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#Bookreview BECAUSE OF YOU by Dawn French (@Dawn_French) (@PenguinUKBooks) You’ll cry, laugh, and love it

Hi all:

I bring you a book that I requested on a bit of a whim and it was a total win.

Because of You by Dawn French

Because of You by Dawn French

THE EAGERLY AWAITED, LIFE-AFFIRMING AND MOVING NEW NOVEL FROM NUMBER-ONE BESTSELLING AUTHOR DAWN FRENCH

‘Dawn tackles the big ones – love, death, grief, childhood, motherhood, parenthood – head on’ Guardian

‘Beautifully observed’ The Times
__________

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock . . . midnight.

The old millennium turns into the new.

In the same hospital, two very different women give birth to two very similar daughters.

Hope leaves with a beautiful baby girl.

Anna leaves with empty arms.

Seventeen years later, the gods who keep watch over broken-hearted mothers wreak mighty revenge, and the truth starts rolling, terrible and deep, toward them all.

The power of mother-love will be tested to its limits.

Perhaps beyond . . .

Because Of You is Dawn French’s stunning new novel, told with her signature humour, warmth and so much love.

‘Gorgeous . . . wise and full of love’ MARIAN KEYES

‘An extraordinary book – sad, heartening, gripping and reassuringly human’ JO BRAND

‘Dawn French is a wonderful writer’ Daily Mail

‘Incredible’ RUSSELL BRAND

‘Moving . . . French’s best yet’ Good Housekeeping

READERS LOVE BECAUSE OF YOU:

‘Tugs at your heart strings. I would have a box of tissues when reading!’ 5*****

‘I had tears in my eyes by the end of the book. Absolutely wonderfully written’ 5*****

‘A profoundly emotional read about the love between mothers and daughters. A book that I did not want to put down’ 5*****

‘Have your tissues ready when you read this one. It is really moving and will hit you right in the heart’ 5*****

https://www.amazon.com/Because-You-Dawn-French-ebook/dp/B08DT8N1T1/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Because-You-Dawn-French-ebook/dp/B08DT8N1T1/

https://www.amazon.es/Because-You-Dawn-French-ebook/dp/B08DT8N1T1/

Author Dawn French

About the author:

Dawn French has been making people laugh for thirty years. As a writer, comedian, and actor, she has appeared in some of Great Britain’s longest-running and most celebrated shows, including French and Saunders, Murder Most Horrid, The Vicar of Dibley, Jam and Jerusalem, Lark Rise to Candleford, and, most recently, Roger and Val Have Just Got In. Her bestselling memoir, Dear Fatty, was published in the United Kingdom to critical acclaim, and her first novel, A Tiny Bit Marvellous, was a number-one UK bestseller.

https://www.amazon.com/Dawn-French/e/B001KCGBAU/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Having lived in the UK for a long time, I knew Dawn French’s work as an actress and comedian, but I had not read any of her books. Although I had heard about his memoir, I didn’t realise she had also published fiction, and I couldn’t resist when I had the chance to read this book. And it was a great decision.

Although this is not a mystery, I will try to avoid any spoilers, and will not offer too many details about the plot. Suffice to say that this is (mostly) a story about two mothers and a daughter (the fathers are around but don’t play too big a part), the price they have to pay for that relationship, and it deals in themes such as family, identity, grief, the mother-daughter bond, love and sacrifice…

I’ve mentioned two mothers and a daughter. Both mothers, Hope and Anna, are very different. From different social spheres and ethnic background (one well-off, one just getting by, one white British, one Jamaican-British), in very different personal circumstances (one married and going through a planned and expected pregnancy, one unmarried and her pregnancy a total surprise that have changed the couple’s plans), and their partners have nothing in common either. Julius (Anna’s husband) is pompous, self-centred, and only interested in his political career. (Silent) Isaac is all good will, kindness, and only interested in the well-being of his fiancée and his soon-to-be-born daughter. The two couples are in the same hospital for the birth of their daughters, Florence and Minnie, but things don’t go to plan.

I loved both mothers. Their experiences are vividly described and cover the whole gamut of emotions. Loss and joy, grief and hope, second-chances/the beginning of a new life, and becoming stuck in a dark hole. I’ve long believed that comedians are great observers of human behaviour, and there is evidence aplenty of that here, as there are beautiful touches and nuances, insights into the thought processes of the characters and their actions, that help create some memorable scenes. The story is narrated in the third person from alternating points of view (mostly those of the two mothers and of Minnie, the daughter, but we also get some insight into the fathers’ thoughts), and although at first I felt somewhat distanced from the protagonist due to the way the story was told, I soon became used to it and realised that it might have become unbearable to read the devastation and utter desolation the characters experience if it had been written in the first person. It is still a very emotional experience (tears came to my eyes more than once), but the narrative choice and the inclusion of lighter and comedic touches (one of the policemen, Tripshaw, plays the part of a buffoon, there are some unexpectedly humorous passages in pretty dire circumstances, and there are also some lovely life-affirming scenes surrounding the girl’s childhood and her growing up) make it a bitter-sweet but ultimately inspiring read.

I’ve already said I loved both mothers, and I must say that I like all the female characters, especially Debbie Cheese, the wonderful policewoman who understands the situation and empathises with the mother from the beginning, and Minnie, the daughter, colourful, unique, and full of zest for life and love. She knows who she is and doesn’t allow anybody to change her mind. The men are not that important, although Lee (or Twat), Minnie’s boyfriend, seems a keeper, truly devoted, and determined to stick around.

Readers who don’t like sudden changes in point of view don’t need to worry, as these do not occur in the middle of a chapter, and we are clearly told in each moment whose point of view we are following, so there’s no possible confusion.

The lovely details about the relationship mother-daughter don’t disrupt the flow of the story, which is beautifully written and contains sharp psychological insights into the world of family relationships and all its ups and downs. The story starts, then moves forward 18 years, but then we go back again to the beginning and follow its development in chronological order, so although we have an inkling of the ending, we don’t get the full details until the ending proper. And it is quite an ending.  I felt, at times, that Tripshaw’s malapropisms were pushed beyond the limit and so were Julius’s excesses but, in general, it is easy to read, and there are some truly funny and also some truly insightful moments. I thought I’d share a few:

Here, Tripshaw is, for once, word-perfect:

‘Well, Mr Lindon-Clarke, that went well, didn’t it? Truly, I’ve met some pricks in my time, but you, sir, are the full cactus.’

Anna, also talking about her ex-husband, Julius Lindon-Clarke, and his self-centredness and conceit:

‘He’s like a budgie: loads of talk, until it sees a mirror.’

‘How ironic that her emotional skeleton was made of pain, the very stuff that would not support her —it couldn’t. Pain is not galvanizing, it’s corrosive, so she would eventually rust. It was already happening and she knew it. All the parts of her held together by pain were deteriorating. She needed new reinforcement if she was going to claim her future without alcohol or sleeping pills or fear or endless crying. Anna needed to bestow this forgiveness.’

I recommend this novel to anybody who, like me, might be curious about Dawn French’s writing or has already read some and want more, who enjoy stories with strong and varied female characters, and who are particularly interested in books about families and mother-daughter relationships. It is well written, beautifully nuanced, full of wonderful characters, and, despite the sad moments, it is ultimately life-affirming and heart-warming (sorry, I know some people hate such accolades, but they are true).  It won’t be the last of French’s novels I read, I’m sure of that.

Thanks to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for the novel, thanks to all of you for visiting and reading it, and remember to like, share, comment, click, keep smiling, keep reviewing, and above all, keep safe. 

Oh, and in case any of you need some reading material or are looking for something suitable for Halloween, don’t miss this fantastic multi-author giveaway organised by Marie Lavender, who has visited my blog on many occasions.

Categories
Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Rosie's Book Team Review Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog WINTER FLOWER by Charles Sheehan-Miles #RBRT A highly recommended tough and inspiring read

Hi all:

I bring you another review of one of the books in Rosie’s team. Another great find.

Winter Flower by Charles Sheehan-Miles
Winter Flower by Charles Sheehan-Miles

Winter Flower by Charles Sheehan-Miles

This book is all about love, family, survival, acceptance and forgiveness… one big giant emotional rollercoaster ride

  • Book Freak

From the bestselling author of Just Remember to Breathe and The Last Hour, a shocking and poignant story of a family on the brink of destruction and the transformational events that could bring them back together–or tear them apart.

Every day, Cole Roberts reminds himself that life wasn’t always this bleak. He was once passionately in love with Erin. Sam used to be an artistic and lively kid. They hadn’t always lived in a shabby two-room house in rural Alabama, where he runs a mediocre restaurant in the middle of nowhere.

That was before Brenna disappeared. It was before Cole lost his job and they lost their home.

Every day it gets worse. Erin drinks wine out of the bottle and spends her days with a tormented expression, searching the web for signs of their daughter. Sam hides in his room and rarely speaks. And Cole works himself to a stupor for a paycheck a fraction of the size of his old salary.

Until one day a phone call changes everything.

Winter Flower is at once a tragic tale of the disappearance of a child; struggling with gender identity; of the dark world of sex-trafficking and the transformation and healing of a family. Sheehan-Miles’s longest novel delves into the depths of family life–and how, sometimes, we can heal and find restoration.

https://www.amazon.com/winter-flower-Charles-Sheehan-Miles-ebook/dp/B07R91MG6Q/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/winter-flower-Charles-Sheehan-Miles-ebook/dp/B07R91MG6Q/

https://www.amazon.es/winter-flower-Charles-Sheehan-Miles-ebook/dp/B07R91MG6Q/

Author Charles Seehan-Miles
Author Charles Seehan-Miles

About the author:

Charles Sheehan-Miles has been a soldier, computer programmer, short-order cook and non-profit executive, and is the author of several fiction and non-fiction books, including the indie bestsellers Just Remember to Breathe and Republic: A Novel of America’s Future. Charles and his partner Andrea Randall live and write together in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

Charles’ books include:

The Thompson Sisters & Rachel’s Peril
A Song for Julia
Falling Stars
Just Remember
to Breathe
The Last Hour

Girl of Lies
Girl of Rage
Girl of Vengeance

America’s Future
Republic
Insurgent

Other Books:
Prayer at Rumayla
Saving the World on $30 A Day

Find out more at http://www.sheehanmiles.com

You’re also invited to join the Remember to Breathe Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/rer

https://www.amazon.com/Charles-Sheehan-Miles/e/B002BM0T7E/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

This is the first novel I read by Charles Sheehan-Miles, who is a brand new author to me, although he has published a large number of books, and from the comments, I guess he has a legion of fans that were surprised by this book, as it is not a romance. I cannot compare it to his previous work, but I agree with the warning. If readers from his previous books approach this novel as a romance, they will be shocked, because it is far from it.

This is a long book (over 600 pages long), divided up into four parts, with a prologue set two years before the main action of the book, although there are flashbacks (memories) narrated in the first-person by the four main characters —all members of the same family— that offer readers a good understanding of the background to the current situation and help them get to grips with their circumstances, their pasts, and who they are. This is the story of a family, a married couple and their two children, on the brink of collapse due to a terrible tragedy that took place two years before the action we follow chronologically. Or so it seems. (The truth is a bit more complicated than that). Sam and Brenna, the children (adolescents by the time we met them) are close, and Brenna has always willingly played the role of big sister to Sam, there to protect and guide. Until she disappears. Carrying on without her puts a big strain on a family we soon learn was going through difficulties already (some more out in the open than others), and whose communication had ground almost to a halt. The parents, Cole and Erin, are living example of the “opposites attract” edict, at least from a political perspective (Cole, the father, who as a young man decided formal education wasn’t for him and moved up the corporate ladder at lightning speed, is conservative as can be, while Erin, the mother, a college  graduate, is a convinced liberal who sacrificed her career to look after her children), and although the story opens up with Sam’s narration, we soon get to read their own perspective on the matter and the kind of traps they find themselves in.

This is a story that deals in many important subjects, and it could have been told in a variety of ways, but I am impressed not only by the subjects (adultery and its toll on family relationships, sex trafficking, rape, prostitution, bullying, harassment and violence against the LGBT community, missing youths, the isolation of the trans-gender experience for young people, prejudice and harassment at work…) and the sensitive and enlightening way they are handled, but also by the way the story is told. The author allows each character to tell his/her own story, and that makes us walk a mile in their shoes, no matter how uncomfortable they might feel. I am sure many readers will think, as they read, that they would have never reacted in a certain way, or allowed their circumstances to deteriorate to such an extent, but, do we truly know? Although, as the author reminds us in the final note, the events in the book are far from unique (yes, it is a work of fiction, but many individuals and families, unfortunately, will go through similar experiences to those depicted in the book), many of us will never have been in close contact with somebody in such dire circumstances, much less be directly affected by it, so, how do we know what we would do? The characters are not necessarily the most likeable when we meet them (drinking heavily, harassed, afraid for their lives, paralysed and frozen, unable to make decisions and move on), and they are all closed off from each other, trapped, physically or mentally, sometimes by others and their preconceptions, sometimes by their own fears and inability to grief and forgive. The author also makes a conscious decision to introduce the rest of the family —the parents and Sam— first, so we get to see the effect her loss has had on the family before we meet Brenna, the missing girl. Her situation is heart-wrenching, and the most extreme and difficult to read about, although none of the characters have an easy ride.

Thankfully, the author manages to achieve a difficult balance between telling the story, not pulling any punches, making sure people can understand and empathise with what the characters are going through, while avoiding extremely graphic scenes (both of sex and violence), and gratuitous iterations and repetitions of the abuse, which would risk further exploitation rather than facilitating understanding and empathy. Don’t get me wrong; this is a hard read, and readers with triggers around topics such as child abuse, rape, bullying, violence against women and the LGTB community, and racism need to be aware of it. Even people who don’t have such triggers will find it a tough read, but, on the other hand, this is a book with a big heart, and the individual journey of each character, and of the family as a whole, make for an inspiring and hopeful read.

I have already talked about how impressed I am by the story and the way it is told. I grew fond of all the members of the family by the end of the book (it’s impossible for our hearts not to go out to Sam and Brenna, but we get to appreciate their parents as well), and I particularly enjoyed the journey of enlightenment Cole’s father goes through. The author includes most of the reactions we can imagine to these subjects, from the sublime to the ridiculous, (not everybody changes and accepts either. Bigotry remains alive and well, as we all know), and they all felt true. I was particularly fond of Jeremiah and his wife — almost too good to be true— who are an ideal we should all aspire to. I also liked the fact that the story does not stop when most readers would expect it to, and even Sam makes comments on that. There is no magical happy ending here that just makes everything right again. All the members of the family will have to keep working at their relationship and supporting each other, but that is as it should be.

There were no negative reviews of the book at the time I wrote this, and the only objections (apart from the warning that it is not a romance) some people had referred to were Sam’s virtual game playing (that a reader didn’t feel added anything to the novel. Personally, I think it helps readers understand what life is like for the character and experience the kind of coping strategies adolescents in similar circumstances might use), and some others felt the book could have been shorter and still managed to tell the same story. That might be true, but I suspect some of the nuances would have been lost.

This is an excellent book that manages to combine complex and credible characters with a plot that deals with several difficult subjects, without becoming preachy or too graphic. It is horrifying, touching, and insightful all at the same time, and it makes readers witness the highs and lows of the human condition. I recommended it to readers interested in the subjects, but I advise those who might worry about possible triggers to proceed with caution. The author adds some resources (links to websites) for people who need more information about some of the issues raised in the book, and I thought the final conversation of the book, between Brenna and her grandfather in the garden —when the grandfather talks about the snapdragon, and how it grows back after getting rid of the dead stuff, stronger and more beautiful— stands as a great metaphor for the story, and explains the title. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Rosie, her team, and the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and remember to always keep smiling.

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