I thoroughly enjoyed this book, one of the best I’ve read for a while. Having read and loved The Thirteenth Tale, I knew I’d be in for a good solid story with Once Upon A River. Several times during the book I was reminded of the writing style of Charles Dickens – a story with proper grounding and characters with personality.
Set in 1887 on the banks of the River Thames, much of the story centres around the The Swan, a local inn where storytelling is the entertainment and where more beer means more embellishment. One evening, an injured man stumbles in carrying a young girl who appears to be dead. A little girl who sometime later is alive. This is a time when superstition and supernatural blurred into real life and a dead girl coming back to life is a fantastical story for all to tell and re-tell.
The girl has three possible identities, she is either Alice, Amelia or Ann, and none is certain of her identity even when she lives with two of the families claiming her. The girl herself has lost the ability to speak and there is frustration from the Vaughan’s who desperately want her to be Amelia, their daughter who disappeared two years ago.
The river plays a large part of the story and to add to the strange goings on with a child coming back to life, there is rain, more rain, and inevitable flooding which seeps into their homes and lives as the river becomes a torrent.
Amidst superstition and folklore there’s also skulduggery, ransoms and beatings. Once Upon A River is a fulfilling story which has a depth of storytelling which is rare these days. I absolutely loved it.
Rosie and Ruby was first published under the title Three Mothers, (Trois Meres) and was Patricia Dixon’s second novel. Her writing and storytelling in this book is flowing and confident, not afraid to tell it how it is.
Briefly, this is the story of cousins Rosie and Ruby, starting with their childhood and teenage years living in Manchester with their parents. Both have equally awful mothers in different ways, and both girls, and later young women, come to terms with and overcome the mental scars that haunt them for years. Rosie follows her dream of being a hotelier and ends up in France, while Ruby marries her wealthy whirlwind heart throb who turns out to be a violent and vicious monster. I don’t want to give the whole story away so won’t go any further with that.
There were tense and, at times, quite viciously nasty parts in this book and I can see that a more sinister genre was waiting to escape – Over My Shoulder by the same author.
Patricia Dixon writes fluidly and interestingly and never leaves any loose ends. When a new character comes on the scene she gives a concise and engrossing outline of who they are and what sort of personality they have.
Whose books are hers similar to? Well, the Manchester element reminded me of Mandasue Heller but her warmth and friendship within the story is much like Patricia Scanlan or Maeve Binchy – lovely fulfilling stories. I have read all Patricia’s books and the warmth, emotions and characters never fail to give me a fuzzy loved feeling.
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Death’s Dark Veil opens with someone on their death-bed being taunted and observed by ghostly figures. She knows who they are and knows they have come to escort her to the next world, but their descriptions are terrifying and I wondered if she could ever rest in peace.
The first chapters introduce two very different characters, Georgie and Ivy, and these two young girls create the theatre for a very dark and dangerous show. Each has a tragic start to their adult lives but grow into strong and capable young women. We follow them individually to the time their lives collide at Tenley House, the Gothic towering home of first Daphne and Kenneth, then Georgie and Kenneth, as well as a dreadful old bat mother-in-law, Phyllis. Evil is all around, too many deaths for comfort (and coincidence), so who is behind these suspicious deaths?
Well written in a dark and menacing way with a good amount of humour to keep things light – the nick-name for curmudgeonly Phyllis, (Syphilis) had me howling. There are gasp out loud moments at tragedies and deaths, and there is a great twist at the end. I certainly didn’t guess the outcome and I loved the ending.
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Rachel suspects her husband is having an affair after finding messages on a Twitter account which has been left open on her laptop. She goes to the hotel she believes he is meeting someone, only to see her husband’s car hitting a pedestrian and driving away from the scene of the crime.
Meanwhile, Rachel’s friend and business partner Suzie, is having an embarrassing time at the bank after finding that her bank cards don’t work. Her account has been suspended because of her massive unauthorised overdraft with the threat of her flat being called in as security. Suzie, of course, knows
nothing of the debt.
Two very gripping and interesting storylines from the very start and the tension just keeps building.
The police question Rachel and her husband about the hit and run, and Suzie is trying to piece together what the missing money has to do with her missing boyfriend. This very quickly becomes one of the most gripping and suspenseful books I’ve read. There is an intense feeling of the runaway train having left the track and is heading towards disaster with nothing anyone can do to stop it.
Very well written, fabulous characters and nails bitten to the quick!
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This is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. The book opens with Felix Hart being interrogated by an unknown ‘authority’ to the point he feels he’s not going to get out of the meeting alive. From here, Felix tells his life story from being an orphan expelled from a prestigious school, and his decision to do work which he enjoys – drinking wine.
Felix gets into some terrible scrapes yet always seems to come up smelling of roses. His career in the wine industry prospers and takes him around the world drinking fine wines and dallying with the ladies. Felix is a very likeable character even though he’s a cad and a drunk much of the time.
The language is a little ripe at times and there are a few rude scenes but so hilariously executed. Excellently written and brilliantly plotted.
Patrick Gale’s writing is exquisite. I haven’t read many of his novels but each one I have read has been perfectly told, at just the right pace with a large dose of compassion and tenderness.
Eustace is an only child but he wasn’t his parents’ only child. Much of his insecurities stem from the fact that he survived when his siblings didn’t, although he doesn’t know that from his parents. The story begins with Eustace as an adult just having been told he has cancer. He has also just fallen in love and doesn’t know if he can tell his new love of his recent diagnosis. We mostly see Eustace growing up in the old peoples’ home where he lives with his mother and father. He’s a bit of a strange young boy; he enjoys ballet but when his father is angry after seeing him ‘prancing around’ he is forced to change course and learns to play the cello. Eustace has a gift for music and becomes quite an impressive young player.
Eustace’s mother is remote and fragile until she starts taking Eustace to Bristol at the weekends to stay with Carla his cello teacher, and her two gay friends. Mother becomes more alive than ever she is at home and Eustace sees a wonderful new side to his mother, especially when drinking wine with Carla. Eustace’s cello lessons, as well as his private schooling, become a stretch too much for his parents, and at the age of thirteen has to attend the local comprehensive school. He didn’t have an easy time at the private school, he is a slightly weird child, and relies heavily on Vernon, his one friend who also moves to the comprehensive with him.
This is a coming of age story which is sad and touching on so many levels. It’s not unexpected that Eustace is gay, but in the wrong school with the wrong people he’s a jigsaw piece that doesn’t fit, but put him in the right setting with musical and artistic people, Eustace flourishes. As he grows, there is tragedy, laughter and raw emotion, until we meet Eustace again with his new love in the present day.
Take Nothing With You is a beautiful literary piece. It’s impeccably written by a talented master of the pen and I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up any of Patrick Gale’s books. Totally recommended.
This is a dark and addictive story of how lovely Freya becomes manipulated and controlled by Kane. Freya’s character is portrayed to be a normal working young woman of the 1990s. She has a very real personality, the sort of girl we could have worked with and from a family we could know of. She meets Kane whilst at work and quickly becomes quite besotted by him, even though she has a steady boyfriend. From the start, Kane is a manipulator and engineers meetings with Freya until their relationship takes off, just as he had planned it. Kane is a complex character and is a truly nasty piece of work. Kane has a beautiful and kind young woman by his side, but his cruel side surfaces when least expected, and as Freya becomes more isolated from her friends and family, her traumatic life becomes insufferable.
Much of the early and middle part of the book is set in 1990s Manchester and and shows a reflection of how times have changed in such a short time; the lack of technology, few mobile phones and attitudes of the police. Later, we move forward to the present day to conclude the story in a nail bitingly tense final few chapters. It is truly a gripping and shocking story from start to finish and just shows how easy it is to fall in with the wrong people.
Patricia Dixon writes in a very relaxed and northern style and her characters are totally believable. This book covers a lot of issues which might shock some readers, so be warned there is some violence and domestic abuse. Patricia Dixon has written sympathetically and emotionally about some very difficult issues and I think she’s done a great job of giving realism to a fictional story. This is her first psychological suspense novel and I do hope she writes more in this genre.
I was asked to be an early reader of this book and feel very privileged to have seen the story grow and change. Fourteen months after the first spark of an idea, several edits, a cut of around 50 pages, and a few tears along the way, Patricia now has a very gripping, tight plot which I feel rivals the ‘Behind Closed Doors’ style psychological books. Very well worth reading and there’s even a cameo of me in the final chapters!
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