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Frankie: the woman who saved millions from thalidomide by James Essinger and Sandra Koutzenko

Frankie: The Woman Who Saved Millions from Thalidomide

Thalidomide: patented in Germany as a non-toxic cure-all for sleeplessness and morning sickness. A wonder drug with no side-effects.

We know differently now.

Today, thalidomide is a byword for tragedy and drug reform – a sign of what happens when things aren’t done ‘the right way’. But when it was released in the 1950s, it was the best thing since penicillin – something that doctors were encouraged to prescribe to all of their patients. Nobody could anticipate what it actually did: induce sleeping, prevent morning sickness, and drastically harm unborn children.

But, whilst thalidomide rampaged and ravaged throughout most of the West, it never reached the United States. It landed on the desk of Dr Frances Kelsey, and there it stayed as she battled hierarchy, patriarchy, and the Establishment in an effort to prove that it was dangerous. Frankie is her story.

 

My review

This book will astonish you – and for many reasons.

What makes a particularly strong impression is the powerful yet non-sensational style in which it’s been written. It’s that very fact that makes the book more impactful. There are interviews with adults who were affected devastatingly in vitro by thalidomide, a detailed depiction of the general background to the thalidomide scandal as a whole – the way drug trials were conducted, the god-like status granted to doctors and the powerlessness of most women at the time – and a study and assessment of the long-term impact of the whole affair. The authors have clearly conducted a lot of research and used it to produce an informative, shocking and compelling book.

Frankie, the central figure of the book, emerges from this background as the book proceeds. She’s the lone voice in the wilderness for a long time, actively pressured by the drug company to stop holding things up. Her power, emanating from her position in the FDA and her unstinting devotion to doing what was the right thing, contrasts sharply with the role women generally played in the period, as mentioned earlier. She’s one of the pioneers in demonstrating that women are up to doing any task. Her courage and stance saved up to a million babies around the world from the destructive impact of thalidomide.

Dr Frances Kelsey’s story is inspiring and positive. It shows what one person can achieve, and that’s an important lesson to take out of the book. Stand up and be counted.

 

Purchase Links

https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/frankie/9780750991919/

https://www.amazon.com/Frankie-Woman-Saved-Millions-Thalidomide-ebook/dp/B07PQV547Y

Author Bio –

JAMES ESSINGER is the author of non-fiction books that focus on STEM subjects and personalities, including Charles and Ada (The History Press) and Ada’s Algorithm (Gibson Square), the latter of which has been optioned for a film. He lives in Canterbury.

 

 

SANDRA KOUTZENKO is a bilingual writer whose work spans a variety of categories and topics, ranging from French poetry to English non-fiction, focusing on human nature and the conflict between its potential for greatness and its propensity for destruction.

 

Social Media Links –

Twitter @TheHistoryPress

Instagram @TheHistoryPressUK

https://www.facebook.com/james.essinger  

https://twitter.com/jamesessinger

 

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‘Devon and Hell: Four Seasons by the Sea’ by Karen Wheeler: disasters, triumphs and an indomitable spirit

Blurb

One woman, one dog and a disastrous move to Devon. Throw in an estranged mother who has just been diagnosed with dementia and the result is a brilliantly written comic memoir with more ups and downs than the South West Coastal Path.

This is not your usual tale of ‘I moved to a chocolate-box cottage by the sea and lived happily ever after’. Instead, it is a powerful and gripping story of relocation – and a maternal relationship – gone wrong.

Ultimately this is an uplifting, feel-good story as Karen triumphs over adversity and finds new peace following the death of her mother.

 

My review

I’m a sucker for books with witty titles, and for ones by this wonderful author, so how could I resist Devon and Hell.

In this memoir Karen Wheeler leaves France behind after living there for eight years and buys the idyllic sounding Plum Tree Cottage on the Devon coast. Unfortunately, she discovers that there’s more to the cottage than meets the eye – lots of little eyes glistening in the darkness. Thus begins a difficult time when instead of moving in and making her new home, she has to tackle lawyers and various trade professionals to sort out the potential problem.

While she’s doing so, there’s more bad news. Her difficult mother, with whom the author has never had an easy relationship, becomes seriously mentally ill. Together with her brothers they deal with the wide-spreading fall-out of this.

Poor Karen begins to feel that the cottage is unlucky and one or two happenings seem to confirm that it is. However, she determinedly continues her work on it, and dealing with her mother, until momentous events bring her closure on her unhappy childhood and new hope for her future.

What you take away from this book is Karen Wheeler’s indomitable spirit. She never gives up, even when right up against the ropes. She retains a sense of humour and a pragmatic approach. She details her experiences in an enjoyable, accessible, honest way, able to present her own foibles as well as her many strengths.

She recreates the beautiful scenery of Devon in wonderful detail, making us feel like we’re walking along the sandy beaches with her.

It’s challenging in that we accompany the author through a difficult time of her life but we learn to respect and admire her, and rejoice that so much that’s positive emerges.

 

Author Bio

Karen Wheeler is a former journalist and national newspaper fashion editor who has successfully published five comic travel memoirs about her life in France, starting with Tout Sweet: Hanging up my High Heels for a New Life in France, which made it to #1 in Amazon’s travel writing book chart.

She wrote for the Financial Times for over fifteen years and is a former fashion editor of the Mail on Sunday. She studied Modern History at Kings College, London University and worked briefly at Sotheby’s art auctioneers before embarking on a career in fashion journalism.

During her career she has interviewed many of fashion’s top names including Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein. Her work has also appeared frequently in Vogue Japan, You magazine, the Daily Mail and Sunday Times Style.

Originally hailing from the north of England, Karen is one of the many ex-pats now returning to the UK – as she points out the food is much better here. She has run holiday cottages, knows the Farrow and Ball colour chart inside out, never turns down a glass of pink champagne and lives near Budleigh Salterton in East Devon with her boyfriend and her dog Biff.

You can read more about her life at www.toutsweet.net – the blog she started while living in rural France; and follow her on Twitter at @mimipompom1

 

Devon and Hell will appeal to fans of Eleanor Oliphant, as well as the armchair renovators who enjoy watching Grand Designs, Homes by the? Sea and Amazing Spaces and to the large number of Brits who are moving to the coast or taking ‘staycations’ in the UK. Devon and Hell is set in Lympstone, an aspirational and newly fashionable area of Devon, which was recently shortlisted in Penelope Keith’s C4 series, Britain’s Best Villages: Village of the Year 2017 and recently saw ?the opening of Lympstone Manor, by Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines.

 

Devon and Hell: Four Seasons by the Sea will be released in e-book format on 28th October 2019, £9.99, by Sweet Pea Publishing. The print version will be published in October 2020.

Purchase Link


 

 

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Charles and Ada by James Essinger

Charles and Ada: the computer’s most passionate partnership

The partnership of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace was one that would change science forever.

 

They were an unlikely pair – one the professor son of a banker, the other the only child of an acclaimed poet and a social-reforming mathematician – but perhaps that is why their work is so revolutionary.

 

They were the pioneers of computer science, creating plans for what could have been the first computer. They each saw things the other did not; it may have been Charles who designed the machines, but it was Ada who could see their potential.

 

But what were they like? And how did they work together? Using previously unpublished correspondence between them , Charles and Ada explores the relationship between two remarkable people who shared dreams far ahead of their time.

 

My review

I’ve only recently discovered this talented author so it’s a real pleasure to review another of his books.

Most people have probably heard of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace in relation to computing but perhaps don’t know about their collaboration. Both are fascinating, gifted people, and in Ada’s case definitely flamboyant, so writing about these two innovators is a huge undertaking. However, James Essinger is easily up to the task. He gives an engrossing insight into their lives, how their paths crossed, how their interests coincided, and how and why they formed such a ground-breaking partnership.

The author has done an immense amount of research which, coupled with his obvious admiration of and enthusiasm about Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, makes for a captivating read.

 

Purchase Links

Author bio

James Essinger was born in Leicester in 1957 and has lived in Canterbury in Kent since 1986. He was educated at Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys, Leicester, and at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he read English Language and Literature. He spent much of his time between 1981 and 1983 teaching English in Finland before working in public relations in London and then in Canterbury. Since 1988, James has been a professional writer.

His non-fiction books include Jacquard’s Web (2004), Ada’s Algorithm (2013), which is to be filmed by Monumental Pictures, and Charles and Ada: the computer’s most passionate partnership (2019) His novels include The Mating Game (2016) with Jovanka Houska, the film rights of which have been optioned, Rollercoaster (2019) and The Ada Lovelace Project (forthcoming in 2020).

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/james.essinger  

https://twitter.com/jamesessinger

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Writing Fiction by James Essinger: stimulating and thorough

Writing Fiction – a user-friendly guide

‘Writing Fiction is a little pot of gold… Screenplay by Syd Field for film, Writing Fiction by James Essinger for fiction. It’s that simple.’

William Osborne, novelist and screenwriter

Writing Fiction – a user-friendly guide is a must-read if you want to write stories to a professional standard.

It draws on the author’s more than thirty years of experience as a professional writer, and on the work and ideas of writers including:

  • Anthony Burgess
  • Joseph Conrad
  • George Eliot
  • Ken Follett
  • Frederick Forsyth
  • Dan Harmon
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • David Lodge
  • Norman Mailer
  • John Milton
  • Ben Parker
  • K. Rowling
  • William Shakespeare
  • Martin Cruz Smith
  • R.R. Tolkien

 

The twenty-four chapters cover every important matter you need to know about, including: devising a compelling story, creating and developing characters, plotting, ‘plants’, backstory, suspense, dialogue, ‘show’ and ‘tell’, and how to make your novel more real than reality.

Also featuring special guest advice from legendary screenwriter Bob Gale, who wrote the three immortal Back to the Future movies (1985, 1989 and 1990), and novelist and screenwriter William Osborne, whose many screen credits include the co-writing of the blockbuster Twins (1988), this highly entertaining book gives you all the advice and practical guidance you need to make your dream of becoming a published fiction writer come true.

 

My review

This is a very positive, stimulating book for anyone who loves to write, even if they’re still only in the dreaming stage.

The author takes us through all the aspects of writing that we need to know about – everything from what fiction actually is, to how to create rounded characters, show versus tell, devising an interesting story line and so on. If you can think of something you want to know about, then you can be sure of finding it dealt with in this book.

The author refers to fifteen famous writers, from Shakespeare to J K Rowling, and not just novelists but also dramatists and screenwriters, to illustrate the points he’s making and to act as inspiration. James Essinger is an established author himself and he’s really speaking from the heart and genuinely sharing his mastery of the craft of writing with us.

The style is modest, lively and witty. He hooks the reader’s interest from the very start and keeps your attention all the way through. There’s a very useful summing-up section and some enlightening appendices. This book a breath of fresh and very informative air in its genre.

Purchase Links



Author Bio –

James Essinger has been a professional writer since 1988. His non-fiction books include Jacquard’s Web (2004), Ada’s Algorithm (2013), which is to be filmed by Monumental Pictures, and Charles and Ada: the computer’s most passionate partnership (2019). His novels include The Mating Game (2016) and The Ada Lovelace Project (2019).

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/james.essinger  

https://twitter.com/jamesessinger

 

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The Last Landlady by Laura Thompson: a serving of social commentary, history and memoir to be lingered over

Summary

Award-winning biographer Laura Thompson pays homage to the English pub through the remarkable story of her grandmother, the first woman in England to be given a publican’s licence in her own name

Laura Thompson’s grandmother Violet was one of the great landladies. Born in a London pub, she became the first woman to be given a publican’s licence in her own name and, just as pubs defined her life, she seemed in many ways to embody their essence. Laura spent part of her childhood in Violet’s Home Counties establishment, mesmerised by her gift for cultivating the mix of cosiness and glamour that defined the pub’s atmosphere, making it a unique reflection of the national character. Her memories of this time are just as intoxicating: beer and ash on the carpets in the morning, the deepening rhythms of mirth at night, the magical brightness of glass behind the bar… Through them Laura traces the story of the English pub, asking why it has occupied such a treasured position in our culture. But even Violet, as she grew older, recognised that places like hers were a dying breed, and Laura also considers the precarious future they face. Part memoir, part social history, part elegy, The Last Landlady pays tribute to an extraordinary woman and the world she epitomised.

 

My review

This book is a beguiling mix of social commentary, history and memoir. The figure of the author’s landlady grandmother provides the central figure around whom the gentle decline of the English pub in the last quarter of the twentieth century.

The book begins with the landlady, Violet, and pubs in their heyday. Pubs were busy, welcoming, friendly places. As a child during that era I went to pubs with my parents and had lemonade and a pack of pork scratchings and happily soaked up the noise and smoke of my surroundings. As a teen I was in clubs and organisations that met in pubs, and the same as a student. Back home on Christmas Eves back home we’d all pack into a pub for a drink to mark the occasion.

During this time our landlady in the book struggled to get a grip with decimal money and dreadfully undercharged her customers, which is both touching and generous. She is somehow an emblem of timelessness, of continuity and dependence in a changing world.

Because it was changing. The large pub chains barged in and started doing food. When I was in my twenties on Friday lunchtime the whole office I worked in, and everyone else’s, went to the pub. Pubs now did ploughman’s lunches and other basic food. Some, anyway. Our landlady resisted the change for as long as she could, as did many others. Pubs were there for drinks, not food. Things slowly morphed into pubs becoming pretty much restaurants with a bar attached. I remember feeling quite sad at how our local pubs at home changed with this development. The atmosphere was different. From not going too far wrong with serving a drink, suddenly the proprietors had more to worry about. Would people complain about the food, the service, the length of time it took to cook it, the décor? An air of subservience emerged that these days has run riot with endless feedback and over-entitlement on the part of consumers.

We see our landlady slowly diminishing, yet never losing her dignity, along with the pub but she fights it all the way. She’s a fascinating figure, who eventually accepts that times are changing and so moves grudgingly but gracefully with them.

I enjoyed this book not just because of the superb writing and interesting subject, but also because I’ve witnessed this sanitising, character-destroying evolution of the pub. This book brings back lovely memories of a more honest, down-to-earth times, of genuineness, which the landlady personifies. It’s a wonderful read.     

The author

Laura Thompson won the Somerset Maugham award with her first book, The Dogs , and wrote two books about horse racing while living in Newmarket. Her biographical study of Nancy Mitford, Life in a Cold Climate, appeared in 2003 (re-issued 2015) and was followed by a major biography of Agatha Christie. A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan was published in 2014, and 2015’s Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters was recently sold to television. She lives in Richmond.

 

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How Not To Write Female Characters by Lucy V Hay: inspiring advice

How Not To Write Female Characters

Female characters. When fifty per cent of your potential target audience is female, if you’re not writing them in your screenplay or novel? You’re making a BIG mistake!

But how should you approach your female characters? That’s the million-dollar question … After all, women in real life are complex, varied and flawed. Knowing where to start in creating three dimensional female characters for your story is extremely difficult.

So … perhaps it’s easier to figure out how NOT to write female characters?

Script editor, novelist and owner of the UK’s top screenwriting blog www.bang2write.com, Lucy V Hay has spent the last fifteen years reading the slush pile. She has learned to spot the patterns, pitfalls and general mistakes writers make when writing female characters – and why.

In How Not To Write Female Characters, Lucy outlines:

•WHO your character is & how to avoid “classic” traps and pitfalls
•WHAT mistakes writers typically make with female characters
•WHERE you can find great female characters in produced and published content
•WHEN to let go of gender politics and agendas
•WHY female characters are more important than ever

Lucy is on a mission to improve your writing, as well as enable diverse voices and characters to rise to the top of the spec pile.

 

REVIEWS FOR LUCY V’S WRITING ADVICE:

‘A timely guide to creating original characters and reinvigorating tired storylines. ‘
– Debbie Moon, creator and showrunner, Wolfblood (BBC)

‘Lucy V. Hay nails it’
– Stephen Volk, BAFTA-winning screenwriter: Ghostwatch, Afterlife, The Awakening

‘Packed with practical and inspirational insights’
– Karol Griffiths, development consultant and script editor, clients include ITV, BBC, Warner Brothers

‘A top-notch, cutting-edge guide to writing and selling, not just practical but inspirational. Lucy’s distinctive voice infuses the entire journey. Quite brilliant. Here’s the woman who’ll help you make things happen.’
– Barbara Machin, award-winning writer & creator of Waking the Dead

‘Delivers the stirring call to arms that writers must not only write, but take their work to the next level themselves, making sacrifices and taking risks if they want to see their stories on screen.’
– Chris Jones, Filmmaker, Screenwriter & Creative Director at the London Screenwriters Festival

‘Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays is a must-read for any writer, producer or director looking to create (or in the process of creating) a thriller production. It could also be immensely useful for those generally curious about the genre or looking to learn more.’ – Film Doctor

‘Lucy V Hay explains what a script reader and editor’s role in filmmaking, tells you to work on your concepts and that dialogue is the last thing to work on in her new book.’ – Brit Flicks

 

My review

This is a short and snappy writing guide in which Lucy delivers lots of advice and guidance for all writers from wannabe to well-established. There’s something for everyone to think about, take on board and implement. It’s not just for novelists, but for screenplay and script writers too.

There are useful periodic ‘In a nutshell’ summaries that reinforce the point that’s just been made, and those help the information sink in, whether it’s about focussing on good writing, overdoing it with a Kick Ass Hottie or how much agency to allocate to your female characters.

I guarantee you’ll come away from this book with some new ideas and approaches for your own writing.

 

Author bio

Lucy V. Hay is an author, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. Lucy is the producer of two Brit Thrillers, DEVIATION (2012) and ASSASSIN (2015), as well as the script editor and advisor on numerous other features and shorts.  Lucy’s also the author of  WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS for Kamera Books’ “Creative Essentials” range, as well as its follow ups on DRAMA SCREENPLAYS and DIVERSE CHARACTERS.

 

Social Media Links –

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Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness: honesty, courage and healing

Synopsis

When Joe Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended: medication helped, counselling was enlightening, and mindfulness grounded him. But nothing came close to nature, particularly birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is.

The positive change in Joe’s wellbeing was so profound that he started a blog to record his experience. Three years later he has become a spokesperson for the benefits of birdwatching, spreading the word everywhere from Radio 4 to Downing Street.

In this ground-breaking book filled with practical advice, Joe explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites the reader to discover these extraordinary effects for themselves

 

My review

There’s a Chinese proverb that says: A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

This is wonderfully relevant to this book, not only because it reflects the joyous magic of our feathered fellow inhabitants of this planet, but because it can be applied to the author too. Joe Harkness does not offer this book as the only solution to anxiety and other mental health issues, but it worked in his case and he wants to tell us about it. He has a song that he wants us to listen to.

Bird Therapy is as enchanting as it is unusual. It’s a very unique book, powered by honesty and courage. It’s not easy to admit to suffering from mental illness and one has to admire the author for doing so. He also reveals his own early blunders when bird watching and so as well as sharing his story of healing, he also shares tips and tricks about dipping into the wealth of beauty and intelligence that birds display to us. Patience and perseverance are key to both recovery and discovery.    

I came to this book already a bird-lover. I keep all sorts of poultry and have many exotic birds too. Our French farm is home to at least 64 different species of wild bird. However, my respect for birds and the wonder they arouse have both increased after reading this book. It’s impossible not to absorb some of the author’s gratitude and reverence towards these marvels of nature.

This is a book that will stay with you for a long time, and perhaps alter your way of thinking about both mental health and the bounties and healing power of nature permanently.

 

About the author

Joe Harkness has been writing a Bird Therapy blog for the last three years. In 2017, he had articles published in The Curlew   and Birdwatch  magazine, as well as recording three ‘tweets of the day’ for BBC Radio 4. He is employed as a Special Educational Needs teacher and  has worked in the youth sector for nine years. He lives in Norfolk.

@birdtherapy

 

 

 

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Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer: a gruelling story of self-discovery

Synopsis

The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. A feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the people of Genghis Khan, competitors ride 25 horses across a distance of 1000km. Many riders don’t make it to the finish line.

In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, underprepared but seeking the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses, she raced for seven days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families. Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she found she had nothing to lose, and tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. In one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she became the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win the race.

Told with terrific suspense and style, in a voice full of poetry and soul, Rough Magic’s the extraordinary story of one young woman’s encounter with oblivion, and herself. LARA PRIOR-PALMER was born in London in 1994. Her aunt is Lucinda Green, a legendary rider and one of the UK’s best-ever equestrians.  Lara studied conceptual history and Persian at Stanford University. In 2013, she competed in the 1000-kilometer Mongol Derby in Mongolia, sometimes described as the world’s toughest and longest horse race. Rough Magic is her first book.

 

My review

This is an exhilarating account of a very exciting and gruelling race told in a very memorable way. Almost lyrical at times, the writing is also as brutal as the race itself.

It’s hard to believe the narrator is so young. This is such an incredible undertaking for anyone, let alone someone just out of school, to undertake. From drifting indecision, Lara Prior-Palmer becomes incredibly focussed and tackles the various problems and difficulties in signing up for and funding her participation in the race.

The race itself is recounted in a fascinating way. As well as discovering the scenery, the author discovers a lot about herself. She tells it as it is, at times not showing herself in her best light but a test like this is pushing her to the limit. Her admiration for the animals she rides really shines through because to her they are the stars of the show, although I think the reader is more impressed by this tenacious young lady.

It’s an unusual and gripping memoir, thoroughly enjoyable and absolutely one to read.

  

MORE ADVANCE PRAISE FOR ROUGH MAGIC

“Rough Magic is (Prior-Palmer’s) chronicle of the experience, and if her debut as an author is half as strong as her maiden effort in racing, it will be well worth the read.”  HuffPost

“Rough Magic is the most entertaining memoir I’ve read in years. It’s thrilling, hilarious, unexpected, and ultimately breathtaking. I loved every minute of this wild ride.”  Abbi Geni, author of The Wildlands and the award-winning The Lightkeepers

“Prior-Palmer’s style is a fascinating mix of pep and poignancy. A really terrific story by a spirited new voice.”  Sara Baume, author of A Line Made by Walking

“In Rough Magic she possesses Annie Dillard’s brilliance for noticing, laced with a wild and glistering humour. If an intellect can be said to be elemental, this is it.”  Josephine Rowe, author of A Loving, Faithful Animal

“This debut memoir is a brilliant literary exploration of loneliness and an exhilarating, funny, soulful account of how one young woman, against all odds, won a truly extraordinary race.” Kristen Radtke, author of Imagine Wanting Only This

“As fast-paced as the swiftest Mongolian race horse, Lara’s searingly honest account of her astonishing rise from hopeless underdog to Mongol Derby Champion leaves grit in your teeth and dust in your hair. I laughed, I cried and I felt every bruise. I was riveted till the last word and left with lasting daydreams of Mongolian horizons.” Felicity Aston, author of Alone in Antarctica

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Bloom Where You’re Planted (Life the Expat Way) by Lasairiona McMaster: hands-on advice on how to blossom abroad

Bloom where you are planted (Life the Expat way)

Are you contemplating a move abroad?

Don’t panic!

From culture shock to capable, from language barriers to lifelong friends, and from foreign land to the familiar. Being hurled into life in a strange new place can be daunting and overwhelming, but it can also be exciting and enjoyable.

Rich with tips on how to expat like a boss, Lasairiona McMaster’s “Bloom where you are planted”, takes you on a journey from packing up her life in Northern Ireland to jumping in at the deep-end as an expat in two countries.

An experienced expat from a decade of living abroad, her honest and uncensored tales of what to expect when you’re expatriating, are as funny as they are poignant, and as practical as they are heartfelt. If you’ve lived abroad, or you’re considering the move from local to expat. If you’re looking to rediscover yourself, or simply wondering how on earth to help your children develop into adaptable, resilient, and well-rounded people, this book has something for you.

 

My review

As an expat myself twice over (UK-born but since 1992 I’ve lived in Ireland and then France), I couldn’t resist this book. It’s always fascinating to learn about other expats’ experiences and this one promised to be not only entertaining but helpful too.

I wasn’t disappointed on either account. The author has a lively, chatty style that’s a real pleasure to read. She shares her warts-and-all experience of expatdom, never hesitating to mention the grittier side of it and her own mistakes, but always aspiring herself and encouraging us to make the most of such an opportunity. She makes very valid points about how you need to be extra-organised and flexible, how you have to allow yourself settling-in time, how to cultivate friendships and cope with culture shock. Take your rose-coloured spectacles off before you embark on such an adventure.

Lasairiona takes a very practical and pragmatic approach. There will be good things, there will be bad things living the expat life –  you have to take the rough with the smooth. Compromise is key, both with your partner and affected family members, and also with the country you move to. You have to realise that it will be better in some ways than in your native country, but almost certainly worse in others. But you need to take the overall view and not focus on the negative unduly.

I honestly think she covers everything you need to consider when contemplating life as an expat, from packing, making friends, coping with stressful foreigness, struggling to fit in,  homesickness, issues that concern your Third Culture Kids (= nationals of one country through birth but living in another) and maintaining your sanity and identity. There’s a collection of tales from other expats at the end, which are  enlightening and add a few more tips and tricks to absorb.

The book is a must-read for all expats, but even if you’re not now, never have been or ever will be an expat, you’ll still enjoy this book. No, actually you’ll love it! It’s not didactic – do this, do that – rather the instructive element emerges indirectly through the ordeals and general discussion that Lasairiona presents. You’ll laugh and cringe, but the over-riding emotion  you’ll feel is admiration for this valiant author, who’s had the courage not only to embrace expatdom but share her ups and downs with us.

An excellent and very entertaining read.

 

Purchase Links:

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07RQ9BL6D/

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07RQ9BL6D/

 

About the author 

Lasairiona McMaster grew up dreaming of an exciting life abroad, and, after graduating from Queens University, Belfast, that is exactly what she did – with her then-boyfriend, now husband of almost ten years. Having recently repatriated to Northern Ireland after a decade abroad spanned over two countries (seven and a half years in America and eighteen months in India), she now finds herself ‘home’, with itchy feet and dreams of her next expatriation. With a penchant for both travelling, and writing, she started a blog during her first relocation to Houston, Texas and, since repatriating to Northern Ireland, has decided to do as everyone has been telling her to do for years, and finally pen a book (or two) and get published while she tries to adjust to the people and place she left ten years ago, where nothing looks the same as it did when she left.

 

Social Media Links –

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/QueenofFireLas

Twitter –  https://twitter.com/QueenofFireLas

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/queenoffirelas/?hl=en

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Chickens Eat Pasta by Clare Pedrick: so atmospheric you can hear those chickens clucking!

Synopsis

Not just another romance, but a story of escapism, coincidences, friendship, luck and most of all… love.

Chickens Eat Pasta is the tale of how a young Englishwoman starts a new life after watching a video showing a chicken eating spaghetti in a mediaeval hill village in central Italy.

“Here I was, 26 years old, alone and numb with boredom at the prospect of a future which until recently had seemed to be just what I wanted.”

This is not simply an account of a foreigner’s move to Italy, but a love story written from the unusual perspective of both within and outside of the story. As events unfold, the strong storyline carries with it a rich portrayal of Italian life from the inside, with a supporting cast of memorable characters. Along the way, the book explores and captures the warmth and colour of Italy, as well as some of the cultural differences – between England and Italy, but also between regional Italian lifestyles and behaviour. It is a story with a happy ending. The author and her husband are still married, with three children, who love the old house on the hill (now much restored) almost as much as she does.

Chickens Eat Pasta is Clare’s autobiography, and ultimately a love story – with the house itself and with the man that Clare met there and went on to marry. If you yearn for a happy ending, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a story that proves anything is possible if you only try.

 

My review

This book is so atmospheric that I can hear those chickens clucking as they eat pasta and feel that Italian sunshine!

This book recounts the author’s experience of moving to Italy and creating a new life there, with all the difficulties and demands that come with that alongside the pleasure and achievement. As an expat myself, I know that ‘living the dream’ can involve plenty of nightmares en route! The author candidly shares her triumphs and tribulations with us, and it’s all very interesting, not to say fascinating.

As well as travelling abroad, we travel back in time to 1980s’ or so rural Italy, which itself is running a decade or so behind urban Italy. It is nice to be reminded of simpler times before the internet and other modern conveniences we take for granted. However, that comes at the cost of a more tougher, more constrained life for women, something that emerges clearly in this book.

The story of settling into a new home evolves into a romance. Just as there are problems with the house renovations and becoming a resident, which are part of the author’s love affair with the country, so too are there hiccups in the love affair with her future husband, compounded by the culture clash that inevitably exists.

The book makes for an enjoyable, uplifting and inspiring read.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chickens-Eat-Pasta-Escape-Umbria-ebook/dp/B012GZXOPY

US – https://www.amazon.com/Chickens-Eat-Pasta-Escape-Umbria-ebook/dp/B012GZXOPY

UK Audiobook  – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chickens-Eat-Pasta/dp/B07BYLZX3X

US Audiobook – https://www.amazon.com/Chickens-Eat-Pasta/dp/B07CBJRG9C

 

About Clare Pedrick

Clare Pedrick is a British journalist who studied Italian at Cambridge University before becoming a reporter. She went on to work as the Rome correspondent for the Washington Post and as European Editor of an international features agency. She still lives in Italy with her husband, whom she met in the village where she bought her house.

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You can follow Clare on her Facebook Book Page, her own Facebook page and on Twitter.

Read her blog about life in Umbria here