All This Will Be Lost, by Brian Payton

Publisher:  Picador (Pan Macmillan)  |  Publication date:  21st May 2015  |  Edition: Paperback (review copy)

All This Will Be Lost by Brian Payton

‘All This Will Be Lost’ is a story of courage, truth and an unwavering devotion. (Hardback version was entitled ‘The Wind Is Not A River’.)

How many books leave a genuine imprint on your train of thought? How many really? You know, the ones that prick your senses from a solitary line of prose…

Death itself is no longer an abstract concept, it is an unwelcomed and patient companion.

All This will Be Lost is such a book. This snapshot in time captures momentous tragedy with a poetic charm that’s in a class of its own. It’s a beautifully written story, depicting an ugly period of history.

The book spans 1st April 1943 to 9th November 1945. Journalist John Easley and his wife, Helen, have been separated. This story strives to construct a virtual bridge, hoping to close the chasm these two people have created, whilst leaving a scar deepened by war.

Told entirely in the third person, we hear of their struggles during this time – their individual accounts are unforgettable.

Following an air crash, the journalist finds himself not only in an unfamiliar territory, but a hostile one. He is enveloped by the bleakness of the Japanese occupied Aleutian Islands, Alaska.

The events that unfold are not heart breaking, they’re heart tearing. With no immediate way home, extreme survival is the only option, as John is driven by the knowledge of the untold story of these islands, a story he believes should be reported to the rest of the world. The harrowing conditions, the question of his sanity, and his dwindling connection to civilisation are all presented with a tenderness I cannot even begin to describe.

Helen is hundreds of miles away in Seattle, unsettled and waiting for news of his whereabouts. When none is forthcoming, she is determined to find a way to get closer to the truth. Although her enquiries seem futile, she proves she can take any measures necessary to try to deliver her husband safely home.

Their journeys bring unexpected challenges and consequences. But please, please, do not mistake this for a traditional, war-torn romance, it is on another level entirely. There are no clichéd melodramatics, if there were, I wouldn’t be writing this review. It also presents a wretched, eye opening experience of two people’s lives when the rest of the world, including theirs, is being torn apart.

A marvel of a book, and a highly recommended one at that.

Rating: 4.5/5

I would like to thank the publisher for providing this marvellous book for review. I’m so grateful to have been given (this opportunity to read it.)


You can follow the author on Twitter: @bapayton  |  Publisher: @panmacmillan & @Sophiemorme

Like to know more about this author’s work? Visit his website here: http://brianpayton.com/

The Winter Horses by Philip Kerr

Publisher:  Walker Books  |  Publication date: 2nd October 2014  |  Edition: Hardback (Paperback now out 1st January 2015)

The Winter Horses by Philip Kerr

This powerful, heart-breaking story of hope and friendship will compels you to keep turning the pages.

Such an innocent title, and yet this powerful story of courage and friendship knocked the wind right out of me.

This book may fall under the category of ‘children’s fiction’, but anyone of any age could fully appreciate this beautifully written, desperate struggle for survival during German occupation and a heart-warming bond that holds an unlikely band of refugees together.

Firstly we meet dear old Max, who is the custodian of the animals on the Askaniya-Nova Reserve in the Ukraine. There are all manner of species on the reserve, including a small herd of rare Przewalski horses, who are just one of the shining lights in this book. This elusive breed of horse seems to radiate an almost mystical quality and their interesting ancient history is wonderfully dappled throughout the book.

When word reaches the reserve that a German patrol is heading their way, Max refuses to leave and vows to do all he can to protect the animals in his care.

As the German Captain, named Grenzmann, arrives and makes his all too familiar mission clear: that they wish only to preserve the life of the more ‘pure bred’ species, rather than the native Przewalski’s. He has orders to destroy every last one of their kind and seems to look at this as a personal achievement. Max’s humility under this forced circumstance is just heart-breaking.

But two horses have miraculously evaded the massacre and have acquired a kindred spirit, as hiding amongst them in the forest is Kalinka, an orphaned Ukrainian girl whose entire family had been executed in Dnepropetrovsk.

Despite Kalinka’s tragic past she is undeterred – she MUST keep them safe. With the help of these special little horses with their cunning and intelligence, hope reveals itself in the most unexpected ways.

The events that unfold are written with startling emotion. Each character, be it human or equine, is perfectly drawn and contributes to tell this inspirational story.  The relationship and conversations Kalinka holds with her only friends is so touching, as are the sacrifices made along the way.

“There was nowhere to hide-not a tree nor a bit of shrubbery nor a dip behind a hill that might have concealed them from anyone in pursuit…the [their] tracks were like some evil serpent that continually threated to betray them.”

Even if you’re not a great lover of horses (like me) I would still highly recommend it. It’s so much more than the title suggests.

Rating: 4/5

(My gratitude goes to the publisher and the Scottish Book Trust for kindly picking my name from the hat in a competition they ran on their website. It seems only fair to provide a review in return.)


You can follow the publisher on Twitter for updates on their titles: @WalkerBooksUK

The Double Shadow, by Sally Gardner

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books  |  Published 5th March 2015  |  Edition: Paperback

The back of the book blurb:

War clouds gather over Britain.

Amaryllis Ruben is hiding a secret even she does not understand. In a bluebell wood stands a picture palace. Her father built it to house his invention; one that could change the war-torn world forever. He plans to give it to her on her seventeenth birthday. 

But it’s a present Amaryllis doesn’t want, and in it is a past she must come to terms with and a boy whose name she can’t remember…

Let me start my saying that the intro blurb above does not do this book justice IN ANY WAY.

Double Shadow book

The Double Shadow meaning: A reference in The Picture Palace of memories which can determine what, or who is real.

From the first page you step into a whole new ethereal world created by Sally Gardner. We are introduced to a young girl who has found herself in a surreal environment, a room with a flickering green light which prevents her from remembering, her memories are all but gone. Where is she? Nothing makes sense, but she has an inkling that something is very, very wrong.

Amaryllis is searching for something that is missing from her life. Without an identity or memory of her past will she find it?

Set during the 1940’s and on the cusp of the Second World War, Amaryllis seems like an attention seeking and spoilt teen, in the absence of her mother, her father gives her everything; a nice home, a private education but he is rarely around and is often working on his special invention.

The ‘wayward’ girl rewards the nice lifestyle she’s been provided with by sneaking off school and getting herself expelled and developing quite an attitude. But no one knows that she conceals a secret that she can’t confide in anyone, about the awful day she drank champagne with a ‘charming’ man by the name of Maurice Sands.

She becomes home educated by Miss Bright, meets Ezra Pascoe, a neighbour’s boy, whom she taunts and teases and is generally unpleasant to. All the while her father’s assistant is ever watchful, ever present and announces that on her seventeenth birthday her father has a special gift for her – even though he’s not there to give it to her personally.

Film Reel

Our memories are like DNA; they make us who we are.

His gift is The Picture House, something her father has been working on for years in the grounds of their home. This is a place that holds mind recordings from people in the village, as well as Amaryllis. It’s a palace of memories where all the bad ones have been filtered out for her. Inside this time-paused-bubble his daughter will be cocooned away from the War. But fathers can’t protect their daughters from everything, no matter how hard they try.

The Picture House has attracted interest from the Government. They don’t want it to fall into the enemy’s hands and they go to great lengths to prevent this from happening.

White tiger courtesy of www.clipartbest.com

The appearance of the mysterious White Tiger…will Amaryllis be tormented forever?

 

Before I knew it I’d stepped into an eroding illusion of Amaryllis’s world. There’s far too much to describe: People are sucked into this strange place. Characters conceal dark pasts. There’s a mysterious White Tiger prowling the interior of The Picture House. And the familiar childhood tune of the Teddy Bears Picnic playing over in Amaryllis’s mind at intervals is quite unnerving.

Although it’s ‘fantastic’ enough to be a fairy tale I couldn’t describe it as such – it’s a much darker story of being lost and being loved.

To summarise, it’s loosely akin to an amnesic Alice in Wonderland, passing through Narnia in a customised T.A.R.D.I.S., while German bombs start to fall like rain.

This unique, vivid story may not appeal to everyone, but I certainly found it to be an unexpected and engrossing distraction and I’m keen to explore more of this author’s work.

Rating: 4/5

(Many thanks to the publisher for providing a paperback copy of this book for an honest review (via Leah @UTBookblog)


You can follow the author on Twitter:  @TheSallyGardner   |  Publisher: @the_orionstar