Next week we celebrate our fifth birthday, and an exciting special guest is lined up to help us mark the occasion. Meanwhile, the three of us indulge in our own summer round-up. (We've been busy writing, too - each of us has published a book during lockdown! See the end of this post.)
Thank you so much to all the guest authors and independent booksellers who send us reviews, keeping us supplied now for five whole years and 275 blog posts - we couldn't do this without you! Don't forget to come back next week ...Adèle Geras:
The title is a quotation from the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, his description of his homeland as a ‘long petal of sea and wine and snow’. This is an epic novel spanning decades and crossing continents, following the lives of people both real and fictional. It begins in the brutal reality of the Spanish Civil War. A young medic, Victor Dalmar, is on the losing side and is forced to flee with his sister-in-law Roser Bruguer and thousands of others; his brother has been killed, his mother lost in the confusion of the retreat. After a gruelling crossing of the Pyranees, they are interned by a hostile French Government. From here they are rescued with many others, taken on a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda to find refuge in Chile.
The novel follows their lives through changing years and circumstances from impoverished beginnings in a new country to successful careers, Victor as a heart surgeon and Roser as a musician, but they are strangers in a strange land and progression is anything but straightforward.
As Victor and Roser settle into their life in Chile, other stories are brought into the narrative. Effortlessly tracking her characters through time and across countries and continents, Allende exquisitely demonstrates the vulnerability of the individual to forces beyond their control, from the cruel exile forced on Victor and Roser by the Spanish Civil War to the defeat of the Allende liberal democracy in Chile and the brutal military dictatorship of Pinochet. This is a powerful novel of identity and belonging, love and loyalty but, above all, the resilience and endurance of the human spirit.
A Place Called Winter is set in the first decades of the twentieth century and follows the life and adventures of Harry Cane. Discovered in an illicit affair, he is ostracised by his family, exiled from his comfortable metropolitan life, he leaves to start afresh as a homesteader on the prairies of Canada in a place called Winter, a place as bleak and inhospitable as it sounds. Ill equipped in every way, Harry nevertheless survives, more than that he thrives, relishing the physical work, appreciating the beauty of the country, enjoying the rural simplicity of his new life. He finds friendship here in a place where neighbour depends upon neighbour, companionship, a love he hadn’t known before but even in this idyll, old prejudices endure…
This is a novel of great compassion, a celebration of difference, a round and eloquent condemnation of the kind of small-minded prejudice that continues to blight lives.