The Chocolate Maker’s Wife by Karen Brooks

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Summary

Damnation never tasted so sweet…….

When Rosemund Tomkins was born, in London in the 17th Century, the midwives believed she was so unusual with her very dark eyes and strange laughter, that they thought she would live a charmed life. But her unfortunate life could never be described as being charmed.

After living a life of poverty and abuse, circumstances found Rosemund married off to a wealthy nobleman, which sees her life change drastically and undergo a transformation unimaginable to her. In no time at all Rosemund presides over her extremely popular chocolate house, making her the darling of the rich and famous.

But there is much bad news coming and Rosemund’s seemingly charmed life takes a turn for the worse. As she experiences The Plague and the Great Fire of London, Rosemund realises that she will be forced to make the decision to walk away from the life she has come to love and lose her wealth.  Her other choice is to make a deal with the devil…..

My Thoughts

This historical novel perfectly depicts seventeenth century London as the city is coping with the return of  King Charles to the throne. I really enjoyed reading and learning about the chocolate making, which was new at the time, and the way the wealthy flocked to the chocolate house which was new to the times. I especially loved the descriptions of the additives that were added to chocolate to cure all ills.

Rosemund’s experiences of The Plague and the Fire of London, were both educational and compelling to read. I now understand more about this period of Restoration London, with its political and religious upheavals and dramas. Poverty and wealth existed side by side, with all the challenges that such diversity could bring.

The Chocolate Maker’s wife is a story of treason, deceit and lies that oozes chocolatey deliciousness. I found this book to be ‘unputdownable’, and read all 588 pages very quickly.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author

Karen Brooks was born in Sydney and now lives in Hobart, Tasmania, with her partner and two children.

In 2007, Brooks received a citation from the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, part of an Australian Government program to recognise and reward teaching excellence in higher education.  Brooks was made Honorary Senior Fellow of the University of Sunshine Coast. She has established both a national and international reputation for her work, and her research and social commentary is regularly published in Australia and overseas.

Recommendations

‘A gripping historical thriller that will quite literally steal your breath’ – Kate Forsyth

‘Meticulously researched and historically compelling’ – Australian Books Publishing

 

Published in 2019 by Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty. Ltd

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My Top 5 Favourite Classics

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak House

The story of Bleak House follows the legal case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, where the Jarndyce inheritance is gradually eaten away by legal costs. And then there is Esther Summerson, and the mystery of where she came from. This is one of the first English novels to feature a detective. As usual for a Charles Dickens novel, there is a huge cast of characters representing both the rich and the poor of London at the time. Bleak House is extremely atmospheric with it’s descriptions of London being enveloped by fog. This murder story comes to a climax with a thrilling chase led by the detective.

First published in 1853

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Frankenstein

This is the story of how science can go dangerously wrong, when a science student assembles a human from stolen body parts. But when he brings it to life, he is horrified to see the creatures hideousness. That creature lives a tormented life, lonely and isolated, until it turns to evil in order to get revenge over his creator.

I was a bit hesitant when my bookclub chose to read this book, as it held no interest for me at all. That is until I read it and loved it. I’ve since read it again and enjoyed it even more on the second read. There is much more than a horror story in Frankenstein. There is romance, sorrow, sadness, pity. And there is beautiful writing. Such beautiful writing, that evokes many emotions and feeling towards the creature that was created.

First Published in 1818

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird

 

This is an unforgettable novel about a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis that almost destroyed the town and it’s people. The story is told by six year old Jean Louise Finch and is based on an event that happened close to the author’s home town when she was 10 years old. The story of To Kill a Mockingbird is dreadful, shocking, extremely sad, but also deeply moving and compassionate. There has been much written about this book over the years so there is really not much to say. Except that the story covers racism, prejudice, rape and other base human behaviours. But there is also the story of a father’s love for his family which is very touching.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view” – To Kill A Mockingbird

First Published July 1960

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

1885

When marriage was the only option for a female, it was often necessary for her to conform to what society expected of her. Elizabeth Bennett definitely does not conform. This is a 19th century romance, but it is much, more than that. After reading Pride and Prejudice you will understand more about love and family life in the 1800s, and also  about the societal expectations of the times.  The verbal sparring between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy is legendary, but I never tire of reading the words thrown out by both. I would classify this book as the best romantic comedy that I have ever read. Nothing else comes close.

First published January 28 1813.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights

This is the only novel written by Emily Bronte, who died in the year after it was first published, at the age of 30. Set in Yorkshire Wuthering Heights is the story of a love that is stronger than death, written in a unique and mystical way. There are characters who are unlikeable, being self centred, irrational, mean, malicious and worse, which to me, makes the story all the more absorbing. Wuthering Heights has become a classic of English Literature and in my opinion well deservedly so.

I found it incredibly difficult to write a review on books that over the years have become classics. What more could I possibly add to what has been said already?   All I have tried to do here is give a sense of the book and one or two of my thoughts.  This post is not a book review post, but quite simply a list of my favourite books.

I found it so hard to limit this list to five, and they are not listed in any particular order. There are so many classics that I love and occasionally re-read. But at the moment, these five novels are my favourite classics of all time.

Do you have a favourite classic? I’d love you to leave a comment and tell me about it. I promise to answer all comments.

Butterfly On A Pin by Alannah Hill

Butterfly on a Pin

Summary

A memoir of love, despair and re-invention

Alannah Hill, one of Australia’s most successful fashion designers, created an international fashion brand that defied trends with ornamental, sophisticated elegance, beads, bows and vintage florals.  But growing up in a milk bar in Tasmania, Alannah’s childhood was one of hardship, fear and abuse.  At an early age, she ran away from home, with eight suitcases of costumes and a fierce determination to succeed, haunted by her mother’s refrain “You’ll never amount to anything, you can’t sew, nobody likes you, and you’re going to end up in a shallow grave, dear!” – from the dustjacket

This memoir follows her journey, from run away to success to breakdown, and her reinvention of herself, as she once again heads towards success in the fickle fashion industry.

My Thoughts

My main reason for reading this book is that I remember seeing Alannah Hill, many times,  in the street, in Melbourne in the early days of her career. At the time she was very popular and had a chain of Alannah Hill shops. She always stood out in a crowd as she dressed in vintage florals, lots of lace and bows at a time that fashion was quite plain and boring.

I expected the book to be lightweight, fluff about fashion, and I really didn’t expect her to be an accomplished writer. Much to my surprise, from the first page I could tell that Alannah Hill could write.And she had something to say. I experienced many emotions as I read this book. I laughed and cried and felt very angry at her mother, while at the same time, feeling sad for her mother.  I found the book to be very moving and poignant.

Butterfly On A Pin is a very honest, compelling memoir. Alannah does not mince words and though her story is very, very sad at times, she manages to put a humorous slant on her experiences. Her story could be very depressing, but definitely is not.  Due to her writing skill, Hill manages to draw the reader into her world, as she shines a light on the fashion industry and her experiences. I found myself feeling very much in awe of her talent and for her forgiving nature.

Unflinching, funny, shocking, inspiring, and tender.  This is a story like no other
These words were written on the dustjacket.  I can only agree whole heartedly

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author

Alannah Hill is a designer, author and stylist.  For seventeen years, she was the founder and creative director of the brand Alannah Hill, one of Australia’s most iconic fashion houses.  In 2013, Alannah left her extremely well known brand, and in 2015, launched her new fashion brand, Louise Love.  Alannah lives in Melbourne, with her teenage son, and her beagle Jack.

Published in 2018 by Hardie Grant Books. Softcover 325 pages

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The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

Summary

How much will a young seamstress from Paris sacrifice to succeed in the male dominated world of 1940s fashion in New York?

In 1940, Estella Bissette, a seamstress was forced to escape from France, as the German’s are approaching. She headed to New York with just her sewing machine, a few francs and just one suitcase. Other than that, all she had was her dream to be successful in the fashion world.

Jump forward to 2015, and we read of Fabienne Bissette’s visits to an exhibition of her grandmother’s work. Her grandmother was one of the world’s leading ready-to-wear designers. As Fabienne learns about her grandmother’s past, she discovers that her life was about more than just fashion and designing. Stories of tragedy, heartbreak, love, secrets and sacrifices are uncovered.

“This is the story of the special relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter, as they attempt to heal the heartache of the past”

My Thoughts

This story is based on fact: some of the characters existed, as do some of the buildings which are central to the story. My favourite genre to read is historical fiction based on fact, particularly focusing on war history.  This book definitely did not let me down in any way.  The Paris Seamstress  is an emotional roller coaster ride, and very heart breaking, but at the same time the story and the characters are extremely courageous.

The main character,Estella,  is very strong willed, but absolutely believable. I have no interest at all in fashion, so I was a bit wary of this book at first. However the story lines about fashion were mainly concerning conservation and finding cheaper alternatives during the war years. Unexpectedly I was swept up into these story lines, and found them to be believable for the times.

I loved this book and would definitely like to read it again. I read it while on holidays, so fortunately had time to read it quickly.  It’s my opinion that this book is #unputdownable. The artistry on the front cover is incredibly beautiful which was what drew me to The Paris Seamstress  in the bookstore.

My Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author

Natasha Lester

 

Natasha Lester is a USA Today, internationally best-selling author. Prior to writing, she worked as a marketing executive for L’Oreal, managing the Maybelline brand, before returning to university to study creative writing.

Her first historical novel, the bestselling A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, was published in 2016. This was followed by Her Mother’s Secret in 2017 and The Paris Seamstress in 2018. The French Photographer is her latest book (note: this will be published as The Paris Orphan in North America in September 2019).

Natasha’s books have been published in the US, the UK, Australia and throughout Europe. She lives in Perth, Western Australia with her 3 children and loves travelling, Paris, vintage fashion and, of course, books – Goodreads

 

Published in 2018 by Hatchette Australia. Paperback 448 pages.

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My #AtoZChallenge Links

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Following is a list of the links to book reviews done during the  Blogging from A to Z April Challenge . I hope you find something to read here.

A is for The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
B is for Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
C is for Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast
D is for The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison
E is for Elevation by Stephen King
F is for Fragments by Toni Jordan
G is forThe Good People by Hannah Kent
H is for Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach
I is for I Was Here by Gayle Forman
J is for Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
K is for Keating by Kerry O’Brien
L is for The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
M is for My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots by John Guy
N is for Nowhere Child by Christian White
O is for Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
P is for Places We Swim By Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon
Q is forThe Queens Colonial by Peter Watt
R is for Ransacking Paris by Patti Miller

S is for Stasiland by Anna Funder
T is for Toymaker by Liam Pieper
U is for Untold Story by Monica Ali
V is for Voyage to Australia – Private Journal of James Bell
W is for We were The Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
X is for X by Sue Grafton
Y is for You by Caroline Kepnes

Z is for The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

#AtoZChallenge Reflections

 

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

It’s now three days since the challenge ended, so time for my usual end of challenge wrap.

Successes

This year I was more organised than I have been in any previous AtoZ Challenges. When the challenge started, I had all posts, up to the letter T, completed and ready to go. This really took the pressure off, and allowed me to read more posts than usual on other AtoZ Blogs.

Finding new and interesting blogs is a highlight of the challenge for me, but usually I get frustrated that there isn’t enough time to devote to this. This year, I read blogs on the subjects of family history and genealogy, travel, health, fitness, books, movies and music. There are so many more topics that bloggers write about, than I ever previously knew about. Over the past four years, the AtoZ Challenge has opened my eyes to these amazing blogs and bloggers.

I really enjoy reading and commenting on a diverse range of blogs, reading their replies and getting to know bloggers from all around the world. This is a huge highlight of the challenge for me.

Another highlight is the comments that other AtoZ bloggers left on my blog. Even though I’ve been blogging for many years, this blog is only six months old. I was quite humbled that it was so well received during the challenge. There were so many lovely and supportive comments left for me over the past month. I am very proud to say that I have answered all comments. I’m very diligent about that, as I feel if someone has taken time to leave me a comment, the least I can do is reply.  A bonus is that from comments left, wonderful conversations often do develop.

The Challenges

I wrote that what worked was having all posts up to T complete at the start of the challenge. But it wasn’t ideal that posts after T hadn’t been completed. I had read the books to be reviewed after T, and planned to write the reviews in the first two weeks of the challenge. But of course the best made plans often don’t happen, and I had a bit of a panic and a few late nights in the final week, getting the posts completed. Note to self: next year complete all posts before the challenge begins.

Even though I visited, read and commented on many blogs, I would have liked to spend more time doing this, than I was as able to do. I’m genuinely interested in other blogs and bloggers, so spending time visiting blogs and commenting is a pleasure.

Over the next month, I plan to continue visiting AtoZ bloggers that I missed. I will be posting about some of these blogs, that readers here may be interested to make contact with.

Looking to 2020

At this point in time, I intend to be back for the AtoZ Challenge in 2020. I am planning to participate on this blog and also on my Family history/Genealogy blogTracking Down The Family. Doing the challenge on two blogs is a huge challenge. I know this as I did it once before, but I’m very keen to do it again. This will take planning and perfect organisation.

My promise to myself is that just for a change, I will be this person who has made the perfect plan and is perfectly organised. For me, this is part of why AtoZ is a challenge. Other bloggers will know that it isn’t easy to publish a post every day.  But getting to the end of the month, knowing that I have done exactly that, is what makes me feel proud of myself and I love that feeling.

I give many thanks to all of those bloggers participating in the AtoZ Challenge who took the time to visit and read my posts. I do appreciate that you were interested enough to take time out from what I am aware is a very busy month. I’d love you to come back and say hello during the year. But otherwise I will look forward to reconnecting with current and new challengers next year.

Big congratulations to all AtoZ Bloggers who completed the challenge. You did it! So it’s time now to celebrate your success. 

 

 

#AtoZChallenge Z is for The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

The Zahir is narrated by a best selling author, who lives in Paris and has been living the perfect life with his wife, war correspondent Esther. But now, Esther has disappeared with a friend Mikhail. It’s not known after her disappearance, if Mikhail is her lover. He may be, but then again, he may not be.

Esther’s disappearance is a mystery, as she also appears to have been living the perfect life, with her husband. Was she murdered or perhaps kidnapped. Or did she escape the confines of a life with her husband which left her feeling unfulfilled and empty.

The narrator is lost for answers. Eventually he is contacted my Mikhail, who promises to reunite him with his wife. In the process of this the narrator discovers something unexpected about himself.


“…I had convinced myself that I could only be happy with her, not because I loved her more than anything and anyone in the world, but because I thought only she could understand me; she knew my likes, my eccentricities, my way of seeing the world…….I was used to seeing the world through her eyes.” – Paul Coelho, The Zahir


“…suffering occurs when we want other people to love us in the way we imagine we want to be loved, and not in the way that love should manifest itself – free and untrammeled, guiding us with its force and driving us on.” – Paul Coelho, The Zahir

My Thoughts

I’m a huge Paul Coelho fan, so was looking forward to reading this book. I wasn’t at all disappointed. The Zahir is a pilgrimmage of sorts and cover the themes of love, loss and obsession. I love Coelho’s writing, and this book is no exception. As is usual, in Coelho’s books, he focuses on the meaning of life, the mean of love, and finding our place in the world.

The narrator of the story annoyed me at times, and parts of the story annoyed me at times. However, I really did enjoy this book. The questions the narrator asked himself and the tiny bits of trivial information he felt that he needed, truly did captivate me. There were many literary references which I also enjoyed.

My Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the author

Paulo Coelho

 

Paulo Coelho was born in 1947 in Rio de Janeiro. Before dedicating his life completely to literature, he worked as theatre director and actor, lyricist and journalist. In 1986, Coelho did the pilgrimage to Saint James of Compostella, an experience later to be documented in his book The Pilgrimage.

His books are written in Portugese and translated into English.

 

 

Published in 2006 by Harper One. Paperback 336 pages

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photo: goodreads

#AtoZChallenge Y: You by Caroline Kepnes

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

This is the debut novel, by Caroline Kepnes. Guinevere Beck, an aspiring writer, wanders into a book store. Soon, she is having a friendly conversation with Joe Goldberg, who is working in the store. Joe googles her name from her credit card, to find out all he can about her. He checks out her public Facebook page, and her Twitter feed, where he gets a huge amount of general information about her and about her life.

When she posts on Twitter that she will be at a particular bar that night, Joe makes sure that he is there for a ‘chance’ meeting. From there, he makes sure he has her under his control to the point that he takes over her life.

On the surface Joe is her perfect man. However, things are not as they seem. Joe is controlling her and stalking her. This is a story about the modern age of communications and living life online. You demonstrates how vulnerable we all are in the digital age, to stalking and being manipulated, without even being aware.

My Thoughts

You has been compared to Psycho, Gone Girl and even Stephen King’s Misery. I loved all of those books, but unfortunately I can’t say the same about You. Everything that happened seemed to me to be too easy for Joe.  But perhaps that’s the way the world is today, in this digital age.  The story line seemed to me to be very contrived and convenient.

For me, You was a difficult read, as I didn’t really care too much about the characters and could have put the book down. and decided not to finish it, at any time. I definitely didn’t feel it was a page turner, though going by some of the reviews, it appears that I am in the minority. I also should state. that I’m not a huge fan of crime or psychological thrillers, so am probably not the best person to comment on this book.

About The Author

Caroline Kepnes

 

Caroline Kepnes was born and lives in the U.S, dividing her time between California, Cape Cod, and Massachusetts.

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️

First published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Paperback 424 pages

 

 

Have you read this book? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you enjoy it?  I promise to always reply to comments made in the section below.

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*Images: Goodreads

#AtoZChallenge X is for X by Sue Grafton

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

A Kinsey Milhone mystery

  This is the 24th novel in Sue Grafton’s series of novels that are named after each letter of the alphabet. Investigator Kinsey Milhone, known by regular readers of this author, is based in a fictional city in Los Angeles and ready to solve the latest mystery.

A glamorous redhead hires Milhone to find her long lost adopted son. This should have been a quick easy job for an investigator but the mystery quickly builds when Milhone finds that she was paid with notes that were marked. It becomes clear very quickly that this client has something to hide.

My Thoughts

I’m not a regular reader of the crime genre but I did enjoy this suspenseful mystery, with it’s very well rounded characters.  As this is the 24th book in this ‘alphabet’ series, I can help but wonder if Grafton’s books are written to an obvious winning formula. I will definitely be reading another of her books, and expect to be able to form an opinion after that reading.

Recommendation

“Kinsey Milhorne is up there with the giants of the private-eye genre, as magnetic as Marlowe, as insouciant as Spenser…….Exhilarating” – Times Library Supplement

My Rating:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About The Author

SueGrafton.jpg

 

Sue Grafton was a Number One International Bestselling and very prolific author of mystery and detective novels. Her books have been published in many languages and have appeared on The New York Times Bestseller lists many times and for many weeks each time.  She passed away in 2017 before Z for Zero was published and so the alphabet series ends at Y.

 

Published by Random House publishing in 2015

Have you read any of Sue Grafton’s novels. I’d be very interested to hear what you think and promise to reply to all comments

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*Images: Goodreads and Wikipedia

#AtoZChallenge W: We were The Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

 

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

The Mulvaneys of High Point Farm in Mount Ephraim, New York, are a large happy family, who have been blessed with good looks and a happy, future full of certainty. But as time evolves, things don’t go to plan for the Mulvaneys. On Valentine’s Day in 1976, an incident, involving a member of the family, causes upset and reverberation through the family for the rest of their lives.

The story spans twenty five years, and is told years later by Judd, the youngest son, as he attempts to make sense of the past and the events that destroyed his happy family.

My Thoughts

We Are The Mulvaneys is a story of the rise and fall of a family. Of how quickly the perfect life can become a tragic life. The first few chapters contain quite long character introductions, which some may find tedious as I did at first. But they grew on me, and later in the book, I was thankful for such thorough introductions, as they helped me understand why certain characters did what they did, and why they reacted the way they did to unexpected circumstances.

Recommendation

It was the title that had me hooked immediately, making me want to read this book. We WERE the Mulvaney’s. Why ‘were’? Immediately I wanted to know more about what happened to this family.

I say every reader out there should read this book, but I may be biased because I love love this story of the Mulvaney family. I was totally enthralled from start to finish and couldn’t get enough of this slightly wacky family and their wacky ways. Perhaps this book means more to me because of events beyond my control that destroyed my own happy family life. I did feel a connection and sympathy towards the Mulvanney Mum, even though many times, I felt like shaking her and telling her to wake up and do something to bring her family back together. 

“It is a book that will break your heart, heal it, then break it again” – Los Angeles Times
“One of our most audaciously talented writers: – Erica Jong
“Novelists such as John Updike, Philip Roth, Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer slug it out for the title of the Great American Novelist. But maybe they are wrong. Maybe, just maybe, the Great American Novelist is a woman” – The Herald

Star Rating 4.5 star

About The Author

Oates in 2014

 

Joyce Carol Oates is a prolific American author, born in 1938. Her first novel was published in 1962 and she has since published a further 42 book. She has won many American and international awards for her writing and her books. We Were The Mulvaneys became a best seller after being selected as an Oprah’s Book Club book.

Published by Harper Perennial, Harper Collins Publishers in 2007.
First published by Fourth Estate in 2001. Paperback – 454 pages

Have you read this book. If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I promise to always reply to comments made in the section below.

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 Images: Goodreads