Friday, 30 November 2012

Friday Recommended...

You Had Me At Hello
Published in paperback by Harper Collins

6 December

Available for Kindle download now


What happens when the ONE that got away comes back?”

Rachel and Ben met at university in Manchester; they were best of friends and together with party nights and curry nights, they shared their hopes and fears for the future. They were always a gang of two, but when the time came to make their mark on the adult world, they went their separate ways and now after nearly a decade with no contact, they bump into each other again, and the years in-between just seem to disappear.

What then follows is a warm and witty look at what may happen when two people with a bucket load of unfinished business meet up again. Their shared history is ever present and even though their grown-up adult lives bear little resemblance to the people they once were, underneath the veneer, Rachel still nurses a broken heart and Ben, now married, must learn to face his own demons. Rachel and Ben’s story engulfs from the very beginning, and alongside some laugh out loud funny moments, there are some situations which really tug on the old heart strings.

There is nothing remotely contrived about this book, it is evident from the opening chapter that Mhairi McFarlane has a real skill with words. Her narrative is sharp and sassy and she infuses her characters with such an abundance of spirit that it is an absolute joy to read their story.

And only someone who is familiar with Manchester can write this sentence with absolute conviction.

I get home slightly late, blown in the door by that special Manchester rain that manages to be both vertical and horizontal at the same time. I bring so much rain into the house it feels as if the tide goes out and leaves me draped across the stairs like a piece of seaweed.”


Without doubt, You Had Me At Hello is one of the best rom-com books I have read in a very long time and I look forward to reading more books by Mhairi McFarlane in the future.

5*****



My thanks to Harper Collins for an advance reading copy of this book.





Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Wishlist Wednesday....


I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.


A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String

A Cat , a Hat and a Piece of String 
by 
Joanne Harris


Book blurb from Goodreads



A second short story collection from Joanne Harris, author of

Chocolat and Peaches for Monsieur le Cure.



'Stories are like Russian dolls; open them up, and in each one you'll find another story.'


Conjured from a wickedly imaginative pen, here is a new collection of short stories that showcases Joanne Harris's exceptional storytelling art. Sensuous, wicked, mischievous, uproarious and wry, here are tales that combine the everyday with the unexpected; wild fantasy with bittersweet reality.

From the house where it is Christmas all year round, to a ghost who lives on a Twitter timeline; from the Congo where a young girl braves the raging rapids to earn a crust of bread, to Norse gods battling for survival in Manhattan; and a newborn baby created with sugar, spice and lashings of cake, these stories will ensnare and delight you with their variety and inventiveness.

I've loved all of Joanne Harris's books and am so looking forward to reading this one . I am intrigued by the title and think the cover looks very appealing - Jaffa is particularly excited by the idea of the cat in the book....

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Review - Crossing on the Paris by Dana Gynther

Crossing on the Paris
Published 13 November
Simon and Schuster

Crossing on the Paris
by
Dana Gynther

In 1921 when the transatlantic ocean liner, the Paris, leaves France bound for New York, three very different women are on board.

In first class, wealthy socialite Vera Sinclair, now gravely ill is returning home to die; she is struggling to cope with her memories of the past and yet finds comfort re-reading her written journals. In second class, dissatisfied wife and daughter Constance Stone has just made an unsuccessful journey to Paris to entice her younger sister to make the journey back to New York to spend time with their sick mother. Meanwhile in steerage, Julie Vernet is escaping post WW1 Paris and the loss of her three brothers, she is attempting to  make a new life for herself by working on board one of the ships she has watched from her home in the French port of Le Havre.

All too soon the class division on board ship is evident and as the story moves between women we are treated to a social commentary which explores not just class distinction but also what it means to be female in the early part of the twentieth century. The interesting comparison which emphasises the class differences between the three women is well observed, and both the unpleasantness and the glamour of life on board ship with its petty squabbles is believable and thought provoking. 

Whilst the women portrayed are all very different characters their shared experiences makes for a fascinating and sympathetic story and reveals much about life and society in the 1920’s.


My thanks to NetGalley and simon and Schuster for a copy of this book to read and review.


Monday, 26 November 2012

Review - Aris Returns by Devin Morgan

Aris Returns: A Vampire Love Story (Infinity Diaries Trilogy, #1)
Published by Broadlit
October 2012
Aris Returns 


by 



Devin Morgan


I'm not a great fan of vampire novels but when this was offered and described as part historical, part vampire story,  I was interested enough to give the book a chance. Initially, the book starts off reasonably well, as psychologist Sara Hagan is given the opportunity to work with a troubled young man, Carlos, who is on parole for car theft. Using regression therapy in order to manage Carlos's anger management, Sara takes him back to his troubled past, where he becomes Aris,a two thousand year old vampire with some particularly angst ridden memories. The historical bit then takes us initially to the time of Alexander the Great, and then through time to the court of Henry VIII.
Overall, I'm not sure that the book works terribly well, or it could be that for me, this type of angst ridden vampire soon loses its charm,but either way the story really wasn't really something I enjoyed reading.

As this is book one in a proposed trilogy, I am sure that there are fans of this particular genre that are more than happy to commit to the series.

It's just not for me.

2**


My thanks to Netgalley and Broadlit for the opportunity to read and review this book.




Sunday, 25 November 2012

Jaffa's Sunday Corner..


Cat Themed Reading for the discerning feline.

Solomon's Tale: A Wise Cat Helps a Family in Crisis
Published Redlake Farm
Ocober 2012
Solomon's Tale by Sheila Jeffries



Book Blurb from Goodreads
Solomon's Tale is a gripping story with strong emotion, humour, and gritty relationship themes. Sheila Jeffries has also woven a thread of spirituality throughout the tale, which focuses on reincarnation, angels, and how the soul survives death. Solomon, a cat who can see angels, who is chosen to be born again to help a family endure traumas of separation and poverty, narrates the quirky but heart warming adventure. Solomon embarks on a perilous journey to find his home. He falls in love with another cat, Jessica, whose outrageous behaviour brings life and humour into the challenging situations he must face, including the repossession of his family home, relocation to a cramped caravan, and a lonely, desperate time of surviving the wild. A tear-jerker with an interesting twist at the end, Solomon's Tale will make you laugh and cry and lift your spirits. It was inspired by two real cats and will appeal to fans of cats and spiritual fiction.


What did Jaffa think

This is a wise little story which focuses on the warmth and companionship between animals and their humans. Solomon was always meant to be with Ellen, and when he was in the spiritual world he was given the task of finding her. But the journey to find Ellen is a perilous one, and Solomon must face danger in order to find her again.Throughout the story, Solomon is as wise as he is beautiful and this story gladdened my heart and at last recognised the unbreakable bond between special animals and those who love them.

Beautifully written, this is not just a book for cats and cat lovers, but is also for those who like to believe in a world of angels, reincarnation and spiritual guidance.

Thanks to NetGalley and Redlake Farm for a digital copy of this book to review.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Review- World War One: History in an Hour by Rupert Colley

World War One: History In An Hour
Harper Collins UK
March 2012



Continuing my reading theme of Remembrance for November, I was attracted to this concise history of World War One which aims to give enough historical information in the space of an hour's reading time.

And does it fulfil its aim - well yes, I think it does, although as always it depends on personal reading speeds, but overall, the concise nature of the book makes it interesting and informative without getting too intent on too much detail. It's also the type of book that you can refer back to if needed and would make a valuable extra resource for students covering this topic in history.

There will be those who suggest that you simply can't know all there is to know about WW1 in an hour's reading time, and I would wholeheartedly agree, but if like me you read historical fiction set in this time frame, then the book works well as a short aide memoir.

At time of writing this book is currently a free kindle download on Amazon UK

Friday, 23 November 2012

Friday Recommended...


A Parachute in the Lime Tree
Published March 2012
The History Press Ireland
A Parachute in the Lime Tree

by

Annemarie Neary


This beautifully written novel explores the lives of four young people whose stories intertwine during WW2. Oskar is a Luftwaffe conscript who finds his role in the war abhorrent, and as the dreams of his first love, Elsa, overshadows his hope for the future, he makes a dramatic and startling decision. Left behind in Berlin, Elsa faces a bleak future until she is safety moved to Ireland as part of the Kindertransport, where the dream of playing music carries her through the uncertainty of not knowing whether her parents remain alive. In rural Ireland, Kitty finds Oskar trapped in his parachute in one of the lime trees in her garden, and from the beginning is determined to keep him her own special secret. Meanwhile, Charlie, a young medical student, becomes enamoured of Elsa when he hears her play beautiful music on her piano.

I was completely drawn into the story from the beginning, the characterisation is truly excellent and thanks to some skilful storytelling we get to know Oskar, Elsa, Kitty and Charlie very well. The story moves adeptly through their lives, intertwining where it can, but also focusing on their individual stories, which I found deeply moving. From the sleepiness of rural Ireland, to the horrors of Berlin, the story captures time and place perfectly, where the indecision of youth is combined with the uncertainty of living through the horror of war.

Without doubt, Annemarie Neary has a real talent for writing; her ability to weave together all the strands of the story is evident in her thoughtful  narrative, and with meticulous care and attention she brings the story to a fitting and emotional conclusion, which saw me reaching for the tissue box. 

I loved it.

5*****

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Review - Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff

Those We Love Most
Published September 2012
Hyperion



My thanks to NetGalley and Hyperion for a digital edition of this book.

The complexities of family life are expertly explored in this emotional story which focuses primarily on a family tragedy and then on the aftermath of coping with immense loss. The poignant vulnerability of each family member is heartbreaking to witness and yet the strength of purpose demonstrated by some of the central characters is both poignant and uplifting. From the beginning, it is evident that this family at the heart of the story could quite simply be any family, defenceless, scared and utterly overwhelmed by disaster, with each of them coping in very different ways. However, throughout the novel, it is reiterated that mostly we are stronger together than apart and even though some of the characters don’t always act in a likeable way, there is always a strong sense of ‘family’.

Those We Love The Most is not an easy book to read, there are some sections which tug at the heartstrings and make for emotional reading. However, it is obvious that Lee Woodruff enjoys writing, her skill is evident in every word and whilst there is a recognisable vulnerability in her characterisation, she also has the unique ability to engage with her readers on an emotional level. 

4****


In addition to Those We Love Most - Lee Woodruff is the co-author of New York Times best selling In an Instant and also author of a series of essays Perfectly Imperfect. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Wishlist Wednesday..


I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.


Citadel (Languedoc Trilogy, #3)
Publishe 25 October 2012
Orion

Citadel by Kate Mosse

(Languedoc Trilogy #3)


From Goodreads

LABYRINTH took us to the walled city of Carcassonne, SEPULCHRE travelled to the mysterious town of Rennes les Bains, now CITADEL transports us right to the southern-most edge of France - and to an amazing adventure set at key points in history in this scarred land right on the Spanish border.Combining the rugged action of Labyrinth with the haunting mystery of Sepulchre, Citadel is a story of daring and courage, of lives risked for beliefs, of unlocking secrets buried by time. Through history, this 'green land washed red by blood' has seen so much - not least the bravery of the men and women who smuggled exiles out of occupied France and away from the Nazi regime over the border into Spain.

In CITADEL, Kate Mosse once again sets out to captivate the reader with the people at the heart of ancient struggles, to bring alive places and times unknown to us and to keep us on the edge of our seats with an amazing story.


I've long been a fan of Kate Mosse and started the Languedoc Trilogy in 2005 with the publication of the first book Labyrinth, closely followed by Sepulchre in 2007.



It seems like its been a long wait for this third and final book in the trilogy and I hope it's one worth waiting for...

I am also excited to find out that Labyrinth has been made into a TV series and is due to air some time in 2013.

Read more here

Monday, 19 November 2012

Review - The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell


The Making of Us: A Novel

I've long been a fan of Lisa Jewell's books – ever since I picked up Ralph’s Party  way back in the day – and so far I've never been disappointed in the way her stories are written. Her ability to draw the reader into the plot from the very beginning is one of her trademarks. The Making of Us is another great read and tackles the sensitive issue of anonymity surrounding sperm donation. The story is warm and witty and yet underlines the ethical and moral dilemma facing those who rely on this method of reproduction. The characters are, as always, infused with such warmth and life that they never outshine each other, nor do they become blended into the wallpaper. I really cared about what happened to the characters and wanted there to be happy ending.

I'm not going to spoil the book by relaying the plot but if you are looking for a book that is strong on storytelling and rich in characterisation, then give this one a try. 

My thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for a digital review copy.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Review - The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson


The Daylight Gate


Book Blurb

This is Lancashire. This is Pendle. This is witch country.
A mysterious gathering of thirteen people is interrupted by local magistrate, Roger Nowell. Is this a witches' Sabbat?
Two notorious Lancashire witches are already in Lancaster Castle waiting trial. Why is the beautiful and wealthy Alice Nutter defending them? And why is she among the group of thirteen on Pendle Hill?
Elsewhere, a starved, abused child lurks. And a Jesuit priest and former Gunpowder plotter, recently returned from France, is widely rumoured to be heading for Lancashire. But who will offer him sanctuary? And how quickly can he be caught?
This is the reign of James I, a Protestant King with an obsession: to rid his realm of twin evils, witchcraft and Catholicism, at any price...


My Thoughts

Reminiscent of Robert Neil's "Mist Over Pendle" - The Daylight Gate seeks to add mischief and mayhem to the well know history surrounding the Lancashire Witches. Dark and dirty , the seamier side of life in the shadow of Pendle Hill is imagined in vivid detail and the lives of the unfortunate women castigated for witchcraft is explored in graphic and torturous detail.

Whilst the story pulls no punches and isn't for the faint hearted, I found that I was gripped from the beginning.

In this 400th anniversary year of The Pendle Witch Trial, this novella adds nothing new to the story but given the advantage of focusing the story on the horrible fascination of supposed witchcraft, it does suffuse the legend with a certain amount of grim horror. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Friday Recommends...

The Sea Garden

by


Packshot of The Sea Garden



Jess Penhaligon has just won a prestigious art award and as she accepts the prize from the artist’s widow she is unwittingly drawn into a story of family secrets. However, as the resonance of the past flutters down through the years, Jess begins to learn that life as she knew it is about to change forever. The heart of the story lies in a long buried family mystery which is gradually revealed as the story progresses, but also running alongside is the story of everyday family life which is described in such beautiful detail you feel as if you are actually there, sipping tea in the kitchen and watching as the birds fly low across the river Tamar. As always, with consummate skill, Marcia Willett manages to convey a perfect sense of time and place. She infuses such warmth into her characters that you are very quickly drawn into the story, and as ever the beautiful landscape around Devon and Cornwall is represented beautifully.

Without doubt The Sea Garden is a joy to read, the complications of family life, the long buried secrets of the past and the glorious way Marcia Willett has of portraying the heart and soul of a story, all combine to make this an engaging and rewarding read.

5*****


My thanks to Newbooks for a copy of this book to read and review.

If you enjoy books by Judith Lennox, Sarah Challis and Rosie Thomas then I think you would enjoy this one.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Wishlist Wednesday..

Gone Girl 

by

Gillian Flynn


Gone Girl
Published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson
May 2012



Blurb from Goodreads.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?


I've recently heard good reports of this book - it's supposed to be a real page turner of a thriller ....so I'm looking forward to getting my copy from the library in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, it deserves to have its place on my Wishlist Wednesday list.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Review - Havisham by Ronald Frame


Havisham



In Havisham, Ronald Frame has taken inspiration from the Charles Dickens’s classic novel Great Expectations and has recreated the supposed life of the ill fated spinster Catherine Havisham. There has always been much speculation into the mystery of Satis House and the portrayal of Miss Havisham left in her decaying mansion surrounded by the ghost of her wedding paraphernalia presents an iconic image of English literature.

Catherine Havisham is such a fascinating character that any story that can shed light on her troubled personality is one to be embraced with great interest. Overall, I think that the author has done an admirable job in fleshing out her character and whilst there are no great surprises to found within the story, it does make for an interesting and enjoyable read. I thought that the story starts off rather slowly and needs to be read with great care and attention and then once Catherine grows up the story really starts to become a fascinating account of a life mismanaged by tragedy.

The Dickens purists may not agree that Miss Havisham’s story deserves to be told by anyone other than the great man himself, but as an enjoyable addition to the sub Dickens genre, Havisham works well.

4****


My thanks to NetGalley and Faber and Faber for a copy of the book to read and review.


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance 2012...


Lest We Forget




We lay a wreath of poppies
To remember those who died
A Garland of red ribbon
To show the tears we cried
For lost ones and for loved ones
For those who gave their all
In battles and in trenches
In graveyards large and small.


We lay a wreath of poppies
To remember those who died
A cluster of red petals
For those we left behind
A laurel of remembrance
A sorry vale of tears
For generations lost and gone
We remember through the years.


© J. A. Barton





In Our Family - We Remember



Private John Hopkins
The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Died 24 January 1919


Driver Frederick Arkwright
Royal Army Service Corps
Died 1 February 1945

Buried Schoonselhof Cemetery 
Antwerp, Belgium





Friday, 9 November 2012

Friday Recommended..

21st Century Dodos: A Collection of Endangered Objects (and Other Stuff)

From Goodreads...

A fond farewell to the many inanimate objects, cultural icons and general stuff around us that find themselves on the verge of extinction.

We've all heard of the list of endangered animals, but no one has ever pulled together a list of endangered inanimate objects.

Until now, that is.

Steve Stack has catalogued well over one hundred objects, traditions, cultural icons and, well, other stuff that is at risk of extinction.

Some of them have vanished already.

Cassette tapes, rotary dial phones, half-day closing, milk bottle deliveries, Concorde, handwritten letters, typewriters, countries that no longer exist, white dog poo…

…all these and many more are bid a fond farewell in this nostalgic, and sometimes irreverent, trip down memory lane.


I loved this book - it was laugh out loud funny and full of those bewildering memories that you hoped you'd forgotten but when prompted they all come tumbling back and time slips by in the blink of an eye.

At the time of writing it is a free Kindle download...on Amazon.co.uk

Get while you can !

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Review -Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm : A New English Version by Philip Pullman

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group USA for a digital copy of this book to read in advance of its publication.

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
Published by Penguin Group USA
8 November 2012

My thoughts



There is always a possibility that by reworking an old favourite there may be a tendency to dilute the fabric of the story to such an extent that it becomes unrecognisable from the original. Philip Pullman has taken the Grimm fairy tales which were written two hundred years ago by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, and has succeeded in opening up the stories for another, and altogether, savvier generation.

For the Grimm purists this book may be a step too far, but I believe that this wonderful collection of short stories will stand the test of time and regardless of how many times they are reworked, there is a still an element of magic and a kind of innocent wonder to be found in stories where good against evil, weak against strong, natural against supernatural, justice against injustice, all fight for the right to be heard.

Pullman has done a creditable job in maintaining the atmosphere of the stories, and overall his simplified text works well. I found particularly useful his inclusion of explanatory snippets which are found at the end of each tale. I was, however, just a little disappointed, the stories cry out for glorious illustrations and I feel that the lack of something visually stunning lets the book down.

Having now read Philip Pullman’s version of the Grimm fairy stories, I am still inclined to err on the side of the original version; however, there is still something quite magical about reading fairy tales to a sleepy child and Pullman’s stories are more than up to the task.

4****

My favourites as always are:

Hansel and Gretel
Rapunzel
Snow White 





Friday, 2 November 2012

Friday Recommends...

Knitting 24/7

by

Veronik Avery


Knitting 24/7 by Veronik Avery
Open Road Media
September 11 2012

30 projects to knit, wear and enjoy, on the go and around the clock

Most people who know me understand my passion not just for knitting but also for knitting pattern books - I have almost as many pattern books as I do reading books !!

So when I was given the opportunity to read and review this book for NetGalley and Open Road Media , well my needles went into overload at the the thought of it ...




Here's what I thought of it.


The illustrations are really quite pretty and the easy to understand knitting instructions are very tempting - I wanted to make everything at once. I loved the way the book was divided into specific sections and the emphasis on morning, afternoon and weekend knitting was inspired.
There are very good sections which explain some of the more complicated techniques and a good abbreviation list. The list of yarn stockist is comprehensive and useful, as is the website address list.

It's one of those knitting books I'd love to have sitting on my craft shelf. I think just to be able to dip into it from time to time would be lovely.The patterns are really attractive and I'm sure would inspire even the most sluggish of knitters.

5*****

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway - Deborah Swift

I am delighted to introduce


© Deborah Swift

Author 

of


It  is 1660. The King is back, memories of the Civil War still rankle. In rural Westmorland, artist Alice Ibbetson has become captivated by the rare Lady's Slipper orchid. She is determined to capture it's unique beauty for posterity, even if it means stealing the flower from the land of the recently converted Quaker, Richard Wheeler. Fired by his new found faith, the former soldier Wheeler feels bound to track down the missing orchid. Meanwhile, others are eager to lay hands on the flower, and have their own powerful motives. Margaret Poulter, a local medicine woman, is seduced by the orchid's mysterious herbal powers, while Geoffrey Fisk, Alice's patron and former comrade-in-arms of Wheeler, sees the valuable plant as a way to repair his ailing fortunes and cure his own agonizing illness. Fearing that Wheeler and his friends are planning revolution, Fisk sends his son Stephen to spy on the Quakers, only for the young man to find his loyalties divided as he befriends the group he has been sent to investigate. Then, when Alice Ibbetson is implicated in a brutal murder, she is imprisoned along with the suspected anti-royalist Wheeler. As Fisk's sanity grows ever more precarious, and Wheeler and Alice plot their escape, a storm begins to brew, from which no party will escape unscathed. 




Winter, 1661. In her short life Sadie Appleby has never left rural Westmorland. But one night she is rudely awoken by her older and bolder sister, Ella. She has robbed her employer and is on the run. Together the girls flee their home and head for London, hoping to lose themselves in the teeming city. But the dead man's relatives are in pursuit, and soon a game of cat and mouse ensues amongst the freezing warren that is London in winter. Ella is soon seduced by the glitter and glamour of city life and sets her sights on the flamboyant man-about-town, Jay Whitgift, owner of a beauty parlour for the wives of the London gentry. But nothing in the capital is what it seems, least of all Jay Whitgift. Soon a rift has formed between Ella and Sadie, and the sisters are threatened by a menace more sinister than even the law. Set in a brilliantly realised Restoration London, The Gilded Lily is a novel about beauty and desire, about the stories we tell ourselves, and about how sisterhood can be both a burden and a saving grace.





Deborah has very kindly taken the time out of her busy schedule to answer questions
for Jaffareadstoo




Welcome Deborah,




What makes you want to write historical fiction?

The past is endlessly fascinating. I love it that I can highlight our modern experience by putting it into a new context, often through a situation from the past. It is human nature that people tend to repeat mistakes, and by looking to history we can see how people from the past handled what seem to be our current dilemmas but are actually age-old questions. It is usually the age-old questions, the ones of truth, life, existence, that I am interested in! I also enjoy to give a voice to those in history that are often forgotten - not Kings and Queens, but ordinary men and women who have lived through extraordinary or dangerous times. 


Where did you get the inspiration for The Gilded Lily?

 I was initially interested in the fact that 17th century girls in the city of London were under pressure to conform to an ideal of beauty, just as they are today. The list of apothecaries' ingredients commonly applied was alarming - for example the use of ceruse or 'white lead' which was supposed to make your complexion pale. It led me to wonder what would happen if two country girls - one pretty and one plain, and who previously had had no exposure to fashion - were forced to start their lives again under this pressure. Actually, the story developed and expanded from this germ of an idea and allowed me to not only explore the relationship between the two sisters but also the nature of storytelling itself.


Where did your research for The Gilded Lily take you?

I travelled to London, but most of 17th century London was destroyed in the Great Fire, so I did a lot of Archival research, examining old maps, chapbooks, which were the newspapers of the day for the common man, and I also looked at diaries (such as Pepys for London and Lady Anne Clifford for Westmorland). I read anything I could get hold of that would give me a sense of poor people's lives of the time. The London Museum gave me a sense of 17th century London, and also portraits in the National Portrait Gallery for some of the more affluent characters in the novel. To get a sense of wig making I practised at a theatrical wigmakers  and I also had a go at mixing some of the recipes for 17th century cosmetics from housewifery books of the time. I am a fanatical researcher and love that aspect of my writing.


Do you write stories for yourself, or other people?

I began by writing mostly for myself, but now I know my novels will be read, I am much more aware of the reader than I was! Though I think I have always been in some sense a reader as I read all the time, and am very aware when something in another book I am reading does not ring 'true'.

Readers construct my books in their imaginations, and the memory of that experience can linger a lifetime. So I am always immensely grateful when someone has invested their time in one of my books.



Do you have a special place to do your writing?

© Deborah Swift
It's not very special! But it is an office - surrounded by piles of books and papers and notes, and bits of research, and the dregs from my last cup of tea. Sometimes I like to go 'on location' to write. For example I wrote some of THE GILDED LILY sitting by the Thames, and I wrote some of THE LADY'S SLIPPER inside Levens Hall which I was using as an interior. It helps me to get a real sense of place and gives me an atmosphere I could not have imagined.






Can you tell us what you are writing next?

I've finished my next - A DIVIDED INHERITANCE which is set in 1609 and is the story of a woman whose life is turned upside down when a cousin she has never met arrives unannounced at her house. Because of him she ends up travelling to Spain where she comes into contact with a charismatic sword master at his esoteric fencing school in Seville. I loved researching Golden Age Spain which is visually stunning with its Moorish palaces and grand squares, and I loved writing the story which is one of courage, hope and the triumph of kinship over adversity.

Also I thought I deserved some sunshine after researching the coldest winters and the Little Ice Age for THE GILDED LILY!


A DIVIDED INHERITANCE is scheduled for publication in September 2013.


And finally for fun..

What books are on your bedside table?

Lots! But I'll highlight THE WITCH AND HER SOUL by Christine Middleton. A debut novel by a woman of 80 years old - a fantastic literary read about The Pendle Witches. The research is impeccable and my paperback copy is beautifully produced. 



Deborah - thank you so much for giving such an insightful interview. Jaffa and I thrilled to have been able to chat with you about The Gilded Lily, and Jaffa is even more thrilled to meet your lovely cat Tabby....


Meet Tabby who is another discerning feline reader...

Deborah has very kindly donated a copy of The Gilded Lily to one lucky UK winner of this giveaway.


My review of The Gilded Lily