#BookReview The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel @MichaelJBooks

The Recovery of Rose GoldAbout the Book

Rose Gold Watts believed she was sick for eighteen years. She thought she needed the feeding tube, the surgeries, the wheelchair…

Turns out her mum, Patty, is a really good liar.

After five years in prison Patty Watts is finally free. All she wants is to put old grievances behind her, reconcile with her daughter and care for her new infant grandson. When Rose Gold agrees to have Patty move in, it seems their relationship is truly on the mend.

But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty won’t rest until she has her daughter back under her thumb. Which is a smidge inconvenient because Rose Gold wants to be free of Patty. Forever.

Only one Watts will get what she wants. Will it be Patty or Rose Gold. Mother, or daughter?

Format: Hardcover (352 pages)       Publisher: Michael Joseph
Publication date: 5th March 2020  Genre: Contemporary fiction, thriller

Purchase links*
Amazon.co.uk | Hive (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Recovery of Rose Gold on Goodreads

My Review

I first became aware of this book whilst browsing the programme for last year’s Henley Literary Festival. The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel (along with the yet to be published Conviction by Hope Adams) was one of the 2020 debuts featured at the Michael Joseph Proof Party held aboard the river cruiser, Hibernia. You can read my review of the event here. Hearing Stephanie talk about her book made me keen to read it. I’m only sorry it’s taken me so long to do so.

Told from the alternating points of view of Patty Watts and her daughter, Rose Gold, the reader is witness to a chilling, sometimes unnerving, but always enthralling battle of wills. Both women have plans to which they allude in ominous fashion. Lines such as, “A rookie doesn’t challenge a master” or “Wattses are nothing if not meticulous”. It’s difficult to warm to either character but, as more and more information is revealed, it’s also difficult to forget they are both damaged and vulnerable individuals.

There’s a saying there are two sides to every story but are either of the stories the reader is hearing the truth? I suspect that, like me, readers may find their sympathies shifting back and forth between Patty and Rose Gold at different points in the book. I particularly liked the voice the author creates for Patty with her caustic asides about her neighbours and the neighbourhood (the perhaps appropriately named Deadwick). I chuckled at her observations on the town’s ‘Christmaspalooza’. “Two little boys hop off Santa’s lap after their parents take four million pictures. What happened to one and done? They’re not going in National Geographic, for Pete’s sake.”

From time to time, the author plays with readers’ expectations of the genre. For example, commenting about a particular character that in any other story they would turn out to be a serial killer.

20200306_121947At one point Rose Gold reflects, “People didn’t get excited by stories of forgiveness. They wanted bridges to burn. They wanted dramas that made their own lives seem normal.” If you want drama, a chilling insight into obsessive behaviour and a story with plenty of twists and turns, then The Recovery of Rose Gold is the book for you.

I received an uncorrected (signed) proof copy courtesy of Michael Joseph.

In three words: Dark, twisty, compelling

Try something similar: Real Life by Adeline Dieudonne

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bio-grid-2_FINAL_kindlephoto-496953907About the Author

Stephanie Wrobel grew up in Chicago but has lived in the UK for three years with her husband and dog, Moose Barkwinkle. She has an MFA from Emerson College and has had short fiction published in Bellevue Literary Review. Before turning to fiction, she worked as a creative copywriter at various advertising agencies. (Bio/photo credit: author website)

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#BookReview Chanel’s Riviera by Anne de Courcy #NonficNov

Chanels RivieraAbout the Book

Far from worrying about the onset of war, the burning question on the French Riviera in 1938 was whether one should curtsey to the Duchess of Windsor.

Featuring a sparkling cast of historical figures, writers and artists including Winston Churchill, Daisy Fellowes, Salvador Dalí, the Windsors, Aldous Huxley and Edith Wharton – and the enigmatic Coco Chanel at its heart – Chanel’s Riviera is a sparkling account of a period where such deep extremes of luxury and terror had never before been experienced.

From the glamour of the pre-war parties and casinos, to Robert Streitz’s secret wireless transmitter in the basement of La Pausa – Chanel’s villa that he created – while Chanel had her German lover to stay during the war, Chanel’s Riviera explores the fascinating world of the Cote d’Azur elite in the 1930s and 1940s, enriched with original research that brings the lives of both rich and poor, protected and persecuted, to vivid life.

Format: Audiobook                            Publisher: Orion
Publication date: 13th June 2019  Genre: History, Nonfiction

Find Chanel’s Riviera:  Peace and War on The Côte d’Azur, 1930 – 1944 on Goodreads

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk | Hive (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

My Review

When I heard Anne de Courcy talk about her book at Henley Literary Festival last month (read my full review of the event here) she described Chanel’s Riviera as a ‘biography of the Riviera’. I think that’s a fair description because readers expecting the majority of the book to be about Chanel may be disappointed. Yes, Chanel does feature a lot but in sections of the book she is either on the periphery or absent entirely. For example, she spent periods during the war in Paris rather than on the Riviera.

What the book does well is conjure up the glamour and hedonism of life on the Riviera for the rich and famous before the war. The author describes how it became a haven for writers and artists like Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Somerset Maugham, H G Wells and Jean Cocteau, as well as society figures such as Winston Churchill and, later, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The mood changes suddenly following the outbreak of war. The book depicts the arrival of refugees from Northern Europe, including Jews fleeing persecution, and the food shortages that followed the fall of France in 1940 as supplies were diverted to Germany. Life for many living on the Cote d’Azur became really tough and the author uses material from diaries and contemporary sources to tell the harrowing stories of individuals.

Other than her reputation as a designer, I knew very little about Chanel’s life before reading this book. It was interesting to learn of her rise from humble beginnings to doyenne of the fashion world. However, I can’t say everything I learned made me warm to Chanel as a person. For instance, I was shocked to learn of her anti-Semitic views.

In the book the author addresses claims that Chanel collaborated with the Nazis. For example, she suggests Chanel’s taking of a senior German officer as a lover was principally aimed at trying to gain the release of her nephew who was being held as a prisoner of war by the Germans. However I found myself wondering if ‘the will to survive’ was sufficient justification for some of Chanel’s actions.

As the author recounts, partly what kept Chanel free from the retaliation meted out to others accused of collaboration was the reopening of her Paris store following its liberation in 1944 and the offer of a free bottle of her iconic perfume for every US soldier to take home to their wife or sweetheart. That and being able to produce papers demonstrating her friendship with Winston Churchill.

Chanel’s Riviera is clearly the product of extensive research. For me, the most interesting element of the book was seeing the impact of the Second World War on an area of France which had hitherto been the playground of the rich and famous.

I listened to the audio book version narrated by Sophie Roberts. Chanel’s Riviera is also available in hardcover and as an ebook.

contributor-anne-de-courcyAbout the Author

Anne de Courcy is the author of thirteen widely acclaimed works of social history and biography, including The Husband HuntersThe Fishing FleetThe Viceroy’s Daughters and Debs At War.

In the 1970s she was Woman’s Editor on the London Evening News and in the 1980s she was a regular feature-writer for the Evening Standard. She is also a former features writer and reviewer for the Daily Mail.  She lives in London SW3. (Photo credit: Publisher author page)

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