks to Amberley Publishing for a copy of Arnhem: The Complete Story of Operation Market Garden 17-25 September 1944 by William F. Buckingham. Released in Hardback on 15th March 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt

Plenty Under The Counter Cover Image

Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt

 

Summary:

London, 1942. Flight-Lieutenant David Heron, home on convalescent leave, awakes to the news that a murder victim has been discovered in the garden of his boarding house. With a week until his service resumes, David sets out to solve the murder. Drawn into a world of mystery and double-dealing, he soon realises that there is more to the inhabitants of the boarding house than meets the eye, and that wartime London is a place where opportunism and the black market are able to thrive. Can he solve the mystery before his return to the skies?

Inspired by Kathleen Hewitt s own experience of wartime London, this new edition of a 1943 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds light on the fascinating true events that so influenced its author

 My Review:

There is something about an old wartime classic murder mystery unlike any other similar murder mystery of any other time period. Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt was originally written at the height of WWII and is now re-released by The Imperial War Museum for a new generation to discover.

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London during the blitz and FL David Heron is resting at one of the many boarding houses after rescued from the channel. A body has been discovered in the back garden of a man and it is murder.

What does David Heron do, does he let the police investigate or does focus on his health and get back to fighting the Germans in the skies above London. The city is in the mist of the blitz and London at night is a dark and sinister place. Ideal for criminals and crime is rife especially in the black market. So now David decides to take on the investigation for himself and the owner of the boarding house Mrs Meake is convinced the house was all locked up and secure and David slept through. There are a few red herrings in the story to keep you guessing as well as a host of great characters who each play their part in this crime caper. This is wonderful crime story of the time and our intrepid investigator really does play the part very well.

The storyline keeps the reader entertained all the way through. Kathleen Hewitt (1893 – 1980) wrote 23 books and many were of the crime genre. With the release of four Wartime Classics by the Imperial War Museum to commemorate the outbreak of World War Two. A chance for a new generation of readers to read novels from writers who came through the war years either in the forces or living through the blitz.

#wartimeclassics

240 Pages.

Thank you to the Imperial War Museum and also Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt.

Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt was published by Imperial War Museum and was published on 5th September 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

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The Secrets We Kept – Lara Prescott

Summary:

  1. A celebrated Russian author is writing a book, Doctor Zhivago, which could spark dissent in the Soviet Union. The Soviets, afraid of its subversive power, ban it.But in the rest of the world it’s fast becoming a sensation.

    In Washington DC, the CIA is planning to use the book to tip the Cold War in its favour.

    Their agents are not the usual spies, however. Two typists – the charming, experienced Sally and the talented novice Irina – are charged with the mission of a lifetime: to smuggle Doctor Zhivagoback into Russia by any means necessary.

    It will not be easy. There are people prepared to die for this book – and agents willing to kill for it. But they cannot fail – as this book has the power to change history.

My Review:

One of my all-time favourite films has to be Dr Zhivago, so what an absolute thrill to have received a review copy of The Secrets We Kept (Hutchinson) by Lara Prescott. This is the secrets about how Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece was eventually smuggled out of the old Soviet Union.

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This is a historical fictional account of how Dr Zhivago came to the West and to think it could have never seen the light of day. We head back to the time of the Cold War during the 1950’s when the West and the Soviet Union had a real mistrust of each other that could have spilt over to WWIII at any moment.

The story switches between Olga who is Boris Pasternak’s mistress who is picked up and sent to the Gulag and two typists from the CIA who assisted the smuggling of the book out of the USSR. The extraordinary lengths many went to get Pasternak’s masterpiece out of the country before the Communist authorities got hold of it. This is a compelling novel and a story that will have you reading long into the night.

With the story moving from East to West you get a real perspective of how each side was desperate to get the book out or find the spies and stop the book from leaving the country. You have to feel for Olga and the appalling way she was treated in the Gulag despite her condition at the time. But Olga was strong a lot stronger than many of the other woman there.

It is an incredible story behind Dr Zhivago that I had no idea even existed. The sheer impact of the novel both here in the West and then when the book was published and later sent back to the USSR and read by many. The impact this must have had on its citizens. Boris Pasternak went on to receive the Nobel Prize in October 1958 and was warned by the Soviet’s that if he travelled to collect his award he would never be allowed back into the country.

For anyone who loves the story of Dr Zhivago I can only highly recommend The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott. This is a real eye opener. I will not reveal any details of the end of the book. This you will have to discover for yourself. When I next watch the film I will be thinking back to the story of how it was smuggled out and the people involved.

#TheSecretsWeKept

Thank you to Hutchinson Books and also to Anne Cater (Random things Tours) for the review copy of The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott.

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott was published by Hutchinson and was published on 5th September 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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Trial by Battle – David Piper

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Trial by Battle – David Piper

Summary:

October 1941. Twenty-one-year-old Alan Mart is posted to India and taken under the wing of the dogmatic, overbearing Acting-Captain Sam Holl. Following the Japanese advance on Singapore, the men are deployed to Malaya. What follows is a quietly shattering and searingly authentic depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare and the indiscriminate nature of conflict.

Based on David Piper s own wartime experience in South East Asia, this new edition of a 1959 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds new light on the dramatic true events that so influenced its author.

David Piper

Guest Post:

As part of my review for Trial by Battle by David Piper I am most grateful to Tom Piper for writing this Guest Post about his father and how the war affected him. Tom went on to design the Poppy installation at the Tower of London. This is a wonderful piece and something I will long treasure. On a persona note, my grandfather who passed away at the age of 104 two years ago was taken prisoner by the Japanese and survived the POW camps unlike many of his comrades. Some of my grandfather’s stories were extremely upsetting and have lived with me all these years.

Trial By Battle. Pacifism and Poppies.

Guest Post by Tom Piper

My father, David Piper, died in 1990 shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, and so lived to see the ideal of a united and peaceful Europe gain further momentum. Always a keen European, before the Second World War he had taken teenage cycling holidays in Germany, then gone to Cambridge to study languages. Here he helped put on and perform in a pacifist play ‘The War in Troy will not take place’ by Jean Giraudoux, where he met my future mother. Like so many of his generation he was forced to decide whether his pacifist principles still held true as the War broke out and Germany invaded Poland. He decided to join up, spent what must have been a final agonising three days with my mother before leaving for Burma and then Singapore, where he proposed by letter. In his post war life he shunned attention and quietly supported my mother, who campaigned against the nuclear bomb, even though he probably owed his survival to the Japanese surrender it had precipitated.

His novel, Trial by Battle, originally published under the pseudonym of Peter Towry, is a thinly veiled autobiographical account, of how an urbane intellectual can be transformed by the horrors of war into a man capable of killing and being prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. The book differs from his actual experience in that he was captured during the fall of Singapore. He had initially escaped, wading for two days through mangrove swamps to the supposed safety of a remote village, only to be sold to the Japanese for a packet of cigarettes. That episode and his near death in a prisoner of war camp, gave him a profound awareness of the fragile chance nature of life and a deep appreciation of how miraculous it was that he survived and was reunited with my mother after an absence of 5 years.

I read the book and his wartime diaries ‘I am Well, Who are You?’, in my twenties at the same age he had been when he went to war. It was almost impossible to imagine what he had been through and it certainly explained why he never spoke about his wartime experiences. His writing seemed to act as certain therapy, but my older sisters would attest to how difficult, despite the joys of marriage and parenthood, he found the return to civilian life. His father advised him not to burden his family with his experiences and he made a pact with my mother that she would deal with all the difficulties of everyday social interactions. He began writing in the late fifties, the door to his room open to hear his three girls playing, perhaps only able to begin to deal with this experiences once new and vibrant life was so evident. No doubt today we would say that he was suffering from PTSD.

I was born as a bit of an afterthought to the family in the mid sixties which coincided with his move to head the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. By all accounts this immersion in a vibrant university town in the late sixties was a transformative moment in his life, the austerity and trauma of the immediate post war years began to fade, although his physical heath never really recovered. He was diagnosed with emphysema in the mid seventies, but went on to run the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and publish many art historical works. Before I read the war books I was blissfully unaware of so much of his history, all I had to worry about were the peaceful preoccupations of life, love and following a career of my own which in my case veered away from Biology to the precarious prospects of theatre design. I am still shocked to think what he endured at such a young age.

Throughout my teenage years my peers and I regarded the poppy as a militaristic symbol that you only wore if you were a paid up member of the Conservative Party. We were protesting against the Falklands, following the activities of the women of Greenham Common and supporting CND. So years later it was with some trepidation, when initially approached by the Tower, that I decided to get involved with the Poppies project. I suppose subconsciously my father’s appalling experiences made me feel that I couldn’t possibly have the authority to be part of creating a memorial to those who had lost their lives fighting. I had been spared that fate through the many sacrifices of my parents’ generation. My father’s extraordinary novel was born out of direct lived experience. Would it be possible for me to create an authentic work without having experienced war? But in many ways this is the curse of the theatre practitioner. We are always trying to put ourselves into other people’s heads to imagine their lives and feelings and make a space that allows their stories to be told.

So for me ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’, became another form of storytelling, theatre even. Those volunteers who came to ‘plant’ the poppies, as well as the viewers standing above the moat, became involved in a shared dialogue of discovery of their own families’ losses from the First World War right through to current conflicts. Paul Cummins’ idea of a single poppy representing a single life transformed the symbolism of the poppy in my eyes. It no longer represented a generalised idea of sacrifice but, rather, every viewer could invest a poppy with their own relative’s history. We were bearing witness to the lost energy and spirit of all those individuals who died, we were grateful for their sacrifice and trying to give dignity to their memory. The more theatrical metaphor of the poppies cascading like blood from the window and flowing to break in a wave over the entrance way helped enhance the true horror of the vast numbers involved, a sea of blood created out of 888,246 lives.

I remain a pacifist and a European, taking the legacy of my parents’ struggles forward in my own way and am proud that I was able to be part of something that seemed genuinely to have moved the nation. It caused us collectively to pause and think: why do we go to war, was it worth it and should we not do all in our power to avert it? In the same way that my father’s book should not be seen as a glorification of war, I wanted the public to see the poppies as the terrible tragedy of those lost lives. I can only hope, as we seem to drift towards a small minded nationalist populism, that the sacrifices and warnings have not been in vain and that my children and their generation should not have to undergo a trial by battle.

My Review:

Originally published in 1959 Trial by Battle by David Piper is an outstanding rediscover by The Imperial War Museum as part of their Wartime Classics Series now available as part of the commemorations for the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two.
The story is set in the sweltering heat of jungle warfare and based on the authors own experiences in South East Asia during the war. During October 1941 a young Alan Mart is based in India when the Japanese army start the offensive on Singapore. Between December 1941 and May 1942 What was then the British Empire suffered a huge series of defeats from Hong Kong to Burma all fell and then the Japanese overran Singapore.
We follow Alan Mart as he is taken under the wing of Sam Holl and to show Alan how the Indian Infantry Battalion will be run. The they are posted to the Malayan jungle to fight the Japanese.
Some of the most vicious campaigns in WWII was the in the unforgiving steaming jungle. This story is so real and visceral that when you have read Trial by Battle it will linger with you for some time afterwards. It was William Tecumseh Sherman who said “War is Hell” speak to any surviving member of the army who fought in the jungle they will confirm that it was indeed the closest to hell you will get. I highly recommend Trial by Battle this will give you a real first-hand account of war in South East Asia.

176 Pages.

Thank you to the Imperial War Museum and also Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Trial by Battle by David Piper.

Trial by Battle by David Piper was published by Imperial War Museum and was published on 5th September 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron

From The City Cover Image

From the City, From the Plough Alexander Baron

 

Summary:

Spring 1944, the south coast of England. The Fifth Battalion, Wessex Regiment, wait patiently and nervously for the order to embark. There is boredom and fear, comedy and pathos as the men all drawn from different walks of life await the order to move.

With an economy of language that belies its emotional impact, From the City, From the Plough is a vivid and moving account of the fate of these men as they embark for the beaches of Normandy and advance into France, where the battalion suffers devastating casualties.

Based on Alexander Baron s own wartime experience, From the City, From the Plough was originally published to wide acclaim and reportedly sold over one million copies. This new edition of the 1948 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds new light on the dramatic true events that so inspired its author.

My Review:

The Imperial War Museum has just released four wartime classics as part of the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of Second Wold War and I delighted to be reviewing all four of these classic wartime stories. The first is From the City, From the Plough (IWM Wartime Classics) by Alexander Baron.

Alexander Baron Author Picture

First released in 1948 and went on to sell over a million copies. War stories tell of bravery but also the shock and horror of war. And here Alexander Baron tells the story of the Fifth Battalion, Wessex Regiment as they prepared in the run-up to D-Day and the storming of the beaches.

Like any wartime story or film we come to know the leading characters and you know instantly some are not going to make it. This is the horror of war. A generation of young men ready to take on the Nazi war machine on the coast of Normandy. This is a powerful story told in under 200 pages. You come to know each of the men and how they interact with each other. These are ordinary men who were leading a normal working class life now they have left their families and their homes to fight. This novel is based on Baron’s own experiences of the battle for Normandy so he not only writes with incredible prose but from experience. Some of the storyline is meant to shock, but tells the story as it should be told. It is no surprise that Baron went on to be a successful writer and screenwriter. The men become a band of brothers as they stand side by side and storm the beaches and the horrors that wait as the beach comes closer.

Make no mistake this is no ordinary war story but one that is told as it was. A country at a time when it was still rebuilding and lives rebuilding now they could read a novel based on what it was really like. What must it have been like as they started to board the landing craft seeing the beaches ahead and shells exploding on the beaches. It is here in the story.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity of reviewing all four of these wartime classics that the Imperial War Museum have now released to a new generation of readers in a year when we have commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day back in June. Over the next few weeks look out the three other titles in the IWM Wartime Classics Series. Highly Recommended.

192 Pages.

Thank you to the Imperial War Museum and also Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron.

From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron was published by Imperial War Museum and was published on 5th September 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior

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Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior

Summary:

Meet Ellie. She’s perfectly happy living her quiet life with her husband, Clive. Happy to wander the Exmoor countryside and write the occasional poem that nobody will read; happy to dream of all the things she hasn’t yet managed to do. Or is she?

Meet Dan. He thinks all he needs is the time and space to make harps in his isolated barn on Exmoor. He enjoys being on his own, far away from other people and – crucially – far away from any risk of surprises.

What Ellie and Dan don’t know yet, is that a chance encounter is about to change all of this.

My Review:

It was such a real pleasure to have read Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior (Bantam Press) a beautiful novel set on Exmoor. And yes there is a Pheasant that does appear in the storyline. I have always held a fascination for the Harp and have come to appreciate the music.

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Ellie is happily married to Clive and is almost content with the life they live, until one day when she is out waking she comes across a barn in the middle of nowhere and when she enters Ellie is immediately captivated. Here she meets Dan and the handmade harps he crafts from wood. The thing about Dan is that he is not making a business out of what he does as this is purely for love from the woods around the workshop.

It becomes apparent almost immediately that there is something special between Ellie and Dan. Their love of the countryside, poetry, nature and music. Ellie is just delightful. Often wandering the country lanes reciting poetry she has written. She comes across as someone who is a bit of a loner and so when she meets Dan and is beguiled by his craftsmanship. It is then that Ellie tells Dan that she wants to play the harp.

The story is told by both Ellie and Dan and you begin to read each other’s thoughts and when Dan gives Ellie one of his beautiful Harps this causes problems at home for Ellie. Hazel Prior has crafted such a warm and charming story that you just wanted to spend time with both Ellie and Dan who is just a little different from most people and sees the world through different eyes.

Wonderful characters and the setting of Exmoor is very descriptive. And yes Phineas the Pheasant does a play and integral part in the story of Ellie and Dan but I am not going to spoil the story for you. A novel to make you smile and lift your heart.

 288 Pages.

Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior was published by Bantam Press and was published on 2nd May 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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