There are some authors however, that have accompanied me through life for many years. Authors that I've been reading now for twenty years or more, authors such as Lesley Pearse, Bernardine Kennedy, Judy Astley, Marian Keyes and Patricia Scanlan. These are the authors who I know that I can depend on. Their stories have grown and matured over the years, just as I have, but never let me down. One of my blogger friends once described a novel that she'd read as a 'book cuddle', my favourite authors deliver a cuddle every time. So, although I do enjoy new authors and new genres; and I've become especially fond of psychological crime thrillers just lately - there is something special for me when I can lose myself in a story by an old favourite.
I was delighted to win a signed, hardback copy of Patricia Scanlan's latest novel With All My Love which was published by Simon & Schuster on 28 February this year, the paperback edition will be released on 13 March 2014.
" On a crystal clear Mediterranean day, Briony McAllister sits playing with her four-year-old daughter, Katie, while she waits for her mother, Valerie, to join them. Valerie has recently moved to a picturesque town in southern Spain to finally leave behind her turbulent past and find a peace that has always eluded her. Briony has no idea that in a few moments' time her relationship with her mother will change irrevocably. As Katie plays, Briony pulls from her bag an old photo album, found in a box in her mother's new home. As she begins to study the faded photos, a letter falls to the ground. It is addressed to her. My Darling Briony, it begins. As Briony reads the words with mounting shock, realisation dawns. Her mother lied to her about what happened with her beloved grandmother Tessa all those years ago - and denied Briony that most precious of relationships, the type of relationship Valerie now enjoys with Katie. The lives of three generations of women are set to change forever as the past is revisited and the truth unfolds through the undelivered letters Tessa wrote to Briony over the years. Secrets, lies, betrayals and sacrifices - the complex bonds between mothers, daughters and granddaughters are intricately explored as Patricia Scanlan takes us into the hearts and homes of a family at war."
With All My Love is one of the saddest stories that I've read in a very long time. It's not full of sad events (although there are a couple of real heart-breakers), but it is a story of sadness. Sadness that is caused by secrets, by long-held grudges, and by strong women who cannot forget, or forgive.
The story begins with a prologue that sets the scene for the remainder of the book. The reader is then taken to modern-day Spain where young mother Briony is spending some time with her small daughter Katie and her mother Valerie in the villa that Valerie has bought. Briony and Valerie's life change suddenly when Briony discovers a letter addressed to her. A letter from her much-loved Grandmother Tessa who she hasn't seen or heard from in over twenty-five years. When Briony realises that Valerie had purposely blocked Tessa and her husband Lorcan from their lives all those years ago, Briony is distraught.
The story nips back to the 1980s - when Valerie was a young girl, madly in love with Tessa's son Jeff and planning a life together. The reasons why Valerie made the life-changing decision that she did are revealed throughout the story. Patricia Scanlan effortlessly portrays life in the 1980s through the fashion, food and music of the era.
This is Valerie and Tessa's story, two strong-willed, often overpowering and selfish, and startlingly similar to each other. At times both of these characters are incredibly difficult to empathise with. Scanlan has created a couple of realistic female lead characters, their story is powerful and really precisely told. There is bitterness, there is compassion, and there are some heartbreakingly moving scenes which kept me reading until well into the night. Some of the accompanying cast of characters really shone for me, not least Valerie's best friend Lizzie and Tessa's husband Lorcan.
Personally, I think that this is one of Patricia Scanlan's very best novels. It delivered everything that I wanted, and a little bit more. A fabulous read that both existing fans and new readers will enjoy.
Patricia Scanlan was born in Dublin, where she still lives. Her books, all number one bestsellers, have sold worldwide and have been translated into many languages. Patricia is also the series editor and a contributing author to the Open Door series which promotes adult literacy.
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