Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Originally published: April 29, 2009 (my birthday)

I was at a train station, serious delays in every direction and I would not be leaving anytime soon. To top off my bad luck, my kindle had run out of battery. It was time to purchase a real, paper book.

I perused the bestsellers in WHSmiths and found Brooklyn. I had seen the film advertised and as always I prefer to read the book before watching the motion picture. The blurb on the back wasn’t exactly captivating, but it had won the Costa novel award in 2009 and had been short and long listed for a few other awards since. It seemed like an easy read that would help me pass the time.

It is set in 1950’s Ireland and is the story of a young girl, Ellis,  who has grown up in a small rural town with her mum and sister (and a few brothers who have since moved away). She has no real prospects until an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor her in New York where she will be able to live, work and study for a better future.

She travels to New York by ship, and has a bumpy ride. She finds a lodging with some other similar minded women, a job in a department store, an evening course and eventually love. But, as with all soppy stories there is also another man, this one all the way back in Ireland.

It is basically the story of Ellis growing up and having to choose between two boys. I would say it is half interesting and a very tame read. There was one dramatic plot twist which I didn’t see coming and actually upset me a little. But I soon go over it and realized I was back in the monotony of this read. This book is exactly the reason why I tend to avoid the WHSmiths bestsellers.

If you want an easy holiday read about young love, dances and courting then please…be my guest!

3 star


A Respectable Trade




A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory

I think this must be one of Gregory’s heftier books, perhaps even a novel. I mention this as most of her books are fairly short and easy to digest.  In a way this is one of her best, mostly down to her encapsulating method of description. I could really picture myself standing along side the protagonists, watching their story unfold thanks to all the details Gregory inserted. But, this was long! Such a long read, at first I struggled to really want to continue to read, then it got sort of interesting, but then it returned to borderline dull and dramatic.  Perhaps I could better describe this book with an oxymoron, interestingly dull or dramatically plain  (is that one?!)?

I really enjoyed the slave perspective, it was clear that Gregory had worked really hard to get traditions and history correct.  The western characters were much more vulgar, exaggerated and on reflection I believe this was done deliberately. A way for me to empathize with the African natives…….thinking about it more I love that she did this.  Historical fiction can be so biased, that is what they say isn’t it, history is only written by the winner!

I award this 4 stars, for her efforts and details.

4 star

The Red Queen

The Red Queen

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

This was a quick purchase at Heathrow airport on my way to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as I needed a book for my 12+ hours of travel and I didn’t fancy carrying my current read, Wolf Hall.

I saw Philippa Gregory and I knew I would be in safe water, little did I know that the water was so safe it was placid. This book seemed to have all the right components, a strong heroine, an exciting time period, war and love. But after trudging through the book I was more than disappointed, I was embarrassed for Philippa.  It is so poorly written, with constant repetition. Always repeating. Everything is repeated several times and Gregory gave me absolutely no credit, in fact I can only presume she assumed I and the rest of her readership are dim and incompetent.

I simply do not understand where this book came from, did she actually write it herself or commission it out to be written on her behalf.

Whatever, see the link below for a full review on the plot. But take my advice, avoid this one.


2 star

“Only the captivation of fiction allows you to fully understand….”


I saw this quote in Stylist magazine about Historical Fiction, and you know how much I LOVE historical fiction….


500 pages down, 500 to go!

Just a quick update to inform you all that I am now 50% of the way through Memoirs of Cleopatra, my mammoth of a challenge.

Although I am still reading the book which bodes well for it’s appeal, I have to say that I was hoping it would be written more like Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser. I feel this book is a YA….does anyone know?

A quote from my current book, The Memoirs of Cleopatra.

“So i learned two things that night, and the next day, from him: the perfection of a moment, and the fleeting nature of it.”
― Margaret GeorgeThe Memoirs Of Cleopatra


Underground by Gayle O’Brien

The debut novel from a new and fresh historical fiction writer; and she has set her bar high!  The story of two 17 year old girls running in juxtaposition, one living in 1860 and the other in the present day.  A gripping tale of both girls who find themselves fleeing danger, discovering love despite barriers that they face such as class and race.

O’Brien has proven herself to be an astounding amateur historian, integrating monumental events that changed the landscape of American history with fictional story lines and characters. Her writing style is modern and casual, yet she captures the essence of her female protagonists and the personalities in which make them so fascinating.

The epitome of why I love historical fiction so much. A novel that I literally could not put down, I fell in love with the characters and felt deflated upon finishing. It is such a wonderful thing to be moved so much by a book.

The Confessions of Katherine Howard

The Confessions of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn

I don’t need to repeat my love for historical fiction, however I will briefly explain how I came about this book, an actual book! I lent my good friend (Sara) a few of my Michelle Moran books, albeit several years ago, but she returned them to me recently after having thoroughly enjoyed them! So much so in fact that she then went and purchased another historical fiction, namely The Confessions of Katherine Howard, and then lent it to me in return.

The story itself was enlightening, I would like to consider myself an amateur Tudor enthusiast and I had never considered Katherine Howard particularly interesting, but she was/is. She was just a young girl, with no ambition, caught up in the fancies of an old King.   I honestly felt sorry for the fate that beheld her, and in fact all those around her were subsequently caught up and also suffered….how times have changed.

In terms of literature and writing style, it was ok. I thought Dunn over used punctuation and she wrote in an informal, modern tone,  perhaps that is her signature? I also found it hard to get into the book (potentially because of her writing style)  at first and only when the personalities were getting steamy (yes in that sense) did I actually have more than a vague interest in the book. That isn’t to say I pined after a Mr.Grey scenario, I simply felt that the sudden gossip in the young girls’ lives made for a good read.

I am tempted with another of her books.

I have decided to introduce a rating system, therefore I give this book 3 stars. It was light and enjoyable but not addictive or in fact written particularly well.

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

As you must all be well aware of by now, I am a historical fiction fanatic and when this one got recommended to me it was an instant purchase. Winner of the Orange Prize 2012 for fiction this was surely going to be a thrilling read, and it did not disappoint. Unlike many of the hard wired ‘can’t put this down’ books, ones that need to give you suspense after suspense and cliff hangers to rival Dover, The Song of Achilles was soft and inviting. An emotional book provoking feelings of love towards the two main characters. Miller needed no more than love to write this book (it took her 10 dedicated years to accomplish), and her passion for her young protagonists is evident like no over read.

Not only are the characters superbly constructed, but her attention to detail is unimaginable. I read because a book can transport me places I have never been before and Miller took me to ancient Greece where I felt the warmth of the sun and the cold stare of the sea nymphs, where I watched a friendship turn to love and I flinched when a life was taken before my eyes; a place where mythology and mortality are beautifully combined. However, if I had studied history would I feel the same way?

I recommend this book, probably my best read for a fair few months because of the writer’s talent for storytelling.

The King’s Concubine

The King’s Concubine by Anne O’Brien

I chose this book via the Kindle store not only because I am obsessed with historical fiction, but because it claims to be better than Philippa Gregory! Well I simply had to judge for myself as I am a stern P.G fan. My initial thoughts on the novel were that it was incredibly well written and the attention to detail was addictive, the storyline and the protagonist were captivating and it is true that I didn’t really put this book down.  However, I found the book to be far too long, and there were times that I have to admit I skimmed!! SIN! But I would read another of her novels, checking the book length first. As to whether O’Brien is a strong competitor of Gregorys’, I am not convinced. I may have to read another of her creations, I would only have 2 to choose from.

The story of a 14th century Queen’s damsel rising from nothing to holding all the power of the court in her hands, but at what cost?




For more information on Anne, visit her website: