Saturday, 22 May 2021

An Act of Love by Carol Drinkwater

About the Book 

Title: An Act of Love 

Author: Carol Drinkwater

Publisher: Penguin (2021)

Summary (taken from the back cover): France, 1943.

Forced to flee war ravaged Poland, Sara and her parents are offered refuge in a beautiful but dilapidated house in the French Alps. It seems the perfect hideaway, despite haunting traces of the previous occupants who left in haste.

But shadows soon fall over Sara's blissful summer, and her blossoming romance with local villager Alain. As the Nazis close in, the family is forced to make a harrowing choice that could drive them apart forever, while Sara's own bid for freedom risks several lives . . . 

Will her family make it through the summer together? 

And can she hold onto the love she has found with Alain?

By turns poignant and atmospheric, this is the compelling new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Carol Drinkwater about the power of first love and courage in our darkest hours.

What I Think

Why do we read? Why do you read? The reason I read is because I want to be swept up in the lives of characters I've grown to love and root for; I want to be taken to a place that I may never be able to see with my own eyes, but through the eyes of the characters, feel I've been to; and I want to learn something that I didn't even know I wanted to learn. This is why, for me, An Act of Love was the perfect book.  

Sara is a wonderful character and along with the fear that she lived with on a day-to-day basis, she was also 'just' a teenage girl learning about herself and her place in the world. It would be easy to make her perfect, but what I think Drinkwater has done perfectly, is make Sara flawed. There were times I was frustrated with her and the things she did or didn't do, said or didn't say, felt or didn't feel, but then I remembered that these are the best characters; the ones who don't act the way they should, but act the only way they can. 

An Act of Love is set in La Ville-V├ęsubie, a small village high in the French Alps. Not only is place extremely important in this novel due to its historical background, but it plays an important role in the development of Sara's character. As she learns more about her surroundings - the plants and trees, animals and waterholes - we feel her embedding in her makeshift home.   

Through Drinkwater's adept storytelling of Sara, I have learned about the unique history of the Alpes-Maritimes department in WWII. Years ago I read Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay about the rounding up of Jews in Paris in 1942. That is a story that has always stayed with me and I know An Act of Love will be joining it. 

Beautiful, eye-opening and compelling, An Act of Love is a book not to be missed. 

About the Author

Anglo-Irish actress Carol Drinkwater is perhaps still most familiar to audiences for her award-winning portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC series All Creatures Great and Small. A popular and acclaimed author and film-maker as well, Carol has published nineteen books for both the adult and young adult markets. She is currently at work on her twentieth title.

When she purchased a rundown property overlooking the Bay of Cannes in France, she discovered on the grounds sixty-eight, 400-year-old olive trees. Once the land was reclaimed and the olives pressed, Carol along with her French husband, Michel, became the producers of top-quality olive oil. Her series of memoirs, love stories, recounting her experiences on her farm (The Olive Farm, The Olive Season, The Olive Harvest and Return to the Olive Farm) have become international bestsellers. Carol's fascination with the olive tree extended to a seventeenth-month, solo Mediterranean journey in search of the tree's mythical secrets. The resulting travel books, The Olive Route and The Olive Tree, have inspired a five-part documentary films series entitled The Olive Route.

Carol has also been invited to work with UNESCO to help fund an Olive Heritage Trail around the Mediterranean with the dual goals of creating peace in the region and honouring the ancient heritage of the olive tree.

Friday, 30 April 2021

Until Next Weekend by Rachel Marks

 About the Book

Title: Until Next weekend

Author: Rachel Marks

Publisher: Penguin Random House (2021)

Summary (taken from the back cover): NOAH AND KATE WERE MEANT TO BE TOGETHER FOREVER.

Married with two gorgeous sons, it looked like they'd got their happy ever after.

But marriage isn't easy. And one day, Kate left, taking their two boys with her.

These days, Noah is a weekend dad - and it breaks his heart. He misses the chaotic mealtimes, the bedtime stories, the early mornings and the late homework.

Suddenly, he decides enough is enough - he has to win his family back. Starting with Kate.

The only problem?


What I Think

I absolutely loved Rachel Marks' debut novel, Saturdays at Noon (Penguin, 2020), and with that comes an additional pressure on "the second novel", in this case Until Next Weekend, published 29th April 2021 by Penguin. I was very excited to receive a proof copy from the publishers and be allocated a stop on the blog tour, but I was also worried that it wouldn't be as good. Let me assure you: no one needs to be worried. 

Noah thought he was going to get his happily ever after with Kate when they married young and had two lovely boys, but things didn't pan as planned and now Noah lives alone in a messy flat, only seeing his boys every other weekend. He dislikes his job as a Reception teacher and regularly drowns his sorrows in the local pub.  

Marks' warm and witty writing style is like sitting down with your best friend for a cup of tea and a big piece of cake. But don't be fooled. As with all good friends, sometimes bad news needs to be imparted over strong cups of tea (with an extra sugar for the shock). Clues to the deeper issues underlying the break-up of Noah and Kate's marriage are carefully woven in to the story unfolding in the present. By the time the full extent of what has happened is revealed, we feel like we're grieving for friends, not characters.  

I thoroughly enjoyed Until Next Weekend and it's every bit as heartwarming, heart wrenching and hopeful as her debut. 

About the Author 

Rachel Marks studied English at Exeter University before becoming a primary school teacher. Despite always loving to write, it wasn't until she gained a place on the 2016 Curtis Brown Creative online novel writing course that she started to believe it could be anything more than a much-loved hobby. Her inspiration for her first book, Saturdays at Noon, came from the challenges she faced with her eldest son, testing and fascinating in equal measure, and the research she did to try to understand him better. Until Next Weekend is her second novel. 

You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram

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