#ThrowbackThursday The Meonbridge Chronicles by Carolyn Hughes

Meonbridge Chronicles Carolyn Hughes

I was first introduced to The Meonbridge Chronicles series when I won a lovely signed copy of the first book, Fortune’s Wheel, in a giveaway.  Opening in the aftermath of the Black Death (or the ‘mortality’ as it is referred to), the books are set in the fictional Hampshire village of Meonbridge and follow events in the lives of its inhabitants, with the emphasis on the female inhabitants. I’ve read all the books in the series – A Woman’s Lot, De Bohun’s Destiny and Children’s Fate – and very much enjoyed all of them. You can read full versions of my reviews by following the links from the titles however here are a few snippets…

FortunesWheel2Fortune’s Wheel I loved the detail of village life which gave the story a real feeling of authenticity and is clearly the result of an incredible amount of research. It introduced me to new terms – merchet, legerwite, heriot – and the many different roles necessary to village life – bailiff, steward, reeve and (my favourite) ale-taster. I thought it was an accomplished, fascinating historical fiction novel – and an impressive debut.

AWomansLot2A Woman’s Lot – The book provides another fascinating insight into day-to-day life in a period when people lived without many of the things we now take for granted: being able to dry your clothes easily when they get wet; a house that doesn’t let in the wind and rain; a slice of bread that doesn’t involve a trip to the communal bakehouse; not having to exist only on what you can grow. And it brings to life the small joys of life such as the travelling market coming to the village green, Christmas and Midsummer festivities, music and dancing at a wedding feast.

De Bohun's DestinyDe Bohun’s Destiny – The focus in this book shifts from the villagers to the residents of the Manor – Sir Richard and Lady Margaret De Bohun – and to the future of the demesne with drama and intrigue a little more to the fore.  Events move along apace and no sooner does it seem that one threat to Meonbridge’s future has been averted than another one appears in its place, if anything in deadlier form.

Children's FateChildren’s Fate – The year 1361 sees the return of the plague and its indiscriminate nature causes the people of Meonbridge to search for answers as to why some live and others die.  Some, fuelled by grief, despair and fear, look for scapegoats. As is often the case, suspicion falls on outsiders.  Full of authentic detail of daily life, in Children’s Fate you don’t so much read about the folk of Meonbridge as dwell amongst them for a few precious hours.

Carolyn HughesIf my thoughts have piqued your interest in reading The Meonbridge Chronicles for yourself, you can find purchase links on Carolyn’s website where you can also sign up to her newsletter. If you do, you’ll receive e-copies of two free Meonbridge Chronicles novellas – Maiden’s Chance and Maiden’s Hap. You can also find a glossary of terms used in the books, blog posts from Carolyn about all things medieval and much, much more…

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Throwback Thursday: The Hour of Daydreams by Renee Macalino Rutledge

Screenshot_2020-11-24-15-33-13_kindlephoto-236712199This week I was kindly reminded by WordPress  that it’s four years since WhatCathyReadNext was launched into the blogosphere. I thought I’d mark the occasion by revisiting the first book review I ever published on my blog, updated to reflect the current format of my reviews.

The Hour of DaydreamsAbout the Book

Manolo Lualhati, a respected doctor in the Philippine countryside, believes his wife hides a secret. Prior to their marriage, he spied her wearing wings and flying to the stars with her sisters each evening. As Tala tries to keep her dangerous past from her new husband, Manolo begins questioning the gaps in her stories – and his suspicions push him even further from the truth.

The Hour of Daydreams, a contemporary reimagining of a Filipino folktale, weaves in the perspectives of Tala’s siblings, her new in-laws, and the all-seeing housekeeper while exploring trust, identity, and how myths can take root from the seeds of our most difficult truths.

Format: ebook (232 pages)                  Publisher: Forest Avenue Press
Publication date: 14th March 2017  Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy

Find The Hour of Daydreams on Goodreads

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My Review

The author weaves fantasy and fable into the story of Tala and Manolo’s meeting and marriage.  The writing has a lyrical, fairytale quality which at times is mesmerising – “He began walking along the lip of the water, where it saturated the sand with kisses” – and the author has some imaginative metaphors/similes – “They talked rapidly and their conversation was like a dance; as one took the lead, the others were eager to follow. It was a meandering dance, circling from place to place…“.

However, at other times, the language was surprisingly ‘clunky’. “Cigarette in hand, he assessed the scene in front of him with some degree of calm” or “Your mother’s anguish invoked you from sleep, and we combined our efforts to pacify your discomfort.

There are well-observed descriptions of everyday life, at the market or on the quayside, but I found some of the author’s extended metaphors, as in pretty much the whole of Chapter 6, baffling. The supporting characters are well-drawn and the importance of food and sharing communal meals is lovingly described.  I enjoyed the story of the main characters but, for me, the fantasy element confused rather than enhanced the narrative.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Forest Avenue Press via NetGalley.

In three words: Lyrical, imaginative, fantasy

Renee M RutledgeAbout the Author

Renee Macalino Rutledge is the author of The Hour of Daydreams, a literary fiction novel that has been dubbed “essential reading” by Literary Mama, “one of 24 books to get excited for in 2017” by The Oregonian, and a “captivating story of love and loss unlike any other” by Foreword Reviews.

Renee’s work has also been published in The Margins, ColorLines, Mutha Magazine, Ford City Anthology, Oakland Magazine, Literary Hub, Red Earth Review, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Necessary Fiction, Women Writers Women’s Books, The Tishman Review, and others. She lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works as a nonfiction book editor and regularly explores the tidepools and redwoods with her family. (Photo/bio credit: Goodreads author profile)

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