How wonderful to see books celebrating Christmas as we know it in Australia. The ‘Teeny Tiny Stevies’ are back with a new picture book, all about Aussie summer Christmases.
Snowmen, chimneys, plum puddings and dark wintry evenings are all charming, but not part of an Australian Christmas.
Instead, we have hot days in the sun, the long summer holiday, shorts, T-shirts and swimmers in the paddling pool or the beach, the buzz of cicadas and the sting of mozzie bites, pavlova for Christmas lunch.
The pictures by Simon Howe capture the pleasures of long hot days, camping trips, the anticipation of Christmas morning.
I love this book; it is a real portrayal of an Australian summer and our different way of ‘doing Christmas’ here.
Back to the northern hemisphere, we have A Night Before Christmas – with a difference.
A small boy, accompanied by his dog and cat, is witness to the antics of the Elf on the Shelf, who narrates the familiar story of the arrival of St Nicholas with his sleigh and trusty reindeer.
There is a mix of old and new as the much-loved Christmas poem is given a shake up by the elf. The pictures created by author and illustrator Chanda A. Bell are vibrant with saturation colours and plenty of activity.
Together these two books celebrate Christmas in both hemispheres of the globe. They are published in Sept and Oct 2023 by Harper Collins Children’s Books.
My thanks to the publishers for review copies.
I’d added Grantlee Kieza’s biography of the woman on the Australian $20 note to my ‘Must Read’ list from the moment I heard about it.
Apart from the obvious (my abiding interest in Australian history and especially women’s history), I have three points of connection with the subject, Mary Reibey:
1. She hailed originally from near Manchester in England, where my ancestor Elizabeth Lee was also born and raised,
2. Like another of my ancestors, Mary’s crime which had her transported to Australia was the theft of a horse, and
3. She was a contemporary of yet another ancestor, Jane Longhurst. Like Mary, Jane was an emancipated convict in early colonial Sydney who ‘made good’, managing business affairs and a large family within the male-dominated world of nineteenth century Sydney.
Mary showed her redoubtable spirit from an early age, running away from a position as maid in a boarding school and in a flight of youthful fantasy, stealing a horse which she thought would be her ticket to a financially independent life.
Of course she was discovered, arrested and tried for the crime; at first receiving the death sentence, later commuted to transportation to the penal colony of NSW. The startling thing about her time in gaol was that she’d been dressed as a boy – and she managed to keep her sex hidden from her male cellmates in a crowded prison! In my view that would take some chutzpah, not to mention ingenuity.
She arrived in the colony full of trepidation as to what life in this frightening place might have in store for a youngster just fifteen years old.
The author paints a fascinating and vivid picture of convict life in Sydney and Parramatta : housing, clothing, rations, and living and working conditions, along with the many larger-than-life characters that peopled the early days of the colonial period.
The class system of Britain was transported here along with their unwanted criminals, and this is seen in attitudes by free settlers towards the convicts.
Also, people in authority struggled to understand many behaviours of the convicts; why did they make such poor choices (such as getting drunk and fighting) which they must know would result in punishment? To middle class eyes this was inexplicable. Why would people jeopardise their futures in this way? To convicts, most of whom came from dire circumstances, having a good time while one could grab it was entirely sensible. Who knew when the next catastrophe could strike? You could die of a disease, accident or violence tomorrow. May as well enjoy tonight while you could.
Mary, however, kept her head down and out of trouble. She married Tom Reibey, a free settler with an entrepreneurial bent, who was involved in trade and real estate. They had a large family together, but Tom nominated his wife to manage the business dealings during his long absences from the colony on trading voyages. She was wife, mother, and trusted co-manager of the family’s business affairs.
After her husband’s death, Mary continued with the various business interests, shipping and trading, buying, selling and leasing real estate, amassing an even greater fortune.
She is the ‘remarkable’ Mrs Reibey because all this activity was at a time when work options for women were severely curtailed and no women were expected to see the inside of a board room or business negotiation. Much to the surprise of her fellow settlers, ‘Mrs Reibey’ proved to be a shrewd negotiator, driving a hard bargain, with a nose for the next opportunity. This was how one survived – even thrived – in the cut throat world of the colony.
I got a thrill from seeing my ancestor, Jane Roberts (nee Longhurst) mentioned along with Mary in the section describing the formation of the Bank Of New South Wales – the first bank in the colony. Jane and Mary were among a handful of women investors in that early bank, much to the surprise and confusion of their male counterparts, as the concept of women investors was a foreign one.
There are moments that made me smile, such as Mary answering a charge by a debtor that she was ‘no lady’ by hitting him over the head with her parasol!
There are also tender, heartwarming moments in the book, as when Mary fulfills a long-nursed ambition to make a return visit to her homeland, with emotional reunions with family members in the ‘old country.’ I found myself wondering how reunions between my convict and immigrant ancestors may have played out, should any of them had the wish and the resources to return to England.
The Remarkable Mrs Reibey is a comprehensive and engrossing portrayal of a colonial women who surely deserves her spot on the $20 note. Her portrait, depicting a grandmotherly round-faced woman with spectacles and a lace cap, belies the adventurous and headstrong spirit of the younger Mary, with the endurance and smarts to not only survive, but thrive, in a colonial environment that was well and truly stacked against women.
The Remarkable Mrs Reibey was published by HarperCollins Publishers in May 2023.
Three very different picture books here, all by Australian authors.
Giinagay Gaagal (Hello Ocean) by Gumbayngirr artist Melissa Greenwood (who also created My Little Barlaagany (Sunshine) among others.) It’s a celebration of the ocean and its pleasures: swimming, fishing, running on the sand, collecting pipis and shells. In the story the aunties share cultural knowledge and wisdom as well as fun:
But first, before walking on Country, we talk to the landGiinagay Gaagal (Hello Ocean)
and let her know that we are here to play.
We are grateful for what she has to offer,
we promise to take care of her during our stay.
I’m always delighted to see new books incorporating First Nations languages. It’s a gentle way to introduce young readers to the multiplicity of cultures and languages that flourished in Australia before colonisation, some of which are still in use or are being revived.
The illustrations are gorgeous, incorporating the colours of sea and sand.
Fans of Jackie French will welcome her latest picture book, The Turtle and the Flood, a companion to the wonderful The Fire Wombat. Fire and flood are the bookends of natural disaster events in this country, and our children experience them all too often.
Learning about how native animals have evolved to survive these events is one way of coming to understand the natural cycles of our land.
We are introduced to Myrtle the long necked turtle, who can sense a coming flood (even before the rains begin) and makes her long slow climb uphill to a safe spot, out of the reach of the water.
She is joined by others (snakes, wombats, water dragons, wallabies.) The animals are guided by Myrtle’s wisdom and understanding of her environment.
There are lovely soft illustrations by Danny Snell which bring Myrtle’s journey to colourful life.
The third book in my selection is a change of pace. The first in a new series featuring Bunny and Bird, How to Hatch a Dragon is a sweetly hilarious story about the importance of observation and paying attention. The two friends are so engrossed in the instruction booklet that came with their dragon egg that they completely miss most of the action!
Little ones will get the humour, as they can see in the pictures what’s going on behind Bunny and Bird’s backs.
Three new books to delight: Giinagay Gaagal, The Turtle and the Flood, and How to Hatch a Dragon are published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in September and October, 2023.
My thanks to the publishers for review copies.
I first fell in love with the work of Australian best-selling author Sulari Gentill with her historical crime fiction Roland Sinclair series, which combine my love of the two genres of historical and crime fiction in a brilliant and somewhat addictive way.
Since the last book about Roland and his friends, Ms Gentill has written several stand-alone novels, set in contemporary America. A theme that unites these disparate stories is the ‘behind the scenes’ glimpses of the worlds of writing and publishing, with twisty tales of dark deeds threaded throughout.
The Mystery Writer is set in middle America, a town called Lawrence in Kansas. This is where Australian student Theodosia arrives unexpectedly on her older brother Gus’ doorstep. She has left behind a partly completed law degree and brings with her a burning desire to become a writer.
She meets a best-selling author Dan and a friendship starts to form, but to her horror, Theo discovers Dan dead on the floor of his apartment, his throat cut.
The murders begin to mount up and Theo is suddenly the prime suspect. What can she do to protect herself, her brother and his friend Mac? She has to make a difficult choice which leads to devastating consequences.
Gradually she understands that Dan’s life and death have a connection to a dark web network of conspiracy theorist fantasists and ‘preppers’. The online posts of key members of this group preface each chapter of the novel, and are by turns hilarious and chilling.
In the midst of all the dramatic events, Theo receives an offer of representation by the literary agency connected with Dan. A condition is that Theo turns over total control of her social media and online presence to the agency for management by them. She is assured that this is standard procedure. We are left to wonder if this is true…
The novel explores how fictional narratives can be used to vicariously wield political and business influence. While this is in a context of a piece of fiction, it is worth thinking about in the broader sense, given the events that we’ve seen in US, British and Australian politics, economies and societies over past years.
Theo, Gus and Mac are all sympathetic and relatable characters,; the tension is nicely calibrated throughout the novel. It’s a book that will please crime and mystery readers and which also provokes some thought about the online worlds we now inhabit.
The Mystery Writer is published by Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks, in March 2024.
My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for an ebook copy to review.
Immediately this book opens, we know we are in for a startlingly different view of the British ships, sailing into Sydney harbour in 1788.
The First Nations people of the lands surrounding Sydney are portrayed in a rich cultural context (informative and easy to absorb within the story), however they have European names and wear modern European dress. What does this mean? What is happening here? We are left to wonder.
It is an effective device to ensure that readers approach this story with a different mindset than they might otherwise do. Especially if the readers have been raised in Australia, and grown up with the story of Captain Phillip planting the British flag in the sand of Sydney cove in the name of His Majesty King George.
Instead, we see the ships from a vantage point above the cove, where seven respected Elders, representatives of their various nations, have come together for a day to collectively decide what their response to these ‘visitors’ should be.
The cover blurb of the book reads:
1788, Gadigal country.
They’ve got a big decision to make…The Visitors
It’s a brilliant premise and the reader is plunged into the many considerations and issues that the seven men need to take into account as they ponder their response to this unprecedented situation.
Some of the older men remember the time, eighteen years earlier, when similar ships had appeared and strange looking men disembarked. In their short time on land, those men had cut down trees, trampled precious clean water to mud, and took ridiculous amounts of seafood from the waters. But that time, those visitors left and did not return. Perhaps the same thing would happen again?
Each of the seven men representing their mob have their own backstory: a set of family, cultural and tribal circumstances that affect their behaviour and how they approach the discussion and voting. This allows the reader to see them first of all as people – with their own preoccupations and motivations.
I enjoyed the portrayal of the tensions, petty squabbles, and individual behaviours of the seven. It meant I could approach their story as I could that of any other people dealing with a sudden and unexpected arrival of uninvited visitors of their country.
Within the narrative of a long day of arguments, counter arguments and vote-taking, the author has woven in a great deal of beautifully described customary lore and traditions. It includes one of the best and easiest-to-understand explanations of songlines:
Songs, Joseph knows, are a living map of country – where the fresh water is, the good fishing spots, the whereabouts of steep crevices or marshy swamps and all of the other signposts, so you don’t get lost or travel the hard way. And all songs are three-dimensional, referring to the stars above and the earth and even below the seas. And the songs are always evolving and being shared. They are maps for all who need them to travel for food, for shelter or, like him, for business. And they are sung, because singing is the most effective way to memorise great swathes of data.The Visitors, p33
The use of modern expressions by the men also helps to bring us into our own time, with an understanding that these men represent a spectrum of life experiences and attitudes – much like today’s representatives in our modern parliaments.
There is a telling moment when the men are faced with the idea that perhaps, this time, the strangers won’t leave, and a great deal of irony as well-worn European-centrist ideas about ‘barbarism’, ‘a dying race’, ‘thieves’ ‘superior weapons’ and ‘capable of learning’ are turned on their head.
This book invites us to ask those ‘what if?’ questions: what if the First Nations peoples of Sydney had attacked in a concerted effort to rid their lands of these foreigners? What if the British had been able to listen and learn from the original inhabitants of the continent? What if the diseases brought by those ships had not wreaked such a terrible toll? So many things we can never know, but in the asking of the questions, there is learning to be had.
In a profound way, one of the men, Gary, sums up what was important for those Elders and still remains important today:
Just because they break lore, doesn’t mean we should. Then they’ve won, in a way, before even one spear has been thrown. I think we need to be good ancestors.What are the stories a good ancestor needs to create, to leave behind? Do we want our descendants to look behind them and see that we have failed in our duty, that we succumbed to the lowest denominator? Or do we want them to be proud of us and the stance we took?…I’m voting to let them land and that we do what we always do: we follow protocol to the letter. That means when they step on country, we welcome them and wish them safe passage.The Visitors p222-223
If only those ‘visitors’ could have been so generous and gracious in their response.
The Visitors is published by Fourth Estate in August 2023.
My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.
Can you imagine being a 14-year-old girl, sent to a foreign country to marry a prince who you have never met? On your wedding night, your father-in-law stays in the marital bedroom, to ensure that the marriage is consummated.
Such were the realities of life for Renaissance royals.
In Young Queens, Leah Redmond Chang tells the intertwined stories of three very different women living among the great powers of Renaissance Europe in France, Spain, and Scotland.
It begins with orphaned eleven year old Catherine de’ Medici hiding in a convent from soldiers intent on capturing her and thus seizing power in Florence. She is later married to the French king; after his death, she becomes the power behind the throne as the Queen Mother, at a time when France is convulsed by religious wars and civil unrest.
Her daughter, Elizabeth de Valois, is sent to be the teenage bride of King Philip of Spain, a widower and much older than his new young queen. Despite an unpromising start, Elizabeth grows into her role, but tragically dies in childbirth, still only in her early twenties.
Connected to both Catherine and Elizabeth through the complicated marital arrangements of royal families, young Mary, Queen of Scots, grows up at the French court as the promised bride of the young Dauphin.
This is a meticulously researched and beautifully told story of the fluidity and pitfalls of the role of queen and how it always differed from that of a king. A king’s role generally lasted a lifetime. For a queen, the role could change over her lifetime, depending on whether she was Queen Regnant, Queen Consort, or Queen Mother.
In Renaissance times, princesses and queens inhabited bodies which were traded between families and across borders for the purposes of dynastic continuity, international treaties and alliances. These women lived in jeweled cages: surrounded by luxuries, riches, fine gowns and servants, they rarely had choice over their own bodies and futures. They were essentially bargaining chips to further the power and security of their family or nation.
The three queens of the book had lives that were dependent on the shifts and turns of the political landscapes of Europe. Accidents played a role, too, twists of fate such as the death of one king or the birth of another.
Against that backdrop, the author illuminates the three queens as women with personalities, strengths and foibles that also played a part in the trajectory of their lives. They were not merely blank slates for men to draw dynastic futures upon. They wielded varying degrees of power, both personal and political, in the ways available to them and with varying degrees of success. Their power took a different shape than that of their men, but it was power nonetheless.
There is poignancy in many of the letters and missives explored, especially those from Catherine to her daughter Elizabeth, worrying and fretting over her daughter’s uncertain health and her failure to fall pregnant with a Spanish heir. (As an aside, I am very glad not to be a Renaissance European princess with fertility problems, as apparently a common ‘remedy’ for this was a monthly dose of donkey urine!)
I enjoyed the narration by Olivia Dowd; her voice is clear and authoritative, with appropriate expression and emphasis; she also has excellent pronunciation of the many French, Spanish and Scottish names in the text.
I found this audio-book engrossing and very informative; a real insight into the lives of women who lived in a world and at a time far removed from my own.
Young Queens is published in August 2023 by Bloomsbury Publishing, and audio-book by RB Media Recorded Books.
My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a review copy.
The photograph on the cover of Shauna Bostock’s story of researching her ancestors is indicative of the book itself: compelling.
I am going to begin my discussion of the book with this: if you are a family historian or at all interested in Australian history, this book is a must-read.
The author, a Bundjalung woman who began researching her family story for a PhD in Aboriginal history, has skillfully woven together various strands of her exploratory processes in archives, libraries, and interviews, with the stories of her forebears. In doing so, she has created a vivid and multi-layered picture of Australian history, especially the experiences of First Nations Australians in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
There is so much in this book that made me stop, turn pages back and forth to the meticulous referencing, to the photographs, or to previous pages. As someone passionate about uncovering my own family stories from the past, there were many moments of recognition in Ms Bostock’s research journey: the thrill of discovering a previously unknown fact; the way that serendipity or fate so often plays a part in the process; the coincidences of meeting someone or stumbling upon a document that hold the key to the very nugget of information you are seeking. The indescribable feeling of viewing an archival document from the past that tells you something about your ancestor, or an old photo that brings them to life.
As any family historian will tell you: family history research requires patience AND perseverance.
Especially so in this case, as Ms Bostock found when she experienced road blocks to accessing important archival information, and evidence of the mind-numbing level of bureaucracy that Aboriginal people have endured since colonisation.
The book begins with the shocking revelation that the non-indigenous ancestors in her family tree were descended from English slave traders – a huge irony given that one of them arrived in Australia as a convict, having been arrested on slavery charges in the late 1700’s.
From there, the narrative traverses key parts of the colonisation experience for First Nations: frontier violence and killings; theft of land, livelihood, spiritual and cultural connections; the precarious nature of life on Aboriginal reserves; the deceit and hypocrisy of the various government bodies set up to ‘protect’ and control Aboriginal people and the enduring damages inflicted through practices such as the forced removal of children from their homes and families.
rural and urban Also looming large are the ugliness of apartheid-like segregation and racism within communities; indenture of young children into service of white families or farms (often akin to slavery); increasing control and surveillance of every aspect of Aboriginal lives.
I could go on.
What distinguishes this book is the author’s research and how she has woven together the experiences of the colonisers and the colonised – including of course her own family members:
To use a photographic analogy…I felt like a photographer adjusting the focus of the lens. I have ‘zoomed in’ with a microcosmic focus on the individuals and the reserve/mission space – and then I have ‘zoomed out’ to capture the macrocosmic bureaucracy of the Australian Government’s Aborigines Protection Board.Reaching through History p174
There are stories of defiance and resistance as well, which the author rightly points out are important for all generations of Aboriginal people to know about.
I enjoyed the later chapters where she outlines the many creative and artistic ways in which her family members have expressed defiance and worked for change.
On a personal note, I had a little thrill to realise that several of the author’s close family members were instrumental in producing the excellent documentary film Lousy Little Sixpence, in which elders discussed their experiences as stolen children, in the homes set up supposedly to ‘care’ for Aboriginal children, or working as domestic servants or rural labourers for white people in the first half of the twentieth century. I used this film as a resource many times in my teaching during the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and I now see that it was one of the earliest publicly accessible resources telling the stories of the Stolen Generations.
There is so much to think about in this book. Please buy a copy or borrow it from your local library. It is such a rich resource on our nation’s history. And for family historians, surely we must all resonate to the author’s final words:
The history of Aboriginal people in this country is also a ‘living wound under a patchwork of scars’ but the process of truth-telling creates healing. By reaching through time and pulling our ancestors’ files out of the archives we restore their humanity…Reaching through Time p319
Ruminating on the slavery theme, I wondered if family history research was the key to emancipation, because researching my ancestors’ lives has spiritually unshackled them.
Reaching Through Time is published by Allen & Unwin in July 2023.
There is a very welcome trend in books for very young readers that focus on the amazing variety of cultures, languages and traditions across the globe, while emphasizing the things we all share.
In My Garden is a lovely addition to these, celebrating as it does the attractions of the outdoors and nature across a range of landscapes.
We visit a little girl who lives on a river boat in Laos, another in Australia’s tropical north, a boy in New Zealand who watches over little penguin nests and one who sees the rubble of bombed out buildings in war-torn Syria.
Other landscapes and gardens are from Iceland, Japan, America, Malawi, Canada, Italy and Brazil.
No matter where the children live, they are all nurtured by the beauties of nature, even little Sami who holds a pine cone from a garden not far from his apartment, which helps him remember Crocuses, tulips and the great Aleppo pine. That garden is his favourite place. He is remembering something there.
The pages are filled with detail and colour and are truly lovely. Young children can spend time identifying and perhaps naming the various plants and animals they can find, as they absorb the truth that children are children the world over.
In My Garden celebrates and honours the role that nature plays in all our lives, no matter where we live.
It is published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in August 2023.
My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.
On finishing this very readable book I can honestly say that I now know a great deal more about owls than when I began it. That wasn’t hard: my main understanding of owls had come from Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter (I’m exaggerating, of course – but only a bit.)
The book is packed with surprising facts about owls, covering topics such as how owls are made (the mating and rearing practices of different species), the bewildering range of kinds of owls and their habitats (at least 260 species and counting), the way their keen sight, acute hearing, impressive camouflage and almost silent flight, all assist in their hunting of prey and their survival.
I found myself trying to follow the instructions about how to imitate the call of a flammulated owl, being simultaneously glad I was alone at the time and amazed that I now knew there was such a thing as a flammulated owl.
The scientific information is pretty fascinating, but what engrossed me was how the author canvassed the ways in which owls have been regarded by humans over centuries and across civilisations. It seems that owls have been associated with wisdom, witchcraft, good and bad luck, prophesy and mythology.
Human connection with owls often has negative consequences, some deliberate, many unintended.
Some cultural traditions, for example, hold that owls must be killed. because they bring misfortune. Throwing an apple core out of your car window can entice small birds or rodents to nibble on it, later attracting an owl which can then end up dead from flying into a moving vehicle. Using poison to kill pests such as rate or mice can also result in poisoned owls when they hunt and eat the rodents.
Hedwig, the owl in the Harry Potter books and movies, resulted in a craze for owls as pets, with the predictable result of abandoned owls when the humans realised that their new ‘pet’ is a wild creature, difficult to keep in a domestic setting. Far from being ‘bird brains’, it is entirely possible that owls possess levels of intelligence we can only guess at, and they do not belong in a cage.
On a more positive note, I learnt that there are people all across the world, professional scientists and ordinary citizens, who are doing what they can to learn about owls, educate others about them, and preserve their habitats.
I thoroughly enjoyed my little journey of learning about these mysterious birds. Here is what the author had to say about an encounter she had with a female Long-eared Owl being studied by an owl expert:
For me, it was an adventure, bright, intense, deeply affecting. That owl had seemed like a messenger from another time and place, like starlight. Being near her somehow made me feel smaller in my body and bigger in my soul.What an Owl Knows p11
I asked Holt why he has devoted the better part of his life to studying these elusive creatures. Because of this, he said, gesturing at her empty path. Because they’re so beautifully adapted to their world, so quiet, invisible, cryptic not just in coloring but in sound, deft in the dark, superb hunters – traits that have evolved over millions of years.
“And,” he said, “because they’re still so full of surprises.”
What an Owl Knows is published by Scribe in July 2023.
My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.
Tessa Harris writes fiction featuring stories about women in WWII. The Light We Left Behind tells of women in intelligence roles at Trent Park, where German officers were held as prisoners in England. The Paris Notebook explores a fascinating ‘what if?’ scenario of the late 1930’s: as Europe was poised for war, what could have happened if the deep-rooted psychiatric problems of Adolf Hitler had become public knowledge? Would it have been enough for Germany to avoid the looming disaster of his making?
It’s easy for us today to assume that the serious psychological flaws of someone like Hitler would have been obvious to everyone who mattered. Let’s not forget that within Germany and elsewhere, there were many who agreed with his views on race and how to solve Germany’s economic and social problems. He had admirers in many places.
As an aside, let’s also not overlook the fact that the United States of America has already elected someone like Trump to be its leader, and may even do so again – despite damning information about the man now in the public domain.
So, it obviously takes more than information to change minds. As we see with responses to climate change (or lack of them) despite the plethora of scientific evidence now available.
Having said that, the premise of this novel is an tantalising one. The author’s note explains the real historical facts of the ‘notebook’ of the book’s title, and it’s not hard to see how the publication of a psychiatrist’s clinical notes on Hitler would have been an intelligence bombshell, had it been able to be deployed in time.
And it is this which forms the core of the book. The protagonist is Katya, a young German woman who is employed by a psychiatrist to type out his clinical notes on Hitler, in the hope that they can be published, and so possibly avert Germany pursuing the path to war. Both Katya and Dr Viktor are nursing emotional wounds caused by the Nazis and the stakes are high. They end up traveling to Paris to try to persuade a publisher there to take up the story.
The author paints a vivid picture of how Germans opposed to the Nazis live in fear of discovery and brutal retribution. It’s contrasted with France, where before war is declared, many people seem determined to ignore the threat posed by Nazi Germany and pretend that nothing is amiss.
Events catch up with everyone as all-out war erupts across Europe, and Dr Viktor and Katya are embroiled in a dangerous cat-and-mouse tussle with German agents over possession of the explosive notes.
In Paris, they meet Daniel, a world-weary Irish journalist nursing his own grief, who joins their cause.
The romance in the story did not work for me, and the ending really did not: a little too neat for my taste.
I was willing to overlook both of these issues because I found the rest of the story gripping and I felt invested in the publication of the doctor’s work – even though I already knew the big-picture outcome.
There is a real trend in historical fiction featuring women’s often overlooked roles and experiences in WWII. The Paris Notebook offers another take on the genre, with that intriguing ‘what if?’ question at its centre.
The Paris Notebook is published by HQ Fiction, in July 2023.
My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.