Pa Salt leaves his daughter Star a small figurine in the shape of a black panther, as well as a letter directing her to an antiquarian bookshop in London. Star and her sisters were each adopted from various parts of the world and raised on Pa Salt’s magnificent estate on the shores of Lake Geneva. They’ve grown up well, never acting spoiled as a result of their lives of privilege, but each feels lacking in some way, compelled to discover their birth heritage. By leaving them mysterious clues, their adoptive father helps to set them on a journey which not only reveals their past but also charts their future.
Named after a constellation of stars, the first sister Maia goes to Brazil in The Seven Sisters which is also an introduction to the series. The second sister Ally, goes to Norway in The Storm Sister. In this instalment, Star steps out from the shadow of her sister to go to the Lake District and Kent, entering the world of British aristocracy in the Edwardian era.
The historical aspect of this fiction series is definitely its strength and is what intrigues me the most. Even though these books are cosy, romantic sagas to sink into, the amount of research that went into the real people behind the stories, raises these novels to a higher level with wide appeal.
Though Flora MacNichol is a fictional character, her life as it entwines with Alice Keppel, King Edward the VII, and Beatrix Potter is fascinating. There is also an unrelated but interesting real life connection to Prince Charles and Camilla which I will let you discover on your own. Lucinda Riley’s website provides a great deal of information about the true stories behind the books, for further reading pleasure, here is the link.
From the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, comes a short but powerful picture book for all ages, dedicated to the thousands of refugees who have perished at sea fleeing war and persecution. Enhanced by the illustrations of Dan Williams, it’s a letter from a father to a son, on the eve of their departure. He knows he is doing everything he can to protect his child, but also realizes that his choice will put them in grave danger.
Impelled to write this story by the haunting image of young Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed upon the beach in Turkey in September 2015, Hosseini hopes to pay tribute to the millions of families, like Kurdi’s, who have been splintered and forced from home by war and persecution, and he will donate author proceeds from this book to the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) and The Khaled Hosseini Foundation to help fund lifesaving relief efforts to help refugees around the globe. Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and moved to the United States in 1980. Here is a short documentary from the author about his own journey in writing this book:
What a delightful, funny, quirky, uplifting, and satisfying novel. The story has a unique magical quality without actually being a fantasy. It deals with some pretty real and serious stuff like loss, grief, and guilt. It’s a love letter to trees and a testament to the healing power of friendship and love. I liked each character in this book, even the ones who were not so nice. I loved the way the book made me feel while I was reading it and appreciated the twists and turns that made it compelling right to the end. It’s very different from A Man Called Ove but has been likened to it. Here’s the publisher’s blurb to give you an idea of the storyline:
“When you climb a tree, the first thing you do is to hold on tight…Thirty-four-year-old Harry Crane works as an analyst for the US Forest Service. When his wife dies suddenly, he is unable to cope. Leaving his job and his old life behind, Harry makes his way to the remote woods of northeastern Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, determined to lose himself. But fate intervenes in the form of a fiercely determined young girl named Oriana. She and her mother, Amanda, are struggling to pick up the pieces from their own tragedy–Amanda stoically holding it together while Oriana roams the forest searching for answers. And in Oriana’s magical, willful mind, she believes that Harry is the key to righting her world. Now it’s time for Harry to let go…After taking up residence in the woods behind Amanda’s house, Harry reluctantly agrees to help Oriana in a ludicrous scheme to escape his tragic past. In so doing, the unlikeliest of elements–a wolf, a stash of gold coins, a fairy tale called The Grum’s Ledger and a wise old librarian named Olive–come together to create a golden adventure that will fulfill Oriana’s wildest dreams and open Harry’s heart to a whole new life.