The Letter by Kathryn Hughes – Book Review

The Letter by Kathryn Hughes
ISBN: 978-1-4722-2995-3

Published: 8th October 2015 by Headline
Available to buy on Amazon in multiple formats (e-book/paperback).

‘Discover the novel that has broken a thousand hearts…
Tina Craig works all the hours she can and volunteers in a charity shop to avoid her unhappy home. Going through the pockets of a second-hand suit, she comes across an old letter, the envelope firmly sealed and un-franked. Tina opens the letter and reads it – a decision that will alter the course of her life forever.

Billy Stirling knows he has been a fool, but he hopes he can put things right. On 4th September 1939 he sits down to write the letter he hopes will change his future. It does…in more ways than he can imagine.’

This book chose me. For those who live and breathe books, I’m sure you can relate to the moment a book cover stands out to you. Even though many other books may catch your eye, there is always one you cannot forget. The chosen book.
The blurb will leave you wondering right away. Why does Tina Craig have an unhappy home? What was so life changing in that letter? I had high expectations for Kathryn Hughes debut novel, and all my fingers were crossed that I wasn’t going to be disappointed…..
‘The Letter’ is a story that goes through many twists and turns and heart breaking moments. Tina Craig is one of the main characters whose life you follow. She lives with her alcoholic husband and unfortunately has to walk on egg shells because of his explosive behaviours. The charity shop Tina works in is her only means of escape…somewhere she can breath without wondering if she’s making too much noise. She is trapped in her situation. A situation that leaves her wondering what will happen, when it will happen…
Although, thanks to the letter she finds, her thoughts are taken up by going back in time. Tina gives herself the challenge of finding the history of the letter, and it sends her searching. But will she find anything, or anyone?
In chapter four you will find yourself getting introduced to more of the main characters who’s lives you will follow too, but from the past. Billy Stirling was a young jack the lad that had the girls wrapped around his little finger, especially Chrissie. Both Billy’s and Chrissie’s lives were already hard because of their upbringings, but because of one rainy night, their lives become a whole lot harder.
The story goes between 1939 (the year of the letter) and 1973 (Tina’s present day). Usually time swapping in a book can be quite confusing, however, it is a vital part of this story because it holds most of the important events leading to the present. In 1939, it wasn’t just Billy’s and Chrissie’s lives that changed, lives of their loved ones also changed because of their actions. They all loved, and they all lost. Half way through the book, personally, had me sitting with my mouth open and shocked at the events that were unfolding before my very eyes. Kathryn Hughes description of events will leave you wanting to keep hold of the book until the very end because of how real the story becomes. I certainly found that happening.
Once again the story is back in 1973, now this is where Kathryn Hughes’ writing shines even more. Tina is faced with more horrendous problems, with one of those being extremely heart wrenching. I’m not embarrassed to say that I cried, a lot. The raw emotion that is in those black words in front of you is gripping. Part of you will want to put it down because of that reason, but the book is so good you know you will regret it if you didn’t finish it. I know that is certainly how I felt when I was reading it! After Tina takes some time out for herself, her letter mission resumes, and she finds herself involved deeper in the situation than what she originally thought. A mission she sees through right until the end, but the outcome will leave you guessing right the way through.
After reading Kathryn Hughes debut novel, my face was tear – stained and I thought ‘wow’. The story had me hooked from the very beginning, even the switching between times was easy to follow which sometimes it isn’t. I thought the book was an incredible read, so raw, historic and extremely emotional. The events that were written opened my eyes to what may have happened in the past, some of which were extremely shocking yet very well describe. Usually when reading books I hope I can’t predict what will happen, I want to read a book that has me guessing all the way through. This book does exactly that. It’s unpredictable, you’re in for plenty of shocks, emotion, arguments, and true love.  I saw the characters grow (in my mind), like I was following them on their journey and some of the scenarios were happening to me. It is that raw.  Kathryn Hughes, what an outstanding way to debut. Such a powerful read and I cannot wait to see what you have in store for the next book. I most certainly was not disappointed.

 

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The woman who upped and left – Review

The woman who upped and left by Fiona Gibson.
ISBN: 978-1-84756-367-5
Published in February 2016 by HarperCollinsPublishers (AVON).
Available to buy on Amazon in multiple formats (e-book/paperback).

‘Forget about having it all. Sometimes you just want to leave it all behind.
Audrey is often seized by the urge to walk out of her house without looking back – but she can’t possibly do that. She is a single parent. She is needed. She has a job, a home, responsibilities, not to mention a slothful teenage son’s pants to pick up. But no one likes being taken for granted – Audrey least of all. So the time has come for drastic action.

And no one’s going to stand in her way….’

After a quick glance at the blurb,  I did the ultimate sin by judging a book by its cover. Straight away I assumed that it would be about a woman who leaves…everything…forever. But I was wrong! With it being the very first time I had ever read one of Fiona Gibson’s books, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of style and quite clearly the content!
       After reading the first paragraph about pants, you might find that you’re nodding in agreement because of how relatable the scenario you’re imagining is.  Fiona Gibson nailed the relatable factor straight away because of the teenage circumstances that can happen every day, or so I’m told!
The main character whose life you follow in the story, is called Audrey. Audrey had some heartache as a young child due to her parents and the lack of stability that her childhood was given by them. She is a 40-something, divorced woman who lives with her teenage son in a house she rents from her friend. Judging by the second chapter, Audrey takes a personal ‘liking’ (a man) to motorways in her free time from working two jobs. Her main job is working as a dinner lady, a job she has carried out for ten years, one that is about to send her on an amazing venture.
Audrey finds herself able to take an opportunity of a lifetime for HER, not her son, or her friends. Something she is able to proud of. Unfortunately, it turns out that the opportunity wasn’t going to be as relaxing or personal as Audrey might have hoped. Not only has she left her incapable, circus loving teenage son to fend for himself, it seems that he landed himself in a bit of a pickle whilst  trying to do so! When Audrey returns from the trip, she is bombarded with problems to do with her family, her second job AND some truths to do with her motorway man. Unfortunately, some problems may be some you and I have had to deal with throughout our years, but that’s what makes it so real.
The issues that Fiona Gibson has written about in the book are raw, real life problems, which is what makes the novel such a relatable read. Fiona Gibson captures the heart of Audrey in such a way that you are living her life alongside her, and I found myself getting annoyed when Audrey did! Personally, I found the book to be such a warm and humorous read. Many times I laughed out loud at the weird and wonderful things Audrey got up to, or the situations she found herself in with her friends, family and colleagues. The one liners and comeback’s Fiona Gibson managed to give her characters were a work of art, so well thought out that I could actually imagine them saying it.
    I am so pleased I came across Fiona Gibson and her modern writing. The book was a breath of a fresh air because it was real. The situations weren’t all sunshine and flowers, but because of that, so many people will be able to agree and relate to them. Despite the hurdles that had to be jumped over, there were many wonderful things happening which genuinely brought smiles to my face. It is definitely worth a read if you fancy a light-hearted book to snuggle up in bed with after a hard day, or just because you want to read, of course. This might have been the first of Fiona Gibson’s books I have read, but it certainly will not be the last!

 

Welcome!

I would like to start off by saying a big welcome to you, and what I am all about. Well, the short version! Thank you for taking the time to visit The Writing Garnet! It has been a dream of mine for many years to write, one that I have kept hidden, unfortunately. However, now is the time to hopefully fulfil that dream. I have been extremely passionate about books for many years, from the smell of a brand new book, to the excitement the words hold. So many authors have kept me on the edge of my seat on my reading journey, some have made me cry, but also laugh out loud! Here at The Writing Garnet I aim to showcase my writing skills by contributing to online websites and also reviewing some of the books I have read so far. I have read many, and I continue to do so now I have more of an excuse (not that I need one). Whilst reading is a big part of my life for various reasons, being a published writer or being involved in that sector would be the icing on the cake. So if there happens to be an author/publisher reading this right now, please get in touch! This is only the start of the exciting journey, one I hope you will be following me on!