Tag Archives: Books

Review – Sweet Caress by William Boyd

Is the central character based on Lee Miller?


Amory Clay – She did it her way

Combining fiction and uncredited photos to reflect the narrative is a smart, fun route making a believable photo-journalist who was at many defining events through the 20th century.

Amory Clay recounts her life through a series of journals linked to her later life in the Scottish highlands. From society portraiture, Berlin pre-war and Vietnam she was on the periphery of so many global defining events until you remind yourself she is a fictional character.

This is a clever, well-written book and like all the best authors Boyd makes it look so easy.

A mesmerising read.

Sweet Caress by William Boyd published by Bloomsbury.

Available in hardback and paperback from all leading bookshops and online.


Books – The Girl on the Train

What is all the fuss about? Paula Hawkin’s first novel is mesmerising and acutely accomplished. I started reading this out of desperation after several disappointing ‘first’ novels. I needed a comfort blanket or something that was so well written it would reinstall faith in the power of literature and creation of credible complex characters like Rachel. It did. I discovered a heroine that most could relate to and like life lots of surprises on the way.

The Girl on the Train is the best first novel I've read so far this year

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 www.cescamajor.com







The Buddha In The Attic – Julie Otsuka

The Buddha In The Attic – Julie Otsuka


Some of the best things come in small, slight packages. The Buddha In The Attic ticks these boxes.  A collective, lyrical narrative about Japanese mail-order brides travelling to the US recounting very different stories and experiences as a collective narrative in such a slim book is no mean feat. It left me and the other members of the @BritMums Book Club wanting more.

The book tells us in a very short time how difficult and challenging it must be to be removed from one culture and thrown into a completely different one. Stories of love, abuse, abandonment, wealth, poverty and great hardship are told in gentle, poetic strokes. The Japanese experience  at this time in the US was quite diverse until the internment of Japanese nationals after Pearl Harbour. Then it was consistently cruel ripping people from their communities. Absolutely terrifying. A great read.

Exterior of Daunt Books Fulham Road, London


For the rest of  summer reading I’m looking forward to Otsuka’s first novel When the Emperor Was Divine and Damian Barr’s Maggie and Me brilliantly serialised on BBC Radio 4 recently. Damian’s Biography charts his life while growing up under the shadow of Margaret Thatcher. Anyone as charming and funny as Damian deserves to be read and this will be my non-fiction reading over the next couple of weeks.

You can catch Damian talking about Memoir Writing  with members of BritMums here and find out about his Literary Salon –  a great idea.

Disclaimer:  As Editor of BritMums Book Club I recieved a  review copy of the book for free (as do the first 100 UK based members who sign up for a review copy). I will be buying a copy of Maggie and Me from my local independent book shop and  thank Jen Howse from Jenography and Co-founder of BritMums  for introducing me to another interesting author.

The Buddha In The Attic by Julie Otsuka published by Penguin £7.99 RRP  UK Sterling

Honour – Elif Shafak




Honour Elif Shafak UK Paperback



This week on @BritMums the first discussion started on Elif Shafak’s novel Honour. Set in Turkey and London during the 1970s and present day it explores the nature of family secrets and what constitutes “Honour” in some cultures. How far would you go to protect your family honour within a community? It’s a beautifully  written, rich novel to read in terms of characterisation, description and the immigrant experience  but ultimately for me it stresses that most of us are “outsiders” and/or “others” (including me).


Shafak is smart  and has a great love of language regularly speaking at global cultural events such as TED Talks, but she is also a craftswoman as first and foremost it is a heart-rending novel. The chain of events and the importance and legacy of shared family history for many is meaningfully shared. I don’t want to give too much about the great storyline as you can read that in the broadsheet reviews online. However, I would highly recommend this novel for anyone looking for a thought-provoking read. I haven’t stopped thinking about it.




Penguin Books kindly sent me a preview copy as Editor of the BritMums Book Club. The Book Club provides the first 100 BritMums Parent Bloggers to register on a monthly basis with a preview copy. If you are a Parent Blogger and haven’t already joined you can register here. Link to the novel above is a substantial review from a reliable broadsheet. I don’t have any link with TED Talks but it is worth knowing about as they have so many inspiring speakers and you can access the films for free – no brainer really!