The Good Doctor Of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford

Author: Elisabeth Gifford

Genre: Historical fiction

Rating: 5/5 star

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

The Good Doctor Of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford is based on the true accounts of two Jewish survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto – Misha and Sophia. The book tells the story of what happened in the Warsaw Ghetto during the years between 1931 and 1945. It is a crushing and heartbreaking account of not only two peoples experiences during this time but also a tale of the famous Dr Janusz Korczak and his Warsaw orphanage.

This book is beautifully written and laid out in monthly chapters. It introduces us to Misha as part of the Russian army searching the ruins of Warsaw for survivors. We then flashback from there to before the Nazis took Warsaw and explore Misha’s meeting of Sophia and their life from there alongside Dr Korczak. This book bleeds pure heartfelt pain and suffering throughout its pages and leaves a lump in the throat of the reader. The characters are so real (being based on real people) and it’s impossible not to love them all dearly. I just loved this book so much, even though I broke my heart.

There is a postscript at the end of book which tells what happened the characters real life doubles after or before the Warsaw Ghetto was destroyed. It is historically important and interesting but is a further blow to read the names of the orphans who didn’t survive. It is heartbreaking to know less than 1% of the entire Warsaw Ghetto survived. It’s a book that has certainly opened my eyes to the history of the war – which as an history student has previously been an era I didn’t choose to focus on much. This will definitely be changing now.

I really couldn’t recommend this book enough!

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Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Author: Daphne du Maurier

Genre: Modern Classic / Mystery / Gothic Romance

Rating: 5/5 stars

Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier is one of my most favourite books. This is my fifth reread and I truly have no excuse for not writing a review before now except that before 2018, I never ever reviewed classics because I presumed everyone had read them anyway. I’ve discovered during my four years of book blogging that actually – not all that many people have or do read classics. Who would have known!? And that in recent years more and more people are trying to read more of them, so I’ve decided to review them now for those who still haven’t had the privilege.

Jamaica Inn is a mysterious and beautiful gothic romance in the vein of Wuthering Heights. It follows a young woman, left alone after her mother’s death, as she moves to a lonely Moor to live with her aunt and uncle. Unknowningly to her and her late mother, her aunts husband is a vagabond of the highest proportion. The young girl falls for (again unknown to her) her uncles younger brother, causing mischief and mayhem!

It is beautifully written and wonderfully detailed. I am throughly in love with this book and it’s characters. Each unique and full of personality. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

Author: Samantha Harvey

Genre: Historical fiction/Mystery

Rating: 3/5 stars

I received this book from the publisher, Johnathan Cape, in exchange for an honest review. This in no way effects my opinion on the book.

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey follows the priest John, or Reve, as he is left to unravel the truth about a death in his parish, Oakham. The book is set in the 15th century in a small, rural village that is cut off from the rest of the country by a river with no bridge. It was one of my most anticipated releases of this year but in this case I was slightly let down.

The book is a slow slow slow burner. It seem to go on without a thing happening that leaves you almost forgetting there was even a thing that had happened. The book opens into such drama and mystery but quickly turns to nothing but the ramblings and suspiciousness of our MC for a good part of the book. It is fitting with the serious and clerical theme of the story so I wouldn’t say this made it a bad book but it certainly made it a difficult one to stay focused on.

The book is well written and the style is at once modern and medieval. It’s a strange but wonderful style of writing that makes, I feel, historical fiction more accessible to those unfamiliar with the genre and it’s sometimes old world dialogue. I’d definitely say it was a good opening into discovering a new genre.

The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov

Author: Vladimir Nabokov

Genre: modern classic / thriller

Rating: 5/5 star

The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov is a tiny tale of madness, depravity and obsession in the vein of Lolita but certainly not more than that. It is very short – merely 59 pages in all – and all characters are distorted by a lack of names or certain descriptions. Our MC shares the same passions as our better known Humbert Humbert but is an entirely different kind of mad. The Enchanter, in comparisons to Lolita is much more vivid and graphic in some cases and the main theme of the story is that the MC is a horrendous monster of a being, riddled in madness – rather than the is he or isn’t he qualities of H. H.

Really, overall it is an equally well written and beautifully presented story despite its ghoulish themes.

Swansong by Kerry Andrew

Author: Kerry Andrew

Genre: General Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5 star

I received this book from the publisher, Johnathan Cape, in exchange for an honest review. This in no way effects my opinion on the book.

Swansong by Kerry Andrew is a beautiful story of mystery, losing yourself and coming to face the wilderness of the Scottish Highlands. It is Andrew’s debut novel and is riddled in ties and links to the folk songs, myths and legends of Scotland which give it an almost ethereal air. It’s poetic and beautifully written.

What struck me most about this novel was the relationships within it. The MC, Polly has a bizarre and almost half-hearted relationship with her mother, Lottie that borders on passive aggressive. For a while I had no idea Lottie was actually Polly’s mother and believed her to be an housemate or flatshare acquaintance – that is how bizarre and distant their relationship is. Another relationship that fascinated me was Polly’s relationship with the wilds and nature around her. She is a city girl and doesn’t really want to be in the countryside and this shines through in the way she views her surroundings. At one point she refers to a deer as “ugg-colour” which shocked me greatly and made my feelings of her character change dramatically.

I found the whole book infatuating but also Slightly deterring, I couldn’t even pinpoint what genre this book would belong to. I loved it, it moved me to various emotional states – made me think – made me queasy, but I also felt a deep loathing for Polly and her attitudes towards everything and everyone. It is truly a bizarre and fascinating debut.

Overall, I’d say everyone needs to read this fabulous debut. Regardless of your literary taste, this book is something everyone would find wonderful.

Eight Ghosts: The English Heritage book of new ghost stories

Author: Various

Genre: Ghost/Paranormal fiction

Rating: 3.75/5 star

Eight Ghosts is a collection of ghost stories written by eight well-known authors and each based on a different historical building owned by the English Heritage. The proceeds from the book go to help the Heritage to conserve their buildings and sites. What ultimately drew me to this collection was the fact that Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Perry both write a story for this book. Another reason was because it fascinated me that they had created stories based on real sites with real ghost stories of their own.

Of the collection just under half of the stories were truly wonderful and the others were in the grounds of ‘okay’ to ‘awful’. The good stories though well outweigh the bad and I really enjoyed the book on a whole. Of the collection my favourites were the stories by Sarah Perry, Andrew Michael Hurley and Jeanette Winterson. With Winterson’s story being the creme de la creme of the collection.

In the afterword of the book there is a gazette of ghosts and hauntings at English Heritage sites. The gazetteer is separated by areas of England and shares ghostly tales of real life witnesses at these sites. I was especially pleased to find two of my local historical sites featured and their ghostly residents discussed. I was also slightly proud (maybe?) that our castle (that meaning it is within walking distance of us!) is the most haunted building owned by the English Heritage.

Overall, I’d definitely say this book offers history and chills aplenty and I’d definitely recommend it.

Birds Art Life Death by Kyo Maclear

Author: Kyo Maclear

Genre: nonfiction

Rating: 5/5 star

Birds Art Life Death by Kyo Maclear is a poignant and beautiful nonfiction following Maclear has she discovers the art of noticing smallness and finding significance in the seemingly insignificant. I received this book in January’s ReadinginHeels subscription box and was immediately struck by the beautiful cover but wary of the subject as it isn’t something I’d have picked myself. I am pleased to say that will change in the future.

Maclear has a way with words. Her story made me sad, happy, thoughtful, content and inspired. Her words are a delight and a joy. This was definitely a wonderful book to start a new year with. Maclear discusses illness of loved ones, feeling useless and worn out, feeling restless, being too busy, being not busy enough, losing things and people… and then she shows you how to find ways to help you through that, ways that helped her through that.

This wonderful book reminds you to look at the small things, note your surroundings, take time to sit still, take time to do nothing, aim small, reach for The achievable instead of the stars, acknowledge that greatness is made up from smaller parts. It is charming and beautiful.

I really feel somewhat lighter, brighter and more humbled after reading this lovely book. It was a treat and I certainly urge you all to read it. Release date is January 11th 2018.