Saturday 9 April 2022

Review | The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan

Published by Century on June 27, 2019

The Nanny may have been a slowburner of a thriller but it wasn’t half intriguing. Nothing and no one were as they seemed at Lake Hall and there was a lingering, unsettling feel to the place that had me gripped, obsessing over every secretive detail that was revealed and made to feel uneasy by a home embroiled with such suspenseful deceit.

This was my introduction to Gilly Macmillan and I will definitely hunt out more of her books as I loved how involving this one was – the dynamics between the characters were truly fascinating and there were moments that made me want to shout at them and shake them and force them to wake up to the danger around them.

This book had plenty of twists and turns and my feelings about some of the characters kept twisting and changing as well. To begin with, I sympathised with Jocelyn. She felt she had been left with no other option to move back in with her mother, despite their poor, pretty much non-existent relationship. The death of her husband amongst other things have lead Jocelyn and her daughter Ruby to move their lives from America to the UK and they are both grieving and unhappy. I felt bad for Jocelyn as her mother Virginia seemed overbearing and like she had nothing better to do than criticise Jo’s every move, but it wasn’t long before the tide had turned and my sympathies turned to Virginia.

Whilst at first Virginia is almost impossible to like, I found her to be a grower and my opinions changed. I felt bad for her as she is made to feel unwelcome in her own home by her daughter, as Jo just cannot allow herself to move on from the memories she has of growing up with her mother. Those memories haunt Jo and she can be pretty rude and abrupt to Virginia. She never allows herself to just listen to her mother and oh she was infuriating!

One thing I loved about this book was that it wasn’t as simple as hating the characters. It was more complex than that. Reading between the lines and seeing that yes each and every one of them had traits you could detest, but they were still human with real emotions and maybe they all had their regrets. At times, I found them all untrustworthy, and this made for great reading.

When the nanny, Hannah, reappears in the lives of Jo and Virginia, at around the same time a skull is discovered in the lake, the mystery and the tension intensifies and the way the suspense builds made this book more gripping with every chapter. There was so much to enjoy in The Nanny, in a sinister kind of way. The setting of Lake Hall was creepy and unnerving, so uninviting to strangers yet deliciously inviting to thriller readers! The friction between the characters was sharp and ominous. The way the plot unfolds is beguiling and as each little twist unfolds, I was dying to see how everything ends. The author didn’t disappoint. 

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.     

Thursday 7 April 2022

Review | This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh

Published by Hodder & Stoughton on June 15, 2017

I’ve had This Beautiful Life on my shelves for years as I love Katie Marsh’s writing but there’s something about books with cancer in them that makes them more personal, and for me that doesn’t make them easy books to start. That’s why years after publication I still hadn’t read this novel, as I thought I may find it too triggering. Despite this, I’m not bothered if it takes me years before I get to read a certain book as they are always there for you to read and sometimes, the time you pick them up may actually be at the most perfect of moments.

This was the case with This Beautiful Life. I read it over the course of a day and found it to be moving, insightful and written with care and honesty. A book I really didn’t want to put down.

In truth, I didn’t really find this to be “a book about cancer” anyway. Instead, it was a life-affirming and poignant read about Abi, a character who is in remission and ready to face the next stage of her life. It’s not about the sickness that comes with cancer. It’s about the impact that cancer takes on everyone concerned. This was a beautiful read from the first page to the last.

There was so much to love about this book. One of my favourite parts was the soundtrack. In every phase of the book we get another song from Abi’s survival playlist and I enjoyed all the memories she had of each song and the meaning behind them. I felt like I could feel Abi’s nostalgia, hear the songs and picture the moments that made them memorable for her, and they brought true insight into her and her family’s lives.

Abi is concerned about her family. Everything has changed since her cancer diagnosis and now she is in remission, she feels cut off from her husband, John, and her son, Seb. She knows they’re hiding things and she’s not sure where her place is in her family anymore. Abi is torn between wanting to mend the cracks in her family whilst needing to start living again. Even though I didn’t always agree with her actions, I felt for Abi throughout and was rooting for a happy ending for everyone concerned. Her story is heartfelt and even though her family had their secrets, I really felt like there was nothing malicious about them. They too were just figuring out how to move forward with their lives when cancer had taken such a strong, destructive hold over them. I found the author’s writing to be authentic and compassionate and she made this story feel so real. With that, it became all the more emotional.

Other favourite parts of this book for me were characters like Abi’s dad, who had such a calming influence that I would like his help with all my problems. Rob, Abi’s brother, whose antics and disastrous small talk kept me entertained throughout. And how could I forget that ending – which somehow was absolutely perfect yet still had me scrambling for more pages.

This was another special book by Katie Marsh – she does it every time.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.     

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