Book Review: A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

My lovely sister lent me this book after telling me how much she had enjoyed it which I was pleased about as I had bought it her as a birthday present!

Isabel Wolff introduces us to the character of Phoebe Swift, she used to be an auctioneer at Sotheby's but she has finally realised her dream of opening her very own vintage clothes shop. Phoebe's new venture is going extremely well yet she is still haunted by the recent loss of her best friend Emma and this is impacting on her whole life. When she goes to pick up a collection of clothes she meets an elderly lady called Therese who has her own sad story to share. Phoebe cannot ignore the similarities between her and Therese's stories and even though they are incredibly sad, they also show her that she has to move on with her life and not shut herself away from love any longer.

This book is full of detail about vintage clothing which adds a really interesting element. Phoebe Swift has a real passion for clothing from the past as she loves to imagine the stories and previous lives of the garments in her shop. However, it is the past that is almost holding pack Phoebe's future until her chance meeting with Therese.

A Vintage Affair was a good read which I very much enjoyed. Isabel Wolff's writing is witty and entertaining yet there are many poignant moments in the book that I had not been expecting. It does deal with fashion and beautiful clothing but ultimately this books is about friendship, trust and love and the ways in which we have to open our hearts to them.


Book Review: Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor

I have finished Forever Amber, all 972 pages of it! It is the lengthiest book that I have read in a long while and I loved every page of it.

Written by Kathleen Winsor and published in 1944, Forever Amber was considered extremely racy and was banned in 14 US states, however it remains a classic and has gone on to sell over three million copies.

Winsor tells the story of Amber St. Clare, she is 16 and pregnant when she finds herself penniless and abandoned on the unfamiliar streets of London. It is the time of the Restoration, Charles II is in power and London is going through many changes. Amber finds herself alone in the city after following the dashing Lord Bruce Carlton, leaving behind the quiet village life that she had known. Lord Carlton is a constant figure throughout the book, the only man who Amber loves but will never be able to possess fully. Amber has to use her feminine charms and beauty to rise from her sorry state and secure her own future. We follow her through Civil war, the bubonic plague and the great fire of London as she pursues the title of Charles II's favourite mistress and therefore security and wealth.

Kathleen Winsor was American and she had never visited London when she set out to write this great book. She undertook painstaking research over six years in order to recreate the atmosphere of Restoration England. Her thorough research is evident on nearly every page and this is the main reason that I loved the book. I felt as though I had learnt so much and her obvious enthusiasm for the time period is infectious.

Amber St. Clare is a thrilling character, there were chapters where I greatly admired her and others where I would happily have given her a good shake. Amber does everything she can to secure wealth and respectability, however, it is meaningless to Lord Carlton who will never make an honest woman of her due to Amber's lowly position of birth. As a character she embodies the fragile position that women held at the time compared to men. Amber is very cunning and clever yet time after time she suffers set backs due to being female.

The book must have been extremely shocking at the time of publication yet it would be considered mild by today's standards. There are no graphic sex scenes in the book but the behaviour of the characters as they plot and scheme is still shocking to the modern reader.

The descriptions of the Great Fire of London and the Plague are spectacular. Kathleen Winsor captures the terror, pain and sheer stench of death as she describes the impact on the country through the eyes of Amber and those around her.

Forever Amber will now always remain on my book shelf as a firm favourite. I was worried that I would lose interest due to it being so long but I simply could not put it down and I was very disappointed to reach the final page.


Totally engrossed!!

I'm so sorry for not posting but I have been totally engrossed in Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor and it is very long! I am absolutely loving it though and it has reminded me how much I enjoy reading historical fiction. I am hoping to get through it this week and I shall post my review too. Dot Scribbles has had many new books arriving this week:

  • The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt

  • A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

  • Wedlock by Wendy Moore

  • In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes

  • The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

  • The Model Wife by Julia Llewellyn

  • Black Boxes by Caroline Smailes

and several others, lucky old me! If you have read any of these then do let me know what you thought of them!


Book Review: Who's That Girl? by Alexandra Potter

What would you do if you could meet yourself aged twenty-one again? What advice would you give and what events from your life would you want to change? Who's That Girl? explores exactly that, Charlotte Merryweather bumps into her younger self and sets out to make some changes, however she begins to wonder if her present, thirty-one year old self is as happy with life as she should be. Charlotte runs her own successful PR agency, she is house hunting with Miles, her sensible and dependable boyfriend and life seems good. Yet when she is face to face with her 21 year old past she has to question as to what happened to the care-free, fun loving woman she used to be?

Alexandra Potter is a new author for me but she is a very welcome discovery. The book revolves around such a clever idea and it does leave you wondering what you would say to your twenty-one year old self if given the chance. I loved the parts of the book between the present Charlotte and the old one, you get to see how much she has changed and how her present day situation is so different from the one she thought she wanted.

Alexandra Potter brings a lot of humour to this book. I found it to be fast paced and entertaining; I shall be looking out for her other books in the future.


Book Review: Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

This is one of the most disturbing books that I have read in a long while. Blacklands is Belinda Bauer's first novel and follows the relationship created between Steven Lamb and Arnold Avery who is a convicted paedophile and serial killer.

Steven's Uncle Billy was killed by Avery before Steven was even born, sadness and uncertainty has hung over Steven's family ever since. His Nan still waits for Uncle Billy's return as Avery has never revealed the whereabouts of the young boy's remains.

Steven is convinced that his family will be happy if they can lay Billy to rest so in his spare time he goes digging on the treacherous moors in search of his uncle's body. Frustration and desperation leads him to send Arnold Avery a letter and so the game begins.

Belinda Bauer really takes the reader into the mind and thoughts of Avery which obviously makes for pretty disturbing reading. What really shone through for me though is the devastation caused to the family by their loss and the power wielded by the killer even when he has been locked away.

Steven Lamb is a wonderful character and I think that you get a real sense of the responsibility that he feels. It is a massive burden that he carries with him as he sets out to bring some happiness to his downtrodden family.

The subject matter of this book is disturbing but the idea and the way that Belinda Bauer explores it is fascinating. I was gripped all the way through and although you cannot describe Blacklands as a nice book, I wouldn't be put off as it is definitely worth a read.


Book Review: Take A Chance On Me by Jill Mansell

I loved Jill Mansell's last book Rumour Has It so I was very excited to receive an advance copy of Take A Chance On Me published by Headline Review on 18th February.

The story revolves around Cleo Quinn who isn't known for having the best luck with men. However, things with her new man Will are going extremely well and she's beginning to think that things may be looking up. But the return of Johnny LaVenture in Channings Hill changes everything. They were sworn enemies at school and Johnny is now a famous sculptor who soon has all the ladies in the village lusting after him even though he only has eyes for one of them. Meanwhile, Cleo's sister Abbie is being haunted by the events of the past as they come crashing back into her and husband Tom's life in the present. Is their marriage strong enough to survive such events? And then we have Ash, he is Cleo's best mate and neighbour. He has the gift of the gab when presenting his hugely popular radio show but is as quiet and shy as a mouse when in front of anyone he remotely fancies. Will he ever be able to overcome this and tell the woman of his dreams about his real feelings?

It did not take me long to really get into this book and then I didn't want to put it down. I think that Jill Mansell always creates highly believable and likable characters and Take A Chance On Me is full of them. Cleo Quinn is lovely and you get to know her very well as the story progresses. We learn of her hopes and her fears and I was willing for everything to work out for her in the end.

Johnny LaVenture is an excellent name for a character and through his return we learn so much about Cleo's past. We've all had that experience of bumping into that person from school who we didn't really like and having the realisation of how different we are in the present.

Jill Mansell's writing style is extremely witty and welcoming. She really draws you into the story and you very quickly care for the characters that she has created. There are many surprising twists and turns in this book as the characters do take chances, especially with their emotions. I would highly recommend Take A Chance on Me,I thought it was excellent.

BOOK REVIEW: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

On a windswept English beach in the early 19 th Century, two women make discoveries that change the world. And in so doing find friendshi...