Posts Tagged: Debut novel

Mar 15

The Tutor by Andrea Chapin

Book: The Tutor
Author: Andrea Chapin
Publisher: Penguin
Available: 26th March
Summary: When the body of a Catholic priest is found by Katherine, a young widow staying with relatives in Lufanwal, life for the family begins to unravel. The head of the family flees England and, in his absence, resentment and ambition thrive. Into the midst of this upheaval comes a young tutor, quick-witted and unorthodox: William Shakespeare. Katherine is drawn helplessly into Will’s world of poetry and imagination, the intensity of her love distracting her from disasters looming all around. But malicious forces can’t be ignored for long, and conspiracies threaten to overwhelm the natural order – and charming Will Shakespeare is not what he seems. 


Whenever I’ve studied Shakespeare, one of the things that has always fascinated me, apart from his writing obviously, is how little we actually know about the playwright. I am a big fan of historical fiction surrounding his life and what might have inspired him to write. Therefore, Andrea Chapin’s The Tutor was right up my street. It’s got politics, religion, romance and literature, so whatever your favourite genre is, chances are this book will appeal.

The protagonist, Katherine, meets Will Shakespeare during a turbulent time in her life (I won’t give too much away), and begins to edit his writing for him. Katherine is a great character – she’s level-headed but passionate, kind but not a pushover. There’s a vulnerability about her but she’s still a strong character – widowed after a tragic fire, she throws herself into books and her family, and I like that she isn’t portrayed as someone to feel sorry for – even the times where we do pity her, you still get the sense that she will bounce back.

Then there’s Will Shakespeare. I think he can be a tricky character because of how renowned he is, but Andrea does a great job. I love that she doesn’t create a flawless genius – Will is rude, insolent, but also really funny and mysterious. It’s easy to forget that he was a real person, I think Andrea does a great job of setting him up as simply another character in her book, a love interest for Katherine – she doesn’t draw too much on what we think we know about him, she brings him to life on the page in her own way. Without giving too much away, at times he is cruel and Andrea writes in a way that you find yourself resenting him for how he treats Katherine. There’s so much speculation out there about who/what inspired Shakespeare, and I like how we get a glimpse into the character’s thought process, but from Katherine’s point of view to keep him slightly mysterious.

Andrea’s writing is brilliant – there’s a lot of detail but you don’t feel like she has picked up a history book and stuck to everything. When I read historical fiction I want to be transported to another world, not feel like I’m studying non-fiction, and in Andrea’s case it’s definitely the former.

The chapters are quite short so this is an ideal book for a commuter, but to be honest I think it will appeal the most to anyone who loves and has studied Shakespeare.

What are you all reading this week? x


Aug 14

New Day by Emma Gibbens

Book: New Day
Author: Emma Gibbens
Available: Out now in ebook format
If you like this you might also enjoy: Bridget Jones’ Diary
Summary: Emma’s protagonist decides to start a diary, following her life every day as she tries to get her first book published while still managing her life and relationships.


Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all having book-filled weeks! For my second review of the week, I thought I’d talk about Emma Gibbens’ debut novel New Day, which I’ve been reading the last few days – it’s broken up into diary entries which makes it a perfect commute read as it’s easy to stop/start without forgetting what’s going on!

One thing I really liked about New Day is the way that it’s a diary of an ordinary woman – there’s loads of relatable everyday scenarios such as trying to get back into exercise, navigating family disputes, buying a house.. and even getting a book published! (Okay, that last one might be a bit more niche but I know lots of wonderful people writing incredible novels at the moment!).

Emma’s book has some funny and quirky moments, including a misunderstanding over a stolen kayak, and I found it very easy to read and keep up with.

I’d recommend this book if you’re commuting, or simply travelling – it’s easy to read and the diary format means you can keep up with it even if you need to put it down briefly!

What are you all reading?

Julie xx

Jul 14

Ishmael’s Oranges by Claire Hajal

Book: Ishmael’s Oranges
Author: Claire Hajal
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Available: Out now in hardback
If you enjoy this book you might like: O Jerusalem – Larry Collins & Dominique LaPierre
Summary: One minute seven-year-old Salim is dreaming of taking his first harvest from his family’s orange tree, the next he is swept away into a life of exile and rage. Seeking a new beginning in 1960s’ London, Salim find unexpected love with Jude , a troubled Jewish girl with her own devastating family history. But before long, childhood conflicts and prejudices reawaken to infringe upon their life together.


Hi everyone!

Apologies for the long break from posts – I was lucky enough to escape to the South of France for a week or so, and while I got a lot of reading done, I wasn’t able to post.

This week, I’ve been reading Claire Hajal’s beautiful novel Ishmael’s Oranges. It gives you a deep insight into the conflicts in the Middle East, contrasting a really sweet love story between Salim and Jude, who come from different sides of an ongoing battle.

It’s a story about identity, family and trying to let go of a deep bitterness in order to move on. There are some truly heartwrenching passages, especially at the beginning when we see Salim’s childhood drastically change when his family suddenly lose everything, having been betrayed by their friends.

The love story between Salim and Jude is wonderfully written. It’s not at all like Romeo and Juliet – Salim and Jude’s families object but don’t stop them from being together. I love that their relationship isn’t kicked off with in a dramatic way – they simply meet, fall in love, and they decide to try and make it work despite the powerful barriers they face.

Salim at times I found to be a bit selfish, but Claire writes in a way that you understand his motivations, so I never found myself disliking him. Jude was a brilliant character – I found her really interesting because she hasn’t got a defining character trait, for example she’s not overly shy or much too confident. I think that was one of my favourite things about this novel – there’s no exaggeration, it’s all very matter-of-fact, so you really feel for all of the characters.

Definitely a great read if you want to learn a bit more about this conflict without having to hit the non-fiction books.

What have you all been reading this week?

Julie x

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