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The Fiction Files - Anne Rogers reading choices for Spring

The Fiction Files - Anne Rogers reading choices for Spring

My first choice is from new-to-me author Nicole Deese whose personal experience of adopting her daughter is poured out into her forthcoming novel Before I Called You Mine . (This isn’t a biography, but it IS a story about family, and specifically adopting.)

Teacher Lauren Baily has a secret. For over a year she has been working through the processes of international adoption, and even her family don’t know. To satisfy her adoption agency’s requirements only single women or couples married for 2 or more years qualify. Lauren is single, and happy to remain so if it means her longing to be a mother can be fulfilled. Naturally, this means that when dinosaurloving substitute teacher Joshua Avery sweeps into the story Lauren’s life becomes evermore complicated as she finds herself falling in love with him despite her convictions to keep her distance. In the midst of her emotional turmoil, she receives a life-changing email. If I could give this book 50 stars I would. I liked Lauren at once, and Joshua – the type of character I’m easily irritated by in lesser stories – has depth as well as humour.

The text conversations throughout are really well done and several times made me chuckle aloud. This book, while often being a light and fun read, also raises deep issues of family relationships both blood and adoptive, as well as the importance of friendship. The people are relatable, the romance very well done with a nice twisty path to the end of the book, and it would be a fantastic book club choice. I was hooked by the end of the first page, didn’t want to put it down, and finished it longing for more.

My second read is Cathy Gohlke’s Secrets She Kept . This is another book which deals deeply with matters of family. Hannah Sterling’s relationship with her mother Lieselotte has always been difficult, so when Lieselotte dies, Hannah is astonished to find that her mother has left her the contents of a safety deposit box, which send her on a journey around the world to meet the German grandfather she never knew she had – and to find out about the huge secrets her mother kept to her grave.

This story is told from Lieselotte’s perspective during WWII, and from Hannah’s viewpoint 30 years later. Early in the war Lieselotte is working secretly to help Jewish families in hiding in Berlin, all the while living at home with her father, who is rising in prominence within the Nazi regime, and her brother Rudy who is a passionate member of the Hitler Youth. She falls in love with Lukas, but this is not at all to the liking of the very nasty Dr Peterson, her father’s friend. Her father’s ambition will lead to tragic consequences for many people – including his daughter. And 30 years later, his sins continue to have consequences.

This is a superbly-written book. Gohlke’s strong, descriptive writing immerses the reader, the plot develops with several unexpected twists and turns, and it’s one of not very many novels which has made me cry. There were some questions raised as I read, but to talk about them would give spoilers to the story, which would be a great shame for anyone yet to read this excellent novel. This novel is one of two with which Muddy Pearl are making their entrance to fiction publishing, and it’s a superb debut for them. 

My final choice, Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson, is another book about complicated family lines, and another ‘dual time’ novel partly set during WWII and partly today.

When Ava Drake, director of the Kingston Family Foundation, begins to investigate her family’s past she finds herself wondering whether their official history as benefactors to a Holland struggling to rebuild post war is really the truth. Sent to Uganda to assess Landon West’s coffee plantation she finds a very unexpected connection between their families, but as she digs deeper into the past, powerful members of the Kingston family will do anything to keep it buried. Meanwhile, we learn the stories of Eliese and Josie, two young women living in Amsterdam during the occupation. Their stories are woven wonderfully with the real-life rescue of over 600 children spirited away from the nursery they were sent to by the Nazis as a holding facility before deportation to the death camps.

A compelling read, Memories of Glass deals with hope and despair, the power of faith and friendship, courage, sacrifice, and the dangers of keeping secrets. The sense of menace in both the 1940s and present-day sections is tangible. Though the book did make me question one or two elements within the story, it’s another strongly recommended novel

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Products mentioned in or related to this blog post
Memories of Glass (Paperback)
Melanie Dobson
Retail price: £12.99
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Secrets She Kept (Paperback)
Cathy Gohlke
Retail price: £14.99
Your price: £14.99