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February 2019



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Boy, was I glad to finish The Far Cry by Emma Smith. I felt really grouchy for a couple of days at the start of the week and realised it was partly due to reading this depressing book. I saw the old Penguin copy at the market, thought it looked my kind of thing and snapped it up. I didn’t realise until I got the book home that the author is the same Emma Smith who wrote Maiden’s Trip, an account of women working the canals during the war.

Teresa, fourteen, dislikes everything she knows and fears everything she doesn’t, yet it’s hard to sympathise with a girl who has such a negative attitude to everything. She’s the late child of her father’s second marriage, has been deserted by her mother and lives with an aunt. When her father learns that his ex-wife is returning to England, he determines that she ‘shan’t have Teresa’ and in a whirl of activity he takes her to India to stay on a tea farm in Assam with her much older half-sister and her husband.

Almost every character is unhappy and the sister, Ruth, is not at all the woman her fond father imagines her to be. Teresa knows a few moments of freedom on the boat to India and later on a trip to the Naga hills but the return to normality is always painful for her. There is hope of a kind at the very end of the book but only because of two deaths. The one happy person in the book, Miss Spooner, is also the one we know least about as we never see inside her head as we do with the other characters. Oh, how it went on and on!
I’m so glad I didn’t fork out for the Persephone edition.

No such problem with High Wages by Dorothy Whipple, which I read quickly and was always glad to get back to. Although set in Lancashire it reminded me of Arnold Bennett with its small town setting and descriptions of shop keeping before and after the First World War. The heroine, Jane, starts as a shop girl but through intelligence, hard work and ambition, is able to start her own business, a little dress shop. It’s the trade details and the Lancashire voices which make this such an interesting read. Jane has social prejudice to overcome and sadly is undone by love. It’s an early book and not as good as Someone at a Distance or They were Sisters but I enjoyed it.

I’ve already mentioned that Linda Gillard has self-published her latest book, House of Silence as a Kindle-only offering. You can read what Linda has to say about it here. I bought the book and read it with glee. It’s very different from Star Gazing; at first you might think you’d got into a novel by Victoria Clayton. Gwen, independent but damaged by tragedy, meets and falls for Archie, a charming actor. She has no family, he seems not to like his, but she persuades him to take her to spend Christmas at what she believes to be his ancestral home, a large Elizabethan house in Norfolk. There she finds a household of eccentric women, an enigmatic gardener and a mystery. At first she is delighted by everything, then begins to feel that everyone, including Archie, is lying to her. The uncovering of the family conspiracy is slightly melodramatic but makes gripping reading.


Thank you for helping me make my mind up re The Far Cry. I've been on the fence about it, based solely on the wonderful photograph that accompanies the description in the Persephone catalogue. (The description itself didn't appeal to me at all.)
Just my opinion, y'know.
Isn't that interesting. I read the piece by Linda Gillard and wanted to shout yes yes yes!

The response I got from publishers and agents when I sent them my book ties in with what she was saying - 'fab story, but it's got too much humour to be a category romance' and 'beautifully written, but we won't want the incidental characters, we just want the hero and heroine' and variations of the above. Yet everyone who read it seemed to enjoy it. I am about to publish an interview on my blog with a writer who has chosen to self-publish on Kindle - I might give Linda Gillard a shout and see if she'd like to talk about her experience as well. Everything she's written makes sense to me. I'm beginning to think I've changed my mind about self-publishing.
If someone like Linda Gillard, who already has a readership base can self-publish, I think it takes away the dire 'vanity publishing' label.

Good luck with your book; I'm sure you'll make it one way or another.
I've really read enough depressing books in my time to know I don't want to read any more. Thanks for the warning! I loved High Wages too. Fascinating to read Linda Gillard's explanation. It certainly sounds like the way forward and a great book!
Luckily I followed it up with two good ones and am now enjoying a Maisie Dobbs. Still saving up Flavia de Luce.
Thanks CallmeMadam for your great review. :-) Thanks too for alerting me to Victoria Clayton. I don't know her work but it's always useful to have an "If you liked X, then you'll like this tag." (That's how editors think.)

Karamina, I'll happily talk about HOUSE OF SILENCE on your blog. (I tried to msg you but LJ didn't seem to want to co-operate.)My heart goes out to you about the rejections. I have loads of those, for HoS and my next book. Genre categories seem to get more and more rigid and this is driven by marketing requirements, not readers' taste.

Go ahead and self publish. I went into profit days ago and the experiment has been a great success already, after just 1 week. I'm just hoping my sales will achieve sufficient volume to come to the attention of some of the editors who rejected the book. ;-)
The Victoria Clayton novel I've enjoyed most is Clouds among the Stars.

So glad you're making a profit!


Linda Gilllard

All I can say, like so many have said, is Well done, Linda! If this is the way to circumvent publishers who do not pay heed to what we readers want (well, what some of us want!) then jolly good luck to you and all who publish e-books (even though I don't have a Kindle ... yet.)
Margaret P


I bought the Persephone Far Cry ages ago and still haven't got round to it. But having met Emma Smith a couple of times, I must say she's delightful and not depressing at all! Have you read Great Western Beach whcih I loved?
A person may be delightful and still write a depressing book! Emma Smith must have been quite young when The Far Cry came out.

No, I've not read Great Western Beach but will look out for it.