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Fever At Dawn – Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Fever At Dawn by Peter Gardos, Translated by Elizabeth Szasz

An epic love story about a couple who got together writing letters while recovering  from  being liberated from concentration/enforced labour camps during WW2. I’ve read several first novels this year and apart from one other the rest have been a bitter disappointment. Fever At Dawn is a hit, a story to be savoured and a reminder there is a human story behind every refugee.






The  art of translation is a challenging one. Do translators get as much credit as they deserve for bringing other worlds to life? Elizabeth Szasz pulls it off with her  translation of Peter Gardos’ tribute to his parents early relationship. What a joy to read. Ultimately, it’s a love story but more importantly it tells the true story of how his Father, Miklos was given six months to live and defied all odds to recover. Instead, he was given the all clear six months later and went on to live for several decades. Yehhhhhhh.

Miklos is part-fantasist, part-survivor using all his skills and enthusiasm to woo Gardos’ mother  through a series of letters while they both recover in a Swedish therapeutic unit miles apart after the war has ended. Initially he simultaneously wrote to several woman from his Hungarian birth village in the hope that one would be the perfect partner for him. According to Gardos, he whittled it down quickly to his mother, Lili.

He was clearly a bit of a character and prepared to go to exhaustive lengths to engage his mother. The story behind their courtship  in Fever at Dawn  would seem unbelievable if it weren’t true.  A classic case of truth being stranger than fiction.

This is an extraordinary story.The  post-script to his father’s ideals and his wavering career post-war when he returned to Hungary were fascinating footnotes. How many survivors ended up with similarly disenchanted views and being ostracised again by their mother country?

The book looks compassionately at what it must have been like for survivors from the camps post-war, their guilt and the radical adjustments they had to make.

A thought-provoking read, I didn’t want it to end.


Fever at Dawn was published in hardback in early April 2016 by Doubleday – Transworld Publishers. It is available  online and all leading bookshops. The film was released late 2015.

Disclaimer: I was sent a proof copy for review. All opinions are mine.

Travel: Who dreams they’re Skiing?

When I can’t sleep or I’m bored I practise going down runs instead of counting sheep. These are the ones from Les Arcs 2000 I think of. Les Arcs 2000 is not the smartest resort in France.  It does offer perfect piste for all abilities, long runs where you can ski for hours and visit inter-connecting resorts (1950, 1800, 1600, Peysey amongst many others). You can even Heli-ski by being dropped off in Italy and ski back to the resort. The cost is about €50 and you need to book in advance Extremely family-friendly and fantastic views everywhere you ski. What more could you want?


Long runs from Les Arcs 2000 image image image image image image image

The Playground Mafia Book Review

The Playground Mafia is an interesting read. It’s essentially a series of profiles of different parents. Although both authors stress the characters are tongue in cheek i.e. not based on anyone they’ve met through their own playground experience I find it difficult to believe.

The book features 30 plus different  characters and I recognised them all. This is a book to read in small chunks. It might seem a bit far-fetched but if you have children you know it’s all true.

The Playground Mafia by Clare Christian and Elisabeth Kent published by John Blake Publishing. RRP £7.99

I was sent this book to review as part of the BritMums Book Club. All views are my own.

Interview with Author Cesca Major

Reviewed Cesca Major author of The Silent Hours novel earlier this year. It’s taken a while to post this but I think it’s a great honest, encouraging piece about remaining  true to yourself and retaining your authenticity to make sure good things happen.

Jac: I assume setting came first, how did you conceive the narrators, who came first,  which ones were easy and were any of them a challenge?

Cesca: Adeline came first – I felt the whole book revolved around her and the secrets she was keeping. Tristan was by far my favourite to write, I adore writing children and had to cut lots of his scenes as I could have gone on for hours..! I found the men challenging as I didn’t want them to be too feminine but at the same time I needed them to be distinctive from each other too.

Jac: The pace of the novel gathers momentum can you tell us more about how you develop this? Is it something you find easy or a challenge?

Cesca: The whole novel leads up to this one day in history and I think the hints and clues up to that point hopefully build, layer upon layer, until you are desperate to find out how it will end. You know something big is coming and I think the more you invest in the characters the more you worry for them and that helps the tension build.

Jac: Are you planning to use any of the main characters in future work?

Cesca: No I am not planning to return to THE SILENT HOURS or the people in it. I really needed to write their story but I think I have finished it now.

Jac: Did you write this foremost as a novel or as a work that could transfer to different medium eg audio, film and/or tv adaptation?

Cesca: I used to act and when I write I find myself picturing the scenes in a very vivid way and hearing their voices etc. I think it would make a great feature film as that is a really powerful medium. There have been some amazing WWII movies made in recent years and that would be the dream.

Jac: What are you working on now/next?

Cesca: I am finishing the first draft of my second novel THE LAST NIGHT. A story based in the present day and 1950s Devon. It follows the lives of two women and again is based on a true story.

Jac: What  is your typical writing day?

Cesca: I write best in the morning and I love writing in short sharp blasts with lots of breaks. I need caffeine and some kind of biscuit and I write directly onto my laptop after planning which scene I will tackle that day.

Jac: What  is your overriding advice to wannabe authors (aside from watching your videos)?

Cesca: It can’t be said enough – finish the first draft. Keep going. Then you can edit it, pull out themes, develop characters and work with something. Reward yourself too – it is hard to keep going but make sure you celebrate the small victories along the way.

Jac: Any advice re confidence/self-belief for emerging authors?

Cesca: Short story competitions really helped me to build my confidence. You can experiment and you can take risks and when you are placed or win you can learn from that. I would encourage wannabe writers to enter some.

Jac: What/who are your biggest literary, cultural, wider inspirations?

Cesca: History. I was a History teacher and have always been fascinated by ordinary people living in extraordinary times and want to explore their lives more. I read widely too and outside my genre so hopefully pick up tips from other writers with different strengths.

Jac: What are your other passions/ interests?

Cesca: I am a keen reader and love a long walk by the river near where I live, a good cream tea, a catch up with friends, a game of lacrosse, a round of golf (9 holes, the promise of a drink at the end) and seeing my family.

Jac: Did The Silent Hours  evolve the way you anticipated or was the completed novel quite different?

Cesca: It had even more people in it! I cut a character I was quite attached too and that was a strange moment. It did turn out how I imagined it though, I knew where it was headed.



You can follow Cesca @CescaWrites or  find her at







Review: A Better Man by Leah McLaren

Leah McLaren's A Better Man







There has been so much in the press recently about calculating husband’s misleading courts about their assets in divorce courts in the UK. Leah McLaren’s second novel, A Better Man is a searing insight into one modern marriage where the husband coolly and coldly calculates that by improving his behaviour his wife will be likely to receive less in a divorce settlement.

Not sure if McLaren  realised how prescient  this novel would be, but great timing. Nick is a bored, dissatisfied schemer who has everything on paper but is as shallow as water dripping onto their smart kitchen work surface. Maya, his wife is an obsessive nurturing mother who is isolated after leaving her role as a family lawyer to concentrate on bringing up their children. Her skills as a lawyer come in handy when she finds out Nick’s improved behaviour is part of a strategy to leverage as much money from the divorce as possible.

This an incisive, well-written novel dissecting a modern marriage.  Told mainly from Nick’s perspective the novel illustrates how you can have all the money in the world but it ain’t necessarily going to make you happy or satisfied.

A Better Man by Leah McLaren is available to buy online and at all good bookshops RRP £7.99

This novel was reviewed as part of the BritMums Book Club. All views are my own.

Deliciously Ella: A Guide to improving your health

Book Review:

Ella Woodward’s proactive approach to healthy living and good health clearly resonates with people. For those unfamiliar with her story she turned around her deteriating health by adopting a new plant based diet and committing to blogging 3 recipes a week. Her blog took off and she truly turned a dire health situation into being a  proactive health advocate as well as a hugely successful blogger with a passionate and loyal following.


Her book Deliciously Ella hit the bestseller lists as soon as it was

A Guide to plant based nutrition

A Guide to plant based nutrition

published. I’ve bought at least 20 books on plant based health and can say from the heart if I had to choose one it would be this as her recipes work. They range from simple to moderate, ingredients can be sourced online if needed and the finished meals are tasty and satisfying. Without her I wouldn’t have discovered the spiraliser until two  years on when prices increased.

Recipes we’ve tried include Avocado Brownies, Peach Smoothies (my daughter says this is the best one she’s made so far) and Brasil Nut and Rocket Pesto – delicious even though it might sound a bit strange.

Ella is leading the keynote session this Saturday at BritMums Live and I can’t wait to hear about her health and blogging journey.

Deliciously Ella is published by Yellow Kite and is available as a book or ebook. It’s listed in this week’s Sunday Times as a Manual with over 100k sales since publication.














Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy. These views are my own and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to anyone seeking to improve their diet.