Tapestry of War by Jane MacKenzie Review and author interview

Author: Jane MacKenzie

Genre: Historical fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars

I received this book from the publisher, Allison and Busby, in exchange for an honest review. This in no way effects my opinion of the book.

Tapestry of War is a breakthrough story of love and friendship in WWII by Jane MacKenzie. The book is based on the real events that her family witnessed during the war but is still entirely a fiction. The story follows two female MCs, Fran and Catriona who though both from different backgrounds and separated by miles of ocean, are draw together through friendship and love. It is an entirely charming and utterly beautiful book.

The setting is diverse and interesting. Fran living in Alexandria, Egypt and working for a newspaper there whilst Catriona is a nurse living in rural Scotland. Both settings are described beautifully and it’s easy to envision yourself there alongside these remarkable characters. I felt a wonderful connection with Fran and Catriona as well as other characters in the book, for example Catriona’s brother Jim and the mysterious Duncan. Each and every character has so much depth and reality that it’s impossible not to connect in some way with them all. Even the most fleeting of background characters has an impacting background.

I truly haven’t enjoyed a book as much as I have this one for such a long time. I wanted to savour every moment but also I needed to know what would happen next and what was in store for my favourite characters. The book created questions in mind constantly and even when I wasn’t reading it was on my mind. I truly couldn’t recommend this one enough. It couldn’t be a more perfect story.

In addition to getting the chance to read this marvellous book early, I was also lucky enough to get to interview Jane MacKenzie herself! Please continue below to read her responses to the questions that burned in my mind after finishing this wonderful book!

Q1) The novel is inspired by your family and their experiences during WWII. Is there anyone in particular you based Fran and Catriona on?

During World War Two my parents-in-law met in Egypt, where he was serving as a naval officer, and she was a member of the privileged British community in Alexandria. Their story fascinated me. Imagine what it must have been like for a woman brought up in a glamorous world of servants and cocktails to give that up to move after the war to become a teacher’s wife in the Highlands of Scotland. The village she came to didn’t even have electricity at the time. By all accounts she was a wonderful woman and made a great life here despite the weather and the midges!

But I didn’t want to write her story. I wanted to write my own story. And this was made easier because I never met my parents-in-law, who died relatively young. So Fran is her own person, it’s just the world she moved in I wanted to capture, and the inevitable challenges facing a relationship between two people from such different backgrounds.

And Catriona? Well Catriona represents to me the best of Highland women, patient, enduring, with a fine mind and true community spirit. She isn’t any one person, but she is a true girl from Islay.

Q2) What was the inspiration for setting the novel in Alexandria and Islay in particular?

Alexandria was such an important strategic base during the war, in the battle for the Mediterranean. It has also been also a major trading centre throughout history, so was a melting pot of cultures, Arab, Jewish, Levantine, Greek, French, Italian, British. That makes such a rich setting for a novel. I have lived and worked for much of my life in the Arab world, and know Egypt and Alexandria, so the family links to the city fell in very well.

And in Scotland I wanted my people to be from the Highlands, to have that wonderful culture, and I loved the idea of making Catriona’s father a whisky distiller from Islay! Islay is such a beautiful island and has true heart. Who could resist it?

Q3) My grandparents were respectively a soldier and a nurse during WWII, I could see a glimpse of what that was like for them in the characters of Jim MacNeil and Catriona MacNeil. Was it your intention to make your characters reflective for readers?

I have a very reflective style of writing, I think. I love to write about ordinary people living through extraordinary times. It so often brings out something very special in them, and I’m sure this was true of your grandparents. It’s such a pleasure to explore characters and how it must have felt to be them, just then, at a time of so much upheaval and trial. And I love the fact that people retained so much humour, and the way they bonded together.

Q4) I have to ask, will we be seeing more of these characters in the future or is the book strictly standalone?

This is a stand-alone book. I’ve written a trilogy before, but this time I think the end of the war is the natural end of the story, and I’m happy to let my characters head into their futures without me. You can picture their futures, happy and settled, and that’s just how I want to leave them.

Q5) You can really see the research you’ve put into this novel. As a history undergraduate student I can really appreciate this. Is history something you enjoy usually?

I absolutely love history, especially the period of history we can almost touch, lived by our grandparents and even our parents. In the 20th century lives changed more than at any other time in history, and you don’t have to go far back to be in quite a different world. My mother always talked to me a lot about the war and about life when she was a child, and I found her stories fascinating. Since I started writing the war has crept more and more into my life, and I can honestly say that I am now quite an expert.

The challenge then is to write a book about people, and not to let the research you’ve taken so long over hijack your story. I hope that Tapestry of War is a really human story, and that what shines out of it is the love, hope and courage of all the people touched by the war.


A Baby’s Bones Blog Tour Competition

Click Here! For a chance to win one of three paperback copies of A Baby’s Bones by Rebecca Alexander. I have partnered up with Titan Books as part of the A Baby’s Bones blog tour to give away copies to three lucky people! The giveaway is live between 23rd April til 4th May when I will publicly announce the winners on my blog as part of the tour.

This is an historical crime fiction set between present day and the 1800’s. It is a book I am looking forward to reading soon and hope it’s something that will grab your attention too! So if you’re a crime fan or a fan of historical fiction then this is a giveaway you wouldn’t want to miss! Good luck to everyone and may the odds be in your favour.

Life updates.. because I am still alive!

Hello everyone! I’ve not be active around here the last week or so and I apologise for that. My daughter was due in for surgery on Friday and I’ve been anxious and terrified all week worrying. She’s safe and well but apparently mummy’s still a nervous wreck as I’m unfocused on everything but her right now.

Anyway, I’m lined up for a few blog tours this month and next so I’ll be around with those! Some reviews, interviews with authors and even a competition will all be part of them so stay tuned for those!

I’ll try and get back to my regular reviews and posts soon as my little one is picking up a bit more. I’ve got a few arcs to review and share with you all and other bits I have in mind but now isn’t really the time for that!

My second year of uni is drawing to a close which means revision, revision, revision for my exam! Which is another thing that will be keeping me away for a while!

So, kind of a nonsense post but just wanted to give a quick note of what’s upcoming and what’s going on!

See you soon!

I Remember You teaser extract

Hello and welcome to my blog! I have the opportunity today to share with you a teaser extract from Elisabeth De Mariaffi ‘s new novel I Remember You, published by Titan Books. Please read on…

Heike came up through the garden and along the drive to the front steps, relieved to find everything normal, in its place. The rain had come and gone here with the same ardour, and she stopped, listening for a moment. There was a knocking at the back of the house. Repeated, but not patterned. She put down her armful of wet clothes and walked around to the yard. The back door to the garage swayed a few inches in the last of the rain and sank softly against its frame, then swayed out again.

This gave her an odd turn: she watched the heavy air drawing at it like breath, then reached out and shut the door. She found her housecoat where she’d left it that morning in the laundry room and stripped off her wet clothes and leaned over the wide sink to wring out her hair. She straightened, pulling her fingers through the damp curls a few times, and glanced up at the clock. She’d been gone almost two hours. There was no sound of playtime from either the white room or anywhere else in the house, and Heike padded up the stairs to see if Daniel was still sleeping.

The blinds were still down, and she opened them, one after the other, to let the afternoon light into the room. She turned, expecting to see him still asleep within a mess of blanket, but he wasn’t there.

— Daniel?

She said his name softly, not wanting to bother Eric if he was working or wake him if he was asleep. The closet was standing open, but she peered inside anyway, and then under the bed, in case he’d heard her come in and decided to play hide-and-seek. Heike called out to him again, louder this time. She shook out the blanket and folded it before leaving the room, patting it down as though to make sure he was not somehow stretched and tangled inside.

She went back down the stairs and walked a fast circuit, calling louder now, but no one answered. At Eric’s office she drew herself up and took a breath before knocking.

— Eric?

She eased the door open. There was a lowball glass on the desk with a trace of water at the bottom of it, and the window was open just enough for the breeze to make a flickering noise in the blinds. No one was in the room.

— Eric! Daniel!

Heike twisted in the doorway. The car was still in the garage; she’d seen it when she went around back to shut the door before coming into the house. She ran back upstairs, frantic now, everything lying still and neat, even the towels folded and resting on the counter at the edge of the bathroom sink.

— Dani!

She grabbed the handle to her own bedroom door to push through, but her shoulder slammed against it instead. Locked. The knob rattled in her hand.

— Dani! Are you in there?

The handle refused to turn properly. It was not a room they ever locked, although there was a copper key, missing now, that normally sat in the latch on the outside of the door. A decorative feature. Heike got down on her knees and called through the keyhole.

— Dani, are you in there? Are you in Mami’s room?

She cranked at the knob again, pushing hard against the door. The action felt no different from the way she’d hacked at the reeds with her paddle to free herself, and she again felt trapped by the dark water, the current pulling her in.

The room was dropping out; her vision crowded with tiny pinpricks of light. The back of her hand touched her cheek, and she realized she was in tears. She lay the hand on the doorknob again and pressed and this time it gave way, Eric pulling it open from the other side and now crouching to meet her, help her up, quizzical.

— Heike. Heike, whatever’s happened?

He reached out for one of her hands and the elbow of the same arm, lifting her properly to her feet and holding her there. Heike shook her head.

— Why didn’t you open the door? I was crying to get in.

Eric’s brow furrowed as though she were telling a story he couldn’t quite understand. Daniel was sitting up against her pillows on the bed. He had something, a toy of some kind,  but he looked up as soon as she came into the room.

— Mami! Mami’s home! He dropped his plaything and crawled forward along the bed. Heike rushed toward him and grabbed him up, then sat with him on the bed, with her lips in his hair, rocking.

— Why didn’t you answer me, Dani? Why didn’t you say something when you heard me calling?

Eric stepped closer, following her in.

— We played hide-and-seek with you, Daniel said.

— Yes, I see that, Heike said.

— Me and Daddy hided in here.

Heike looked at Eric. He was somewhat neater than earlier in the day, as though he’d spent the afternoon on his own care. If it hadn’t been so late, she’d think he was on his way to the clinic. His shoes were on and polished. There was something curious, gentle, in the way he looked at her.

— The bedroom door has no lock, Heike, he said.

— It was locked, she said. You heard me!

— Heike. Eric crossed over to where she sat on the bed. Do you need something to calm you down? You’re soaking wet. He touched her forehead. You’re raving, Heike. Let me give you something.

She stood up suddenly, leaving Daniel behind.

— You already gave me something: you gave me a heart attack. You locked the door! How could you be so cruel?

He raised a hand and let it fall against his own hip.

— I just told you, that door doesn’t lock. Calm down now, Heike. Or I could drive you over to the hospital. Would you like that better?

Heike turned back to Daniel on the bed. He’d picked up his toy again, and now that she looked closer, she saw what it was: the little shepherdess, the Meissen figurine she’d hidden in her drawer. He tilted his hand, left to right to left, walking her along the coverlet.

Heike dropped onto the bed beside him and reached out to touch the doll.

— Where did you get this?

— I finded it, Daniel said. Daddy helped. When we were hiding.

If this has peaked your interest you can grab I Remember You now from all good bookstores. Thank you for popping by!

The Electrical Venus by Julie Mayhew

Author: Julie Mayhew

Genre: Historical fiction

Rating: ALL THE STARS!!!

I received this book from the publisher via Readers First. This in no way effects my opinion on the book.

The Electrical Venus by Julie Mayhew is an historical fiction set in Georgian England. It revolves around a travelling circus troupe and in particular, a young Jamaican woman named Mim. It is a story of discovery, science, electricity and most importantly, love. The book arrived with me today and I couldn’t resist picking it straight up. I’ve devoured it in one sitting – which I never do – because I simply couldn’t get enough.

From the very beginning I was instantly in awe of Mim and Alex. They’re both such unique and charming characters. Both detailed and well developed. Both evidently growing constantly throughout the story. They felt to me like close friends and I laughed, loved and cried alongside them from page one. The circus setting is another thing I adored about this book. I’ve always been a sucker for circus themes and this trope has been so well crafted here. It had The Night Circus vibes indefinitely with historical flair that I couldn’t resist. It’s a book that has instantly hit my top ten favourites list.

The Electrical Venus hits stores April 19th so please do yourself a favour and grab a copy. It’s perfect.

25inFive Readathon TBR

Over on Litsy this weekend there is a readathon happening called “25inFive” which entails reading for 25 hours over Five days and timing yourself to see how many hours you can stack up! It’s from today (April5th) until Monday 9th April. I tend to take 2-3 days average to finish a regular 300-400 page novel so I’m not holding out too much hope for finishing all these books. But here’s by intended TBR anyway…

  • Roar (sample) by Cecelia Ahern
  • The Munitions Girls by Rosie Archer
  • The Electric Venus by Julie Mayhew
  • Big Bones by Laura Dockrill

Three of these are early copies for review so it’s knocks those off my review list if I manage to get through them all.

The Pharmacist’s Wife by Vanessa Tait

Author: Vanessa Tait

Genre: Historical fiction

Rating: 2/5 stars

I received this book from the publisher via Readers First for an honest review. This in no way effects my opinion on the book.

The Pharmacist’s Wife by Vanessa Tait is an historical fiction centred around the wife of the man who created the drug, heroine. It is an 18th century fiction that sounded of great intrigue and promise, making me highly curious. Unfortunately it proved a little to raw for my tastes.

There are major triggers in this book, ones that wouldn’t normally be an issue for me but that seem lurid and grotesque here. These are rape, domestic violence and addiction. I was expecting and unconcerned about the portrayal of addiction considering the plot of the book but in reality it was too roughly presented and made me cringe to read about. Rape and domestic violence again are triggers that don’t usually concern me as a reader of thrillers and crime novels (where these triggers are often used!) but the sheer grotesque and terrifying way in which these things are written about and harped on was again much too over the top and rough for me. I honestly just couldn’t enjoy the book whilst reading these parts and found them too frequent to even consider that the rest would make up for it.

Overall, the book had a good plot line basis and grabs the attention but it’s not a book for anyone with a delicacy to sexual scenes and acts of roughly presented violence, like myself. Worth though, trying if you feel these things won’t be an issue for you.