Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Historical Fiction, Literary

Trial By Battle by David Piper

Today I’m so delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Trial by Battle by David Piper. This novel is one of four war time classics being brought to new readers by the Imperial War Museum.

Here is a little more about the project:

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM will launch a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.
Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances.

Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.

The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings. Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience. He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand. They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories.

These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.

War Time Classics

Trial By Battle Cover Image
All four titles will be the subject of blog tours throughout the month (check out #wartimeclassics) but today I am going to be chatting about Trial By Battle by David Piper.

About the author

David Piper

David Piper (1918-1990) was best known as an art historian and museum director. He served with the Indian Army during the Second World War, and was a Japanese prisoner of war for three years from 1942-1945. Piper based Trial by Battle on his wartime experiences, publishing it under the pseudonym Peter Towry in 1959. In later life he achieved widespread acclaim as the director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Ashmolean Museum.

Normally I would place the author information at the end of my piece but today I feel it is incredibly relevant to have a little snapshot into the author – this is the blurb on the back of the book early on. This is an incredible novel. One that not only captures time and place perfectly but one that deserves to be read by a whole new generation of readers. Lest we forget.

Synopsis

October 1941. Twenty-one-year-old Alan Mart is posted to India and taken under the wing of the dogmatic, overbearing Acting-Captain Sam Holl. Following the Japanese advance on Singapore, the men are deployed to Malaya. What follows is a quietly shattering and searingly authentic depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare and the indiscriminate nature of conflict.

My thoughts…

Some books can be written entirely from imagination. This is after all quite often how we all experience a great deal of what goes on in the world. A skilled writer will not necessarily have to experienced what they are writing about for it to be good – in my humble opinion. But, I have to say that with Trial By Battle, Piper has captured a moment in history so brilliantly that he, at times, moved me to tears. The situation, the location, the raw hideousness that is war all shine through in his writing. There is no fluffy filling, no unnecessary scenes. Each moment takes you straight on this journey with young Alan Mart. To know that the novel is born from experience makes it all the more compelling and heart-breaking. Piper was an excellent writer and his skill is evident within the pages of this short novel. Only 160 pages long but what he has created is a story one can never forget. I wonder if the writing was therapeutic for him. Was it difficult to write or a relief to put the words to paper? However he felt we can only be grateful that he put pen to paper so we can gain a better understanding of the horror of conflict and just what people went through.

The introduction by Alan Jeffreys is succinct, interesting and a super accompaniment to the novel. It highlights the quality of Piper’s writing and experience, giving you additional pause for thought.

I am so excited about this project and have been delighted to have my small part in sharing it. This is the first novel I have read in the Wartime Classics collection but I’m looking forward to continuing my part in the blog tours with Eight Hours From England and Plenty Under The Counter later this month. All four novels in the collection are published by the Imperial War Museum.

Trial by Battle IWM BT Poster

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Fiction, Literary, Relationship Stories, Review, Summer Reads

Do Not Feed The Bear by Rachel Elliott

Today I am so thrilled to help kick off the Random Things Tours Blog Tour for Do Not Feed The Bear by Rachel Elliott. My first thoughts upon finishing (as I hugged it close) – What a wonderful book!

On her forty-seventh birthday, Sydney Smith stands on a rooftop and prepares to
jump…

Sydney is a cartoonist and freerunner. Feet constantly twitching, always teetering on the edge of life, she’s never come to terms with the event that ripped her family apart when she was ten years old. And so, on a birthday that she doesn’t want to celebrate, she returns alone to St Ives to face up to her guilt and grief. It’s a trip that turns out to be life-changing – and not only for herself.

DO NOT FEED THE BEAR is a book about lives not yet lived, about the kindness of others and about how, when our worlds stop, we find a way to keep on moving.

A life-affirming novel of love, loss and letting go

– for readers of ELEANOR OLIPHANT,
THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP and WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT.

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Freerunning – there is something that feels quite liberating about it. Parkour UK describe the sport as something that ‘…aims to build confidence, determination, self-discipline and self-reliance, and responsibility for one’s actions. It encourages humility, respect for others and for one’s environment, self-expression, community spirit, and the importance of play, discovery and safety at all times.’ I have of course never personally done it (I don’t have the personal strength of both mind and body) but I found it interesting that throughout the novel Sydney has used it as a way to channel both her guilt and grief. She uses it as an escape, a way to disappear and yet it brings her into the spot light. It’s also something I have never encountered before in a novel and I love it.

As she is reaching her 47th birthday, Sydney returns to St Ives, the scene of a terrible tragedy in her childhood. Her grief is buried deep, as it has been for her family, never enabling them to quite move on. Life has a way of coming full circle though and soon events and people from the past creep back in bringing with it a sense of hope and, if not closure, then the ability to move on.

Do Not Feed The Bear is an exploration of grief and the effect it has on us. It’s funny but only a few days ago I listened to a Happy Place Podcast presented by the wonderful Fearne Cotton featuring the superbly inspiring, Elizabeth Gilbert. She spoke to Fearne about how damaging it can be to suppress our grief, to not allow it the voice it deserves, and as I listened I thought yes, that is so true. Over hundreds of years western society has shown us that it is weak to show our emotions, that they should be held in check and explored privately. Quite often we are afraid to allow ourselves that exploration, as if we may never be able to pull ourselves out again. It can be grief for the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one or the regret of an unfulfilled dream. There are different levels of grief and each and every one deserves our acknowledgment and the freedom to express them. This is touched on brilliantly in this wonderful novel.

This is a book that swept me up into it’s pages; a book that I wanted to hug and cherish all the time I was reading. The characters are unique and multifaceted and Rachel explores their present and their past so exquisitely that I felt bound to them and their journey. She steps perfectly into their minds bringing them alive on the page and oh, how I came to love them. In my minds eye they are still there, hopefully a little lighter in spirit since my time with them ended.

The shadow of events from that fateful summer in Sydney’s childhood has nurtured the pain of loss and this is keenly felt throughout. Yet this isn’t a dark book. Yes there is trauma and sadness and yet I never felt despair, I never felt that I couldn’t carry on reading. I felt their loss and yet Rachel writes with such tenderness and she encapsulates the sense that the dead and lost never really leave us. I found this extremely comforting.

When I’m reading a novel I often fold over corners of pages where a sentence or paragraph has particularly moved me (please don’t judge, I just never have my notebook to hand). There are many turned corners throughout my copy of Do Not Feed The Bear, the writing is stunning, so much care has been taken and every line, for me, was a joy to read. The beauty of the word structure and placement made me often pause and reflect. There is so, so much to connect to within this novel but at the very least there is a wonderful story told about life and the people we are and who we can be if we really want to.

I think one of my favourite characters is Stuart, an unusual but brilliantly written narrator but this story gives a voices to all of these wonderful characters and I urge you to grab yourself a copy and welcome them into your life.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and read the wonderful novel. Thanks also to Tinder Press for sending me the copy. You can follow Tinder Press on twitter at @TinderPress

Do Not Feed The Bear is published on the 8th August 2019 and will be available in Hardback (with a beautiful cover by the way), eBook and on Audiobook . The paperback edition will be coming in April 2020.
#DoNotFeedTheBear by Rachel Elliott Blog Tour with #RandomThingsTours and

About the author

Rachel Elliott

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Rachel Elliott is the author of WHISPERS THROUGH A MEGAPHONE, long-listed for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize in 2016. She is also a practising psychotherapist, and lives in Bath with her miniature schnauzer Henry.

Quickfire Questions with Rachel

Give us three adjectives to best describe your new novel.
Sad, tender, hopeful.

What are the three most important character traits of your protagonist?
Creativity, stubbornness, physical agility.

Where is the novel set?
St Ives, Cornwall, a reimagined version.

What were the last three things you Googled in the name of “research”?
• Did Lego spacemen have removable helmets in 1984?
• How many people could you fit inside a Vauxhall Cavalier?
• David Hockney’s pool paintings

Who is your biggest influence as a writer?
Everyday life is the biggest influence.

What word or phrase do you most overuse in your writing?
The words ridiculous and beautiful. Because I find so many things ridiculous and beautiful.

Who would you cast as your lead character if made into a film/TV?
Claire Danes would make an excellent Sydney Smith.

Do you have any hidden talents?
Unexpectedly, I’m quite handy with a pair of dog clippers, although my dog would disagree.

Which of your characters would you most like to have dinner with?
Belle Schaefer, a 29-year-old bookseller with an old soul. She’s a true outsider, yet a vital part of the community; she has an allotment, volunteers at an otter sanctuary, runs author events, drinks with all the old guys in a pub called the Black Hole. And every now and then, she steals things.

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Adult Fiction, Debut, Giveaway, Literary, Review, Summer Reads

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd

Today I’m delighted to chat about the wonderful debut novel from Alyson Rudd, the First Time Lauren Pailing Died. AND there is a giveaway at the end so do keep reading. 🙂

I remember a time when if fate had allowed I could have died.  It was many years ago now but the details are still as clear as if it happened only yesterday. It was Mother’s Day and I was cycling over to my parents house. I fell off my bike. I can still see myself falling and feel how I seemed to tumble in slow motion as I lost control of my bike and it toppled over. It was pretty busy that day and I fell to my right, straight into the path of the cars travelling alongside me. I still realise how lucky I was that the driver of the car was not distracted at that very moment or driving too fast. If he had been then Mothers Day could have ended very differently indeed and many things that now exist in this world, including my rather wonderful son, would not be here.

The possibility leaves me with a chill every now and then when I think of it. We all have those moments when life stands at a very obvious crossroads and can veer off into different directions. Of course we may not always notice them but they are often there. I found this a very interesting aspect of The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd. It’s something that has always fascinated me. Sliding Doors, a 1998 film staring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah that looked at different choices or situations taking us on different paths leading to a very different or possibly ultimately the same outcome – questioning if our fate is set to be the same no matter what route we take. It is a question that has been explored many times on stage, screen and in the written form and always inspires pause for thought.

In The First Time Lauren Pailing Died Lauren Pailing is a girl with an ordinary childhood but there is also something quite unusual about her which we discover as we gradually get to know her.  I loved the historical details weaved into the story as we watch her grow up as a much adored only child.  It brought back memories from my own childhood.

Alyson explores the different realities of Lauren’s life and what happens after she dies as a thirteen year old girl. I found her technique fascinating and loved the way the story was built around the parallel timelines.  She portrayed reactions to grief and loss in an incredibly touching and, at times, heartbreaking way.  The only constant between each life was the disappearance of Peter Stanning and gradually as the story unfolds we begin to understand what happened to him.  There are so many comparisons I could equate this story to but Alyson has created something wonderful and unique.  Because although at times the story can be sad, dark and thought provoking,  there is always a sense of hope and that resounding feeling that we leave our mark on this earth, no matter how short or long our stay here.

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died is published now by HQ and is available in Hardback, eBook and Audiobook, and would make a fantastic read this summer.

GIVEAWAY…

Now,  I have a hardback copy of this beautiful book to giveaway.  To be in with the chance to win please like AND comment on this post before Friday evening at 8pm UK time.  Your comment could just be to say hi but you need to do both to have your name put in the hat. 🙂  I’m afraid this giveaway is just for residents in the UK.

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The First Time Lauren failing Died by Alyson Rudd

Synopsis

Lauren Pailing is born in the sixties,

And a child of the seventies.

She is thirteen years old the first time she dies.

Lauren Pailing is a teenager in the eighties, becomes a Londoner in the nineties. And each time she dies, new lives begin for the people who loved her – while Lauren enters a brand new life, too.

But in each of Lauren’s lives, a man called Peter Stanning disappears. And, in each of her lives, Lauren sets out to find him.

And so it is that every ending is also a beginning. And so it is that, with each new beginning, Peter Stanning inches closer to being found…

Perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson and Maggie O’Farrell, The First Time Lauren Pailing Died is a book about loss, grief – and how, despite it not always feeling that way, every ending marks the start of something new.

About the author

Alyson Rudd

Alyson Rudd was born in Liverpool, raised in West Lancashire and educated at the London School of Economics. She is a sports journalist at The Times and lives in South West London.

She has written two works of non-fiction. The First Time Lauren Pailing Died is her first novel.

Find out more by visiting the HQ Stories website here.

Thanks so much to the lovely HQ Stories team for my review copy and for inviting me to discover more about their amazing titles at Destination HQ.

Thanks so much for reading.

 

 

 

Adult Fiction, Bookish Post, Debut, Fiction, Giveaway, Literary, Publisher Showcase

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd ~ Giveaway!

Last month I was lucky enough to visit #DestinationHQ for their summer showcase. The event has now been running for two years and I’ve been lucky enough to attend on both occasions. It’s a great evening where we get to hear about some fantastic new books and meet some equally fantastic authors (plus the lovely people at HQ). Oh and I get to enjoy this view…

There are some great titles coming this year, many of which I look forward to talking about on my blog over the coming weeks and months. One that immediately stuck out for me was The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd. Not only does it have the funkiest cover I have seen in quite some time but it also sounds incredibly intriguing. I’ll share the synopsis with you in a moment but suffice to say my ears pricked up when I heard that Lauren dies… lives again, dies… lives again, and so on. My interest was definitely piqued.

This is Alison’s debut novel and when I listened to her speak (having the nerve-wracking job of kicking off the author pitches) I was struck by how unassuming she was. Her story stood out and I immediately wanted to know more. At these events there are quite often proofs or advance reading copies of the books being chatted about. Unfortunately I missed out on the one of those on that evening but team HQStories responded to my desperate plea for a copy and, well to cut a long story short, I have ended up with two of these beautiful books. Now, even I, book hoarder extraordinaire, cannot justify keeping two copies and so I am going to give the extra away to one of you lucky lot. Generous gal aren’t I?

So if you fancy being the lucky recipient of this rather fabulous novel then read on dear reader and all will be revealed.

But first here is the synopsis…

Lauren Pailing is born in the sixties,

And a child of the seventies.

She is thirteen years old the first time she dies.

Lauren Pailing is a teenager in the eighties, becomes a Londoner in the nineties. And each time she dies, new lives begin for the people who loved her – while Lauren enters a brand new life, too.

But in each of Lauren’s lives, a man called Peter Stanning disappears. And, in each of her lives, Lauren sets out to find him.

And so it is that every ending is also a beginning. And so it is that, with each new beginning, Peter Stanning inches closer to being found…

Perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson and Maggie O’Farrell, The First Time Lauren Pailing Died is a book about loss, grief – and how, despite it not always feeling that way, every ending marks the start of something new.

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd has been sitting in my tbr pile since then. My reviewing pile has been pretty full of late but she has been whispering to me, urging me to pick her up and discover how Lauren died, how she came to live again and who the mysterious Peter Stanning is?

I am right in the middle of reading it now and it’s every bit as wonderful as I imagined it. Quirky, unusual with a very distinctive voice, at the moment I can’t see what where this story will go but Lauren has certainly got a hold of me and I am absolutely loving it!

So, a few weeks ago, as I stood at @DestinationHQ listening to the authors speak, my reading list gradually growing and growing, I realised what a fortunate young(ish) lady I am. This may no longer be my day job but I absolutely love it and I love writing about these wonderful books! And I also love that I’m now able to share this wonderful novel with you guys with a giveaway.

How do I win a copy!? I hear you cry. It’s simple… just like this post and pop a comment down below. If you’d like to give me a follow and share this post too then that would also be fabulous. That’s it except…

* This giveaway is open to residents of the UK only. One winner will be drawn at random on Monday 15th July 2019. Good luck!

About the author

Alyson Rudd

Alyson Rudd was born in Liverpool, raised in West Lancashire and educated at the London School of Economics. She is a sports journalist at The Times and lives in South West London.

She has written two works of non-fiction. The First Time Lauren Pailing Died is her first novel.

Find out more by visiting the HQ Stories website here.

Thanks so much to the lovely HQ Stories team for my review copy and for inviting me to discover more about their amazing titles at Destination HQ.

Thanks so much for reading.

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Historical Fiction, Literary

JSS BACH by Martin Goodman

Today I’m so thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for extraordinary JSS Bach by Martin Goodman

J SS Bach is the story of three generations of women from either side of Germany’s 20th Century horror story – one side, a Jewish family from Vienna, the other linked to a ranking Nazi official at Dachau concentration camp – who suffer the consequences of what men do. Fast forward to 1990s California, and two survivors from the families meet. Rosa is a young Australian musicologist; Otto is a world-famous composer and cellist. Music and history link them. A novel of music, the Holocaust, love, and a dog. The author’s writing is a wonderland, captivating and drawing the reader in to the presented world. Time becomes no object as a literary universe unfolds and carries the reader through eighty years, where emotions are real and raw and beautifully given.


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This is such an extraordinary novel and a beautiful piece of literary based on very real events.  A novel that is both beautiful and yet heartbreaking at the same time.  There is no shortage of books inspired by the holocaust and the horrors endured by the Jewish community living in Germany and beyond, but I feel that it is a story that needs to be told again and again and again.  Martin Goodman approaches the subject in a unique and beautiful direction.   This is not only an example of the evil that can be found in our world but also of the beauty.  Otto endured so much when taken to a concentration camp where he spent the early war years.  Through his story Martin explores the despicable treatment that the Jewish community faced in what the Nazi’s considered the need for ‘purity’.  How does one endure so much hate?  For Otto an escape into his love of music literally saves his life but in doing so also entwines his path with that of the wife of a German Nazi officer, the effects of which will be felt throughout the rest of his life.

This is an absolutely stunning novel that tackles this heavily covered subject with new vigour and fresh perspective.  The ripples of what happened during this time in history need to be remembered, now more than ever.  An absolutely stunning piece of writing that I thoroughly recommend.

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Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.  I am again stunned by the quality and beauty of the books you bring to me.

JSS Bach by Martin Goodman is published by Wrecking Ball Press 

About the author

Martin Goodman

1-5Martin Goodman was born in Leicester, and has lived and worked in China, Qatar, the USA, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy and France. Travel forms a large part of his writing: both for strictly travel-related books and also for novels and biographies. His first novel ON BENDED KNEES was shortlisted for the Whitbread prize, and his most recent biography SUFFER AND SURVIVE won 1st Prize, Basis of Medicine in the BMA Book Awards 2008. He is the Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Hull. He lives in Hull, London and the French Pyrenees. ‘Such narrow, narrow confines we live in. Every so often, one of us primates escapes these dimensions, as Martin Goodman did. All we can do is rattle the bars and look after him as he runs into the hills. We wait for his letters home.’; ~ The Los Angeles Times

Website : http://www.martingoodman.com/
Twitter : @MartinGoodman2

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Literary

A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

Today I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.

Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.

A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…

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Families can be incredibly complicated. They can bring us pain, happiness, relief, despair and security. These people who can take up such a large part of our lives, people who we don’t choose but that we are bound too. Helga captures this perfectly in The Modern Family.

When, during a family celebration, Liv, Ellen and Håkon discover that their parents are getting divorced there is naturally a massive fallout. Suddenly life is thrown completely off it’s axis and all are shaken by the effects. Everything they came to believe in is questioned. Blame is placed.

Most families have conflict. There is sibling rivalry amongst even the closest and quite often we become blind to the suffering of others, because ours always seems greater. This is one thing that struck me about this novel. The misunderstandings and the difficulty of looking at things through someone else’s eyes.

Helga has written the novel through the eyes of the three grown children. Each has a very distinct voice and each has a very different perspective to their family. It reminds us how complex these units of people are. There is such skill shown in the writing, you can feel the character (and their emotions) erupt from the page.

This is a beautiful novel, tinged with sadness but even during the heartbreak I felt the strength of the family. No matter what happened they were there for each other. This was never more apparent then at certain low points. For me it showed that no matter how fractured we become as life moves on and we each become our own person (and accept that our parents are too!), family can still be there. It may look a little different, but love and a shared history stand for an awful lot.

Another thing that stood out for me was the expectations quite often felt by children of their parents. Helga addresses this without pulling any punches, letting her characters show us in their raw, uncensored thoughts how easy it is to let expectations blind us. How our childlike feelings towards our parents can reoccur at any age.

A parent, generally, has a very specific role in our lives as adults: in this case to grow old quietly and to be consistent. What a shock when this is challenged by admitting, so late in life, that nothing is guaranteed and that, even at seventy, life can change so dramatically. The subject of age and how, in modern life, getting older doesn’t mean we simply stop dreaming of something more and suddenly what was right for our younger selves may no longer be so.

Therefore, this isn’t just a novel about the divorce of parents. It’s also about the complexities and struggles of modern life, and perhaps most of all it’s about embracing life and allowing those around us to do the same.

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A Modern Family is published in both eBook and Paperback by Orenda Books.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Orenda Books for my review copy.

About the author

Helga Flatland

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Helga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize.

She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.

You can follow Helga on Twitter at @HelgaFlatland

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Literary, Review

The Seventh Train By Jackie Carreira

Today I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for The Seventh Train by Jackie Carreira. This is a wonderfully touching and unique novel that I heartily recommend. It will forever change the way I look at trains and their passengers. Jackie proves that they are the perfect stage to find the fascinating, raw stories being carried out both around and within us.

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Moving from stage to page, The Seventh Train has taken the scenic route from Jackie Carreira’s award-winning play to a second novel that promises to be as well-received as the first (Sleeping Through War, 9781788038539) The Seventh Train is a ride – a ‘road movie’ on the railways. It’s a journey that Elizabeth invented; the only original thought she has ever had in her previously uneventful life. Unbeknown to her, she is not travelling alone. If only she’d pretended that the spare seat was taken. 

Although, by turns, hilarious and life-affirming, part of the story tackles serious issues of suicide and mental health, specifically the alarmingly high incidents on public transport. As Jackie says: “This is something that’s been in the news a lot recently, especially as suicide rates on the UK rail system increased by 9.1% last year. It’s a hugely important issue. Having said that, it’s not a gloomy novel at all, but actually full of hope and a good dose of wit!”

It’s a project that has been part of Jackie’s life for years. Originally conceived as a stage play, it was her theatrical debut and went on to become one of the winners of The Kenneth Branagh 10th Anniversary Award for New Drama at the Windsor Fringe Festival. From there, it just kept chugging along until it became the novel Jackie is releasing now. 

With a wonderfully eclectic cast of characters, The Seventh Train takes its
passengers on a journey from the tragic to the strange, arriving finally at hope.

By turns heart-breaking, thought-provoking and hilarious, this tale is a life-affirming exploration of the human spirit via the British railway timetable!

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I was intrigued by the idea of this novel. Not only has it been on quite a journey of it’s own but the premise of a ‘road movie on the railways’, a woman travelling alone and the eclectic mix of characters she meets along the way was enticing. There is an undercurrent of depression constantly beneath the surface. That sense that we are completely and utterly alone in our despair (or numbness) touched upon in a unique way as our protagonist Elizabeth believes that she is the only traveler on this particular journey.

This isn’t a dark novel though, far from it.  There is a wonderful lightness of touch with the writing. Suicide and depression are heavy subjects to convey and yet in a way The Seventh Train not about these things but surviving them. We meet Elizabeth at a low point in her life, she feels numb and doesn’t really know what she wants or where she wants to be. She just knows she wants to be anywhere but here. So begins a journey of ‘the seventh train’. In her own strange way this journey is her escape. She is in control but also not having to decide where to go. As I said, she doesn’t know where to go but simply wants to be anywhere but ‘here’.  There is something about Elizabeth that I found vaguely familiar. That sense of disappointment in life, of wanting to disappear and yet also wanting to be found. She is compelling company.

The Seventh Train began it’s journey as a short stage play with only two characters. It quickly travelled on eventually becoming a novel and, as Jackie states in the introduction, ‘picking up new passengers along the way’. The passengers of course are the story.  Her characterisation is wonderful and she brings each one of this strange mix of individuals to life through their own voices and stories. Elizabeth craves solitude but no matter how hard she tries to camouflage herself, to disappear amongst the generally detached commuters, someone begins to take notice.

This is an incredibly uplifting, well written novel. I absolutely adored being part of the journey. Suicide is a very difficult subject but Jackie’s skill as a writer gives an edge of hope rather than despair. The story did make me think. Not only about my own life but of those around me. People today generally walk in a bubble most of the time, plugged in to some device and as far removed from each other as is possible. The Seventh Train reminds us that we’re not alone. That each and every one of us is travelling on their own journey but there are always other travellers alongside us, even if we don’t see them at first. Some with eager eyes and hope and others with heads lowered barely caring where they end up. The important thing is that we don’t have to make that journey alone. There is always someone out there to share our story with. We just need to look up long enough to see them.

I do hope the stage version pops up on my own journey before too long. I’d absolutely love to see it. Perhaps even a television adaptation???

Many, many thanks to the fabulous Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.  This is a wonderful novel that I thoroughly enjoyed and I’m so pleased I can now tell people about it and send it further on it’s way.

About the author

Jackie Carreira

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Jackie Carreira is a writer, musician, designer, co-founder of Quirkhouse Theatre Company, and award-winning playwright. Born in Leicester, she moved to London as a baby and went to school in Hackney, but also spent part of her early childhood in Lisbon’s Old Quarter. Destiny thereby dictated that her formative years were heavily influenced by her working-class upbringing and cities beginning with the letter ‘L’, for some cosmic reason that she has not yet figured out.

Jackie now lives in the English county of Suffolk with her actor husband A J Deane, two cats and too many books. One of her favourite places to write is in railway cafes. The Seventh Train was originally born over several cappuccinos at Paddington station.

The Seventh Train is published by Matador where is can be purchased in paperback or ebook. It can also be ordered via your local indie bookshop or via Amazon.

You can discover more about Jackie via her website here.

You can follow Jackie on Twitter at @JCarreiraWriter.

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