Monthly Archives: March 2015

BOOK REVIEW – Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix

Secrets of the Tower

I was sent a copy of this book in return for my honest review. Many thanks to Kim Nash at Bookouture.

This is a beautifully constructed novel that alternates between the Pisa of 1999 and that of the 12th Century.

1999 – Sam has rushed to Pisa to be with her husband Michael who has suffered a stroke while filming a documentary on the iconic ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’. But she is conflicted: before he left, she discovered that Michael had been unfaithful to her, a matter that they had not had the chance to resolve and she is therefore unsure of where exactly her marriage is heading, if anywhere. Added to that is her feeling of being unfulfilled professionally. As much as she adores her three small children, her career as a journalist has fallen by the wayside, and she desperately wants to return to some sort of occupation to keep her mind more occupied.

1171 – Berta Di Bernardo has married well. Her husband Lorenzo, while much older than her, keeps her in relative luxury, indulging her whims and ensuring that she’s well cared for during the many months he spends on his travels. She becomes a well-known patron to young artists, writers, and other creative characters, and brings them together at regular parties where she’s able to introduce them to would-be sponsors. One such protégé is the handsome young stone-mason Gerardo, whose life is forever changed when he is introduced into her household, catching the eye of Berta’s young maid, Aurelia. But Berta is not just the beautiful, sly manipulator that many presume her to be. She is also a keen artist and architect, and will do whatever it takes for her dream project to be brought to fruition: A tower of such beauty and grace to be built as a tribute to Pisa and her people, that it will astound all who view it. Based loosely in historical fact, the author has created an enchanting story around the little that is known about the history of the Tower.

To say I loved this book would be an understatement! I devoured it! To be honest, at times I skimmed through the ‘modern day’ chapters in my haste to go back to 12th century Pisa and to follow the storyline and the rich historical element that was so beautifully depicted I felt I was living it! The author’s ability to describe ancient Pisa is quite uncanny – her painstaking research must have been exceptionally lengthy and is absolutely meticulous. This is even more evident in the extensive explanations of detailed architectural calculations! It’s quite mind-boggling.

Ultimately, Secrets of the Tower is a love story. It delves into an enduring love between a husband and wife, despite the pitfalls they must encounter. It tells of the intricacies of a love between a young man and his older benefactor, and explains how at the same time, and in an entirely different way, he is also able to love a young, beautiful girl who hints at everything he wants from his future. Above all, it speaks of a woman’s love for her city, and for her vision of a structure like no other, that will remain as a mysterious legacy centuries after her demise, to remind everyone that their dreams can be achieved.

Debbie Rix began her career at the BBC where she was a presenter on BBC’s Breakfast Time before moving to present a variety of factual programmes. She is now a Communications Consultant, specialising in the charitable sector.

Secrets of the Tower is inspired by Debbie’s own story: her husband, a television producer, had a stroke whilst making a film for Channel 4 about the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the 1990s. The novel also reflects her love of architecture – an interest which is hard-wired into her DNA as both her parents were architects. Many of the historical characters featured are based on real people.

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BOOK REVIEW – Walking Over Eggshells by Lucinda E. Clarke (Autobiography)

Walking Over Eggshells

I received a copy of this book in return for my honest review.

I found this book extremely upsetting and uncomfortable to read. Throughout the author’s life, through all of her achievements and triumphs, the underlying refrain continues to be the emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her own mother, practically from the day she was born.

Using a pseudonym, the author recollects her childhood and the constant reminders from her mother that she is worthless, does nothing right, and will never be the recipient of the maternal love she so craves. Despite this, she perseveres, maintains a relationship with her mother until her death, and manages to keep going, sometimes in the most unimaginable conditions.

Eventually, Lucinda gets married, albeit to a man of questionable morals, and with a tenuous grip on reality and the truth (described as ‘Walter Mittyesque’), but she does love him. And so begins a roller-coaster of a life that spans countries, fortunes made and lost, long absences and infidelities (her husband’s) and desperate attempts to make a living and keep a roof over their heads (her own).

It seems that she became so used to living with her self-absorbed, narcissistic mother, and so chose a man who was practically identical in nature; someone who never took responsibility for his actions and who blamed everyone but himself when things took a turn for the worse – which they did … often!

Some of the recollections shared here are funny, many are challenging, and several are downright heartbreaking, including the ever-present black cloud that is the author’s mother and her refusal to acknowledge any of the hard work and trials that her daughter must endure, and her complete lack of any sort of support or assistance.

Doing everything she can to make ends meet and to ensure that she can provide for her two daughters, Lucinda worked as a teacher, dog breeder, stable owner, writer and radio personality (and that’s not all!). Eventually, after trekking across Africa (Libya, Botswana and eventually South Africa), she finds the happiness she deserves  with a man who appreciates her kindness, and the way she goes out of her way for everyone she meets, with no regard to receiving anything in return.

Lucinda’s life has certainly been eventful, and we’re privileged that she’s chosen to share it with us and take us along on the journey. She writes with clarity, in a non-dramatic and concise manner that makes for easy reading. Wherever she is today, I truly hope that she’s receiving an abundance of love and care to make up for all the love and affection she was deprived of in her younger years.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

The Seven Sisters

There’s no doubt about it – Lucinda Riley is the unrivalled Queen of the epic saga! This book marks the first in a highly ambitious undertaking of what promises to be a best-selling series of seven books, loosely based on the mythology of the star constellation, The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades.

How does one even begin to describe a book that is so rich in metaphoric beauty that you just want to completely immerse yourself in it? The depth and intensity of this story and the meticulous, painstaking research it must have involved left me awestruck!

Maia D’Aplièse is the eldest of six daughters (each  named after the stars of the Seven Sisters constellation), all adopted by the wealthy, elusive, but beloved ‘Pa Salt’, and lovingly raised by him and his able staff, most importantly Marina, who they fondly call ‘Ma’. They grew up, wanting for nothing, in a palatial home called Atlantis, on the shores of Lake Geneva. Now adults, each of the six has left home to pursue their own interests, knowing that their home base will always be there for them. But Maia is the only one who has remained living at Atlantis, nursing age-old wounds and secrets that she has always kept hidden from her sisters and Pa Salt.

Pa Salt dies suddenly and the sisters are summoned home to discover that his burial (pre-arranged by him) has already taken place, and while they have all been left financially comfortable, they have also each been left a clue as to their true heritage. It is up to them, individually, to decide whether they wish to pursue the clues to discover their origins or not.

When Maia discovers that Brazil is where Pa Salt adopted her, she first thinks she has no intention of travelling so far away, until an unexpected voice from her past becomes the catalyst she needs to leave her beloved haven of Atlantis. So she travels to Brazil, feeling ambivalent about what she will find there, and whether she even wants to know.

With the assistance of Floriano Quintelas, an author whose work Maia has translated, she traces her clue to a beautiful but crumbling old house where she meets a terminally ill woman, and her protective maidservant. From here we are swept back in time to the late 1920’s and the history of Izabela Bonifacio and her relationship with both Gustavo Aires Cabral, who she is destined to marry, and French sculptor Laurent Brouilly, who she falls passionately in love with.

Izabela’s  journey from Brazil, her all too brief sojourn in France, and through the various trials and tribulations she must endure, are fascinatingly intertwined with the description of the origins of Rio’s world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue.

We discover that Maia and Izabela both experience heartbreak in their life, and both must learn how to bear the pain and find the strength they need to create the future they want for themselves.

This is a skilfully crafted novel, with many cleverly interspersed anagrams and allusions. If your imagination is captivated by the hints you find scattered throughout the story, and you want to know more about the characters and the origins of their names, then a visit to www.thesevensistersseries.com is an absolute must! You can also visit www.lucindariley.com for more information on this powerhouse of an author.

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