Monday, 21 January 2019

First Attempts - Separated By Four Centuries

A belated review of a couple of books I've recently read;
First up, The Strength Of Wills by Allen Walker is set in WW2, and is based on a true story. Jedrek, a stroppy Polish teenager has been orphaned, and decides to go and find a better life in a safer place. He meets Viktor, a cantankerous old man, and thus unlikely pair become travelling companions. 
I should sat straightaway that this is not a book I would normally read, but it was written by a friend, here in Dorset, and is his debut novel. So we all bought a copy! 
It's the best part of 500 pages, so quite a long read. But it has a complex plot, and a lot of detail, which justifies the length. It's clear that the author has done meticulous research. I'm not an expert on German weaponry, but in a book like this you need to be accurate. I hate it when I spot something careless in a historical novel [eg if the churchgoers sing a hymn which had yet to be written] I imagine fans of this genre are equally fussy about the finer points of militaria.
I felt it was a "bloke's book", both in style and storyline, not my cup of tea at all. The graphic depictions of the Nazis were a bit strong for me. Bob's not read it yet, so I cannot share his thoughts. I know a number of friends who've greatly enjoyed it [not all of them male] It would be unfair to mark it down just because "I don't like this sort of novel" and it's a creditable first novel. If you check the link above, you can read a sizeable chunk which gives a good flavour of the book. ***
Secondly, another debut novel, set 400 years earlier, in the 1540s - all about Katherine Parr. I selected this from the charity book trolley at Bournemouth Hospital because I was desperate for something to read and it was the only one I liked the look of [I will explain about my unexpected stay in hospital on another day] 
"Queen's Gambit"  is set in the same time as CJ Sansom's "Lamentations". I really enjoyed this one, it is an interesting take on KP - the last of Henry's wives, and the one of whom we know the least.
The plot was clever, the period setting was described well. The author [who is a fashion editor, so already a professional writer] put in some interesting and unexpected twists whilst retaining a clear link to known historical events. My only reservation was that there were some aspects of KPs character which I didn't quite feel comfortable with. But who knows what she was really like anyway? Fremantle, Sansom and all the other authors are just speculating - aren't they? But this tale kept me entertained and distracted just when I needed it. ****
Both these books were first novels by their authors. AW is working on other writing, Queen's Gambit has become the first book in EFs Tudor Trilogy.  Both score highly in terms of research and detail - both have well-written passages, and some slightly weaker sections. But I say well done to anyone who finishes their book and gets to see it in print! 


  1. Hope your stay at the hospital was brief and nothing very serious, Angela.

    I'm sure your friend appreciates your support in buying his book and reviewing it. I read the preview from the link; it sounds interesting. I am currently reading a book, based on the real life story of a father and son during WW2. So, your friend's book is something I might read. The second book sounds interesting, too.

  2. I am so terribly slow in reading these last two to three years. These sounds like good reading. May your health be restored to normal and may your days be peaceful!


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