Eva Jordan reviews… The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris Published by @ZaffreBooks

EJ Reviews The Tattooist of...

 

“Hope begins in the dark,

The stubborn hope that if you just

Show up and try to do the right thing,

The dawn will come.

You wait and watch and work:

You don’t give up”

–– Anne Lamott

 

Having recently visited the Auschwitz–Birkenau concentration camps in Poland I knew it was time to read a book that, due to the subject matter, I’d been putting off for a while. However, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, despite the horror and sadness surrounding it, is in fact a love story. One that shows, where possible, even during the most wretched of circumstances, you should never give up hope.

The author’s note at the beginning of the book reads, “This is a work of fiction, based on the first-hand testimony of one Auschwitz survivor”. She suggests reading some of the many detailed accounts available about the holocaust for those that would like further information on the subject. This story, however, in the main, concerns the experiences of survivor Lale Sokolov, a 24-year-old Jewish Slovakian who arrived at Auschwitz–Birkenau in April 1942. Lale becomes the camp tattooist, a position that affords him slightly better food rations and sleeping conditions than most. He hates what he does, “Tattooing the arms of men is one thing; defiling the bodies of young girls is horrifying”, but he does as he’s told because—well, what choice does he have? One day he spots a young woman waiting in line with her number written on a piece of paper. Shaking, she is obviously terrified but Lale takes her hand and begins tattooing her arm. Bravely, she doesn’t flinch, and when he’s finished she smiles at him. Lale discovers her name is Gita, and for him it is love at first sight. With a renewed sense of purpose Lale knows he has to survive Auschwitz, if only to ensure the survival of the woman he loves.

Written in close third person, this is an unsettling story. Having researched the holocaust whilst studying for my degree I am no stranger to the horrors that took place in the Nazi concentration camps. However, I’m also pleased to say, despite my initial trepidation about reading it, Heather Morris has written a tale about friendship and love, and above all else, a story of hope, which, unbelievably, even amongst the everyday occurrences of death, starvation and brutality, people still managed to hold on to. Well-written, honest and brave The Tattooist of Auschwitz doesn’t skirt the atrocities of the holocaust but neither is it too graphic. An engaging and powerful read including a beautifully written afterword by Gary Sokolov – Lale and Gita’s son – who growing up remembers a home filled with “love, smiles, affection, food and my father’s sharp dry wit”––testimony to, if it was needed, the shining strength of the human spirit.

 

Publisher: Zaffre

Paperback: 320 pages

 

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Life Is All About Timing… A Guest Post by author @KiltieJackson

 

Happy publication day to Kiltie Jackson!

An Incidental Lovestyle

My guest today is author Kiltie Jackson who is celebrating the release of her third novel, An Incidental LovestyleDon’t you just love that cover – I actually own and drive a Volkswagen Beetle (my favourite car), although mine is black all over.

A bit about the author…

Kiltie Jackson spent her childhood years growing up in Scotland. Most of these early years were spent in and around Glasgow but, for a short period of time, she also lived in the Highlands.

When she was old enough to do so, she moved to London where she had many interesting experiences and most of which are now finding their way into her writing.

Once she had wrung the last bit of fun out of the smokey capital, she moved up to the Midlands and now lives in Staffordshire with one grumpy husband and six cats.

Her little home is known as Moggy Towers even though, despite having plenty of moggies, there are no towers! The cats kindly allow her and Mr Mogs to share their home as long as the mortgage continues to be paid.

Kiltie loves reading, watching movies and visiting old castles. She really hates going to the gym!

Her biggest desire is to one day give up the slave job so she can dedicate herself to writing full-time.

 

Kiltie has written fascinating post all about the importance of timing, but first, let’s take a look at the blurb for An Incidental Lovestyle

It only takes one small incident to change your life…

Jenny Marshall is your stereotypical, middle-aged, spinster. She works in a library, has two cats and likes cake. She has her dreams but not the courage to chase them.

Jeff Rowland fell in love at first sight with Jenny four years ago but hasn’t seen her since. When they bump into each other again, he realises his feelings haven’t changed.

When Jenny’s car breaks down on a cold winter’s day, it sets off a chain of events which brings them together in a way neither could ever have imagined. Both, however, have dark secrets in their past which begin to seep into their present.

Will these secrets bring them closer together?

Or will they shatter their relationship beyond repair?

 

Doesn’t that sound fab! It’s definitely going onto my TBR pile. Now, let me hand you over to the lovely lady herself.

 

Life is all about Timing.

Kiltie1

So much in life comes down to timing; being in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time. We’ve all heard the stories of people who were late to leave for work one day and missed being involved in accidents which, had they left on time, they’d have been caught up in. Or, the kind people who let a person jump the queue only for them to buy the winning lottery ticket. And, for a writer, timing can be everything.

In 2006, I had an idea for a novel. This was not unusual – I already had a few ‘book ideas’ jotted down although I’d never taken any further action on them. This particular idea, however, really took root and I proceeded to write the first seventeen chapters of ‘a book’! When I read them back, however, I decided they were a bit rubbish, and consigned them, and memory stick they were typed on, to the back of the junk drawer!

Fast forward eleven years and, upon reading the bio of another author who became a writer simply to prove to her children that you can achieve anything you put your mind to, I suddenly felt a frisson of excitement run through me and I knew that ‘now’ was the time to blow the dust off that old memory stick in the drawer and have another go.

When I re-read what I’d written, I realised I’d been too harsh and critical on my younger self – those early chapters had potential. Within three months, I’d completed my first draft. Here, however, timing was the key. In those eleven dormant years, social media had exploded and mobile phones had become mini, hand-held computers. This technological progress enabled me to create a better story which was more believable. A long-distance friendship is far more sustainable now than it was a decade ago, thanks to these developments and a long-distance friendship was the back-bone of my story. I finally released my debut novel, ‘A Rock ‘n’ Roll Lovestyle’ in September 2017.

Since then, I have gone on to write and release a further two books and timing also had a hand in those. In my second novel, ‘An Artisan Lovestyle’, the essence of the story is focused on two people who are throwing their lives away. They have so much going for them but they have shackled themselves to events in their past and cannot move on to better things. They are wasting their time on earth. Luckily, however, they have other-worldly guardians looking out for them and, through a series of events, they learn just how precious time really is. Part of me identifies greatly with this as I do regret the time I lost between beginning to write my first novel and finishing it. Those sands of time are now gone and can never be recovered.

Kiltie2

My latest novel, on the other hand, is a reflection of my opening paragraph. ‘An Incidental Lovestyle’ begins when Jenny Marshall’s car refuses to start on a cold winter’s day and she has to take the bus to visit her friend. If Brian, her less-than-trustworthy Volkswagen Beetle, had been up for the task in hand, Jenny’s life would have continued to trundle down the same old path it had trundled for the previous twenty years. Instead, what was initially considered to be appalling timing on the part of Brian, actually turned out to be a very big blessing in disguise.

These are examples of how time and timing is addressed within my books but a different kind of time also plays a part in helping them to be written. As a lady of older years, I find my sleeping patterns have become rather skew-whiff and it is not unusual for me to be lying wide-awake at four o’clock in the morning. Unfortunately, I tend to be far less awake at four o’clock in the afternoon – much to my employers dismay but that’s another story and we won’t go there! Anyway, back to the four in the morning slot – this is when I solve my book problems. I’ve had so many inspired ideas at this time of the day and a great many plot holes and plot problems have been resolved in a far more satisfactory manner than when I’ve been mulling them over during normal and acceptable ‘awake’ times. Examples of this include the book title for my second novel. I’d tried everything in my head and nothing was right. I knew my second novel was a follow on from the first book but at no point had it occurred to me to carry on with the ‘Lovestyle’ theme. That is, until I was wide awake at four am and it suddenly hit me that, if this was going to be a series, then why not tie it down with a distinctive series name! Et voilà, my problem was no longer a problem. This morning, yes, at 4 am, I was awake again. I’ve had an idea for some time for a future book in the Lovestyle series but I couldn’t figure out how I was going to ‘fit it in’ – thankfully, the old four o’clock magic was there to do what I needed it to do and I can now say there will, at this time, be nine books in this series. I think writing those will keep me out of mischief for some time to come.

Kiltie3

So, you see, timing really is everything, in every possible way and probably more so than we ever truly realise. Thank you for giving me some of your time by reading this and a thank you to Eva for giving me this time on her blog.

Kind regards,

Kiltie Jackson.

xx

Head Shot Piccie

 

Thanks for being such a fabulous guest today Kiltie, I wish you every success with your new novel.

To Keep up with Kiltie, you can find her at the following places:

If you’d like to buy a copy of An Incidental Lovestyle you can purchase it at Amazon.co.uk here and Amazon.com here.

Eva Jordan in conversation with… Liza Perrat – The Story behind The Swooping Magpie

Eva Jordan in conversation with Liza Perrat - The Story behind The Swooping Magpie - Post Header

On my blog today, I’m very pleased to welcome the lovely Liza Perrat who has written a guest post about her current novel, The Swooping Magpie.

Hi Liza, it’s an honour to have you here today. I haven’t read it yet but The Swooping Magpie sounds like an amazing but heartbreaking read. Can you tell us a little bit more about it, the story behind it?

The Story Behind The Swooping Magpie

We’ve all heard the terrible stories of the Magdalene Laundries, 18th to late 20th century-institutions housing “fallen women”, term implicating sexual promiscuity or prostitution work. In practice, most of these “laundries” were operated as gruelling work-houses. However, many people are unaware that similar institutions operated in Australia and, inspired by a true-life scandal, this the story behind The Swooping Magpie.

It is difficult for any Australian born after the feminist movement to understand what it was like to be sixteen, pregnant and unmarried in 1970. Marriage was still the vital cornerstone of Australian society and it was impossible to imagine having a child outside of this union blessed by church and state.

So, rather than rejoicing at the new life growing inside her, these girls were hidden away in shame –– at their parents’ house or sent to homes for unmarried mothers.

While The Swooping Magpie demonstrates a society that refused to support mothers battling to raise an infant alone, it also exposes the brutal adoption industry practices that targeted healthy newborn babies for childless couples.

Until the mid-70s it was common practice to adopt out the babies of unwed mothers. In the 1960s, Sydney’s Crown Street Women’s Hospital was one of the largest sources of Australia’s adopted babies. Patient documents from there, and other maternity hospitals show that from the moment most unmarried girls arrived, their records were marked “for adoption”.

They were given three days after the birth to sign the adoption consent, and then thirty days to change their minds. These laws were meant to give legal certainty to adoptive parents while protecting relinquishing mothers’ rights. But in practice, those rights were either denied or the women had no idea they existed.

During this time, approximately 250,000 girls had their newborns taken, many claiming they were pressured into signing consent whilst under the effects of postpartum sedation. Forced to pay this terrible price for pregnancy outside marriage, thousands of women harboured their grief, in silence, for decades.

The Swooping Magpie Book Description

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.

She’s not wrong.

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves.

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives.

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

Excerpt From Chapter 1

I wrinkle my nostrils against the caustic smell of cat piss as we pick our way across the filthy footpath to the black gate.

My mother steps aside as the high gate creaks open, nods at me to go through. I scowl, don’t move.

‘You heard what your father said, Lindsay.’

With a sigh, I push past her.

The storm flushed away, the humidity has seeped back into the air at this tail-end of another scalding Australian summer. There’s no warmth in me though, only ice-blocks freezing my insides so that I become so cold I can’t stop shivering.

It’s not just the fear that sets me quaking, but the helplessness too. Like when I was a kid about to launch myself down the slippery dip. I’d hesitate, knowing that once I slid off there was no turning back, even if the metal burned my bum raw, or that once I reached the bottom I’d tumble forwards and scrape my knees.

My mother nudges me ahead of her. I don’t realise it yet, and I won’t speak of the whole sorry tale for years to come, since every time I thought about it, the memories would leave me frustrated, sad and angry, but I would recall walking through those black iron gates as crossing the threshold into the darkest hell.

Liza Bio

Liza grew up in Australia, working as a general nurse and midwife. She has now been living in France for over twenty years, where she works as a part-time medical translator and a novelist. She is the author of the historical The Bone Angel series. The first, Spirit of Lost Angels, is set in 18th century revolutionary France. The second, Wolfsangel, is set during the WW2 Nazi Occupation and the French Resistance, and the third novel Blood Rose Angel –– is set during the 14th century Black Plague years.

The first book in Liza’s new series, The Silent Kookaburra, published in November 2016, is a psychological suspense set in 1970s Australia.

Liza is a co-founder and member of the writers’ collective Triskele Books and also reviews books for Bookmuse. liza perrat

Connect with Liza Perrat:
Website
Blog
Twitter
Facebook
Triskele Books

Bookbub

Sign up for her new book releases and receive a FREE copy of Ill-Fated Rose, the short story that inspired The Bone Angel French historical series.

The Swooping Magpie is available in both ebook and paperback at all the usual retailers.

the swooping magpie triple pic

Eva Jordan reviews… Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister‏

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Cleverly written, Anything You Do Say is the first Gillian McAllister book I’ve read, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Described as a Sliding Doors psychological thriller, the story starts with Joanna, the main protagonist, committing a criminal offense, albeit accidentally, at which point the story splits into two; one called Reveal, the other, Conceal.

Set during the present day, both stories, told in the first person, centre on Joanna Oliva, a young woman living in London with her husband, Reuben. The story begins with Joanna on a night out with best friend Laura. They are in a bar and leave when a man, who has been harassing Joanna, unsettles them. Once outside, and away from the bar, Joanna and Laura call it a night, say their respective goodbyes and head home in different directions. Joanna hears someone walking behind her. Too afraid to look she is convinced she is being followed. She spots a flash of red at the top of a set of stairs on a towpath, which confirms her suspicions. Her pursuer is wearing the same red trainers worn by the man who earlier, in the bar, had been harassing her. In her panic, Joanna spins round and pushes “his body, firmly, squarely, the hardest I’ve ever pushed anything in my life” down the concrete stairs, and this is where the story splits.

We then follow Joanna’s journey where in one story she reveals what has happened, and in the other, she conceals what she has done. As expected, both choices have huge ramifications, which impact on both her life and that of friends and loved ones. Joanna is one of life’s procrastinators, who, unlike her husband Reuben, prefers to avoid her problems—“He’s (Reuben) never done denial. Not like I have… He confronts issues head on… Calmly, not hysterically, not the way I eventually tackle things I’ve been avoiding for years.” However, due to her actions, Joanne is forced to face up to herself and what she has done—in both stories.

Gripping, pacy, and well written, Anything You Do Say glides easily between the two parallel timeframes with no awkward repetition. I was totally invested in the characters and particularly enjoyed the exploration of the ‘what ifs ’ in each story, as well as the diverse responses and differing attitudes to Joanna’s behaviour by those closest to her. Well worth a read, and one I really recommend.  

Eva Jordan reviews… The Silent Christmas by M.J. Lee

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Thanks to a cousin who has been researching our family tree, I recently discovered I had a Great-Great uncle who served in the trenches during WWl. He joined at the start of the war as a volunteer in 1914, and just one year later, aged twenty-one, he was dead, killed in action, his body never recovered but is commemorated on the Menin Wall in Ypres, Belgium. How apt then, I should stumble upon Martin Lee’s recently released novella, The Silent Christmas, the fifth in the Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery series, which can also be read as a stand-alone.

Set in both the present day and the WWI trenches, the story centres on the informal football match believed to have taken place between the English and German soldiers during a brief truce on Christmas Day 1914. The first chapter takes us straight to the trenches on December 21st in Belgium, capturing the conditions and possible mindset of some soldiers, ‘He lay on his back on the hard ground and dreamt of England; picnicking on the grass in front of the bandstand, straw hat tipped over his eyes to shield them from the sun… A shadow crossed his face and he felt a tap against his foot. ‘Time to get up, Tom, we’re moving forward… The men began packing up… As they did so, a solitary shell from a German whizz-bang whistled overhead, landing one hundred yards past the farm. None of the men moved or even ducked; each one carried on preparing to move forward as if nothing had happened.’ We then move forward to the present day and discover Jayne Sinclair, a genealogical investigator, asked, just days before Christmas, if she can help shed light on the mystery of several items, namely a label, a silver button and a lump of leather, found in a chest in the attic of her client. Ms Sinclair, who says, ‘Our role as genealogists is to use our research to bring these lost people, the vanished people of our family, back to life,’ agrees, and the mystery begins to unravel.

Written in the third person throughout, The Silent Christmas is a fictional tale exploring the actual events that took place during December 1914, later called the ‘Christmas Truce.’ A real “feel good” story handled with great care and respect, full of hope and love, that is both well written and researched. And, as 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of Armistice it is also particularly poignant.

You can find The Silent Christmas on Amazon 

Writer Martin Lee

M J Lee on Social Media:
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Eva Jordan reviews… Before The Fall by Juliet West

EVa Jordan reviews Before The Fall - Post Header

A great war.
A powerful love.
An impossible choice.

A tale of forbidden love, Before The Fall is beautiful, poignant and heartbreakingly sad. Set in London’s East End during the First World War, this is a fictional tale based on true events.

Hannah Loxwood is the struggling young mother of two children, namely 4-year-old Alice and 2-year-old Teddy. Her husband, George, one of many young men who has voluntarily enlisted to fight in the Great War, is across the channel, fighting. To help make ends meet, Hannah and her children move into the home of her older sister, Jen, and brother in law, Alec, and to help pay her way Hannah takes a job offer in a local café. There, she meets Mr Blake, Daniel, a welder. “This man, he’s not like your average docker. He’s well built all right, strong like you have to be, but there’s something unusual about him. A word comes to my mind – elegant – and I tell myself not to be so daft. It isn’t a word I’ve thought of before, let alone said.” Hannah quickly realises she is drawn to the quietly intriguing Daniel in a way she neither expected nor anticipated. The feeling, as it turns out, is mutual. “All the single girls in London and he has to fall for a soldiers wife … beautiful, odd, vulnerable.” Nonetheless, Hannah is a married woman; social norms must be observed at all times. Hence Hannah and Daniel must do their level best to suppress any thoughts or feelings that go beyond friendship. However, as the war rages on, Hannah finds herself wondering if her husband will ever return home again – and if indeed she actually wants him to.

Well researched, full of fascinating historical details, including police statements, newspaper reports and witness statements, Before The Fall is a brilliantly crafted, superbly written novel. The characters are well rounded and believable, especially Hannah, written in the first person – whom I became highly invested in – and Daniel, written in the third person. The author’s prose is wonderfully captivating and highly evocative – I could see the smog, smell the river, feel the hunger, and sense the desperation. However, although set amongst the fear and uncertainty of war-torn London, this is not a war story but rather a mesmerising, realistic, and haunting tale of love. It is also a story about the plight of women, their sad indictment and the difficulties they faced if caught challenging a ruthless wartime society. A sensitive, powerful, must-read.

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with… Heidi Swain

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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