When Evie’s dreams come crashing down, she’s determined to still make something of herself in these trying times…
It is 1939 and working-class Evie Bishop has received a scholarship to study mathematics at Oxford when tragedy turns her life upside down. Evie must seek a new future for herself and, inspired to contribute to the war effort, joins the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as an Ops Room plotter.
Posted to a fighter station on the Sussex Coast, Evie befriends two other WAAFs – shy, awkward May and flirty, glamorous Jess. Faced with earning the approval of strict officers and finding their way in a male-dominated world, the three girls band together to overcome challenges, keep their pilots safe in the skies and navigate new romances.
But the German bombers seem to know more than they should about the base’s operations, and soon Evie, May and Jess are caught up in a world more dangerous than they ever imagined…
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This engaging story follows the lives of three young women during WW2. All are part of the Women’s Auxillary Airforce (WAFF). Evie, Jess and May have different backgrounds and personalities, but they gravitate together when they meet on an airbase in Sussex. This friendship sustains them through adventure, danger, intrigue and romance.
The characters are believable and likeable. The story’s excellent sense of period brings WW2 to life, highlighting the sense of community and the tragic consequence of war. This is a charming story, One that involves the reader in the women’s lives. It’s easy to imagine the airbase and its occupants as the author uses sensory imagery well. It would make a good television series.
Vicki Beeby writes historical fiction about the friendships and loves of service women brought together by the Second World War.
Her first job was as a civil engineer on a sewage treatment project, so things could only improve from there. Since then, she has worked as a maths teacher and education consultant before turning freelance to give herself more time to write.
In her free time, when she can drag herself away from reading, she enjoys walking and travelling to far-off places by train. She lives in Shropshire in a house that doesn’t contain nearly enough bookshelves.
She allows herself to kiss her perfect child just once. She wraps the baby in her last gift: a hand-knitted cardigan, embroidered with a water lily pattern. ‘You’re better off without me,’ she whispers and although every step breaks her heart, she walks away.
1910, India. Young and curious Alice, with her spun-gold hair, grows up in her family’s sprawling compound with parents as remote as England, the cold country she has never seen. It is Raju, son of a servant, with whom she shares her secrets. Together, their love grows like roses – but leaves deep thorns. Because when they get too close, Alice’s father drags them apart, sending Raju far away and banishing Alice to England…
1944. Intelligent and kind Janaki is raised in an orphanage in India. The nuns love to tell the story: Janaki’s arrival stopped the independence riots outside the gates, as the men on both sides gazed at the starry-eyed little girl left in a beautiful hand-knitted cardigan. Janaki longs for her real mother, the woman who was forced to abandon her, wrapped in a precious gift…
Now old enough to be a grandmother and living alone in India, Alice watches children play under the tamarind trees, haunted by the terrible mistake she made fifty years ago. It’s just an ordinary afternoon, until a young girl with familiar eyes appears with a photograph and Alice must make a choice. Will she spend the rest of her life consumed by dreams of the past, or can she admit her mistakes and choose love and light at last?
A stunning and heartbreaking novel about how a forbidden love can echo through the generations.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This author always delivers an emotional story. The lyrical writing style is pleasurable to read. The vivid characters and imagery are evocative of the setting. Told from Alice and Janaki’s viewpoints the story set in India and England encompasses a turbulent time in the two country’s histories. Loss, love, manipulation and prejudice form the intricate embroidery of this story. The characters draw you into their worlds the ripple of effect resonates from carelessly made decisions.
If you are looking for a book that is vibrant yet poignant and full of sensory imagery, this is for you.
Because in thedarkest days of the Blitz, love is more important than ever.
It’s February 1942 and the Americans have finally joined Britain and its allies. Meanwhile, twenty-three-year-old Francesca Fabrino, like thousands of other women, is doing her bit for the war effort in a factory in East London. But her thoughts are constantly occupied by her unrequited love for Charlie Brogan, who has recently married a woman of questionable reputation, before being shipped out to North Africa with the Eighth Army.
When Francesca starts a new job as an Italian translator for the BBC Overseas Department, she meets handsome Count Leonardo D’Angelo. Just as Francesca has begun to put her hopeless love for Charlie to one side and embrace the affections of this charming and impressive man, Charlie returns from the front, his marriage in ruins and his heart burning for Francesca at last. Could she, a good Catholic girl, countenance an illicit affair with the man she has always longed for? Or should she choose a different, less dangerous path?
I received a copy of this book from Atlantic Books -Corvus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
London in 1942 and the nightly bombings continue. Life goes on for the Brogans in the East End, but it is never easy. There’s a web of deceit, lies and secrets as the family try to get through the war. The complex characters and authentic historical setting make this an engaging read.
The story portrays the sense of community and the effects of rationing believably. Getting ready for a family wedding has its problems. Francesa, a close family friend, is torn between new love and requiting a long-held desire.
This is an easy book to like. It’s another excellent chapter in a relevant relatable wartime saga.
Jean Fullerton is the author of twelve novels all set in East London where she was born. She also a retired district nurse and university lecturer. She won the Harry Bowling Prize in 2006 and after initially signing for two East London historical series with Orion she moved to Corvus, part of Atlantic Publishing and is halfway through her WW2 East London series featuring the Brogan family.
Even in the darkest of times, she never gave up hope
Staffordshire, 1911. Ginnie Jones’s childhood is spent in the shadow of the famous Potteries, living with her mother, father and older sister Mabel. But with Father’s eyesight failing, money is in short supply, and too often the family find their bellies aching with hunger. With no hope in sight, Ginnie is sent to Haddon Workhouse.
Separated from everything she has known, Ginnie has to grow up fast, earning her keep by looking after the other children with no families of their own. When she meets Clara and Sam, she hopes that she has made friends for life… until tragedy strikes, snatching away her newfound happiness.
Leaving Haddon three years later, Ginnie finds work as a mouldrunner at the Potteries but never stops thinking about her friends in the workhouse – especially Sam, now a caring, handsome young man. When Sam and Ginnie are reunited, their bond is as strong as ever – until Sam is sent to fight in WW1. Faced with uncertainty, can Ginnie find the joy that she’s never had? Or will her heart be broken once again? An emotional, uplifting and nostalgic family saga that will make you smile, while tugging on your heart-strings.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review
Good historical family sagas require believable and complex characters who are easy to empathise. Detailed historical knowledge of the place and time, which filters into the story, making it authentic, and allowing the reader to share the sights, smells and sounds of the era. Finally, angst and hardship that allows the protagonist’s character to develop positively, giving hope that they will find a way out of their plight. ‘The Girl From the Workhouse’, encompasses all of the above and is a heartrending, heartwarming and motivational story.
Ginnie is a young girl who has always grown-up in poverty. Sadly, life becomes increasingly difficult and she and her parents have to go on Poor Relief and live in the workhouse. The family are split up and the first part of the story explores Ginnie’s experiences as a girl in the workhouse environment. Her motivations and emotions are in keeping with her years, and you feel for her, she is so alone. Despite, this she works hard and makes friends, and forms a new family which makes her days bearable. Her life continues to be dogged by hardship and tragedy until she finally leaves the workhouse to live with her older sister who is married and needs an extra wage coming into the household.
The second part of the story follows Ginnie’s transition into a young woman, how she copes with coming of age, and her reacquaintance with her workhouse friend Sam. At this point, you hope for some genuine happiness in her troubled young life, but WW1 draws Sam into its conflict and once again her future and happiness is uncertain.
The setting in ‘The Potteries’ gives the story its authenticity and richness, the author’ connection and feeling for the area make this fictional story more believable. The saga is enriched with historical detail and events, and its characters are authentic to the period and very engaging.
Lynn Johnson was born in the Staffordshire Potteries and went to school in Burslem, where the novel is set. She left school with no qualifications and got a job as a dental nurse (and lasted a day), a nursery assistant, and a library assistant before her ambition grew and she enrolled at the Elms Technical College, Stoke-on-Trent and obtained six O’levels. She obtained a Diploma in Management Studies and a BA Hons in Humanities with Literature from the Open University while working full-time.
Most of her working life was spent in Local Government in England and Scotland, and ultimately became a Human Resources Manager with a large county council.
She started to write after taking early retirement and moving to the north of Scotland with her husband where she did relief work in the famous Orkney Library and Archives, and voluntary work with Orkney’s Learning Link. Voluntary work with Cats Protection resulted in them sharing their home with six cats.
She joined Stromness Writing Group and, three months after moving to Orkney wrote a short story which would become the Prologue to The Girl From the Workhouse.
Broken hearts and broken bones are just a fact of life in a Gin Palace, but for orphan Dolly, the Crown is her last hope.
After the death of her mother, Dolly ran away from her sleazy step father Arthur, only to find herself living on the streets. When Jack discovers her hiding in the back yard of The Crown, he persuades his mother Nellie Larkin, to take Dolly in.
But Dolly has a secret – a very valuable secret – and Arthur is determined to get his clutches on her at any cost. And when local hard-man Ezra Morton joins in the hunt, the Larkins may have to risk everything to keep Dolly safe…
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Set in the Victorian era, this historical saga encapsulates the danger, depravity and dire circumstances the majority of the Victorian population endured. Despite this, the sense of community survives, and this is evident in this story.
Nellie runs a Gin Palace, which is well patronised by the local community, her young son Jack, friend Nancy, and Poppy, help her run it. The hours are long, the work is hard, and the atmosphere less than conducive for children, but there is food on the table, somewhere safe and warm to sleep, and love and understanding, which is more than most have. When Jack finds a young girl running away from an abusive step-father, he befriends her and soon she is part of the delightful, dysfunctional family.
The setting is atmospheric and vividly described, and lets you experience the sights smells and uproar of the gin palace. The characters are well crafted, it reminded me of Fagin’s boys and Nancy in Oliver, even though the children here are spared a life of crime. The camaraderie and banter draw you into their lives. The plot is simple but effective. It lets the characters shine, whilst delivering a smartly paced, suspenseful plot, that keeps you turning the pages.
The villains are what you’d expect in the Victorian era, and they threaten Nellie’s family and her livelihood. The story is the perfect length, encompassing, the sense of family, place and time, even though it is shorter than most sagas of this type.
Female characters take the lead in this story, which delivers an engaging family drama, amidst the sights sounds and smells of Victorian England.
Lindsey Hutchinson is a bestselling saga author whose novels include The Workhouse Children. She was born and raised in Wednesbury and was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the multi-million selling Meg Hutchinson.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
‘The Final Trail’, is book five in ‘The Trail Series’ set predominately in Birmingham. I haven’t read the previous books in the series, but I enjoyed this one, as the characters are well written and there is sufficient back story.
The immersive, intense writing style makes it easy to connect with the characters and work out their motivations and relationships. The short chapters each from a main characters point of view, lets the reader see developments from several points of view.
Business, family and politics are the points of conflict. The suspense building is good, especially around the political aspects involving Erik. This story explores many areas of life. Business crime, family, love and politics, are all fused into an adrenaline-packed story.
Reading this book makes me want to read the whole series.
Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Irish countryside the famed mills have created the finest wool in all of Ireland. Run by the seemingly perfect Corrigan family, but every family has its secrets, and how the mills came to be the Corrigan’s is one of them…
Miranda and her husband were never meant to own the mills until one fateful day catapults them into a life they never thought they’d lead.
Ada has forever lived her life in her sister’s shadow. Wanting only to please her mother and take her place as the new leader of the mill, Ada might just have to take a look at what her heart really wants.
Callie has a flourishing international career as a top designer and a man who loves her dearly, she appears to have it all. When a secret is revealed and she’s unceremoniously turfed out of the design world, Callie might just get what’s she’s been yearning for. The chance to go home.
Simon has always wanted more. More money, more fame, more notoriety. The problem child. Simon has made more enemies than friends over the years, and when one of his latest schemes falls foul he’ll have to return to the people who always believe in him.
Ballycove isn’t just a town in the Irish countryside. It isn’t just the base of the famous mills. It’s a place to call home.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A family saga set in Western Ireland. The setting is vivid and provides the perfect ethos for this story. Family secrets, love, lies, hardship, loss, and after much angst and drama, the light at the end of the tunnel, make this a poignant but ultimately satisfying story. This immersive read draws the reader into a quintessentially Irish way of life, with a solid plot, that showcases the spectrum of human emotions. Authentic, complex characters and a chance to escape into another world.
This is a story to be savoured, the pace is gentle and you get to know the characters well, both in the past and present. Not all of them are likeable, but this is a reflection of life, so you wouldn’t expect them to be.
The mill is the lifeblood of the community, a character on its own. It witnesses so much, over the years, and is the source of happiness, sadness, poverty and riches. The details of its running and historical significance give the book depth and make the story more believable.
A flowing family saga of life, love and lies, beautifully told.
Guest Post – Faith Hogan
Welcome to Ballycove….
I’m so delighted to visit Jane’s lovely blog today and to tell you about my new book – THE PLACE WE CALL HOME. If you’ve read my other books, you’ll know by now that I write uplifting stories, about friendship, family, secrets, lies and sometimes, there’s a little romance thrown in!
This time we visit Ballycove – it’s a village that appeared fleetingly in an earlier book – The Girl I Used To Know. I wanted to create a place that represented the best of the place I call home. I live in the west of Ireland – in a little town that sits on one of the richest salmon rivers in Europe. Just over half a dozen miles away, the Atlantic Ocean breathes up its icy air on flawless beaches and you can walk for miles without meeting a soul. On the other hand, if you’re feeling more social you can ramble with the dog through the nearby Beleek woods where everyone has time to say hello.
Ten miles in the opposite direction, there’s a small town called Foxford. It is a fairly typical little town in the west of Ireland, with the River Moy flowing through it, plenty of hills to walk across and local shops and restaurants that serve great food and offer Irish hospitality at its best. At the bottom of the town, sits the Foxford Wollen Mills. The Corrigan Mills are loosely based around these world-famous mills.
There are a number of differences, however – unlike the Foxford Mills which were built by a pioneering nun in response to the poverty she saw at the time; the Ballycove mills are a family-owned business.
And it is from this family business that the tension in the novel arises…
Still a young woman, Miranda Corrigan has found herself at the helm of the biggest employer in her locality – except that it looks like the mills will have to close. She must juggle raising her three children alone and saving the mills – it’s no wonder then that when the time approaches to hand them on she does so reluctantly since there appear to be no safe hands available to pass them onto.
The problem is that her children don’t agree and the divisions that are setting in between them all look as if they may never heal.
Until David Blair arrives in town and reader, I will not say she married him, but he proves to be the wild card that may just blow the whole family apart – or could he be the person who manages to bring them all together?
You’ll have to read it to find out for yourself…
Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and two very fussy cats. She has a Hons Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.
Charlotte, daughter of Reverend Percival Hatton, has been content to follow the path laid out for her. Charlotte has an understanding with Captain Nicolas Paget – every inch the gentleman – who she expects someday to marry. But then she meets Josiah Martyn and everything changes…
A driven and ambitious Cornish mining engineer, and the complete opposite to Captain Nicholas, Josiah has come to London to help build the first tunnel under the river Thames. When unpredictable events occur at the inauguration of the project, Josiah and Charlotte are suddenly thrown into an unexpected intimacy.
But not everyone
is happy with Charlotte and Josiah growing closer. As friends turn to foes,
will they be able to rewrite the stars and find their happy ever after,
although all odds seem to be stacked against them…?
I received a copy of this book from the author and Corvus Books in return for an honest review.
Set in 1825, this romantic family saga explores the engineering feat of building the first underwater tunnel in London, by Brunel. The vision of this late Regency event comes across well in this story, but so does the human cost, of such a dangerous undertaking.
Charlotte is the Rector’s daughter, who since her mother’s untimely death has fulfilled the parish duties expected of a Rector’s wife. She is compassionate, clever and courageous, and does what she can to help the parish’s poor and unfortunate. The Rector is judgemental about his poorer parishioners. He is the antithesis of his daughter and prepared to put his material needs above his pastoral duties.
Charlotte meets Josiah, an engineer working for Brunel on the tunnel when he averts a near-tragic accident for her. The attraction although immediate and powerful builds through friendship when they meet on many occasions, through Charlotte’s parish duties and mutual acquaintances. Their romance appears ill-fated, when her father’s desire to maintain his reputation overrides the needs and wishes of his daughter, leading to an angst-ridden emotional climax to this story.
The historical background is well researched and written in a vivid real-time way that allows the reader to experience some of the events of the era. The characters are complex. Many are disagreeable but add to the story. All act in a way that fits with this exciting historical period. The social class divide is marked, but the evidence of change that the future Victorian era witnessed is seen here.
An absorbing plot, with vividly written characters, historical events, and a believable but utterly romantic love story, makes this the perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter’s afternoon.
Jean Fullerton is the author of thirteen novels all set in East London where she was born. She also a retired district nurse and university lecturer. She won the Harry Bowling Prize in 2006 and after initially signing for two East London historical series with Orion she moved to Corvus, part of Atlantic Publishing and is halfway through her WW2 East London series featuring the Brogan family.
THE LAST EDITION OF TENSE CRIME THRILLERSERIES SET IN BIRMINGHAM
RECEIVES CITY CENTRE LAUNCH
Birmingham has well and truly been put on the crime thriller map with the success of the TV series Peaky Blinders but for bookworms amongst us, the popular Trail Series has long brought readers into the modern-day 21st century with its tense storylines, murder and intrigue set in and around the city.
The Trail series features a vodka business, a cancer cure and obsessive killers. Every book is a good read in its own right – each is a great crime story with terrific twists to keep the tension mounting – but together, they follow the same characters over several years.
The Trail series author AA Abbott also known as Helen Blenkinsop has been compared with the likes of Ruth Rendell, John Grisham and Jeffrey Archer. She lived and studied in Birmingham for nearly 20 years and her passion and love for the city became the inspiration for the Trail series.
Now, after four successful editions, the last storyline will be revealed in the publication of THE FINAL TRAIL which will be launched in Birmingham on 28th October.
In the last book …”Glamorous Kat White has built a successful craft vodka brand in Birmingham, but she has an uneasy relationship with her business partner, Marty Bridges. Her mother had previously supplied with poisonous vodka. Marty doesn’t trust Kat, resents having to depend on her for commercial success, and isn’t thrilled that his eldest son wants to marry her. That’s not his biggest problem, though. He’s trying to develop a cancer drug with Kat’s brother, Erik, and it’s draining money he doesn’t have. Just as he finds an investor with pockets deep enough to fund their research, Erik is lured to the former Soviet Union and thrown into jail. Meanwhile, Ben Halloran, who killed his father to save Kat’s life, is faced with the twin risks of a murder charge and his brother’s deep-seated desire for revenge. Can Ben escape with his life and liberty? And can Marty save both Erik and his business – and learn to trust Kat?”
Helen said“I’ve been writing about these amazing characters for over 5 years, so you can imagine, they have become a part of my life. It’s been a great journey and they have come through so many storylines that it feels right for them to achieve their dreams at last.”
Most of the action in THE FINAL TRAIL takes place across the city and features the famous Rose Villa Tavern and 1,000 Trades in the Jewellery Quarter; The Mailbox, home to the BBC in Birmingham, Holloway Head by the famous Pagoda Island and locations in Harborne and Edgbaston.
Helen added, “It’s going to be very sad to launch the last book as the stories and characters have built up such a following but it will give me the opportunity to weave new and exciting tales – I have so many ideas buzzing in my head.”
THE FINAL TRAIL is a perfect read for those who like a fast-paced crime thriller combined with suspense, humour and plot twists. It’s ideal to take away on holiday and provides a great read during the autumn/winter nights.
THE FINAL TRAIL will be available to order from Amazon in e-book, paperback and dyslexia-friendly format from Monday 28th October 2019.
Everyone that meets Kat Keating is mesmerised. Beautiful, smart and charming, she is everything a good girl should be.
Her sister Eleanor, on the other hand, knows she can’t compete with Kat. On the awkward side of tall, clever enough to be bullied, and full of the responsibilities only an older sibling can understand, Eleanor grows up knowing she’s not a good girl.
This is the story of the Keating sisters – through a childhood fraught with secrets, adolescent rivalries, and on into adulthood with all its complexities and misunderstandings. Until a terrible truth brings the sisters crashing together and finally, Eleanor begins to uncover just how good Kat really was.
Good Girls is a love story, a coming-of-age story, a mystery and a tear-jerker. But most of all it’s a reminder of who to keep close and who to trust with your darkest secrets.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Two sisters, once close, but who have become estranged as they grew older. Eleanor, the older has her own reasons, but she’s never understood her sister Kat’s. Drawn together again, by a cruel stroke of fate, is it too late to reconnect?
This is an excellent family drama, with dark family secrets that devastate the once close sisterly bond. The story begins with Eleanor rushing to be with her sister, and them drifts back in time to the mid-1980s when they were young girls, and then the early 1990s, when Eleanor left for university.
The historical events slowly illuminate the present discord and misunderstanding, but all is not revealed until it is in some ways, too late to make amends. Serendipity plays a part in this story, as it often does in reality, and Eleanor gradually comes to terms with her past and the possibility of a hopeful future.
The cast of characters resonate, they all play a part in Eleanor’s life but have their own motivations and flaws, which makes them real. The story is realistically peppered with laughter, sadness, anger and despair. It is a poignant reminder that you cannot sometimes trust those closest to you, and of the rollercoaster nature of life.
An emotional family drama, with a realistic plot and memorable characters.
Author Interview – Amanda Brookfield – Good Girls
What inspired you to write ‘Good Girls’?
My original idea was to write about two sisters who are driven apart and then re-connected by the same man, deciding to get in touch by email after twenty years. But then the story took off in a hundred other directions, as stories do!
What interests you about family drama? Why are stories about sisters so absorbing?
We all come from families of one kind or another – our upbringings forge us, whether we like it or not – and I love looking at the myriad ways we try to deal with that. Sisters are a prime and rich example (I have two of my own!), being a relationship that is full of rivalries and ups and downs. But there are also, always, the ties of love and loyalty that continue to bind us as siblings, long after we have gone our separate ways in the adult world. This is a fascinating seam to explore as a novelist.
Dialogue is very important in a family drama story. How do you make your dialogue realistic?
You can have the most gripping plot, but if the voices of the characters do no ring true then it will fall flat. The way I work is to hear my characters speak inside my head. In fact, often snatches of dialogue – of how my characters would communicate – arrive at unexpected moments when I am away from my desk, driving the car say, or walking the dog. I have learnt to trust these snatches and write them down – it is my imagination working overtime, and 9 times out of 10 it is absolutely right. I guess it is like being an actor, trying to get inside the psyche of a protagonist.
How do you create your characters? What makes them believable and real?
Constructing a character is a bit like doing a jigsaw. You decide what they look like, and where they live; what age they are and what they do for a living. You give them hopes, hobbies and fears. Then you throw events at them and see what they do! If there is enough substance to your creations, enough humanity, the the way they behave under pressure will feel real and credible for the reader.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I read as widely as possible – mostly fiction, but also memoir, travel and some history. I love being surprised by what I find on the page and always have my antennae up to learn new things, both creatively and factually. If someone recommends a book to me passionately enough, then I will always give it a go! I also try to avoid reading books that I think might be similar to whatever I am working on – I hate the idea of being influenced or feeling that someone has already gone where I am trying to go.
What are you currently writing?
I am halfway through a novel about a woman plucking the courage to leave her abusive husband – one of those subtle monsters that no one else knows about. I am writing the story from my heroine’s point of view, so it has an intensity that feels new and exciting. It is important for me to feel that each new writing project is stretching the boundaries of what I have done before.
Extract from ‘Good Girls’ – Amanda Brookfield
CHAPTER ONE January 2013
Eleanor decided to take a taxi from the station, even though she knew it would cost ten precious pounds and mean a wait. Being so rural, only a handful of cars served the area, but she didn’t want to be a bother to Howard, her brother-in-law. She texted both him and Kat to say she would be there within the hour and stayed as warm as she could in the small arched station entrance. It was a cold, dank morning, not raining for once but with air like icy metal against her skin.
The taxi driver who pulled up some twenty minutes later exuded an attitude of reluctance that made Eleanor disinclined to make conversation. When they hit a tail-back, thanks to a loop round the old Roman bridge, still not fixed from the heavy flooding over the New Year, he thumped his steering wheel. ‘A bloody joke. We can land men on the moon and still it takes three weeks to fix a few old stones.’ Eleanor murmured agreement but found that she didn’t mind much. The fields on either side of the road were still visibly waterlogged. After the grimy mêlée of south London, it was a visual feast – ethereal, shimmering silver bands engraved with the black reflections of leafless trees and smudgy January clouds.
The usual criss-cross of feelings was stirring at being back in such proximity to the landscape of her childhood. Just twenty miles away, her father was a resident in a small care home called The Bressingham, which he had once included in his rounds as a parish priest, days long since lost to him through the fog of dementia. Howard and Kat’s substantial Georgian house was ten miles in the opposite direction, on the fringes of a town called Fairfield. They had moved from Holland Park seven years before, a year after the birth of their third child, Evie. At the time, Eleanor had been surprised to get the change of address card. She had always regarded her little sister and husband as life-long townies, Kat with her posh quirky dress-making commissions to private clients and Howard with his big-banker job. It was because they saw the house in a magazine and fell in love with it, Kat had explained at one of their rare subsequent encounters, in the manner of one long used to plucking things she wanted out of life, like fruits off a tree.
But recently life had not been so cooperative. A small tumour had been removed from Kat’s bowel and she was in bed recovering. Howard had reported the event earlier in the week, by email, and when Eleanor had got on the phone, as he must have known she would, he had said that the operation had gone well and that Kat was adamant that she didn’t need sisterly visits. No further treatment was required. She would be up and about in a matter of days. Their regular babysitter, Hannah, was increasing her hours to plug gaps with the children and he was taking a week off from his daily commute into the City. ‘But I am her sister,’ Eleanor had insisted, hurt, in spite of knowing better. ‘I’d just like to see her. Surely she can understand that.’ Howard had said he would get back to her, but then Kat had phoned back herself, saying why didn’t Eleanor pop down on Saturday afternoon.
‘Nice,’ said the driver, following Eleanor’s instructions to turn between the laburnums that masked the handsome red-brick walls and gleaming white sash windows and pulling up behind the two family cars, both black, one a tank-sized station wagon, the other an estate. He fiddled with his satnav while Eleanor dug into her purse for the right money. I am not the rich one, she wanted to cry, seeing the visible sag of disappointment on his sheeny unshaven face at the sight of her twenty-pence tip; I am merely the visiting elder sister who rents a flat by a Clapham railway line, who tutors slow or lazy kids to pay her bills and who has recently agreed to write an old actor’s memoirs for a sum that will barely see off her overdraft.
Howard answered the door, taking long enough to compound Eleanor’s apprehensions about having pushed for the visit. He was in a Barbour and carrying three brightly coloured backpacks, clearly on the way out of the house. ‘Good of you to come.’ Brandishing the backpacks, he kissed her perfunctorily on both cheeks. ‘Brownies, go-carting and a riding lesson – pick-ups in that order. Then two birthday parties and a bowling alley. God help me. See you later maybe. She’s upstairs,’ he added, somewhat unnecessarily. ‘
‘The Big Sister arrives,’ Kat called out before Eleanor had even crossed the landing. ‘Could you tug that curtain wider?’ she added as Eleanor entered the bedroom. ‘I want as much light as possible.’
‘So, how are you?’ Eleanor asked, adjusting the offending drape en route to kissing Kat’s cheek, knowing it was no moment to take offence at the Big Sister thing, in spite of the reflex of deep, instinctive certainty that Kat had said it to annoy. At thirty-eight she was the big sister, by three years. She was also almost six-foot, with the heavy-limbed, dark-haired, brown-eyed features that were such echoes of their father, while Kat, as had been pointed out as far back as either of them could remember, had inherited an uncanny replication of their mother’s striking looks, from the lithe elfin frame and flinty-blue feline eyes to the extraordinary eye-catching tumble of white-blonde curls. ‘You look so well,’ Eleanor exclaimed, happiness at the truth of this observation making her voice bounce, while inwardly she marvelled at her sibling’s insouciant beauty, utterly undiminished by the recent surgery. Her skin was like porcelain, faintly freckled; her hair in flames across the pillow.
‘Well, thank you, and thank goodness, because I feel extremely well,’ Kat retorted. ‘So please don’t start telling me off again for not having kept you better informed. As I said on the phone, the fucking thing was small and isolated. They have removed it – snip-snip,’ she merrily scissored two fingers in the air. ‘So I am not going to need any further treatment, which is a relief frankly since I would hate to lose this lot.’ She yanked at one of the flames. ‘Shallow, I know, but there it is.’
‘It’s not shallow,’ Eleanor assured her quietly, experiencing one of the sharp twists of longing for the distant days when they had been little enough and innocent enough to take each other’s affections for granted. They had been like strangers for years now in comparison, shouting across an invisible abyss.
Amanda Brookfield is the bestselling author of 15 novels including Relative Love and Before I Knew You, and a memoir, For the Love of a Dog starring her Golden Doodle Mabel. She lives in London and is currently a Visiting Fellow at Univ College Oxford. Her first book with Boldwood, Good Girls, will be published on 8th October 2019.