Rebecca McCormick. Powered by Blogger.

The Girls Who Disappeared by Claire Douglas - Review

Monday, October 31, 2022

I requested this book on Netgalley so thank you very much to Penguin Random House for granting this to me. I received an electronic copy of the book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. The book was published on the 15th of September so is available now.

I was intrigued by the premise of this book which is why I requested it. I haven't read anything else by Claire Douglas but I've heard a few people raving about The Couple at Number 9 so I might request that from the library. 

Right at the beginning of the book is a flashback. Olivia is eighteen and driving her friends Sally, Hetty, and Tamzin home from the club they've been to. They're driving down a road outside their town called Devil's Corridor when Olivia sees a man in a hood in the road, and swerves to avoid him. She crashes the car, and when she wakes up, she is trapped in the car by the steering column. But the girls are gone. Olivia is rescued by a man called Ralph, who is a bit of an oddball, and has to undergo surgery. But the girls she was with are never seen again.

Twenty years later a journalist called Jenna is heading to the town to record a podcast about the case. She is pretty sure Olivia won't talk to her but others will. The town is called Stafferbury and it's obviously loosely based on Avebury as it has some ancient standing stones in it, and there are plenty of rumours of strange happenings, especially on Devil's Corridor. Jenna finds it creepy the moment she arrives, when she meets Ralph Middleton herself. She is staying in a cabin in the woods and she's certain there's someone in the cabin next door, even though the cabins' owner says there isn't. She meets with an ex police officer and then a current officer, trying to get to the bottom of what happened that night twenty years ago. But someone isn't happy about this...

Meawhile we also get parts from Olivia's point of view. She is now thirty eight and living with her mother. The two of them run a stables together. She has a boyfriend, Wesley, who she has been with since before the accident. He wants them to move in together but Olivia has misgivings about this. He treats her like a child and is keeping secrets from her. Olivia has been left permanently injured by the accident and feels like she's had a bit of a stilted life. 

Meanwhile again, there are flashbacks to eight friends, led by Stace, going on holiday to Thailand to visit a friend of one of them. Things quickly go south. It's not obvious for ages how these parts of the book fit in with the rest, but I liked the reveal.

All in all I'm giving this four out of five as I enjoyed it!

What July Knew by Emily Koch - Review

Friday, October 28, 2022

I previously read and reviewed Keep Him Close by Emily Koch, so when I got an email from Penguin Random House offering me the chance to read her new book, I jumped at it. Thank you to Penguin Randon House for allowing me to read the book for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

So, July lives by the seaside with her dad, Mick, her stepmother, Auntie Shell, and her stepsister, Sylvie, who is also in her class at school. It's July's tenth birthday, right at the end of the summer term, and the class is set a project over the summer to write something about a relative in their family. The teacher encourages July to write about her mum, who July barely remembers, and who died in a car crash on July's second birthday. July knows though that her dad will be angry if she does, because in ten years of her life she has only managed to learn eighteen things about her mum, things which she keeps written down in one of her Big Lists. She tries to decide on someone else, but then she gets a note that says 'your mum didn't die in a car crash'. July gets a bike for her birthday, from her mum's mum Yaya, which means she can go off and explore the place where she and her parents used to live. 

Things are not good at home. July's dad Mick is abusive towards her, telling her each time that he is teaching her a Lesson so that she learns how not to piss him off. The abuse is pretty bad, and gets worse throughout the book. Shelley lives on tenterhooks around him to try to keep the peace between him and July, meaning she blows hot and cold on July in a way that is sometimes confusing. Similar goes for Sylvie - at school the two girls barely speak, and often Sylvie seems to be Mick's favourite. But Sylvie does give July some information that sets her off on the trek to find out more about her mum.

The book is mostly set in 1995, in the middle of a heatwave, and that oppressive heat does hang over the whole book. There are also letters set later, which make the reader assume some things, which I liked a lot. One of my criticisms is that I think there were a few things which were anachronistic for 1995 - I was 11 that year so I remember it well and remember being almost July's age. My other criticism is that July and Sylvie skewed a little bit older than ten years old to me. I think if they had been twelve years old I would have found that much more believable. But neither of these things was a big deal because I really liked the book and was compelled to keep reading it. 

I'm giving this four out of five and am looking forward to what Emily writes next!

How to Be More Hedgehog by Anne-Marie Conway - Review

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

UCLAN Publishing are the brains behind Northern YA Lit Fest, so I've bought a few of their books when I've been at the festival, and am generally supportive of what they're publishing. So when How to Be More Hedgehog turned up on Netgalley I requested it immediately! The book was published on the 1st of September so is available now. I was provided with a free electronic copy of the book for review purposes  but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Lily is ten years old and lives with her mum and her older brother Dillon who is around thirteen. Their dad left the famiyl a few years ago and is now living in Scotland with his new partner, Abi. He is a park ranger in Loch Lomond and Abi is pregnant, which Lily is excited about. But Dillon isn't, and he hasn't spoken to their dad in quite a while. Lily's best friends are Mia, Leanne, and Sascha, but throughout the book their friendships change. At the beginning of term after Christmas Lily's class they have a new teacher, Mr Daley.

And this is where the problem is - Lily has a stammer. 'D' is one of her enemy letters that she often struggles with. She struggles to speak to him to introduce herself. She later writes to him about how she has enemy letters, which he interprets as a 'cry for help'. Lily is referred for speech therapy. Her mum mostly ignores her stammer, refusing to believe that it's much of a problem, and often cuts off Lily's sentences when she's struggling, which annoys her. 

Mia and Lily get put together to do a project about the environment. They choose plastic in the oceans to talk about, and have a brilliant idea about how to show what they're talking about. But Mia - who is often dismissive of Lily anyway - says she doesn't want Lily to do any of the presentation they have to do, because she is too worried about Lily's stammer. 

Dillon does something horrendous to Lily which unravels the rest of the book. I loved this part - it was a true betrayal and I liked how it got resolved and how it showed conflict between siblings. I loved how Lily came to know herself so much better, I liked how the book resolved itself. Being in Year 6 is tricky and I loved how that was shown, alongside all the stuff about friendships and growing up. This is an excellent middle grade book and I would thoroughly recommend it. 

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman - Review

Sunday, October 23, 2022

I have previously read and reviewed The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman, so I picked up the third book not long after it came out. I don't love books by celebrity authors, but I do think Richard is a better writer than some. I did complain because in the first book there were 99 instance of the word 'agrees' within three hundred pages. You can just use the word said! Said is fine! It's more than fine! It was a tic that should have been edited out, but wasn't. However, that word is barely evident here which I'm really glad about. I do feel like the book is still ridiculously written - it's very tongue in cheek and while it is a 'cosy' mystery, that word barely encapsulates how twee it can be in parts. I rolled my eyes a lot.

And yet I found the book compelling and wanted to continue reading it, so it can't be all bad, can it? I will read the next one in the series too, we all know I will. So I'll shush.

The Thursday Murder Club is made up of four retirees who live in the same retirement complex. They are Elizabeth, an ex MI5 spy, Joyce, who's point of view we get in her diary entries, and who misses her late husband Gerry a lot, Ibrahim, a clinical psychologist, and Roy, who I love. They have been looking at the murder ten years previously of a news presenter called Bethany Waites. She was investigating a huge VAT fraud and seemed to be getting close to the ringleaders, when her car was driven off a cliff and she is presumably dead. Her co presenter, Mike Wagthorn, speaks to the group about her death. 

Meanwhile Elizabeth and her husband Stephen, who has dementia, which is a very sad part of the books, are kidnapped and taken to a house belonging to a tall Swedish man that Elizabeth nicknames The Viking. He says that he needs her to kill an ex KGB controller, Viktor something, and if she doesn't, he will kill Joyce. Elizabeth is obviously upset by this and doesn't entirely know what to do. 

Ibrahim goes to visit Connie Johnson in prison - she is the baddie in one of the earlier books and is now living a cushy life in prison, where she has all the warders under her control (I'm not sure how realistic this is, but there we go). Ibrahim asks her to speak to a woman called Heather, who is the only person who was prosecuted over the VAT fraud and is currently in prison. Connie does speak to her, but she is then found dead, having left a note where she said she needed help from Connie.

Then there's the police officers Chris and Donna. Donna has started seeing Bogdan, the odd job man at the retirement village. They are keeping it under wraps but everyone has guessed. Donna is happy about the relationship, which is quite cute. Chris is still seeing Donna's mother, Patrice, and he totally thinks that she has turned his life around. I actually find this quite annoying, but there we are. 

I thought the mystery had some good twists and turns. I liked Roy's friendship with notorious gangster Jack Mason. I guessed some of the twists but not others. I wonder who out of the new characters might make it into the fourth book. I'm giving this four out of five. 

The Miraculous Sweetmakers #1: The Frost Fair by Natasha Hastings - Blog Tour and Review

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Hello and welcome to my blog for my stop on the blog tour for The Miraculous Sweetmakers #1: The Frost Fair! It is a pleasure to weclome you to my blog. Thank you to The Write Reads and Harper Collins for having me along on the tour. 

I was intrigued by the premise of this book even though I don't often read fantasy. And I was right, because while the book is fantastical, it's also very rooted in the real world. I would definitely read the next in the series, it's a really cute middle grade book.

The book is set in 1683 and at the beginning Thomasina is nine years old and is out with her twin brother Arthur. Arthur suffers an asthma attack and sadly dies. Thomasina feels guilty because she was teasing him. We next see her four years later. Her father barely speaks to her, and he doesn't want her to be his apprentice in their sweet shop. Her mother doesn't speak to anyone, she just stays in bed all day. Thomasina leads a sad and lonely existence.

Then one day the Thames freezes over! (This really happened quite a few times!) Merchants start to make stalls on the ice, and Thomasina and her dad set up a stall to sell their gingerbread. Thomasina meets a girl called Anne, who is working in the apothecary. The Frost Fair is well attended and Thomasina and her dad sell out of their wares. 

One night, Thomasina gets a visit from a man called Inigo. He tells her that he can help - if she visits the Other Frost Fair four times, he can bring Arthur back from the dead. That's what Thomasina wants more than anything. Inigo conjures up a sea kelpie to prove his powers to her, and then he takes her to the Other Frost Fair. There, people are made of ice, dressed in silver and white, and magical beasts exist. and Father Winter presides over everything. Inigo must take Thomasina's memories of Arthur away from her, he assures her, to bring Arthur back. 

But then Thomasina meets someone else, and everything gets very confusing. I loved how the book unrolled, and all the different things that happened to Thomasina. I'm giving this four out of five, I really liked it!

The Other People by C J Tudor - Review

Monday, October 17, 2022

The Other People was published by Penguin in January 2020. I was provided with an electronic copy of the book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I am just sorry that it took me so long to read this because I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I have heard of C J Tudor but never read anything by them, although I know my partner read and liked The Chalk Man. So I requested this, taking a bit of a chance, and I'm really glad I did, because I raced through it and was really intrigued throughout. I'm giving it four out of five and I would definitely read something else by the same author.

So at the beginning of the book, Gabe is travelling home to his wife, Jenny, and daughter, Izzy, when he gets stuck in traffic behind a car bearing lots of stickers on it. He's distracted, but suddenly a little girl appears in the back window. He is certain it is his daughter, Izzy, and he's certain that she says 'Daddy' and needs help. He then gets a phone call from the police to say that his wife and daughter have been murdered. 

We are then taken three years into the future to Gabe's life now. He lives in a camper van and spends his time driving up and down the motorways, looking for the car he saw that night, searching for his lost daughter. The police think he is crazy. Jenny's parents have very little to do with him, also telling him that he's mistaken in what he thinks he saw. But Gabe is determined, and he has help from a man called The Samaritan. The Samaritan calls and tells Gabe he has found the car from that night. 

Meanwhile, Fran and her daughter Alice are on the run. This has happened before, Fran is good at running. They're in a motorway services when Alice sees a mirror, and in it she sees the same thing she always sees - a girl. Alice falls asleep, like she always does, and when she wakes up, she has a tiny pebble in her hand. 

Then there's Katie, who works in the coffee shop at one of the services that Gabe often stops at. She's a single mum with two small children; her sister Lou looks after them overnight while Katie is working. Her family is fractured after the murder of her father. She hasn't spoken to her older sister in 9 years and her mum is an alcoholic. 

Then there's the girl who sleeps, who has a nurse called Miriam. Who is she, and who are The Other People?

I found this an intriguing thriller, it definitely kept me reading and guessing. I liked the supernatural element and thought it worked really well. 

Lost in the Jungle by Marja West and Jurgen Snoeren - Review

Saturday, October 15, 2022

This book is about two young women, Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon, who went to Panama to work in a Spanish language school, and went for a hike on the 1st of April 2014. They didn't return, and a search party got underway a couple of days later. No trace was found of the women, but in June of that year their backpack was found, containing their phones and Lisanne's camera. Phone records showed that both phones had been used for several days after their disappearance, and on the camera were photos of the hike, where both girls seem fine on April 1st, but then there are a bunch of creepy photos taken a week later, in the dark. In August 2014 several bones were found which were found to belong to both Lisanne and Kris, but theories have obviously abounded ever since about what happened, why the hike went so wrong, and about if one or both of them survived until over a week later - hence why their phones were being switched on to try to connect to emergency services. It's one of those unsolved cases that the internet loves - and that's how I found it, back in 2018, down a Reddit rabbit hole. There was a really good series about the case on The Daily Beast but some of it seems to have now been deleted, but there's a decent round up here

So when I heard about this book I wasn't sure if I needed to read it, because I do know quite a lot about the case. But I decided to buy it anyway, partly to support the authors financially. I started reading it on holiday but got quite scared again (the nighttime photos are truly terrifying!) so put it down and read Dean Atta instead. However, I only had a little bit left, so I read the rest of it on holiday and on the plane on the way home, and finished it while on the plane. I think I did know about 70% of the book, but there was some info that was new to me, and it set the record straight on a few things for me, so that was good. The first part of the book has its problems with grammar, which can make it hard to read in places, but that seemed to improve in the second half. There was also a portion with the Panamanian head of the investigation. She was heavily criticised for 'bungling' the investigation, but I really appreciated hearing her side of the story and about how she was left permanently injured from her time searching for the girls. 

In all, I would say only read this if you already care about the case. I did, so I liked it. 

Only On the Weekends by Dean Atta - Review

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Where did I get it? I bought it on Amazon as a holiday treat for myself. As I was travelling by plane I only took my tablet so I thought I would buy this to read as I've heard good things about it and because I loved The Black Flamingo so much. 

What's it about? Mack is sixteen and gay, which everyone knows about him. His dad is a famous film director, and Mack's mum was an artist who died when Mack was only a few months old. Mack has two best friends, Femi, and Sim. The three of them spend a lot of time in Mack's den, playing video games and hanging out. Mack has a huge crush on the school's star basketball player, Karim, aka K. Mack is put with K's cousin, Maz, in home economics, and starts a friendship with her. He gets to know her, and K, and Maz's dad Uncle O, really well. Eventually he and K start a relationship, but as K isn't out to anyone, he asks Mack to keep it on the downlow. Mack agrees, but really he doesn't want to - he wants PDAs, he wants all the cuteness of being in a relationship. There's definite friction between the two of them and while I do sympathise with Mack (the heart wants what it wants!) I also felt for K and how he was trying to feel his way through life. 

Halfway through the novel something happens which uproots Mack's life, meaning he can only see K on the weekends (hence the name of the book). I won't give spoilers about exactly what happens because I liked the surprise, but I also really liked the romance in the second half and the way Mack really came out of his shell. 

This is a novel told in verse like The Black Flamingo, but it's also really long so I really felt like I was getting a really good look at the whole thing. It definitely didn't feel too short. 

I've read a few negative reviews of this book on Goodreads and I think most of them are missing the point that sixteen years olds can often make very very stupid decisions. Because they're sixteen! Their brains aren't fully formed yet! They want everything they want, and don't often think about consequences! I don't think you can criticise this book on the grounds that Mack is just a bit daft. Of course he is! Adult readers of YA really need to bear in mind sometimes that YA books just are not for them! 

I can't wait to see what Dean writes next - I think he writes really complex characters. I liked how in this book there was a juxtaposition between Mack and his financial privileges and his friends who were from much poorer backgrounds and who in many cases were living in difficult circumstances - I felt like that was nicely explored. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Of course! There's gay characters, ones who aren't quite sure who they are yet, bi characters, and a dreamy trans character... 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, most of them! 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No I don't think so. 

Is there any sex stuff? A little, it's not graphic and it fits perfectly within the story. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No I don't think so 

Is there any talk of death? A little bit about Mack's mum, but it's not graphic 

Are there swear words? A few 


What criticisms do I have? My only criticism is a spoiler so I'm not going to share it here

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I wanted to treat myself on holiday, as I said! 


What do I think of the cover? It's cute! I think I forgot to mention that Mack is also fat, which I think could have been indicated a little bit stronger in the artwork, but there we go 

How many stars? Four out five! 

Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths - Review

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Bleeding Heart Yard is the third book in the Harbinder Kaur series, so I immediately knew I wanted to read it! The previous ones, The Stranger Diaries, reviewed here, and The Postscript Murders, reviewed here, were really good. I got this book on Netgalley so thank you very much to Quercus Books for granting that to me. I received an electronic copy of this book for review purposes but was not otherwise compensated for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. The book was published on the 29th of September so is available now!

So Harbinder has moved to London and got a promotion, she is now a Detective Inspector and is in charge of her own team. She is sharing a house with two other women. She is called to what looks like a cocaine death at a school reunion. The victim is a Tory MP, Garfield Rice. He was at his school reunion with a bunch of friends, including one of Harbinder's DS', Cassie. Cassie is obviously placed on leave when it becomes clear that Garfield, aka Gary, was murdered with a shot of insulin. Harbinder has to look at Cassie's group of friends to get to the bottom of what happened to Gary.

There's Anna, who is newly returned from Italy and who is caring for her dying mother. There's Chris, now a famous rock star, a Labour MP, Harry, the now headmistress of the school they all attended, Sonoma, and Cassie and her husband. There's Joanna, too, an actress. Some of the parts of the book are told from Cassie's point of view, and then Anna's, and the two of them go over what happened over twenty years ago when they left school, and when Cassie was sexually assaulted by a boyfriend, and how the group of them concocted a way to scare the boyfriend. But what really happened to him, and why is Gary dead, and why is a second body left in Bleeding Heart Yard? 

I found this a pleasing addition to Harbinder's story, I liked the mystery and the group of schoolfriends and all that had been festering for twenty years. It is nice to see Harbinder's career move on and her personal life too, although I won't give any spoilers about that! I hope that we get more of Harbinder's life in London - maybe she can eventually make DCI? I'm giving this four out of five. 

Marple by Various Authors - Review

Thursday, October 6, 2022

I had heard of this book on Twitter because Elly Griffiths is one of the authors inside, but when I looked it up on Netgalley I was too late to request it. So I 'wished' for it, which I've only done a couple of times before, but a couple of weeks later I got a notification to say my wish had been granted! That's never happened to me before! I was absolutely thrilled.

I was away in France for the first twelve days of September, and I decided to only take my tablet as it's much lighter than lugging a load of books with me, and it means I have access to ALL my Kindle books. I then decided that for the whole of September I would only read books on my tablet, as a bit of a challenge to myself. I started this right on the first day of the month, on the day before we flew to Carcassonne for our holiday. I read it on the two hour flight on the Friday and finished it later that evening. It is a fantastic anthology of stories and I reall enjoyed it. Thank you Harper Collins for granting my wish!

I have to admit that I'm not familiar with Miss Marple at all. I'm much more familiar with Poirot and his stories. I don't know all Marple's background and canon works, so I wasn't sure how I would feel about these stories. But the calibre of the authors involved just had me gasping - there are some I love and some I was looking forward to reading. They are twelve of the best women writing crime today, and I think Naomi Alderman did a brilliant job in putting the anthology together. The authors included are: Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Elly Griffiths, Natalie Haynes, Jean Kwok, Val McDermid, Karen M McManus, Dreda Say Mitchell, Kate Mosse, and Ruth Ware. I have to admit that I barely paid attention to who wrote which story, because they're all so brilliant that I genuinely didn't care. I was caught up in all the stories, finding them utterly believable and an excellent addition to the Marple canon. I am writing this review a couple of weeks after reading the book, so I will talk about the stories that stood out to me. I will say that there's such a variety of stories - a couple set in big houses, one at Christmas, ones with Miss Marple's friends, one with her granddaughter (written by Karen M McManus, which should surprise no one!) and one set in New York. Those are the ones I liked best, I think, but honestly there's not a bad story between them. 

I thoroughly recommend this book especially if you are already a fan of Marple, unlike me! Reading this would make me want to read some of the books starring her though, or maybe watch the TV series! I am giving this fiveo ut of five as I just liked it so much. 

This book was published on the 15th of September. I was provided with an electronic copy of the book for review purposes but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

H.A.W.K.S by M A Bennett - Review

Monday, October 3, 2022

You can find all my previous reviews of M A Bennett's books here. I have read all of this series and reviewed them! I am sad this series has come to an end, but I have really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to what M A Bennett writes next! 

I bought this very soon after I read T.I.G.E.R.S. and picked up very soon after because I wanted to see how the series ended. The book takes place when Greer has finished her exams. She's about to leave STAGS for the last time when she gets another invitation slipped under her door. This time it's an invite to attend the Lammas hunt on the 1st of August on the Isle of Skye. She will be visiting the castle of the MacLeods. Fiona MacLeod is the mother of Louis and Cass, Henry's cousins. Now that Henry is supposedly dead, Louis is the heir to the earldom and is making repairs to Longcross, the family seat of the de Warlencourts. There remains the mystery about who killed Rollo de Warlencourt, and of course Henry is biding his time until he can show himself and reassert his place as the rightful heir. 

But now Greer has this invitation, and as she's been working to bring down the Dark Order of the Great Stag, she feels her life is at risk. She thinks she will be hunted, as Henry did to her at the first weekend at Longcross. She assembles her crew around her - Henry, of course, for whom she still has feelings after he confessed his love for her, Shafeen, who she is still going out with, Nel, Ty, and the new Abbot, Nathaniel Ridley. Ty has contacts who know things about the school and the Dark Order, so on their way to Skye the group stops to meet Ratio. He has a HAWK, a powerful drone, that will follow Greer wherever she is on Skye and make sure she's safe. 

So far, so STAGS. On Skye, Greer is once again thrust into the workings of the upper echelons - fancy dinners, Mediaevals, posh people who don't mean what they say. Things happen between Greer and Henry, and when he reveals to the crowd that he is still alive, Louis is less than happy. 

I felt like this was a good ending to the series. There was plenty of intrigue and plenty of that stuff that made the first book so compelling. I did guess some of the twists but as always, I'm not sure if a younger reader would or not. I loved the setting of Skye and the eerie, Wicker Man esque feel to the whole thing. Five out of five from me. I have loved Greer and her friends and this look into the utter privilege of the upper classes. I'll miss it!

I Want You to Know We're Still Here by Esther Safran Foer - Review

Saturday, October 1, 2022

I picked this book up at High Peak Bookstore in the Peak District when I visited at the beginning of July with my friend Lucinda. I love that place - the books are plentiful and cheap. I only left with two books this time which is very restrained for me! I noticed this because of the name Safran Foer - I of course know Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote the book Everything Is Illuminated, which is sort of based on the Holocause experiences of his mother's family. I have seen the film, but it was either just before or just after my dad's suicide in 2008 so it's got caught up in the trauma of that, especially because it features a suicide, so I've never rewatched it. It turns out that this details is directly from Esther's life - her dad took his own life when she was just eight years old. I really related to that, obviously, and the gaps left behind.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Esther was born in Poland in 1946; her parents both survived the Holocaust and met and got married. They then lived in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany for several years, trying to find any of their relatives that had also survived, and were eventually sponsored to immigrate to the United States when Esther was little. There, her younger brother Julian was born. Her dad ran grocery stores, but had just been duped on the purchase of a new one at the time he died. Esther understands that he was traumatised by his experiences during the war and that this likely led to his decision to take his own life - but understanding this doesn't mean she truly feels it, and so on. She begins a search for what happened to her dad. This theme of trauma is one that I also saw in Maus, which I recently read and reviewed. 

It's interesting because quite a bit of the book focusses on the family's experiences post war. I have read a lot of Holocaust literature (I was a Theology student for my undergrad degree and was lucky enough to be taught Judaism by a Jewish lecturer who was a convert but then discovered she had Jewish heritage, which is quite cool. I was at York St John and York has a very dark anti Semitic history, which was also interesting to learn... I digress, though...) but have rarely read as much about what happened immediately post war. It's quite easy as a Gentile to think, well the war was over, the Nazis defeated, so of course everything was fine for Jews in Europe! But of course that wasn't the case! Anti Semitism was still rife, and remains so even today. Plus entire families, entire communities, so many people had just been murdered, had been wiped out, that people didn't have anywhere to go back TO. Esther's mother, Ethel, returned to her shtetl, Trochenbrod, in 1944, to find all the houses razed to the ground by the Soviets after all the (Jewish) inhabitants had been murdered by the Nazis. When Ethel had lived there, the village had been in Eastern Poland, but thanks to border shifts, the place is now in Western Ukraine - hence the setting of Everything Is Illuminated. As time went on and people began to understand the true horrors of the Holocaust, there was a determined effort to record the names of the dead, and to find the sites of mass burial graves, like where the inhabitants of Trochenbrod had been killed inthe massacre there. Esther understands the important of memory and history and how history is memory and memory is history, something which I think we all understand but which I think Jewish people definitely have a long tradition of anyway, and definitely in the light of the Holocaust. 

Esther makes an emotional trip to Ukraine with her son Frank towards the end of the book. By that time she has connected with people from all over the world, people who knew her parents, who knew the shtetl, and who have all contributed to completing the picture of Esther's ancestors and family. Her mother doesn't like to speak much about the war, which is of course her right, and which makes perfect sense also. But Esther wants to know the name of her half sister because then she can be recorded, and remembered.

I found this a really emotional book, especially the ending, and also so interesting. The focus on the family's post war experiences really helped round out that period in history for me. I am giving this five out of five and recommend it thoroughly. 

Blogger news


Most Read