Friday, 26 February 2016

Coffin Road by Peter May

Reviewer: Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore & False Lights. (

What we thought: I admit to being a huge fan of Peter May’s writing, his style very much like my own, takes a location and makes it into a character in its own right. Here he comes home ... back to Scotland ... and achieves some of his best descriptive writing in his latest novel, Coffin Road, where we visit some of Scotland’s most stunning landscapes mixed with his usual blend of gritty and intelligent crime fiction.

When a man is washed up on a remote Hebridean beach, suffering from amnesia, and scared of all of the things he may have done that he can’t remember, then you know you’re in for an interesting ride. If Neal Maclane isn’t actually Neal Maclane … who on earth is he?

Peter May uses a very clever blend of POV to keep the reader on the edge of their seats. If the central character doesn’t know who to trust, it makes it even more entertaining for the reader trying to work out who are the bad guys in the plot.

I also like the way the author brings in real issues to balance out the fictional crime story. In previous books of his we have touched on toxins and world starvation, and here the plight of the bumble bee and pesticide's possible side-effects on the bee population, lead to a huge cover up that ends in murder. The ending is a high tension rollercoaster that will keep every crime fiction fan grinning from ear to ear. Crime writing doesn't get much better than this in my opinion!

As ever in May’s writing, the pace is relentless, the location spine-tingling, the characters as real as you and I, and the dialogue perfection. This time I listened to the audio version, and have to say that Peter Forbes is fast becoming one of my favourite narrators.

Whatever your literary tastes, this is an author you must add to your reading list – trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Ann Cleeves, Peter James, Ian Rankin.

Avoid if you don’t like: Remote Scottish islands and bees.

Ideal accompaniments: Haggis and peas with a single malt.

Genre: Crime thriller.

Available from Amazon

The Bees by Laline Paull

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

“The cell squeezed her and the air was hot and fetid. All the joints of her body burned from the frantic twisting against the walls, her head was pressed into her chest and her legs shot with cramp, but her struggles had worked – one wall felt weaker.”

Thus opens Laline Paull’s remarkable novel, The Bees, which follows a year in the life of beehive in an English orchard threatened with redevelopment.

Through the eyes of one bee – Flora 717, a sanitation worker who rises above her lowly status – we go from the uncertain bounty of summer, through the privations of autumn, to the cold of winter, when the surviving bees huddle together in the Cluster – and on into spring, which brings both terrifying threat and new promise to the colony.

Laline Paull's interest in bees began following the death of a much-loved friend who happened to be a bee-keeper. As she says on her website:

“I knew I had a book when I found out about the laying worker, that one in ten thousand sterile female bees, who suddenly, and for no known reason, start forming eggs in their bodies and become fertile – the sole role of the queen of the colony.”

Flora 717 is an anomaly from the start, “obscenely large,” and “excessively ugly,” she narrowly avoids being culled at birth for excessive variation. Time and time again her bravery and quick wit prove invaluable to the hive, yet she may also carry within her its greatest threat to its society.

Some degree of anthropomorphism is inevitable, in order to make a bridge between our human brains and the bees, and in order to make this a page-turning narrative, not a biology textbook. But don’t expect the inhabitants of the hive to resemble the ants in Disney’s A Bug’s Life. This world is based on painstaking, meticulous and (as far as I can tell from my limited knowledge) reasonably accurate observation of bee behaviour.

Paull then takes that leap that allows us to imagine what it is like to live under a ruthless yet essentially benign dictatorship, to share a consciousness, in part, with thousands of sisters, to communicate stories through smell and information through vibration and movement.

“Finding a space by Flora, she began to dance. Slow and clear she stamped out a simple phrase, over and over until the bees understood it and the rhythm caught [...] Go South! sang the bee’s steps. For this long!”

We experience the relationship between the bees and the precious flowers they feed on, feel the devastating effects of chemical insecticides, and the threat posed by predators like wasps and mice.

We also experience a love unlike any human love. The centre of the bees’ world, round which everything else orbits, is the Queen, the Holy Mother, “magnificently large, with long, shapely legs and a tapering abdomen, full and buoyant under the golden tracery of her folded wings.” Her scent entrances her daughters with the sense of being loved and induces instant and profound devotion.
Only just below the Queen in status are the Drones, lazy, gluttonous, priapic, and seemingly the hive’s comic turn – until winter comes.

Margaret Atwood described Paull’s language as ‘Keatsian.’ Indeed, every page is a rich appeal to the senses – especially those of scent and taste and touch, which we often neglect in favour of sight and sound.

There are occasional phrases she uses which, if taken too literally, can make this world seem, briefly, too ‘cute’ and humanised, such as when writes of bees opening 'doors' in the hive, or making 'patisserie.' This is not, I think, Paull’s intention. The trick is to accept them as attempts to express in human language what we have no words for.

This book received a fair amount of attention early in 2015 (when it was shortlisted for the Bailey’s Prize) but it has been forgotten far too quickly. Comparisons have been made with The Handmaid’s Tale, Watership Down and The Hunger Games. Some reviewers have scratched around, trying to decide what comment Paull is making on human society. But I suspect its message is simpler than that. This is about opening our eyes to the astonishing complexity of what bees do for us, to our dependence on them, and to their vulnerability to our heedless actions.

For those (usually bored white middle aged men) who say that there are no new stories left, all I can say is – perhaps you are looking in the wrong places.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis; The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.

Avoid If You Dislike: Anthropomorphism, however meticulously and scientifically based;

Perfect Accompaniment: Toast with honey and a cup of Oolong tea

Genre: Literary Fiction

Available from Amazon

Song at Dawn by Jean Gill

Reviewer: Liza Perrat, author of Spirit of Lost Angels, Wolfsangel and Blood Rose Angel

What we thought: Song at Dawn, first and  FREE book of 'The Troubadours Quartet' is set in 1150 in Provence, France. It is the “troubadour era”, and the period following the Second Crusade, and follows the adventures of the young Estela de Matin.

Fleeing abuse, Estela is found in a ditch by Aliénor of Aquitaine (Queen of France at the time), who, impressed with Estela’s beautiful singing voice and lute skills, welcomes the girl into her court. Aliénor takes Estela to Ermengarde, Viscomtesse of Narbonne’s court, where the girl’s musical talent is nurtured by Dragonetz, the Queen’s best troubadour and Commander of the Guard.

A Crusader with no wish to return to the Holy Land, where he learned about paper, Dragonetz dreams that everyone should have access to paper and thus remove the control of literacy from the Church. His building of a paper mill evokes the Church’s wrath and, through the many plot turns and twists, medieval Narbonne becomes a stage for the cultural, religious and political intrigue of the 12th century.

I was especially interested in the historical aspects of this story, learning a lot about the era –– of Ermengarde and Aliénor, two of the most powerful women in European history. Reading such accurate and memorable stories from the past is one of the reasons I enjoy such well-written historical fiction.

I would recommend this entertaining romance of Estela and Dragonetz, woven into a spell-binding thriller that brilliantly evokes medieval France, to all lovers of historical fiction.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: medieval historical thrillers featuring real-life characters and historical fact.

Avoid if you dislike: Strong female characters and romance.

Ideal accompaniments: “hen in winter” with a parsley, sage, pepper, garlic and mustard sauce. Background Troubadour chansons such as troubador, Jaufre Rudel’s L'amor de lonh.

Genre: Historical Romantic Thriller

Available from Amazon

Friday, 12 February 2016

The Absolution of Otto Finkel by John R Mackay

Reviewer: Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore & False Lights (

What we thought: A new name in historical fiction for me, and not my usual first choice of genre, but something about the title and the book blurb took my attention when this book was submitted to Bookmuse for review. And I have to say I’m very glad I decided to read the novel.

The Absolution of Otto Finkel is a page-turner. Opening during a family holiday in St Malo between the first and second world wars, we are introduced to English brothers, Jack and Toby Graham, who become friends with an assortment of children from across Europe also staying at the same hotel. When the boys are involved in a tragic accident, they are all removed from the scene, destined to never see or speak to each other again.

But …. But … Fate plays a hand.

We follow throughout the book the differing adult stories of each of the boys involved in the original accident, and how their paths cross and re-cross through the second world war journey they each take. Each story holds its own surprises, emotions, tragedies and keeps the reader turning the page, knowing there has be a satisfactory conclusion, that human compassion and strength must win in the end. And without spoiling the reader for anyone, I was not disappointed by the way the story ended. Although at times, the jumps back and forth between years did catch me by surprise, the story was very well plotted and each character drove their own story.

This was also an informative read, with some scenes loosely based around true-life events, presenting a different side to some of the cliched WWII stories I’ve read in the past. The author carried each story with a competence, and his language and characterisation skills should be particularly pointed out for merit. If I had any negative it might be that the length and pacing was a little slow at times, and with a good edit, some areas of the writing could have flowed more. But in general, I very much enjoyed the style and passion in the author’s writing.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in wartime novels.  

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Jeffrey Archer, Amanda Hodgkinson, Sarah Waters.

Avoid if you don’t like: WWII, Nazis, human cruelty and human redemption.

Ideal accompaniments: Rations of bread, cheese, olives and a fruity Shiraz.

Genre: Historical Fiction.

Available from Amazon

Take Your Shot by Daniel Pieracci

ReviewerJJ Marsh

What we thought: A terrific debut novel of family, organised crime, fashion, morality and fruit juice. Set in LA, this is a sharply observed take on ambition and playing the game with moments which make you wince, think and laugh. Two families find their paths crossing in ways they’d never imagined.

The Carcettis are the most powerful crime family in the southwestern US. Papa’s into yoga and freshly squeezed juice, prostitution and drug trafficking. He and Frank, his right-hand man and chief juicer, are looking for new blood.

FBI agent Mario Perez is desperate to climb the career ladder and when handed the Carcetti case, sees his chance for glory. It will involve sacrifice, but he’s ready for that. His wife, Rosalita, is much more interested in the whereabouts of their second son. Chico’s run off and got in with a bad crowd, while Mario, their first born, is pretty, content and sleeping his way through all the beautiful people in LA.

When the two families' destinies cross, it’s only going to work out for one of them.

The dialogue is whipsmart, the setting subtly evoked and the characterisation is created in bold strokes. One of my favourites is Gladys, a minor personage in the scheme of things, but with a superb line in verbal abuse.

There’s violence and injustice, loyalties and betrayals, alongside love and principles, and in all the broad strokes and bright colours of Roy Liechtenstein. As the plot grows tauter and more complex, the reader finds herself sympathising with both sides of the legal divide and wishing everyone could get what they want.

Not a book to begin if you need to get anything else done that day.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: The Wire, almost everything by the Coen brothers, and Pulp Fiction

Avoid if you don’t like: Black humour, violence, organised crime

Ideal accompaniments: Empanadas, raspberry-orange-pineapple juice and Heartattack and Vine by Tom Waits

Genre: Contemporary, crime fiction

Available from Amazon

Toby’s Tails - Saying Goodbye to Lucky by Susan Keefe

Reviewer: Liza Perrat, author of Spirit of Lost Angels, Wolfsangel and Blood Rose Angel

What we thought: Children’s author, Susan Keefe was devastated when she lost her beloved Golden Retriever, Lucky, a key character in her series of ‘Toby’s Tails’ books.

As Toby’s mentor, his owner felt Lucky’s passing couldn’t go unmarked. Thus, this delightful story (Fantasy Farm Tales Book 6) is dedicated to Lucky’s final days, told from the point of view of Toby, the border collie.

Losing a family pet can be a terrible experience for children and the author has skillfully penned this story with the aim of gently explaining the process so they may be able to come to terms with their loss.

As I did, I’m certain young readers will be comforted by Lucky’s story, and view it as a celebration of his “lucky” and beloved life, rather than some painful account of his death.

I particularly loved the author’s note about the southern African Zulu and Ndebele people, who believe that the stars are their dead ancestors watching over them. And how, each time she looks up to the night sky, she remembers Lucky.

An endearing and heart-warming addition to Susan Keefe’s ‘Fantasy Farm Series’ which narrates the lives of her pets in their French home. Beautiful, heart-warming photos of her animals are included.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: stories about much-loved animals.

Avoid if you dislike: children’s tales about losing beloved pets.

Ideal accompaniments: a furry (live) companion curled up in your lap.

Genre: Children’s.

Available from Amazon

Unforgettable by Charlie Maclean

Reviewer: JJ Marsh

What we thought: A romantic comedy from the male perspective is less common but not unheard of. Previous experiences have been a pleasant surprise, so I began Charlie Maclean’s Unforgettable with some optimism.

I devoured this book in a couple of days and when finished, I felt I’d seen the whole thing, observing from the sidelines. Not surprisingly, as the novel is perfect for the screen. The premise is similar to Sliding Doors, where a character misses/catches a moment and the narrative follows both alternative lives in parallel. Alex meets Julia at a bus stop. Does he follow her and get her number or go on to his job interview and forget her? It’s a life-changing decision. Either way, she’s unforgettable.

The effect of this meeting on him and his resulting actions are likeable, funny, sad, occasionally dark and often thought-provoking. Alex’s personality takes off in two different trajectories, both wholly believable, and the supporting cast of friends and relatives and locals of The Crown are consistent in either version. My particular favourite was young Billy, who turns out to be more mentor than mentee.

Shakespearean references, London landmarks, witty dialogue and a fallible hero makes this book an easy, satisfying read with considerable depth on the subject of human relationships and those you love. Perfect for a winter's night curled up by the fire.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked:
Scratch by Danny Gillan, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby or One Day by David Nicholls

Avoid if you don’t like: Dual narratives, London, love stories

Ideal accompaniments: Dry cider, roasted peanuts and Sandie Shaw singing Always Something There To Remind Me

Genre: General fiction

Available on Amazon

Promises to Keep by Patricia Sands

Reviewer: Liza Perrat, author of Spirit of Lost Angels, Wolfsangel and Blood Rose Angel

What we thought: Promises to Keep (Love in Provence book 2) continues on from where The Promise of Provence (Love in Provence book 1) ends. The heroine, Katherine returns to France from her home in Canada to begin a new life with her French love, Philippe.

Katherine leaves the painful memories of her debilitating marriage back in Toronto, and embarks on a whirlwind adventure of love with Philippe. Together they enjoy fine French food, wine and the easy lifestyle, their future promising happiness and hope, far from the pain they both well know.

However, on a trip to the medieval village of Entrevaux, a bewildering note leads to a terrifying car chase, and Katherine discovers that Philippe has a dark secret; something dreadful from his past that he is not prepared to share with her. Katherine feels she is in danger of losing everything she’d so hoped for.

We accompany Philippe and Katherine through their journey of a promised life threatened, of mutual trust and, above all, of love.

But this is not only the story of Katherine and Philippe’s romance, it is also a love story between the author and all that is France. The author’s beautifully descriptive passages reveal her obvious love for the country.

Promises to Keep is also the story of a woman in her fifties trying to pick up the damaged pieces of a disastrous marriage and rebuild herself. It shows us how our lives can so quickly change and that, if we take the plunge, we are capable of adapting to its new course. It also reminds us that life, and love, can surprise us at any moment in our lives.

You’ll like this if you enjoy: romance stories set amidst stunning countryside and succulent food feasts. The Promise of Provence (Love in Provence book 1).

Avoid if you don’t like: romance novels.

Ideal accompaniments: French wine and runny St. Marcellin cheese on crusty baguette.

Genre: Romance

Available from Amazon

If You Look For Me, I Am Not Here by Sarayu Srivatsa

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought: When Siva's Amma is pregnant, she is cursed by the hijra, Sweetie-Cutie, one of a group of transgender women, “kohl round their eyes, flowers in their hair, night-old stubble clouding their chins bluegreen,” who tells her, “may you give birth to a daughter.”

What Sweetie-Cutie does not know is that Amma longs for more than anything else is a daughter.

If You Look For Me, I Am Not Here belongs to a story tradition – going back to Tristram Shandy and The Tin Drum, of narrators who are conscious from birth, or even from their own conception.

Siva is the sole survivor of fraternal twins – the unexpected son who can never take the place of the longed-for daughter. His mother, lost in grief (and probably suffering from postpartum psychosis) first identifies Siva as his dead sister, Tara, and then when forced to confront the fact that he is not Tara, rejects him completely.

Siva is left to struggle with his own identity. To him, Tara is a constant companion, but is she a ghost speaking to him for Para-dies? Is she a part of him? Or is he Tara? Is he a boy or a girl - and what does that even mean. At various points in the story Siva is dressed, or dresses himself, as a girl, and then has to deal with other people’s reactions – from the horror of the nuns at his Catholic school to the delight of the hijras.

“I didn’t know whether I was a boy pretending to be a girl or the other way around.”

The other layer to this story is the house they live in – Victoria Villa, Gibbs Road, Machilipatnam on the Bay of Bengal. The house was built by George Gibbs, an English scientist, owner of a dye factory and inventor of a mosquito repellent. The house is still filled with many of George’s possessions, fabrics, books, magazines – and his journals.

“You shouldn’t keep other people’s things,” Siva’s grandmother warns. “They store old memories and they will seep into you and make you live their lives.”

And indeed, as Siva begins reading George’s journals, it does seem that history does is repeating itself.

Even though this is a story centred around depression and loss, it zings with life. There is a playfulness about the language that echoes the playfulness of the two children – Siva and his friend, Rebecca – as they try and understand the world around them. Srivatsa strings words together and muddles them up, as children do. Amma, before depression descends, is described as “cashewtoned, spicesmelling, spicetasting, all the way down to her buttocks, such harvestheaps.”

The atmosphere of Machilipatnam assails all five senses as you read, from the railway station, smelling of “refried snacks, sweaty feet, vomit and ammonia,” to “the hidden cluster of bamboo on the shore that seemed to me like a womb.” “Rebecca and I shared a map of it ... in which green-green trees sprang out of the red soil, dwarfing the homes around, and the hills soared into the blue-blue sky.”

This is a story that will beguile and seduce you, all the way to its troubling and ambiguous end.

You will enjoy this if you loved: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, The Tin Drum by Günter Grass

Avoid if you dislike: Magic Realism, child narrators, stories that challenge the nature of gender.

Perfect Accompaniment: Tamarind curry with rice, and a ripe papaya

Genre: Literary Fiction, South Asian Literature

Available from Amazon

Friday, 5 February 2016

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought: Like the main character in my novel, Ghost Town, I like to imagine that I am ‘racially aware.’ And like her, I am constantly discovering how much more I still have to learn. Reading Between the World an Me provided one of those shock awakenings.

The title comes from a poem by Richard Wright, in which the poet stumbles upon the site of a lynching. The horror of what he sees rises up like smoke, separating him from the world, until his body becomes the victim’s.

“Race,” Coates reminds us, “is the child of racism, not the father.”

Between the World and Me, like Luis J Rodriguez’s Always Running, is written for the author’s teenage son. Coates grew up in the Projects in Baltimore – the kind of environment most people reading this will know only from watching The Wire. His son grew up very differently – in a comfortable home without the daily struggles with violence and poverty. Yet Coates knows the bitter truth is that his son will have to learn – is learning – many of the same hard lessons he learnt. In particular, that his body is at risk, merely from the fact of being black.

For Coates’ son, the first time he confronts that truth is on the night that a Grand Jury chose not to indict the white policeman who shot the Fergusson teenager, Michael Brown. For Coates, his understanding came to a head years earlier, when a fellow student at Howard University – the respectable son of a senior hospital doctor - was shot by a plain clothes policeman who claimed to have mistaken him for a drug dealer.

Like Morpheus in The Matrix, Coates flips the American Dream on its head and reveals it as a fantasy that exists to comfort the Dreamers. “The Dream,” he says, “rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies.”

But this is not dystopian fiction. This is daily reality for Black families like Coates’.

Between the World and Me is a deeply personal piece of writing. For the facts and figures behind the feelings he expresses, you need to turn to other writings by Coates, such as, ‘The Case for Reparations,’ published in the Atlantic. There he charts the long history– from ‘redlining’ neighbourhoods to withholding mortgages from Black families in 1950s, to the deliberate targeting of Black families in the sub-prime mortgage market – that have, step by step, led to the creation of ghetto neighbourhoods like the one Coates grew up in and mean that “Black families making $100,000 typically live in the kinds of neighborhoods inhabited by white families making $30,000.”

In the book, he describes a trip to Paris with his son where “our colour was not our distinguishing feature, so much as our Americanness ... We were not enslaved in France. We are not their particular problem, nor their national guilt.” But he cautions his son to remember seeing Roma begging in the street. The French, like all nations, have their own version of Dream.

I would love to see something like this written by a British writer, because, as Sunny Singh put it in a recent interview, “Focusing on American writers allows white British people to wash their hands of their own history ... wiping out a legacy of slavery and imperialism and the Windrush generation.”

But as Coates says, it is not up to those outside the Dream to wake the Dreamers. “The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves.”

As Toni Morrison puts it in her cover quote: “This is required reading.”

You will enjoy this if you loved: Luis J Rodriguez, Toni Morrison, Claudia Rankine, Marlon James

Avoid if you dislike: Confronting your own privilege

Perfect Accompaniment: A slice of humble pie

Genre: Non-Fiction, Literary Essay

Available from Amazon

Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat

Reviewer: Tracy Terry, book blogger. This review first appeared on the Pen and Paper blog.

What I thought: One of those books that once started was nigh on impossible to put down and yet at the same time one of those novels that you didn't want to pick up knowing that every page read was a page closer to having to say goodbye to some wonderful characters not to mention the end of an exceptional trilogy.

The third in the Bone Angel Trilogy. Whilst the books are connected by three generations of women proud to have been passed down an angel talisman they are quite different stories (though perhaps the first, Spirit Of Lost Angels, is more similar to Blood Rose Angel than the second, Wolfsangel) and as such can be read as stand alone reads or in which ever way the reader so wishes.

Superstition, pestilence, an oath sworn on a dead mother's soul, medicine, religion and most of all a wonderful heroine. A 'non-born', a midwife/healer, a woman taunted from childhood - in Héloïse Liza Perrat has created an amazing character who is at once complex and yet easy to relate to.

Her creating some quite heavy scenarios - the 'ignorant' superstitions and prejudices of many of the people, the treatment of women in general and women seen to be in different in particular, the religious/political struggles, Héloïse's relationship with her stonemason husband - thankfully tempered by some wonderfully tender and moving moments.

In short, not only does she write beautifully, Liza Perrat is also a master storyteller who manages to bring to life both the people and places of her novels and I for one can't wait to find out just where her next book will take me.

Copyright: Tracy Terry @ Pen and Paper.
Disclaimer: Received for review from the author, no financial compensation was asked for nor given.

You’ll like this if you enjoy: Stories with strong female, midwife-healer heroines, battling outside forces.

Avoid if you don’t like: France-based medieval fiction.

Ideal accompaniments: French wine and cheese on crusty bread.

Genre: Historical Romance.

Available from Amazon

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Reviewer: JJ Marsh

What we thought: This Pulitzer Prize winner is one I will use as an example for anyone criticising a non-linear narrative. In Doerr’s skilful hands, the story could not be told any other way than to leap back and forth in time.

Two stories intersect and eventually entwine in the build-up to World War II.

Marie-Laure is blind and motherless, but endowed with great fortune. Her father, the key-keeper of Paris’s natural history museum, shares with her all the treasures the museum and their suburb has to offer.

In an industrial city in Germany, young Werner grows up in an orphanage, devoid of opportunity and destined for the mine until his skill at technology and in particular, radio repair, opens a door to an elite academy for Aryan cadets for the Third Reich.

Nature, nurture, propaganda, science and the balanced perspective show how minds (both young and old) can be conditioned, damaged and trained.

A third strand is added in the shape of a gem-specialist recruited by the Nazis, who is determined to find The Sea of Flames, a diamond previously hidden at the museum. A diamond, according to legend, which confers immortality on its owner but destroys everything s/he loves.

The converging narratives relentlessly bring our two protagonists closer to the denouement. We know what happens in history but not to these characters. This story is very human, enlightening, painful and touching. Most of all, a vital reminder of the futility and destruction wreaked by war.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky, the film Life is Beautiful or The Boy in Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Avoid if you don’t like: Realities of war, long novels, WWII

Ideal accompaniments: A warm baguette with butter, a pitcher of rough red wine and Au Clair de la Lune.

Genre: Literary fiction, historical fiction

Available at Amazon