Eva Jordan reviews… A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray ‏

Eva Jordan reviews A History of Britain in 21 Women - Post Header

Published by Oneworld Publications

This year marks the  100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the UK.  Also, on March 8th, it was International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, observed annually since the early 1900s. I, therefore, thought it appropriate to review a book that was both fitting and relevant to both these historic events.

A History of Britain in 21 Women is written by Dame Jenni Murray; probably best known as Radio 4’s presenter of Women’s Hour and whom I had the very great pleasure of meeting last year. These short biographies are a personal selection chosen by Murray to present the history of Britain through the lives of twenty-one women, whose lives embodied hope and change, who refused to surrender to established laws of society, and, who still have the power to inspire us today.

In the introduction, Murray, born in 1950, states that growing up “the role of a woman was to learn how to be a good wife and mother, do the cooking and cleaning and nurture those her around her.” She quotes Thomas Carlyle, circa 1840, who said ‘The history of the world is but the biography of great men,’ and as a young girl growing up in Barnsley in the 1950s and ‘60s that’s pretty much what Murray believed. However, it was education that made her question the expectations placed on women, and after attending a wonderful girls’ school she began to discover many women that had influenced history and also challenged the assumption that a woman’s place was in the home.

Murray writes about, to name but a few; Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni tribe who fought bravely against the Romans to preserve a social structure that had been practised by, and was so important to the women of the tribes of Britain, namely equality; Aphra Behn, the first English woman playwright to earn her living by her pen; Astronomer Caroline Herschel, after whom a crater on the moon is named; And, computing pioneer Ada Lovelace. We are also given an insight into the courageous account of writer Fanny Burney (1752-1840) entitled ‘Account from Paris of a terrible Operation – 1812, who, when she discovered she had breast cancer and under the insistence of specialist surgeons, underwent one of the first recorded mastectomies at a time when there was no effective anaesthetic – ouch! She was 59 years old at the time and went on to live until the ripe old age of 88!

Written as biographies in small chunks, A History of Britain in 21 Women is well researched, informative and entertaining. Dedicated to “all the young people who need to know” it is an illuminating, easy read offering a great deal to both women and men of all ages. However some of Murray’s omissions were interesting and there was one woman in particular whom I felt wasn’t deserving of a place amongst such great individuals – but that’s purely politics. Nonetheless, a thought-provoking read finishing with a timely reminder that we still have a way to go and the fight for gender parity must continue.

 

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Eva Jordan reviews… Till The Dust Settles by Pat Young

Eva Jordan reviews Till the Dust Settles - Post Header

Published by Bloodhound Books

Pat Young’s debut novel, Till The Dust Settles, is an intriguing and cleverly woven thriller based around the fictitious life of downtrodden young wife, Lucie Young, and the terrible but real life September 11 attacks (usually referred to as 9/11), which most of us will remember were a series of coordinated alleged terrorist attacks that took place in 2001, resulting in the collapse of New York’s Twin Towers. Not to mention the death, serious injury and disappearance of thousands. 

After winning a much-coveted scholarship in the States, talented young athlete, Lucie Young, decides to leave her parents and native Scotland to pursue her running ambitions. There, she meets her rather charming track coach, Curtis Jardine, whom she falls in love with and marries. However, the opening chapters show Lucie caught in what at first appears to be some kind of snowstorm, “Lucie ran, stumbling and lurching blindly through the dust. Hoping she was heading north. Following the snowpeople up ahead till they melted into white and disappeared … White powder lay inches deep on car roofs and their parking meters wore peaked caps. The blacktop of the road was white, confusing as a negative photo”. This, of course, transpires to be the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. 

As the story unravels we are soon made aware that Lucie had in fact been on her way to a job interview at one of the Twin Towers in a bid to earn some much-needed cash to escape her abusive marriage. However, when Lucie stumbles upon the dead body of successful businesswoman, Charlotte Gillespie, and mistakenly takes her handbag instead of her own, an idea begins to form. Lucie sees the opportunity to make a new life for herself, far away from her own browbeaten existence. Nonetheless, all is not as it first appears and Lucie’s life is about to change in more ways than she bargained for.

Set against the aftermath of 9/11, Till The Dust Settles is an easy read and a great debut. Written in the third person and seen from three perspectives, the characters are both well rounded and believable. The narrative moves along at a steady pace with plenty of intrigue to keep you turning the page. I also enjoyed the authors writing style, which at times was hauntingly evocative and wonderfully descriptive. A great thriller and definitely one I would recommend. 

Eva Jordan in conversation with… Heidi Swain

Eva Jordan in conversation with Heidi Swain - Post Header

Last month you may remember I read and reviewed Heidi Swain’s lovely Christmas story, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at The Christmas Fair, set in Wynbridge, a remote, fictional town in the Fens. So for my column in this month’s edition of The Fens it seemed very fitting to interview the author who sets most of her novels in the Fens.

Heidi, can you please tell our readers a bit about yourself? How long have you been writing and did you always want to be a writer?

Originally from the Fens, I have lived in East Anglia for most of my life. I have been a Norfolk resident for around 16 years now and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Yes, I always dreamt of being a writer and have the stack of notebooks dating back to the eighties to prove it! However, it took a long time to pluck up the courage to take my writing seriously. I’ve been ‘writing with purpose’ for over six years now and by next summer will have had six novels published in three years.

I really enjoyed Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair but I must admit it is the first of your novels I’ve read, mainly because I’m a writer myself and my reading time is limited. However, from what I can gather, most of your novels are set in the Fens, can you tell us why? What is it about the Fens that inspires you?

Yes, the fictitious town of Wynbridge is entirely my own creation but very much inspired by my childhood. My family have farmed the flat Fenland landscape for generations and even though I moved away in my early twenties, when I began looking for the perfect setting my thoughts travelled back to the dramatic skies and far off horizon. I find the no-frills, raw beauty of the Fens both soothing and uncomplicated.

And finally, for any would-be writers out there, before they put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, what one piece of advice would you offer them?

That’s simple – If you want to be a writer, write. If you put it off until you ‘have more time’ you’ll never put pen to paper. Stop procrastinating and make a start. You won’t regret it!

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Many thanks to Heidi for taking part in my Author Q&A and if you’d like some more information about the lovely lady herself, links to her are as follows:

Website
Twitter
Facebook
Amazon

 

#Writing – it’s not a life, it’s an adventure!

I’m over on WE Heart Writing today talking about my journey to publication!

On 19th October my second novel, All The Colours In Between, was released followed a week later by the book launch at Waterstones. And, in several weeks time, I will also be celebrating a … ahem … certain milestone birthday. I’ve always wanted to be a writer but for various reasons it just never seemed to be the right time to knuckle down and get on with it, however, with two books now bagged before my 50th birthday it just goes to show that old saying is true – it’s never too late! ♥

 

Eva Jordan book launch, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, on October 26, 2017.

Now, pop over to We Heart Writing to read the full article.

Out Of Bad, Comes Good!

The Sis Book Launch 1

The great thing about being a writer … is meeting other writers! Having met author, Louise Jensen, earlier this year, I was honoured when, in August, she kindly invited me to her book launch for the paperback version of her debut novel, The Sister, which took place at Waterstones, Market Harborough. Originally released as an ebook in July 2016 with digital publishers, Bookouture, The Sister has met with great success. However, when I first met Louise and we got chatting, I was both intrigued and surprised to find that the circumstances behind penning her first novel shared some similarities with my own journey. Louise, like me, always aspired to be an author and through no fault of her own, again like me, found herself victim to a set of circumstances that would forever affect her health. Finding she was less active and unable to do some of the things she was used to doing was, Louise admitted, a real struggle, and at times quite depressing. Little did she know, as she set about putting pen to paper, again, like me, it would be the start of her writing career and see a long awaited dream come true.

Louise has since written a second novel, The Gift, and her third novel, The Surrogate, was released last month and is already getting some rave reviews. Since writing, The Sister, with translation rights having been sold in 16 countries, Louise has also acquired a literary agent and has been signed to write another novel with Bookouture, with the paperback versions of her books now in the safe hands of Sphere (Little, Brown).

The book launch was a great success and all concerned had a great night. There was enough wine and nibbles to sink a battleship and even a cake, The Sister 1

although sadly I had to leave before I had chance to nab a slice. The only downside for me was my car journey home. What should have taken an hour instead turned into a rather wearisome two and half hours as I met with not one, not two, but three roadblocks! Nonetheless, I refused to get down, instead looking for something positive from my little detour. After all, as a writer, no experience is ever wasted, and, thankfully, I have a rather active imagination. So, as the Shat Nav in my car led me down one narrow, winding, and eerily dark country road after another, an idea for a story began to take root. Due to other commitments I’ve parked it for now, but, when I’m ready, I will no doubt resurrect it and put it to good use, my little diversion thus not a complete waste of time! Therefore, next time you find yourself in a situation you’d rather not be in, remember, as my unwanted little rendezvous suggests, and as Louise’s story proves, sometimes amazing things can happen as a result of difficult times in our lives, and, ultimately, out of bad, comes good.

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Write Your First Novel – In A Month!

 

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A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of attending an author event to hear crime writer, Elizabeth Haynes, talk about her writing career. I also had the honour of meeting and chatting with Elizabeth afterwards, who proved to be both lovely and very gracious with her time. After then going home and devouring her current novel, Never Alone (a great read and one I’d highly recommend if you like crime thrillers) which I read and reviewed last month (and you can read again here), I decided to write a post about the event, and pass on some of Elizabeth’s writerly wisdom

Elizabeth, a former police intelligence analyst, hasn’t always been an author but, like me, she did always aspire to be such, one-day. Her first novel, Into The Darkest Corner was published in 2011 and won Amazon’s Book of the Year and Amazon’s Rising Star Award. During the course of the evening the author discussed her previous career and where she gets her ideas and inspiration from to write her novels. The idea of Never Alone came to Elizabeth when she was thinking of moving house and found herself spending far too much time browsing through the houses of various property websites. She came across a grey stone house nestling in a remote country hillside providing the inspiration for the house in the novel, Four Winds Farm, which plays a pivotal role in the setting of Never Alone.

The author also discussed, despite juggling a family and a full time job, how she eventually came to write her first novel. She became, and continues to be, a participant in the National Novel Writing Month, otherwise referred to as NaNoWriMo – an annual challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November (approximately 1667 words a day, or roughly four sides of typed A4 paper). So, this is my challenge to all you would be writers out there, you have a couple months to prepare yourself before the start of November and possibly the start of your first novel. It may mean getting up a couple of hours earlier every day, or going to bed a couple of hours later each night. It may also mean you let the housework slide for a couple of weeks, get someone else to do the cooking, walk the dog, whatever – but it is only for one month.

However, Elizabeth did also point out that 50,000 words is not a novel (most novels are anything from 60,000 to 100,000 words, much more in some cases), but what you will have is the bare bones of a novel, a good start and something you can build on. Why not take a look at the official NaNoWriMo website nanowrimo.org and sign up now. You’ll find lots of help and inspiration, including pep talks and the chance to meet other authors online and in person. Good luck if you take part and please let me know how you get on!

Elizabeth Haynes

Me and Elizabeth Haynes!