The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph #historicalfiction #NetGalley @LittleBrownUK #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph. I requested this one from NetGalley after spotting the cover first. This is a fictionalised account of an influential figure from history.

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An illuminating and original tale of a Black writer and composer Charles Ignatius Sancho. Recently named as a Great Black Briton and immortalised with a Google Doodle this brilliant story charts the life of the little-known maverick and his life in Regency London in a witty polemic, we have grown to love through many great 18th Century English writers. Candid and characterful, illuminating and illustrious this is a great opportunity to revive the history of an important, engaging historical character to a wide audience. 

MY REVIEW

The life of Charles Ignatio is a remarkable one, born on a slave ship and then sold into slavery before being taken into the care as an orphan. He was given to three sisters and was their pet. A chance meeting with Duke Montague gave him a start in life that benefited him later on. He was taught to read. In the Georgian era of the 1700s, it was not seen as a good thing for Black People to read as they were there to serve not to be educated.

Nevertheless, Charles Ignatius did learn, and it is through his diaries that the author has fictionalised the life of Charles Ignatius Sancho. I didn’t really know anything about this historical figure, but his name had recently cropped up while I was reading another book. As I had a copy of The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho it seemed the right time to pick it up and learn more.

While the author has fictionalised the life of Sancho, he has done research and references back to diaries and some of these have been included in this book. It tells of life starting with nothing and no parents and the conditions he lived in when he was between homes and also how he was perceived by different people at the time.

Sancho had built a reputation without realising it and therefore he would have been different and not just because of his skin colour. This builds up an image of Sancho as he tries to work out where he belongs. He is educated but this is a problem as he is Black, for this would be problematic, for others it made him better than them. As for Sancho he just wanted to live his life and eventually settle down to raise a family. Instead, he found himself in a sort of limbo, an outcast, a curiosity but one that started to make himself known and then worked on a way to be heard. In doing this he h found his vocation.

The author creates an interesting fictional account of this historical figure. It is done in a way that is interesting, but at times I did feel the story dragged a little. What this book did do for me though was introduce me to a historical figure who eventually found his voice and the courage to stand up to slavery. He was the first Black man to vote as at that time he was a man of property, and with the help of other Artists and Authors of the time became an ardent supporter of the Abolition of Slavery.

This is a book that I found really interesting, at times it did feel slow and occasionally repetitive. It is, however, a great starting point for further reading which is exactly what I did after reading this book. If you have an interest in historical figures then this is a good book to read, it tells the fictionalised account of a man born into slavery that then joins the movement to abolish slavery. Informative and interesting and one I would happily recommend.

I discovered more about Charles Ignatius Sancho on various websites. Here is a couple that I found interesting.

MUSEUM OF COLOUR

THE BRITISH LIBRARY

THE BRITISH LIBRARY – LETTERS, LETTER WRITING & EPISTOLARY NOVELS

The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph

Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx

The Cliff House by Chris Brookmyre #NetGalley #PublicationDay @LittleBrownUK #thriller #crime #20booksofsummer #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for The Cliff House by Chris Brookmyre. This is a tense and fabulously addictive story set on a remote Scottish Island.

My thanks to Little, Brown UK for accepting my request to read this title via NetGalley.

One hen weekend, seven secrets… but only one worth killing for

Jen’s hen party is going to be out of control…

She’s rented a luxury getaway on its own private island. The helicopter won’t be back for seventy-two hours. They are alone. They think.

As well as Jen, there’s the pop diva and the estranged ex-bandmate, the tennis pro and the fashion guru, the embittered ex-sister-in-law and the mouthy future sister-in-law.

It’s a combustible cocktail, one that takes little time to ignite, and in the midst of the drunken chaos, one of them disappears. Then a message tells them that unless someone confesses her terrible secret to the others, their missing friend will be killed.

Problem is, everybody has a secret. And nobody wants to tell.

MY REVIEW

This was a very intriguing book to read. A group of women goes away together to a Scottish Island for a hen party weekend. This is not a close bunch of women and some don’t know everyone.

The author introduces each of the women and the story is told from their individual perspectives. This makes for a faster-paced story as there is a constant interchanging of characters. When the women first meet up there is some tension, but the bride-to-be, Jen, is hoping that things will settle and any past animosities can be put behind them.

For a while, yes the women seem to hold it together, but then the cocktails soon alter the balance. Oh! and a dead body in the kitchen doesn’t help nor does the delivery of an email to each of them.

I really enjoyed the mystery of this story, yes there is a body, but this isn’t the main story. The story is about the women themselves, the email mentions there being one of the group that isn’t exactly who they say they are. This is actually quite clever, as the synopsis mentions, everyone has a secret!

Having secrets and trying to keep them, or letting them out as much as you dare is one thing, but when they impact those around you as they do in this story, then you need to re-evaluate. I liked how everyone becomes a suspect and while most of the group let some snippets out, not all do. There are some who have a grudge from when they were teens, others have a point to prove and some are definitely not what they appear. This adds to the suspense and the tense energy that surrounds the group.

While this is a crime story as such, I felt it was more of a mystery thriller and the author does gradually bring out the mysteries and secrets of each person. There is also the main question of who actually is responsible for the initial crime and who is the focus of the revenge.

This is a story that keeps twisting the more you read. I do admit that I did work out the who, but that was much later in the book. Up until that point I was flittering between characters and changing my mind.

This really was a fab story, it is addictive, and I do like the locked room feel of the island setting. This is one that like a story with multiple characters and perspectives, has a tense atmosphere and is a riveting read. It is one I would definitely recommend.

Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx

The Caretakers Amanda Bestor-Siegal #NetGalley #LittleBrownUK #contemporaryfiction #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today from The Caretakers by Amanda Bestor-Siegal. I had requested this one from Net Galley. My thanks to Little Brown UK for granting my request.

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Set in a wealthy Parisian suburb, an emotionally riveting debut told from the point of view of six women, and centered around a group of au pairs, one of whom is arrested after a sudden and suspicious tragedy strikes her host family–a dramatic exploration of identity, class, and caregiving from a profoundly talented new writer.

Paris, 2015. A crowd gathers outside the Chauvet home in the affluent suburban community of Maisons-Larue, watching as the family’s American au pair is led away in handcuffs after the sudden death of her young charge. The grieving mother believes the caretaker is to blame, and the neighborhood is thrown into chaos, unsure who is at fault–the enigmatic, young foreigner or the mother herself, who has never seemed an active participant in the lives of her children.

The truth lies with six women: Geraldine, a heartbroken French teacher struggling to support her vulnerable young students; Lou, an incompetent au pair who was recently fired by the family next door; Charlotte, a chilly socialite and reluctant mother; Nathalie, an isolated French teenager desperate for her mother’s attention; Holly, a socially anxious au pair yearning to belong in her adopted country; and finally, Alena, the one accused of the crime, who has gone to great lengths to avoid emotional connection, and now finds herself caught in the turbulent power dynamics of her host family’s household.

Set during the weeks leading up to the event, The Caretakers is a poignant and suspenseful drama featuring complicated women. It’s a sensitive exploration of the weight of secrets, the pressures of country, community, and family–and miscommunications and misunderstandings that can have fatal consequences.

MY REVIEW

Every now and again I come across a book that leaves me a little unsure. The Caretakers is one such book. It is a mystery of sorts, but the mystery is more a way to a means. By this, I mean that the mystery gave the author a chance to create storylines around her characters so that the focus was more on the characters than the mystery.

The story focus on Au pairs who live and work in France, they are The Caretakers. The caretakers of the children, the house and the secrets. The author takes various characters and gives each of them a story, about the family they work for, where they have come from and also their thoughts and opinions. This means there is a lot of back and forth between characters and also timelines. I did find this easy enough to follow and keep up with who was who.

While there are several sub-stories in this book they do eventually intertwine, some more than others. The au-pairs of foreigners to France and so they are alone, it is natural that they navigate towards one another and this is done via a French Speaking school for au-pairs and also when they meet up socially. They form tentative bonds and some friendships are more of a way of feeling not so alone in a foreign country.

The time of the story when the girls are working is around the time of the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo, the author uses this to add a touch of friction, and unease and it gives a chance for opinions to surface from differing perspectives. It was a way of discovering more about living in France and being French, very interesting.

This is very much a character-driven story, at times I did actually forget that there was a mystery that started my journey with this book. This is a book where I kind of want to say not huge amounts happened, but actually, there was. It has a subtle dramatic feel and for me, I got a sense of nervousness, trepidation at living in a new country, trying to start a new chapter in life, or just trying to prove people wrong. There are several different voices in this book and each one brings their own story, thoughts, personality, history, hopes for the future or just to escape something from their past.

This is a slow burner, but it was also very captivating. There was something about this book that didn’t allow me to put it to one side. As I mentioned earlier, it is a subtle book because it isn’t always immediately obvious where the author is going as she flits from character and time.

This was a really interesting read, it is one for those who like character-driven novels, contemporary and literary fiction. I would happily recommend this one as it did keep me hooked.

Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx

The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn @LittleBrownUK #historicalfiction #NetGalley #PublicationDay #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn. This is set in 1665 in and around the village of Eyam, a wonderful historical fiction read.

My huge thanks to Little Brown UK for granting my request to read and review an e-copy of this book.

It is 1665 and the women of Eyam keep many secrets.

Isabel Frith, the village midwife, walks a dangerous line with her herbs and remedies. There are men in the village who speak of witchcraft, and Isabel has a past to hide. So she tells nobody her fears about Wulfric, the pious, reclusive apothecary.

Mae, Wulfric’s youngest daughter, dreads her father’s rage if he discovers what she keeps from him. Like her feelings for Rafe, Isabel’s ward, or the fact that she studies from Wulfric’s books at night.

But others have secrets too. Secrets darker than any of them could have imagined.

When Mae makes a horrifying discovery, Isabel is the only person she can turn to. But helping Mae will place them both in unimaginable peril.

And meanwhile, another danger is on its way from London. One that threatens to engulf them all . . .

Based on the real history of an English village during the Great Plague, The Hemlock Cure is an utterly beguiling tale of fear and ambition, betrayal, self-sacrifice and the unbreakable bond between two women. 

MY REVIEW

The village of Eyam is a village I know from history lessons at school. Also known as “The Plague Village”, it is in Derbyshire and pronounced “eem”. It is nestled in the gorgeous Peak District National Park. The village is known as the Plague Village due to the Plague or Black Death that swept through Europe in 1665/66. If you are not aware of how the village tried to manage the plague in their village please have an internet search.

Eyam is such a village that is hearing of the plague that is starting to sweep through the country. Wulfric is the village apothecary and with the help of his daughter, they make the medicines to help those who are ailing. This is a time when it is a male dispensing cure is a respected profession, not so much if you are a female though. Wulfric’s daughter Mae knows she has to be careful when she starts to prepare her own recipes, her father would never have such a thing happen under his roof.

This story is one of a daughter trying to do the very best she can, but her father will never praise her, look proudly at her. In fact, he is just downright awful to her, he has no respect for women and thinks they are all evil. Mae’s mother is dead, and it is a close friend that keeps an eye out for Mae, something that makes Wulfric angry.

The story is set around the village of Eyam and the author has used actual events woven into her fictional story. The story wanders around Mae’s home and surrounding area and also in London. It shows the different ways people are trying to void the plague and also how devastating its reach is.

This is a slower-paced story and one that I did find engaging. It also flits between different characters and times, this threw me initially. I don’t always read headings and this was a bit of a downfall for me as not only are there several characters voices, they are also in slightly different years. Doing this means that the author adds nuggets of information from a few previous years to her current timeline.

This is a historical fiction story that does have mentions of real people and a brief mention after the story does go into more detail about this. There is also a good bibliography for further reading. I did enjoy this story as there is a mystery to it as well as the dynamics within Mae’s family and the village. I would happily recommend this one.

Many thanks for reading my post, a like or share would be amazing 🙂 xx