#BlogTour #BookReview Before We Grow Old by Clare Swatman @BoldwoodBooks

Before We Grow OldWelcome to the first day of the blog tour – which also happens to be publication day! – for Before We Grow Old by Clare Swatman. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Boldwood Books for my digital review copy via NetGalley. Do check out the posts by my tour buddies for today, Sheri at My Reading Getaway and the team at Romance By The Book.

Before We Grow OldAbout the Book

Some people are just made for each other…

When seven-year-old Fran first met Will they knew instantly that they were made for each other. For eleven years they were inseparable, but then, at the age of eighteen, Will just upped and disappeared.

Twenty-five years later Will is back. Is fate trying to give them a second chance?

Still nursing the heart break from all those years ago, Fran is reluctant to give Will the time of day. The price Will must pay is to tell the truth – the truth about why he left, the truth about why he’s back…

And Fran has her own secrets to hide. The time has come to decide what Fran and Will really want from life – before it’s too late. ..

Format: Paperback (314 pages)         Publisher: Boldwood Books
Publication date: 19th January 2022 Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

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Hive | Amazon UK
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My Review

When Fran and Will run into each other in a coffee shop after a gap of twenty-five years is it coincidence, fate or something else? Finding themselves both single again, albeit each now with parental responsibilities, they quickly resume their relationship, their attraction to each other being as intense as it was all those years ago.

However, a revelation from Will causes Fran to reappraise her relationship with him and results in them embarking on a quest, along with Fran’s son, Kieran, to make the most of every day because, after all, you never know if it might be your last.

The story is told from Fran’s point of view meaning that the reader gets to witness her ever-changing emotions: doubt, guilt, resentment, frustration and an abiding sense of injustice. Not all of these may seem warranted. For instance, her initial response to Will’s revelation is one of anger when you might have expected, or hoped, her to feel sympathy – especially since Fran has a big secret of her own that she’s concealed for twenty-five years (the nature of which readers may well guess).

I found myself with immense sympathy for Will. Not only is he attempting to put things right with Fran but he is facing a personal challenge with fortitude and dignity. His tender relationship with his daughter, Elodie, was heart-warming and I also liked the bond he formed with Fran’s son, Kieran. Will’s world is rocked when Fran finally reveals the secrets she has concealed for so long but, despite everything he’s going through, he shows a capacity for forgiveness I found astonishing.

There are joyful moments in the book – one of my favourites involving Krispy Kreme doughnuts – but there is immense sadness as well. Before We Grow Old is something of an emotional rollercoaster that will have you laughing one moment and tearful the next. As the author demonstrates, life is a journey in which you never know what’s around the next corner. Carpe diem, as they say.

In three words: Emotional, tender, romantic

Try something similarThe Ends of the Earth by Abbie Greaves

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Clare SwatmanAbout the Author

Clare Swatman is the author of three women’s fiction novels, published by Macmillan, which have been translated into over 20 languages.

She has been a journalist for over twenty years, writing for Bella and Woman & Home amongst many other magazines.

She lives in Hertfordshire.

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#BookReview Red Is My Heart by Antoine Laurain and Le Sonneur @BelgraviaB

Red Is My Heart CoverAbout the Book

How can you mend a broken heart?

Do you write a letter to the woman who left you – and post it to an imaginary address? Buy a new watch, to reset your life? Or get rid of the jacket you wore every time you argued, because it was in some way … responsible?

Combining the wry musings of a rejected lover with playful drawings in just three colours – red, black and white – bestselling author of The Red Notebook, Antoine Laurain, and renowned street artist Le Sonneur have created a striking addition to the literature of unrequited love. Sharp, yet warm, whimsical and deeply Parisian, this is a must for all Antoine Laurain fans.

Format: Paperback (192 pages)         Publisher: Gallic Books
Publication date: 18th January 2022 Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literature in Translation
ISBN13: 9781913547189

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My Review

Red Is My Heart is one of those books that looks simple on the surface but repays a slow reading to appreciate its subtlety. The musings of the narrator following the end of a love affair are communicated in a reflective manner but with a wry humour and incorporating subtle wordplay, skilfully preserved in the translation by Jane Aitken. One of my favourite examples was the narrator’s cheeky comment about the book’s illustrator, street artist Le Sonneur, ‘His art does not last and serves no purpose’.

The narrator finds reminders of lost love in everyday objects such as a watch, a ‘his and hers’ keyring or a jacket. Through some sort of twisted or desperate logic he blames the latter for the failure of their love affair.  He even clings to the memory of their relationship through the unlikely vehicle of an airport tannoy announcement. The book also details the slow, painful process of discarding memories of a relationship whether that’s in the form or photographs or gifts.

There’s very little text, some pages containing only a single paragraph or a few sentences. However, what text there is uses different fonts, different sizes of text, words in bold, etc. to reinforce the meaning of the prose. Some of the text is printed upside down or at right angles meaning the reader has to physically manipulate the book to read the words. This is definitely not a book that could be appreciated in digital format!

The illustrations are a brilliant companion to the text, especially striking because of their use of only the colours black, white and red. The illustrations pick up on elements in the narrator’s musings – such as a ladder – or act as metaphors for separation, such as the scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle or a small, lone figure looking out from a balcony surrounded by a sea of houses. The repeated motif of a red dot that gets smaller and smaller, always remaining out of reach, seems to reflect the growing distance between the narrator and his lost love.  Does the quirky keypad on a door and a red dot that increases in size towards the end of the book suggest the possibility of a new relationship?  Perhaps he was wise after all to give away that unlucky jacket!

Leaving aside the writing and illustrations, Red Is My Heart is a work of art in itself, from the embossed front and back covers to the French fold jacket. My thanks to Isabelle at Gallic Books for my advance review copy of this little gem of a book.

In three words: Touching, playful, imaginative

Try something similar: Together by Luke Adam Hawker

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About the Author

Pascal Ito © Flammarion

Antoine Laurain is the bestselling author of six previous novels, including The President’s Hat, a Waterstones Book Club pick which won the Prix Landerneau and the Prix Relay des Voyageurs, and was adapted for television, and The Red Notebook, which featured in the Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room, an Instagram book club with over 100k followers. His novels have been translated into more than twenty languages, including Arabic and Korean.  A writer, journalist and antique collector, he lives in Paris.

Connect with Antoine
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About the Illustrator

Le Sonneur is a contemporary Parisian artist. His work tells the story of Paris and the people who live there. His artwork is often placed in public spaces with an invitation to passers-by to interact with the work, for example by picking up a key or calling a telephone number. As well as in Paris, his work has been exhibited in Tokyo, Berlin, Melbourne and Dubai. (Photo/bio: Publisher author page)

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