The Barefoot Queen – Seville, Madrid – Ildefonso Falcones

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Why a booktrail?

A tale of love, hope and perseverance set against a historical backdrop of slavery and the gypsy community in Spain. There are some graphic scenes of violence against women in this story however which makes the world a very dark one at times.

Story in a nutshell

The year is 1748 and the time is bad, very bad for women everywhere.

Caridad is a former slave who accompanies her master from Cuba. He dies en route but the freedom she gains is an unknown and potentially dangerous things to have at that time, especially as a woman.

Her chance encounter with the gypsies of Seville will teach her more about life and freedom than she ever would have imagined. Milagro Carmona is one such gypsy  -rebellious and forthright – and the two women are instantly inseparable. Milagros introduces Caridad to her community, one which is persecuted and hunted in Spain at the time. And things are about to get worse…

Place and setting

Seville - Triana district of the city Where the convent is Seville - Calle san Jacinto The cluster of home where the many gypsies live is situated here Isabel II bridge one of the bridges which links Triana to the rest of the city Betis Street A major throughfare of the Triana district where the gypsies would go about their business and go down to the docks and river.  The mooring quay and a long line of façades from the 18th century can still be seen
Seville – Triana district of the city
Where the convent is
Seville – Calle san Jacinto
The cluster of home where the many gypsies live is situated here
Isabel II bridge
one of the bridges which links Triana to the rest of the city
Betis Street
A major throughfare of the Triana district where the gypsies would go about their business and go down to the docks and river. The mooring quay and a long line of façades from the 18th century can still be seen

The settings are as varied as the theatres of Madrid, the world of tobacco smuggling and the birth of Flamenco, it is as much an historical fresco as it is a story of love, hope and perseverance. Two very different settings as the story of the two girl’s destinies is played out.

Seville

Caridad and Milagros  are two women from opposite ends of the earth, from two very different backgrounds and cultures who become friends in Seville in 1748.

Caridad’s early life has been one of hardship and slavery. Alone in a strange city, she is disillusioned and lost until she meets Milagros. Milagros is a young gypsy girl who understands a sense of feeling lost and alone so despite their differences, their pasts are shared ones and their growing friendship soon supersedes any differences they may have.

Seville is the home for many gypsies like Milagros. Living in the Triana part of the city, life is tough – in the raid on the city and in Triana in particular, close to 130 gypsy families were arrested, the gates of the city closed by the army –

That was when the soldiers finally received direct instructions from their superiors: arrest all gypsies as dangerous and despicable persons, regardless of their gender or age, and confiscate their assets.

This is the Seville where Milagros and now Caridad both live as they struggle to survive in this tumultuous world.

Madrid

Madrid Gate of Toledo Ronda de Toledo, 1, 28005 Madrid, Spain Where they enter the city Teatro Español Calle del Principe, 25 28012 Madrid Spain Formerly the Teatro del Principe, where the Milagros and Bartola are told to head towards Plaza de la Cebada Where they see  a lot of gypsies in one of the most populous and humble neighbourhoods in the city
Madrid
Gate of Toledo
Ronda de Toledo, 1
Where they enter the city
Teatro Español
Calle del Principe, 25
Formerly the Teatro del Principe, where the Milagros and Bartola are told to head towards
Plaza de la Cebada
Where they see a lot of gypsies in one of the most populous and humble neighbourhoods in the city

The setting changes to the theatres of Madrid where the two girls later live without the other’s knowledge. MAdrid shines as the location of dreams and hope – theatres dotted all over the city –

There is rivalry between two Madrid theatre: the Principe and the Cruz, which weren’t far from one another. There was a third theatre, the Canos del Peral, where they performed popular lyrical compositions.

The people that liked the Principes theatre were called polacos and those that preferred the cruz were the chorizos. They didn’t only fight each other , but they would also regularly attend the rival theatre to wreck the show and mercilessly boo the comic actors and singers.

The songs of the Sainetes and the tonadillas fill the air as the world of theatre, acting and applause comes alive

It’s a world in which you can get lost in or from which you can thrive.

London and Spain – Disclaimer – Renee Knight

Disclaimer

Why a booktrail?

How would you feel if someone not only knew your deepest darkest secret but wrote a book about it? Sometimes keeping a secret can be worse than revealing it. 

Story in a nutshell

Catherine Ravenscroft and husband Robert both have successful careers and a grown up son, Nicholas, who although not as ambitious as the would like,seems happy enough.

But then Catherine stumbles upon a book with the disclaimer  “any resemblance to persons living or dead…”  neatly crossed out with red ink.  This book was obviously written by someone who knows her, someone who knows here very well indeed. And not only that this someone who knows her deepest darkest secret that risks ruining Catherine, her family and everything she holds dear.

And someone – the writer? – is out to ensure she knows how the story ends.

Place and setting

Someone knows where you are and where you have been.....
Someone knows where you are and where you have been…..From London where the story starts to Tarifa in Spain where the history comes to light…

Not the strongest sense of time and place unless you consider the darkest recesses of the human mind! However the two locations which matter are the anonymous streets of London where the characters live and the holiday resort of Tarifa, Spain where an incident takes place forming the crux of the story.

Tarifa Spain Where the event occurs which devastates Catherines life British library London Stephen spends time here writing Berkeley square Robert works here John Lewis, Oxford Street Significant on a few levels..... Fulham Where those in the story life
Tarifa Spain
Where the event occurs which devastates Catherines life
British Library London
Stephen spends time here writing
Berkeley Square
Robert works here
John Lewis, Oxford Street
Significant on a few levels…..
Fulham
Home for those involved in the story

Catherine and her husband Robert live and work successful jobs in London – Robert at the prestigious address of 54 Berkeley Square

Whenever I step into one of London’s beautiful squares I regret that I haven’t made an effort to do it more often.

And Berkeley Square is a gem”

Life in London is not all cosy however as Catherine soon finds out and so her London is one of suspicion and stress.  The man who sees London as somewhere to enjoy is a former teacher  Stephen Brigstocke who spends time at the British Library on Euston Road with his latest writing project. He soon becomes someone who Catherine has to keep looking over her shoulder as he seems to have taken quite an interest in her..

Cut to Spain and the setting for the secret that Catherine has been hiding from everyone including herself. A location for a holiday and for some rest and relaxation two years prior to the events in the main story. 

It was the largest beach we had been to Miles and miles of white sand. It was a desert although there were crowds of people there”

 But danger can lurk in paradise and follow you home….

Bookish musings

Well this was a shocker! Totally didn’t guess where it was leading and what I did think turned out not to be true. Very hard to review and say much more without spoiling at least some of the reveal and red herrings but suffice to say I was intrigued to find out the secret and the plot of the book which Catherine thinks is about her. As events unfold, the reader is led down one path that you think you know what’s going on and then well, read it for yourself as this is one clever thriller.

Not ideal for a booktrail when you read the end but it’s an interesting premise and creeped me out in several places. There’s a film which it reminded me of for the creepy character of Stephen Brigstocke  reminded me of the Robin Williams character in One Hour Photo. Brrr….

Red herrings and varying interpretations of events keep the book moving along at a cracking pace and if you pause to reflect, well that’s when your thoughts run away with you.

Is keeping a secret actually worse that what people realise when they find out what it is? Can one thin lie ever really hide so many assumptions and misunderstandings?

I thought the reaction of Robert  – before he knew the truth and after – very revealing indeed.

This looks set to be a much talked about thriller of 2015 we think!

Mrs Hemingway – South of France, Cuba and USA – Naomi Wood

himngway

Why a booktrail?

Who was the real Ernest Hemingway? His four wives paint an interesting and contrasting picture of him and tell their side of the story not in any of his famous novels

Story in a nutshell

Ernest Hemingway was famous for writing novels and infamous for his love of women. He married four times and was either a hopeless romantic or an old fool depending on your viewpoint. Hadley was his first wife – the original Mrs Hemingway who opens the novel with her experiences and life with the legendary writer. Then each in turn, the other women in his life tell their story.

Told in four parts and based on real love letters and telegrams, Mrs. Hemingway reveals the explosive love triangles that wrecked each of Hemingway’s marriages.

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

Place and setting

 FLORIDA - Key West Hemingway house Duval Street and Sloppy Joes CUBA San Francisco de Cuba house FRANCE South of France -Antibes Where Hadley regrets that now things are done à trois for Fife lives with them here FRANCE  - Paris Shakespeare and company  where Martha goes to buy earnest a book The Ritz Hotel -  And the legend of the daring recovery of the Ritz from the Krauts

FLORIDA – Key West
Hemingway house
Duval Street and Sloppy Joes
CUBA
San Francisco de Cuba house
FRANCE – the South – Antibes
South of France -Antibes
Where Hadley regrets that now things are done à trois for Fife lives with them here
FRANCE – Paris
Shakespeare and Company
where Martha goes to buy earnest a book
The Ritz Hotel –
And the legend of the daring recovery of the Ritz from the Krauts

From his home in Key West Florida, to their summer vacation place in Antibes France, we travel with the Hemingways as their lives play out on the world stage but hidden from the world’s eyes. With brief sejours in Cuba and Spain too during the Civil war, this is a booktrail of some very iconic locations which formed the basis of much of Hemingway’s work.

Antibes - source Wikipedia
Antibes – source Wikipedia

Antibes and Paris, France

It’s the summer of  1926 and Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley is staying with him in a villa in Antibes.

The morning is already warm and the light has turned the white cotton sheets nearly blue

At night fruit falls to the grass with a soft thunk and in the morning she finds the oranges split and stormed by ants

A vivid picture  – of something beautiful turned into something horrible so quickly – much like the Hemingway’s unravelling relationship. Yet the south of France locations shows how much the young Hemingways and their friends Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were keen to live the good life where ‘ the livin is easy’ is evoked in both the dinners they have, the sitting on the balcony and the general easy living of that era.

Paris

But behind the scenes Hadley yearns for Paris, its grey skies and the simple apartment there but then this was the place where she discovered Ernest’s affair in a letter. Suspecting it after having seen them whispering in the cathedral in Chartres, the fallout soon follows. This is also the location for a further fling – Martha the war correspondent to buy Ernest a book from the Shakespeare and Company bookstore on the left bank. The literary side of the city is alive and well.

Flag of Cuba
Flag of Cuba

Cuba and Spain

Ernest spent much of his time here and its where Mary, wife four, spends time here with him. She likens it to Pemberley where she is Elizabeth Bennett – 

When Ernest had driven up the Finca, the morning of her arrival in Cuba, she had immediately smelled hibiscus and lime. Before her was the most enormous white mansion, bright as a pebble in the Caribbean sunshine.

In Spain we visit via Martha, wife three, who worked with Ernest as a war correspondent during the Civil war. She is abused by him – he calls her a bitch and slaps her when she drives his car into a tree. But still, like the others, she stays

“Rabbit remember Spain, we need war so we can feel the force of each other. Let’s not go back to Cuba”

Spain was an exciting time in Hemingway’s life and provided his material for some of his greatest writing but it was a place of chaos in both his private and personal life.

Key West Florida - pic from Wikipedia
Key West Florida – pic from Wikipedia

Key West Florida

Ernest’s home in Key West is where we are when Fife ;s story takes up – it’s where she remembers their first kiss

“Where the shutters  are open a breeze comes into the house from the Gulf crying in the scent of tamarind, frangipani, banana.

They, especially Ernest loves his old haunt of the Sloppy Joe’s bar and is where he ‘hides out’ when the going gets tough

The Hemingway is quite a journey across the world, via the voices of four wives as they each take it in turn to take us back in place and time – to their time with Ernest and life as a mistress then as a wife.

hemingway 1923

Bookish musings

What a fascinating account of a great writer by the women who knew him best (and for the worst)

Each of the wives/mistresses in turn gave a new impression of the man and together with the jump from place to place, date and time, this created a vast and deeply interesting portrait of the man. The villa in Antibes was a holiday haven for one wife only to become a house of sin soon after. A walk on the beach in paradise when the topic of conversation was divorce, was anything but. But as one mistress became the next wife, Ernest seems to have lined them up as easy as a game of skittles – when he knocked them down the fallout was just as noisy.

I can’t help feeling sorry and relieved for Hadley  – she saw how Fife replaced her and then as we see the situation trough Fife’s eyes, I  felt karma come and kick her up the backside. Yet as Martha made her mark, I did feel sympathy for Fife….What’s going on here and how did Ernest manage to get so many women on side?

Would they really have jumped off balconies for him? Whatever the answer, this is a fascinating and only partially fictional account of one man seen through the eyes of a cycle, a merry-go- round of women.

Killing for Keeps – Newcastle, Glasgow, Rojales – Mari Hannah

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Killing for Keeps is the fifth instalment in the Kate Daniels series – set in and around the North East – in this instance Newcastle and Blanchland. This is a hard-hitting and chilling case for Northumbria Police, the worst torture case they’ve ever seen.

Mari Hannah has raised the stakes this time – the prologue sets the scene for what will follow. And the first chapter (six weeks later) opens the door to a thrilling narrative when we see just what has taken place and what Kate and her team are up against.

The Tyne Bridge with the Sage in the Background
Kate Daniels is back – with a vengeance

Story in a nutshell

Two brothers from a well-known criminal family are found dead within a few miles of each other – tortured to death.

Ripples start to spread across the city – associates of the men are uneasy and witnesses scared. Kate has to break some rules, putting herself and her career in jeopardy. But there is someone out there who lives by his own rules and is prepared to remove anyone who gets in his way.

This is one investigation that Kate and the team will never forget.

Place and setting – the booktrail of Kate Daniels’ Newcastle.

Market Street - police station and Kate Daniels HQ. Mosley Street - where Newcastle’s club scene is centered. Byker Bridge - where a meeting takes place with a informant. RVI - one of two incidents takes place here. Silverlink Industrial Estate - the first of two cases takes place here. Exhibition Park - Kate passes here on her way to meet a witness in Paddy Freeman’s park (Heaton Road)
Market Street – police station and Kate Daniels HQ.
Mosley Street – where Newcastle’s club scene is centered.
Byker Bridge – where a meeting takes place with a informant.
RVI – one of two incidents takes place here.
Silverlink Industrial Estate – the first of two cases takes place here.
Exhibition Park – Kate passes here on her way to meet a witness in Paddy Freeman’s park (Heaton Road)

Kate Daniels, working at the city’s incident room in Market Street, has a lot on her plate. She is called to two crime scenes within a short space of time – Silverlink and the RVI. Two inconspicuous places, but ones that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Investigations take the team deep in to the heart of Newcastle – to ‘Club Land’ in and around Mosley street – to find witnesses and links to the crimes.

Kate has her work cut out. Under pressure to solve this case and to raise the flagging morale of her team, she’s battling tensions from all sides. Kate Daniels backed into a corner? She fights and then she fights some more. This is no ordinary case and she is keen to protect witnesses as she gets to the truth.

Blanchland. Silverlink, Newcastle. Glasgow. Rojales.
Blanchland.
Silverlink, Newcastle.
Glasgow.
Rojales.

As the investigation continues, she heads up to Blanchland – “the exquisitely tranquil village . . . at the heart of Catherine Cookson country . . . built from the stone of a twelfth-century abbey, the village hadn’t changed in centuries.”        http://www.blanchland.org/news.php

Blanchland
Blanchland 

Visiting a local beauty spot as part of such a brutal investigation – as was the case when Whitby flagged up as a place of interest – is in direct contrast to the reasons why she is there. Remote, rural and for Kate, dangerous too.

As the case progresses, the investigation takes her and DS Hank Gormley north of the border to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Links with one criminal family have a bearing on the entire Newcastle case. Yet the ‘fish out of water’ works well for Hank’s wit to shine through here – regarding the ‘funny money’ that the Scots use and the notion of ‘Geordistan’. And the lesser-known and rather less fashionable meaning behind D & G.

“Edinburgh was as grey as Glasgow had been – only prettier. If she hadn’t been such a fan of her home city, this was the one place Kate would choose to live.”

When the net widens and the investigation takes Kate across to the Continent, to the Rojales region of mainland Spain, near Alicante, the book races to a thrilling finale. But we’ll stop there since to say anymore would be to spoil the surprises shocks in store. And there are plenty. Believe us.

Killing for Keeps is dangerous, chilling and skillfully plotted. Mari’s best yet. Recently, the series has been optioned for television and she has been shortlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library award proving, beyond doubt, that she is a crime writer we’re going to hear a lot more about. We’re proud to say that she’s a local author and has put the North East region firmly on the literary map.

The Perfume Garden – Valencia – Kate Lord Brown

perfume

For a novel that evokes all the senses – a story of the Spanish Civil war, a perfume Garden and a woman looking for answers

Story in a nutshell

Emma’s mother Liberty, the founder of Liberty Temple perfumes, has just died. She takes over the company thinking that her partner Joe would support her. Instead he is more interested in the third business partner Lila. But then he is thought missing in 9/11. Her mother has left her a house in Spain, a series of letters and a key. So Emma heads off in search of some answers

Cut to Spain 1936 and the horrors of what is unfolding there. Emma’s grandmother Freya is in the heat of the action and the more Emma looks into the old house and the area, the horrors and mystery of what happened here come back.

The house has held its secrets safe for years….until now.

Place and setting

Valencia - Torres de Quart and the Plaza de Plaza del Ayuntamiento  - Emma strolls here and is entranced by the voluptuousness to the city an a softness of light  Morata de Tajuna in Jarama  - where one of the field hospital is Madrid - gran via where the 11th international   brigade march down and Guadalajara
Right hand side – Valencia – Torres de Quart and the Plaza de Plaza del Ayuntamiento – Emma strolls here and is entranced by the voluptuousness to the city an a softness of light                                                                        
Morata de Tajuna in Jarama – where one of the field hospital is
Madrid – gran via where the 11th international brigade march down
and
Guadalajara

 

The setting of the novel is both heartbreaking and poignant since the legacy of the past comes back to haunt Emma as she attempts to revive her grandmother’s house where she stayed during the Civil War. The whitewashed walls contain secrets and unspoken words – flashbacks from the present day to 1936 show the house and its meaning in different times and highlight the escalating horror in Spain and especially in Valencia ‘The land of flowers, light and love” which perfect for Emma in the present day as a perfumier and her wish to revive The Perfume Garden as a memory to her mother and grandmother.

Key places and events are evoked here with Valencia, Madrid and Guadalajara (where Freya was a nurse) and Morata de Tajuna in Jarama amongst others where the field hospital was, showing the extent and nature of the Spanish Civil War.

Buoyed by the thought that perfume evokes such strong memories and hope, the novel evokes a strong sense of smell with the flowery notes of orange blossom and neroli coming from every turn of the page.

garden pic

And we’re not just talking flowers in the perfumed garden, you could recreate this novel quite easily by walking around Valencia, its Quart Tower (Torres de Quart), the streets, parks and Plaza del Ayuntamiento, sampling chocolate con churros and a coffee at a local cafe. Maybe read a poem by Garcia Lorca or a novel by Hemingway as both make an ‘appearance’ of sorts.

History is all around us – and using the five senses we can experience it in this novel.

The Dress Thief – 1930s Parisian haute couture – Natalie Meg Evans

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This story is set in Paris in the 1930s – a decade of haute couture and haute danger…

The setting is the fashion houses and the cut throat fashion world in the most chicest cities in the world…

Think Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent…..

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Entering this world comes at a price for Alix Gower and her attempts to make her way in the world of haute couture. She dreams of becoming a designer in a leading fashion house. She is given a chance in a million but but only if she steals the designs. Does she have a choice? She is determined to become a designer despite being the poor, illegitimate child of a mother who was an Alsace Jewess and father from England who both died too young. It is something she is hungry for and she has to support her remaining family after all. But what will be the cost if she gets caught?

This is a journey across Paris via its fashion houses, bypassing its chocolate houses, cafes, beautiful parks, imposing bridges and the darkest corners of the human conscience….

The main locations  –

With the Eiffel Tower marked in blue. A - Saint Sulpice where Alix lives B -The chic streets where all the posh shops and fashion houses are C - Rue Tremoille where the fictious Maison Javier is located D - Boulevard St Germain  - where the very real and very tasty Deux Magots is E The area of Pigalle known for its nightlife of a certain kind The butte Montmatre where Raphael and the artistes live
With the Eiffel Tower marked in blue.
A – Saint Sulpice where Alix lives
B -Faubourg St Honore – The chic streets where all the posh shops and fashion houses are                                                          C – Rue de la Tremoille where the fictious Maison Javier is located
D – Boulevard St Germain – where the very real and very tasty Deux Magots is
E The area of Pigalle where the fictional Rose Noire club is located.
F -The butte Montmatre where Raphael and the artistes live

 

 

The setting in themes – The fashion houses of 1930s Paris

Now if you are thinking that this may turn into a frilly novel about fashion and sewing, you could not be more wrong. And it would be a shame to miss out on this thrilling journey and insight into the cut throat world of high fashion. The Dress Thief portrays what is meant to be a young seamstress and work in a world when men dominate but where women have sharpened claws and are not afraid to use them.

Faubourg St Honore - home of many a high fashion name
Faubourg St Honore – home of many a high fashion name

We stroll down the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré where Alix hesitates before going inside the famous Hermes store to look at a design and inside the fictious Maison Javier located in Rue de la Tremoille where Alix gets a job……

There were twelve ateliers, each with long tables and huge windows. There were also cutting rooms and store rooms crammed with loth. Pressing room , finishing rooms…she was shown the button room and the thread room and the storage room where finished garments hung waiting delivery.

Inside the fashion house and the models that Alix might have seen
Inside the fashion house and the models that Alix might have seen

The fashion houses are at war. Business is as cut throat as they come and their mantra might well as be the following -One good design is a godsend, a second is a steal.

The fabrics

As we enter this world, the author not only takes us on a tour of the fabrics, styles and colours, but the atmosphere in the sewing room and stores. We get behind the scenes -for it doesn’t seem enough to call them chapters – which are breathtaking. 

Oh the sumptuous material and the fashion houses...the decadence and the glamour
Oh the sumptuous material and the fashion houses…the decadence and the glamour

 A wooden mannequin was decked out in a ball dress of gold dulpion silk. More gold than Alix had ever seen in her life. 

She walked slowly around the figurine, assessing the gown’s tight waist, the voluptuous skirt that fell in graded flounces. It had a neckline out of a renaissance painting which would leave the arms bare. Javier’s dream was that this dress ‘should move like waves of molten gold’.

Paris – shiny on the surface but a rough fabric of society underneath

The Dress Thief however is much more than a novel about the inside of a fashion house – war is approaching and the Parisians are worried. The rich  who frequent the fashion houses feel both excited and hedonistic at the prospect. Alix however is the most fearful of all…

The maid gave the directions. ‘Come at seven. A taxi will take you away at eight as Madame has an engagement. Do not mention Madame’s name to anybody at your place of work, or at home.’

What about  a fake beard and a big hat? Alix muttered as she hung up. It was starting, the theft. She felt sick.

There is depth and quality to the history of the setting – we see Paris in a world of contrasts – draped in shiny fabrics but within the shadow of the bombs and despair.

People sit in cafes such at Les Deux Magots in Bld St -German and discuss the war and what is going on. Artists and the like congregate there as does Alix when she meets someone and he gives her some flowers wrapped in a ribbon of Lanvin blue….

The famous and thankfully very real Deux Magots
The famous and thankfully very real Deux Magots

Alix and Paul meet in the Jardin du Luxembourg near to the lion statue to exchange information about stealing the designs….

It was all very well for Mémé to tell her to stay safe, Alix mused a few days later as she crossed the Jardin du Luxembourg on her way to meet Paul, her hands deep in her pockets, her head bowed against a bitter wind. After all, there’d been no sign of caution the day Mémé announced they were moving to Paris.

The gardens - a stunning scene for intrigue and secrets
The gardens – a stunning scene for intrigue and secrets

Paris and its cobbled dark streets provide the perfect backdrop for a city of contrasts.

The war

The plot is an intricate  one which continues to surprise throughout. The detail is vivid and intricate as the designs on the couture dresses – for against these fashions are the scars of war – the social and historical observations of France and indeed of Spain from where the journalist whom Alix meets has been working covering he horrors of the Spanish civil war – 

The theatre of war was turning north. The facists had failed to take Madrid and were targeting Spain’s industrial centres instead. but even so, Striking little Durango made no sense.

Three days later all hell had broken loose. 

Guernica as painted by Picasso
Guernica as painted by Picasso

Guernica? 

A town, but really an event. A bombing.

It seemed that Picasso had created the moment any hope of peace exploded and humanity perished.

It is true that Verrian will have trouble adapting to life in Paris and when he meets Alix their paths will cross in ways that neither could have expected.

In war time it is said that the normal rules don’t apply and that people act differently  – in Alix’s world there are men from the underworld like Serge Martel, owner of the Rose-Noire nightclub, and the Comte de Charembourg, a wartime comrade of her father. Each with secrets of their own and secrets that they and those around them must keep hidden at all costs.

However, Alix is living the most double life of them all and if she gets caught, if someone knows what she is doing, then who knows what will happen and what the consequences will be.

The world of fashion might be a battlefield, but the real world is at war. The two intertwining stories provide an explosive mix.

Visit the author at Quercus books here – http://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/dress-thief/

Natalie is on twitter – @natmegevans

Happy World Cup Literature Day!

Happy World cup literature day!

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Well if you don’t like football, today might mean nothing to you, but we at the booktrail say – ‘There is always a book to save the day!’. Feeling that you’ll be missing out on not just the football but the atmosphere of Brazil, the parties? the food or the stifling heat?

Then pick up a book and recreate it via fiction. A lot cheaper than even the cheapest ticket to Brazil. And why limit your journey to Brazil? Everyone seems to be going there – why not go somewhere unique and recreate the same feelings?

Our picks:

Recreate the heat – 

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The Separation by Dinah Jefferies – set in 1950s Malaya

With no wind to stir the air, Lydia felt damp beneath her clothes. She walked quickly, glancing up. Only distant specks of cloud littered the clear horizon, with not a sign of rain. She hoped on the local bus back to Malacca, and made her way through noisy streets, where, trapped within narrow alleyways, their air was already thickening with the smell of saltfish frying and  open latrines. 

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Recreate the atmosphere on the beaches –  and a few steamy moments too 😉 oh er…

Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh – set in Deia Mallorca

The sun drops low on the horizon and, with it, the distant hum of life starts up again. Families and couples weighed down with parasols and brightly patterned bags begin the trudge back up the hill road from the beach. A couple of mopeds weave in and out of the slow tide of bodies.

He moves through the water in slow, strong strokes. Jenn takes off her sunglasses, wipes them on her shirt and puts them back on. He pulls himself up onto a little plateau with effortless grace. He has his back to her. There’s no performance – he’s exhilarated out there.

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Sample the streets of Brazil and stand in awe of the statute of Christ – 

The Invisibles by Ed Siegle – set in Brazil

He walked through dark, thin streets which sloped into the beginnings of the hills, where the mansions of Santa Teresa stood silent, their shutters clammed, hoping not to be spotted by the million-eyed beast of the favelas. Beyond the mansions and favelas slept the forest. and above the forest stood the giant statue of Cristo Redentor, arms spread on the highest point, staring down on all of Rio.

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Fancy a party? Gatsby’s party must be the ultimate literary party – 

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald – set in Long Island New York

I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited – they went there. They got into automobiles which bored then out to Long Island , and some how they ended up at Gatsby‘s door. Once there they conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with an amusement park..

The party gets underway –

By midnight the hilarity had increased. A celebrated tenor had sung in Italian, and a notorious contralto had sung in jazz, and between the numbers people were doing stunts all over the garden, while happy, vacuous burst of laughter rose towards the summer sky.

Finally some ‘foreign food’ – 

vacationers-978144726285501

The vacationers by Emma Straub – set in Pigpen (Puigpunyent)  Mallorca

The grocery store in Palma was heavenly. Franny and Charles clutched each other at the head of every isle. The packaging was sublime, even on canned sardines and tubes of tomato paste. Being in a foreign country made even the smallest differences seem like art.

With so much fiction set in foreign lands, hot and sticky situations to get into, sand to feel between your toes, food to taste and parties to attend to all via the pages of a book, you don’t need to go to Brazil to see and feel the action!

Take a ticket – a library ticket and you can go anywhere you like and do anything you like without feeling like rubbish the next day.

Then take another book and go someplace else – far away from the TV, deep into your imagination.

Believe us, there is no place quite like it.

Ever been to Pigpen?

The vacationers

vacationers-978144726285501 The story in a nutshell – 

An American family goes for a two-week vacation to Mallorca.

They’re off to celebrate: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. Their daughter Sylvia, has just graduated from high school.

The sun, sand and sangria should therefore herald the perfect backdrop to the feel good factor within the family. However it soon becomes obvious that all is not well and that the sun will be too hot, the sand will stick to everything and the sangria will make you sick  – for the family has carried more baggage to Mallorca than the suitcases containing their clothes. When this emotional baggage is unpacked bit by bit, well, stand back….

From the streets of New York to the sunny Balearic island, the Post family is to have a holiday they will never forget  –

The characters

Although this holiday is for an anniversary, Franny and Jim are having major problems in their relationship, yet are trying to keep this  a secret from the rest of the family.

I couldn’t personally say that I liked Franny at all – judgmental much? but she is a fascinating character all the same. A woman trying to hold everything together whilst falling apart at the seams.

Sylvia also has secrets. Bobby the youngest child lives far from home and he brings his girlfriend Carmen on the trip. But not everything is happy in their relationship either. Which Sylvia soon discovers…

Another couple there at the resort is Charlie and Lawrence who are waiting to hear about their adoption success. Their story was enjoyable to read and how they related to the Post family and to each other on their time away was a nice addition to the overall family set up.

The setting

Ready for a vacation in Mallorca?

Not surprisingly, the booktrail was very excited about heading to Mallorca today. Having spent a rather sunny weekend reclining in a deckchair on a beach (purely to recreate the book setting I am reading for research purposes), I was inspired to imagine myself on this island.And to the town of Pigpen….yes you heard right –

The Church in 'Pigpen'

 The house was in the foothills of the Tramuntana, Mountains on the far side of the town of Puigpunyent, on the winding road that would eventually lead to Valldemossa.

No one could pronounce Puigpunyent…..and so when Sylvia insisted on calling it Pigpen, Jim and Franny couldn’t correct her and Pigpen it was.

The setting, despite its nickname of Pigpen and everything that conjures up, is idea for a vacation – even the drive up to the house is the perfect introduction to the island for the reader as much as it is for Jim – 

 Heading up the mountain, Jim took several wrong turns on roads that looked too narrow to be two-way streets and not just someone’s well -paved driveway, but no one particularly minded, because it gave them a better introduction to the island.

Mallorca

Mallorca was a layercake – the gnarled olive trees and spiky palms, the green-gray mountains, the chalky stone walls along either side of the road, the cloudless pale blue sky overhead.

Jim headed up the hill. Mallorca was dustier than he’d anticipated, less rolling and green than Tuscany or Provence…

Spanish life

The grocery store in Palma was heavenly. Franny and Charles clutched each other at the head of every isle. The packaging was sublime, even on canned sardines and tubes of tomato paste. Being in a foreign country made even the smallest differences seem like art.

Oh how this took me back to Spain – the beans in a glass jar with a lid, the tubes of tomato paste, ornate jars of olive oil. Aaah yes and as for the amazing Serrano ham displays…. I am now so hungry at this point.

Days out on the island –

The harbour at Deià

The family have a day out in Deià – to visit the house of  Robert Graves, the poet and writer of many novels such as I, Claudius. He was born in London to an Irish father and German mother and spent much of his married life in Deià, Mallorca until his death in 1985 –

The house was just past Deià proper, on the road that led out of town. It had been a  museum for just half a dozen years, but like many writer’s homes that are open to the public, great pains had been taken to make the house look little changed  since Graves’ prime.

Actually this book is a booktrail classic as it is practically an informal guide to not only the island of Mallorca but the customs, food and weather of Spain as a whole.

Why not visit the Miró museum for example? with Miró’s playful paintings and drawings on the wall and be sure to taste the albóndigas -little meatballs swimming in tomato sauce; patatas bravas, fried potatoes of cream run back and forth over the top,  pa amb oli, the Majorcan answer to Italy’s bruschetta.

Nom nom nom

And just be pleased that you are not a member of the Post family. With highly dysfunctional families, it’s great to take such great characters that make your head spin, people that you get to know in ways you wish you hadn’t and people you’re just pleased that you are not on holiday with yourself.

Sit back on your deckchair or your armchair and enjoy your time with the vacationers. 

 

Cruise away on a booktrail

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The story in a nutshell  –

Frank and Heleen’s anniversary cruise is going perfectly, until the unthinkable happens and Frank disappears. Heleen does everything she can to find her husband, but is ultimately forced to return home, alone and distraught.

After spending months searching for some kind of answers, Helen finally gets some sort of news but it is not what she hoped for: Frank was leading a double life. The man she married was not who she thought he was. Not at all.

How and WHY did Frank go missing. What does this mean for Heleen? Can she ever really get the answers she deserves?

The setting

A cruise liner named Columbus - image from Wikipedia

The setting of the cruise ship is obviously a good one for the initial mystery of someone going missing from what is a closed environment with no visible means of escape – apart from the obvious which is too awful to contemplate.

Frank tells her of the trip he would like to take her on for their wedding anniversary

They are particularly enthusiastic about their eight-day trip that begins and ends in Nice. He pointed his finger to the corresponding information in the brochure. “Naples, Palermo, Tunis Mallorca, Barcelona……..’

The port in Nice - image from Wikipedia

The port in Nice – image from Wikipedia

The Columbus starts its journey from the Quai Amiral in Nice and immediately you want to be standing on the balcony with Heleen..

The picturesque view of Nice from the balcony would make a perfect postcard. The coastline with its stately buildings and luxury hotels, and the  promenade , which was surrounded by palm trees and neatly kept lawns, exuded the exquisite atmosphere of the South of France.

The beauty and serenity of the scene are a stark contrast to what comes next but this makes it all the more chilling following the beautiful setting.

Quirky detail made it all the more interesting and brought back memories from a personal trip –

Meanwhile the extremely long promenade changed names. Promenade des Anglais turned into Quai des Etats-Unis.

Naples is the first stop

Mount Vesuvius seen from Naples bay - image from Wikipedia

The Columbus had gone straight from Nice to the Southern Italian city. “And those ruins that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius?”

Soon, following a few ‘surprises’ on the cruise, Heleen and Frank wave goodbye to Mallorca –

Once upon a time this had been where mass tourism started in Spain….

Mallorca - image from Wikipedia

They spend some lovely moments together in Mallorca –

They had lunch in a small fishing village. The tapas tasted fresh and delicious, the view was lovely and peaceful. 

After the scrumptious dinner, they strolled along Mallorca’s major port, where many very impressive yachts were docked.

But then Heleen’s worst nightmare becomes reality…..

The setting of course changes for the worst and is reflected in the descriptions –

The sky over Barcelona was grey. Over the water it appeared to be even darker making the view rather gloomy

We then return to Heleen’s home in the Netherlands and the mysteries that start to come out of the wood work..in Rotterdam, Marseille and back to Nice –

The water was dark, almost brown. Rusty-coloured crests swallowingone another whole. clouds rushed by, dreary andn gray. The dark body of water only seemed the same in its size but nothing else about it seemed he same. It was azure blue then.

Setting is linked to emotions and to both the physical and psychological journey made by Heleen as she searches for her husband.

A cruise like no other

An interesting premise for a couple’s life that goes so drastically wrong.

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And finally  – It wasn’t just the setting that got the booktrail excited –  the Cruise starts off really well with two choice quotes –

Helen reading and, as we see it, pondering the delights of a booktrail….

On the nightstand next to the bed was a novel written by her favourite author. She had devoured all nine books written by the English writer. The books all took place in Africa. The author really managed to fire up her imagination with the unique atmosphere and circumstances.

In her mind, she experienced all of the adventures herself……