The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende

I was kindly added to a readalong for ‘The Wind Knows My Name’ by Isabel Allende. So, I was gifted a proof of the book to allow me to join in, so thank you again Tandem Collective UK. I was very excited, as this was my first encounter with Allende’s work; I have seen it around a lot but I was not sure that her books were for me. They always seemed to be something that may be a little highbrow for me. Yet again, how wrong I was – in fact, I am now going to be trying to read her backlist (along with all those other books I promise myself I will read).

‘The Wind Knows my Name’ is a beautifully crafted piece of historical fiction that takes use from the tragic night of Kristallnacht in the 1930s right up to the present day. This book explores the idea of displacement of people due to the difficult and dangerous social and political situations that they have lived through with their families, causing them to flee for the hope of a better life. And, what Allende does so cleverly is bring some of her characters together from very different backgrounds, but who all have the shared experience of displacement – allowing them to form relationships and support for each other.

This book is heartbreaking and hopeful in equal measure. It is incredibly thought-provoking as its timeline becomes more and more contemporary, and you see the issues we sometimes think are left in the past are still continuing, every day, around the world. And, in fact, you will be wanting to find out more about the events that she has chosen to pick out to create her narrative.

I think it is fairly clear that I will be trying more of Allende’s novels. So, if you have any recommendations, please let me know in the comments.

The Detective by Ajay Chowdhury

If you love a great piece of detective fiction, well, then you will love ‘The Detective’ by Ajay Chowdhury.

This is a crime novel that is right up to date but cleverly also entwines a crime from the past. We follow Detective Kamil as he attempts to impress his new team at the Met. Can he solve the mystery of a series of murders linked to a cyber company that is about to be sold for millions? And what exactly is it about the company that makes it so valuable – is it all it seems? Also, who are the skeletons that have been found at the scene of the first murder? After all, they are over 100 years old…

As you know, I do not write reviews that contain spoilers, but I do hope I spark your interest in the book. I mean, I was really interested in Detective Kamil and his case; Ajay Chowdury creates fantastic characters who are involved in a highly engaging mystery. I would quite like to sit down with Detective Kamil and find out a bit more about him (or just read the previous two books to find out a bit more – which I am definitely tempted to do). But he also brings the murder mystery exploding into the 21st century as he tackles some of the issues that we are facing today. Especially the idea about how much do these cyber companies know? Do we always know what is happening behind the scenes and with our data?

If you like a well-constructed, contemporary page-turner, then I would recommend you pick up ‘The Detective’, because you will not be disappointed.

Thank you to Harvell Sacker for the gifted copy of this fantastic read.

In Memoriam by Alice Winn

‘In Memoriam’ is a book that I was totally influenced to pick up by my bookish friends, and it got bumped to the top of the tbr pile for ‘Pages of Pride 2023’.

I am not sure I can review this book, as I am not sure I can do it justice. There is so much to say about this book, but I am not sure I know how to put it into words – well, not in the way it truly deserves. This is an outstanding piece of historical fiction.

Gaunt and Ellwood are school friends; they attend the same private boys school and have a very close bond. Gaunt is of German heritage and Ellwood is a privileged member of English society, and of Jewish heritage. When Europe changes forever in 1914, the young men are thrown into war. Their relationship develops, and they are at war with what is seen as socially accpetable from their relationship, their own emotions and the enemy. I keep my reviews spoiler free so that is as far as I can go – other than to say that this novel is stunning.

This book presents the horrors of World War One; not to shock, but to allow the reader to understand the experiences of the men. This book studies the relationships of the men who were at war, and the relationship of Gaunt and Ellwood at a time that their relationship would not have been legal, let alone accepted with sensitivity. But, also, this book presents the impact that the war was having, not only on the men who went, but the men and families who were left behind. And, a couple of times, this book suggests that our characters felt the war was toughest on those at home reading the papers and guessing what was happening, which is another thought-provoking point (there are many in this book).

This book is beautifully written, clearly very well researched, and an emotional rollercoaster. I think this book will stay with me forever, and I will be encouraging everyone to read it (with a box of tissues for the tears).

A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe

I had seen ‘A Terrible Kindness’ all over the bookstagram world, and it was always getting so much love with every post and review that I saw. So, when Jo Browning Wroe was announced as one of the authors for ‘The Tasting Notes Live 2023’, I knew I had to read the book that had been sitting on my shelf.

And what an incredible read it is – inspired by the work of the embalmers at the Aberfan disaster in 1966, this tells the story of William, a young embalmer from the West Midlands who goes to help, and what he experiences but also tells us how William ended up on the career path he is on which brings him to that tragic event.

This is a beautifully told story, which Jo Browning Wroe has carefully researched and sensitively presented to the reader. This has not been written to shock but to remember and educate. The events of Aberfan are the start and end of the tale, with William’s childhood and early adulthood as the main focus of the story.

‘A Terrible Kindness’ brings to life some fantastic characters, examines how the people we meet influence our lives and how complex those relationships can be – but also how tragedy and the relationships we make throughout our lives can influence so much of what we do and who we become.

For me also, the fact there were some places I know very well mentioned in the book, I felt a connection to the book, or I could see characters in particular places which always brings a story to life just that little bit more.

This is a book that I will be recommending to everyone because I think we would all like to meet William and his family and friends. Also, having heard Jo Browning Wroe talk about this book, I know how much research and passion went into this book and I think she has treated the memory of what happened at Aberfan with such respect that it will ensure that those who were tragically impacted by the events will be remembered and acknowledged, and never forgotten.

People Person by Candice Carty-Williams

Thank you Tandem Collective UK for having me along for a buddy read of ‘People Person’ by Candice Carty-Williams, and gifting me a copy of the book too. What a treat for the May half-term break.

I had been a big fan of ‘Queenie‘ so I had high hopes for this book. And it did not disappoint. ‘People Person’ is a fantastic study of people (I guess the title gives that away) and their relationships. It especially reflects on the idea of family and what makes a family what it is.

We meet a group of siblings, who all have the same father, Cyril, but different mothers. Different women that Cyril met throughout his younger days, and promised the world to, but did not hang around to deliver. Each of the five siblings has handled this differently over the years, and they have rarely spent a lot of time together. However, when Dimple needs a team around her, after a difficult encounter with her on/off boyfriend Kyron, her siblings are all there for her, in their different ways. Even if, like Lizzie, they are a little reluctant in some ways.

Dimple is really the central character to this story, as she is the one who calls the siblings back together and it is her relationships that form the focus of the story. Dimple really goes on a journey of self-discovery as she finds out more about each of her siblings, and this forces her to reflect on the relationships she has with her father and her mother (who never really seems to have got over Cyril – and who Cyril may have had on a pedestal all those years, too).

I really enjoyed the reflection of nature versus nurture, how each of the siblings had little to do with their father and had been brought up just by their mother – yet their experiences had been very different but still similar. Some had a harder time than others, some were much happier than others but, all in all, they do realise that maybe they do need each other. There is also a clear investigation on how the past of parents can impact the future of their children.

I do not like to spoil books in my posts (as you know, and I say it nearly every time) but if you enjoyed ‘Queenie’, I think you will enjoy this. If you enjoy family drama (rather than saga), I think you will enjoy this. And, if you like strong female characters, then I think you will like this. Candice Carty-Williams writes characters and relationships brilliantly, and this is a book that is worth picking up.