The Gravity of Birds | Tracey Guzeman

 

The Gravity of Birds by Tracey Guzeman

The Gravity of Birds by Tracey Guzeman

The Gravity of Birds by Tracey Guzeman is a book about art, artists and families.

In this compelling debut novel, an art authenticator and an art historian are employed by a famous, reclusive painter to sell a never-before-seen portrait, leading them to discover devastating secrets two sisters have kept from each other, and from the artist who determined the course of their lives. How do you find someone who wants to be lost?

Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessler were close, until adolescence wrenched them apart. Natalie is headstrong, manipulative-and beautiful; Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds. During their family’s summer holiday at the lake, Alice falls under the thrall of a struggling young painter, Thomas Bayber, in whom she finds a kindred spirit. Natalie, however, remains strangely unmoved, sitting for a family portrait with surprising indifference. But by the end of the summer, three lives are shattered.

Decades later, Bayber, now a reclusive, world-renowned artist, unveils a never-before-seen work, Kessler Sisters-a provocative painting depicting the young Thomas, Natalie, and Alice. Bayber asks Dennis Finch, an art history professor, and Stephen Jameson, an eccentric young art authenticator, to sell the painting for him. That task becomes more complicated when the artist requires that they first locate Natalie and Alice, who seem to have vanished. And Finch finds himself wondering why Thomas is suddenly so intent on resurrecting the past.

In The Gravity of Birds histories and memories refuse to stay buried; in the end only the excavation of the past will enable its survivors to love again.

Impresive, especially for a debut novel.

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My Notorious Life by Madame X | Kate Manning

My Notorious Life by Madame X by Kate Manning is the fictionalised account of the story of a midwife and abortionist in the Victorian era.

Notorious Life Manning‘In the end, they celebrated. They bragged.
They got me finally, was their feeling.
They said I would take my secrets to the grave.

They should be so lucky.’

Axie Muldoon, the headstrong daughter of Irish immigrants, forced to beg for pennies as a child on the brutal streets on New York City, grows up to become the most successful – and controversial – midwife of her time.

‘Saved’ from poverty by a well-meaning philanthropist, Axie is sent West with her brother Joe and her sister Dutch. But the kindness of strangers is short-lived and soon Axie returns to the city of her birth, separated from those she loves but determined to one day reunite her family.

When she is taken in by a Manhattan doctor Axie learns the craft that she will live by – and later fight for. As a purveyor of ‘lunar tonic for the relief of female complaints’ she rises from the gutter to the glitter of 5th Avenue high society, and discovers that the right way is not always the way of the church or the law, and that you should never trust a man who says ‘trust me.’ But what if that man is an irresistible risk-taker with a poetical Irish soul?

As Axie’s reputation grows she finds herself on a collision course with the crusading official who would be the righteous instrument of her downfall. It will take all of her power to outwit him and save both herself and those she loves from ruin.

This is a very powerful and often disturbing book.

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The Spinning Heart | Donal Ryan

SpinningHearth RyanThe Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan is a literary novel with the story told by several different characters.

“My father still lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn’t yet missed a day of letting me down.”

 In the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.

 The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation. Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant.

 Donal Ryan’s brilliantly realized debut announces a stunning new voice in literary fiction.

This was lovely, but somewhat thin.

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The Age of Ice | J.M. Sidorova

Ice SidorovaThe Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova is a literary fantasy novel and you should totally read it.

An epic debut novel about a lovelorn eighteenth-century Russian noble, cursed with longevity and an immunity to cold, whose quest for the truth behind his condition spans two thrilling centuries and a stunning array of historical events. The Empress Anna Ioannovna has issued her latest eccentric order: construct a palace out of ice blocks. Inside its walls her slaves build a wedding chamber, a canopy bed on a dais, heavy drapes cascading to the floor-all made of ice. Sealed inside are a disgraced nobleman and a deformed female jester. On the empress’s command-for her entertainment-these two are to be married, the relationship consummated inside this frozen prison. In the morning, guards enter to find them half-dead. Nine months later, two boys are born.Surrounded by servants and animals, Prince Alexander Velitzyn and his twin brother, Andrei, have an idyllic childhood on the family’s large country estate. But as they approach manhood, stark differences coalesce. Andrei is daring and ambitious; Alexander is tentative and adrift. One frigid winter night on the road between St. Petersburg and Moscow, as he flees his army post, Alexander comes to a horrifying revelation: his body is immune to cold.

J. M. Sidorova’s boldly original and genrebending novel takes readers from the grisly fields of the Napoleonic Wars to the blazing heat of Afghanistan, from the outer reaches of Siberia to the cacophonous streets of nineteenth-century Paris. The adventures of its protagonist, Prince Alexander Velitzyn-on a lifelong quest for the truth behind his strange physiology-will span three continents and two centuries and bring him into contact with an incredible range of real historical figures, from Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, to the licentious Russian empress Elizaveta and Arctic explorer Joseph Billings.

The Age of Ice is one of the most enchanting and inventive debut novels of the year.

Ooooooh this book give me the happys.

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A Spear of Summer Grass | Deanna Raybourne

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourne is a mainstream/romance set in 1920’s africa.

Paris, 1923 

The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house until gossip subsides. 

Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.  

Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming-yet fleeting and often cheap.  

Amidst the wonders-and dangers-of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for-and what she can no longer live without.

This can be a difficult novel.

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Lynnwood | Thomas Brown

Lynnwood (ebook ISBN 9781907230424)  by Thomas Brown is a horror about a town with a dark secret.

The unthinkable is happening in Lynnwood – a village with centuries of guilt on its conscience.

Who wouldn’t want to live in an idyllic village in the English countryside like Lynnwood? With its charming pub, old dairy, friendly vicar, gurgling brooks, and  its old paths with memories of simpler times.

But behind the conventional appearance of Lynnwood’s villagers, only two sorts of people crawl out of the woodwork: those who hunt and those who are prey. Visitors are watched by an entity between the trees where the Dark Ages have endured to the twenty-first century. Families who have lived behind stone walls and twitching curtains know that the gusts of wind blowing through the nearby alluring Forest bring with them a stench of delightful hunger only Lynnwood can appease.

This is really rather good.

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The Heretics Daughter | Kathleen Kent

The Heretics Daughter by Kathleen Kent is a novel about the relationships between women set during the Witchcraft Trials of Salem.

Martha Carrier was hanged
on August 19th, 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, unyielding in her refusal
to admit to being a witch, going to her death rather than joining the
ranks of men and women who confessed and were thereby spared execution.
Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and wilful, openly
challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. In this
startling novel, she narrates the story of her early life in Andover,
near Salem. Her father is a farmer, English in origin, quietly stoical
but with a secret history. Her mother is a herbalist, tough but loving,
and above all a good mother. Often at odds with each other, Sarah and
her mother have a close but also cold relationship, yet it is clear that
Martha understands her daughter like no other. When Martha is accused
of witchcraft, and the whisperings in the community escalate, she makes
her daughter promise not to stand up for her if the case is taken to
court. As Sarah and her brothers are hauled into the prison themselves,
the vicious cruelty of the trials is apparent, as the Carrier family,
along with other innocents, are starved and deprived of any decency,
battling their way through the hysteria with the sheer willpower their
mother has taught them.

I picked this up because it was on sale, and I’m glad I did.

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