#BookReview Summerland by Lucy Adlington @HotKeyBooksYA @ReadersFirst1

SummerlandAbout the Book

October,1946. The Red Cross escorts a group of child refugees from Europe to England. Among them is Brigitta – a serious, silent figure with worn clothes and a small cardboard suitcase containing a single grey glove. Arriving in London, Brigitta breaks from the group and runs . . .

Brigitta’s mission: to reach Summerland Hall and find the one person who can solve a wartime mystery. But Summerland holds secrets and shadows of its own . . . and perhaps the key to a new life and new beginnings.

An extraordinarily rich tale of love, prejudice, truth and forgiveness, inspired by real events.

Format: Paperback (320 pages)              Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: 5th September 2019 Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

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

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My Review

Through the character of Brigitta, Summerland brings to life the story of children who survived the Nazi concentration camps or were orphaned by the War and who were brought to Britain as refugees. The reader gradually learns of Brigitta’s traumatic experiences: forced into hiding for fear of persecution as a Jew, sheltering alongside her mother in bomb-damaged buildings, searching for scraps of food.

Arriving at Summerland Hall, a place she was told about by her mother, Brigitta’s wonder at being offered the luxury of jam to stir into her porridge reminds the reader of the contrast with the privations she has suffered. This is also cleverly brought home by Brigitta’s very different reaction from that of the village children to things like men in uniform, fireworks on Bonfire Night or games like Murder in the Dark. ‘The words were ominous, but in England, it seemed murder in the dark didn’t mean watching your neighbours getting shot at three in the morning.’ Ironically, Brigitta recalls being told by her mother during the time they were in hiding to think of it like a game.

Amid the more serious subject matter there are some lovely touches of humour, from the failure of Brigitta’s English/German dictionary to cope with phrases such as Toad in the Hole to the quirky chapter headings representing the unfamiliar foodstuffs Brigitta encounters – Fish-Paste Sandwiches, Bacon Butties, Violet Creams. And anyone of my generation who experienced school lunches may chuckle, as I did, at her impression of being served a plate of liver and onions. ‘The liver was like leather with bits of rubber piping in. […] The onions looked like beige phlegm.’ Sorry, if you were eating your dinner while reading that!

A character I particularly liked was Summerland’s cook, Sophie Rover, for her kindness to Brigitta and her simple philosophy of life that everyone should be well fed and comfortable. As Brigitta sagely observes: ‘If only she had been leader of the Third Reich, not Hitler. Meatuntooveg instead of mass murder, misery and world war.’

When Lady Summer, owner of Summerland Hall, embarks on the restoration of the house following its requisitioning for military use during the war, it seems an analogy for recovery after conflict. It’s as if Brigitta’s arrival has brought new life to the house, such as the rather different kind of musical entertainment at the traditional New Year’s Eve party or Lady Summer’s uncharacteristic hospitality towards the village children. However, Brigitta herself sees only the ghosts of the past.

As Brigitta’s past catches up with her things turn darker and the reader is reminded of the suspicion and recriminations that can linger after conflict and the physical and mental scars caused by war. Finally, the secret that has brought Brigitta to Summerland is revealed, offering the prospect of a different, and perhaps unexpected, future for her and others.

Although aimed at young adults, Summerland is an engrossing, emotional and beautifully crafted story that will engage readers of all ages. I loved it.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Hot Key Books and Readers First.

In three words: Moving, compelling, uplifting

Try something similar: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

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About the Author

Lucy Adlington is a writer and clothes historian. Her novels for teenagers, including The Diary of Pelly D, Burning Mountain and The Red Ribbon have been nominated and shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, the Manchester Book Prize, the Leeds Book Prize and the Rotherham Book Award. She tours the UK with dress history presentations and writes history books for adults, including Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2: Ready for Action and Stitches in Time: the Story of the Clothes We Wear.

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#BookReview The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett @OdysseyBooks @lizziejane


The Tides BetweenAbout the Book

She fancied herself part of a timeless chain without beginning or end, linked only by the silver strong words of its tellers.

In the year 1841, on the eve of her departure from London, Bridie’s mother demands she forget her dead father and prepare for a sensible, adult life in Port Phillip. Desperate to save her childhood, fifteen-year-old Bridie is determined to smuggle a notebook filled with her father’s fairytales to the far side of the world.

When Rhys Bevan, a soft-voiced young storyteller and fellow traveller realises Bridie is hiding something, a magical friendship is born. But Rhys has his own secrets and the words written in Bridie’s notebook carry a dark double meaning.  As they inch towards their destination, Rhys’s past returns to haunt him. Bridie grapples with the implications of her dad’s final message. The pair take refuge in fairytales, little expecting the trouble it will cause.

Format: Paperback, ebook (300 pp.)         Publisher: Odyssey Books
Published: 20th October 2017        Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Purchase Links*

Amazon.co.uk ǀ Kobo  
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

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My Review

The author conveys in convincing detail the terrible conditions endured by those, like Bridie and her mother and stepfather, travelling in steerage: the heat below deck, the cramped accommodation, lack of privacy and risk of disease. Not to mention the terrible seasickness caused by the motion of the ship. There are particularly vivid descriptions of the terror experienced by the passengers as the ship rides out storms on the voyage, not least those in steerage where the order ‘batten down the hatches’ means them literally being sealed below decks.

For Bridie, the storytelling sessions she shares with Rhys and his wife, Sian, provide a welcome distraction from the privations of the voyage, her continuing grief at the death of her father and her difficult relationship with her mother’s new husband, Alf, that cause her to misunderstand and reject his attempts to guide her and prepare her for their new life in Australia. In addition, Bridie must come to terms with the signs that she is moving from childhood to being of marriageable age.

The emigrants undertaking the long and arduous voyage to Australia are doing so in the hope that a new and better life with more opportunities awaits them. But some, including Rhys and Sian, are also keen to leave behind the past and avoid discovery of secrets they wish to keep hidden. However, from time to time there are precious snatched moments of conviviality as the passengers come together to sing songs and listen to stories, especially those performed by Rhys and Sian.

Tragedy awaits many of those who undertake the voyage and even when they arrive at their destination it’s clear more challenges await them. The open-ended nature of the book’s conclusion means the reader can indulge their own imagination about Bridie’s future… or possibly await a sequel?

The Tides Between is an absorbing, skilfully crafted coming-of-age story that takes the reader – like Bridie and her fellow passengers – on an often turbulent and emotional journey.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author. Find out more about Elizabeth’s writing journey and the inspiration for the book in her Q&A with bookblogger, Linda Hill.

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In three words: Emotional, dramatic, immersive

Try something similar: Fled by Meg Keneally (read my review here)

Elizabeth Jane CorbettThe Tides Between TeaserAbout the Author

When Elizabeth Jane Corbett isn’t writing, she works as a librarian, teaches Welsh at the Melbourne Celtic Club, writes reviews and articles for the Historical Novel Society and blogs at elizabethjanecorbett.com.

In 2009, her short-story, ‘Beyond the Blackout Curtain’, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another, ‘Silent Night’, was short listed for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award. An early draft of her debut novel, The Tides Between, was shortlisted for a HarperCollins Varuna manuscript development award.

Elizabeth lives with her husband, Andrew, in a renovated timber cottage in Melbourne’s inner-north. She likes red shoes, dark chocolate, commuter cycling, and reading quirky, character driven novels set once-upon-a-time in lands far, far away.

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