The French Gift – Kirsty Manning

Wow, what an amazing read this was.  One of those books that when I turned the last page I just sat there for a while and savoured what I had taken in and what I had experienced to let it all sink in.

The French Gift is steeped in historical fiction set amongst the atrocities of WWII and the forced labour camps that women were sent to work in as prisoners, whilst at the same time meshed with the present day and the world of historians and curators as they try to honour the past.

Beautifully written I was absolutely drawn to all the characters in this wonderful story.  It’s 1939 and Margot is the maid at a stunning villa in France, which is host to the social party of the season.  Margot’s life is turned upside down in the blink of an eye when she is thrown into the spotlight and into prison accused of a murder she didn’t commit.

Soon after in 1940, journalist and French Resistance fighter Josephine is thrown into prison by the Germans where she shares a cell with Margot.  The two form a fast friendship and an unbreakable bond, which continues when they are transferred from the French prison to the labour camp in Germany where they are forced to endure the most horrific of conditions and circumstances.

Their story is heartbreaking and tragic, but it is also one of immeasurable strength and courage.

As a backdrop to these chapters is the present day world of Evie and her son Hugo.  Evie runs a botanical bookshop in London and when Josephine dies, as her great niece, Evie is asked to help with an exhibition to showcase Josephine’s life.

I loved everything about this book, the dual timelines, the history, the rich characters and the wonderful friendships that played such an important role.

Thank you so much to Allen and Unwin for the chance to read The French Gift which is out now and definitely worth picking up.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – V.E Schwab

What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said?  What can I say about this book that would even begin to do it justice?  Nothing, okay, end of review.

Seriously, this is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.  I finished it a few days ago now and it actually feels like there is a great big empty space where Addie should be. 

Desperate to be free to live her own life, make her own choices and set her own path, it’s 1714 and Addie makes a deal that will change her life forever.  As is so often the case, this freedom comes at a price.  Whilst she may now be beholden to nobody, she is now also remembered by nobody.  Seen, and yet instantly forgotten.  No memories left, no footprints behind her, nothing.  She is nothing. 

Until she meets Henry.  The unassuming man who runs the local bookshop in New York City.  It’s 2014 and after nearly 300 years, Addie is finally remembered.  After 300 years meandering through the world, through wars, through celebrations, through unforgettable moments in history, he remembers her.  Why?  Who is he?  What does it mean?  Addie will push all these questions away to savour these feelings as long as she can.

Lyrical, magical, simply stunning.  There is honestly nothing I can say that will do this book justice.  If you haven’t read it yet, pick it up, find somewhere comfy and dive right in.  This book will stay with you forever.

5 bright beautiful stars for this one.

*****

Review – The Silk House

The Silk House – Kayte Nunn

The Silk House is going to be one of my favourite reads for 2020. It was so beautifully written and descriptive I couldn’t help but fall in love with everything about it.

An historical fiction, narrated through multiple POV’s in vastly different eras, the story-line is interwoven superbly. In 1768 The Silk House is home to a wealthy silk merchant, his wife and their household in Oxleigh. Rowan Caswell is the new maid at the house and in times where people are suspicious of anyone slightly unusual and talk of witchcraft still swirls around, it is a troubling time to be meddling in anything untoward. With white-blond hair and a skill in herbs, potions and draughts, mystery soon starts shrouding Rowan and she must be extremely cautious that no one becomes aware of here abilities for fear of putting her life at risk.

Meanwhile, in London 1768, Mary-Louise Stephenson is the designer of stunning one of a kind patterns but has so far been unable to break into the male dominated trade. When the silk merchant makes an unexpected visit to her home offering her the chance for her patterns to become a reality she jumps at the opportunity. Thrown into the shady world of the merchant and creating silks that seem to hold dark secrets Mary is soon wondering if she has made a terrible mistake.

Now in 2019 Silk House is home to an exclusive Boarding School, Oxleigh College. History teacher Thea Rust has just moved from Australia to the UK to take up a position at the college, the same college her father once attended. This is the first time girls have been admitted into Oxleigh College, previously a school only for boys so Thea has the unenviable job of not only being new to the school but having to help with this unwelcome change in long-held tradition. When strange unexplained things start happening and rumours of Silk House being haunted start circling Thea is desperate to find out as much as she can about its history and what really took place there all those centuries ago.

The atmosphere is superbly rich and detailed with Gothic undertones throughout plus the ever present mystery of witchcraft. A truly beautiful story that I just couldn’t put down.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Hachette Australia for the opportunity to read this amazing book.

*****