Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Blog tour! Book review: Birdie and Jude by Phyllis H. Moore

The book...

A moving novel of loss, regret, denial, and discovery on Galveston Island, from the author of Opal’s Story and The Ember Months.

Birdie has lived to regret many of her decisions, but she doesn’t regret offering a stranger, Jude, shelter from an approaching hurricane. Their serendipitous meeting will form a bond that will change their lives forever.
In a character driven story with memories of the protests and inequality plaguing the 1960's, Birdie’s reached middle age and questions her life. Jude is striking out on her own, but has been derailed by a fatal accident claiming her only friend. Although their backgrounds and lives are vastly different, they recognize something in the other that forges a friendship.
As their relationship solidifies, they share glimpses of their pasts. Birdie is a product of the '60's, an aging hippie, with a series of resentments. She had a sheltered childhood in an upper class family. Her parents longed to see her make the Texas Dip at the Mardi Gras ball. Jude, however, entered foster care as an infant. Her parents, victims of a murder/suicide, left her and her siblings orphaned and separated.
There is something about their connection that strikes Birdie as familiar. Can souls know each other in different lives? Birdie struggles with the awareness that she has had regrets and hasn't lived an authentic life, while Jude faces an uncomfortable truth about her own. It has all the feels.

The review...

The unusual dedication at the beginning immediately both intrigued and stirred the emotions, and I wanted to know its connection to the story - which was not immediately apparent.

When Birdie Barnes finds Jude - a young woman in crisis - on the beach while walking her dog, it's the beginning of an unusual cross-generational friendship, one which will have profound effects for both women. Birdie has always rebelled against the expectations placed on her by her parents and society; Jude's life has been hard from the start and it's safe to say, hasn't got easier. Both women have secrets they're not telling. But why, when they clearly haven't met before, does Jude seem so strangely familiar?

While I enjoyed the beginning of the book, it took a bit longer for the story to really grab me. By the second half, though, I was totally engaged, by Birdie's story in particular, aspects of which I could definitely relate to.

The story is set in a place I knew nothing of: Galveston Island off the coast of Texas. (Well, only the Glen Campbell song...) I felt I knew it a bit better by the end, though, and definitely got a strong sense of place arising from the narrative.

I did feel the story took time to get going, but the strength of the book lies in the complex and subtle characterisation of the main characters, especially Birdie.... not always likeable, but never less than interesting.

Thanks to the author and Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to read and review!

Purchase Links... 

Author Bio… 

Phyllis H. Moore wants to live life experiences more than once: doing it, writing about it, and reading about it. The atmosphere of the south draws her in and repels her. The characters are rich with dysfunction and redemption, real. She’s had two careers and two retirements. Both careers gave her inspiration for her novels: The Sabine Series, Sabine, Billy’s Story,  Josephine’s Journals and Secrets of Dunn House, Opal’s Story, Tangled, a Southern Gothic Yarn, and The Bright Shawl, Colors of Tender Whispers, The Ember Months, Birdie & Jude, and an anthology of spooky short stories inspired by real places and events, The Bridge on Jackson Road. In 2018 she also released a new genre for her, A Dickens of a Crime, a Meg Miller Cozy Mystery. She has authored one nonfiction book, Retirement, Now What? Phyllis has been published by Caffeinated Press in the anthology, Brewed Awakenings 2, Fifteen Tales to Jolt Your Mind Awake. She blogs on her web site http://www.phyllishmoore.com. Follow her on Pinterest and Facebook.

Phyllis is a retired social worker and former owner/operator of a small bed and breakfast. She’s lived in the rural areas and cities of south Texas. She currently lives on Galveston Island with her husband, Richard.

Social Media Links...

Friday, 31 May 2019

Book review: Stanley and Elsie by Nicola Upson

I love Nicola Upson’s “Josephine Tey” novels, in which a fictionalised version of the Golden Age crime writer investigates mysteries. Here, though, Nicola has turned her attention to other real-life people, and I suspect stuck much closer to reality than in the Josephine stories. Indeed, the extraordinary true story of the Spencers and those around them needs little embroidery, and must have proved an almost irresistible subject for a novel.

The artist Stanley Spencer, his wife Hilda Carline, also an artist, and the remarkable sagas which surrounded them, neighbour Patricia Preece, and her lover Dorothy Hepworth, are seen here largely through the eyes of their long-standing (and often long-suffering) maid - and subject of two paintings - Elsie Munday. The perceptive, vibrant and down to earth Elsie is, with the possible exception of Stanley and Hilda’s daughters Shirin and Unity, by far the most likeable character and the first half of the book is entirely from her perspective. Later, we also begin to see the viewpoints of other characters. The lifelong relationship of Preece and Hepworth would surely make a fascinating book in itself.

I loved this story, about people of whom I previously knew little, though I now feel considerably better informed. I love it when a book teaches me something, and Stanley and Elsie had me frequently looking up more information, particularly about the distinctive art of Stanley Spencer and Hilda Carline. My researches led me to clips of the recent documentary “Stanley and his Daughters” - if anyone knows where I can watch the whole thing, please tell!

Nicola Upson is a wonderful writer and has excelled here in creating the world of Stanley and Elsie, evoking a real sense of the artworks and the rural locations of Burghclere and Cookham. I now really want to visit the chapel, though unfortunately it’s a bit far away from my home in Scotland.

An excellent read.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Review: The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd

Since early childhood, Lauren Pailing has experienced glimpses of other lives she might have lived - homes and mothers recognisably her own, yet slightly different. When Lauren dies for the first time, in an accident aged thirteen, she is able to somehow slip sideways into one of those other lives, into a world where Lauren Pailing is still alive. But that’s not the only time Lauren Pailing dies.

This book was so far up my street it might have been written just for me. The “other worlds” concept is endlessly fascinating and while there is an element of speculative fiction here, the main focus is on the people - on Lauren herself (themselves?) and the effects of her (their) death(s) on those around her, branching off into further possible worlds. Despite the narrative slipping in and out of different worlds, it somehow manages never to be confusing.

The other worlds differ in subtle or not so subtle ways. In one, Britain has never had a woman prime minister (though the USA does have a ferocious female president). Another, intriguingly, has no cats. Other differences are less remarkable - names differ slightly, kettles take longer to boil.

Moving, thought-provoking and beautifully written. I loved it.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Book review: Slayer by Kiersten White

Being chosen is easy.
Making choices is hard...

“I hate Slayers. What they are. What they do.
And I hate none of them as much as I hate Buffy.”

I was excited to read a new novel - the first in a series! - set in the Buffyverse, and Slayer definitely didn’t disappoint.

What’s left of the Watchers’ Council - just a handful of people - occupy a castle in the Irish countryside. The remnants of old families - Zabuto, Post, Wyndam-Pryce and others - and the teenagers and children who will take up the mantle in the future - whatever future that may be.   

Protagonist Athena (known as Nina) and her twin sister Artemis are the daughters of the late Merrick Jamison-Smythe (Buffy’s first watcher, before Giles) and his wife Helen, a prominent Council member. Artemis - their mother’s favourite, it seems - is training as a Watcher, but Nina, who nobody ever seems to take very seriously, is repelled by violence and more inclined towards healing than killing - she’s the castle’s medic.

The last thing Nina ever expected was to be called as a Slayer...

The stage is set for a story of danger, death, love, loyalty, a mysterious prophecy and a Coldplay-loving demon named Doug. 

I’ve been rewatching Buffy with my daughter recently (we’re up to season 5) and it was hugely enjoyable to read this story in the same world, though much later. While the original characters appear only via dreams there are many references to spot (Wesley Wyndam-Pryce is, by the way, considered a disgrace to his heritage).

Excellent read and I can’t wait for the next!

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Book review: The Twelfth Juror by B.M. Gill

I read this, along with a few other novels by the same author (now, it seems, largely forgotten) a long time ago and recently came across it while clearing out (rather unsuccessfully) boxes of books in my loft. Unsuccessfully because, rather than throwing them out as intended, I keep going “ooh, forgot all about that one” and sticking them back on my bookshelves to reread. Anyway I knew I’d read The Twelfth Juror away back in ye olden times, but although I had a feeling I’d enjoyed it at the time, I couldn’t remember anything else about it. A quick reread seemed appropriate.

Published in 1984, it won the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award for that year (beating, incidentally, The Tree of Hands by the mighty Ruth Rendell). So, that seemed promising. And anything courtroomy appeals to me.

Former newsreader, now distinguished TV presenter, Edward Carne stands in the dock, accused of murdering his wife, Jocelyn. His fate will be decided by a jury of twelve supposedly unbiased men and women. But one of those people, at least, has a closer connection to Carne than he is willing to disclose...

The story is interesting and well written but some things made me glad the book is now out of print. The characterisation of Blossom - “the Chinese girl” as Quinn describes her - feels uncomfortable and more than a bit racist. (Apparently, she glides about in green silk exuding “oriental calm” and dispensing sexual favours.) And the references (no spoilers) to “sexual deviancy” are horribly jarring. I know it was 35 years ago but it was 1984, not 1954, for goodness sake.

I did guess - more or less - the truth, though I can’t congratulate myself too much on that as I have read it before and though I didn’t consciously remember it, it was no doubt lodged in my subconscious somewhere. That said, I suspect I may have guessed anyway.

As courtroom dramas go it isn’t the best I’ve ever read (there are few surprises in court and I would perhaps have liked more  of the interplay between the jurors) but it is an enjoyable read and, as I said, well written. The ending is quite powerful. However some things really don’t sit well with me (and I’m sure didn’t in 1984, either) so on that basis I can’t necessarily recommend it - but it’s definitely an interesting curiosity.

B. M. Gill - real name Barbara Trimble - wrote over 20 crime, thriller and romance novels under the various names of B. M. Gill, Margaret Blake and Barbara Gilmour. She died in 1995.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne: Review

In 1945 in the closing days of the war, a pregnant sixteen-year-old girl, Catherine Goggin, is cruelly denounced from the pulpit by her local priest and literally thrown out of her small Irish village. Fortunately Catherine is a force to be reckoned with and despite boarding the bus to Dublin with hardly any money and nowhere to go, getting the heck out of Goleen and away from its small minded inhabitants isn’t all bad. With little other choice to be had, her baby boy, Cyril, is adopted at birth by the wealthy Avery family, and it is he who tells the story.

From Dublin to Amsterdam to New York and back to Dublin, we follow Cyril Avery’s life at seven-year intervals as it unfolds, through childhood, his unrequited love for his friend Julian, adulthood and the near-impossibility of living as a gay man in Ireland, love, relationships, loss and change, all set against the sweeping social and political backdrop of postwar Ireland and the wider world.

It’s hilarious, tender, bawdy and heartbreaking, often all at the same time. Laugh out loud moments abound (the “one of them” conversation with a former colleague and then conversation with Laura’s parents in the hospital were particular highlights, but there are many more). Cyril’s childhood is handled with a light and humorous touch, which does not obscure the awfulness of being constantly reminded by his eccentric and remote adoptive parents that he’s not their real son and therefore doesn’t count; notwithstanding his own observation that his childhood was “reasonably happy”.  Tragedy is never far away though and right from the start John Boyne pulls no punches in depicting the discrimination, hatred and outright violence which Cyril and others all too often experience.

Throughout, his real mother Catherine - an amazing woman in so many ways - intersects occasionally with his life, their true relationship known to us the readers but not to them. I was hoping so hard for a moment when they would learn the truth, because Cyril needed Catherine in his life so badly (well, who wouldn’t?). 

Cyril, an everyman in some respects, does some undoubtedly awful things as he slowly flounders towards being able to live his life honestly, but retains his fundamental decency and goodness. 

I adored this epic story which had me in laughter and tears on numerous occasions. Read it! 

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Proud (edited by Juno Dawson): Book Review

I was so excited to read this book (just look at that cover!) and I’m happy to report that Proud more than lived up to expectations. It is an inspiring and hugely enjoyable collection of short stories, poetry and artwork which I believe will mean a great deal to many young (and not so young) people. 

Editor Juno Dawson’s pulls-no-punches introduction recalls the dark days of Section 28, which today’s young people will thankfully know, if at all, only as a historical disgrace. We’ve come a long way since then, which is not to say we don’t still have a long way to go.

From a lottery-winning teenage couple hiding out in a Travelodge (On the Run) to a queer football team (The Other Team) to a modern high school version of Pride and Prejudice (I Hate Darcy Pemberley), there’s a huge amount packed into this book. Relationships blossom and comings-out are accomplished, sometimes with a little help from penguins or phoenixes. (Phoenices?) There’s humour, sadness, gallons of compassion and creativity. I would hesitate to pick favourites, but I did find Tanya Byrne and Moira Fowley-Doyle’s stories to be very moving; I also loved Cynthia So’s delightful The Phoenix’s Fault which has the feel of a folk tale. The artwork which accompanies every piece also adds a fabulous extra dimension (I loved those by Frank Duffy, Kate Alizadeh and Leo Greenfield especially.)

There are lots of authors here I haven’t heard of - some are appearing in print for the very first time - but the standard is uniformly high. Brief information is provided at the end on all the authors and illustrators (from which I learned that Karen Lawler has a dog named Buffy).

Although I’m not in the YA age range (not by a long chalk), I found this book to be an absolute joy to read and I’m sure I will be returning to read it again.... now, how about a follow up including some more of the brilliant writers Juno mentions in her introduction??

Friday, 11 January 2019

The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith: Book review

Scandinavian crime, à la Alexander McCall Smith, is - as you might expect - an altogether much nicer, gentler affair than the Scandi noir of recent times. 

Ulf Varg - both his names mean “wolf” - possibly the kindest man in the Swedish police force, works in the eponymous Department of Sensitive Crimes, where anything a bit odd seems to end up. Ulf loves Nordic art and his dog, Martin, who he has taught to lip read . He’s also rather too fond of his colleague Anna, though that is unfortunately fraught with complication...

There are of course no gruesome murders to be investigated; the most violent thing that happens here is a market trader being stabbed in the back of the knee. There’s also the mysterious disappearance of a young woman’s imaginary boyfriend, and some mysterious, even wolfish, goings-on at a spa. Plenty for the thoughtful, reflective Ulf and his colleagues - Anna, the conscientious Carl, fishing-obsessed clerical assistant Erik and annoyingly loquacious Blomquist - to be getting on with. As is usual for this author, none of the mysteries or solutions are especially mind-blowing, but that’s not really the point. 

Fans of Alexander McCall Smith (I would count myself as one, although I haven’t read everything he’s written... there’s a lot of it) will delight in the gently meandering style and philosophical musings. The Department of Sensitive Crimes is the first in a series featuring Ulf Varg - I look forward to future instalments. 

Friday, 21 December 2018

Fear of Falling by Cath Staincliffe: Book Review

I requested Fear of Falling from NetGalley on the basis that it was by Cath Staincliffe, knowing nothing about the plot, so started reading with very little if any idea of what to expect. This made it perhaps even more hard hitting than it would have been anyway.

It starts with narrator Lydia, a teenager in the 1980s, meeting and being instantly fascinated by the reckless Bel - their friendship is a thread which runs through the whole book, following Lydia’s life from the ‘80s to the present day... work, relationships, marriage to the lovely Mac, fertility troubles and ultimately their adoption of Chloe, a neglected toddler born to a drug-using young mother. Chloe’s early life experiences have not been good, but she’s young enough, surely, for that damage to be repaired, given enough love and care. Isn’t she?

Lydia, a scientist, and her tattooist husband Mac are wonderful characters and clearly marvellous parents who are devoted to giving Chloe a happy life. There are no limits to their love. But sometimes, any amount of love might not be enough.

The adjective in my mind while reading was “unflinching”. The author pulls no punches in depicting the pain and difficulty of life with Chloe, a girl who fundamentally doesn’t believe she deserves to be loved. There are no easy answers or Hollywood endings to be found here. I couldn’t imagine how it was all going to end, and I could never have imagined how it actually did. 

Some powerful themes emerge, particularly the need for better support when things are impossibly hard, but also the importance and lasting impact of the earliest experiences (according to Erikson’s theory, a time when a child learns basic trust or mistrust: that her cries will be responded to and her needs met, that her world is a safe place.... or that it isn’t). While we see things only from Lydia’s viewpoint, the story is told with huge compassion for everyone involved. 

It could be viewed as a cautionary tale about the perils of adoption, but that is clearly far from the intention. In a postscript to the novel, Cath Staincliffe tells us that she was herself adopted as a baby, so clearly she has a personal insight and connection to the subject, although her story is (thankfully) very different from Chloe’s. And Cath is at pains to point out that most adoptions work well and very few adopters ever regret their decision.

A wonderful, heartbreaking book, highly recommended. 

Friday, 30 November 2018

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan: Review

“In Irish, Rúin means something hidden, a mystery, or a secret, but the word also has a long history as a term of endearment.”

“Twenty years before, he’d walked away from the Blake case, and it had come back to haunt him.”

February 1993: Called out to a “minor domestic incident” at a remote, decrepit old house, the last thing young police officer Cormac Reilly expects to find is a woman dead of a heroin overdose, and two frightened children - five-year-old Jack and his protective fifteen-year-old sister, Maude. After taking the children to safety Cormac has nothing further to do with the case, but he’s never forgotten them.

Twenty years later in 2013, Cormac, now a Detective Sergeant, has returned to Galway - transferring from Dublin due to his girlfriend’s career (and isn’t that a nice change?) - where he’s not being made particularly welcome by some of his new colleagues. Not only that, there’s a distinct whiff of corruption in certain quarters.

Meanwhile, young doctor Aisling Conroy is reeling from the unexpected suicide of her boyfriend Jack... and the reappearance of the sister Jack hasn’t seen for twenty years. Maude is certain Jack didn’t kill himself, and she’s on a mission to prove it.

I had The Ruin on my “shelf” for ages before getting around to reading it, but I wish it hadn’t taken me so long because I thoroughly enjoyed it. I do love a good police procedural and Cormac is a great addition to the ranks of fictional detectives. The plot is gripping, surprising, at times distressing and ultimately very moving - but Dervla McTiernan never goes for the easy resolution. Something which I would’ve put money on happening at the end then didn’t, and I found that quite refreshing.

The Ruin is the first in a series (yay!) but doesn’t feel like it at times; with unexpanded-upon references to Cormac’s past cases and how he met his girlfriend Emma, I had to double check I wasn’t missing out on some continuity. Presumably, we will learn more in future instalments - the relationship with Emma is only briefly touched upon, but I feel sure there’s more to come. Cormac himself is a great and very likeable character, and there are also some excellent female characters - Aisling, Maude and Cormac’s fellow garda Carrie O’Halloran (I liked her a lot).

I’m now very much looking forward to The Scholar, out next year!

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts: Review

The Flower Girls is a dark, disturbing and really rather haunting story. 

Nearly twenty years ago, the brutal murder of two-year-old Kirstie Swann shocked the nation, not least because the apparent perpetrators, Laurel and Rosie Bowman, were just ten and six years old. Laurel, above the age of criminal responsibility, is tried and convicted of murder, and has remained in custody ever since; her sister, too young to stand trial, moves away with her parents and a new identity.  Still, the public haven’t forgotten the girls dubbed by the press “the Flower Girls” - like other young killers, their names and photographs have become a byword for evil. But nobody knows what really happened that day... because neither Laurel nor Rosie has ever told.

Many years later, Rosie - now known as Hazel, and having successfully rebuilt her life - is staying at a Devon hotel with her boyfriend when another young girl, five-year-old Georgie Greenstreet, goes missing.

It looks like the past is coming back to haunt her.

The story is told from a number of angles - we see Laurel and Rosie/Hazel both then and now, but we also see their story through the eyes of others.

Joanna, the aunt of murdered Kirstie, has diverted her grief into anger, devoting her life to ensuring that her conception of justice is done - for Joanna, that means Laurel’s never getting out of prison, not if she’s got anything to do with it.

Meanwhile, tenacious Detective Constable Lorna Hillier is determined to uncover the truth about what’s happened to Georgie before it’s too late.

Despite the unpleasant subject matter the story is compellingly and sensitively written, forcing the reader to examine notions of guilt, responsibility and retribution, particularly through the character of Joanna. The crying out for vengeance-at-all-costs  of a certain section of the general public is laid bare here during a radio phone-in involving Joanna when one caller remarks that Laurel “should’ve been hanged from the start”. “You’d have hanged a ten-year-old?” enquires the host, causing the caller to quickly backtrack... though only slightly.

There’s a strangely fairytale quality at times about The Flower Girls - but most definitely the darker kind. There’s nothing cosy or comforting here. And the ending is truly unexpected and horrifying. 

An excellent read but with some dark and difficult themes.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Book review: Pulp by Robin Talley

I loved Robin Talley’s previous books and as soon as I read the synopsis for this I knew it was so far up my street that I was desperate to read it. A novel dealing with the lesbian pulps of the 1950s? Yes please! The genre was a fascinating one and with Robin Talley I knew it would be in safe hands.

The books, with their lurid titles and covers, were marketed as titillation (many, though by no means all, were written by straight men and were pretty bad) but the better ones often meant a great deal to women who discovered them and saw, perhaps for the first time, that they were not alone in their feelings. Unfortunately the “morality” of the time precluded happy endings for the lesbian characters, who almost invariably ended up dying or turning straight - exceptions were few and far between. A lot of the books referred to are real (including, believe it or not, Satan Was a Lesbian).

Anyway, in the present day seventeen-year-old Abby, struggling after her breakup with girlfriend Linh and difficulties between her parents at home, discovers and is quickly captivated by the strange world of 1950s lesbian pulp novels, in particular one called Women of the Twilight Realm by the mysterious Marian Love, who apparently only published one novel and promptly disappeared. Abby becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Marian... 

Many years earlier in 1955, another young woman, Janet, is equally captivated by A Love So Strange, the novel she stumbled upon at a bus station bookstall, seeing in it a much-needed recognition of her own feelings for her friend Marie. But times are far more dangerous for Janet than for out-and-proud twenty-first-century Abby.

The hysterically repressive political climate of the McCarthyist 1950s is very well evoked and it was fascinating (and terrifying) to read about the measures taken against anyone who was suspected of, well, anything, particularly anything communist-y or gay-y. At one point a female character comes under suspicion because “her voice is too low” - that’s the level of absurdity people were dealing with. Although clearly far too young to remember any of it, Robin Talley has definitely done her research (Senator Hunt was a real person for instance).

There are lots of nods to real writers of that and other times - Bannon Press is clearly a reference to writer Ann, perhaps the best known of the lesbian pulp authors, and I felt Claire Singer’s name was a reference to the pseudonym under which Patricia Highsmith wrote The Price of Salt, Claire Morgan. (Also the Sheldon Lounge - Alice Sheldon?) I’m sure there were many I missed.

I thought I knew where the plot was going in terms of what happened to Janet, but as it turned out, I was barking up an entirely wrong tree and the outcome was a big surprise. Let’s just say I did one character a major disservice.

For me this book entirely lived up to its promise - I loved it.

Pulp can be preordered here.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Blog tour review! Betsy and Lilibet by Sophie Duffy

The book...

London, 1926: two baby girls are born just hours and miles apart. One you know as the Queen of England, but what of the other girl—the daughter of an undertaker named in her honor? Betsy Sunshine grows up surrounded by death in war-torn London, watching her community grieve for their loved ones while dealing with her own teenage troubles . . . namely her promiscuous sister Margie. As Betsy grows older we see  how the country changes through her eyes, and along the way we discover the birth of a secret that threatens to tear her family apart. Sophie Duffy dazzles in her latest work of family/historical fiction. A tale which spans generations to explore the life and times of a family at the heart of their community, the story of a stoic young woman who shares a connection with her queenly counterpart in more ways than one.

The review...

I adored Sophie Duffy’s previous books, so was thrilled to have the opportunity to read Betsy and Lilibet, which sounded like and indeed proved to be an entrancing read.

It opens in 2016 with the words “I never thought I’d be old”. But there Betsy Sunshine is, nearly ninety years of age, living in a Bognor Regis care home and looking back at her life: born weighing three pounds and a bit, named after the equally brand new princess, surviving against the odds.

Betsy tells her own story and I really loved her voice. Other than her name and the day of her birth, undertaker’s daughter Betsy apparently has little in common with Princess-later-Queen Elizabeth yet their lives run in parallel and even occasionally intersect, throughwartime, feuding with a difficult younger sister, sweeping social change, Thatcherism, terrorism and complex family relationships (oh, how complex!).

Betsy’s account of her life story is interspersed with her present day narrative (I especially loved her observations about life in the care home), and quotes - I assume real ones - from her namesake and birthday-sharer Queen Elizabeth II. As family and friends gather round her, are some of Betsy’s chickens finally coming home to roost?

There are some glorious moments here - Sophie Duffy really excels at characterisation and dialogue. The conversation between Betsy and her great grandson Tom was particularly fabulous but there are many others equally memorable and quotable. I loved the ending too.

Hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure, Betsy and Lilibet is a captivating story of love, death and everything else. Highly recommended.