Reviews

FAVOURITE FICTION BOOK REVIEWS!! Piranesi by Susanna Clarke & Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers

Has everyone made their way out of the fog of cheese and turkey sandwiches yet? Yes, Christmas Day is over for another year and, as we haul our slightly rounder selves towards the light of the New Year, I wanted to share two more of my favourite books from 2021 that, for some reason, I’ve just not yet got around to reviewing. This time I have two fabulous fiction books to share with you, starting with…

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

“The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite”. Thus are we drawn into the world of Piranesi and of the House, a colossal structure of seemingly infinite halls ruled by the changeable tides. Piranesi has always lived in the house – or has he? When his sole visitor, a man called The Other, accidentally indicates that there may be a third person with access to the House, the carefully bordered world that Piranesi has always known begins to fracture at the seams.

To say any more about Susanna Clarke’s masterful novel would be to spoil the magic. Because this novel really is magic. There’s something spellbinding about the intricate simplicity of the story and the gentleness of Piranesi himself that absolutely transported me.

I’ve written before about having magical realism and fantasy being genres that either really work for me or just fall completely flat so, I’ll be honest, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up had it not won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021. Reading Piranesi has, however, opened my eyes to the variety available within these genres and the transportative possibilities of fantastical fiction. I’ll definitely be giving Susanna’s first novel, Jonathon Strange & Mr Norrell another go, and have started taking in the sci-fi and fantasy shelves with fresh eyes when making my visits to the bookshop and the library.

Beautifully and lyrically written, Piranesi is storytelling at its very best. Like the mysterious House itself, the novel twists and turns, opening into labyrinthine halls and revealing more of its wonders with every turn of the page. There’s also, at its heart, a very human story of envy, greed, ambition, kindness, loss, and connectivity. Long after I turned the final page, I’ve found myself revisiting Piranesi, his House, its immeasurable Beauty and its infinite Kindness.

Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers

1957, south-east suburbs of London. Jean Swinney is a feature writer on a local paper, disappointed in love and – on the brink of forty – living a limited existence with her truculent mother.

When a young Swiss woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud.

But the more she investigates, the more her life becomes strangely (and not unpleasantly) intertwined with that of the Tilburys: Gretchen herself, her husband Howard – with his dry wit and gentle disposition – and her charming daughter Margaret.

But they are the subject of the story Jean is researching for the newspaper, a story that increasingly seems to be causing dark ripples across all their lives. And yet Jean cannot bring herself to discard the chance of finally having a taste of happiness.

But there will be a price to pay – and it will be unbearable.

Unlike Piranesi, which is a seemingly simple tale that becomes increasingly fantastical, Small Pleasures begins with a fantastical tale that, once you dig beneath the surface, is a relatively simple story of love, longing, and – yes – the titular small pleasures.

The novel opens with feature writer Jean volunteering to speak with Gretchen, a young housewife who is convinced that her daughter Margaret is a virgin birth. Ten-year-old Margaret, Gretchen claims, was conceived whilst she was hospitalised in a a convalescence home run by nuns, in a ward surrounded by and overseen only by women.

As excited academics run their tests on Gretchen and Margaret, Jean is gradually drawn into the life of the Tilbury family – and towards Gretchen’s quiet and unassuming husband, Howard. Because underneath the gleaming surface of this happy family home lie many secrets that Jean will, for better or worse, be the catalyst for uncovering.

Saying any more about the novel would be to spoil the plot and deny any future readers the joy of reading this wryly observed and brilliantly written novel. The prose is sublime and the characters vividly and realistically drawn – this is not a novel of good guys and bad guys but of real and fallible people in all their messy glory. As the title suggests, its also a story of the small pleasures that life brings, and of the trials and tribulations of the everyday. Although set in the late 1950s, many of Jean’s experiences will resonate today – from her struggle to make herself heard in her workplace, to the stresses of being the sole carer for an elderly relative, and the difficulty of choosing between your own happiness and the happiness of others.

If you look at reviews of this novel (and I’d advise you don’t – this is definitely a novel better experienced without prior expectation), you’ll see some reviewers have a real issue with the ending. It’s certainly a wallop at the end of an otherwise relatively sedate novel but, for me, it underscored the novel’s central premise and brought together so many of the threads that Clare Chambers had woven throughout. I can see how it gave some readers the rage but don’t let it put you off – in fact, I’d urge you to read the novel and decide for yourself!!

So, those are two fabulous fiction recommendations! Do let me know whether you decide to pick either of them up or, if you’ve read them yourself, what you thought of them! I’ll be back soon with my Best Books of the Year list but, in the meantime, enjoy the remainder of the festive season!

If you do decide to pick up any of today’s titles, please consider supporting a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews

REVIEW!!! Matrix by Lauren Groff

Image Description: The cover of Matrix is cream and features medieval-style illustrations of nuns in blue set against a backdrop of gold/gilt leaves.

Cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, deemed too coarse and rough-hewn for marriage or courtly life, 17-year-old Marie de France is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey, its nuns on the brink of starvation and beset by disease.

At first taken aback by the severity of her new life, Marie finds focus and love in collective life with her singular and mercurial sisters. In this crucible, Marie steadily supplants her desire for family, for her homeland, for the passions of her youth with something new to her: devotion to her sisters, and a conviction in her own divine visions.

Marie, born the last in a long line of women warriors and crusaders, is determined to chart a bold new course for the women she now leads and protects. But in a world that is shifting and corroding in frightening ways, one that can never reconcile itself with her existence, will the sheer force of Marie’s vision be bulwark enough?

You know that feeling when you pick up a book, read the first page, and are just instantly transported? Well, that’s how I felt when I started reading Lauren Groff’s latest novel, Matrix. From the moment I started the novel, I was instantly transported into the life – and mind – of the extraordinary Marie de France: a woman who, in reality, historians know remarkably little about.

From Marie’s literary legacy – much of it still tentatively attributed – of remarkable lais, translations, and religious writings, Lauren Groff has created a complex, vivacious, and remarkable depiction of 12th century womanhood as, in Matrix, we follow her from resentful teenager, cast out from the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine, to visionary abbess of one of the most powerful abbeys in Angleterre.

As the illegitimate daughter of a powerful man and a strident, unconventional mother, Groff’s Marie is a woman too large for the times in which she lives – both in terms of her tall, broad stature, and the fiery cast of her brilliant mind. Her family tree is filled with ‘difficult’ women: crusading aunts, a fiercely intelligent grandmother, and, far back in the legendary past, the fairy woman, Melusine. To Eleanor of Aquitaine – herself a woman no stranger to power, intelligence, and latent cunning – Marie has a potential that, whilst admirable, poses a threat to the crown that must be contained. But, in casting her out, Eleanor provides Marie with the perfect arena on which to imprint her powerful personality.

Groff has evocatively depicted the rhythms of life in an English nunnery during the twelfth century. From the lean years of starvation, with their ever-present threat of deadly illness, to the serenity of a well-fed, well-tended community of women, bound together by their promises to both their faith and to each other, every page felt like being pulled into the past. And, by the end of the novel, these women – Infirmatrix Nest, Sub-Prioress Goda, Baliff Wulfhild – felt like beloved friends and relatives; their tribulations, woes, and joys my own.

The word ‘matrix’ has multiple meanings and Groff plays with all of them deftly. From the community of women that Marie builds around her to the idea of the ‘mat-rix’: the mother as leader, Groff has clearly delighted in playing with the ideas generated by the word, and in showing how Marie herself encompasses its multiple meanings throughout her life.

In addition to being a novel of female community, Matrix is also a novel of female love. At the centre of this is Marie’s relationship with Eleanor; whom she both loves and loathes from afar and whose life, in many ways, mirrors Marie’s own. Theirs is a love story of unconventional expression but, for Groff, a love story nonetheless. There is also physical love in the form of relationships with Marie’s fellow nuns – whether in the form of sexual gratification or familial bonding – and the spiritual love between Marie and her religious namesake, the Virgin Mary.

It is hard to encapsulate just what I found so enthralling about Matrix – the books I love the most are, often, the ones I find the hardest to write about – but I hope I’ve conveyed the incredibly layered nature of this rich and complex novel. Though slight in length, Groff has created a masterpiece in miniature in Matrix: a richly detailed and compelling story of the multiplicity of female experience that has continued to resonate long after I turned the final page.

Matrix by Lauren Groff is published by Cornerstone and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher and to NetGalley UK for providing an e-copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR REVIEW!!! The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable

Image Description: The cover of The Bookseller’s Secret features a woman in a 1940s-style blue dress at the door of a bookshop.

In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics.

Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present…

Alternating between present-day London and the Blitz-ravaged city in 1942, The Bookseller’s Secret draws parallels between the lives of two women: newly-single Katie Cabot is the author of a romantic New York Times bestseller – and two failed historical follow-ups – whilst once sparkling ‘Bright Young Thing’ Nancy Mitford is the author of three failed novels, estranged from her husband, and utterly broke. For both women, the eccentric Haywood Hill bookshop seems an unlikely saviour – but when Nancy takes up the offer of a job at the shop, it leads her on a journey that, eighty years later, send Katie off on a hunt for a missing Mitford manuscript.

Michelle Gable’s latest novel has the perfect premise for book-loving romantics and deftly combines a lesser-known period in the famous novelist’s life with breezy romance, period high-jinks, and a dash of literary mystery. Although I did find both Katie and Nancy quite annoying as protagonists at times, I was fascinated to learn about Nancy’s time at Heywood Hill, and about the wartime experiences of the famous (and infamous) Mitford siblings.

Both wartime and contemporary London have been vividly recreated on the page – albeit with a slightly unbelievable rosiness at times. There were also one or two points where the world of the book pushed the boundaries of believability and, temporarily, threw me out of the otherwise immersive story – as a Brit, I found it hard to believe Katie’s novelist friend and her husband, however successful in their respective industries, could afford an enormous townhouse in London’s Mayfair with a concierge service, live-in staff, and a chauffeur, for example. But, for the most part, it was clear that Michelle Gable had done her research – especially on the Mitford family and on Nancy Mitford’s life in wartime London.

Combining bright and breezy romance with a wartime setting, writer’s block, and a literary treasure hunt could easily have led to a somewhat contrasting tone but, in Gable’s hands, the novel’s different modes merge easily into a compelling read that, whilst remaining light and easy to read, never sacrifices depth or historical reality. The bookshop setting suits the action of the novel perfectly, with the magic of a really good bookshop being bought across perfectly on the page.

Although I found it challenging to connect with the characters at times, the premise and the lightness of the author’s touch – kept me reading and I finished The Bookseller’s Secret in just a couple of days despite it’s 350+ page length. The book has also encouraged me to find out more about Nancy Mitford – The Pursuit of Love is now very much on my TBR and I’m keen to read more about the Mitford siblings – and, for anyone looking for a charming yet immersive read, The Bookseller’s Secret has a perfect combination of romance, mystery, and charm to while away a weekend or winter’s evening with.

The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable is published by HarperCollins/Harlequin and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 03 December 2021 so check out the other stops for more reviews and content!

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR REVIEW!!! The Bloodless Boy by Robert J Lloyd

Image Description: The cover of The Bloodless Boy features a section from a map of seventeenth-century London, with a seal in the centre.

The City of London, 1678. New Year’s Day. Twelve years have passed since the Great Fire ripped through the City. Eighteen since the fall of Oliver Cromwell’s Republic and the restoration of a King. London is gripped by hysteria, where rumors of Catholic plots and sinister foreign assassins abound.

The body of a young boy, drained of his blood and with a sequence of numbers inscribed on his skin, is discovered on the snowy bank of the Fleet River.

Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, the powerful Justice of Peace for Westminster, is certain of Catholic guilt in the crime. He enlists Robert Hooke, the Curator of Experiments of the Royal Society, and his assistant, Harry Hunt, to help his enquiry. Demanding discretion from them, he also entrusts to them to preserve the body, which they store inside Hooke’s Air-pump. Sir Edmund confides to Hooke that the bloodless boy is not the first to have been discovered. He also presents Hooke with a cipher that was left on the body.

That same morning Henry Oldenburg, the Secretary of the Royal Society, blows his brains out. A disgraced Earl is released from the Tower of London, bent on revenge against the King, Charles II.

Wary of the political hornet’s nest they are walking into – and using evidence rather than paranoia in their pursuit of truth – Hooke and Hunt must discover why the boy was murdered, and why his blood was taken. Moreover, what does the cipher mean?

Harry, wanting to prove himself as a natural philosopher and to break free from the shadow of Hooke’s brilliance, takes the lead in investigating the death of the boy. He is pulled into the darkest corners of Restoration London, where the Court and the underworld seem to merge.

Harry has to face the terrible consequences of experiments done in the name of Science, but also reckon with a sinister tale with its roots in the traumas of the Civil Wars.

Set in seventeenth-century London, The Bloodless Boy introduces readers to Harry Hunt, Observator of the Royal Society and protégé of Robert Hooke, the society’s renowned Curator of Experiments. Called to the banks of the Fleet on a snowy winter’s morning, Hunt and Hooke are charged with the investigation and preservation of the body of a young boy, drained of blood and, apparently, transported to the river’s bank without the perpetrator leaving a trace of their passing.

The discovery of the bloodless boy provides Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, Justice of the Peace, with a puzzle – and Hunt with an opportunity to step out from his master’s shadow and prove his mettle as a natural philosopher in his own right. Solving the mystery of the bloodless bodies being left over London will take Hunt into some of the darkest – and most dangerous – corners of Restoration London, where the pursuit of knowledge rubs shoulders with criminality, and where a political hornet’s nest is waiting to be stirred up.

Seventeenth-century London comes vividly to life on the page in The Bloodless Boy, from the intrigues of the Court to the grimy streets of London’s shadowy back alleys. The early proceedings of the Royal Society – and the tensions created as the secular rationalism of the ‘new’ philosophy came into increasing conflict with established, often deeply-held, religious belief – are richly portrayed, and a real sense of the world that the characters occupy comes across on the page.

For me, the characters themselves didn’t come to life quite as vividly as the setting – probably because there were a lot of them. Fictional creations mix with real historical figures and, whilst I admire the dedication Robert J Lloyd has put into creating his rich and detailed world, there were times when I wondered whether the roles of some characters could have been combined to make it easier for readers to distinguish. A character list is provided at the beginning of the novel – which does help – but reading on my e-reader made flicking back and forth to refer to this every time that I’d forgotten who someone was something of a chore.

The mystery of the bloodless boy is, however, certainly intriguing – and considerably more complex than it first appears, and utilises this history of this tumultuous period to add additional depth. With as much a focus upon the ‘why’ as well as the ‘who’-dunnit, you also get a fantastic history lesson alongside your crime-solving, with a Hunt and Hooke’s inquiries taking them back to the dark days of the English Civil War, as well as the very edges of the moral boundaries of philosophical enquiry at the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment.

With its blend of political intrigue, underworld vice, and scientific enquiry, The Bloodless Boy reminded me of Ambrose Parry’s Will Raven and Sarah Fisher series of medical crime-thrillers, as well as Andrew Taylor’s Ashes of London series. With a strong narrative drive and an intriguing mystery, the pace rarely drops off. Whilst this may leave readers who like to spend a little longer getting to know their characters wanting more, those seeking a plot-driven crime thriller within a well-realised historical setting will find much to enjoy here.

The Bloodless Boy by Robert J Lloyd is published by Melville House and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

My thanks go to Nikki Griffiths at Melville House Press for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me onto and organising this blog tour. The tour continues until 25 November 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR REVIEW!!! A Woman Made of Snow by Elisabeth Gifford

Image Description: The cover of A Woman Made of Snow has a sailing ship against the backdrop of Arctic mountains and a sunset.

Scotland, 1949: Caroline Gillan and her new husband Alasdair have moved back to Kelly Castle, his dilapidated family estate in the middle of nowhere. Stuck caring for their tiny baby, and trying to find her way with an opinionated mother-in-law, Caroline feels adrift, alone and unwelcome.

But when she is tasked with sorting out the family archives, Caroline discovers a century-old mystery that sparks her back to life. There is one Gillan bride who is completely unknown – no photos exist, no records have been kept – the only thing that is certain is that she had a legitimate child. Alasdair’s grandmother.

As Caroline uncovers a strange story that stretches as far as the Arctic circle, her desire to find the truth turns obsessive. And when a body is found in the grounds of the castle, her hunt becomes more than just a case of curiosity. What happened all those years ago? Who was the bride? And who is the body…?

Part love story, part mystery, and part historical drama, Elisabeth Gifford’s latest novel, A Woman Made of Snow, is certainly endeavouring to tick a lot of boxes – many of them pure Shelf of Unread catnip! And with a side order of Victorian arctic exploration thrown into that heady mix, I was delighted to have the opportunity to be on the blog tour for this captivating novel.

Switching between two timelines, A Woman Made of Snow is the story of several generations of Gillan women. The latest Gillan wife, Caro, is struggling to find her place amidst new husband Alasdair’s ancestral home, Kelly Castle. As one of the first women to graduate from her college at Cambridge, Caro had expected to spend her life researching and lecturing. Instead she finds herself struggling with new motherhood under the watchful eye of her mother-in-law, Martha.

When Martha unexpectedly offers Caro the opportunity to research the history of Kelly Castle, she jumps at the opportunity to claw back a few hours of her old life. Her investigations turn up a curious gap in the archives: a previous Gillan bride – Alasdair’s great-grandmother – who appears to have been erased from the family history. When building work uncovers a woman’s body in the grounds of the castle, Caro cannot help but wonder whether there is any connection with her missing Gillan wife. And when she uncovers the long-lost diary of Oliver Gillan’s voyage to the Arctic in 1882, it soon becomes clear that the Gillan’s family history – and Kelly Castle – may be hiding a murderous secret.

There were so many points when A Woman Made of Snow reminded me of To the Bright Edge of the World, Eowyn Ivey’s captivating novel about the exploration of Alaska that I read and reviewed earlier this year. Elisabeth Gifford has the same ability as Ivey to perfectly capture a sense of wonder involved in exploration and the sense of grandeur within the Arctic landscape – and has also written a poignant and touching love story at the beating heart of her book.

Some elements of this novel were, for me, less successful however. For a relatively slender novel (287 pages), A Woman Made of Snow packs in a LOT of plot. Whilst this is definitely not a bad thing per se – it definitely kept the pages turning! – there are several key characters within both the timelines, as well as several subplots that I felt some were in need of more room to breath. One subplot, which revolves around a potential rival for Alasdair’s affections, seemed full of dramatic potential but, sadly, seemed to have dwindled out to serve very little purpose by the end of the novel.

I also felt that the tension between Caro and Martha – and the attempts made to liken this to events within the past timeline – was a little forced at times. Both Caro and Martha are very likeable characters and, to me at least, seemed to act in a perfectly friendly and respectful manner to each other throughout. Whilst I understand that Elisabeth Gifford was trying to convey the uneasy but barely perceptible tensions that can sometimes arise between new wife and mother-in-law, I felt that this was sometimes made into a bigger plot element than their relatively minor disagreements really warranted.

That said, Caro’s frustration at her own loss of identity is brilliantly conveyed and I really empathised with the way she is torn between her love for her new family – and her new role as wife and mother – and her frustration at the postponement of her academic career, and the abandonment of her independent life with Alasdair in London.

Saying to much about Oliver’s plotline would be to risk spoilers – and given that there is a really compelling mystery plot running throughout the book, that would be a great shame – however I will say that I found the sections set aboard the whaling ship Narwhal to be amongst the most compelling sections of the novel. Elisabeth Gifford has clearly done her research into both the place and the period and I felt that the Narwhal and her crew really came alive on the page – as did the lives and customs of the Inuit people they encounter on their journey.

I also found Oliver’s mother, Sylvia, to be a really arresting character – albeit a truly awful one. Again, I don’t want to give away any plot spoilers but I can safely say that I think Sylvia is one of the most reprehensible characters I’ve met on the page in recent years! Despite this, Gifford has made her a woman I almost loved to hate, fleshing out her background and mental state so that I could understand some of the reasoning behind her abhorrent behaviour – even if I didn’t empathise with that reasoning in any way.

Overall, A Woman Made of Snow made for a dynamic, emotive, and propulsive read that was packed full of family drama. With a touching love story and some well-drawn characters, it was a quick and compelling novel that, despite some minor niggles, kept me reading right through to the end! With its immersive period detail, dual timeline mystery, and heartfelt, poignant storyline, A Woman Made of Snow is sure to appeal to fans of Kristin Hannah, Hazel Gaynor, Kate Morton, and Rachel Hore.

A Woman Made of Snow by Elisabeth Gifford is published by Corvus/Atlantic Books and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 22 October 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews · Seasonal Reads

REVIEW!!! The Whistling by Rebecca Netley

Image Description: The cover of The Whistling has a woman’s silhouette trapped within the flame of an old-fashioned glass-covered candle holder.

Alone in the world, Elspeth Swansome takes the position of nanny to a family on the remote Scottish island of Skelthsea.

Her charge, Mary, hasn’t uttered a word since the sudden death of her twin, William – just days after their former nanny disappeared.

No one will speak of what happened to William. Just as no one can explain the hypnotic lullabies sung in empty corridors. Nor the strange dolls that appear in abandoned rooms. Nor the faint whistling that comes in the night . . .

As winter draws in and passage to the mainland becomes impossible, Elspeth finds herself trapped.

But is this house haunted by the ghosts of the past? Or the secrets of the living?

Yes, I am back in full Spooky Season mode for this week’s post! Rebecca Netley’s The Whistling has been getting all of the accolades over on bookish Twitter and was definitely on my ‘most anticipated spooky reads’ list for 2021 – so as soon as the nights started to draw in and Spooky Season could be said to have officially started, I took the opportunity to get reading!

Scotland, 1860, and young nanny Elspeth Swansome arrives on the remote Scottish island of Skelthsea to take care of nine-year-old Mary, who hasn’t uttered a word since the sudden death of her twin brother, William. Having recently experienced her own personal tragedy, Elspeth is determined to save the little girl from the asylum – a fate that her hard-hearted aunt, Violet Gillies, seems to be planning for her.

Convinced that with some much-needed love and attention she can encourage the little girl to speak again, Elspeth tries to discover more about William – and about Hettie, her predecessor as the children’s nanny who apparently left her employment without warning just a few days before William’s death. But no one on Skelthsea will talk about what happened to William – or about the dark rumours that surface whenever Hettie’s name is mentioned.

When Elspeth begins to find strange dolls in long-abandoned rooms, and to hear the shrill pierce of a whistle cutting through the dead of night, she starts to realise that the cause of Mary’s muteness may lie in more than just neglect. What is Mary so afraid of that she refuses to speak? As Elspeth investigates further, the secrets and superstitions of Skelthsea begin to emerge, putting both her and her charge in danger.

The Whistling is an impressive debut that draws on all of the tropes of the classic ghost story, combining them with folkloric elements and a stunningly atmospheric setting to create a brilliantly eerie and otherworldly read. Lovers of the classic ghostly tales of M R James and the gothic eeriness of Wilkie Collins will feel instantly at home on Skelthsea, whilst readers of more modern takes on the genre will find the claustrophobia of Skelthsea – and, in particular, of Elspeth and Mary’s ‘home’ on the island, Iskar – offers the same creeping chills as Shirley Jackson’s Hill House or Daphne Du Maurier’s Manderley.

For me, the atmosphere of the novel was definitely one of its major strengths. The faded glory and crumbling chill of Iskar seeps off the page and I could practically feel the icy sea frets that roll into the bay at night. Rebecca Netley has also perfectly captured the feel of being an outsider in a small community and she uses this to great affect to make Elspeth – and by turn, the reader – uncertain of how to distinguish between superstition, rumour, and hidden truths.

The drawing out of the island’s secrets takes time and, if I had one criticism of The Whistling, it’s that the pacing can be a bit uneven. I raced through the first half of the novel, keen to discover whether the sinister dolls and strange noises were the work of human or supernatural entities, but then found the pace lulling in the mid-section, when the plot seemed to pivot towards more domestic dramas and personal backstories. Whilst these were interesting, they were quite a distinct change from the supernatural shenanigans of the opening half and, briefly, appeared to take the novel in quite a different direction. The pace picks up again towards the end of the book – and the supernatural plot moves back into gear with a vengeance – but, after a period of relative calm, I was left feeling like the dramatic reveal at the end was a little rushed.

The evocative atmosphere and story twists kept me reading though the slower sections and I’m glad I pushed onwards because, overall, The Whistling is one of those slow-burn ghost stories that creeps into your mind and lives there rent-free until you suddenly find yourself jumping at shadows and sleeping with the lights on. With it’s isolated setting and dour atmosphere, there are definite shades of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black here and, just as in that novel, the spooks come from gradually dawning realisation and slowly built horror rather than dramatic jump scares.

I also found myself wholly rooting for Elspeth in her relentless pursuit of the truth. Her determination to help and protect Mary is touching – as is Mary’s own growing affection for her new nanny. I was particularly impressed by how much of Mary’s personality and character Rebecca Netley has conveyed through gestures, small interactions, and subtle movements – proof, if it were needed, that characters don’t need to speak to make themselves heard on the page.

The Whistling is a fine addition to the resurgent tradition of autumnal ghost stories. It is clear from reading it that Rebecca Netley both knows and loves the genre and her novel pays homage to all of the classics. Look closely and you’ll see the reverberations of everything from James’ The Turn of the Screw to Sarah Waters’ more recent The Little Stranger. Yet The Whistling is also a ghost story all of its own – a brilliantly evocative novel that will reward patient readers with that spine-tingling feeling.

The Whistling by Rebecca Netley is published by Penguin Michael Joseph on 14 October 2021 and is available to pre-order now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher and to Netgalley UK for providing an e-copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours

BLOG TOUR SPOTLIGHT!!! The Chronicles of Iona: Exile by Paula De Fougerolles

Image Description: The cover of The Chronicles of Iona: Exile has an excerpt from a map showing Iona and the surrounding area

Today I’m on The Write Reads blog tour for Paula de Fougerolles’s historical novel, The Chronicles of Iona: Exile; the first in her award-winning Chronicles of Iona series.

About the Book

The Chronicles of Iona: Exile tells the story of the Irish monk and Scottish warrior, Saint Columba and Aedan mac Gabran, who would band together to lay the foundation of the nation of Scotland.  They were a real-life 6th-century Merlin and King Arthur and their story has never been told.

The book begins in 563 A.D.  The Roman Empire is long gone, freeing the region of Scotland from the threat of imperial rule but opening it to chaos from warring tribes vying for control. Columba, a powerful abbot-prince, is exiled from Ireland to the pagan colony of Dal Riata on Scotland’s west coast for an act of violence. There he encounters Aedan, the down-and-out second son of the colony’s former king, slain by the Picts.

Together, this unlikely pair travels the breadth of a divided realm, each in search of his own kind of unity.  Their path is fraught with blood feuds, lost love, treachery, dark gods and monsters, but also with miracles and valour.  Beset on all sides, their only hope is to become allies—and to forge a daring alliance with the pagan Picts.

How Columba overcame exile and a crisis of faith to found the famous monastery of Iona (one of the greatest centres of learning in Dark Age Europe) and, from it, the Celtic Church in the British Isles; and how Aedan avenged his father’s death and became, against all odds, the progenitor of Scottish kings and the greatest warlord of his age, begins here.

For both, what begins as a personal imperative becomes a series of events that lead to the foundation of Iona and the kingdom of Scotland—events that literally change the world.

About the Author

Paula de Fougerolles has a doctorate from the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge, and has taught and published in the field. She has lived and travelled extensively throughout Scotland and Ireland, including a prestigious year-long Thomas J. Watson Fellowship in which she criss-crossed Europe in search of the physical remains of the so-called Dark Age – research which ultimately led to this award-winning historical fiction series.

To learn more, visit www.pauladefougerolles.com.

Find Out More!

The Chronicles of Iona: Exile was named to “Kirkus Reviews'” Best of 2012 and a Silver Prize Winner in the 2012 “ForeWord Clarion” Book of the Year Awards, Historical Fiction. Readers on Goodreads have praised it as ‘a book that has everything you could want’ and ‘a MUST-READ for every history-loving reader’. Although I’m spotlighting the book today, this is a series that is definitely going on my To Be Read list – it sounds right up my historical-fiction-loving street and is set during a fascinating period of history.

The book is on tour with The Write Reads from today until 06 October 2021 so follow the hashtags #TheWriteReads #BlogTour and #TheChroniclesOfIona to follow along for more reviews and features!

You can also find out more about Paula’s work by following on her Twitter.

The Chronicles of Iona: Exile by Paula de Fougerelles is available to purchase in paperback and Kindle edition from Amazon. You can also read an extract from the book on Paula’s website, as well as find out more about the series and the inspiration, history, and research behind it.

My thanks go to The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour! There are lots of other reviews and spotlights on the tour so follow the hashtags #TheChroniclesOfIona #TheWriteReads and #BlogTour.

Reviews and features on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews · Seasonal Reads

REVIEW!! The Shadowing by Rhiannon Ward

Image Description: The cover of The Shadowing by Rhiannon Ward has golden ivy leaves against a grey backdrop of faded brickwork

When well-to-do Hester learns of her sister Mercy’s death at a Nottinghamshire workhouse, she travels to Southwell to find out how her sister ended up at such a place.

Haunted by her sister’s ghost, Hester sets out to uncover the truth, when the official story reported by the workhouse master proves to be untrue. Mercy was pregnant – both her and the baby are said to be dead of cholera, but the workhouse hasn’t had an outbreak for years.


Hester discovers a strange trend in the workhouse of children going missing. One woman tells her about the Pale Lady, a ghostly figure that steals babies in the night. Is this lady a myth or is something more sinister afoot at the Southwell poorhouse?


As Hester investigates, she uncovers a conspiracy, one that someone is determined to keep a secret, no matter the cost…

With the onset of Autumn and the turning of the leaves, my reading taste has once more turned to all things historical and spooky. Yes, I’m back in my Gothic reading comfort zone – and Rhiannon Ward’s second dose of historical spookiness, The Shadowing, proved to be the perfect fit for my autumnal reading mood!

The Shadowing follows Hester, the youngest daughter of a well-to-do family of Bristol Quakers. When the family learn that Hester’s elder sister Mercy has died at a Nottinghamshire workhouse, Hester is sent north to Southwell to find out exactly how her sister ended up in such a place, why she had not felt she could draw on the support of her fellow Friends in the area, and whether she has received the burial rites due to her as a Quaker.

As Hester journeys north, she is aware of a presence travelling with her. Beset by traumatic dreams and ghostly visions – ‘shadowings’ – since childhood, Hester knows it is Mercy who travels alongside her. And when she reaches Southwell Workhouse, she soon discovers why. Mercy was pregnant when she died – and although the Master and Mistress of the Workhouse claim both she and the child were taken by cholera, Hester soon discovers that there hasn’t been an outbreak for years.

With the reluctant aid of local innkeeper Matthew and his serving maid Joan, Hester sets about investigating what is really going on at Southwell Workhouse. Why are her new Friends – fellow Quakers Dorothea and Caroline – so reluctant for her to visit the place? Why does the young town doctor take such an interest in her visits there? And who exactly is the ghostly Pale Lady who terrifies the women and apparently steals babies in the depths of night?

As with her previous historical novel, The Quickening, Rhiannon Ward has provided a compelling and atmospheric blend of historical mystery and ghost story in The Shadowing. I was fascinated by the historical detail – from Hester’s Quaker background to the realities of life in the Workhouse, there’s a real sense of both time and place in the novel, and you can tell that the author has done her research – although it is lightly worn and woven expertly into the story.

The novel doesn’t shy away from portraying the grim realities of Workhouse life – especially for those deemed the ‘undeserving’ poor. I felt great compassion for the women (and, sadly, they were primarily women) forced to rely on the ‘charity’ of the parish due to abandonment or widowhood – and the novel does a great job of showing just how easy it would be for a young woman deemed ‘respectable’ and well-to-do like Hester to end up in a situation where her life – and her fate – is taken wholly out of her control.

Hester herself is a spirited main character. Although somewhat naïve – a result of her sheltered and strict upbringing – she is determined to get to the bottom of the unexplained deaths and disappearance at the Workhouse. I really liked the way in which Hester’s Quaker beliefs were woven into the plot, and the way in which they often ran counter to the more common ethos about who was ‘deserving’ of charity and the chance of redemption. Hester’s relationship with Matthew – the somewhat gruff and forthright publican at Southwell’s coaching in – is also really well done, moving from antagonistic to grudgingly respectful as the story progresses despite their very different upbringings and outlooks.

Although the supernatural element is stronger in The Shadowing than in The Quickening, Hester’s supernatural visitations and psychic senses are woven into the plot in a way that is wholly believable, and that adds an ever present sense of unease to the novel. Although Hester’s ‘shadowings’ are ghostly apparitions, the whole novel is imbued with an atmosphere of shadowiness (and some brilliant moments of foreshadowing), with Southwell itself quickly becoming a place of secrets and shadows, ready to leap at Hester from every corner.

Anyone who enjoyed The Quickening is sure to find The Shadowing a worthy follow-up, packed with the same level of historical detail and a brilliantly eerie atmosphere, and headed up by another strong and determined female lead. With its blend of historical mystery and supernatural happenings, The Shadowing is also the perfect fit for fans of Laura Purcell and Anita Frank, and an excellent addition to the popular genre of Modern Gothic.

The Shadowing by Rhiannon Ward is published by Trapeze (Orion) and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher and to Netgalley UK for providing an ecopy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews · Seasonal Reads

REVIEW!! The Lost Ones by Anita Frank

Image Description: The cover of The Lost Ones shows the figure of a woman atop a grand staircase silhouetted against a blue background. Bronze and white leaves surround the image.

Some houses are never at peace.

England, 1917

Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.

Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

Some books definitely need to be read in certain seasons and, with its promise of ghostly goings on and creepy country houses, Anita Frank’s The Lost Ones practically screamed ‘autumn’ to me. So despite having this on my Netgalley TBR for FAR too long, I waited until a time that could reasonably be classed as spooky season (yes, I know it’s only September but as far as I’m concerned that counts) to dive in.

Opening in 1917, and with the First World War drawing to a close, The Lost Ones follows Stella Marcham, a young woman left reeling by the death of her fiancé Gerald in the trenches. Consumed by grief, forced to leave her role as a nurse with the VAD, and now left listless and forlorn at her childhood home, Stella has tried to take her own life – an act that, whilst unsuccessful, has left her at risk of an enforced ‘rest’ in a sanitorium. Given the opportunity to stay with her beloved younger sister whilst she awaits the birth of her first child, Stella sets out for the imposing country manor of Greyswick – only to find a house beset with more unease and suspicion than the one she left behind.

Aided by Madeline, whose own fears about Greyswick Stella is determined to allay, and by her unusual ladies maid Annie, a young woman with very particular hidden gifts, Stella sets out to discover just what – or who – is disturbing the peace and tranquillity of Greywick. The women’s investigations will bring them into conflict with Greywick’s inhabitants, especially the imposing housekeeper Mrs Henge, but will also bring them an unusual ally in the form of wounded war veteran and psychic investigator Tristan Sheers. But as Stella and her companions attempt to lay the ghosts of Greywick to rest, dark forces are moving amongst the living – and they have Stella in their sights.

Packed with unsettling noises and things that go bump in the night, The Lost Ones is the perfect blend of light horror, spooky goings on and sinister family secrets, but also provides a moving and reflective exploration of grief and mental trauma. It packs a lot into its 450 pages and, whilst I don’t want to give any spoilers, touches on a number of issues including a suicide attempt and suicidal thoughts, depression, grief, child death, fire/fire injury, physical trauma, the loss of a limb, infidelity, rape/sexual assault, miscarriage and forced institutionalisation. Whilst all of these issues are handled very sensitively, they are integral to the plot and this makes the novel a reflective – and at times quite tragic – read in spite of the page-turning quality of its mystery plot.

Stella makes for an emotionally engaging and complex protagonist. Capable and strong-willed, her experiences at The Front have made her fiercely independent but her all consuming grief means that, at times, she makes for an unreliable narrator. Whilst I desperately wanted to believe Stella, there were times when I had to question whether her pursuit of a supernatural explanation was a result of her own desperation to be reunited with her beloved Gerald again. The novel does a fantastic job of keeping this balance between the ‘real’ and the supernatural and the inclusion of a sceptical researcher – Tristram Sheers – provided an engaging counterpoint to Stella, especially once the reasons behind his scepticism become clear.

I also really liked Annie, Stella’s maid, who is gifted with the ability to communicate with the dead – although it is not always a ‘gift’ she enjoys possessing. Initially dismissive of Annie, seeing the relationship between the two young women develop over the course of the novel was one of the highlights of the book for me. The sinister housekeeper Mrs Henge, meanwhile, can give Mrs Danvers a run for her money in the ‘creepy family retainer’ department – always popping up from the shadows when least expected and clearly hiding a multitude of secrets!

With atmosphere and intrigue packed into every page, The Lost Ones was the perfect read to kick off my autumnal reading season. With some genuinely frightening moments, its an eerie historical ghost story that is sure to appeal to fans of Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions and Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, whilst the focus upon female friendships and the traumas suffered by women reminded me of Stacey Halls’ The Familiars. Gripping in its pace and plotting, The Lost Ones is also a sensitive portrayal of grief, loss, and the trauma of war and is an impressive debut that kept me enthralled from first page to last. I look forward to reading whatever Anita Frank writes next!

The Lost Ones by Anita Frank is published by HQ (HarperCollins) and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher and to Netgalley UK for providing an e-copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans

Image Description: The cover of The Beloved Girls has the title of the book surrounded by an oval of nature images including bees, flowers, beehives, an owl and a dog against a blue backdrop. The silhouettes of two girls holding hands can be seen at the bottom of the image.

“It’s a funny old house. They have this ceremony every summer . . . There’s an old chapel, in the grounds of the house. Half-derelict. The Hunters keep bees in there. Every year, on the same day, the family processes to the chapel. They open the combs, taste the honey. Take it back to the house. Half for them -‘ my father winced, as though he had bitten down on a sore tooth. ‘And half for us.”

Catherine, a successful barrister, vanishes from a train station on the eve of her anniversary. Is it because she saw a figure – someone she believed long dead? Or was it a shadow cast by her troubled, fractured mind?

The answer lies buried in the past. It lies in the events of the hot, seismic summer of 1989, at Vanes – a mysterious West Country manor house – where a young girl, Jane Lestrange, arrives to stay with the gilded, grand Hunter family, and where a devastating tragedy will unfold. Over the summer, as an ancient family ritual looms closer, Janey falls for each member of the family in turn. She and Kitty, the eldest daughter of the house, will forge a bond that decades later, is still shaping the present . . .

“We need the bees to survive, and they need us to survive. Once you understand that, you understand the history of Vanes, you understand our family.”

Unreliable narrators? Grand country manor house? Tragic family secret? Mysterious rituals? Yes, The Beloved Girls has all the makings of Shelf of Unread catnip and, sure enough, I couldn’t get enough of this engrossing tale of family, friendship, and identity.

Set across several timelines, Harriet Evans’s latest novel follows Catherine, a successful barrister who has just completed a high-profile and extremely harrowing case, and is due to head off for a much-needed break with her beloved husband. When Catherine suddenly leaves, vanishing from the station and leaving her husband with only a photo of ‘The Beloved Girls’, she sparks a frantic missing persons investigation – and a journey into a past that she has long been trying to hide.

Because back during one long hot summer in 1989, there were two beloved girls – Catherine ‘Kitty’ Hunter and Jane ‘Janey’ Lestrange. Kitty and Janey spend the summer at Vanes, the grand and imposing West Country home of the Hunter family – and home also to ‘The Collecting’, a strange family ritual involving the historic beehives that are kept in the nearby chapel. Recently bereaved and cast adrift in the world, Janey is captivated by each member of the Hunter family in turn – patriarch Charles, effervescent Sylvia, handsome Joss, precocious Merry, and pretty, popular Kitty. But all is not well at Vanes and the Hunters are hiding secrets. Secrets that bound Sylvia to Janey’s father Simon in devastating ways – and that will bind Kitty and Janey together in ways that will shape both their lives well into the future.

I do love a ‘mysterious country house’ story and The Beloved Girls certainly provided! I was immediately drawn into the lives of the enigmatic Hunter family and could completely see the allure they held for plain, shy Janey, grieving the loss of her beloved father and desperately trying to avoid the secretarial fate decreed for her by her resentful absent mother.

Weaving between the 1950s, 1980s and the present day, and following the interwoven lives of several characters, The Beloved Girls is a deep and, at times, complex read. I never lost the thread of any of the stories, but given some of the deliberate blurring of identities and relationships, there were the odd moments where I had to flick back a few pages to double check a connection or re-read a paragraph to figure out exactly what was going on.

Partly this is because one of the narratives – that of Catherine – is deliberately disjointed. Suffering from immense mental pressure after the outcome of her last case, Catherine is a portrait of a woman on the verge of (and tipping into) a complete breakdown. I have to admit that, at first, I found Catherine and her “I’m fine, really” attitude rather annoying but, as the story progressed, I began to empathise with her fractured sense of self and to understand the history that lay behind her carefully constructed façade of coolness and competence. As Catherine’s connection to the Hunter family – and to the tragic events of the summer of 1989 – became apparent, I found myself admiring Harriet Evans’s complex and layered portrayal of Catherine. I’m still not wholly sure I ‘like’ her as a character, but I definitely feel as if the author made me understand her.

The strange and unusual nature of the Hunter family also takes a bit of getting used to. Their ritual – ‘The Collecting’ – is like something out of The Wicker Man and, as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that there is a much darker side to this seemingly ancient family tradition. Indeed, The Beloved Girls is, in places, a much darker novel than its cover (which is absolutely stunning) might lead you to think, with discussion or mention of sexual and psychological violence, grooming, coercive control, gaslighting, suicide and mental breakdown all featuring as part of the main story threads. These dark themes are handled sensitively however, with Evans weaving together an intelligent and atmospheric modern saga of family secrets, loss, guilt, and resilience.

With its rich intertwining narratives and grand scale, The Beloved Girls is an immersive, layered novel about family and identity that is sure to appeal to fans of Kate Morton, Kristin Hannah, and Barbara Erskine. It’s not exactly a quick read, being one of those books best savoured slowly, but if you’re looking for a narrative to sink into and whisk you away as the nights begin to draw in and the last of the year’s bees wander lazily around your garden, you could do far worse than this captivating and compelling novel.

The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans is published by Headline and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Bookshop.org, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 31 August 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!