The Winter Children by Lulu Taylor

The Winter Children“Nothing seems to have any point if she can’t have Dan…”

Unrequited love, broken hearts, the pain of infertility, the pain of childbirth – both longed for and not wanted. The Winter Children by Lulu Taylor draws up all these topics into a neat and compelling bundle that had me engrossed from the first chapter.

Francesca and Dan have been friends for twenty years, since their shared time at Cambridge University. In that time Olivia has joined them as Dan’s wife and the three of them enjoy a seemingly happy and easy friendship. Such is the friendship that when Dan and Olivia are almost torn apart by their infertility Francesca steps up with a selfless offer that is their salvation.

A beautiful, happy family follows and, when Olivia and Dan find themselves in need of a new home Francesca is quick to offer them rent free luxury in a cottage in the grounds of her grand renovation project – the majestic but adandoned Renniston Hall.

As the story unfolds we are drawn in to the complex connections between characters past and present and it soon becomes clear that Francesca’s motives are not altruistic.

This book is a thriller and a tale of love, both contemporary and historical. It is a really enjoyable  story which twists and turns without being contrived, and the characters leap from the page to stay with you long after you have put the book down.

Fans of an ambiguous ending may be disappointed as the book has a fairly clear resolution but, for me, it worked well to finish the story this way.

The Winter Children is a book that you will want to read in one sitting, it sweeps you along and the story and characters were so vivid in my mind that I almost feel I have watched it as a TV drama in HD. I would highly recommend it and, in fact, have already done so to my mum who loved it and Teen 1 who has it in her holding pattern of books to be read. Tri-generational appeal and perfect if you are lucky enough to have a few more days of Christmas holidays left to play with.

My copy of The Winter Children by Lulu Taylor was given to me free of charge for the purposes of this review for Mumsnet Bloggers Network (thank you!). Opinions are all my own.

The Good Girl by Fiona Neill

The Good Girl by Fiona NeillI love reading, it offers total escapism and is a godsend to those of us who battle with mild insomnia and have many long night hours to fill.

When a copy of Fiona Neills new book “The Good Girl” popped through my letterbox, courtesy of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network, I was doubly excited – a new book to read and a blog post to write – result.

“The Good Girl” is Neill’s fourth novel. I have read two of the others (The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy and What the Nanny Saw) so I was already a fan but I still approached it afresh. The jacket design is a departure from previous books so I wasn’t sure if she may have taken a new path in her writing. I dived in with an open mind.

The premise of the story is a family that finds itself at the heart of an internet based scandal. Head teacher Ailsa is horrified when Romy, her daughter, a straight A student and a pupil at her own school, is exposed in a viral scandal of horrific proportions. But should she be so quick to judge when she has secrets of her own lurking in the background?

As the parent of a teen and a nearly teen this book is VERY scary. Internet bullying, sexting, marital infidelity and the long reaching effect on family life. It is everything you know is going on but try to pretend isn’t.

The writing is pacey yet sensitive and, with apologies for the cliché, I really couldn’t put it down. The story unfolds with colour and depth and I found my view of the characters shifting with each chapter.

Based on the three of Neill’s novels that I have read I would say that she excels in character driven stories with a climactic finish. Real enough to resonate but imaginative enough to be gripping and entertaining. The Good Girl tackled so many issues with honesty and sensitivity, I was particularly struck by the descriptions of bereavement as Ailsa grieves for her recently passed mother.

Reading this book will make you hyper aware of your digital footprint and, if you have teenagers in the house, you will watch them closely nad hold them more tightly.. I was going to haul out another cliché and say it is great holiday read but I think that would be a disservice. This book is a great read anytime, holidays or not.