Category Archives: Hutchinson Books

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

The Secrets We Kept Cover .jpg

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.

Lara Prescott Author Pic.png

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.

Follow the Blog Tour

FINAL The Secrets We Kept BT Poster.jpg

The Books that made my year – 2018

2018.jpg

As another year comes to a close we look back on 2018 and the news might be full of bad news but in the world of books it has been another great year. Sales are continuing to grow in both physical hard copy but audio books are also booming. This really is great news and added to this more independent books shops have opened during the year with the trend set to continue. With the high street struggling like never before it is just heartening to see the growth of sales in books. Just a few years ago some were saying the days of the hard copy book were doomed.

2018 will be a year that I will remember for years to come. So many great books have been read some sadly I have not had time to read and will miss this end of year review. I look back with great memories to take away from this year whether it the honour of being asked blog about some of the books and authors for The 2018 Jewish Book Festival to being invited to assist with a very special book On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders a day surrounded by some of the bravest men and women. Real heroes. Also to be involved with The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize a book prize that is dedicated to books on natural history and the great outdoors. Then of course there was The Lost Words project I launched for Somerset Primary Schools in August which is still going to this very day. The generosity of many that made this a success. To those behind the scenes who helped and are still helping I could not have done this without you. To the many radio interviews not just in Somerset but across the UK and also in Europe. In the early part of the Summer I was invited to take a tour of The London Library which turned out to be an incredible experience a very special place that holds over one million books on over 17 miles of shelving. You walk in the footsteps of literary giants.

Books 1

So this brings me to my 15 books of 2018. The books that made my year. This was incredibly hard as so many could have made it in.

The choices are in no particular order so there is no number one book just the best of the year.

OUR HOUSE.jpg

Our House – Louise Candlish

(Simon & Schuster) 5th April 2018

Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house. The terror of knowing your life is about to be turned upside down and all the possessions of your life with Bram have gone and who are these people moving into the home they never had any intention of selling. Bram has made a dreadful mistake and there is a price to pay. Now there are score to settle. Both have secrets that they kept from each other.

Our House is a gripping domestic noir read that I recall racing through and kept up long into the night.

ALL AMONG THE BARLEY.jpg

All Among the Barley – Melissa Harrison

(Bloomsbury) – 23rd August 2018

With memories of The Great War still in the minds and memories of the community it casts a shadow across the fields as the autumn harvest approaches. It is 1933 the glamorous Constance arrives from London to write about the traditions of the Suffolk farming community. For Edie Mather adulthood is approaching and the arrival of Constance is seen by Edie to be everything she longs for. But there is something more to Constance than Edie thinks. This is a remarkable and powerful novel from the Costa Shortlisted author of Hawthorn Time.

three-things-about-elsie.jpg

Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon

(The Borough Press – 11th January 2018

With a Battenburg cover Three Things About Elsie is just a wonderful and delicious story. 84-Year-old Florence has had a fall and as she lies there waiting for help to come she wonders if some part of her past is come back. Florence lives in a flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly and she wonders if the new resident is who he claims to be as he died sixty years ago. It is a beautiful, charming and profound novel from the author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. Three Things About Elsie was longlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018.

 

COVER.jpg

Something of His Art – Horatio Clare

(Little Toller Books) – 11th October 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

The year is 1705 and the yet unknown Johann Sebastian Bach is earning a living as a teacher and organist sets off on more than a 250 mile walk from Arnstadt to Lübeck to visit a composer. This was to be a pivotal time for the young J.S. Bach and this short book tells of his walk and Horatio Clare walks in his footsteps and re-traces that walk that was to change Bach’s life. Based on the BBC Radio 3 series of the same Horatio talks of the walk, the sights, and sounds and natural history that would have accompanied Bach on this epic adventure that would see him become the greatest composer.

LOST LETTERS OF WILLIAM WOOLF.jpg

The Lost Letters of William Woolf – Helen Cullen

(Michael Joseph) – 12th July 2018

William Woolf works for the Dead Letters Depot in East London were he spends his days solving mysteries that include terrible hand writing, missing post codes, torn packages to name but a few. Then he discovers letters addressed to ‘My Great Love’ and suddenly life for William Woolf takes on a whole new perspective. These letters written by a woman to a man she has not met yet, and William now starts to think that he could be the man the letters are meant for. Now he must take on his biggest mystery to follow the clues in the letters and solve the biggest mystery of all. The human heart. This is a charming and romantic novel a wonderful debut. Shortlisted for the Newcomer of the Year – Irish Book Awards.

THE WOOD.jpg

The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood – John Lewis-Stempel

(Doubleday) – 8th March 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

For four years John Lewis-Stempel managed a mixed woodland of three and a half acres that is Cockshutt Wood and raised cows and pigs that had free reign through these woods. This is John’s month by month account of his last year managing the wood. Through the lives of the trees and the birds and animals that made this wood their home a sanctuary for the wildlife and also for the author. You are there through the changing seasons through to the final days of John’s management of the woods that became his spiritual home. This is a man in tune with the natural world and one of the country’s finest natural history writers. Longlisted for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018.

ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL.jpg

Anatomy of a Scandal – Sarah Vaughan

(Simon & Schuster) 11th January 2018

A scandal that will rock Westminster. This is a high profile marriage and James has been accused of a shocking crime and his wife Sophie believes in him and will protect the family. Kate on the other hand is the Barrister who believes he is guilty and will make sure he pays for the crimes he has committed.

This is an explosive thriller that will keep the reader on the edge of their chair until the very end. Superbly written with great characters. A story of marriage and power and who has it and how they use it. Totally absorbing and gripping.

THE LAST WILDERNESS.jpg

The Last Wilderness – Neil Ansell

(Tinder Press) – 8th February 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

Nature and solitude. Neil Ansell has spent the best part of his life walking the remote parts of Britain but here in The Last Wilderness he takes on the part of Scottish Highlands but doing so as he talks of his hearing loss and hoe this affects his love of the great outdoors and the birds he loved to hear that have now become silent. To be in the wilderness is to be at one with nature. It is indeed a love letter to both the wilderness and to the Highlands of Scotland. The wonderful rich writing of Neill Ansell almost makes you believe you are there walking in his footsteps. A treasure of a book. Shortlisted for The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018.

I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH

I Love You Too Much – Alicia Drake

(Picador) – 8th February 2018

A novel based in Paris and centred around Paul a quiet and lonely boy who is unloved. He spends his time watching those in his family and his rather glamourous mother Séverine and her musician boyfriend Gabriel. For a boy who closely observes his family and their daily lives, you just know one day he will see something he is not supposed to see.

Paul seeks the friendship of the not so quiet Scarlett and the patisseries of this part of Paris. Paul is crying out to be loved but what if love does not come his way. What then? This is a book I totally loved and still do to this day. So deserving to be read by a wider audience. It is deft and intelligent and so beautifully told. One book I would I would recommend.

 

COVER

Erebus: A story of a Ship – Michael Palin

(Hutchinson Books) – 20th September 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

Michael Palin tells the story of the ill-fated journey of HMS Erebus and its crew that set sail for the arctic in search of the North West Passage. In 1845 it disappeared with HMS Terror along with their crews. What really happened? A story of the ship and its crew as Palin recounts the adventure and ultimately the biggest naval disaster. Together with photographs this makes for a remarkable read for anyone who has an interest in the sea or adventures.

DARK PINES.jpg

Dark Pines – Will Dean

(Point Blank) – 14th June 2018

An impressive debut by Will Dean. Dark Pines is dark, chilling and atmospheric. Set in an isolated Swedish town. An unsolved murder from two decades ago a deaf reporter trying to find a story that could make her career. Now Tuva needs to find the killer before she becomes the killers next target. But there are secrets in the pine woods were Tuva must venture. If she solves the crime she could find a way out of the small of Gavrik and finally make a name for herself. Dark Pines is the thriller that really beats all thrillers in 2018 and is the first in a series with Red Snow about to be released in January 2019. If I had to choose my book of the year Dark Pines would be that book. If you have not read Dark Pines and thrillers are your genre, then read it now!

OWL SENSE.jpg

Owl Sense – Dr Miriam Darlington

(Guardian Faber Publishing) 8th February 2018

(Non-fiction choice)

I have been fascinated by Owls all my life and have been lucky to have travelled and seen many species of Owl in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean and I loved Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington she takes walks with her son seeking species of UK Owls. Then she travels into Europe from France to Spain, Serbia and Finland and close to the arctic lands of snow and ice. But this book not only is a story of a quest for Owls but her son Benji becomes very ill and then suddenly it is also a quest for a cure. Owl Sense brings to life the mysterious lives of Owls and what we are so fascinated with these mysterious birds.

The-Lingering-cover.jpg

The Lingering – SJI Holliday

(Orenda Books) – 15th November 2018

This dark and creepy ghost story is best read during the dark hours as it really sets the tone. Though you might not want to switch the light off after.

Jack and Ali move have moved into a self-sufficient commune set in Rosalind House, the local village it is said is were witches roamed and the home itself has a dark and sinister past. But it is not long after they arrive that things start to happen. Now the residents and locals are nervous, something or someone is seeking retribution. But why? Terrifying and unnerving. The Lingering really had me spooked. Superbly written and a storyline that holds until the very end.

TAKE NOTHING WITH YOU.jpg

Take Nothing With You – Patrick Gale

(Tinder Press) – 21st August 2018

Set in the 1970’s West-Super-Mare and only son Eustace has been signed up for Cello lessons by his mother. Music is an escape for Eustace and his lessons from his teacher he cannot get enough of. But it is his mother that is not sure of the glamorous teacher. Soon though it is lessons in life and love that take on whole new meanings for Eustace. This is beautifully told story of coming of age and finding out who you really are told with real compassion. A truly wonderful read.

THE LOST WORDS.jpg

The Lost Words – Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

(Hamish Hamilton) – 5th October 2017

(Non-fiction choice)

After everything this year, I could not leave The Lost Words out of my selection for the year. It has been the bedrock of my year.

Imagine a world where children no longer talk of Heron’s, Otters, Bluebells, Acorns, Conkers, Dandelion, Bramble to name but a few. Well there are around 50 words that The Oxford Dictionary for Children removed. What they did not reckon on was Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane. Here is the most beautiful book imaginable. In words spoken as Spell-Poems and paintings by the amazing Jackie Morris they both bring these words back to life.

Many people across the country have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to bring this book in into Schools, care homes and hospitals. Even today many more are planned to launch. A truly remarkable book that has a life all of its own. And this story for Somerset has only just begun.

And so there we have it. As the old year ends and a new one is about to begin and so it starts all over again. It has been a pleasure and an honour to work with such incredible writers and publishers and I thank them all for their incredible work.

In 2019 I have some great plans ahead I am honoured to have been asked to be an official blogger for The Jewish Book Festival in early March. I will be podcasting through the year and hope to take the podcast on the road to talk to writers and may be a few publishers. I will be doing my usual book giveaways when time permits and also there will be The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize.

Have a happy and peaceful 2019 and remember “We read to know that we are not alone”. Books take us to places and to escape all the bad news of the day.

John

The Last Word Book Review

 

Erebus: The Story of a Ship – Michael Palin

COVER

Erebus: The Story of a Ship – Michael Palin

I love the sea and stories of the ships that have explored the seas. Michael Palin is well known for his travelling and writing but when I heard that he had released a book on the ill-fated Arctic exploration to find the North West Passage and the famous ship HMS Erebus I was incredibly excited as I have followed this story for many years. Erebus: A Story of a Ship is the story of HMS Erebus from its launch in 1826 as a warship to its disappearance in 1845.

 

AUTHOR.jpg

I love the sea and stories of the ships that have explored the seas. Michael Palin is well known for his travelling and writing but when I heard that he had released a book on the ill-fated Arctic exploration to find the North West Passage and the famous ship HMS Erebus I was incredibly excited as I have followed this story for many years. Erebus: A Story of a Ship is the story of HMS Erebus from its launch in 1826 as a warship to its disappearance in 1845.

The last resting place of HMS Erebus was finally discovered in 2014 and the photographs of Erebus on the Arctic seabed are just incredible. The freezing waters and lack of Oxygen have preserved the ship so well. This is where Palin starts and then winds the clock back as he tells of the birth of HMS Erebus as a ‘Bomb Ship’. She was small in size (104ft) compared to other warships of the time. After two years’ service it was converted as an exploration ship.

3145.jpg

HMS Erebus and Terror trapped in the ice.

On the ill-fated expatiation Erebus was accompanied by HMS Terror and the two ships under the Captaincy of Sir John Franklin set off on the disastrous expedition and were last seen in Baffin Bay in August 1845. This is really where the story really begins as the crews of both ships knew they were trapped in the ice and the only hope of survival was to abandon Erebus and Terror. The stories of the fate of the men of both ships and how they tried to survive the Arctic conditions as the dragged lifeboats packed with supplies over the ice.

What followed was dramatic search effort to find the crew and ships and Palin writes with incredible detail after so much research. The characters of the crews not to mention Sir John Franklin himself. Anyone who has read any of Michael Palin’s previous books will already know of his writing style which make this book such an incredible read and for me I have learnt so much of both the ships and crew. Contained within the book are colour and black and white photographs which are incredible all by themselves and just add to the detail. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

352 Pages.

@HutchinsonBooks  #Erebus 

Erebus: The Story of a Ship by Michael Palin was published by Hutchinson Books and was published on 20th September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore

 

Cover

Exposure by Helen Dunmore

The Last Word Review

 

A gripping and emotionally charged tale of espionage from the dark days of the cold war. Simply magnificent

The latest from Helen Dunmore has just hit the book shops. Exposure is an intricate title it can hide so many stories under the title. What Dumore has delivered is an outstanding spy story set in 1960’s era of the cold war where spies seemingly lurked around every corner.

One moment Simon Callington is lost in memories of a childhood while sat in a train carriage the next his life lies in total ruin. Simon Callington is a loyal family man married to Lily (Lili) originally from Germany but a Jewish refugee. Simon secured a decent Admiralty posting through his Cambridge chum Giles Holloway a hard drinking man that many would rather distance themselves from.

One night Holloway has drunk his fair share at home and falls badly and finds himself in hospital, except there is a problem he has left a file on his desk no ordinary file this one, but a ‘Top Secret’ file remember this is set in the cold war and this file should have left the Admiralty. So who can he trust to return the file before anyone realises it has gone missing.

 

Now at home sat by the fire Simon receives a telephone call that will change his life and his families lives. Giles Holloway wants Simon to go to his flat and collect the file and return it to the Admiralty when you add into the story that Simon is hiding a secret from his wife that dates back to his days at Cambridge. There is ‘blackmail’ in the air as Simon becomes the fall guy.

6262459_Birthday_364564c

Simon is arrested and charged with selling secrets to the Russians, the police are not only looking at Simon they are very interested in Lily being of German origin despite fleeing in 1937. The house is turned upside down, and Lily is strong resourceful and will do anything for her children and it is Lily who is also under threat from those that will do anything to protect themselves. To me Lily is the real star of Exposure and she holds the family together. Now they must move and they head to the coast and rent a cottage by the sea and we see another part of this story that is not only a 1960’s spy story but it is a love story.

I have read nearly all of Helen Dunmore’s books but I am completely taken with Exposure and the shadowy world of espionage and the 1960’s cold war and the fears that came with it.

Exposure is a gripping and complex story that is moves along at a pace that the reader will fall in line with. The characters are as gripping as the storyline add to this the world of Cambridge University days and the secrets that adults hide and must never see the light of day.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore is published in Hardback by Hutchinson and available through all good book shops now.

original-1775-3824981

%d bloggers like this: