1940. Olive marries farmer Bill Falla. The Germans occupy Guernsey.
All too soon Olive realises she’s made a mistake.
Her life changes when she meets Wolfgang, a German officer-
but there’s a price to pay. . .
2010. Natalie Ogier returns to Guernsey to escape an abusive relationship – only to be plagued by odd happenings in her beautiful cottage on the site of a derelict and secluded farm. Disturbing dreams, disembodied voices and uncanny visions from the past. She becomes increasingly ill at ease as someone else’s past catches up with her own…
Her only immediate neighbour, Stuart, is the grandson of the original owners, Bill and Olive.
Thrown together in a bid to find out what really happened to Olive, can they each survive the repercussions of the past and move on?
This is now the fifth book in the Guernsey series of novels and even though each novel comfortably sits on its own merits as a stand alone story, there are threads which run through each one, and fans of the series will recognise people and places previously mentioned.
As always the author draws you so completely into the story that the here and now quite simply disappears and you are transported back in time to the Guernsey occupation during the Second World War, a time when fear and suspicion was rife. Olive's sad and sorry tale is told with such sensitivity that there were times when I was moved to shed a few tears.
I loved the modern day element and as always the author intersperses the story with believable characters. I really got to like and admire both Natalie and Stuart and felt an emotional attachment to them from the beginning. I also had real cottage envy and wanted to move into "Beauregard" with Natalie, and sip wine with Stuart whilst looking through the sheer glass window of the Old Barn.
The time- slip element of the story is done quite seamlessly and the obvious attention to historical detail emphasises just how much research goes into making each of the stories feel truly authentic. There is no doubt that this author has found a real gem of a series in her Guernsey stories. Each one is as precious as the next and I am sure that the story, should the author be willing , can only continue to go from strength to strength.
Best Read With...A glass of home brewed gooseberry wine and a slice of home cured ham..
Róisín Burns has spent the past twenty years becoming someone else; her life in New York is built on lies.
A figure from her Belfast childhood flashes up on the news: Brian Lonergan has also reinvented himself. He is now a rising politician in a sharp suit. But scandal is brewing in Ireland and Róisín knows the truth.
Armed with the evidence that could ruin Lonergan, she travels back across the Atlantic to the remote Lamb Island to hunt him down.
But Lonergan is one step ahead; when Róisín arrives on the island, someone else is waiting for her.
The beginning of the novel is
both disturbing and intriguing and undeniably sets the scene for a tense and
often violent look into the shadowy world of Ireland's past.
Róisín Burns seems to have left
the past behind her, but as with all things in her life there is only so far
and so fast that she can run to outwit her demons. When she discovers that
someone from her past has resurfaced she realises that the only way to exorcise
her demons is to confront them. Returning home to Ireland is never going to be
easy but in this one thing Róisín doesn't really have any option.
I thought that the book was
really quite gripping, with a fast and furious narrative which doesn't pull any
punches. The author writes with fascinating conviction and opens up to scrutiny
the whole idea of conflict and of the effect that the Irish troubles had on
those growing up during the worst of the violence.
Siren is one of those books that, once you start, you can't put
down. Its high octane realism keeps you on the edge of your seat and doesn't
let up until the story is concluded.
Best read with ...two fingers of Irish whiskey and a guest house breakfast..
He sat huddled against the biting chill of a cold wind that whistled and moaned its way along the trench. Dan was so cold he couldn't feel his feet, or his fingers, and how he longed for the warmth and the crackle of a wood fire and the comforting smell of his mother's spiced gingerbread cake. Lost in deep thought, Dan felt the icy, cold air of the Western Front slip away and for a moment he was back in his mother's kitchen and he could hear her voice gently scold him for bringing in mud from outside.
"How many times, Dan, take your boots off by the door, and stop tramping in muck from the field...and close the door, it's bitter out there.."
Dan smiled to himself and rubbed his mittened hands together, any thought of home brought him comfort. He looked up at the midnight blue sky, so many stars twinkled above him, he felt as if he could see far into the heavens. He knew that the same night sky flickered down on the fields of home but, right now, the farm seemed so very far away. He remembered previous Christmas times, walking home from church with the sound of carols ringing in the air. Dan doubted he would ever want to go to church again, not after what he had seen in recent months, he scarce believed in God any more. "Man's inhumanity to man, well, that didn't bear thinking about, did it?"
Holding the same stooped position in the trench for hours on end didn't half play havoc with his back and every bit of him ached so that the thought of a long hot soak in warm water was something he dreamed about. He stretched and rolled his cramped neck muscles, “Come on, Dan, lad", he said to himself, " A warm bath, that's not going to happen any time soon, ...so stop daydreaming!”
Dan could hear the muffles and groans of the other men, some like him, sat hunched in their overcoats, like hulking shadows, others were pressed along the edges of the duckboards trying to grab a few minutes sleep and merciful oblivion, but sleep didn't last long, not in this cold. They were so close to the enemy lines that an issue had gone round that no braziers were to be lit which meant that everyone was wearing so many layers of clothing that sometimes it was hard to move. Dan laughed to himself when he thought of how he would play cricket for the Sunday sports team in little more than white trousers and a shirt. Would this war never end, he wanted to go home so badly he had to pinch himself hard to stop the tears from flowing.
Dan sensed a lightening of the air around him and knew that dawn was breaking. Christmas Day, he thought with a wry smile. He wondered if Santa would bring anything. He laughed out loud, there had been promise of an extra rum ration, but well, you never knew these days, if promises would be kept. He felt down into his kit bag and brought out a crumpled package he'd been saving for a few days. With icy fingers, quite numb now with cold, Dan opened the parcel and felt the softness of wool and smelled the spice of gingerbread. It was a scarf, soft and warm and oh, so long that Dan could wrap it several times around his head and neck. It smelled of wood smoke, the scent of home and he pictured his mother, knitting needles flying as she sat after another long day on the farm. Wrapped in greased paper was a gingerbread cake, it was icy cold to touch, but the warmth of the spices hit his senses as soon as he crumbled a corner of it into his mouth. He wouldn't eat too much now, he would share the rest with his mate, Bob, who didn't have a mother to make him a cake for Christmas.
Dan heard the first stirring of life in the trench, the moans and murmurs changed to coughs and snuffles as his companions started to make ready for a new day. And then, ever so gently, Dan heard the plaintive notes of a harmonica and the first few notes of Silent Night echoed gently along the line of the trench.
"Happy Christmas, mum", Dan whispered, and his voice echoed across the miles to his mother, who, just starting her day on the farm, looked up into the dawn streaked sky and whispered softly, "Happy Christmas, son".
Ebenezer Scrooge is a lonely, miserly old man who hates Christmas, which he dismisses as “humbug”. One Christmas Eve, however, he is visited by a series of ghosts who reveal to him the innocence he has lost, the wretchedness of his future and the poverty of the present, which he has so far ignored. This experience teaches Scrooge the true meaning of the holiday and leaves him a transformed man.
With its memorable cast of characters such as Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is the most heart-warming of seasonal tales, a timeless classic that continues to enchant readers around the world and a lesson in charity and hopefulness that is as powerful today as when it was first written in 1843.
For me no Christmas is complete without reading A Christmas Carol. No-one can conjure a Victorian Christmas like Dickens, who with his unique perspective, brings the story of Christmas to glorious life. We all know the story of how the miserly and cantankerous, Ebeneezer Scrooge is made to realise the importance of human kindness and, of how, at the end of his journey he is changed irrevocably into a nicer person.
But it must also be remembered that Dickens wrote other Christmas stories, of which A Christmas Carol is but one. In this volume we are also given..
The Chimes ( 1843)
The Cricket on the Hearth (1845)
The Battle of Life (1846)
The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848)
This is a really lovely version and what I find important these days is that the font is a good size for comfortable reading . All too often classics stories are spoiled by much too tiny a font - publishers take note !!
Also included in this version are a few photographs of Dickens and his family along with notes on Dickens's life and also on Dickens's works which I found to be really interesting and informative.
Available from Alma Books and all good book shops.
My thanks to Will at Alma Books for my review copy of A Christmas Carol and other Christmas stories.