Talking About ‘Love, Iris’ with Bibliobeth!

Love, Iris

How did I get it?:
It was a present!

Synopsis:

Tess has a secret – one which is going to turn her life upside down in just nine months’ time.

The only person she can confide in is her beloved grandmother. But Iris is slipping further away each day.

Then chance brings a stranger into Tess’s life.

Gigi’s heart goes out to Tess, knowing what it’s like to feel alone. She’s determined to show her that there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

As their unlikely friendship blossoms, Tess feels inspired to open up.

But something still holds her back – until she discovers Iris has a secret of her own. A suitcase of letters from another time, the missing pieces of a life she never shared.

Could the letters hold the answers that Tess thought lost for ever?

CHRISSI: I knew you would initially be unsure of reading this book. What was it that made you unsure?

BETH: Ah, you know me too well. I’m afraid to say that one again it was the cover that was initially a turn off for me. I have to be compelled to pick up a book and a beautiful cover can be the magic moment where I’ll pick it up and want to read the blurb on the back. I’m afraid with Love, Iris, if I ordinarily saw it in a bookshop, I wouldn’t even pick it up to read the back. I would (wrongly) assume that it wasn’t going to be the book for me. I’m glad that reading books with you as part of our “Talking About” series is making me pick up books that I wouldn’t normally and being pleasantly surprised as a result!

BETH: Interspersed amongst the story are Tess’ letters to her developing baby. Did you enjoy these and what do you think they added to the narrative?

CHRISSI: Great question! I did enjoy the letters to her developing baby. I think they made Tess really relatable especially to prospective mothers. You could sense Tess’ insecurities about motherhood but also her growing bond with her developing baby. I thought that was really sweet.

CHRISSI: Discuss the novel’s varying depictions of marriage. What kinds of relationships seem most likely to fail or succeed? Ultimately, do you think marriage is seen as a positive or negative in the story?

BETH: Such an interesting question. Okay, so we have various relationships in the book – we have the older generation of Iris and her husband who were very happily married compared to Gigi and Richard who have been married for years and have three grown children together but recently Gigi has been feeling unhappy and taken for granted and decides a period of separation would be a good idea. Then there is Iris’ grand-daughter Tess who is pregnant but not in a relationship and her mother Donna who has raised her as a single parent. I don’t think you can ever predict what relationships will fail or succeed to be honest and I also don’t think marriage is the be all and end all. As Gigi has shown, you can be married for years and then realise you’re not happy and personally, I supported her decision to bail out if she wasn’t content. You never know what’s going to happen in the future and how your relationship with your partner will evolve (or not evolve which is sometimes the problem!) On a personal level, I’ve been with my partner since 2002, we aren’t married and have no plans to do so and we are perfectly happy. I don’t think marriage is always necessary to ensure a successful relationship.

BETH: Tess has quite a difficult relationship with her mother, Donna. How do you think this developed as the story continued?

CHRISSI: She really did have a difficult relationship with her mother. I think it developed into a sort of understanding throughout the story. As Tess began to lose Iris, and become a mother herself, I believe it made her want to sort things out with her own mother. I think losing a close friend or family member gives you perspective and makes you want to sort out issues that could be in relationships. I don’t think Tess and her mother will be the closest, but I think their experiences brought them together.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? If so, who and why?

BETH: I can’t choose! I have so many favourite characters in this novel. I loved our main female leads – Tess, Gigi and to a certain extent, Iris (although I would have loved to know even MORE about her life). I felt that as characters they were all personable, easy to like and I found myself rooting for their happiness from the very start of the story.

BETH: What effect does keeping secrets have on each of the characters? What about when they reveal these secrets?

CHRISSI: I feel like both Tess and Gigi’s secret was better for them when it came to light. Tess was hiding her pregnancy and although her boyfriend was a bit of a turd about the pregnancy, her life was definitely on the up after the secret was revealed. Gigi wasn’t happy in her marriage. I think she had kept it secret for so long to keep up the happy family vibe with her children that she clearly adored. Even though it was tough for her to leave her marriage and upset her children, it was the best thing for her. No one wants to stay in a relationship like that. Life may have been a little messy for Gigi, but the future could be brighter. Iris… oh I loved that character. She kept so many secrets about her brother Tom from her family. I wish we could have known more from Iris. Secrets was definitely a common theme in this story but mainly love, family and self-discovery.

CHRISSI: Discuss whether you agree with Wilf’s entreaty to Iris that ‘love is the simplest thing in the world.’ How do the relationships in the novel support or contradict this statement?

BETH: Wow. Tough. It is and it isn’t is my answer! I think it can be very easy to fall in love with someone – after all, it doesn’t take much effort and is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. However, I think staying in love with someone can be very difficult, both of the individuals have to make a concerted effort with each other otherwise they can end up in a stagnant place where they take each other for granted, much like Gigi and Richard find themselves. Also, being in love with someone where the feelings aren’t reciprocated as strongly can be quite dangerous because you open up your heart enormously and leave yourself vulnerable to becoming very hurt.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I thought this was a great read! 🙂

Would I recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

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Talking About ‘Let Me Lie’ with Bibliobeth!

Let Me Lie

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.

Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…

CHRISSI: This is the third book we’ve read from Clare Mackintosh. Did you have any preconceptions before you started reading it?

BETH: I’ve just checked and we’ve read and reviewed all three of her books in this format so I think we’re setting a kind of pattern here! As you already know, I’ve enjoyed both of her previous novels with her debut novel, I Let You Go standing out as my ultimate favourite. With Clare Mackintosh’s writing, I always know I’m going to get a compelling story, a fantastic female lead and more twists than….er….. a very curly piece of pasta! With Let Me Lie, that’s exactly what I got. I always knew I was going to eventually read it but I was delighted that Richard and Judy put it on their recent book club list as where we normally head to “talk about” most of the choices as it pushed me to read it that bit sooner.

BETH: How do you think this book compares to others in the genre?

CHRISSI: I truly think that Clare Mackintosh’s books stand out in the genre. They’re particularly twisty and gasp-y. I also think they’re quite a lot darker than some others in the genre. I definitely think Clare stands out in her own right, for the right reasons!

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? If so, who and why?

BETH: As I mentioned in the previous answer, I always enjoy Clare’s female leads. In Let Me Lie, although Anna felt slightly more vulnerable than her previous protagonists, I still thoroughly enjoyed finding out more about her character, what she had been through in her life and as the narrative continued, unravelled the mysteries behind her parents deaths with her. I always find her characters so personable and easy to like and you do find yourself rooting from them from a very early stage.

BETH: What did you make of Anna’s relationship with Mark? Were you optimistic/pessimistic for their future and why?

CHRISSI: I always like to be optimistic if I can. With this relationship though, I’m neither one or the other. I don’t think it was an ideal relationship. They had a child very fast and although that doesn’t mean it won’t work, it’s a huge commitment and Anna was particularly vulnerable at the time. I do think they genuinely cared about one another. However, they don’t really know each other that well, they’d discover new things all the time…so who knows what the future will hold for them?

CHRISSI: Did you think the narration was reliable?

BETH: I had no idea what to think! You never know what you’re going to be getting with a Mackintosh novel, that’s the beauty of it and as a result you don’t quite know who to trust. I tried to keep an open mind and take in all the information that we were being given at different points of the novel and by different people.

BETH: What did you think of the alternative story-line with Murray and his wife Sarah? Did it add anything extra to the narrative for you?

CHRISSI: A tricky one. I did really enjoy the alternate story-line, but I think if it wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be a gap missing in the story. However, I always appreciate when mental health is addressed in literature, so I was super happy to read about this story-line. I think it was tackled sensitively and it was nice to take a break from what else was going on! I also thought Murray was an incredible character. I loved his devotion to his wife- no matter what she was going through, he wanted to be there for her.

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, at any point, did you work out what was going on?

BETH: I love a good “gaspy” moment in a thriller or crime novel. Let Me Lie definitely has that a few different times and the author is a master at leading the reader down a particular path just to trip them up when they least expect it! I tried not to think too hard about what might be going on to be honest, as I really do love to be surprised with this genre. By the end, I had my suspicions but it wasn’t until right at the end. There was still one small surprise though waiting in the wings that I hadn’t anticipated.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Definitely! She’s one of my favourite writers in the genre.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Talking About ‘The Cactus’ with Bibliobeth!

The Cactus

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green—a prickly independent woman, who has everything just the way she wants it and who certainly has no need for messy emotional relationships.

Family and colleagues find her standoffish and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that’s all she needs.

At forty-five, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward—a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits.

Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control.

When she discovers that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places.

CHRISSI: Initially, you didn’t think this book would be a book for you. Did your opinion change?

BETH: Kind of! I hadn’t heard much about this novel or author prior to seeing it on the Richard and Judy book club list and I know it’s bad and I shouldn’t do it but I totally judged it by its cover. I really should know better by now and NOT do that as occasionally it has no reflection on the story within but I can’t help myself, I still do it! Generally, I found The Cactus to be an enjoyable read with a fascinating female lead that I was intrigued to know more about and the narrative was interesting enough to make me want to carry on reading.

BETH: What did you make of the relationship between Susan and her brother Edward?

CHRISSI: Ooh, I think it was a rather broken relationship. I think there was a lot of sibling rivalry between the two. I don’t feel like it was a very loving relationship at all. I think Susan was too different. I feel like Susan felt her brother wasn’t as organised as her and she looked down on him for the way he was. Susan felt superior to her brother and couldn’t possibly understand why he would be left the house in their mother’s will.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character in this book? If so, who and why?

BETH: I think Susan herself was a very well drawn character and as I mentioned above, I was curious enough about her story to become invested in the novel as a whole. She has quite a prickly disposition when you first meet her (one of the reasons for the name of the book?) and she appears to be quite a difficult individual but she does grow on you and when you understand more about her past, you can understand why she has such an impenetrable wall built around her.

BETH: How would you classify this novel? i.e. which genre does it fall into?

CHRISSI: Tricky question. I think I would probably put it in contemporary fiction, that’s if you don’t let me just call it adult fiction. Is that cheating? Oh well. Contemporary it is in my opinion! I think it’s a book that can be enjoyed by both sexes. It actually reminded me a little bit of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. That’s a book that I feel appeals to both male and female readers too.

CHRISSI: Share a favourite quote from this book. Why was it your favourite?

BETH: “But these days fairy-tale endings come in all shapes and sizes. It’s okay for the princess to end up with the prince, it’s okay for her to end up with the footman, and it’s also okay for her to end up on her own. It’s okay for her to end up with another princess, or with six cats, or to decide she wants to be a prince. None of these make her any more or less a feminist. It’s about finding out who you are and what you want, and then being true to it.”

I actually resonated with this quote so much that I shared it to my personal Facebook page! I love that it refers to fairy-tales, I love that the author is saying that it’s okay to be who you are and do what you do as an individual, as a feminist and as a woman. She hits the nail on the head and I just adore it.

BETH: Susan has a unique way of interacting with other people. Did you sympathise with her at all?

CHRISSI: I did! I can see that Susan would irritate a lot of people and put people’s backs up with her ways of interacting. To me, Susan was a character that would be diagnosed with autism. Her way of dealing with the world reminded me of a few children that I teach that are on the autistic spectrum. As you get to know Susan, I feel like you begin to understand why she is the way she is. The past can define us and I think it does define Susan.

CHRISSI: Can you compare this book to another or is it quite unique?

BETH: I have to admit, when I first started this book I thought it was going to be quite similar to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. In a way, it kind of is – with a tricky, somewhat isolated main female lead but in other ways The Cactus is very different. This was such as a relief as even though Eleanor Oliphant was one of my favourite books of 2018, I didn’t want another book so similar to it. Luckily this novel stands on its own perfectly.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would definitely give it a go! 🙂 I thought it was a decent read.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Yes! 3.5 stars

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

Talking About ‘The Innocent Wife’ with Bibliobeth!

The Innocent Wife

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Twenty years ago, Dennis Danson was arrested and imprisoned for the brutal murder of a young girl in Florida’s Red River County. Now he’s the subject of a true-crime documentary that’s whipping up a frenzy online to uncover the truth and free a man who has been wrongly convicted.

A thousand miles away in England, Samantha is obsessed with Dennis’s case. She exchanges letters with him, and is quickly won over by his apparent charm and kindness to her. Soon she has left her old life behind to marry him and campaign for his release.

But when the campaign is successful and Dennis is freed, Sam begins to discover new details that suggest he may not be quite so innocent after all.

But how do you confront your husband when you don’t want to know the truth?

CHRISSI: What were your expectations for this book? Did it live up to them?

BETH: I didn’t really have any expectations to be honest! I’ve read quite a lot of either psychological or domestic thrillers recently so I was hoping (as I always do with this genre) that it would be something a bit unique and would keep me engaged throughout. First of all, I did think this novel had a really interesting premise, especially in the beginning when Samantha is writing to Dennis in prison but unfortunately, I don’t really feel that it hooked me in the way I wanted to be hooked. It’s a quick, easy read but I didn’t really connect to any of the characters.

BETH: How do you think this novel compares to other books in the genre?

CHRISSI: Sadly, I don’t think this book stands out in its genre. It has brilliant moments, but I was left a little underwhelmed by the story. It didn’t grip me right from the start which I usually expect from books in this genre. For me, it was an okay read but I don’t think I would remember it months on when I read so widely in the genre.

CHRISSI: Did you find this book predictable in any way?

BETH: I’m afraid so. It was pretty obvious to me from the start what was going to happen in Samantha and Dennis’ relationship and how it would then develop as they got to know each other a bit better. Sadly, I did anticipate the slight twists and turns in the narrative so I was never surprised or shocked about the direction the story took.

BETH: Did you find Samantha relatable? What advice would you give her if you were her friend?

CHRISSI: I personally didn’t relate to her. I think she’ll be relatable to many in a way because so many people have dysfunctional relationships and that’s certainly what Samantha’s relationship is like with Dennis! If I was Samantha’s friend I think I’d encourage her to seriously think about the company she kept!

CHRISSI: Was the relationship between Samantha and Dennis plausible?

BETH: Not for me, I’m afraid to say. I can understand that Samantha had insecurities and vulnerabilities and she became quite carried away with the idea of a relationship with Dennis but I think the reality of what that relationship was going to be like hadn’t really dawned on her until she was trapped in that situation. However, I didn’t quite understand why when she had initial misgivings about the relationship she didn’t use that opportunity to remove herself and that was slightly frustrating. I guess it wouldn’t have made a good story if she had, right?! Personally, I’m not very good at suspending my disbelief and although the author has artistic license to do whatever she wants to do with her own narrative, I couldn’t find it believable enough to become invested in the relationship of her characters.

BETH: What did you think of the ending? Were you surprised/satisfied?

CHRISSI: I was a little disappointed by the ending. I don’t really want to spoil it, so I can’t say too much, but I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like it was incredibly rushed. I was left with some questions and found myself re-reading it to try and get my head around it. In my opinion, that’s not a sign of a great ending.

CHRISSI: At which point in the book were you the most engaged?

BETH: There were several points where I was quite intrigued. Firstly, the beginning where Samantha was first communicating with Dennis and the story had the potential to go in any direction. Secondly, where she first meets Dennis at the prison and I was curious to read about their initial reactions on meeting and communicating with each other and lastly, the ending which was quite fast-paced until the eventual climax.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: It would depend on the plot. I think the premise of this book was interesting, it just wasn’t an amazing read for me!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Yes!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Talking About ‘The Tattooist Of Auschwitz’ with Bibliobeth!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it!

Synopsis:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust – and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov’s incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive – not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also – almost unbelievably – a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story – their story – will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story.

CHRISSI: This book has sensitive content. We’ve both read books about WWII before. How does this book compare to others in its genre?

BETH: I think any book about World War II and the atrocities of The Holocaust is always going to be difficult to read but it’s actually one of my preferred periods of history to read about. I like hard-hitting topics that make me think and appreciate my own life a bit better and generally, whenever I read a book in this genre, I find out something brand new every single time. I thought it was a fascinating story that was all the more poignant for being based on real-life individuals. It was all the more unique for being told from the perspective of a character who was forced to tattoo those terrible numbers on the prisoners in Auschwitz. If I compared it to other books based around the same period like The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as the Boyne but it’s still an excellent read in the genre.

BETH: Had Gita and Lale met in a more conventional way, would they have developed the same kind of relationship? How did their circumstances change the course of their romance?

CHRISSI: Hmm. A really interesting question there. I’m not so sure they would have developed such an intense relationship. I feel that the environment they were in pushed them together and made them feel deeper than they may have done if they had met in a conventional way. They pretty much felt a connection instantly and didn’t really have outside influences that could change the course of their relationship.

CHRISSI: Did this book make more of an impact on you because it was based on a true story from that time?

BETH: For sure. I hadn’t realised when I first read the synopsis that it was based on people that actually existed and when you realise this as a reader, it automatically makes the novel even more moving and impactful. However, I think I was touched most by the extra parts of the novel i.e. the afterwords written by the author after the story ends. In particular, she talks about how she met Lale and what his drive was for getting this story published. To meet the man behind the character was a touch of brilliance and very emotional to read.

BETH: In what ways was Lale a hero? In what ways was he an ordinary man?

CHRISSI: I personally think that any person that experienced the Holocaust is a pretty heroic individual to me. I think Lale’s story is impressive because he tried to help those in need even though he was in a high place compared to others in the camp. I do think that Lale was quite selfless and wanted to improve lives of others that were struggling, despite the fact that it could get him into trouble. As for being an ordinary man? I think he had inner strength like many of us do, it’s just hidden sometimes.

CHRISSI: How did you feel about Lale when he was first introduced, as he arrived in Auschwitz? How did your understanding of him change throughout the novel?

BETH: This sounds terrible to say but I didn’t really like Lale when he was first introduced in the novel. He seemed quite cocksure and I didn’t particularly gel with his attitude towards women. He didn’t have a bad attitude, I hasten to add. In fact, he loved all women unreservedly. However, it was the way in which he was keen to share this with the reader that I didn’t really buy into. As he progresses through the novel, we see how much he suffers, watch him falling in love (even though it was pretty instantaneous and I wasn’t too sure about this part) but it’s his selflessness and determination to make life better for all other prisoners that I really ending up admiring and respecting about his character in the end.

BETH: How does this novel change your perceptions about the Holocaust in particular, and war in general? What implications does this book hold for our own time?

CHRISSI: I’m not so sure that it’s changed my perceptions of the Holocaust. I still think it was an awful, awful time (even though I do like to read about it!) What I did like about this book was that it gave a different, more hopeful approach. The fact that Lale went above and beyond for those suffering really made my heart happy. I love acts of kindness. I certainly think we could all learn from those acts of kindness that were carried out in recent times.

CHRISSI: Discuss some of the small acts of humanity carried out by individuals in The Tattooist of Auschwitz. How did these small acts of kindness have greater implications?

BETH: I don’t think any of us in the present time can ever imagine what it was like to be in a Nazi concentration camp and how difficult and brutal the conditions were for the prisoners. One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel was the risk certain individuals took, especially considering that they could have lost their own lives in the process just to make another person more comfortable or safe. The viciousness of the German guards never fails to shock and appal me but it’s through these tiny acts of kindness that you start to see hope for the human race in the future. It’s amazing how such tiny things can make a world of difference to someone suffering and it was truly heart-warming.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I think so. I did enjoy the author’s writing style and I tore through it!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Yes! 3.5 stars

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

Talking About ‘Three Things About Elsie’ with Bibliobeth!

Three Things About Elsie

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Trouble With Goats and Sheep

Synopsis:

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

CHRISSI: We both read The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by the same author. How do you think this book compared?

BETH: I really enjoyed The Trouble With Goats and Sheep but for some reason, it wasn’t a five star read for me like I know it was for so many other readers. I wasn’t expecting to be completely blown away by Three Things About Elsie at all. I knew I would probably enjoy it as I thought with her first novel, Joanna Cannon had a very engaging writing style and wrote fantastic characters but I still wasn’t prepared for how much I would end up enjoying this. It was an emotional. poignant and stellar piece of fiction that had a huge impact on me.

BETH: Without spoilers, how fitting did you think the title of this book was?

CHRISSI: I thought it was a very fitting title to the story. Throughout the story, we know two things about Elsie and there’s something else about her too…which I can’t spoil. I think the title was a good match and there was lots of reference to it within the story which was a lovely touch.

CHRISSI: What feelings did this book evoke for you?

BETH: SO many feelings. In her first book, Joanna Cannon chose to focus on two young girls as protagonists, with Elsie she has gone to the other end of the spectrum and we see the lives of Florence, Elsie, Jack and many others in a retirement home. I loved the relationship between Florence and Elsie in particular but also liked that this novel had a hint of a mystery about it regarding the re-emergence of a character from their past and why it evokes such feelings of fear in Florence as a result. This novel also touches on memory loss and dementia which was quite hard to read about and heart-breaking in points but ultimately, I think the author handled it very sensitively and it was an intensely moving read for me.

BETH: Did Florence’s failing memory change your understanding of events at Cherry Tree? Does it make her a less reliable narrator?

CHRISSI: I do think that Florence’s failing memory did make her a less reliable narrator for sure. I wasn’t sure if she was talking to herself, remembering things wrong or hiding secrets that she wanted to keep locked away. The story really did unravel slowly, with a very mysterious element, it took me a while to understand what was going on.

CHRISSI: Did you feel engaged with the story all the way through?

BETH: I honestly did. I adored the way in which we got little throwbacks to Flo and Elsie’s past as the mystery of the new resident at the retirement home continues to unravel but I think my favourite parts about this novel were the little pearls of wisdom that Joanna Cannon throws in, some of which really spoke to me on a personal level and I even tweeted about, I felt so strongly at the time! For example: “Sometimes you go through an experience in life that slices into the very bones of who you are, and two different versions of yourself will always sit either side of it like bookends.”

BETH: What do you think makes Florence ultimately realise that she HAS lived an extraordinary life, in the end?

CHRISSI: I think when Florence is lying reminiscing about what she does remember of her life, her memories with Elsie make her realise that her life has been quite remarkable. She is forced to think of secrets that she’s kept hidden. It is her interactions with Elsie that makes her think about her life and all of the events that have happened to her.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? If so, who?

BETH: I loved all the characters to be honest, even the ones who were meant to have a more malevolent side to them! Obviously, I had a soft spot for our leading lady Florence and often wanted to be there having a chat, a cup of tea and some Battenberg cake with her but I also really enjoyed the character of Jack who is so supportive to Flo that it made my heart burst a little bit. Handy Simon is also a fabulous character and I found myself really rooting for him to find happiness all the way through the novel.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I’m not sure. Personally, I don’t think I gel with this author’s writing style. It’s nothing against Joanna Cannon’s writing. I can see and appreciate that she’s a talented writer. It just doesn’t work for me. I found this book to be a little drawn out and I lost interest in it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some lovely moments within this story and some very quotable moments. I was extremely busy when I was reading it (so may not have invested as much in it as I wanted to) and I enjoy a faster paced story. I feel really bad because I know so many people love this book. However, we can’t love them all and the blogosphere would be very boring if we all agreed.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Without a doubt!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Talking About ‘The Wife Between Us’ with Bibliobeth!

The Wife Between Us

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: This novel is written by two authors – Greer Hendrick and Sarah Pekkanen, sadly neither of whom I’m familiar with. I’m always a bit nervous when I read a book that is written by two people, no matter who those two people are. I always wonder about how the writing process and how they manage to write together coupled with worrying that it might feel a bit disjointed as a result. I’m not sure why I feel this as my last experience with dual authors was very positive! Luckily, I had nothing to worry about. From that very first read of the synopsis, I was hooked and remained that way from the beginning to the end of this novel – it was fast-paced, easy to read and very compelling.

BETH: When you read that startling synopsis do you think it prepared you for the story within? Or were you still surprised by the twists and turns?

CHRISSI: Confession time! I didn’t read the synopsis before I read this book. When I looked at your question, I just had to look it up. What a cracking synopsis! After reading this book, I know it had so many twists and turns along the way. I think if I had read it prior to starting the story I may have been very cautious about the characters and events that happen in the story.

CHRISSI: Did you find any of the characters in this book likeable? If so, who? And if not, did it affect your enjoyment of the story?

BETH: Good question! Hmm. I don’t always need to find a character likeable to enjoy a story. Sometimes, I even prefer to read about more unlikeable individuals as I think it makes for a juicier narrative but it was quite hard with The Wife Between Us. I say that because I didn’t particularly like ANY of the characters. I disliked one of them intensely (but the less said about that the better), I disliked others to different degrees and I felt indifferent to others still! I did however, really like Aunt Charlotte, she was a lovely addition to the novel.

BETH: How do you think this novel compares to others in the genre?

CHRISSI: It’s an interesting one. This genre is so heavily populated, yet I do think it’s a book that stands out. I quite often can guess where a book is going yet with this one, it did surprise me. I definitely had a WTF moment when reading it and the ending did surprise me. I didn’t predict the ending and I’m pretty sure my mouth did actually fall open during the last chapter. It also stands out because it’s written by two authors. I can often struggle with this as their styles can be so different, but with this book it really, really worked!

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, were you able to predict the ending?

BETH: Nope. Not at all. Not even a little bit. I texted you about 42% through and I was like: “I’m so confused right now!” and although I then started to understand what was going on quite quickly afterwards, the twists and turns were not over by a long shot. There are still a multitude of surprises to be found throughout the second half of the book and particularly at the end. I love a novel where I can’t see something coming and it’s completely unpredictable and that’s what The Wife Between Us was for me.

BETH: Did you enjoy the relationship between Vanessa and her Aunt Charlotte in this novel? How did it differ to the one she had with her mother?

CHRISSI: Good question! The relationships in this book are fascinating. I feel like Vanessa’s relationship with Aunt Charlotte was much stronger than her relationship with her mother. They seem incredibly close. Aunt Charlotte seems to somewhat have Vanessa on a pedastal. I feel like Aunt Charlotte would tell Vanessa what she wanted to hear, whereas her mother might question her actions more?

CHRISSI: Do you think this book would make a good film?

BETH: Ooh, yes. Absolutely! I can totally see perhaps Reese Witherspoon and Patrick Dempsey in some of the lead roles and I think if it’s done in the right way, with the right cast, screenplay and director, it could be absolutely explosive. I’d definitely watch it. I would also hope that I would have forgotten the ending by then so I could be surprised and shocked all over again!

BETH: Would you read another book by these authors?

CHRISSI: I would! I see that the authors have another book coming out next year. I’m definitely intrigued to read that!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars!