Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take place in the tour and to Harper Collins for my proof copy. I hope you have been enjoying all the fabulous reviews by the other book bloggers taking part in the tour.
About the Book
Three cities, two sisters, one chance to correct the past…
New York, 1937: When estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine Sommers learn their grandmother is dying, they agree to fulfill her last wish: to travel across Europe – together. They are to deliver three letters, in which Violet will say goodbye to those she hasn’t seen since travelling to Europe forty years earlier; a journey inspired by famed reporter, Nellie Bly.
Clara, ever-dutiful, sees the trip as an inconvenient detour before her wedding to millionaire Charles Hancock, but it’s also a chance to embrace her love of art. Budding journalist Madeleine relishes the opportunity to develop her ambitions to report on the growing threat of Hitler’s Nazi party and Mussolini’s control in Italy.
Constantly at odds with each other as they explore the luxurious Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and the sights of Paris and Venice,, Clara and Madeleine wonder if they can fulfil Violet’s wish, until a shocking truth about their family brings them closer together. But as they reach Vienna to deliver the final letter, old grudges threaten their reconciliation again. As political tensions rise, and Europe feels increasingly volatile, the pair are glad to head home on the Hindenburg, where fate will play its hand in the final stage of their journey.
Format: Paperback (400 pages) Publisher: Harper 360
Publication date: 2nd September 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction
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I was interested to learn Three Words For Goodbye is the third collaboration by authors Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. I have only read one of Hazel’s books, The Bird in the Bamboo Cage (also published as When We Were Young & Brave) which I loved. I’ve yet to read any of Heather’s books but, after reading Three Words For Goodbye, I shall certainly be seeking some out.
Violet’s reason for asking her granddaughters, Clara and Madeleine, to embark on the trip she is unable to make herself is touching, as is her wish for the two sisters to restore their relationship to the happy one they enjoyed as children. I loved the way Violet organised every detail of their trip. Forget charter flights and AirBnB, this is the golden age of travel – for those with money, of course. The sisters experience the grandeur and opulence of the Queen Mary, the sophistication and luxury of the Orient Express and stay in lavish suites in the best hotels with every whim catered for. Chocolate croissants and cafe au lait, yes please.
It’s not all glamour though. The threat of war is a constant backdrop to the sisters’ journey, whether that’s in newspaper headlines, the sight of Mussolini’s soldiers on the streets of Venice or the realities of Nazi persecution in Vienna. This added tension to the story and a sense that nothing may be quite the same again. I felt the authors really conjured up the spirit of the cities Clara and Madeleine travelled to and I liked how they were each attracted to different aspects of the cities. Clara sees the places they visit through the eyes of an artist, describing Paris as ‘like an impressionist painting, all gentle colour and romantic detail’. Meanwhile Madeleine seeks out parts of the cities off the tourist trail, mingling with the inhabitants and seeking inspiration for stories. Their different approach is summed up by Clara’s observation that she paints with colour while her sister paints with words.
To begin with the reader witnesses how different Clara and Madeleine have become in outlook and attitude. Madeleine is impulsive, independent-minded and ambitious whereas Clara craves order and routine. It was fascinating to see how the two sisters change as initial irritation is replaced by mutual affection and a return to something like the close relationship of their childhood. Clara comes to envy Madeleine’s refusal to conform, her insistence of going her own way and her ambition. Indeed it’s Clara who seems to undergo the most change in the course of the book and I for one gave a cheer when she channels her new found confidence. For Madeleine the journey is more a confirmation that her approach to life is justified and that she can achieve her journalistic ambitions. The two sisters’ experiences on their travels encapsulate the wisdom of Violet – ‘The more interesting path always lies ahead’ – and the spirited approach to life of Violet’s friend, the intrepid journalist Nellie Bly – ‘Never turn back’.
There were parts of the book I found particularly moving, such as Clara and Madeleine’s trip to Amiens to deliver Violet’s first letter. But that was as nothing compared to the final chapters of the book; if they don’t leave you a little bit tearful I don’t know what will.
Put two accomplished authors together and what do you get? I’ll tell you what you get: an emotional story that simply sweeps you along. It’s a novel you’ll be sad to say goodbye to – whether in French, Italian or German.
In three words: Moving, compelling, uplifting
About the Authors
Hazel Gaynor is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of When We Were Young & Brave, A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 Romantic Novelists’ Association Historical Romantic Novel of the Year award. Her third novel, The Girl from The Savoy, was an Irish Times and Globe and Mail bestseller, and was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. In 2017, she published The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris (co-written with Heather Webb). Both novels hit bestseller lists, and Last Christmas in Paris won the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award. Hazel’s novel, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, hit the Irish Times bestseller list for five consecutive weeks. Hazel was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. Her work has been translated into fourteen languages and is published in twenty-one countries worldwide. She lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.
Heather Webb is the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of The Next Ship Home, Rodin’s Lover, Becoming Josephine, and The Phantom’s Apprentice, as well as two novels co-written with Hazel, Last Christmas in Paris, which won the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award, and Meet Me in Monaco, a finalist in the 2020 RNA Awards as well as the 2019 Digital Book World Fiction awards. To date, Heather’s works have been translated into fifteen languages worldwide. She is also passionate about helping writers find their voice as a professional freelance editor, speaker, and adjunct in the MFA in Writing program at Drexeul University. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty bunny.