Category Archives: Borough Press
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.
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.
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.
Many who love the writing of Joanna Cannon have been very excited over recent days with the news of her second book Three Things About Elsie due for release in early January 2018. The first copies of the proofs were issued late last week and the early news is that this is going to be a much loved book and will touch all who read it. It will be one of the books of next year that is without doubt.
Joanna’s debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep went on to become a bestseller and today is still selling extremely well and was even selected to be on the Richard and Judy Book Club for WH Smith. It is a remarkable debut novel about two ten-year-old girls Grace and Tilly who set about trying to solve a mystery. Mrs Creasy is missing and there are whispers. A beautiful written novel about secrets behind every front door but it is more than just that.
It came to my attention that there are still some (yes hard to believe) that have not yet discovered The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and as Joanna’s forthcoming second novel is already talk of social media with a cover that is just pure Battenberg, I thought it would be a good time to a competition to win not just one copy but I have two to give away. But that is not all. These editions are the special copies produced in the yellow paperback cover as issued by Sainsbury’s to celebrate Summer as this wonderful novel is set in a long hot Summer that some of us still recall. Sadly, I am not offering free Battenberg as I am keeping that for myself. Sorry!
To enter the competition all you have to do is head over to my Twitter page The Last Word 1962 and answer one simple question:
In what year is the novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep based in. Then follow and RT the main pinned Tweet and you are in with a chance. There I told it was easy. It is easy honest.
Just to recap:
- In what year is the novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep based?
- Follow and Re-Tweet the pinned Tweet
The completion will close at 7pm on Thursday 17th August 2018 and two lucky winners will be selected at random on Friday morning. The Winners will receive a Direct Message from me on Twitter that morning. All being well prizes will be sent out within a few days. Good luck.
The Draughtsman by Robert Lautner
On the cover of Robert Lautner’s new novel The Draughtsman it says ‘We all have choices’ but under Nazi Germany and when you have been chosen to work for the SS do you have a choice? Can you speak out for others and face being found out with the dire consequences for you and your family.
It is 1944 and for Nazi Germany the net is closing in as the allies fight their way to Germany’s front door and for Ernst Beck a young unemployed engineer he just wants to work and earn some money for him and his wife Etta so that they can start a family when the war finally ends with a dream of eventually having their own home. Then the offer of a job arrives from Erfut’s prestigious engineering firm Topf & Sons. Now for Ernst he can now feel like a man again and start providing for his wife and make his parents proud. Sometimes though not everything is as it seems and for Ernst he will soon find out what the SS have really been doing. On his first day Ernst joins the Special Ovens Department designing new ovens that can withstand burning all day and night at special ‘prison camps’ at Buchenwald and Auschwitz but as visits to both camps including a dangerous situation it soon dawns on Ernst that he has not been told the truth about what these ovens are for and the story of executing criminals and those that have died of disease cannot surely amount to why these ‘special’ ovens are being designed and why the secrecy as he has to report direct to Berlin. For Ernst and Etta there are some trappings that go with the job as he is a special employee. But soon the real truth comes to Ernst that his employers have been colluding with the SS and now he has a choice to make does he risk his life and that of his beautiful wife Etta or does he start telling the truth that these ovens are part of the Crematoria for the concentration camps and he will have a hand in the Holocaust if he remains silent. The terrible burden ways heavy for Ernst as he weighs up the consequences of being complicit. What would become of his wife and even his parents. There now worrying signs that there is no escaping for Ernst.
The Draughtsman is an incredible achievement as Lautner explores how the mind plays out when suddenly life is generous while others struggle and how could he possibly give this new lease of life up. The one aspect of the story is how the war is going for Germany and how close the allies are now as the last months of the war begin. Germany is losing the war there will be heavy price to pay for those found guilty of being compliant and complicit in the Holocaust. This is a dark and at times harrowing read as the themes involved but it is a compelling read and one that will ask many questions of the reader. After you have read this novel ask yourself in a country that was fearful when neighbour turned against neighbour what would you do? This is a novel that should not be treated lightly. The authors note at the end of the book testifies to this. Without doubt a full five star novel.
Thank you to The Borough Press for the advanced review copy.
The Draughtsman by Robert Lautner is published by and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
The Last Word Review
I wonder how many reading this have thought when hearing about someone coming into a lot of money either through a lottery win or inherited will love the debut novel The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.
We join the dysfunctional Plumb siblings enjoying life and waiting for the day when their long awaited father’s inheritance lands in their lap. Their father had not anticipated that this fund would not be as big but following his death the Plumbs learn that their ‘Nest’ has been inflated way beyond anything that they could imagine this thanks to the ‘markets’ out of control valuations. The Plumbs are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination and are already eying the Nest and how they want to spend their inheritance that is until one night one of the Plumbs crashes his car.
Leo is the older of the Plum siblings at 46 and not too responsible considering his age and a rather unhappy marriage to go with it. So when he is involved in a car crash overdosed on alcohol and drugs, that in itself is not good news but add in a 19- year-old waitress he picked up at a wedding and who is badly hurt The Nest is raided to ‘shush’ this up. The Nest was not in any way meant for a situation such as this and Leo’s indiscretion has now put a very large hole in their inheritance.
One aspect of the story that I enjoyed was how the author takes the reader on a grand tour of New York through the pages of The Nest, it really worked for me, whether it was Grand Central Station or Central Park or the famous Natural History Museum it really added to the how the story plays out for the Plumbs.
With the other siblings Melody, Bea and Jack now looking at vastly depleted inheritance pot, they meet Leo and want to know two things, how and when is the fund going to be replaced. It is like watching a comedy film through the pages of a wonderfully written novel.
This is actually a very clever ploy that Sweeney has pulled on the reader, as you now start to ask yourself about how you or any of us come to think of it would handle this situation. Some families are close knit but sometimes all it takes is a hair-trigger moment and sibling rivalry breaks out and with the Plumbs it is their fiscal aspirations and The Nest that was their inheritance but that now has gone thanks to the eldest of the sibling’s Leo’s behaviour, replacing that now depleted cash fund is not easy for Leo especially when his wife just likes to spend his money.
I really enjoyed how each character has been created each one a pure individual, even their late father described each of them brilliantly. Look out for some sub-plots within the main thread of the story but does not distract the reader from the main family fiscal drama that is being played out on a grand scale.
Sweeney’s debut novel is a joy to read and is full of wit and humour as well as the family dramas and some home truths as well as the lies and jealousies. Just throw money into a family circle and you have the perfect storyline. A great read.
My thanks to Hayley Camis for an advanced review copy.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is published by The Borough Press and was released on 19 May and is available through all branches of Waterstones and all good bookshops.
At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
Official Blog Tour 2016 and Publication Day event
Meet the Author
In the latest in a series of Meet the Author Interviews I talk Tracy Chevalier about her latest book At the Edge of the Orchard which is published today.
You have been described as undertaking the writing equivalent of ‘method acting’ in your research. How much research did you have to undertake for the different historical settings in the book, and also in the specialist jobs & skills the characters in the book have (such as grafting techniques)?
I always do a lot of research. This time I read a lot about apples, visited an apple farm and picked apples, talked to experts. I admit though that I didn’t graft any trees! I did plant a couple of apple trees in our garden. One died, and I replaced it with a Pitmaston Pineapple tree – which if you read the book you’ll discover is an interesting old apple variety that tastes faintly of pineapple.
How difficult did you find it to write in the traditional dialect in the sections told from the viewpoint of Sadie and the letters that feature throughout the book and what materials did you use to get a flavour of the local dialect of that time?
You know, I didn’t really research this, I just wrote it by feel. Most of the rest of the book (apart from the letters) are in third person, but the extreme character of Sadie demanded that she tell her own story – a third-person narration would tame her too much. Her voice came out complete. She is her own person, with her own dialect.
The letters are more standard, though I had a lot of fun playing with Robert’s spelling as he slowly learns to write. He is still very understated, however, and I played with that too. Sometimes what a character doesn’t say reveals more than what they do.
This novel is set in your native America and the idea of the American Dream is inherent throughout, how effected by the American setting is Robert’s story of running away from his roots and choosing to be different from his past?
This book really is about the American Dream – the idea that there is a place (in this instance, Goldrush California) where you can leave your past behind, start over, and make something of yourself. That idea came with the Goldrush, where a few people did fish out nuggets of gold from California rivers and become wealthy. For most, though, miners didn’t find that easy fix. Robert goes there too, and realises his past is still with him, no matter how far west he runs.
As your novel Girl with the Pearl Earring was turned into a film starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson, are there any particular actors or actresses you could see playing the adult Robert and Martha Goodenough from At the Edge of the Orchard?
Ah, I love this sort of question. Often during tedious or difficult periods of writing, I’ll entertain myself with such thoughts. Except with this book. Oddly enough, I never thought about casting Robert or Martha – even though I still had difficult moments during the writing. Thinking now…Robert would need to be a maverick, like Paul Dano. Martha: very hard, as she needs to be small and frail and about as unlike modern Hollywood actresses as you can get.
What authors do you like to read and why? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I read all kinds of books: literary and commercial, obscure and bestsellers. I tend to gravitate towards contemporary British and American women writers – reading who I am myself, I guess. (How boring of me!) Restoration by Rose Tremain had a big effect on me. I read it when I did an MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia, and Rose was my tutor. I think it was the first contemporary historical novel I read, and it showed me how it could be done – that you could take something like the restoration of Charles II to the throne and tell it differently, from the point of view of a normal person, that history could be about the “little people”. That is what Girl with a Pearl Earring ended up being.
The Last Word Review
At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
‘The brutal realities of a pioneering family in the 19th Century. A beautifully written story’
Not having previously reviewed any of Tracy Chevalier’s previous books I was delighted to have At the Edge of the Orchard arrive on my desk in early February. The setting for her eighth novel is Ohio in 1838 and the Black Swamp where James and Sadie Goodenough have made their home planting apple trees but no ordinary apples. These are sweet ‘eaters’ but as you can imagine life is incredibly hard and swamp fever and poverty takes its toll on James and Sadie’s children.
While James tends to his beloved apples trees trying to grow the requisite 50 trees that will secure their right to the land while James looks after his apple trees Sadie gets drunk on applejack cider made from ‘spitters’ and is somewhat abusive to their remaining children and her husband. This will have a profound affect in the years that follow.
The story moves back and forth to California fifteen years later to 1853 and to their younger son Robert who was drifting in out of jobs in ranching and gold-mining only to find himself later back among trees but these are not apples there are the Giant Sequoia trees, Robert seems to have found his peace to come good then he meets the plant collector William Lobb who is collecting seeds and plants to send back to England. Soon there are differences between what Robert is doing and how far man should go in interfering with mother nature.
There does however remain the one question that seems to hang over Robert Goodenough, what drove him away from the family home. Is he trying to escape the past? I found Robert to be an odd fellow not really sure of himself and someone who was constantly looking over his shoulder. I was never at ease with this character constantly restless never ease in relationships of any kind. Soon however the past will catch up with Robert Goodenough.
This is a superbly written novel that highlights graphically the harshness of the time and the struggles of those early settlers trying to make a life for themselves in the Black Swamp.
The characters I found interesting but at the same time difficult. But I put that down to the skill of Tracy Chevaliers writing and a new fan has been gained. You cannot help take in the aroma of the sweet apples as it oozes from every page.
My thanks to Hayley Camis at Harper Fiction for an advanced review copy ahead of publication.
At the Edge of the Orchard written by Tracy Chevalier and is released today by The Borough Press.
At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier Official Blog Tour 2016 Dates
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
The Last Word Review
Captivating, charming, intuitive. A debut novel that will sweep you off your feet and one that capture the hearts of its readers
It would be so easy for me to say here is one of the most eagerly anticipated debut novels of 2016. Well actually it is and what is more it is one of the best debut novels I can remember in a long time. Much praise has been heaped upon Joanna Cannon’s first novel and it stands up to the litmus test so early in the year of being one of the books of 2016 I have the feeling we will be talking about ‘Goats and Sheep’ a lot during the coming year.
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is set in a typical English avenue during the long hot Summer months of 1976. Mrs Creasy has suddenly gone missing this is not like Mrs Creasy to just wander off, the curtains are twitching and Mr Creasy is seen wandering the streets looking for his missing wife.
What is needed here are two amateur sleuths to investigate, on the case come Grace and Tilley, who are Grace and Tilly? They are two ten-year-olds. But there is more to this than a hunt for the missing Mrs Creasy. They believe that God has the answer and as that God is everywhere he will know the whereabouts the missing Mrs Creasy.
When you add to the story that the Avenue is alive with ‘talk’ and that Mrs Creasy was friends with everyone and therefore knew all their secrets there are one or two neighbours who realise that she knew too much and are hoping their secrets have gone for good along with Mrs Creasy.
We have a story that moves along so beautifully you find yourself wishing the book would go one for much longer than the 464 pages it seems a long story but I promise you this will sweep you off your feet and will carry you along with it and then before you know it the story is over. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is like wrapping yourself in warm cosy duvet it just makes you feel warm or maybe it is just the thought of that hot Summer.
As with any neighbourhood there are always one or two that are seen as different to the rest even as far undesirable residents that do not fit into the Avenue. There are some here and you will get too meet them here. Grace and Tilly are two of the most memorable endearing characters I have read in a book for many years and a pure joy to behold. I just loved the way Grace swept poor Tilly up at the start of the book as she had just moved in across the road. The two become friends and so the story begins a pure delight. It is not too often that a book comes along that fills your heart with joy. It is poignant and totally unforgettable. A story of secrets and lies also it is a story of coming of age, there is humour in the story but some elements are dark as we just do not know what secrets lie behind every front door. How the book got its title comes out through the story and I will not ruin that here, the reader can discover this for themselves. One thing is for sure, you will look at people from here and wonder ‘Goat or Sheep’
I was 14 in that Summer and the memories are as vivid today as if it was yesterday but the sheer beauty of the research by the author with a few added gems just helped me awaken more memories of those long hot shimmering days that seemed to last forever.
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, a wonderful and unforgettable tale.
My thanks to Borough Press and to Ann Bissell for an advanced review copy ahead of publication.
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep written by Joanna Cannon and is published on 28 January 2016 by The Borough Press.