Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Kate Revill ~ Illustrator : A Gainsborough Girl!

Oh how I love Gok Wan!   I've watched his TV programmes with longing for years and always thought how wonderful it would to go shopping with him.   Despite being a 4'11" midget, with no shape and having to resort to buying children's trousers, I'm sure that Gok could transform me - he could, I know he could!

I settled down to watch his latest series; Gok's Style Secrets last Wednesday with anticipation, dreaming that one day it would be me on his arm - floating through Zara and finding clothes to magically make me appear taller and bustier.

My New Show – Gok’s Style Secrets

Gok's Style SecretsMy new brand new show, Gok’s Style Secrets, starts onWednesday 2 January on Channel 4 at 8pm. I’ll be helping a few of Britain’s 15m singles to look and feel their best.
With my very own ‘how to guide’ for attracting the opposite sex, I’ll be dishing out advice on what to wear, say and do on a date!

In this episode he was working with a girl called Kate, a really pretty girl who hadn't had a boyfriend for 10 years, as Gok sent her off an a arranged date she let slip that she was from Gainsborough; in her words "a little town that nobody has heard of, nothing happens there".    She's right, not much does happen in Gainsborough and Kate being on Gok's show was probably the most exciting thing to occur for ages.   The programme went on and Kate was transformed by Gok - and she was soon strutting her stuff around some arty types in a gallery in Lincoln.   Kate is a very talented girl, I went off to check out her website and was stunned by her art - it's really fantastic.   Kate's got a couple of exhibitions lined up and is going to start selling her work through her website soon.  I'm desperate to get a print of her Heath Ledger as The Joker drawing - it's amazing.  There are a couple of other prints that I'd love a copy of too.

I contacted Kate after the programme, to ask if she would be OK if I mentioned her work on my blog and she said that would be fine.

Do check out her website here, and if you missed the episode where Kate was transformed by Gok, you can catch up via the Channel 4 website here.

The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron

The Poacher's Son is the first book in Paul Doiron's series featuring Mike Bowditch - a Maine Game Warden and was originally published in 2010.

It was the winner of the Barry Award and the Strand Critics Award for Best First Novel as well as being nominated for the Anthony Award, the Macavity Award, the Thriller Award, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and the Maine Literary Award for Best Fiction of 2010.

This hardback edition has been published in the UK by Constable & Robinson - C&R Crime and was on sale from 17 January 2013.

Mike Bowditch is a rookie Maine game warden who finds himself involved in a murder investigation and a man-hunt.  Two men have been killed in cold-blood and the prime suspect is Jack Bowditch - a hard-drinking, violent man who also happens to be Mike's father.   Despite the fact that Jack was never a great father figure and that they have not even spoken for two years, Mike is pulled in two directions.  He wants to believe that his father is innocent, he needs to prove that Jack has been set-up, but he is also a law-enforcement officer and has to abide by the rules.

The plot is fast-paced with many twists and turns, introducing red-herrings and new characters throughout the story.  It is a well thought out and often thrilling tale and Mike is a great lead character, if a little flawed.  Throughout the story, there are flash-backs to Mike's childhood - these scenes allow the reader to gain some insight into how and why he became a game warden - in total contrast to his father's 'career' as a poacher.  Mike is not the best investigator in the world and has a lot to learn, but this is the first in a series and I'm hoping that his character will grow and mature over the course of it.  In The Poacher's Son it is the supporting cast of characters and the location that really made the novel so readable for me.
Paul Doiron

Living in Lincolnshire in the UK, I had no knowledge whatsoever of the county of Maine, and didn't know anything about the Game Wardens that operate out there.  Paul Doiron's descriptive prose brought the whole place to life for me - the desolation, the eerieness, the animals, the people who live there.  He really does know how to paint a fantastic landscape with words and it is this that makes the series quite unique.

A great start to a series, I'll certainly look out for the next in the series.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Y by Marjorie Celona

"That perfect letter.  The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass.  The question we ask over and over.  Why?  Me with my arms outstretched, feet in first position.  The chromosome half of us don't have.  Second to last in the alphabet: almost there.  Coupled with an L, let's make an adverb.  A modest X, legs closed.  Y or N?  Yes, of course.  Upside-down E peace sign.  Little bird tracks in the sand.
Y, a Greek letter, joined the Latin alphabet after the Romans conquered Greece in the first century - a double agent, consonant and vowel.  No one used adverbs before then, and no one was happy.

Shannon's life begins at the Y.   Abandoned when only hours old she spends her early years in one unsuitable foster home after another, the victim of abuse and unloved.   Finally, she finds a home with Miranda and her daughter, and although she is offered stability and a place in a family, Shannon can never settle.

Shannon has so many questions, and they all start with Y.   Why was she abandoned on the steps of the YMCA?  Why did her Mother do that?  And another question; Who are her family?

At the age of sixteen, Shannon decides it is time to find some answers.  With the answers, she discovers the truly sad and desperate story of her parents.

Y is very unusually written and follows two narratives, the first being Shannon's own story from her conception through to young Adulthood.   The other narrative follows the few days before Shannon's birth, concentrating on her mother Yula (another Y) and the terrible events that lead up to the birth.  The first-person narrative of Shannon is often complex and a little difficult to follow, it's quite hard to believe that these are the thoughts of a new-born baby, a toddler, a child and then a young adult.

Don't expect a heart-warming or uplifting story.  Y is bleak, very bleak.  Shannon is the stereotypical mis-fit child who finds it difficult to interact with anyone of her own age.  The brief glimpses of sunshine come only when she meets Vaughn much later in her life.   Shannon experiences the very darkest underbelly of society, she feels no self-worth and allows herself to stay a victim for most of her life.

There is no doubt that Majorie Celona is a very talented writer and has created some very strong characters and a very unusual and quite different plot.   However, I did struggle to carry on reading in places, the bleakness and sorrow throughout the story impacted on my overall enjoyment of the novel.

Y was published by Faber in hardback on 17 January 2013 and has been chosen as one of the Waterstones Eleven books for 2013.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

I hadn't heard anything about The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway until I was contacted by the author some weeks ago, and became intrigued by the whole premise of the story and was totally captivated by the beautiful cover.

Funnily enough, I then received a proof copy of the book from Real Readers and started to read a little more about it.  It's a huge book, almost 600 pages in the UK edition, although the author tells me that the USA edition is not quite so big.   Here in the UK, The River of No Return will be published in May 2013 by Penguin Books.

On the back of the proof copy, The River of No Return is being marketed as a debut novel "that will delight all readers of The Time Traveler's Wife".  This sentence in itself would have been enough to put me off reading the novel, I'm one of those rare specimens that really did not like The Time Traveler's Wife although I loved Niffenegger's second novel; Her Perfect Symmetry.

So, to the story itself.  I would certainly recommend that if you are going to read this, please set aside a good chunk of time to read the first 100 or so pages in one sitting.   This is where the scene is set, and much of the explanation regarding the 'time jumping' is explained.  Sadly, I had to read this in smaller snatches between work and meetings and I will admit that at times I found this first part quite difficult to follow.  However, once past this rather long introduction, and firmly back in the year 1815, I was able to immerse myself into the story.  And what an interesting, unusual and entertaining story this is.  Bee Ridgway has a real gift, she is able to tell a story that spans centuries, that merges together two very different eras with ease and with humour.
The writing style is precise and flows very well and incorporates some fine historical detail, it is clear that Ridgway had spent time researching the settings for the novel and nineteenth century London is particularly well portrayed.

The lead characters; Julia and Nick are so well drawn, especially Nick who struggles so much as he leaps through time - from the battlefields of Spain in 1812, to modern life in 2013 and back again to the nineteenth century.  The time-travelling element of the story is pure science-fiction; from The Guild who oversee all of the travellers to the mysterious Orfan who are the enemy, and although science-fiction/fantasy is not a great love of mine, once I had understood the concept, it really did work very well.

Bee Ridgway
For me, this is a 4 star read.  It is an impressive debut, very original and well thought out, and the book really is beautiful.  I did think that it is maybe a little too long, and I had some difficulty in really getting hooked into the story right at the beginning.  However, saying that, I do think that fans of this particular genre are going to love it - I'm positive that Bee Ridgway will have much success with The River Of No Return and I'd like to wish her all the very best for many more future successes.  

To find out more about the book visit Bee's website here.  You can find her on Facebook here, and she is also on Twitter here 

You can find out more about Real Readers here 

The Promise by Ann Weisgarber

I read Ann Weisgarber's first novel The Personal History of Rachel Dupree way back in March 2009 and thought it was really stunning.  It went on to be short listed for the Orange Award for New Writers and was on the long list for the Orange Prize UK.

It was with some trepidation that I started to read her second book, The Promise.  I wondered how she was going to write something as evocative as her first novel.    I started reading The Promise on the train down to London yesterday and I finished it during my return journey.   I hardly raised my head once as I was sucked into this intensely moving, sometimes very challenging, but wonderfully easy to read story.  I felt as though I had been whisked off to Texas in the early 1900s and once, when I glanced out of the train window, I was actually shocked to see the fields covered in snow - this story really does suck the reader in, and very quickly.

Once again Ann Weisgarber has created a story that centres around extremely strong female characters.  Catherine Wainwright, who has fled her home-town in the wake of scandal and Nan Ogden; a down-to-earth, honest farm girl who lives on the outskirts of Galveston.   When Catherine realises that she can no longer hold her head up in her home town, she orchestrates a marriage proposal from Oscar Williams.  Oscar moved out to Galveston to become a dairy farmer and has recently been widowed and left with a four-year-old son Andre, to care for.   Nan Ogden promised Oscar's wife that she would care for Andre.  Nan and Catherine are as different as chalk and cheese, yet underneath they are both very strong women, and both struggle against the rules of society.

Life in Galveston is hard for Catherine, the town-folk have never met anyone like her.  She bewitches the men and the women suspect her.  Nan struggles with her feelings for Oscar, her loyalties to his first wife and her feelings that no one will ever love her.   They struggle on together, and it is only when a terrible storm hits the small town that they are tested to their limits.

The characters in The Promise are developed so well, they grow with the story - their flaws and their failings are not glossed over, these are real people, drawn beautifully.  The sense of place is what stands out the most for me - the heat, the smells, the sights and the sounds of this bleak and desolate part of Texas.  The description of the terror and havoc that the storm brings is vivid.
Ann Weisgarber

Galveston really did suffer terribly during the storm of 1900, this is an event that I had no knowledge of and have discovered that although this is a fictional story, some of the people and the places really did exist.  This storm was far worse than Hurricane Katrina and ripped the heart out of this small community, killing in the region of 6000 people.

I enjoyed every single page of The Promise, I liked it even more than Rachel Dupree.  Ann Weisgarber has proved to me that she is an incredibly talented author whose stories are going from strength to strength.

The Promise will be published by Pan Macmillan on 14 March 2013.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

2013 Romantic Novelist's Association Awards

I really like book awards, I love reading through the longlists, and then the shortlists - spotting books that I've loved, ones that I've been disappointed with, and ones that have passed me by.  I love adding to the wishlist too!

The Category Shortlists for the Romantic Novelist's Association Awards were announced on the RNA website yesterday.  The following is taken from their website:

The 2013 RoNA Awards
Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley will announce the winners from a shortlist of thirty authors vying to be named the winner of their category in the Romantic Novel Awards (RoNA) 2013 presented by the Romantic Novelists' Association. They will also reveal the winner of the RoNA Rose Award.  These announcements will be made on 26 February during a glittering reception in London.
Each category winner will receive an elegant crystal trophy as a mark of their success. They then go forward to contest the RNA's most coveted award, the Romantic Novel of the Year (RoNA), which will be announced on 16th May.
The categories for which the 30 shortlisted authors are competing are:
Contemporary Romantic Novel, Epic Romantic Novel, Historical Romantic Novel, Romantic Comedy Novel and Young Adult Romantic Novel.
Additionally, shorter fiction authors - known as category/series and magazine serial authors - will learn who has won the RoNA Rose award. This award is not in contention for the Romantic Novel of the Year award.
The shortlisted novels cover the whole spectrum of topics and subjects and readers can expect everything from rollicking romantic comedies, cheeky and bold heroines to highly charged historical drama and dangerous heart-throbs.
Each novel submitted has been awarded a mark by a panel of three independent readers drawn from a list of around 100 volunteers. The readers, who are not members of the RNA, come from a variety of backgrounds and range in age from 20 to 85. They all have one thing in common, a passion for romantic novels.
In previous years winners have included such well-known and much loved names as Philippa Gregory, Joanna Trollope, Freya North and Rosamunde Pilcher.
For the past 50 years the RNA has set the benchmark in romantic fiction and current Chair, Annie Ashurst, who writes as Sara Craven, commented, "We exist to encourage good writing of romantic fiction in all its many guises. We're delighted that so many publishers took the opportunity to put forward their authors for these prestigious awards. And we are extraordinarily proud of our shortlisted authors - they're all winners in our book!"
I'm delighted to spot some of my favourite authors amongst the shortlist.  There are also quite a few books on there that I really like the sound of and will be checking out very soon.

Monday, 21 January 2013

You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

There's been a real buzz about Mhairi McFarlane's debut novel You Had Me At Hello - amongst bloggers, my bookish friends and in the press.  The e-version shot up the charts and the paperback version is doing very well too and was published by Avon at Harper Collins in early December 2012.

For me, this really makes a perfect read.  Romantic, but far from slushy with a great big spoonful of good Northern humour.  Characters that you instantly recognise because they are so realistic and situations that could have been taken from your very own life.

Rachel is a court reporter, she's been with her boyfriend Rhys for years and years, they are on the verge of getting married when it all goes horribly pear-shaped.  A minor disagreement about what sort of music to play at the wedding reception turns into meltdown and Rachel realises that her life has just been chugging along.   Around the same time, Ben re-appears in her life.    Ben who was her best friend at Uni, who knew her so well and who she hasn't seen or spoken to for ten years.   Ben who still has the potential to make her feel so happy.

Ben is gorgeous, successful ....... and married.   His wife Olivia is gorgeous and successful ...............

Mhairi McFarlane has written a story that is funny, moves quickly and will move your heart.  Rachel and Ben are supported by an amazing cast of friends and colleagues.  The wonderfully colourful Mindy, to the slime-baggishness of Simon, every single one of them are drawn perfectly and add so much to this story.

Mhairi McFarlane
I love the way the story flits back to the character's time at University, I love the one-liners that made me snort with laughter.  I love the characters, the story line and the writing.  I love the Northern slant, living on the Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire/South Yorkshire border, only 40 minutes away from Sheffield, this only added to the realism of the story for me.

There have been comparisons with David Nicholls' One Day.   Whilst I can see the similarities, for me You Had Me At Hello wins hands-down.  I was really disappointed by One Day, not the writing or the story, but I really hated the characters.   Mhairi McFarlane has created two lead characters that the reader really cares about, and identifies with.

Mhairi McFarlane is a freelance journalist and voracious Tweeter who lives in Nottingham.  You can follow her Tweets @MhairiMcF

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan

Every now and again I like to vary the books that I read.  Although I particularly enjoy modern women's fiction, I do like to try a few other genres.  Over the past few years I've been really impressed by the quality of Young Adult fiction that is appearing, I wish this sort of story had been around when I was growing up.

A Place Called Perfect is Helena Duggan's debut novel and I would say it is aimed at readers aged 10 plus, although I would encourage adults to read it too.

Violet Brown and her parents have moved to a new town called Perfect after her optician father is offered the best job in the world.  Violet doesn't really want to go, but adults do what they want to do, kids have no say in the matter.  As soon as they arrive in Perfect, Violet realises that this is no ordinary place.  There is no litter, no flaking paint, the tea tastes delcious, everyone is clean and tidy and friendly ....... it's so boring!  Violet really doesn't want to be perfect.     Violet's mother begins to change, who is this woman who cleans and bakes every day?  Mum was never like that!    When her father disappears on a mystery 'business trip' without saying goodbye, Violet realises that there is really something not quite right about Perfect.
And then she meets Boy.   Boy is not like the other Perfect people and Violet soon realises that her father's bosses -  the two Archer brothers,  are far more dangerous and cunning than they appear.   Violet and Boy begin the quest to save the people of Perfect from the Archer brothers.

A Place Called Perfect is a wonderfully exciting tale of adventure that races along and keeps the reader hooked.   Helena Duggan has created a world of magic, and terror, and thrills.  Violet and Boy are perfectly created, funny and quirky and incredibly realistic - despite the magical setting of the story.  The evil twin Archer brothers are typical 'boo-hiss' bad guys, quite menacing yet they also raise a giggle.

Underneath the action and the adventure, there is a serious message to be found.  The people of Perfect have no imagination, it's been stolen from them.  They are afraid to say or do anything that may upset the Archer Brothers - something to think about in this computer-generated life that we find ourselves part of?

Helena Duggan

Helena Duggan is also a designer and has designed the cover for the book herself - it is gorgeous, beautifully detailed line drawings that really catch the eye and will appeal to readers of all ages, both male and female.

A Place Called Perfect was published in November 2012 and is available from Amazon in either paperback or e book.

Helena Duggan lives in Kilkenny, Ireland and has a website here, you can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Heart Whisperer by Ella Griffin

Claire Dillon still lives in the shadow of the past. On her thirty-third birthday, she gives herself a present. One year to change her future.
Claire Dillon's mother had everything to live for. A husband, two children, a successful medical practice. Then, at thirty-three, she died in a tragic accident. And it was Claire's fault.
Now Claire is the same age. A floundering actress with a broken heart, a collection of draft snakes, and a talent for self-sabotage. She is frittering her life away with the help of her oldest friend, the gorgeous ex-rock star, Ray Devine.
On her 33rd birthday she gives herself one last year to be more like her mother. But you should be careful what you wish for . . .
Her estranged brother Nick is back from America and keeping his distance from his clingy sister and his pathetic father while he reinvents himself as a daytime TV relationship guru. But Dublin is full of memories and Nick is already dreaming of escape. While his wife Kelly, has dreams of her own. Ones she isn't telling him about.
What will happen when another accident throws the dysfunctional Dillons together? And the secrets they have kept from themselves and one another finally begin to emerge?

Way way back in March 2010, around the time that I started this blog, I reviewed Ella Griffin's debut novel Postcards From The Heart - you can read what I thought of it here.  I was really impressed by Ella's writing, she managed to combine humour with high emotion and a little bit of heartbreak.  At last, almost two years later her second novel is about to be published.   It will be available in hardback on 31 January 2013 and is published by Orion.

The Heart Whisperer, like Postcards From The Heart is a comedy with a bittersweet edge.  Ella Griffin has an amazing ability to move from comedy to heart-wrenching emotion at the turn of a page.

Claire Dillon is an actress, although not a very successful one.  She is thirty-three with no romance in her life, her car is on it's last legs, her flat is owned and subsidised by her best friend (ex Rock Star Ray Devine), and it's really time that she did something about her life.   Claire's mother died aged 33, on Claire's seventh birthday.  Her mother had it all, two beautiful children, a loving husband and a career as a GP.  Claire is determined that by the time her next birthday arrives, she too, will have life sorted.

Ella Griffin has created a cast of characters who are larger than life, and wonderfully realistic.  A family, who on the face of it, appear to be happy and settled.   Claire the actress, her brother Nick the relationship guru and his shiny, happy American wife Kelly.  Their father is a little odd, eating only omelettes and Jaffa Cakes, but he's happy in his own way.   Claire's best friend Ray Devine is her rock, once a very successful rock star, he now lives on the royalties from his most famous song and makes sure that Claire is well cared for.
Possibly the best, most lovable character of the story is the wonderful Dog!   Claire's Dad rescued the aged mongrel many years ago, after a group of louts tied him to a shopping trolley and let him loose.  Known as 'Dog' ever since, he is a old, wiry haired, eat and chew anything sort of guy - obsessed with the TV News programme and able to win over the heart of the most serious dog-hater.

I have only praise for Ella Griffin's writing and I loved The Heart Whisperer as much as her first novel.  I laughed and I cried as Claire discovered the secrets that had been kept from her over the years.  I cheered when she found happiness and I hissed when she was betrayed - I rooted for her on every page.

Ella Griffin
Claire's friend Ray and her brother Nick feature heavily in the story, and their accompanying stories blend well with Claire's.  There are a lot of characters to keep up with at times, but each one adds something extra to the story, adding a different perspective and often a touch of humour.

This is a smart and uplifting story cleverly written with humour and emotion.  It is modern and will appeal to anyone who has ever enjoyed authors such as Marian Keyes and Milly Johnson.

My thanks to Gaby from Orion Books and Ella Griffin, the author, for arranging an advance copy for me to read.

Ella Griffin has a Twitter page, you can follow her here

Friday, 11 January 2013

**Book Giveaway** Ten Things I've Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler

I am delighted to be able to offer a gorgeous hardback copy of Sarah Butler's debut novel Ten Things I've Learnt About Love.

I adored this novel, you can read my review here

"A very enjoyable read ...... subtle and clever" ~ Clare Morrall, Booker prize shortlisted author of Astonishing Splashes of Colour

Sarah Butler is in her early thirties and lives in Manchester.  She runs a consultancy which develops literature and arts projects that explore and question our relationship to place.  She has been writer in residence on the Central Line, the Greenwich Peninsula, and at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and has taught creative writing for the British Council in Kuala Lumpur.  Ten Things I've Learnt About Love is her first novel, and will be published in twelve languages around the world.

Find out more here: & on Twitter: @SarahButler100

Published by Picador on 31 January 2013 in hardback £12.99 

The giveaway will run for 7 days, enter below via Rafflecopter - the winner will be picked at random using the Rafflecopter app.       

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Ten Things I've Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler

Ten Things I've Learnt About Love is Sarah Butler's debut novel and will be published by Picador at the end of January 2013.

The book is beautifully presented, the front cover design is gorgeous and really catches the eye, I think that it alone will draw a lot potential readers to investigate the book.

This is a story about trying to belong, about fathers and daughters, about loss and memories, about hope and  about coming home.  

The story has two narrators; Alice who has just returned to London after travelling abroad, she's come back to the house that never really felt like a home, back to find her Father at the end of his life and back to face the criticism and pity of her two older sisters.

Daniel is the other narrator, his story is told from the streets of London, from homeless shelters, doorways and parks.  Daniel has desperately been looking for someone for many years, catching glimpses of her hair, searching the abandoned newspapers in the hope that he may see her name printed there.  
During the first half of the book, these two stories appear to be completely separate, it is not until the reader is well into the story that it becomes clear that their lives do actually overlap.

It is difficult to believe that this is Sarah Butler's first novel as she has cleverly meshed the two stories together, and as we follow their thoughts and their actions, the character's similarities increase, despite the differences in their lives.  
Alice and Daniel see so much when they observe London and it's population.  The small items discarded by a hurrying and busy public become treasures to Daniel, with meaning and significance.  It is this detailed description of things that at first-glance could be mundane and everyday that make this novel even more beautiful.

As the two stories weave together and Alice and Daniel discover each other, the reader is urging them both to be honest, to open up and to grasp a chance of happiness.  Although the ending may not be exactly what I wished for the characters, on reflection, it is the perfect ending for this story.

Sarah Butler
Oh, and the lists!  I love lists and Sarah Butler has included some lists within the story - both Alice and Daniel are able to tell a little more of their history, and their hopes for the future through these lists.  I thought this was a really clever way for the author to let the reader know more facts, without bogging the story down with too much detail.

Once again, Picador have picked a winner, this is a highly original, exciting and at times, a quite heart-wrenching story.

This is new writing at it's finest - moving and emotional, a little bit quirky and very very special.

Sarah Butler has a website here and you can follow her on Twitter here

Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Adoption by Anne Berry

The Adoption is Anne Berry's third novel and was released in hardback in June 2012 by Ebury, the paperback will be published in February of this year.

I am a huge fan of Anne Berry's writing, I thought both of her previous novels; The Hungry Ghosts (2009) and The Water Children (2011) were outstanding and deserved much more recognition than they actually got.

The Adoption is a story that almost broke my heart in places, the writing is beautiful - enigmatic, poetic, haunting and so very powerful.   The story concerns the birth of Lucilla, just after the end of the Second World War and is narrated by three woman; Lucilla herself, her birth mother Bethan and her adoptive mother Harriet and the story spans over sixty years.
Bethan lives on a remote farm in Wales with her parents and after a brief affair with a German prisoner of war, she finds herself pregnant and alone.  Despite her desperate longing to keep her baby girl, the adoption is arranged and Lucilla is given a home with Harriet and her husband.   They are an older couple, teetotallers, cold, unloving and with no comprehension of how to love and care for a child.  Lucilla's life is difficult and when she is informed, aged fourteen, that she was adopted, she only feels relief.

It is not until Lucilla is in her late forties that she decides to try to trace Bethan, after acquiring paperwork left by her deceased mother including letters to and from Bethan from The Church Adoption Society whose slogan is The Homeless Child for the Childless Home.

These three very different women tell the same story from their own perspectives.  Lucilla, Bethan and Harriet have been wonderfully created, their individual characters leap from the page - their faults are not glossed over  - they are honest and incredibly realistic.

The horrors that Bethan went through as an unmarried mother are portrayed so well, the showdown between her Father and her lover is so very difficult to read, the pain and the heartbreak flows through the writing and left me feeling physically shaken.  Bethan's future life is moulded by losing her daughter and this loss impacts on everything that she does until the day of her death.  Lucilla's life too is not a happy one - her adoptive parents live a life filled with secrets and lies and Lucilla always struggles to please them.  Lucilla's adoptive mother Harriet is a character who is very easy to hate, she shows no redeeming qualities throughout the novel and would happily have sent Lucilla back to the Adoption Society if she were able.

The Adoption is Anne Berry's best novel to date.   It is heart-rending yet beautiful.

Anne Berry's website is here, she has a blog here and you can follow her on Twitter here