Category Archives: Seren Books
Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray
Review Date: 17 October 2015
Author: Tiffany Murray
Release Date: 5 May 2014
Publishers: Seren Books
ISBN –10: 178172220X
ISBN – 13: 978-1781722206
Available in Hardback, Paperback and Kindle
The Last Word Review
A multi-layered ghost story that has you in its spell from the first page
One of my all-time favourite ghost stories is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, there have many others since then, and after reading Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray I would be happy to call this a classic ghost story.
This novel is set in 1955, the war still looms large in the memories of people. Sugar Hall is a country house in the Welsh borders and is based on the haunting stories of Littledean Hall in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.
Sugar Hall is in a very poor state by the time Lilia Sugar and her two children Saskia and Dieter arrive to take up residence, Poor Liliana has to put up with the freezing cold the rusty locks and the ice from the windows. There are strange rooms that are cold and rooms that are dark and forbidding. But it is Dieter that falls under the spell of Sugar Hall the young boy is lonely and spends time exploring the residence and then one day a strange boy appears from nowhere and Dieter is captivated by the boy except the boy appears and disappears as if by magic, the story of Sugar Hall really starts here. Murray really has a fabulous way at captivating her reading audience with a mix of fact and fiction as the story really unfolds.
Lilia moved to England in 1938 at just 15 years old. As with the classic ghost stories Lilia has her own ghosts to deal with and we learn more about Lilia as the story unfolds. Now with her husband Peter now dead she has inherited Sugar Hall. How is she going to cope with little in the way of money. Dieter’s new friend is now becoming more menacing and is slowly taking over. Dieters grandfather (Gerald) was a keen collector of Butterflies and Moth’s and one of the rooms they call the ‘room of death’ is clearly marked by Lilia as a ‘no entry’ room and is kept locked. I am keen on Butterflies and Moth’s and will never look at them the same again after reading Sugar Hall. Why? You will find out after reading this fabulous twisting creepy story.
One aspect of the book I enjoyed is that each new chapter has an illustration that just adds to the qualities of Murray’s writing skill. Some may find the story has a number of layers that leave questions. For me that is just an added quality that Sugar Hall delivers it wants you not just to read but to question and debate.
Some readers will feel some lingering sadness for the boy ghost and his past, what really happened to him and what was the story of his Mother? Why has he suddenly appeared to Dieter? So by now you realise that this is not just a compelling ghost story but also added mystery. I was compelled to try and get to know more about some of the characters in the story, but these are questions that will haunt you after you have finished reading Sugar Hall.
This is classic writing that should be making Sugar Hall an all-time classic story that should be up there with the Woman in White and the Woman in Black. Simply a superb creepy ghost story laden with twists that will keep you guessing.
Thank you to Seren Books for a review copy of Sugar Hall.
Meet the Author
Tiffany Murray was born in South West Sussex and grew up in Wales. Her first novel Happy Accidents and her second, Diamond Star Halo were both short-listed for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award. Tiffany’s writing has appeared in The Times, The Telegraph, The Independent and The Guardian. She is Senior Lecturer at The University of Glamorgan.
Losing Israel by Jasmine Donahaye
Review Date: 15 August 2015
Author: Jasmine Donahaye
Release Date: 18 June 2015
Publishers: Seren Books
ISBN –10: 1781722528
ISBN – 13: 1781722527
Available in Hardback
The Last Word Review
A moving memoir of a past a search for the truth and an enduring love for Ornithology that is beautifully written
I am grateful to both Seren Books and to Jasmine Donahaye for a review copy of Losing Israel. What we are presented here by the author is beautifully written an open and deeply honest account of a troubled landscape and the search for the truth. This is also a riveting travelogue and also an account of Donahayes lifelong passion for Ornithology.
British born Donahaye reflects on her memories of past visits to her parent’s homeland, they left Israel before the author was born but paid many visits to Israel with the first one at the age of ten. Visiting had an effect on Donahaye. Visiting for the first time and seeing how her parents interacted with the locals especially her mother had the desired affect and it became a land she also came to love, many more visits where made and with it the chance to explore the land and discover the birdlife of Israel, which is a major part of Losing Israel.
It was many years later that Donahaye discovered that in 1948 her grandfather was involved in driving out Palestinian’s from their homes and villages which were also destroyed, this became a catalyst for the author to search the history of this troubled land a land she still feels affection for to this day.
The truth sometimes is disturbing and also can hurt, this is where Donahaye excels in the style she writes through this book, and it is an open and deeply honest and passionate account. Some readers may find the tone of the book a little melancholy as she reflects on the past and searching for the truth not only in her family’s history but also the social history of Israel. The reader is will sympathise in the way she tells the story of her search for the truth and the way the Palestinian’s were treated and still are to this day.
As a review I was drawn to the way Donahaye weaved the story from one of searching the history of this land to one of a travelogue and describing the rich diverse birdlife of Israel. Home is now West Wales where the wet landscape surrounding the authors home is also explored, there is an affinity between the two lands and the rich wildlife contained within.
This is a book that may not add to the ongoing debate of this troubled part of the World but it is one woman’s emotional journey so eloquently written which makes Losing Israel a book that deserves to be read.
Meet the Author
Jasmine Donahaye’s publications include poetry, cultural criticism, fiction and creative non-fiction. Her poetry collection, Misappropriations (Parthian, 2006), was shortlisted for the Jerwood Aldeburgh first collection prize, and Self-Portrait as Ruth (Salt, 2009) was longlisted for Wales Book of the Year. Her monograph Whose People? Wales, Israel, Palestine was published in 2012 by the University of Wales Press. She is a creative writing lecturer at Swansea University, specialising in creative non-fiction and poetry. Losing Israel was published 18 June 2015 by Seren Books.