Review & Giveaway: Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.


Title: Sweet Wattle Creek

Author: Kaye Dobbie

Published: Harlequin AU October 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from September 30 to October 01, 2015   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

With a narrative alternating between the past and the present, Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, tells the story of Belle Bartholomew and Sophie Matheson, two women haunted by the secrets of their pasts.

When her father commits suicide after losing his wealth during the post war depression, Belle Bartholomew is stunned to learn of the secrets he had been keeping. Eager to know more, she travels to Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance, a rundown hotel bequeathed to her by Martha Ambrose, and though Belle’s questions put the locals offside, she is determined to solve the mystery of her birth.

Nearly sixty years later, reporter Sophie Matheson is enchanted by a vintage wedding dress donated to the Sweet Wattle Creek centenary celebrations. Intrigued by its mysterious provenance, Sophie begins to piece together the story of Belle and Charlie, and their connection to the old burnt out hotel on the town’s fringe, unaware that her own past is catching up to her.

Both Belle and Sophie are appealing and sympathetic characters. Though their situations are very different they share a similar spirit, facing adversity with courage and determination.

Dobbie’s portrayal of small town Australia during the 1930’s is very well done. The community of Sweet Wattle Creek is still struggling with grief for their loved ones lost and injured in the Great War, and are worried about the impact of the post war depression, particularly as ‘travellers’ pass through their town. Dobbie skilfully communicates this tense atmosphere, and Belle’s status as an outsider.

The mid 1980’s is a fairly bland era by comparison but Dobbie is careful to ensure the period is reflected in the storyline. The local paper where Sophie works still uses a mechanical press to publish, archives are stored in the basement, and the single computer that saves data to floppy discs is still a novelty.

Most importantly, I thought the story was very well structured, both the historical and contemporary timelines complement each other well, and advance the plot as a whole. The pacing is good and the suspense builds nicely. There are some neat turns to the plot and I thought the conclusion was satisfying.

Sweet Wattle Creek is a well crafted and engaging tale combining mystery, drama and romance, and I’m happy to recommend it.

To learn more , CLICK HERE for a guest post from the author published earlier today

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Courtesy of Kaye Dobbie I have

1 Kindle edition of

Sweet Wattle Creek

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

Leave a comment on this post and then


*Sorry, entry is for Australian residents only, and must have a valid account*

Entries close October 11th, 2015

#SweetWattleCreek #KayeDobbie @HarlequinAUS #JAMPR



Blog Tour: Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie


I’m delighted to welcome Kaye Dobbie to Book’d Out today, celebrating the release of Sweet Wattle Creek. Kaye Dobbie is an Australian author living on the central Victorian goldfields. She has been writing professionally ever since she won the Grafton Big River short story contest at the age of 18. Her career has undergone many changes, including writing Australian historical fiction under the name Lilly Sommers and penning romance novels as Sara Bennett. Kaye has written about, and been published in, many countries, but her passion for Australia shows in her current Harlequin Mira novels.

In Sweet Wattle Creek, the chance discovery of an antique wedding dress weaves together the fascinating stories of three women from different eras: Sophie, in hiding from a troubled past; Belle, who must lose everything to learn what really matters; and Martha, forced to give up those she loves in order to avoid exposure.

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.

It’s 1931 and Belle Bartholomew has arrived in rural Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance – a run-down grand hotel formerly owned by Martha Ambrose. Determined to solve the mystery of her birth and the reason why she was bequeathed the hotel Belle runs into difficulties with the townsfolk and their desire to keep their secrets safe.

Sixty years later Sophie Matheson is on a quest to find Belle and her family after discovering the wedding dress. The Sweet Wattle Creek Centenary brings more challenges when her past catches up and she must fight for all that matters to her. Who were Belle and Martha and what links their lives together?”


To read my review of Sweet Wattle Creek and for a chance to win a copy, please CLICK HERE.  But first, please read on to learn more about the novel…

Animal Characters in Sweet Wattle Creek

by Kaye Dobbie

I happen to be an animal lover. Over the years I’ve had more pets than I can remember. Well, that’s not true, because I can remember them, they all hold a special place in my heart, every one of them. So it makes sense that I have animals in my books. Usually the animal plays some role, it isn’t just there to up the word count. And sometimes I like to write about a pet I have loved and lost.

In Sweet Wattle Creek I have three main Creature Characters.

cockatoo-583921_640In 1904 Martha and her daughter Belle are waiting on the platform at Spencer Street Station, Melbourne, for Martha’s brother Rory. Four year old Belle sees a pigeon that reminds her of Nellie, her pet sulphur crested cockatoo, and the bird is introduced to readers. Later on, in 1931, Belle returns to claim her inheritance in Sweet Wattle Creek, and this time we meet the real Nellie. She becomes part of the story, sitting on Belle’s shoulder, even participating in one of the crucial scenes in the book. And near the end, if you read very carefully, she’s there, a part of Belle’s family.

In 1986 Sophie Matheson comes to Sweet Wattle Creek to hide from a frightening past. Her son Dillon has always wanted a dog but their circumstances meant it was impossible. Now they are settled in the small country town, and suddenly fate throws Smithy in their path and into their home.

Smithy is a black and white border collie, and he belongs to an elderly woman who has had a fall and been taken to hospital. Dillon and Smithy immediately bond, and his arrival gives the reader an insight into the sort of boy Dillon is and how his life has been affected by the trauma of his, and Sophie’s, past. Smithy also gives a bit of comic relief from what is a serious subject.

border collieThe third Creature Character in Sweet Wattle Creek is BC, which stands for Black Cat. BC arrived on the doorstep of Sophie’s work place, the Sweet Wattle Creek Herald, with a litter of kittens. Sophie managed to find adoptees for the others, but BC was left and now he is her cat. BC is the boss of the house, very used to getting his own way, until Smithy the border collie arrives. Suddenly BC undergoes a character change, shedding his aloofness for the sake of more pats.

BC is a pseudonym for a real cat called Aussie, who later on became Old Black Cat. She arrived one Christmas, dumped in our street, and found her way to our house. She was my cat for twenty-two years, and for the last part of her life kept me company in my study while I wrote. I got so used to seeing her on the chair behind me, or stretched out in front of the heater under the desk, that when she grew so ill we had to let her go, I felt as if my writing partner had died. At times, during those last weeks, I was worried she wouldn’t make it to the end of the book, so afterwards my sadness was tinged with gratitude that she did.

I believe animals are important in real life, so why not in fictional life too? Are you an animal lover? Do you have a special Creature Character in your life?

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.

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Review: Swimming Home by Mary-Rose MacColl


Title: Swimming Home

Author: Mary-Rose MacColl

Published: Allen & Unwin September 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from September 27 to 30, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Swimming Home is the sixth novel by Mary-Rose MacColl, her previous book In Falling Snow was a favourite read of mine in 2012.

Exploring the themes of family, belonging, regret, and redemption, Swimming Home is a gracious and engaging novel.

When fifteen year old Catherine is orphaned, her aunt, Dr Louisa Quick, insists she abandons her idyllic island home in the Torres Strait and move with her to London. An independent and busy surgeon, Louisa is determined to provide her niece with the opportunity to become a well educated and successful young lady, but Catherine is miserable in her exclusive day school, missing the warmth of her Islander family, and the ocean. It’s not until Catherine swims the width of the Thames on a dare and Louisa is approached by the enigmatic banker Manfred Lear Black, that she reconsiders her plans for her niece.

As a doctor, Louisa is intelligent and confident, but she struggles to relate to her niece and, uncomfortable with emotion, she makes some poor decisions when it comes to seeing to Catherine’s well being. Though there is no malice intended, Louisa’s actions have far reaching consequences and she suffers a crisis of conscience as the novel progresses. Louisa is not a particularly likeable character at times but I think MacColl portrays her well, and I was sympathetic to her flaws.

Catherine is resigned to her new life in London and wants to please her aunt, but she is lonely and homesick. Having spent almost everyday of her life swimming in the ocean, she jumps at the chance to swim to under Manfred Lear Black’s patronage in New York. I felt for Catherine, whose loving and idyllic childhood came to such an abrupt end. She is remarkably stoic, but her longing is palpable and she obviously feels out of place, London contrasts sharply with her island home, as does the New York ‘tanks’ to her beloved ocean.

There are two subtle threads of mystery that run through the story, and a few surprises in the plot though Swimming Home progresses at a measured pace. What action there is stems largely from the Black’s determination that Catherine will be the first woman to swim the breadth of the English Channel. MacColl weaves fiction with fact as she writes of Catherine’s competitors, including Gertrude Ederle who was the first woman to swim the channel in 1926 and I enjoyed learning something about the birth of competitive swimming for women.

Set in an interesting period, with complex characters and a thoughtful story, Swimming Home is a finely written, poignant and pensive, but ultimately uplifting novel.


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Review: The Insanity of Murder by Felicity Young


Title: The Insanity of Murder { Dr Dody McCleland #4}

Author: Felicity Young

Published: HarperCollins August 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from August 06 to 09, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I look forward to each new installment of Felicity Young’s historical mystery series featuring Dr Dody McCleland, autopsy surgeon. The Insanity of Murder is the fourth book in the series which continues to impress me with its rich period detail, strong characterisation and interesting plots.

The Insanity of Murder begins with an explosion set by the suffragette’s at London’s ‘Necropolis Railway’. With a watchman badly injured, Dody is horrified when Florence is arrested for the crime, afraid that a regime of force feeding in prison will destroy her sister. While Dodie and Pike do their best to protect Florence from the worst consequences of her behaviour, it’s the witness to the bombing that captures their attention. Initially mistaken for a vagrant, they discover the elderly woman is Lady Mary Heathridge, who has escaped from the ladies ‘rest’ home where she is confined, in search of a missing friend.

The main plot then involves Dody and Pike’s ensuing discrete investigation into The Elysium Rest Home for Gentlewomen where they suspect the attending doctor is performing illegal and possibly experimental treatments on the women entrusted to their care. Florence, benefiting from new laws regarding the incarceration of suffragettes, decides to help by getting herself sent to the home, but instead finds herself in grave danger. The plight of these women, several of whom have simply been discarded by husbands and families, is chilling, treated in horrific ways for their ‘hysterical’ behaviour.

I did feel the story was a little diluted however. Pike is distracted by his daughter, Violet, who is trying to convince her father to let her study nursing, his secret involvement in shaping a new law, and politics at play in Scotland Yard. Naturally Dodie’s main worry is for her sister, concerned by the suffragette movements increasingly violent and dangerous protests, but her relationship with Pike is also on her mind.

Still, the writing is of its usual high standard, and the pace is good. The historical detail is fascinating, of note here is the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison at the 1913 Epsom Derby.

As with the previous books in the series, The Insanity of Murder is an interesting and engaging read. And I will be looking forward to the next.

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Review: Miss Dreamsville and the Lost Heiress of Collier County by Amy Hill Hearth


Title: Miss Dreamsville and The Lost Heiress of Collier County

Author: Amy Hill Hearth

Published: Atria Books September 2015

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Status: Read from September 08 to 09, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Miss Dreamsville and The Lost Heiress of Collier County is a sequel to Amy Hill Hearth’s debut novel, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society.

Picking up a year after the events of the first book, Dora Witherspoon is called back to Collier County by an urgent telegram from Delores Simpson who asks for Dora’s help in stopping her ex husband from building a development over the ‘glades. Dora isn’t entirely sure how Delores expects her to do so but with the support of her friends, she is determined to at least try.

I enjoyed reuniting with the members of the Collier County Women’s Literary Society, Jackie ‘Miss Dreamsville’ Hart, Plain Jane, murderess Mrs Bailey White, Robbie-Lee and his alligator hunter mother, Delores nee Bunny-Anne McIntyre, and Priscilla, along with her precious new baby, Dream. Dora has been absent for a year, searching for information about her late mother’s family in Mississippi but she is welcomed back with open arms, and the group is all too happy to join Dora’s cause to save Delores’s home.

With it’s charming southern accent and lighthearted wit, you might be fooled into thinking this novel is nothing more than light entertainment, but it includes an important message about environmental protection, and again touches on the intolerance, racism and sexism that typified the far south in the early sixties.

The plot is entertaining as Jackie stirs up trouble in the local newspaper, provoking the ghost of Seminole Joe and the ire of the town’s investors. Dora is also struggling with the secrets she learned in Jackson about her family, unaware that she will find the surprising answers to her remaining questions in Collier County.

Funny, charming and yet thoughtful, Miss Dreamsville and The Lost Heiress of Collier County could be read as a stand alone but I would recommend that Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society be read first.

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Florida, North America


Review: The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay


Title: The Secret Years

Author: Barbara Hannay

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin  August 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from August 23 to 25, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Secret Years is Barbara Hannay’s 49th book, in which she blends a contemporary and historical narrative to present an engaging novel about family, heroism, heartbreak and love.

Army logistics officer Lucy Hunter is relieved to be home in Townsville after her six month deployment in Afghanistan but she isn’t prepared for the changes in store for her. Her mother has exchanged her childhood home for a sterile condo apartment she is sharing with a new man, her grandfather’s health is failing, and her fiance, Sam, has cold feet. With several weeks of leave ahead of her, Lucy is at a loose end until she discovers a box of wartime memorabilia that contains clues to her family’s history that neither her mother or grandfather are willing to talk about. Hoping to understand the secrets of the past, Lucy travels to Cornwall, a place where she just might find her future.

Moving between the past and present, the narrative shifts between Lucy’s journey to unravel her family’s secrets, and the story of the relationship between Lucy’s cattleman grandfather, Harry, and his aristocratic bride, Georgina. Emotions run high in both timelines through scenes of wartime drama, desperate passion and captivating romance.

I liked Lucy and I sympathised with her desire to understand the past. The mystery stems from the discord between Lucy’s mother, Ro and Lucy’s grandfather, Harry, which Lucy learns is related to her mother’s brief time in England. I also enjoyed Lucy’s romance with the dashing Nick.

But it was the story of Harry and George’s courtship and marriage that I found particularly entrancing. Their love is touching, and their wartime experiences are exciting, if also sobering.

The story takes us from Australia’s coastline and outback, to London during the Blitz, from the wild bluffs of Cornwall to the jungles of Papua New Guinea as the Japanese invade. Both the contemporary and wartime settings are vividly described, as are the characters experiences of them.

The Secret Years is well written with appealing characters and a moving story. Another winning romance.

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Also by Barbara Hannay



Review & Giveaway: Long Bay by Eleanor Limprecht


Title: Long Bay

Author: Eleanor Limprecht

Published: Sleepers Publishing August 2015

Status: Read from August 15 to 16, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Drawing on official documents and extensive general research into the period, author Eleanor Limprecht blends fact and imagination to create a convincing narrative that tells the story of a woman forgotten by history in her novel, ‘Long Bay’.

Born in Paddington, New South Wales in 1885, Rebecca Sinclair was the fourth of six children, raised by her mother who was widowed when Rebecca was two. She married at nineteen, birthed a daughter, and four years later, alongside her husband, was convicted of manslaughter for the death of a mother of three who died after an abortion procedure performed by Rebecca went wrong. Rebecca was sentenced to three years hard labour in Long Bay and while imprisoned, Rebecca birthed her second daughter.

Limprecht builds on these known details of Rebecca’s life with her imagination, informed by research, creating a story that depicts a childhood of poverty, a marriage marred by bigamy and violence and the events that led up to the tragic event that resulted in her being jailed. Long Bay illustrates an era where women had limited control over their lives and often struggled under the weight of deprivation and hardship.

There is no doubt that Rebecca’s story is fascinating and I was intrigued by the details of her life, but the writing is often quite dry and unsentimental, lacking the emotion that could have breathed more vitality into the narrative. Yet the story is rich in period detail, evoking the city landscape and era well.

A thoughtful and readable novel, I did enjoy Long Bay. I feel it is a story that will interest readers of both historical fiction and non fiction, especially those curious about women’s lives and issues at the turn of the century.


Courtesy of the author, I have 1 print edition of Long Bay to giveaway to an Australian resident

Please leave a comment on this post and then


Entries close August 30th


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Review: The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth




Title: The Beast’s Garden

Author: Kate Forsyth

Published: Random House AU August 2015

Status: Read from August 11 to 12, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Inspired by the Grimm Brothers fairytales, most notably ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’, a variant of Beauty and the Beast, Kate Forsyth weaves a compelling tale of romance, war, heartbreak and courage in The Beast’s Garden.

The Beast’s Garden opens in 1938 as Hitler begins to persecute the Jewish population of Berlin. Nineteen year old songstress Ava Falkenhorst is stunned by the violence, and horrified when close family friends, the Feidlers are targeted simply for being Jewish. When Ava’s childhood friend Rupert is transported to Buchenwald, and her father threatened with arrest, Ava permits the attentions of Leo von Lowenstein, a high ranking handsome Nazi officer torn between duty and honour. Though their marriage secures Ava’s father’s safety, Ava, who is determined to help the Feidlers and others like them, can’t trust that Leo will not betray her and hides her subversive activities, unaware that her husband is also working against the regime he serves.

With authentic and compelling detail Forsyth explores life under the Nazi regime in the lead up and during World War Two. The terrible suffering of the Jewish population and their attempts to defy Hitler are exhaustively documented, but rarely is mention made of the Germans who rebelled against the Gestapo in both small and significant ways. Forsyth acknowledges the efforts of the German people who risked their own lives to mitigate the attrition, and real historical figures, such as Admiral Canaris, and Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen of the Red Orchestra Resistance, who actively worked to disrupt Hitler’s rule.

Not that Forsyth shies away from illustrating the experience of Nazi rule for the Jewish. Threads of the story illustrate the harrowing experiences of Rupert, imprisoned in Buchenwald, a concentration camp ruled by Karl-Otto Koch and his sadistic wife known as The Witch of Buchenwald; and life for Rupert’s sister, Jutta, in Berlin as she becomes involved in the resistance and struggles to stay one step ahead of the SS.

It is the relationship between Ava and Leo that echoes the fairytales we are familiar with. Ava, the innocent, brave beauty, Leo the ‘Beast’; an unlikely love, besieged by tragedy, that blooms, like the roses that feature in their courtship. Rich characterisation ensures neither Ava nor Leo are mere cliches, and though there is a happy ending, it is hard won.

Skillfully crafted, The Beast’s Garden is another magnificent historical novel seamlessly melding truth and fiction, from Kate Forsyth. A wonderful tale of daring and courage, of struggle and survival, of love and loyalt, this is a ‘must read’.

Please CLICK HERE to learn more about Kate Forsyth and The Beast’s Garden

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Also by Kate Forsyth


AWW Feature: Kate Forsyth, Fairytale Retellings and The Beast’s Garden

Forsyth, Kate

I am honoured to welcome Kate Forsyth to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of her latest book, The Beast’s Garden.

Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of more than thirty books, including The Witches of Eileanan and Rhiannon’s Ride fantasy series for adults. She completed a doctorate in fairytale retellings and the novels that have come out of this fascination include the winner of the 2015 American Libraries Association Prize for Historical Fiction, Bitter Greens, and  The Wild Girl .

Filled with danger, intrigue and romance, The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of the Grimm brothers’ ‘Beauty and The Beast’, is a beautiful, compelling love story set in a time when the world seemed on the brink of collapse.


“It’s August 1939 in Germany, and Ava’s world is in turmoil. To save her father, she must marry a young Nazi officer, Leo von Löwenstein, who works for Hitler’s spy chief in Berlin. However, she hates and fears the brutal Nazi regime, and finds herself compelled to stand against it.

Ava joins an underground resistance movement that seeks to help victims survive the horrors of the German war machine. But she must live a double life, hiding her true feelings from her husband, even as she falls in love with him.

Gradually she comes to realise that Leo is part of a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. As Berlin is bombed into ruins, the Gestapo ruthlessly hunt down all resistance and Ava finds herself living hand-to-mouth in the rubble of the shell-shocked city. Both her life and Leo’s hang in the balance.”

My review of the The Beast’s Garden can be read HERE but first please take the time to read Kate’s guest post…

Fairytale Retellings

by Kate Forysth

I have loved fairy tale retellings ever since I read Eleanor Farjeon’s enchanting ‘Cinderella’ novel, The Glass Slipper, in primary school. Back then, there were only a few fairy tale retellings around – Eleanor Farjeon’s The Silver Curlew and Nicholas Stuart Grey’s The Stone Cage and The Seventh Swan among them.

In my late teens I discovered Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip, and then read Jane Yolen’s heartbreaking retelling of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ set in World War II. I also loved C.S. Lewis’s retelling of the Eros & Psyche myth, Till We Have Faces, told from the point of view of Psyche’s ugly sister.

I began to be fascinated by the idea of using old tales in new and unexpected ways – telling the story from the point of view of the villain, for example. Each new reimagining illuminated the tale in surprising ways.

Retelling old tales is not a new fad.

Fairy tales, myths and legends have never been static. For as long as they have been told – which could well be more than 300,000 years – tales have been shaped and changed and altered by whoever told the tale. As humans explored the world, making contact with other cultures and other storytelling traditions, their tales travelled too … and were adopted and transformed for their new audiences.

Writers such as the 16th century Neapolitan courtier, Giambattista Basile, took old tales from the oral tradition and spun new stories out of their threads. He was a soldier in the service of the Venetian Republic, the heart of the Renaissance trade routes, and so is likely to have heard stories from many different cultures.
The French fairy tale writers in the 17th century did the same. They invented their fabulous tales … but were inspired by older tales that they had heard or read. Even the Grimm brothers – who began by wanting to record folktales as close to the oral tradition as possible – ended up rewriting them.

Hans Christian Anderson sometimes wrote new tales in the style of the old, and sometimes retold old tales in the style of the new. Oscar Wilde did the same.

Sometimes all that is left of the old oral tales are echoes – a god who must not be seen becomes a hideous beast, for example. A goddess who reawakens each spring becomes a sleeping princess.

So fairy tales have inspired and influenced writers as long as people have been taking up their quill to create. And they continue to retold, reimagined, subverted, and invented by writers to the present day.

Sometimes fairy tales are retold in such a way that their hidden messages about sexual desire are made explicit. Some turn the tales inside-out so their bloody lining is revealed.

Others prefer to modernise and sanitise the tales to make them more palatable to a modern-day audience (which is now commonly young children in a way that was not true in the early days of oral storytelling).

One famous Disney reversal of a fairy tale is its version of The Little Mermaid.

The original story – written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1836 – ends with the little mermaid flinging herself into the ocean after her prince marries another.
Disney’s 1989 version ends with the little mermaid turning into a human and marrying the man of her dreams.

Which is the right version, the true version?

The answer is … both of them and neither of them.

For fairy tales belong to all of humanity, and they survive – like a virus – by adapting to the culture that hosts it. A fairy tale that is not retold eventually dies, powerless and forgotten. A fairy tale that is retold, however, goes on living as long as someone continues to retell it.


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Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Title: The Book of Speculation

Author: Erika Swyler

Published: St Martins Press June 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from June 27 to July 01, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

In Erika Swyler’s gorgeous debut novel, The Book of Speculation, Simon Watson receives an old ledger that once belonged to a traveling carnival in the mail, along with a note mentioning a connection to his late mother’s family. Struggling with his recent redundancy, the inevitable crumbling of his family home into the sea, and the return of his sister, Simon develops an obsession with the book which reveals a troubling history. For generations, the women of his family, all with a talent for holding their breath, including his mother, have drowned on the same date.

Dual narratives reveal Simon’s growing concern for his fragile sister as July 24th approaches, and the truth of the tragic curse that has haunted their family since the early 1800’s beginning with Evangeline, ‘The Atlantis Mermaid’. Similar themes are reflected in both tales – lust, guilt, love, betrayal, loss, and magic, and tangible connections are drawn with a tattered deck of tarot cards and the appearance of horseshoe crabs.

“At the corner of a page, just above a quickly jotted note about oppressive heat and fog, is a delicate brown illustration of a horseshoe crab. I shut the book and leave the house as quickly as my ankle allows. I need to get into the water, to clear my head….On the sand, crabs scramble around my feet and over each other. The tide has come up since the afternoon, hiding the thousands more horseshoes that lurk beneath.”

I loved reading about Peabody’s spectacular traveling carnival. The characters of The Wild Boy, the Seer, the Mermaid and Peabody himself are vividly drawn, their dark secrets are haunting and tragic.

“Heralded by a glorious voice, a troupe of traveling entertainers arrived. A mismatched collection of jugglers, acrobats, fortune-tellers, contortionists, and animals, the band was presided over by Hermelius H. Peabody, self-proclaimed visionary in entertainment and education, who thought the performers and animals (a counting pig deemed learned, a horse of miniature proportions, and a spitting llama) were instruments for improving minds and fattening his purse.”

The pace of the novel is measured, reflecting the melancholic, often close, atmosphere of the novel. The tension builds slowly in both timelines, as the truth of the curse is unraveled. The prose is often beautiful and enhanced by the illustrations that accompany it.

The Book of Speculation an enchanting tale.

“She knows that her name will find its way into his speculations. So will his. Because there are things you do for people you’ve known your whole life. You let them save you, you put them in your books, and you let each other begin again, clean.”

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