PETROU’S SISTERLY DEBUT BURNS BRIGHTLY AMONG THE OTHER SUMMER READS

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Sister Of Mine CoverI’m an only child, and the offspring of two other only children so the opportunity to observe at first hand the joys and tribulations of sibling relationships has been pretty non-existent.  My grandparents had many siblings however; and I recognised that in their families there was an emotional intensity to the reactions between siblings, both in terms of unconditional love and in some cases, long held feelings of jealousy and dislike. I always wondered what it would be like to have a brother or sister myself and enjoyed books such as Little Women and TV dramas such as the Walton’s so I was intrigued to read this month’s second offering and todays blog tour entry, Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou, published by No Exit Press (www.noexitpress.co.uk) on the 20th June.

Hattie and Penny Grayson are sisters who have grown up in a small town. Everyone knows their troubled histories, but no one can know of the secret that binds them together. There is a fire, and someone dies, albeit a cruel and overbearing husband. Who is responsible and why? This shapes their future relationships with those they meet and each other.

This debut thriller was a very enjoyable read. Engrossing and thought provoking; I did, as the cover suggested, burn through it. There is a steady build-up of tension and a feeling of impending crisis throughout. The characters are very well described, and you feel you have great insight into their personalities and motivations because of this and the insights the slow drip of background history gives.

There was , I felt,  an interesting twist in perspective towards the end of the book , which I don’t want to spoil for other readers but I will say it changed my view of the main characters entirely and kept me mulling over the story and the effect a character being the narrator has on your perception of what is the ‘truth’. History is written by the victors as they say.

Despite sibling rivalry being a theme which has long been in our consciousness, with Cain and Abel , Romulus and Remus and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane to name a few disastrous relationships , this book to me felt fresh and not cliched. There were two strong female characters in lead roles, with the men playing minor, villainous or subservient parts.

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Laurie Petrou

There is a matriarchal  onus to the book with the memory of a deceased mother constantly shaping the sister’s behaviour. There were some moments of dark humour too.

This Canadian author Laurie Petrou’s (www.lauriepetrou.wordpress.com)  first book, her day job is an associate professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, at its Media School. She’s also the director of the Masters of Media Production program at the school too. In 2016 she won the Inaugural Half the World Global Literati Award, which honours unpublished works by female authors, featuring female protagonists, for Sister Of Mine. She Lives in a small town in Ontario’s wine country with her winemaker husband and their two sons.

Overall, I was surprised this was Petrou’s literary debut as it felt so assured. Also given its size coming in at two hundred and fifty pages, it won’t take up too much room in your luggage. I myself am looking forward to seeing what she produces next. Will it  top this Sister Act?

 

Reviewed by:     Georgina Murphy

 

This review is apart of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you pick up a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d all love to hear your feedback.

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BOUCHARD’S SALT OF THE SEA FLOWS SMOOTHLY WITH A CREW OF MEMORABLE CHARACTERS.

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We Are Salt Of Sea CvrAccording to the Canadian author John Ralston Saul, “In European tradition, rivers are seen as divisions between peoples. But in Aboriginal tradition, rivers are seen as the glue, the highway, the linkeage between people, not the separation. And that’s the history of Canada: our rivers and lakes were our highways…”.  Without Rivers and lakes, Canadians would never have found the sea and what lies beyond the horizons, or for that matter, the beautiful Gaspe Penisula on the southern shores of the St. Laurence river.

The author of this months book discovered the peninsula  ten years ago when she took up sailing. It’s where  this month’s book is set and all but one of the characters come and go by water to it. The book is “We Were The Salt Of The  Sea” by Roxanne Bouchard, published by Orenda Books (www.Orendabooks.co.uk) Last April.

Montreal woman Catherine Day is advised by her doctor to take some much needed time out, so she packs her bags, boards her beloved boat and sets sail up the coast to Caplan on the Gaspe Peninsula. There, according a letter posted in  Key West, she’ll find her lost mother, the woman who gave her up for adoption thirty years ago.  Shortly after she arrives in the remote fishing village, a body of is found tangled in fishing nets off the coast. It’s Marie Garant, her birth mother. The local police launch an investigation headed by newly arrived former Quebec detective Joaquim Morales, who’s moved to the area at the behest of his artist wife, believing their struggling marriage needs nurturing in the quiet and relaxed tempo of life on the peninsula. But poor Joaquim has literally no time to enjoy the surroundings or sedate pace of life, let alone unpack. As, he is thrust headlong into the investigation to find the cause of Marie Garant’s death, a woman who was even more mysterious in life than in death. As the search for answers by both parties moves forward, helped and hindered by the local characters, Catherine tries to find out more about her mother and where she went on her regular voyages from the safe-haven of Caplan’s harbour and about the identity of her father. Morales like Catherine, is also on a journey of personal discovery . Can they find the answers to their own personal quests and will new love and new starts be the answers?

Numerous other readers have praised Bouchard’s poetic style of writing, and this style is very much apparent from the opening page. I felt it wasn’t so much poetic, but smooth flowing prose like the current of a river, that gradually takes the reader on a journey from start to finish.

On top of that, credit must surely go to David Warriner’s translation, without whose excellent skill, the afore mention flowing prose would have been lost in translation and left the book high and dry on this side of the Atlantic.  I did wonder after finishing it – if the characters were actually speaking French or English but written by a francaphone author, as it never says in the book, but assumes the reader automatically knows. According to Wikipedia, French is the primary language of the region, so that answers that.

Roxanne Bouchard

Roxanne Bouchard (Le Devoir)

One of the best things about this book is its characters. If the prose is the current moving the story forward, then the characters are the boats on which the reader is transported. I’ve read numerous books where the story is told by stereotypical cardboard cutout characters, that any writer can half-heartedly fit into the story like a jigsaw piece. But a true storyteller uses unique standout characters who embrace you from your first meeting till your last and this is what you get with the plethora of individual characters in We We The Salt Of The Sea.

As for the two lead characters there are some stereo typical sides to them, Morales, theGaspe Peninsula middle aged detective attempting to deal with  his mid-life crisis , marital problems and the investigation. He’s unique in that one really wonders how many Mexican cops there are in Montreal? I did feel for him and the way he was treated by the locals. He also, it appears, will be a recurring character. Maybe he’s supposed to be the main one in this book, although this isn’t really clear. But I understand Bouchard is working on her next book which will also be set is the Gaspie Region and will also feature Morales.

As for Catherine, we see characters like hers popping up regularly in literature. A mid thirties woman ,discovering their wanderlust and the truth behind her estranged mother – is a theme in  many books these days. But the real characters are the local fishermen and townsfolk, each one is unique in their own way.

This is Canadian Author Roxanne Bouchard’s (www.roxannebouchard.com) fifth book and the first to be translated into English – her others include Whiskey And Parables, The Slap and Crematorium Circus. She’s also written two essays on Canadian Military and a love monologue for the theatre. She’s a graduate of the University of Montreal and has been teaching literature at Cegep De Jliette a college in the Lanaudiere region of Canada since 1994. Inspiration for the book came ten years ago when Bouchard decided to find her sea legs and learned to sail on the St. Laurence and then the open waters off the Gaspe Peninsula.

So if you are looking for a heart warming book, full of well rounded and loveable characters, then this is the book to upload on your kindle or stow in your carry-on luggage for a great summer read.

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Sorry if we’ve been a bit quite at the Library Door for the past month, but we suffered a technical issue behind the door (The Laptop Died). We’re back now and normal service has resumed, with book reviews and blog tours winging their way to you over next couple of months.

Adrian