Blog Tour: 10 Things I Loved About Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole

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I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole and to share with you my thoughts about this fantastic book. Reading this over the past couple of days, I feel as if I’ve been transported back to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Do check out the posts of the fabulous bloggers hosting the other stops on the tour.  If you’re in the US, via the tour page, you can enter the giveaway to win a SIGNED copy of Woman Enters Left (closes 6th October).

WomanEntersLeftAbout the Book

1950s movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: she has inherited the estate of Florence “Florrie” Daniels, a Hollywood screenwriter she barely recalls meeting. Among Florrie’s possessions are several unproduced screenplays, personal journals, and – inexplicably – old photographs of Louise’s mother, Ethel. On an impulse, Louise leaves a film shoot in Las Vegas and sets off for her father’s house on the East Coast, hoping for answers about the curious inheritance and, perhaps, about her own troubled marriage.

Nearly thirty years earlier, Florrie takes off on an adventure of her own, driving her Model T westward from New Jersey in pursuit of broader horizons. She has the promise of a Hollywood job and, in the passenger seat, Ethel, her best friend since childhood. Florrie will do anything for Ethel, who is desperate to reach Nevada in time to reconcile with her husband and reunite with her daughter. Ethel fears the loss of her marriage; Florrie, with long-held secrets confided only in her journal, fears its survival.

In parallel tales, the three women – Louise, Florrie, Ethel – discover that not all journeys follow a map. As they rediscover their carefree selves on the road, they learn that sometimes the paths we follow are shaped more by our traveling companions than by our destinations.

Format: Paperback, ebook (352 pp.)     Publisher: Ballantine Books
Published: 8th August 2017                     Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links* ǀ ǀ Barnes & Noble ǀ iTunes ǀ Indiebound ǀ Kobo
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

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10 Things I Loved About Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole

  1. It’s built around three strong female characters and presents a wonderful and moving picture of female love and friendship.
  2. Its evocation of the glamorous and not so glamorous aspects of the Golden Ages of Hollywood – the studios, the actors, the screenwriters, the casting couch…
  3. The brilliantly observed period detail in each timeline. The clothes, the make-up, the cocktails, the food – creamed chipped beef on toast, slumgullion stew, shrimp wiggle, croquettes.
  4. The carefully-constructed narrative structure, with the story moving back and forth between the two timelines: the 1926 narrative told through Ethel’s and Florrie’s journals, each in their distinctive style, interspersed with excerpts from Florrie’s unpublished screenplay; the 1952 narrative told from Louise’s point of view, with other documents used to fill in the period between 1926 and 1952.
  5. The fascinating road trip along Route 66 with its campsites, dude ranches, motels and, dare I say it, cinematic scenery.
  6. The multi-layered narrative that, as well as the central story of the three women, covers issues as diverse as the blacklisting of screenwriters/actors in the 1950s and the activities of The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), workplace safety and sexual freedom (or lack of it), the Korean war and post-combat stress.
  7. Its themes: of unintended consequences and the guilt that can arise from these; missed opportunities in life, career and love; the need to seize second chances.
  8. The sparkling dialogue, particularly between Louise and Arnie, that’s straight out of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in, say, Woman of the Year
  9. The frequent allusions to life as a film script from the title itself, Woman Enters Left to the way the characters see themselves and interpret their experiences: ‘She can picture it now, a shot on the screen in Technicolor. The red car, the brown desert, the dark-haired actress running away from it all with her wicker suitcase.’  ‘But what does the scene call for? What would the script say?’
  10. The brilliant ending – pure Hollywood!

Not too difficult to guess that I adored this book. It has it all: romance, glamour, authentic period detail and a compelling narrative. If someone doesn’t snap up the film rights, they’re missing a trick.

Highly recommended…and all Jessica’s previous books just got added to my TBR.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of HF Virtual Book Tours in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Stylish, dramatic, compelling

Watch something similar… A Star is Born [1954], Hail, Caesar! [2016], Trumbo [2015]

JessicaBrockmoleAbout the Author

Jessica Brockmole is the author of At the Edge of Summer, the internationally bestselling Letters from Skye, which was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and Something Worth Landing For, a novella featured in Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. She lives in northern Indiana with her husband, two children, and far too many books.

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Blog Tour: 10 Things I Loved About Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

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I’m thrilled that it’s finally my turn (along with the lovely Chapter in my Life) to host today’s stop on the blog tour for Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech.   It seems like everywhere I’ve looked for about the past two months other book bloggers have been raving about this book. Do you know what? They were right.   My first act after turning the last page – apart from having a little sniffle – was to move Louise’s previous two books (The Mountain in my Shoe and How To Be Brave) closer to the top of my TBR pile.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of Anne at Random Things Through My Letterbox and publishers, Orenda Books, in return for an honest review.

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MariaintheMoonAbout the Book

Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’

Thirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges… and changes everything.  Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

Format: Paperback (276 pp.)                     Publisher: Orenda Books
Published: 30th Sep 2017                            Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Purchase Links* ǀ ǀ iBooks
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

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10 Things I Loved About Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

  1. Using the 2007 floods in Hull as a pivotal event. Having, thankfully, never experienced such a traumatic event personally, it really brought home to me the long term consequences for people affected. From practical things – like the length of time it takes to dry out a home or the shortage of trades people to carry out repairs – to less obvious things – like the sense of displacement, the trauma associated with having your home and personal space invaded, the loss of possessions with a sentimental value and the emotional scars that can persist for years afterwards. “The rain caused all sorts of problems.” He slurped his coffee. “People clearing out their ruined belongings remembered things long buried: affairs, given-up babies, secret abortions. We hear these stories every day.”
  2. The callers to Flood Crisis.  I found their stories moving and Catherine’s response to their stories even more moving. Thank God, such resources exist and that people exist to volunteer to take on such roles.  Their stories also form an extremely clever aspect to the book in a number of ways. For example, Catherine’s compulsion to listen to others’ problems, to fill her memory with details of their troubles, is a way to block out her own. ‘I remembered all the calls. While my memory discarded my own history, it had no trouble with people who needed me to remember.’
  3. The significance of names. That nothing is more annoying than deliberately getting someone’s name wrong every time you meet them (especially if they’re particularly annoying themselves – hello, Sharleen/Celine, we’re talking about you).  That nothing is more embarrassing then referring to someone by the nickname you’ve secretly given them, especially if it’s rather cruel. That the meaning behind names is important – like whether you’re “Mum” or “Mother” – and that we are to a certain extent characterised (at least for ourselves) by our names. That certain words can trigger painful memories.
  4. The humour.  The nicknames – Aunty Hairy, Jangly Jane, Condom Kath.  Catherine’s banter with Christopher, which supports my theory that if you find someone with whom you share a sense of humour that’s a sign of a good relationship.
  5. The supporting cast. My particularly favourites were Catherine’s best friend, the outrageous Fern, and Catherine’s lovely Aunt Mary.
  6. The acute observation of the writing about everyday things.  Like the ritual of formal family meals, when everyone’s trying not to say or do anything out of turn, but it won’t be long before someone does. ‘They were all in the dining room. Like actors in a weekly soap opera they’d assumed the usual positions: Mother at the top near the walnut cabinet that displayed her pottery creations, me next to Celine, Graham opposite us with his back against the wall where the Constable print hung. The best blue-and-white swirly china was being given its weekly outing, and a silk cloth hid the plain table.’  Like the kitchen drawers that can only be opened one at a time. 
  7. The character of Catherine. Yes, she’s spiky, a bit scruffy, rude to her mother and step-sister, clumsy, moody, thoughtless at times. But who hasn’t put their foot in it by saying the wrong thing or making a joke at an inopportune moment or laughed without thinking or meaning to when you should have expressed sorrow or horror? And Catherine has a wonderfully witty sense of humour, resilience and fantastic empathy with the callers to the crisis line. Most of all, she’s unbelievably brave.
  8. It made me think. About the nature of memory. About the things we choose to remember, those we choose to forget and those things we’ve even forgotten that we’ve forgotten. “We forget nothing – memories are always there. We’re just afraid to look. But why? Fear is just fear. All we have to do is look, and we won’t be afraid.”
  9. The ending. After all the emotions the author put us through as readers, I reckon we deserved that ending. To my mind, the sign of a great book is when the characters live so vividly in your mind that you feel as invested in what happens to them as (whisper) your own family.
  10. Finally, I loved that Louise Beech took the time to name check so many book bloggers and reviewers in her Acknowledgments. But, really, she doesn’t need to thank us because the joy we get from reading books as wonderful as Maria in the Moon is thanks enough.

LouiseBeech2About the Author

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe, was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines.

Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.

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