Review of In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake is a profoundly moving story of loss, grief, depression, acceptance, In-Her-Wake-Vis-4-2.jpgforgiveness and renewal that is beautifully written and deeply humane. Jennings dives beneath the surface of her characters to reveal heart-breaking and tragic moments of self-awareness that lead to the decisions they make, characters who have no concept of the waves of physical and emotional devastation that they will leave in their wake at the time. It’s one of the most subtle and immersive psychological thrillers I’ve read in long time.

After Bella’s father dies she finds herself in possession of a terrible secret, one that has had repercussions throughout her life. Compelled to leave everything she thought she knew behind, including her controlling husband, Bella embarks on a search for the truth and arrives in St.Ives in Cornwall full of fear and hope.

There is a dreamlike quality to the writing as the story of Bella is woven through the myths of St.Ives. Jennings draws you into a sea of complex emotions as Bella goes in search of half-forgotten truths and a sense of identity. This is also a multi-sensory tale as the stunning expanse of the Cornish coastline is evocatively evoked and contrasted with the cosseted, suffocating and claustrophobic environment that is all that Bella has known before she embarks on her journey, albeit in the name of love.

Storms of anger and misunderstandings roll in and explode with the ferocity of a Cornish thunderstorm, then recede with the tide leaving a clear path formed from the light of new understanding. Bella is not the only character who has lived in the shadows of what might have been, letting in the light is a key them in the novel as the darkness of the past is gradually washed away. Stunning and unforgettable, Jennings has truly found her voice.

Published by Orenda Books

Follow the author on Twitter: @MandaJJennings

Find out more about the author: Amanda Jennings

The novel will be published as an ebook on 10 February and in paperback on 1 April. Limited, first edition, signed hardbacks are available from Goldsborough Books from 29 February but you can pre-order now.


Review of How To Be Brave by Louise Beech

The tears were running down my face as I read the final few Unknown (4)paragraphs of this wonderful, mesmerising novel that celebrates the fragility and strength of the human condition. 

Rose is just nine years old when she is diagnosed with a life threatening illness and she is having trouble accepting the lifestyle changes she’s going to have to make. Her mother, Natalie, is understandably terrified of losing her wilful daughter and struggles to find a way to reconnect with her. Both Rose and Natalie are set adrift in a sea of unknowns, learning how to survive each minute, hour and day as they come to terms with the huge changes the diagnosis requires.

Both are also haunted by the sight of a man in brown suit, who feels familiar, a man who has something for them.

It’s through the magic of storytelling that Natalie and Rose find a way to come together, as they are transported to the atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat where one of their ancestors survived for 50 days. The true story of one relative’s courage during the second World War transforms their relationship, giving both Rose and Natalie the emotional, mental and physical strength to cope with Rose’s diagnosis, which demands everything they have to give.

The writing is incredibly evocative, I felt like I was sitting along side Rose and Natalie’s relative. I could feel the the boat rising and falling on the waves, taste the thick flesh of the all too rare raw fish on my thickened thirsty tongue and feel the intense heat of the sun as I lay exposed to the elements with the other crew members, as they grew weaker with each passing day.

I also felt Natalie’s fears as though they were my own, my heart was banging for her when Rose announced her rebellious intentions. Beech is brilliant at taking you into the world of a furious, frightened nine-year old girl, who uses adult terms, detachment and rejection as a defence mechanism.

Beech has written a novel that will reach out to anyone who feels cast adrift by a medical condition. Through these duel story lines, How to Be Brave will show you that it’s okay to be angry about the limitations of a long term medical diagnosis, that it’s okay to feel scared and that it’s okay to feel depressed for a while while you grieve for the life that you had before. Then this marvellous novel will show you how to live and find joy despite your challenging new circumstances.

This is beautifully written transformative storytelling that will reach into your heart, change your perspective and bring you safely back to land. Highly recommended, especially for anyone coping with a long term health condition, plus carers, friends and family.

Follow the author on Twitter: @LouiseWriter

Publisher: Orenda Books

I bought my copy from Waterstones, Nottingham.