Category Archives: Grief

The Other Hoffmann Sister by Ben Fergusson

34440783

The Hoffmann sisters, Ingrid and her older sibling, Margarete, are taken to German Southwest Africa in 1902, to live on land bought by their father from Baron von Ketz. The Baron, his wife and son, Emil live nearby and “give” their servants Nora and Hans to the Hoffmanns, to help them settle and to make their life more comfortable. It soon becomes clear that Margarete is not emotionally stable and that the hot, arid country does not suit her particularly well.

In some ways, Ingrid settles better. She has her books to read and is given language lessons by Hans. He is well educated and speaks German and French. Time is taken away from these lessons when he has to escort Margarete over to the von Ketz home every week. It is not totally clear to Ingrid why these trips are occurring.

The Hoffmanns eventually leave Africa in a hurried manner, after Baron von Ketz is murdered at the start of a Herero uprising. Hans and Nora are missing, and this is a source of anguish for Ingrid. This younger Hoffmann sister is full of questions about what has happened and what is to come. She loves her sister deeply and cares for her well-being and these feeling for her sister continue on their return to Germany. When Margarete becomes engaged to the young Baron von Ketz, Ingrid has some misgivings. On the wedding night, Margarete disappears and it is presumed that she is dead – drowned in the lake. The rest of the novel is about Ingrid’s search for knowledge of her sister’s disappearance and her reawakened desire to discover what happened to Hans.

A considerable amount of the story takes place in Berlin after the First World War, where Ingrid becomes tentatively involved with the revolution in the city. At times, her searches for the missing are set aside so that she can follow her passion for translating poetry from English and French into German. However, on return to the von Ketz country estate, the anguish of her loss re-emerges, along with her determination to discover the truth.

This was not a particularly easy novel to read, as the pace is variable. At times, the plot seems to come to a standstill, but then, with a new piece of information, or change of scene, it moves along again. Thinking about this, however, I feel now that this is a mirror of Ingrid’s feelings and actions. She was surrounded by unanswered questions and deception; at times, the confusion seemed to overwhelm her and she, herself, came to a standstill. Then, something was revealed to her and she could move on with her quests.

I am glad that I read this book. It gave much food for thought and I was interested in the sections on post war Berlin and the revolution. Much is written about the post war world, but I hadn’t read anything that looked at it through German eyes.

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read “The Other Hoffmann Sister” in return for my honest review.

Meet the Author:8153785

Ben Fergusson is an award-winning novelist. He was born in Southampton in 1980 and grew up near Didcot in Oxfordshire. He studied English Literature at Warwick University and Modern Languages at Bristol University. Since leaving university he has worked as an editor, translator and publisher in London and Berlin and currently teaches at the University of Potsdam.

​Ben’s debut novel, The Spring of Kasper Meier, was selected for the Waterstone’s Book Club, WHSmith Fresh Talent and the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. It was longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. It won the 2015 Betty Trask Prize for an outstanding debut novel by a writer under 35 and the HWA Debut Crown 2015 for the best historical fiction debut of the year. His second novel, The Other Hoffmann Sister, will be published by Little, Brown in 2017.

The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable

First posted two years ago, but worth re-blogging. Another of Jane Cable’s very good novels.

Fantastic Books ...and other interesting reads!

25133311
“The Faerie Tree” is Jane Cable‘s second novel and, I think, in many ways, it is better than “The Cheesemaker’s House”.It is well written and the pace is just right throughout

This book tells the story of Robin and Izzie; of their loves and griefs and how their lives are affected by these two powerful emotions. The story begins with Izzie being recently widowed at the age of 44, left to bring up her teenage daughter, Claire, and continue her work as a teacher. When she bumps into a tramp, she discovers that this is no stranger, but someone she knew many years ago. His name is Robin and it is obvious that this is a person who meant a great deal to Izzie in the past.

The tale unfolds to tell of their earlier relationship and the development of the current one, this time also involving Claire and…

View original post 359 more words

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

8621462

 

 

A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness is an amazing book.

Conor O’Malley is facing the unthinkable: the possible death of his mother from cancer. At the age of thirteen, it is so hard to imagine the world without your mum and Conor’s life is a nightmare. He’s having problems at school; he’s having to put up with his grandma; he’s having to realise that his father’s new family in America takes precedence. To top it all, his life is overshadowed by a hideous nightmare that awakens him, screaming, most nights. Then, one night, a Monster appears at Conor’s bedroom window, claiming to have been called by him……

This is a heart wrenching book; beautifully written, with such depth of feeling. Having lost my father to cancer, there was much that I could identify with in this story.

“A Monster Calls” confirms my belief that Patrick Ness is a tremendous writer, not only for Young Adults, but for all those who enjoy excellent story telling.

About Patrick Ness:
370361
Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and Sunday Telegraph and is a literary critic for The Guardian. He has written many books, including the Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Crash of Hennington, Topics About Which I Know Nothing, and A Monster Calls.

He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London.

Featherbones by Thomas Brown…..a soon-to-be-released novel by a fine writer.

26202096

“Featherbones” is the second of Thomas Brown’s novels that I have read and I think that I enjoyed this more than “Lynnwood”, which I loved. Having made this statement, however, the book is going to be hard to review without telling readers too much about the plot.

Felix, the main character, is a young graduate, living his rather mundane life in Southampton. The highlight of his week is his Friday night drinking binge with his workmate and long-time friend, Michael. All seems fairly commonplace, until an event acts as a trigger for Felix to fall, swoop, descend into unreality.

The novel looks back to Felix’s traumatic childhood – so many events that could lead to an uncertain future for Felix’s mental health. Looking into the past, we meet Felix’s father, his teacher, his very best friend, Harriet and a man who was supposed to be helping Felix overcome his disturbed childhood.

What I love about this novel is that it works on several levels and is open to different interpretations. For me, it is about guilt, repression, sexuality and the need for each of us to know ourselves. It is about acceptance, love and trust.

Thomas Brown writes such beautiful prose;” Featherbones” is worth reading for this alone. However there is much more to appreciate – a fine, thought-provoking novel.

My thanks to NetGalley for providing the book for me to read, in exchange for an honest review.

51vMEQLvYBL The author, signing copies of his first novel, “Lynnwood”.

Thomas Brown is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Southampton, where he is exploring the relationship between horror and the sublime in literature. Literary influences include Friedrich Nietzsche, Poppy Z. Brite and Thomas Ligotti. He writes dark, surreal fiction.

Thomas has written for a number of magazines, websites and independent publishers, including: Almond Press, Dark Edifice Magazine, Dark River Press, FUSSED Magazine, Hampshire View, Horrified Press, Notes from the Underground, Pen of the Damned, Sirens Call Publications, Sparkling Books, The Horror Zine, Thirteen Press, trans lit mag and the University of Southampton’s annual Creative Writing anthologies. In 2010 he won the University of Southampton’s Flash Fiction Competition for his short story, ‘Crowman’. In 2014 he won the annual Almond Press Short Story Competition, ‘Broken Worlds’. He is a proud member of the dark fiction writing group, Pen of the Damned.

Thomas is currently working very hard to promote his writing and is most appreciative of the support he has received to date

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

550720

 

“The Night Watch” is neither a quick, nor particularly exciting, read, but I found it to be compelling and well worth the effort.The story is set in London, beginning in 1947, and then moving backwards in time to 1941. This was a time when homosexuality and lesbianism were taboo and attempted suicide was a criminal offence. It explores the lives and intertwined relationships of Kay, Helen, and Julia and also looks at sister and brother, Vivien and Duncan Pearce. I was impressed, as always, by the development of these characters by the excellent Sarah Waters ; although not particularly likeable, they are certainly clearly etched in my imagination.

I particularly liked the “backwards” storytelling. The story begins in post-war London in 1947 and paints a dreary picture of life at that time. All of the characters are introduced in this first part of the book and the book takes us back in time, filling in the gaps and answering the questions that arise in this first section. The second and third sections of the book are full of the harrowing life of Londoners in World War II – it is against this backdrop that Sarah Waters explores the themes of love, jealousy and suspicion; powerful emotions that can destroy lives. I think Sarah Waters is particularly talented at creating authentic settings and “The Night Watch” is no exception to this.

The book took me a long time to read, but it wasn’t because I was bored by it. It was so packed with emotion that at times, I needed to break off to allow it to all sink in. An intense, but absorbing book, it is one which I thoroughly recommend.

The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable

25133311
“The Faerie Tree” is Jane Cable‘s second novel and, I think, in many ways, it is better than “The Cheesemaker’s House”.It is well written and the pace is just right throughout

This book tells the story of Robin and Izzie; of their loves and griefs and how their lives are affected by these two powerful emotions. The story begins with Izzie being recently widowed at the age of 44, left to bring up her teenage daughter, Claire, and continue her work as a teacher. When she bumps into a tramp, she discovers that this is no stranger, but someone she knew many years ago. His name is Robin and it is obvious that this is a person who meant a great deal to Izzie in the past.

The tale unfolds to tell of their earlier relationship and the development of the current one, this time also involving Claire and her teenage traumas. These three characters are well drawn and believable. There are others who play an important part in the plot, especially Jennifer, who takes on the role of a second mother to Robin.

This is not a straightforward love story. There are many times when I questioned what had actually happened and my interest was maintained throughout as answers were gradually revealed. It is also an exploration of the dramatic effect that grief can have on an individual.

I particularly enjoyed the folklore aspect of this novel. The so-called Faerie Tree itself and the way in which Jennifer and Robin celebrated the natural world were a delight to me and were an integral part of this story. I loved the atmosphere that Jane Cable evoked in her descriptions.

If you want something a little different to read and want to try a new author, I would thoroughly recommend Jane Cable’s work

About the author:

7226007  Jane Cable says: Perhaps writing is in my blood. My father, Mercer Simpson, was a poet; my cousin, Roger Hubank, a novelist; Roger’s uncle, John Hampson was also a novelist and fringe member of the Bloomsbury Group. And it’s even rumoured that John Keats is somewhere back there in the family tree.


No wonder that I have always scribbled. But it took me until I was in my forties to complete a full length manuscript. And then another, and another… Writing stories became a compulsive hobby. I could lose myself in my characters, almost live their lives, and I started to long for readers other than my mother and a few close friends to be able to do the same.
It was reaching the final of The Alan Titchmarsh Show’s People’s Novelist competition in 2011 which made me take my writing seriously. The Cheesemaker’s House, a gripping romance-suspense, saw the light of day in September 2013 and I was delighted when it received great reviews from book bloggers and, just as importantly, from the people who bought and read it. My second novel, The Faerie Tree, is due out in March 2015 and is a suspenseful romance about the tricks memory plays.