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** My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book **

 

Description:

It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by the mistakes of her past. She walked out on her beloved son Reuben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her.

When Reuben marries a petite blonde gentile, Gilda takes it as the ultimate rejection. Her cold, distant son seems transformed by love – a love she’s craved his entire adult life. What does his new wife have that she doesn’t? And how far will she go to find out? It’s an obsession that will bring shocking truths about the past to light . . .

Bitter is a beautiful and devastating novel about the decisions that define our lives, the fragility of love and the bond between mother and son.

My Thoughts & Review:

Do you ever read a book and feel profoundly moved by the story, the writing and the characters?  This is a book that does just that.

In Bitter, the reader is privy to the mind of Gilda, an obsessive woman who is determined to interject herself into the life of her son and his new bride.  She is a troubled woman who seeks the love of her son, the same son she walked out on when he was a child, who now as an adult barely has any connection with her.
Such a complex character that we get to watch as she navigates life as a young girl in Germany before being shipped off to boarding school in England.  While Gilda’s memories of these times give an insight into the woman she became, their impact giving shape to the qualities she possesses in later life, readers will also experience the relationship between Gilda and her parents.  The lack of maternal guidance or emotional attachment is startling to witness, and I think goes some of the way towards explaining the holes that appear in Gilda’s knowledge of married life and parenting.  However, that’s not to say that this is merely a case of nature versus nurture, there are so many things that make a person.

Throughout the narration, readers cannot help but feel some sympathy towards Gilda, there are events outwith her control that throw her into turmoil.  There are also decisions that she makes that we cannot fully comprehend or justify but somehow we go along with it, waiting to see what will come of them.  Her desperation to reconnect with her son Reuben is heartbreaking.  She wants to atone for her mistakes, she realises that the things she did in the past have caused a wedge between them and in her mind, the best way to build bridges is to place herself in the middle of Reuben’s life.  Her methods are unorthodox, following her new daughter in law around is perhaps not the best of ideas, bordering on sinister when you realise that she’s casually bumping into Alice after walking past the hair salon several times whilst Alice attends an appointment etc.

The style of writing makes this book a captivating and quick read, I found that I was driven to keep reading to see where this would lead.  I desperately wanted to find out what would happen to Gilda, Reuben and Alice.  I wanted to continue to following Gilda’s revelations and see how her mind shaped around the memories she held once she stopped relying on manipulations.
The sense of setting in this is astounding, attention to detail brings the story alive, I felt like I could see the fashions and the hairstyles mentioned in the book, could feel the horrible, paralysing fear that Gilda experienced, this was a completely immersive read, one that when I picked it up, time merely stopped around me.

I don’t always comment on the cover of books, but in this instance I cannot let this over pass me by without saying how incredibly beautiful it is.  It suggests danger, it oozes class and grabs the eye, making you want to reach out and touch it.  The textured look to the over makes me want to stroke it, feel the ridges that look so touchable.

This is without a doubt a wonderfully powerful read, one that gets the reader thinking and asking questions of themselves as well as of the characters.  The emotional pull of the story is one that will resonate with many people, at it’s heart, this is a story about relationships and their impacts.  It is an exceptional exploration of maternal relationships and the damage that can occur.

Very highly recommended!

You can buy a copy of Bitter via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

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** My thanks to Jennifer Kerslake at W&N for my copy of this magnificent book **

 

Description:

In 1944, in a sleepy English village, Daniel and his emotionally-distant mother, Annabel, remain at home while his father is off fighting a war that seems both omnipresent and very, very far away.

When mother and son befriend Hans, a German PoW working on a nearby farm, their lives are suddenly filled with excitement – though the prisoner comes to mean very different things to each of them. To Annabel, he is an awakening from the darkness that has engulfed her since Daniel’s birth. To her son, a solitary boy caught up in the mythical world of fairy-tales, he is perhaps a prince in disguise or a magical woodchopper. But Daniel often struggles to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, and Hans has plans to spin a special sort of web to entrap mother and son for his own needs.

My Thoughts & Review:

Between the beautiful cover and that hauntingly superb description it was only a matter of time before this book came to my attention, and I was honoured to receive an early copy for review.

Chloe Mayer is a new author for me, and I have to admit that based on The Boy Made of Snow, she will be sitting firmly on my list of authors to watch out for.  Her style of writing is a joy to read, sublimely detailed and absolutely captivating.  And I particularly liked the references to classic fairy tales interwoven throughout the book.  Each chapter headed up with a quotation from a traditional tale such as The Snow Queen or Rapunzel .  The link within the story to the tales is through the stories that Annabel reads to her son Daniel at bedtime.
Annabel and Daniel live in a small village in rural Kent, and it quickly becomes clear that Daniel’s father is away fighting in the war.  As narration changes between Annabel and Daniel, readers soon learn that Annabel has struggled to adapt to motherhood since the birth of her only child.  Perhaps in today’s time she would be diagnosed with Post Partum Depression, but alas, in the 1940s poor mental health was something to be frowned upon for the shame it would bring on the family.  Through reading from her perspective we can see that she feels no affection for her son, and indeed never calls him by name.   She and Daniel live together in the same house but there is no closeness there, they are worlds apart.

Daniel is what I might expect a nine year old boy to be like in many senses, on the look out for adventure, an imagination that conjures monsters and villains.  But underneath it all, he desperately loves his mother and rather sadly I think, realises that she is different from other mothers.  Reading some of the narrative I find it almost heartbreaking to see that Daniel holds his mother so dear in his heart, he misses his father and he casts so much importance on the fairy tales that his mother shares with him.
Hans, the woodcutter, now there’s a mysterious character.  We only ever see him through the eyes of Annabel or Daniel so cannot really get a true picture of his character.  His presence in the village causes some discord amongst the locals, some not happy about the prisoners of war being there, even if they are doing labour to help out.  For Daniel, he is the embodiment of the woodchopper from Hansel and Gretel, a friendly but strong figure that brings excitement.  For Annabel, he’s a different kind of exciting.  Someone who doesn’t know her, know her struggles and who ultimately makes her feel alive again.

There have been some exceptional novels published this year, and although the year’s not out yet, I think it’s safe to say that readers have been well and truly spoiled this year with what the world of publishing have brought to us.  Chloe Mayer written such a emotion filled debut that I struggled to put down.  There are so many wonderful moments in this book that I felt I could see scenes playing out through the beautifully clear descriptive writing, I could feel the anguish and heart break of Daniel as events unfolded, all too often he seemed older than his nine years, taking on responsibility of caring for his mother but then I would quickly remember that he was a nine year old boy,  not yet equipped with the knowledge to comprehend the trials and tribulations of adults and their emotions.

I could not fault this book at all, it is flawless and wonderful, and I highly recommend it!

You can buy a copy of The Boy Made of Snow via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

 

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