BEECH PROVES THERE’S NO TAMING THIS LITERARY LIONESS

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thumbnail_Lion Tamer front cover finalWishes are an amazing facet of life. They help us get through tough times, allowing is to believe in and live for something in the future that will make us happier. There are different ways of wishing, some people wish upon a star, others make one on blowing out a candle or pulling apart the  wishbone of a chicken.

It is often said; be careful what you wish for. As we found out last week. For a couple of months now myself and my wife have played with an idea about adding to our furry four-legged brood, by getting another cat. Well a month ago, we found one and it arrived last week. Now we have a fur ball  lightning bolt who seems to have been crossed with a free runner and a football hooligan. This month’s book also features cats, big ones and a story about  long held wishes and what can happen when they eventually come true. The book is “The Lion Tamer Who Lost” by Louise Beech, published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk), on the 30th September.

Ben and Andrew meet by chance in the local library. Ben is there to write an essay for university and Andrew is doing research for his book. What follows is an intense relationship which takes over both their lives, but no sooner has it begun then Andrew is struck down by Leukemia and a simple blood test reveals more than just love and lust between the two men. Because of this they part company and Ben, driven by the bigoted views and the wandering crotch of his old man, follows a promise he made to his dying mum to go to Africa to help at a lion reserve. Andrew also made a wish when his was a young boy and keeps it in a silver box. Despite the miles between them and Ben’s relationships with a lioness called Lucy and Esther a fellow volunteer, he can’t forget his feelings for Andrew. Six months on Ben and Esther’s relationship forces them home to where they must make some life choices together. But what of Andrew? has he moved on? Will he be happy to see Ben and can Ben also be upfront with Esther  and his family about his sexuality?

This is the second of Louise’s books that I’ve read, the other being her debut novel, How To Be Brave. What I realised having read both, is that she has this amazing power to take simple stories and make them into heart-warming, emotionally driven tales that stay with the reader well after you’ve put down the book.

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Louise Beech

Whether she’s describing the view of witnessing an African sunrise or the disparity between different generations of working-class English families, every character and scene is so vivid and believable you can’t but feel you are there or say to yourself, “yes, I’ve been in a situation like that.”

A prime example can be found in her first book, which had an annoying little child as the main character in it. You do eventually warm to her character and to the difficulties she was facing, as she comes to terms with a diabetes diagnosis. This is thanks to Louise’s talent which proves she is a writer with immense skill far beyond the four books she has produced.

Diabetes is also a theme running through this book, with Andrew being the one dealing with his body’s wayward sugar levels. This comes down to the fact that Louise’s own daughter is a diabetic and her experiences come through n both books, having not read the others I can’t say if its a theme in all her books. In the Lion Tamer Who Lost, she gives you two strong males who are very much in love and weaves an emotional story of the bond between two gay men and shows no matter how hard you try, once you’ve met your destined mate, nothing is going to come between you. Well almost nothing…

Yes, like her debut novel, this book, really tugged at my heart strings and I dare any male out there, not to feel some twinges while reading it.

As for its length, at a tad over three hundred pages, it’s light and easy to read, although some of the chapters could be a bit confusing as they jump back and forth between the main characters and various times. There is a lot going on in the book: gay love, heterosexual relations and inter family relationships. At times, it does come across like a bit of a kitchen sink drama, with shades of an episode of Channel Fours “Queer As Folk”, but Beech never lets it get too in your face.

This is English Author Louise Beech’s (www.louisebeech.co.uk) fourth book, her othersLioness being How To Be Brave (2015), The Mountain In My Shoe (2016) and Maria In The Moon (2017). She lives In Hull with her family and when she’s not writing, she can be found working front of house at The Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play “Afloat” was performed in 2012.

So, if you are looking for loving crafted,  heart-warming and page turning read to welcome in the darkening evenings of the approaching winter, go pick up a copy  at your local book shop or download a copy. Then afterwards read Louise’s other books and prepare to be taken on a magical tour through the wonderful imagination and writings of one the North of England’s rising literary stars.

 

This book was reviewed as part of a Random Things blog tour, see the poster below for the other reviewers and visit their blogs to see what they thought.

The Lion Tamer Blog Tour Poster Final

BEECH BRAVELY SETS SAIL IN THIS DEBUT LOADED WITH FACT, FICTION AND TEMPER TRANTRUMS

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You’re pHow to b brve cvrrobably aware that Diabetes has been in the news recently owing to the announcement that researchers have successfully implanted insulin producing cells into mice. Thus taking large steps toward curing this debilitating disease which affects 6% of the worlds adult population. According to the website www.diabetes.org.uk figures released in November 2015 showed that there are currently 3.5 million people in the UK with diabetes. Unlike the UK, there isn’t a national register of diabetes sufferers in Ireland. In 2013 the international Diabetes federation estimated the figure at 207,490. I know at least two people with it, one being my brother-in-law. I don’t know any children with it, although according to Diabetes Ireland www.diabetes.ie there were 2.750 people under the age of 20 with type 1 diabetes according to a paediatric audit in 2012. Type 1 diabetes is 50 times more common in those aged under 18 and the peak age for diagnosis is 10-14yrs. Thus we come to this month’s book – it’s How To Be Brave  by Louise Beech.

The book tells the story of Natalie Armitage an army wife and her nine-year-old daughter Rose.  The two of them lead a sheltered existence in their home in the suburbs of Hull. It’s Halloween and they are dressed up ready to go trick or treating, when Rose suddenly collapses, along with Natalie’s world and their lives as they know them. Later in the A&E, while waiting to hear what’s wrong with her a daughter, a familiar old man appears beside Natalie and comforts her but when the nurse comes to break the life changing news that Rose has Type 1 diabetes, the old man is nowhere to be seen, just the scent of Sea and Salt. Over the next couple of days their lives are turned upside down with the rather sharp learning curve that comes with  getting used to the strict regime of insulin injections and the rapid deterioration of Rose’s personality. One day she is a sweet slightly annoying nine-year-old, then behold an out of control brat. Poor Natalie has to try to get to grips with the diabetes routine, her husband Jake’s absence serving in Afghanistan and the monster possessing her daughter. But the mysterious old man troubles her and unbeknownst to Natalie is visiting Rose in her dreams, until she goes missing. When she is finally found after a frantic search, she tells her mum the old man led her there to find the book. The book in question is a diary belong to Natalie’s Grandad Colin Armitage a merchant seaman whose ship the SS Lulworth Hill was torpedoed off the African Coast in 1943. The diary records his life in the life raft following the sinking. The mother and daughter reach an agreement that Natalie will read the diary to Rose in return for letting her mum administer the injections, which up until then has been the major source of hostilities between the two. Will Colin’s ghost and the story of his sacrifice and bravery while adrift at sea be the tentative bond to aid mother and daughter through the initial trying stages of their new life. Also what of Colin’s story? Do he and the other fourteen occupants in the life raft survive…?

I have to get this off my chest first and foremost, never have I felt such an over-riding urge to slap a character in a book as I have with Rose. Even before she collapsed she was starting to get on my nerves. But afterwards there were times when I just wanted to scream, even throw the book down out of utter frustration.Natalie like most parents these days is up against kids who know the law better than the generations before them and thus play up to their parents and authority figures at every turn.

Louise Beech

Louise Beech

According to the author H.P. Lovecroft “ The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown“. Yes, this maybe the main driver of Rose’s rebellious streak –  but the utter contempt with which she treats her mum is scandalous.

As for Natalie, I have nothing but sympathy for her and predicament she finds herself in although despite numerous offers of help from family, friends and Social Workers, she shuns the advice to seek counselling, when you can clearly she is out of her depth and just treading water. Deep down she’s a mother first and foremost thus she knows that her daughter’s change in character is down to the chemical imbalance and her body’s desperate attempts to recover.

 

The main thing that kept me reading and the two main characters going forward was Colin’s story. It is a truly dramatic and harrowing read but strangely enough a true story. Colin Armitage is actually Author Louise Beech’s grandfather and was aboard the Lulworth Hill when it was sunk by an Italian Submarine in the South Atlantic on the 19th March 1943.  It’s a real eye opener to life adrift at the mercy of the currents and surviving on milk tablets, Bovril tablets, biscuits and a couple of ounces of water a day, having just read We Die Alone by David Howarth, Colin’s experience comes a very close second to it in the endurance stakes.

This is English author Louise Beech’s first book, published in 2015 by Orenda books www.orendabooks.co.uk she’s no stranger to the sea and travelling having been a travel writer for a local Hull newspaper for years, while having her first play performed on stage at the Hull Truck Theatre in 2012, where she also works as a front of house usher.

SS Lulworth Hill

SS Lulworth Hill

 

The whole book is a marrying of two very large chunks of truth and a dollop of imagination to stitch together Colin’s story and Louise’s experiences of coming to terms with a child diagnosed with Diabetes. It makes the book a very good read and one that should get onto the Book Club circuit quite quickly if it hasn’t already.

I was sent my copy by the good people at Orenda Books. I can definitely recommend you get this debut novel, I’ll be keeping a sharp eye out for future books by an author who definitely knows how to press one’s buttons and keep you engrossed.