The Secret Letters Blog Tour – Five favourite novels by Catherine Law

the-secret-lettersI’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the ebook launch of Catherine Law’s beautiful, heart breaking novel The Secret Letters. Today, Catherine shares her five favourite novels with us…

My five favourite novels By Catherine Law

Possession by A S Byatt (1990)

I read this book when it was first published and it has remained in my imagination ever since. A literary detective story moving between modern day and Victorian England, it is one of my favourite time-switch novels. I was entranced by the parallel lives of the two scholars investigating the secret love affair between two 19th century poets through discovered letters and poems, which conjured exquisitely the Gothic romance of the past. A S Byatt created such a complete world that I expect, today, readers may try to search for the fictitious poets online.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (1993)

This modern-classic First World War novel is equally beautiful and harrowing, contrasting an illicit love affair with the murderous horrors of war. I remember reading the Battle of the Somme scenes on the tube and, such was the power of the writing and so transported was I into the world of the main character Wraysford, I felt actual physical shock at what he was witnessing. I had to hide my tears from fellow commuters. This was a book that I longed to get back to between reading sessions but had to brace myself for the emotional shredding and unbearable tension created by this brilliant author.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (1995)

From the very first sentence – ‘I exist!’ – I was drawn straight into Ruby Lennox’s story and didn’t want to leave. This is a clever, original and real family saga, which is at times brutally honest and traumatic, but also incredibly compassionate and funny. The lives of the previous generations mingle with Ruby’s, encapsulating perfectly the invisible and unbreakable links between grandparents, parents and children. I recognised Ruby and her very ordinary but bewitching world; she is one of my favourite characters to appear in print.

Part of the Furniture by Mary Wesley (1997)

I must have read this book at least four times. It is the warm and unconventional depiction of a spirited lonely girl struggling through the pain of unrequited love amid the air-raids and trauma of war-time England, and her escape to isolated, beautiful Cornwall. Mary Wesley had a deft, almost spare way of writing which convinces me utterly that I am right there in the world she created. She tapped honestly into her own experiences to create her nine witty novels – I love each one and always return to them. Mary Wesley’s biography, Wild Mary, could easily be a fabulous novel, too.

The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard (1956)

This is one of the subtlest, most thought-provoking novel I have ever read. We first see Antonia Fleming in 1950 when a window is opened onto her disastrous marriage to her enigmatic, arrogant and rather cruel husband. And then each section takes us a little bit further back into her past, through the war, and finally to 1926, depicting each time a younger Antonia. Her story unravels to reveal the girl whose unsettling experiences at an early age points to the future we already know. Despite the story going back in time, this clever novel gave me a real and pleasing sense of the continuation and acceptance of life.

law-catherine-credit-david-bergerAbout the author

Catherine Law was born in Harrow, Middlesex in 1965 and has been a journalist for twenty-two years, having trained first as a secretary at the BBC and then attending the London College of Printing. She now works on a glossy interiors magazine and lives in Buckinghamshire. You can find out more about Catherine and her novels on her website: http://www.catherinelaw.co.uk/

About The Secret Letters…

Rose Pepper has kept her wartime past a secret for decades. Forty years ago, she fled communist Prague and left behind the love of her life.
Now in her sixties and with two daughters, Rose discovers a bundle of unopened letters sent to her by her lost love, hidden beneath her home.
Confronted with the possibility of facing up to her past, she decided it’s finally time to go back to where her story began and uncover the truth buried for so long in Prague…
From the author of Map of Stars comes a heart breaking story of love, hope, secrets and lies. The novel is perfect for fans of Kathryn Hughes and Leah Fleming
                                                                                                                   A truth buried over forty years.   A love that lasted a lifetime.


The Secret Letters
by Catherine Law is available now on Amazon.

 

The Mousetrap, Perth Concert Hall – Review

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Tony Boncza (Major Metcalf), Oliver Gully (Christopher Wren) and Anna Andresen (Mollie Ralston) in The Mousetrap. Credit Liza Maria Dawson

It’s confession time. I’m a bit of a Agatha Christie fan girl. As a child I watched my mother devour her books, but it wasn’t until I watched a theatre production of Then There Were None, a few years ago, that I realised just gripping and relevant her work is still today.

On Monday night I had the pleasure of seeing her epic play The Mousetrap, which has been running in London for a whopping 60 years. Thanks to a UK wide tour I didn’t have to travel all the way to London to see it, I watched it from the very lovely Perth Concert Hall instead just 30 miles away from where I live.

The play is set in the newly opened guest house Monkswell Manor, where the owners Mollie and Gilles Ralston and their guests are snowed in. Then a visitor arrives, his name is Sergeant Trotter and he comes with news of a murder which is somehow connected to the guest house and its inhabitants.

To say any more than that, really would be a crime itself, so I’m going to stop there and urge you to see it as I did – like a blind mouse, kept very much in the dark!

With superb acting from all the cast, including the fantastic Anna Andreson as Mollie, Oliver Gully as Christopher Wren and Lewis Collier as Sergeant Trotter, and a fantastic set – this production is a must see. But it is the clever script and the glorious twists and turns that captivate the audience and make Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap a national treasure.

The Mousetrap is currently touring the UK. For more information and ticket information, please visit: http://mousetrapontour.com/

 

 

Chinese State Circus, Caird Hall, Dundee – Review

chindragonsI’ve been to quite a few circuses in my time, most of them featuring big drafty tents with sawdust on the floor and clowns that weren’t really all that funny, but as long as they were animal free, I enjoyed them all the same for the sake of tradition.  So I when I heard that the Chinese State Circus was visiting Dundee’s Caird Hall this week, I was curious to see how it would compare to the colourful seaside affairs that I was used to. Naturally The Caird Hall with its lovely comfy seats and central heating had its own plus points, but how would the Chinese State Circus fare against the run of the mill circuses that I was used to? Pretty damn well I’m happy to report!

My first observation was just how bloody glamourous the whole affair was. The stage was continually filled with dramatic dragons, beautiful acrobats wearing delicate gowns and fearsome martial art warriors who ripping the floor up with their slick moves. There were thrills aplenty with death defying acts and humour too provided by the Chinese State Circus’s very own cheeky monkey clown, whose mischievous antics had the audience chuckling along happily.

But the biggest difference I noted was the sheer level of skill that the performers displayed. It didn’t matter whether they were jumping through tiny spaces in the air, juggling umbrellas with their feet or contorting their bodies into weird and wonderful shapes – they looked graceful throughout, making the whole thing look incredibly easy!

The final act of the show was prime example of performers amazing abilities. Some might say that the Chinese State Circus’s jaw dropping bicycle act, which sees the performers balancing on top of each other while circling the small stage on bicycles, was just plain showing off! The only thing that I said while watching it was “please, please for the love of God, don’t fall off the stage….” I’m very happy to report that they did not!

The Chinese State Circus is currently touring the UK. For further information about the circus and to book tickets, visit: http://chinesestatecircus.com

Dundee Flower & Food Festival

flower-and-food-fest-6Septembers in Dundee are always particularly special thanks to the city’s annual Flower and Food Festival.

The event, which is set in the beautiful Camperdown Park, takes place over three days and is chock-a-block with things to see and do, from watching demonstrations from some of the UK’s top celebrity chefs and listening to live music to admiring the award winning flowers, gardening displays and produce – there really is something for everyone.

The event is child friendly too with craft tents and kid friendly displays that really engage little ones and spark an interest in nature.

A highlight from this year was the scarily good dinosaur display designed by Angus based business Rococo Gardens, which won the Lord Provost’s Trophy at the event. The Jurassic themed display thoroughly thrilled my two little ones who spent the rest of the weekend practicing their own dinosaur roars.
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My favourite part of the weekend was taking a stroll through the festivals glorious food tent. Filled with some of Scotland’s best produce from craft beer and gin to artisan chocolate and jams – the tent is a absolute heaven for foodies!

My visit to the Dundee Flower & Food Festival was a complete joy and I’m already looking forward to next year.

To find out more about Dundee Flower & Food Festival visit their website: http://www.dundeeflowerandfoodfestival.com/

 

The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil Tour – Review

chev-review-imageWhat can you say about The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil that hasn’t already been said?

When a play gets 5 star reviews from the likes of The Stage, The Scotsman and The Guardian, you know it’s going to be good, right? Right! Dundee Rep’s masterpiece is every bit as powerful as I’d heard it was, but what I hadn’t expected was to feel quite so engaged and quite so emotional, watching it.

Telling the story of the Scottish Highlands from the Highland Clearances through to the present day, the play begins with dancing, whisky and fun. But as the audience is transported back to the 18th Century the mood becomes more serious and poignant, making the hilarious black humour, interspersed throughout the play, all the more welcome.

Written as a musical drama by John McGrath over 40 years ago, The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil is just as relevant today as it was back then. Acted out by the superb Dundee Rep Ensemble cast, including the brilliant Ewan Donald, Billy Mack, Irene Macdougall and Emily Winter, the play looks back at Scotland’s past and asks it’s audience to act now to save our future.

Now embarking on a tour in theatres throughout Scotland, The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil is a must see play for every patriotic Scot. Just remember to bring along your dancing shoes and a tissue or two!

The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil is currently playing at the Dundee Rep Theatre before embarking on a tour around Scotland including dates in Edinburgh, Inverness, Glasgow and Aberdeen. For more information about the play and to book tickets, visit: http://cheviottour.co.uk