Nobody’s Wife by Laura Pearson

Nobody’s Wife tells a tangled tale of relationships and all their complications. Pearson paints a very evocative picture of relationships between siblings Josephine and Emily. Emily, a teacher is married to writer, Michael who is about ten years older than her. Josephine has always had a close relationship with her sister and her brother in law, even sharing the same house at one point.

Issues start to arise when this fine balance is upset by the arrival of Jack, a bookseller and aspiring writer who Josephine meets and begins a relationship with. Jack is more of a wildcard in a way, passionate and reckless he has had an unstable upbringing and brings turmoil to the lives of the others when he begins an affair with Emily. Needless to say, things happen in the end that are not good as a consequence of this behaviour.

The book beings by saying that “…of the four of them, only three remained,” so you start guessing who will be the one who dies from the very beginning, which is an intriguing touch that Pearson adds.

What Pearson realistically conveys the absolute turmoil that can be caused by affairs. The secrets which seemed exciting and daring at first, cause so much pain and trauma that the participants are left wondering if their behaviour and actions were indeed worth it.

The other characters, the forgotten spouses Josephine and Michael are sympathetically portrayed and you really feel for them as the innocent victims of the Emily and Jack’s reckless behaviour. In a strange way you also have some sympathy for Jack and Emily too as they come across as confused as to what they really want in life and this is something that I think some people could definitely relate to.

Pearson has a gift of creating realistic characters and true to life situations. I like how she explores the bond between the sisters and why they are so close as well as focusing on the affair and other relationships.

This is definitely a good read if you like psychological thrillers but are also keen on books that explore relationships on a deeper level.

Holme is where the heart is.

It has been a while since I’ve posted. This Winter, we’ve been very busy moving house and then we had an emergency family situation to attend to. However, Spring has finally arrived and the weather is gorgeous at the mo, at least it is here in West Yorkshire! The cherry blossom is well and truly fluffed here now!

We spent a lovely, well overdue day in Holmfirth. Holmfirth is famous for being the location of ‘Last of the Summer Wine,’ but it is interesting to see it has a clear identity of its own, separate from that well loved classic programme.

Holmfirth is buzzing with newly opened shops such as the gorgeous bookshop Read. Read. is a lovely small but perfectly formed shop, with an eclectic range of books. What I love about good independent bookshops is that you do find a more interesting and uniquely curated selection of titles that you tend not to find in larger chain bookshops. There is a lovely children’s section in the shop too with a wonderfully comfy chair. Read. runs local events for adults and children and it is well worth checking out their website here for further details.

After our perusal around Read. we went to Bloc for some lunch. Bloc is a fairly recent café in Holmfirth that is clean and modern in design. They serve a unique and varied menu that is based around different kinds of toast. I decided to sample the gorgeous cinnamon toast with banana and maple syrup. They also serve a range of hot drinks, I had a decaf latte with soya milk which was lush.

We walked by the river where we noticed a number of new shops and cafes had opened up since we visited last and ended the day in second hand bookshop Daisy Lane books which also has an eclectic range of titles. Overall, Holmfirth is well worth a visit, so if you’re in the area, why not drop by?

Antony & Cleopatra Review

After watching the NT Live performance of Antony and Cleopatra I am happy to report that it was absolutely fantastic! I had booked the tickets a while back, before Sophie Okonedo and Ralph Fiennes had won Evening Standard acting awards for their roles as the titular characters. I had high hopes for this production and was pleased to see that they were met in some places and even exceeded in others.

Simon Godwin was the Director of the play and should be applauded for some brave choices and decisions with regard to some of the action sequences and overall physicality of the production. He also brought forth some strong performances from the actors.

Ralph Fiennes portrayed the older, worn war hero Mark Antony very well. Fiennes portrayed him as a man who was once seen as a brave and gallant war Commander laid to ruin through his love for Queen Cleopatra. Sophie Okonedo was too excellent, she portrayed a slightly hysterical, emotional Cleopatra, which highlighted the characters manipulative side. The passion between the two leads was afire and burned throughout.

All of the secondary characters were strongly portrayed. As well as the titular roles, particular mention should be given to Tim McMullan playing a very louche Enobarbus. Caesar was also played with conviction by Tunji Kasim who portrayed him as a young upstart in the vein of an ambitious Apprentice type character. Eros the faithful servant was played with emotional gravitas and excellent physicality by Fisayo Akinade, (he did very well not to injure himself in the water feature in one scene!). Lepidus portrayed by Nicholas Le Prevost was comic and intriguing; his scenes in the Submarine were excellent. Cleopatra’s servants, Charmian, (Gloria Obianyo) Iras (Georgia Landers) and the mysterious Soothsayer (Hiba Elchikhe) were also excellent, strong characters. Also, mention must be given to the real snake used in the production. It was a brave choice to use a real animal who we were assured at the start, was not harmed at all!

The set designs by Hildegard Bechtler were extremely impressive. Simple in architectural form with a revolving stage which was put to good use. In just a few moments, Cleopatra’s opulent Egyptian palace with stunning water feature became the stark, marble hued, corporate, boardroom environment of Rome. The submarine set was also simple but very effective, I liked the trapdoors that became doors of the submarine when opened. The stone archways used in the war scene were also simple but very atmospheric, really conveying a war strewn desert setting.

The costumes were incredible, especially Cleopatra’s dresses, some of which were which were modelled on Beyonce’s! They were rich, opulent and decadent even in colour and texture which contrasted particularly with the contemporary desert army combat clothes of Antony and his warriors in Act Two. The costumes of the Roman characters were smart and either military inspired dress uniform or business suits. Octavia’s clothes and hairstyle appeared to have been inspired by those of Kate Middleton.

Overall, this was an excellent production. I am so pleased that it was chosen to be broadcast as part of NT Live to enable those of us far from London to see it. If however, you are near to London during the play’s run then I wholly recommend that you see it as you won’t be disappointed!

Roll on 2019, I’ve got my eye on a forthcoming NT Live production of All My Sons in May…

The Burning House by Neil Spring

The Burning Houseby Neil Spring is a story set in a sinister real life mansion called Boleskine House that stands on the shore of Loch Ness. The house was previously owned by Aleister Crowley and is rumoured to have been the site of mysterious sounds and occurrences.

Clara is the main protagonist, a fragile woman who has run away from an abusive marriage to Karl, a counsellor who is an alcoholic brute. She moves far from their home in London to Loch Ness and becomes an estate agent who is tasked with selling Boleskine House, (a particularly difficult task considering its sinister history and rundown state). Previous owners of the house have killed themselves in strange circumstances and the house is believed to be tainted from the association with Crowley’s devil-worshipping satanic rituals.

The story focuses on the house but also the characters that surround it. There is the strange and enigmatic Oswold Catternach who wants to buy the house and live in it. Inghean, (Clara’s boss Gale’s daughter) is a lovely innocent character who is psychic and sees the future before it occurs. There are also other secondary characters who live in the surrounding village but end up getting entangled with the goings on at the mysterious house.

I haven’t really read a book that focused on Satanism before, but have seen Hammer Horror films and this book at first definitely reminded me of these. What was nice to see though was the infusion of the setting into the story. The legend of the Loch Ness Monster is a background motif throughout and plays a part towards the end in a key scene (though the actual monster does not make an appearance). Beliefs from Scottish folklore such as the bean nighe, (an elderly washerwoman who foretells death) appear at certain points during the story and add a nice sinister touch to the narrative.

Overall, The Burning House is a good read and made me scared! So perhaps don’t read it just before you fall asleep as I did, unless you are made of sterner stuff! The book is definitely worth exploring though, especially if you like scary stories or unexplained mysteries with a real life element to them.

The Truth Waits by Susanna Beard

The Truth Waits by Susanna Beard is an enthralling read that highlights a very important issue – human sex trafficking from the Baltic States. The story centres around a uniquely drawn protagonist, Anna, (a successful businesswoman in her forties) who is in Lithuania to visit a clothing factory that supplies her London based fashion company.

The opening scene is vividly drawn, the salty scent of the Baltic sea intermingles with the tang from the resinous pine forests. You can imagine the serenity and beauty of the scene which is then juxtaposed with Anna’s discovery of the murdered girl found alone on the beach. The girl is Margaryta, sixteen years old and wearing only a skimpy dress. Anna becomes involved in her story pushing to get justice for her. The story is important for highlighting sex trafficking, making it known that this is an international problem that affects women across many different states and countries.

Anna is a character for whom her career is her life but she really evolves during this story. She meets Will, a twenty-eight year old journalist and starts to reevaluate her life. A family tragedy makes her realise that work is not everything and that she longs for a child. We learn more about Anna’s life and the reason why she is so guarded and unwilling to trust people. Anna is also extremely tenacious when wanting to find out what has happened to Margaryta and we discover the reasons why she has become so drawn into Margaryta’s story.

The scenes set in Lithuania are very well evoked. There is a noir-ish feel to the story at times which we see in Anna’s scenes in the nightclub and her encounters with the surly Lithuanian Police. There is a real sense of uneasiness that runs through the story. You are never sure who is telling the truth to Anna and who is lying.

Overall, this is a uniquely compelling thriller that brings attention to the real human cost of people trafficking and deserves to be read by many.

Legend Press are excellent at publishing unique fiction about important issues such as PTSD, trafficking, euthanasia and complex family relationships. These stories are compelling reads that highlight the important issues and thus help to increase awareness and understanding of these issues. So Legend Press should be applauded for publishing these stories and let us hope that they light a beacon for other publishing houses to follow. For a glance at their excellent titles, take a look here.