Book reviews UK: March releases
PUBLISHED: 14:22 19 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:10 19 March 2018
Feet up, kettle on. Kate Houghton reviews this month’s must-reads
Meet Frida: divorce lawyer, cynic and secret descendant of the immortal love god Eros. She’s about to have a really bad day . . .
I have been trying to think of a way to sum up this novel, and the best I can do is ‘Percy Jackson for busy women.’
Who doesn’t love an easy-to-follow story of adventure, especially when it features a woman a lot like many of us? Our heroine is a kick-ass divorce lawyer who is in complete control of her life, until suddenly and devastatingly she isn’t. This woman, who has seen bad love in all its guises, discovers that her entire career is fuelled by an ancient feud between her great-great-great-(and several more greats) grandfather Eros and his very bad little brother Anteros. Her resistance to the idea is perfectly natural, even when shown irrefutable proof, but her eventual response is just what we would imagine ours to be. Her legal ass-kicking morphs into actual ass-kicking (okay, no asses, but snake-headed women, bull-headed men and more than one Greek god) as she steps up into her pre-ordained role as saviour of heaven and earth.
The incredible true story of a young nurse from Manchester, serving in Hong Kong and held as a Prisoner of War by the Japanese following their invasion in 1941. The photographs, letters and diaries she left behind tell a story of love, friendship, brutality and tragedy. That young nurse was Joan Whiteley, and Jo Price is her grand-daughter.
Throughout her childhood, Jo Price pored over the contents of a small brown suitcase that belonged to her grandmother, begging her to tell stories of her time as a nurse during the war. After Joan’s death, and following a tough period in Jo’s own life, she turned again to the suitcase and, despite never having written creatively before, began to weave a tale around the true story of Joan’s experiences in Hong Kong, both before and while a POW. We’re all familiar with the tales of the horrific cruelty practised upon prisoners held by the Japanese in the Far East, but these usually focus on the British soldiers captured during fighting, not the men, women and children living in the British colonies of Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Burma. This story, part one in a planned trilogy, offers insight and inspiration into how one young woman survived her ordeal and lived a full and bright life afterwards.
Jo has recognised that there is far more to her grandmother’s story than a simple account of British fortitude. She says: ‘Writing The Suitcase made me think about the role of women and the importance of friendships and the support that we give each other when the going gets tough. I was completely in awe of the strength of the women in the story and realised that my Gran had used writing her diaries as a form of therapy and a way of making sense of what was going on around her.
‘I obviously inherited that have from her and have always used writing as an outlet for my frustrations and emotions. I had cancer when my children were very small and I found that writing a journal kept me sane.
‘I have set up workshops, called Write It Out, with the aim of helping women “write out the past and spell out the future.” We all have our own story, some sadder than others, but how we choose to respond to those experiences is up to us. I’m hoping that by allowing women to reflect on their story and focus on what they have actually achieved along the way, will help give them some clarity and allow them to set themselves some positive goals for the future.’