Tuesday 2 February 2016

Reviewed: Echoes From Afar by Tamara McKinley

Echoes from Afar was published by Quercus on January 28, 2016.

Thanks to Alainna at Quercus for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Tamara McKinley is one of those authors who has somehow passed me by but after reading Echoes from Afar, I am kicking myself for that! I’m looking forward to working my way through Tamara’s previous books as this one is enthralling and vividly written, beautifully capturing the emotion and poignancy of a period in time in which the war is approaching. It wasn’t a book that necessarily stole my attention straight away but as I kept on reading, I found myself more and more engrossed in the plot and swept away by the French and Spanish settings and culture.

Annabelle Blake is a nurse who at the beginning of this book, has unfairly lost her position in the hospital. She’s unsure of what to do next and upon another secret meeting with her mother, secrets and hidden truths are revealed, swiftly changing the whole course of Annabelle’s life and seeing her make her way to a fresh start in Paris. Once Annabelle’s “new life” begins, I found myself wanting to learn more and more about her, about the setting, about what was to follow. Tamara did not disappoint with this, weaving twists and turns and genuine character development into an engaging story. Although there were a few predictable moments during Echoes from Afar, other twists were more unpredictable, taking me by surprise and leaving me intent on finishing the book quickly to discover everything, no mystery left hidden. I did make my way through this book in just over a day but in a way now, I wish I hadn’t read it so fast because I enjoyed it so much and now it’s over!

One of my favourite parts of this novel was the portrayal of 1930s Paris with its charm and culture. I was especially drawn in to all the art, through the characters of Annabelle, her aunt Aline, and Henri, as it was made to be such an expressive aspect to the book. Tamara has such a powerful way with words in that she didn’t need to heavily describe and detail the events in this book to make them have an emotional impact on the reader. Her style of writing without a surge of complexities or graphic moments invites the reader into the story and captures them with her intricate storytelling and controlled pace, rather than out and out shocks. For me, this was most evident during the time the story moved to Spain and the Spanish Civil War. The battles, the distress and the conditions, none of it was skimmed over, but it also wasn’t written to be too uncomfortable to read or too much of a stark contrast to the tone of the rest of the book.

The character of Eugenie makes her move in the book quite late on, maybe a bit later than I would have liked, but the part she played reminiscently compared to the introduction of her mother, Annabelle, before her. It was fascinating to see the change in the city many years later and admittedly, once Eugenie is on the scene, the book didn’t work out quite as I had expected it to, not that that was a bad thing, but I was interested in how things would play out.

I loved the character development and growth through Echoes from Afar. At the end of each thread of the story, changes in the main characters were evident and satisfying. Annabelle was easily my favourite character, winning me over early on with her strength and bravery. For the characters whose motives I wasn’t so sure of (Etienne I’m looking at you), it was interesting to second guess the actions they were going to take and try and work out just how honest and trustworthy they really were. As mentioned earlier, some parts to the book were predictable but for many others, I just couldn’t be quite sure and that was one of the elements I enjoyed the most. I also loved the romantic aspect to this story and seeing the pure depths to it in a sweep-you-off-your-feet fashion, whilst at the same time any romance during the period Echoes from Afar is set in had to be treat with some trepidation as life wasn’t simple and easy-going for anyone. I truly enjoyed this book even more than I had expected to. The writing was emotive and evocative and the story was a really strong, compelling one. I look forward to reading more from this new-to-me author in the very near future.


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