The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan
I missed Ruth Hogan’s debut novel The Keeper of Lost Things so when Ruth’s second novel The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes arrived I was thrilled. I heard so many great things said of Ruth’s debut novel that I was very excited to read this and I have to say it is an extraordinarily wonderful. A cast of characters that are just so real.
The story follows Masha, who is still grieving the loss of her two-year0old son Gabriel. For Masha everyday life is a struggle from one day to the next, she finds some quiet peace by spending time in a Victorian Cemetery and it is there she meets what we can only call a rather eccentric and mysterious older woman she calls Sally Red Shoes.
Masha also likes to visit the local Lido were beneath the water she feels calmness and an escape from the constant heartache of her loss. Slowly but surely Masha starts to regain some of her lost confidence and slowly begins the journey back to life by talking to those she starts to trust. She starts a friendship with the mysterious Sally and Kitty. Is there a life for Masha again and can she find love after the pain of such a great loss? Through their friendships and guidance Masha feels it is time to start living again. This is a story that will tackle a few issues but also with a little humour added but it does not detract from a fabulous read. A story packed with some wonderful characters that help make this such warm and heartfelt novel. It will lift your heart and spirits. All I have to do now is pick up a copy of The Keeper of Lost Things and discover for myself Ruth Hogan’s debut. But for now I am delighted to highly recommend The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes.
Thank you to Two Roads Books for the review copy of The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan.
The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is published by Two Roads and was published on 3rd May 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Two Steps Forward – Graeme Simsion & Anne Buist
Many people from all walks of life take time out and take the Pilgrims walk from France to Santiago de Compostela in north western Spain on the Camino (The Way). Many do this walk for personal reasons or to try and find themselves. It is a highly personal experience and The Way changes you for many reasons. The International bestselling author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect Graeme Simsion and his wife and fellow author Anne Buist to tell a story of two people who embark on their own personal journey on the Camino de Compostela in Two Steps Forward (Two Roads)
Two Steps Forward follows two very different people who set out on their long walk from Cluny in France to Santiago de Compostela. Both are struggling because of the recent pasts for Zoe it is because of the sudden death of her husband and Martin is getting over a rather messy divorce. A funny and romantic story told with both Zoe’s and Martin’s stories told in alternating chapters. Two people who find themselves on The Way of St. James in the hope of finding a way forward in their lives a spiritual quest. The beauty of this story is that that both Simsion and Buist bring their own unique writing to this heart-warming story of two lost souls.
Both Zoe and Martin set out alone from Cluny in France and ahead lies two thousand kilometres of tough walking. Both wondering what lies ahead in the journey and people that they will meet that will have great influence on them and their lives.
Along the way both Zoe and Martin keep meeting and there is a sense of both slowly getting to know each other a little more every time they bump into each other. Sharing their experiences and tips and also an insight into their personal lives. They may be different in terms of backgrounds but both are on this journey for a reason and there is a sense that both are beginning their own journey’s to start again in life and also to love again.
What we the reader share is not only their personal story and journey on the Camino but also the stunning landscapes and towns and villages and also the interactions of many of the people they meet.
A beautiful story that was written so wonderfully constructed, a book that is a slow burner but this is not meant to be a fast paced story or a race to the finish in Santiago. A novel exploring emotions and complex individuals. I felt I was walking with The Way myself but this is a personal journey I will be taking in the years to come.
In the meantime, if you love a good book with a warm and at times funny storyline but also a very moving story about two people a human story that touches so many levels. Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist I highly recommend.
If you do read Two Steps Forward and feel inspired to take your own pilgrimage, the official website offers more information to those thinking of walking ‘The Way’ Camino de Santiago
Thank you Rosie Gailer for the advanced review copy of Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist
Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist is published by Two Roads and was published on 5th April and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson
I was very fortunate to have met and even interviewed Magnus Magnusson back in the mid 1980’s and so when The Sealwoman’s Gift by the Broadcaster and Journalist Sally Mangnusson landed on my desk it brought so much excitement to me. Old stories from Iceland are part of folklore and The Sealwoman’s Gift is a remarkable debut that just adds to the legend of Icelandic stories.
This is a story that is set in the 17th Century and a pirate raid on the small Westman Island close to Iceland. The pirates were only after one thing to round up as many of the men and women and children and sell them as slaves in the far off Arabian countries.
It is 1627 and the pirates have taken the Pastor Olafur Egilsson, his wife and children along with hundreds of the inhabitants of this small island and now they are on a long voyage not without danger. When they arrive in Algiers the islanders are sold off for slavery with the exception of the Pastor Egilsson who is allowed to travel back to his country to seek a ransom to free those now captured and are now slaves.
Egilsson’s wife Asta has three children and with a fourth on the way she is now thrust into new life thousands of miles away from her home on the island of Westman. For Asta she is a voice in this extraordinary novel which she breathes life to this story. On the island of Westman life is incredibly hard were the weather never seems to let up. Asta has always believed on the Icelandic fables and she believes in elves much to the dismay of her much older husband Olafur Egilsson.
Sally Magnusson has managed to recreate the dreadful conditions on the pirate ship as the islanders have to contend with the stench and the cramped conditions on-board and this is where Asta will give birth to her fourth child a son and the name of Jon. What a life this poor child arrives into aboard a slave ship wrapped in nothing more that filthy rags.
Now sold into slavery in a country so vastly different, food in abundance and a riot of colour, and also the weather is so different gone is the cold and wet and now it is hot sun nearly every day.
Asta has never forgotten the old stories and it is here that she now tells these stories to her master Ali Pitterling Cilleby. Old stories from thousands of miles away from a far off small island now be told in Algiers. These stories are a reminder of her far off homeland and she thinks constantly of her husband is travelling to seek a ransom to free them. Will Asta ever be re-united with her husband or even her homeland ever again?
I have to say that I am deeply impressed with the writing of Sally Magnusson and how she tells such an engrossing and accomplished novel. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
My thanks to Rosie Gailer at Two Roads Books for the review copy of The Sealwoman’s Gift.
The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson is published by Two Roads Books and is published on 8th February 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops
Under the Almond Tree by Laura McVeigh
One of the most anticipated book releases of the year is the debut novel by Laura McVeigh called Under the Almond Tree and is a timely novel about the effects of war on people and displacement the effects on their lives and the incredible courage and bravery in their struggle to survive.
The story is narrated by 15-year-old Samar and set in war torn Afghanistan the Russians have been forced out after making the lives of people nothing short of horrific now it is the turn of the Taliban and their barbaric rule of law and Samar and her family decide they have to escape the terror that they face on a daily basis in Kabul from what was once a happy life now they face an uncertain future away from their home. To escape they board the Trans-Siberian Express and now the story really begins to unfold for our narrator Samar and her family, Samar spends her time on the train with a copy of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy she dreams of being a writer and along the journey she writes to hide the concerns and worries and documents the journey. With memories of her yellow house that was the family home in Kabul now they are fleeing, running away out of fear for their lives. But then the story starts to uncover a secret that will shock the reader. There is no turning back now and for Samar this journey is uncovering many secrets.
Samar’s enduring love for her parents and brothers and sisters is something that will endure the harrowing experiences that she has endured in her young life. Under the Almond Tree is a beautifully written debut novel that will stay long after you have finished reading. It is poignant and moving and completely unforgettable. I was left with the thought of love and hope and that these two things we must hold onto in these troubled times. As much as this is set during the 1990’s it is a story of today. Under the Almond Tree is a story that left me thinking of all refugees fleeing war at this time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Emma Draude for the advanced review copy.
Under the Almond Tree by Laura McVeigh is published by Two Roads on the 23rd February and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.