Brunch At Ruby’s

brunch at ruby's

Brunch At Ruby’s
by D. L. White

Ruby’s Soul Food Cafe has been the neighborhood hot spot their whole lives, so it’s only fitting that Ruby’s is where Debra, Maxine and Renee meet monthly to do what girlfriends do– eat, drink and offer unsolicited advice on life and love.

Debra Macklin has it all: a successful career, a long marriage and a happy 12 year old daughter. But she’s hiding a secret that could not only shatter her perfect image, but destroy her marriage and career. When her secret is spilled, Debra is poised to lose everything she holds dear.

Maxine Donovan is a self made woman but despite all she earns and owns, she’s on a constant quest for Mr. Right. Handsome, aloof Malcolm Brooks might just be The One, but when Malcolm’s attention turns toward her friend instead, Maxine is ready to risk a strong bond to fight for him.

Renee Gladwell left a lucrative job and a handsome boyfriend to nurse her father and Gladwell Books back to health. A temporary stay has turned into four years of struggling with Alzheimer’s and a family owned bookstore that is in no shape to sell. Renee is in limbo, caring for a man who is slowly forgetting his past—including her. When she meets Malcolm Brooks, her life brightens, but is love worth risking a friendship?

Brunch at Ruby’s is a funny, inspiring, soulful look into lifelong bonds that bend but never break.

Debra, Renee and maxine have been friends since childhood. Now in their mid thirties their lives are running very different paths but they have remained friends throughout and meet up every month at Ruby’s to catch up on each other’s gossip.

Debra is married to her childhood sweetheart and they have a 12 year old daughter, Kendra. Debra is the Principal at the local school. To the outside world they have the perfect life, but Debra has been having an affair with one of her colleagues and her perfect life is about to come crumbling down.

Renee is the more quiet emotional one of the group: she cries all the time. She moved back to her home four years ago to look after her ailing father, for what she hoped would be a short spell, but as his health deteriorated she found herself trapped and the life she had made for herself lost.

Maxine is the ultra-confident businesswoman, wearing designer clothes, selling million dollar mansions and looking down her nose at everybody else. She is used to getting her way, especially with men, but when one comes along who really isn’t interested, Maxine sets herself on a course that could blow a lifelong friendship out of the water.

I have had this book on my tbr pile since April and am embarassed to say that I have only just managed to get round to reading it. I hope the author, D. L. White, forgives me, but I really don’t think I can forgive myself. If I’d known what a little gem I had on my hands it would have shot up my reading list long before now.

I loved the characters in this book they are all well-drawn, but especially the three friends: strong, resilient women, falling into lives none of them expected and trying to cope as best they can. Even Maxine with all her money and attitude is far from happy.

It would take a heart of stone not to feel for Renee, her mother dying then her father’s early onset Alzheimer’s, meaning that her life was put on hold indefinitely. Then when she finally has some luck it sets her against one of her best friends.

But the story with the biggest impact is Debra’s. Such a common tale of husband and wife taking each other for granted, leading inexorably to mistakes, regrets, recriminations and pain. The author handles this story so well, giving it emotion and depth.

Special mention should go to Kendra, Debra’s daughter who is a delight. Stuck, as she is, in the middle of an impossible situation, she really shows the adults how to behave.

I really enjoyed this book, it brilliantly explores the sometimes inscrutable bonds that women have. I will be looking out for more of this author’s work and I really want to go for a meal at Ruby’s. 🙂
Highly recommended.

Around The World Blog tour – Guest Author Lucy Robinson

Around the world banner (1)

The Around The World Blog Tour is a partnership between TripFiction and #BookConnectors ~ bloggers and authors, travelling the world, through fiction.

TripFiction was created to make it easy to match a location with a book and help you select good literature that is most pertinent and relevant to your trip. A resource for armchair and actual travellers, it is a unique way of exploring a place through the eyes of an author. We blog, and chat books and travel across Social Media, and love to meet authors and bloggers as we take our literary journey.

Book Connectors was created as a place on Facebook for Bloggers, Authors and small Publishers to share their news.

We encourage book promotions; information about competitions and giveaways; news of events, including launch events, signings, talks or courses. Talk about new signings, about film deals …. anything really.

Book Connectors is a friendly group, there are no rules or guidelines – just be polite and respectful to each other.

On today’s stop of this literary tour of Scotland I am delighted to welcome Lucy Robinson. Lucy’s 2013 book A Passionate Love Affair With A Total Stranger is a romantic comedy set in Edinburgh. I have a review of this book and then Lucy has very kindly answered some questions for me.

A Passionate Affair With A Total Stranger

lucy rob

Charley Lambert has worked hard at creating a perfect life. She has an aspirational flat, a job of international significance and a very good pair of legs, thanks to a rigorous health and fitness regime. Best of all, her boss has asked her out after seven years’ hard flirting and a covert fumble in a mop cupboard.

Then she breaks her leg in three places, watches her boss propose to someone else and – horror – is forced to hand over her job to her nasty deputy. Charley, a certified workaholic, fears that she will go mad.

Dangerously bored, she starts helping people who are talentless at internet dating. Then William arrives in her inbox and rocks her world. Helpless, she watches herself fall in love with him and discovers she’s not who she thought she was.

But can she turn her back on her old life – all for a total stranger?

Charley Lambert is a workaholic, she lives and breathes her job as communications director at a large pharmaceutical company in Edinburgh, Scotland. Unfortunately when she has an accident and breaks her head in three places she is laid up for a lengthy period. She has to lie back and watch the office bitch steal her job; her boss, whom she has had a crush on for seven years, proposes to, and marries someone else. So Charley decides to start her own business, First Date Aid, where she writes the dating e-mails that her clients are incapable of writing. When the e-mails she sends to one client start to get very personal, the fun begins.

I found charley a really interesting character, at first she comes across as hard-nosed, interested in nothing but her work life. But as the novel goes on she develops as a character and becomes much more human and likeable and you find yourself rooting for her.

There are some other great characters, Charley’s family are brilliant and Hailey her best friend is very funny. The best of all though is Sam the slobby, womanising lodger.

This is a light romantic comedy with lots of dry Scottish humour. Taking you on a trip around all the familiar sights and scenes of Edinburgh, Scotland’s beautiful capital.
Fans of this genre should enjoy this book.

Meet Lucy


How I became a writer
People had been saying for years that I should write a book. I’d always enjoyed exploiting words and was the kind of person who would spend hours crafting emails ripe with subtle humour. What a moron. But while I could do a good message I didn’t believe – even for a second – that I had a novel in me. So I didn’t write one.

Then in 2009 I started my blog on the Marie Claire website; a shameful chronicle of my doomed attempts at internet dating, and was approached by a Women’s Fiction editor who insisted I wrote a novel. I took off to Buenos Aires to write it, like you do, and a year later The Greatest Love Story of All Time was published by Penguin (PENGUIN!) to critical acclaim. I’m now writing my fifth novel, which is fairly bonkers. My readers are brilliant and their enthusiasm for my writing is the absolute highlight of my career.

Q&As With Lucy Robinson

1. How do you go about choosing the settings for your books?

When I first started out as a writer, it was suggested to me that I set my books in London, because women ‘liked’ to read about London. I wasn’t so convinced. London is fabulous and I had many good years there, but my readers come from all over – and so, therefore, should my stories. The way I choose a location is really very simple – I pick somewhere I fancy researching and that’s that. I will never write a book set in a place that I haven’t been to.

2. What makes someone born and brought up in Gloucestershire, set a book in Edinburgh?

When I was nineteen I was involved with a university theatre company that took five plays up to the Edinburgh festival. There were twenty-four students living in a four bedroomed flat in the New Town for five weeks: you can imagine the scenes. During those five weeks I fell in love with Edinburgh. It is a truly incredible city: the architecture, the surrounding countryside, the history, the people. There’s nothing about Edinburgh I don’t like. It was the perfect setting for A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger – I can’t imagine the book working anywhere else.

3. What research did you do to give the book an authentic Scottish feel?

I went there, of course! I think that location research is probably the important tool in my writer’s repertoire. Without getting my hands dirty I’ll end up with a very thin manuscript; really not the sort of book I’d enjoy, as a reader. So I went to Edinburgh and, after I’d gone to all the places I needed to research, and talked to the people I knew I needed to talk to, I just spent three or four days being my main character, Charley. I imagined I was her – where would she go for dinner with a friend? Where would she go to exercise? To think? What would she see when she looked out of her window? What streets, scenes, accents, experiences made her the woman she is today?

4. Tell us what it is you like about Scotland and the Scots?

I still feel like I’ve got a lot more to see of Scotland and look forward to returning again soon. (My boyfriend and I are discussing a major cycling challenge around Scotland – eek!) Like many people, I think it’s probably the countryside that truly takes my breath away. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the Glencoe/Fort William area and it’s the stuff of dreams – rugged hills, big skies, vast brooding lochs. And I’ve yet to meet a Scot I don’t like. I love the humour, the rudeness, the bluntness of my Scottish friends. My research trips for A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger were full of brilliant conversations with locals.

5. Do you feel settings play an important part in books?

Absolutely! My books are about people: life, love, struggle, change. But they are always embedded in their surroundings. As are we, as humans: we’ve all come from somewhere. We take in millions – billions, probably – of details of our surroundings all day, every day. A book should reflect that. Also, I aim for readers to become completely absorbed in my stories. For that to be possible, the locations need to be as strong as the characters.

6. Have you got any plans for further books set in Scotland?

Maybe. I’m writing my fifth book at the moment but I’ve already had an idea for the sixth, which will involve the remote highlands – maybe even the islands! That’ll be a research trip to remember . . .

7. Your latest book,The Day We Disappeared, is out now, tell us a little bit about it?

The Day We Disappeared was a bit of a departure for me. It’s still got the elements my readers have come to expect – humour, love, a cast of weird and wonderful characters – but this book contains a large dollop of mystery and a huge plot twist. As anyone who’s reviewed it will attest, it’s a difficult one to describe, without giving the plot twist away – but I can at least tell you that the two main characters, Kate and Annie, are both starting new phases in their lives, and both are falling in love. But both have a big, dark secret, which seems to be gaining ground on them every day.

Thanks so much to Lucy for joining me on this blog tour and to #BookConnectors and @TripFiction for the invitation to be part of this brilliant tour round Scotland.

Eden Burning


Eden Burning
by Deirdre Quiery

Northern Ireland, 1972. On the Crumlin Road, Belfast, the violent sectarian Troubles have forced Tom Martin to take drastic measures to protect his family. Across the divide William McManus pursues his own particular bloody code, murdering for a cause. Yet both men have underestimated the power of love and an individual’s belief in right and wrong, a belief that will shake the lives of both families with a greater impact than any bomb blast.

This is a compelling, challenging story of conflict between and within families – driven by religion, belief, loyalty and love. In a world deeply riven by division, how can any individual transcend the seemingly inevitable violence of their very existence?

Deirdre Quiery’s novel is set in 1970s Belfast; a particularly horrific time in the history of the Troubles.

Centred around two families on opposing sides, it features William and Eileen and their two sons Cedric and Peter. William and Cedric run a taxi business which is nothing more than a cover for their real murderous business. Eileen knows nothing and asks no questions. Peter, still in education and hoping to become a doctor, is in danger of being dragged into the family ‘business’.
On the other side is Tom, Lily and Rose, burned out of house and home and Rose now a target for the gunmen.

This is a richly detailed book full of the everyday nuances of people’s lives as they try to continue amidst bloodshed and random violence, not knowing if they will make it round the next corner without being dragged off.

The author does brilliantly well to get inside the mindsets of people with nothing but unswerving belief in warped ideologies that have been passed down through the generations and ruined countless lives. But she also brings to life characters who have not allowed their background to chip away at their humanity, people who value love and forgiveness above violence and hatred and they will always be the winners.

I have two small gripes, one is the almost metaphysical descriptions of practically all the characters finding ‘a moment of silence into which would creep a deep peace’. It began to get a little repetitive.
Also I am a little unsure about the ending, I didn’t feel some of the characters would react the way they did. But that’s just my opinion, others may feel differently.

Anybody who wants to find out more about this period of time in Northern Ireland’s history, this is a worthwhile read and a very well written story.

Many thanks to Matthew at Urbane Publishing for sending me a copy.

Deirdre Quiery has done a brilliant Q&A for my blog if you are interested in reading this click here

The Mistake I Made

the mistake i made

The Mistake I Made
by Paula Daly

We all think we know who we are.

What we’re capable of.

Roz is a single mother, a physiotherapist, a sister, a friend. She’s also desperate.

Her business has gone under, she’s crippled by debt and she’s just had to explain to her son why someone’s taken all their furniture away.

But now a stranger has made her an offer. For one night with her, he’ll pay enough to bring her back from the edge.

Roz has a choice to make.

Roz Toovey’s life is a bit of a mess. She’s on her own, trying to do her best for her young son, her ex-husband is worse than useless, she is working all the hours God sends but is in crippling debt and no sign of things getting better. The final straw comes with the bailifs’ letter telling her she will be evicted from her house in 2 weeks time. But then, salvation…of sorts; Scott Elias, a friend of Roz’s sister, makes an indecent proposal: no strings attached and money to pay off her debts. What choice does she have?

This book had me hooked from page 1 and never let up. Everything about the book is totally plausible, the characters and the situation.

What a character Roz is; wonderful witty observational humour, even as she’s struggling under the weight of her life. Trapped as she is, as so many people are, by a combination of bad luck and sorry mistakes, she still pushes on trying to do the best for her son. She has so much heart; the sort of woman anyone would be happy to call a friend.

All the characters in the book are brilliantly drawn but special mention has to go to Scott Elias, the charming, rich man who always gets what he wants. Being able to pull off charming and sinister in a plausible way is a skill and Paula Daly has it in spades.

The comic humour running through this sometimes very dark tale is pitch perfect; you find yourself smiling when you probably shouldn’t be. Some of Roz’s observations when working as a physiotherapist are laugh-out-loud funny.

The setting of the Lake District, one of my favourite places, is an added bonus and brings extra life to an already luscious novel.

This is the first Paula Daly novel I have read, but if I have to I will be crawling over broken glass to get to the rest. Her writing style makes it all seem so easy. I would love to chat to her about it, preferably on a hill in the Lake District after a visit to the co-op. 🙂

I would recommend this book to absolutely anybody. I don’t often give five stars, but I’d give this one six if I could.

Many thanks to Transworld publishers for sending me a copy via Netgalley.

Broken Promise


Broken Promise
by Linwood Barclay

After his wife’s death and the collapse of his newspaper, David Harwood has no choice but to uproot his nine-year-old son and move back into his childhood home in Promise Falls, New York. David believes his life is in free fall, and he can’t find a way to stop his descent.

Then he comes across a family secret of epic proportions. A year after a devastating miscarriage, David’s cousin Marla has continued to struggle. But when David’s mother asks him to check on her, he’s horrified to discover that she’s been secretly raising a child who is not her own—a baby she claims was a gift from an “angel” left on her porch.

When the baby’s real mother is found murdered, David can’t help wanting to piece together what happened—even if it means proving his own cousin’s guilt. But as he uncovers each piece of evidence, David realizes that Marla’s mysterious child is just the tip of the iceberg.

Other strange things are happening. Animals are found ritually slaughtered. An ominous abandoned Ferris wheel seems to stand as a warning that something dark has infected Promise Falls. And someone has decided that the entire town must pay for the sins of its past…in blood.

David Harwood is an out of work journalist, living with his parents and his young son. On an errand to his cousin’s, he finds her with a young baby that is not her own. Marla’s own child died at birth and she has not been able to move on; she has history of taking someone else’s child.
David sets about returning the child to his mother, but she is found stabbed to death. David finds himself at the centre of the investigation, not believing that his cousin, Marla, could be responsible.

This book is awash with characters. There are multitudes. With the main plot and the various sub-plots, there is just no time for any character development, except for David who tells his story in the first person. He is the only one that I had any emotional connection with.

The book races along at a good pace, and at no time did I think that I wasn’t going to finish it. But there are no surprises in the main plot and I was more drawn to the complexities of the sub-plots. However the ending beggars belief. At no time was I made aware that this was the first part of a trilogy, and thus nothing apart from the main plot is tied up. If you can wait up to 2 years for your crime thrillers to be concluded then good luck to you: this is the book for you. As far as I’m concerned Broken Promise refers to more than the book’s title.

I will give the book two and half stars for its readability, but it should be made crystal clear that this book is book 1 of a trilogy.

Many thanks to the publisher Orion Books for sending me a proof copy via Netgalley.

Q&As by Deirdre Quiery, author of Eden Burning.

Today I would like to welcome Deirdre Quiery to the blog. She has done an extremely interesting Q&A, speaking about her new book Eden Burning and her background which influenced it.


Eden Burning is set in 1970s Belfast in the heart of the troubles, and is the author’s debut novel which I will be reviewing in the near future.

Northern Ireland, 1972. On the Crumlin Road, Belfast, the violent sectarian Troubles have forced Tom Martin to take drastic measures to protect his family. Across the divide William McManus pursues his own particular bloody code, murdering for a cause. Yet both men have underestimated the power of love and an individual’s belief in right and wrong, a belief that will shake the lives of both families with a greater impact than any bomb blast.

This is a compelling, challenging story of conflict between and within families – driven by religion, belief, loyalty and love. In a world deeply riven by division, how can any individual transcend the seemingly inevitable violence of their very existence?

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the book and where the idea for it came from?
A. There were many influences. There was the influence of my Mother with whom I had a special relationship. When she was expecting me, she had a problem with her heart valve. The doctors advised her to terminate the pregnancy as they believed that she would never survive it. She refused and was admitted to hospital at three months pregnant for bed rest. By the time she reached seven months pregnant she was really dying. However, she knew that I could survive and so they operated on her. It was 1957 and I believe she was only the second person in the UK to receive open heart surgery. The doctors weren’t really sure what to do as she was certainly the first to have open heart surgery whilst pregnant. They opened her from the back – leaving an immense scar from her right shoulder, all the way across her back to her left hip.
The operation was a success but two months later, I shot into the world without any aid. We were both alone together – if that makes sense. The nurses heard her cries for help and rushed in and forgot to scrub up. My mother developed peritonitis and was once again on death’s door, receiving the last Sacrament in the Catholic Church – Extreme Unction. She had an out of body experience where she was floating towards a white light. She wanted to go to that light. It was peaceful and welcoming. She looked down at her own body and saw her baby in a cot by the bed and knew that she had to struggle to get back into that body. I capture some of that scene in “Eden Burning” in the death of Maria. However, my Mother survived.
Our relationship developed into one of great love. So when she encouraged me to write, I trusted her. She died 15 years ago. However, “Eden Burning” would never have come into existence without her.
Then there was the influence of living through “The Troubles” – being put out of our home at gunpoint, moving to a house as squatters on the Crumlin Road and living in a house which was both a prison and a sanctuary.
I wanted to make something of that time which would allow something creative and positive to emerge – something which told a story that life is always full of possibilities – that it’s never too late to learn or to change.
Q. Did you find it hard to write about a place so close to your heart but with such a troubled past?
A. It’s a great question. Yes, at the start. I remember as I began writing it for three nights I could not sleep. I think it brought up many unconscious, unprocessed memories and terrible fear. However, I knew not to let that stop me. I recycled that fear into the writing itself. So some of those gruesome scenes do not come from a rational understanding of what happened or could have happened in Belfast during “The Troubles” but also tapped into what was real for me as a child – the terror of knowing that you may not live to the morning and that no-one was there to help.
However, I also saw and experienced immense goodness and kindness during this time – unbelievable acts of self-sacrifice and generosity of being. I wanted “Eden Burning” to allow these to be known through the characters of Eileen, Lily, Rose, Tom.
As I was writing “Eden Burning” my Father developed dementia and I had to go back to the Crumlin Road, into the house where I had lived during “The Troubles” and throw everything out. It took six weeks to do. Going through room after room and getting rid of everything that had been stored by my parents in plastic bags – thinking that they would be used at some point in the future was very moving. They would never be used. They were no longer needed. As I threw out the holding onto the past of my parents, I also faced the terrible fear of revisiting the place of terror of my childhood. That became very significant in being able to face the past without being overwhelmed by it. I am sure that helped the writing of “Eden Burning”.
Q. The cover is very powerful: did you have any say in the design?
A. Well Matthew and I did not want to have a clichéd cover. We wanted something authentic which touched the heart of the story. We originally thought that perhaps we could use one of my paintings – one of “Eve” which I painted as I was writing “Eden Burning”. We thought that there could be a connection between “Eve” and the “Garden of Eden”. It could work in a poetic way.
Matthew consulted with others to do some field testing of this idea and we received feedback to say that the connection between the painting and the content of the story was too vague and would not necessarily allow the reader to understand what the story was all about.
We both agreed with this feedback and Matthew searched for other options. He continually involved me in sending me potential covers and asking for my feedback. It took quite some time to find the right cover. I was amazed at how tenacious he was in keeping going. Yet when we looked at the existing cover choice – we both knew it was perfect. It was well worth the wait. When you see the right cover – you just say to yourself – “Stop. That’s it!” It was one of those moments.
Q. How did you plan/research your book? Do you just start to write and see where it goes or do you plot everything in detail?
A. My writing style has a tendency as my talking (!) to do a bit of wandering all over the place. I started with that – writing to see what would happen. Then I realised that I needed help. I booked myself on an editorial workshop and started to study about how to create a plot, characters, add realistic dialogue and emotion to the story.
I still struggled. I received feedback reports and developed a strong relationship with Rachel Connor who became a significant influence in helping me craft the novel into a real story.
I remember one day, looking at my husband Martin and saying, “I’m stuck”. He sat down with me on the floor. We pulled out flipchart paper and post its and created scene by scene the story arc. That also helped.
Then I could get into the detail of the writing having a big picture plot line in place.
Q. Do you write with pen and paper or is it straight to the computer for you?
A. That’s a good question too. I love writing my journals – where I write odd thoughts, snippets of writing I’ve read – my hand. I do that every day. I keep a journal for “Eden Burning” – key references, thoughts for character development and twists in the story. However, when I write the story itself it is on my laptop. I type quickly and so there is almost a spontaneous transference from what is coming out of who knows where onto the computer page. This rapidity of writing without thinking I find even more effective on the laptop that writing the story by hand.
Q. You are also an artist; have the writing and the painting ever got in the way of each other?
A. No. I see them as twin sisters! It’s like tapping into a universal womb of creativity. I love the spontaneity of painting as much as writing.
However, I have found that they can – as twins can – jostle for attention and time. It takes time to get the paintbrushes out, mix the oils, prepare the canvas and then to clean up afterwards! Sometimes I’m a little lazy and as it is easier to write and no cleaning up to do – other than press the delete button – I give more time to the writing. I keep saying I must paint more. Yet I just write! So the writing twin is winning for now in gaining my time and attention.
Q. What’s the best bit of writing advice that you have been given?
A. By Rachel Connor when she told me, “Write and do not even think about editing until the second draft.” Before that I was deleting and rewriting and not getting on with the story.
Q. Which are your favourite authors and why? Which are your favourite authors and why?
A. I studied English Literature, Spanish and Portuguese Literature at University. I loved the classic writers – Cervantes, Unamuno, Garcia Lorca. I was maybe too young to fully appreciate them at the time. I loved their ability to immerse you in a world of depth to human psychology with a good story.
The writers who I remember who are still with me in my memory as favourites would be people like Ernest Hemmingway with his great adventures. I loved the fact that he was a larger than life character himself and so his books reflected this big world of a hero. There was also Graham Greene and his treading the line of our spiritual yearning with our human frailties. He definitely had a big influence on me. I might even think of myself from time to time as a female Graham Greene! Then more recently John Bainvaille in the novels where he explores “who am I?”, the question of self-awareness, the sense of being an actor in life, his interest in art – all fascinate me. I like Margaret Atwood, J M Coetzee, Julian Barnes, Iris Murdoch because they take human nature seriously and explore it with the reader.
Q. Do you have plans for a second novel?
A. Yes I do and a third. The second novel is well under way. I have written 60,000 words. It is called “Gurtha”. It is set in 2013 in Mallorca, Spain and also in Belfast. It tells the story of Gurtha, and his pilgrimage in life to understand what love is. He finds himself in Mallorca, embroiled with Cornelia – an old university friend. He is totally unaware of her part in the unfolding murders and betrayals which are unexpectedly interwoven with the life of Paddy his Father in Belfast who suffers from dementia. This entanglement with Cornelia, the ex-pat community and Paddy become a deep catalyst for change in everyone’s lives. Gurtha finds out that love is not what he expected it to be.

Thanks so much to Deirdre for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can buy a copy of Eden Burning here

Go Set A Watchman

go set a watchman

Go Set A Watchman
by Harper Lee

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch – ‘Scout’ – returns home from New York City to visit her ageing father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past – a journey that can be guided only by one’s own conscience.

There has been much debate about whether this book is a prequel, a sequel or a first draft. I don’t think it’s any of those things; more a companion piece to To Kill A Mockingbird. The characters are familiar, there are some passages in TKAM that come straight from Go Set A Watchman, but it tells a different story.

In GSAW, Jean Louise (Scout) is now 26 years old and living in New York, she goes back home to Maycomb County for her 2 weeks annual holiday. During her stay she makes a horrible discovery that makes her physically sick: her beloved father, Atticus, is not who she thought he was. After finding a blatently racist pamphlet amongst Atticus’s things, she follows him to a citizens’ council meeting which has been called to oppose desegregation, and she doesn’t like what she sees or hears.

The book is split into two definite halves. The first half is light, with plenty of humour and reminiscences. Jean Louise spends time with Henry ‘Hank’ Clinton, a long-term friend of hers and protege of Atticus.

Her uncle Dr Jack Finch plays a much bigger part in this book; an old eccentric and close to his niece, he is a perfect foil for Jean Louise’s rage.

The second half, after the discovery, is deep, dark and complex. Jean Louise goes in search of answers to how her father could have changed so much.
The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, “He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman,” had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.
Feelings of betrayal extend to other family and friends,she feels she doesn’t understand any of them and doesn’t belong in Maycomb County anymore. The problem is, she doesn’t belong in New York either.

While this book certainly has its problems; it’s raw, there are lengthy debates on constitutional matters, the rich descriptions of TKAM are missing; it should not be dismissed as worthless. Its subject matter, although difficult, is important. And Atticus Finch is, given his background, much more likely to have been the man in this book than the idealised man in TKAM.
you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man’s heart and a man’s failings – Jean Louise wasn’t the only one.

I am pleased this book was published, as a purely historical document it is worth reading. But also, it shakes the reader up, takes us out of our comfort zone –
prejudice..and faith..have something in common: they both begin where reason ends..
and sometimes we need that.

The Prodigal


The Prodigal
by Nicky Black

Exiled from his beloved Newcastle sixteen years ago, Detective Sergeant Lee Jamieson is returning home in search of the teenage daughter he’s never met. With a good promotion under his belt and his parents gone, he’s ready to return to his roots and the warm Geordie spirit he has missed so much.

Much to his surprise, his first assignment is in Valley Park, a forgotten sink estate and home to some of the worst social deprivation in the country – the estate where he grew up, and where Nicola Kelly, the wife of a renowned local villain, calls home.

As Lee and Nicola’s lives become entwined through a series of dramatic events, they fall in love and embark on a dangerous affair that will change both of their lives forever. Nicola’s husband, Micky, has few scruples, and, as he feels her slipping away, tightens his grip on her affections.

In order for Lee and Nicola to be together, Micky Kelly has to go.

D.S. Lee Jamieson moves from London back to Newcastle, and specifically Valley Park, his place of birth. He has a new job trying to turn around the Valley Park Estate, from the crime-ridden, drug-infested, violent place it has become into somewhere people will want to live. Unfortunately there is no relationship between the residents and the police and the worst crime to commit, is not being a drug-dealer or a murderer, but being a grass: lee has his work cut out.

He also wants to find the teenage daughter that he has never met and hopefully forge some kind of a relationship with her.

Early on in the story Lee meets Nicola Kelly, the wife of local hard-man, Micky Kelly, and the two are attracted to each other. The problem is if Micky finds out they’ll both be dead.

The idea behind this book was originally a screenplay that never saw the light of day, so between two friends they turned it into this novel, and what a fantastic job they have done. This is gritty, realistic drama at its best. The writing is fresh and lively, the dialogue, natural. The story itself takes you on a journey through desperate people’s lives, all of them know nothing else but violence, poverty, hopelessness. You live their lives and want nothing more than to get away and drag the likes of Nicola, Margy, Mark and their kids, along with you.

Micky Kelly is a triumph of characterisation, he could have ended up a stereotype of the big hard man with no redeeming qualities; instead he comes across as a man dominated by his circumstances and emotionally crippled, a man you want to detest, yet somehow can’t.

I loved Nicola, the strength of the woman comes across in everything she does. trying to do the best for her own kids and having to look after her brother and his family as well. The scenes in the refuge with other women with no hope were heartbreaking.

Whilst this book is a sad story of deprivation and violence, there is also an upside with lots of native humour, coming chiefly from a fantastic character called Margy, who tries to look out for the interests of the residents and is Nicola’s best friend. I love the local dialogue, it gives such an authentic feel to the book.

If you like crime thrillers you’ll love this book. I am a fairly slow reader but managed to finish this in just over a day. It is fast-paced, gritty and realistic. But it is also human and heartbreaking.

Many thanks to the author for sending me a copy.