Blog Tour, Memoir

Ring The Hill

Today I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for the wonderful Ring the Hill by Tom Cox.

Synopsis

A hill is not a mountain. You climb it for you, then you put it quietly inside you, in a cupboard marked ‘Quite A Lot Of Hills’ where it makes its infinitesimal mark on who you are.

Ring the Hill is a book written around, and about, hills: it includes a northern hill, a hill that never ends and the smallest hill in England. Each chapter takes a type of hill – whether it’s a knoll, cap, cliff, tor or even a mere bump – as a starting point for one of Tom’s characteristically
unpredictable and wide-ranging explorations.

Tom’s lyrical, candid prose roams from an intimate relationship with a particular cove on the south coast, to meditations on his great-grandmother and a lesson on what goes into the mapping of hills themselves. Because a good walk in the hills is never just about the hills: you never know where it might lead.

1-1

My thoughts

I’ve been a follower and admirer of Tom’s writing for quite some time now.  I fell in love with his cats whilst following their antics on facebook and twitter, was unnerved and chilled by his collection of creepy short stories in Help the Witch and came to know him and our wonderful country a little better in 21st-Century Yokel.  He also writes regularly on his website and I have to say that each and every article is thought-provoking and interesting.  I feel that if I was ever to meet him in real life I would possibly feel like I was seeing an old friend.  He is possibly used to this reaction from complete strangers though as his following seems to be growing and growing.

His latest book is a kind of memoir.  Ring the Hill, as it states in the synopsis, is about hills, or is it?  I received my copy on Friday.  Although I knew that I would be writing this piece for the blog tour, I felt that I didn’t want to be rushed with my reading.  It is such a delight to delve in to.  Tom writes beautifully and he conjures up the most wonderful images of his world… no, our world, the world we often miss when we’re always busy, never just stopping and taking it all in.

He is incredibly knowledgeable, humourous (I loved how he described being outdressed by Clarence the pheasant!) and has such a connection with our world and nature that you can’t help but feed off of his enthusiasm. When he moves into a house he invests himself completely in the area and through his books brings them to us with a smattering of history and also anecdotes from his own adventures.  After reading 21st-Century Yokel, it was a joy to hear about his parents again.  I especially love the way his dad always TALKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS.  At the root of it all is real affection and it is, as always, lovely to read.  One of my favourite sections was reading about Steve and Johanna and their pilgrimage to the Tor, a place I have seen many times when driving towards the West Country and a place I have visited once. His books make me want to get out and explore this beautiful country even more.  I also want to go out and buy an OS map for my local area and get out and explore it too. It’s amazing how much we miss just by ‘living’ somewhere. Who knows what I might discover… Tom always reawakens my interest in the world immediately surrounding me. We miss so much as we wonder through life with our noses pointed towards our phones or rushing from one task to another, Ring the Hill reminds us to stop and take a breathe.  Wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated this is absolutely perfect for the coming autumnal evenings.

About the author

1-2Tom Cox lives in Norfolk. He is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling The Good, The Bad and The Furry and the William Hill Sports Book longlisted Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia. 21st-Century Yokel was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize, and the titular story of Help the Witch won a Shirley Jackson Award.

 

You can follow Tom on Twitter at @cox_tom

Thank you to the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

1

Advertisements
Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Thriller

Eight Hours From England by Anthony Quayle

Today marks the end of a uniquely special month of blog tours celebrating the publication of the IWM Wartime Classics collection and I’m thrilled to be taking part to chat about this amazing collection and especially, Eight Hours From England by Anthony Quayle.

How do people cope with the experience of being at war? Those on enemy soil and those at home? For many it was a period left unspoken, the memories too difficult to share. Then there are others who found another creative outlet to release those memories. Surely sometimes talking about such difficult experiences may be easier when giving them to a fictional character. These four books from the Wartime classics collection show us just what can be created when stories are written from personal experience. These authentic, engrossing reads give you a unique insight into life at this time. There is something very personal about the stories and as I read them I feel that each author has captured the reality of the Second World War brilliantly.

Perfect for lovers of historical fiction but also scholars and students who may be trying to make sense of how the world was through the eyes of those who really lived it.

Eight Hours From England by Anthony Quayle

img_0245

Synopsis

Autumn 1943. Realising that his feeling for his sweetheart are not reciprocated, Major John Overton accepts a posting behind enemy lines in Nazi-Occupied Albania. Arriving to find the situation in disarray, he attempts to overcome geographical challenges and political intrigues to set up a new camp in the mountains overlooking the Adriatic.

As he struggles to complete his mission amidst a chaotic backdrop, Overton is left to ruminate on loyalty, comradeship and his own future.

Based on Anthony Quayle’s own wartime experience with the Special Operations Executive (SOE), this new edition of a 1945 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds new light on the fascinating true events that inspired its author.

*

My thoughts

I remember lazy Sunday afternoons as a child.  Sunday roast and family time falling asleep in front of the TV watching a Bond or old war movie.  No doubt The Guns of Navarone would have been one such film but I don’t really recall.  As a young child I would have just thought of it as a piece of fiction,  I certainly wouldn’t have thought that the actors involved had actually served in the war.  Of course there was every possibility. In fact as I’ve grown older and learnt so much more about that time and the films and books that was born from it I realise that a great many of the actors probably drew on personal experience when acting.  Anthony Quayle was one such actor.

This novel, according to Alan Jeffreys in the introduction, was so well received when it was originally published back in 1945 that the author did consider turning from his acting career and becoming a writer.  He decided that he didn’t have enough experience for further endeavour and so continued with his wonderful acting career, which was I’m sure to great relief of the acting world.  He was incredibly well respected and within this novel we can see that his talents extended to the written word.  As with the other three novels in this collection, Eight Hours From England gives us a close up and personal view of the Second World War.  This time we are travelling to Nazi-Occupied Albania and the life as part of the SOE.

The introduction as with the previous titles is informative and enticing.  Alan Jeffreys informs us that this novel is so close to Anthony’s own experience that it’s almost a memoir.  This novel, just like the others, have given me an even greater insight into this time in history.  Yet it’s also an excellent novel, a thrilling read and one that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page.

This is an absolutely brilliant series. I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of these blog tours. I am so grateful for the IWM for bringing these stories back into print for a new generation to enjoy and to make sure they are not forgotten. I have purchased the entire series for my school library for both staff and older students to enjoy and my personal copies will remain firmly amongst my own collection.

Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in these tours and also to the Imperial War Museum for my review copies.

About the author

This is information taken from Eight Hours From England.

img_0246Anthony Quayle (1913-1989) was a successful British actor and theatre director, well known for his roles in classic plays on the stage as well as his film career. After appearing in music hall he joined the Old Vic in 1932, touring in various productions before the outbreak of the Second World War.

During the war Quayle served in the Royal Artillery, and later joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE), whence he was deployed to Albania, Eight Hours from England, is a fictionalised account of Quayle’s time behind enemy lines there. He also wrote a later novel, On Such a Night, about his time with the British Army in Gibraltar.

After the war Quayle returned to the stage. From 1948 to 1956 he was the director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, laying the foundations for the creation of the Royal Shakespeare Company and helping to establish Stratford-on-Avon as a major centre of British theatre.

Quayle’s screen career began on 1938 and he appeared in many classic films such as Ice Cold in Alex (1958), The Guns of Navarone (1961), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Quayle received both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his role in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), and his towering stage career took him around the world to both popular and critical acclaim. He was knighted in 1985.

About IWM

IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.

Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.

IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, IWM’s flagship branch that recently transformed with new, permanent and free First World War Galleries alongside new displays across the iconic Atrium to mark the Centenary of the First World War; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.

Want to find out more about the books in this series?  Check out my other articles for Plenty Under the Counter and Trial by Battle

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Thriller

Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson.

Synopsis

The third book in the award-winning, critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, featuring true-crime writer Alexis Castells and profiler Emily Roy.

Previous titles in the series, Block 46 and Keeper, have won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balaid’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards and sold in 19 countries. A French, Swedish and English TV series is in production, adapted by and starring award-winning French actress Alexandra Lamy.

Spain, 1938

The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Teresa witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Teresa gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016

A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells, and they soon find themselves on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer, in an investigation that takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule…

1

My thoughts

Back in April 2018 I read and reviewed Keeper, the second instalment in the Roy & Castells series.  I absolutely loved it and so have been waiting in anticipation to see what would come next.  Johana Gustawsson is fast becoming one of my favourite crime writers.  She just sweeps me away with the story.  These ain’t no light hearted old fashioned crime novels.  They reach right in and grab you by the heart.  She brings the horror of the past into our modern world reminding us that these events remain with us, that the effects are still being felt.

The backdrop may be Franco’s dictatorship in which so many suffered and died but Johana shines a light on the evil amongst us that feed off of those darks times to satisfy there own ends.  Within her novel we see the pain and suffering of the innocent at the hands of those who should be sheltering and protecting them.  There were times when I wondered how one human being could do something so hideous to another.  There are parts that are quite distressing but Johana does not embellish or glorify those.  She brings them to the page with an eloquent, expert hand.  The historical aspects are brilliantly portrayed as she focuses on the effects on the everyday people, the victims of the heinous times. Do monsters breed monsters or are they living within us waiting to be unleashed.

Johana’s novels have strong, smart and professional female protagonists.  I like them very much.  There is a tenderness behind their steely professional exterior that add an interesting dimension to the story. After Aliénor’s family are brutally murdered profiler, Emily and writer, Alexis set out to track down the perpetrator.  Is it a serial killer satisfying a sadistic need or is there a more personal motive behind the killings?  We move back and forth between the present and the past as the crime takes us from Sweden to the blood soaked streets of Franco’s Spain.

I really can’t praise this highly enough.  It is a superb, engrossing read.  I am normally a lover of a paperback but on this occasion I was oh so grateful to be reading it on eBook so I could read on into the night whilst the rest of the house slept.  If you haven’t discovered this series yet then I strongly urge you to seek it out. I really don’t think there is an absolute need to read them from the start to finish but really, they are all fantastic so why stop at just one.  I’m excited to read that a TV adaptation is underway. I think it could make for some very exciting viewing.  Now I just need to to wait for the next novel…I do hope there is going to be one.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.  I haven’t read one book by this publisher that I haven’t loved and this one is right up there with the best. They are an amazing team and their translators are heroes, bringing the authors stories to us and capturing every nail biting moment perfectly. Loved it, loved it, loved it!

About the author

Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons. She drew on her own experience of fertility clinics and IVF to write Blood Song and is happy to speak and write pieces about this.

1-3

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Plenty Under The Counter by Kathleen Hewitt

Today I’m so delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt. This novel is one of four war time classics being brought to new readers by the Imperial War Museum.

1

Synopsis

London, 1942, Flight-Lieutenant David Heron, home on a convalescent leave, awakes to the news that a murder victim has been discovered in the garden of his boarding house.  With a week until his service resumes, David sets out to solve the murder.  Drawn into a world of mystery and double-dealing, he soon realises that there is more than meets the eye, and that wartime London is a place where opportunism and the black market are able to thrive.  Can he solve the mystery before his return to the skies?

Inspired by Kathleen Hewitt’s own experience of wartime London, this new edition of a 1943 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds light on the fascinating true events that so influenced its author.

My thoughts

I do love a murder mystery and so was delighted when I discovered one of the four titles released in this project was one.  Often war on the frontline is covered in stories but this looks at the war from the Homefront.  Whilst men were away fighting life carried on whilst we hear plenty about the wartime spirit there were also plenty that took advantage of this difficult time.  Whilst many sheltered from the bombings others used the blackouts and misfortune of others to their own end.  This story shows that darker side, the side of a society pushed to their limits with the fear of the nightly raids, rationing and separation from their loved ones, and the criminals who take advantage of them.

Right from the get go the story drags you in with the discovery of a body.  David Heron is our protagonist and he becomes determined to help solve the crime.  The thing I liked most about this novel is that it perfectly sets the scene for battle worn London.  This wonderful series written by those who lived and breathed it captures the feeling and atmosphere of the time.  Kathleen Hewitt is a talented writer and I’m so delighted to have been able to read her work thanks to the IWM.  I read with interest the introduction written by Alan Jeffreys and I find her a fascinating woman.  I would definitely love to know more about her, not just her work but life in London.  We do get a glimpse of this in her writing.  Her plot is intriguing and her characters engaging.  Humour is splattered throughout and yet there is the undertone of the hardship that the war brought so many of the people simply trying to survive it.  We now know that the war eventually ended but at this time they had no idea how it would turn out.  This is a gripping murder mystery that perfectly captures a slice of British history and brings the realities of war on the Homefront to life.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to the IWM for my review copy.  I have already brought a copy all four of these titles for our school library and I look forward to sharing them with students and staff.

About the author

1-2

Kathleen Hewitt (1893-1980) was a British author who wrote more than twenty novels in her lifetime, mainly in the mystery and thriller genre.  During the Second World War she lived in Marylebone, and belonged to the The Olde Ham Bone, a bohemian club in Soho, as well as frequenting the Ivy, the Cafe Royal and the Pen Club.  Hewitt enjoyed friendships with many literary and artistic figures of the day including Olga Lehman and the poet Roy Campbell.

 

1-1

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 have launched 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

unnamed

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Thriller

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone

Today I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone.  This is an absolute must read for lovers of psychological thrillers.

1

Synopsis

In this powerful new thriller, Michael J Malone returns to A Suitable Lie territory, movingly and perceptively addressing a shocking social issue. Chilling, perceptive
and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home. Following a massive stroke, she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again. With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

In a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover. For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence…

My thoughts

‘Superb’ springs to mind when I think of how to describe this novel.  It’s an absolutely chilling read and right from the moment John discovered that single, mysterious shoe I was absolutely enthralled with the story.  Any parent will admit that a child disappearing is their worst fear.  never knowing what happened to them?  How can anyone deal with such a thing?  And yet there is so much more to this story then that.  The mystery surrounding the family is intriguing and throughout the novel a darkness is hinted at with whispers of memories hidden, memories that are bound to erupt above the surface leaving catastrophe in their wake.

John is an interesting character and you know that there is so much going on there, he is struggling with something but he doesn’t know what.  All he knows is that drink and avoidance keep him sane. He craves normality.  A good job and a woman to love but something is holding him back.  The self destruct button is never far away.   Life begins to spiral out of control as he begins to investigate a brother he has no memory of.  So what happens when the memories can no longer be avoided, what happens when they begin to return?

This was a fantastic page turner and one that I really didn’t want to put down.  Another fantastic novel from the team at Orenda Books and another author that I can add to my ‘must read!’ list.

Thank you so much to the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Orenda Books for my review copy.  Another absolute cracker you guys!

About the author

1-1Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

unnamed-2

 

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut

Johnny Ruin by Dan Dalton

Today is a glorious day. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Johnny Ruin by Dan Dalton.

Synopsis

Depression can be hell.

Heartbroken and lonely, the narrator has made an attempt on his own life. Whether he meant to or not he can’t say. But now he’s stuck in his own head, and time is running out.

To save himself, he embarks on a journey across an imagined America, one haunted by his doomed relationship and the memory of a road trip that ended in tragedy.

Help arrives in the guise of Jon Bon Jovi, rock star and childhood hero. An unlikely spirit guide, perhaps, but he’s going to give it a shot…

1-5

My thoughts…

Now to be honest there is a lot of strong language and sexual references in this book. The language is crude and raw at times but can I just say that it is oh so beautiful. Dan’s writing is eloquent and emotive. I was absorbed into the storytelling by the strange surreal, nightmarish quality. It is absolutely compelling, poetic and powerful. Dan shows such sensitivity that he moved me to tears on more than one occasion. Johnny Ruin is an absolutely stunning read that will grab you hard by the heart and soul.

One line that particularly stands out for me ‘I thought you’d be taller‘. Read the book and find it yourself. Perhaps you’ll see what I mean but to me this one sentence encapsulates depression perfectly. It looms over life filling it with shadow and sadness before attaching itself, heavy and suffocating. Dan has written depression in it’s very darkest moments, he gives it a form and in that is turning it into something that can be defeated. It can try to hide from the light but it will be found. Despair can feel overwhelming and Johnny Ruin shows this but it also shows that there is still life out there even in times when we feel there is no future. This is a story of broken hearts and broken dreams but most of all it’s a story about finding your way, even through the dark.

Johnny Ruin has been published by Unbound and is available in hardback, paperback, eBook and audiobook.

Many thanks to the wonderful Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. Many thanks also to Dan and the lovely people at Unbound for sending me a review copy.

About the author

Dan Dalton

1-3Dan Dalton is a writer and freelance journalist covering books and pop culture. He is a former Staff Writer at BuzzFeed.

A graduate of the University of Leeds, he was born in West Yorkshire, and lives in North London.

You can follow Dan on Twitter at @wordsbydan

 

 

unnamed-1

 

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.

1-3

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

1

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.

1-4