Staying On by Paul Scott: Delightful End to Raj Quartet

Front cover of Staying On by Paul Scott, winner of the Booker Prize
Staying On: Booker Prize winner 1977

i felt bereft when I reached the final book in The Raj Quartet series by Paul Scott.

Division Of The Spoils, published in 1975, depicted the final years of British rule in India and the birth of a newly-independent state. It’s a process that Scott once described as ‘the British coming to the end of themselves as they were’.

For many of the key figures in the tetralogy, the new order did indeed force them to question their own attitudes and beliefs. Only a few chose to remain once they were no longer in charge of the country.

Some of the main characters : the Layton family, Hari Kumar (unjustly imprisoned for rape) and – the villain of the saga, Maj./Lt. Col. Ronald Merrick – are shown embarking on a new phase of their lives. But we’re left with questions about the future for the Indian nation itself, with only an uneasy truce in place between Muslims and Hindus.

Return To Pankot

Fortunately Paul Scott returned to the setting of his quartet with Staying On, published in 1977. It gave me a much welcome opportunity to return to the small hill town of Pankot that featured in the Raj Quartet.

It is now 20 years after independence. Only one British couple remain in Pankot: Tusker and Lucy Smalley who were minor characters in the earlier novels. The sun has set on the “golden years” of their time in India as members of the British Raj .

Tusker’s retirement from the British Indian Army  and his subsequent career in administration for a maharaja left them with limited funds. These have been further eroded it transpires, by a stint of gambling.

Life After The Raj

By the time we meet them in Staying On they are living in straightened circumstances in the Lodge, a small annex of Smith’s Hotel. It was once the town’s principal hotel but is now overshadowed by the brash new Shiraz Hotel. 

The Smalleys are, just like Smith’s Hotel, adrift in the new India. They try desperately to cling to the old order with its esteemed values of the family and tradition and its strict codes of behaviour.  But such currency no longer matters in the new nation, in which it is the entrepreneurs and money makers, not the army and the civil service who hold sway.

The Smalleys are an ill matched pair.  He is brusque, irascible and prone to spontaneous irrational actions;  she is loquacious, a romanticist who believes many of the young English officers she has met over the years, were secretly attracted to her. Lucy Smalley has never forgiven her husband for deciding —  without consulting her  —  that they would ‘stay on’ in India after he retired from the army.

As her husband’s health declines, she becomes increasingly worried about her financial status when he dies. But her pleas for information are unanswered and in place of real conversations with her taciturn husband she creates imaginary dialogues in which she shows a male visitor the delights of Pankot and introduces him to local society.

Dreams Unfulfilled

What Scott brings to life is that despite the feelings of frustrations, anger and disappointment that encircle the Tusker’s marriage, there is still an affection that has endured.

Staying On is in essence a tale of loss; of unfulfilled dreams and people whose years are lived always on the fringe because they never quite ‘fit in’.

When I first read Staying On more than 20 years ago, the comic storyline of the larger-than-life Mrs Bhoolabhoy and her henpecked husband seemed to dominate the novel. I felt the domestic nature of the plot made the novel feel rather lightweight in comparison to the Raj Quartet. But reading Staying On again, the poignancy of Lucy’s story came more to the forefront. How could I not feel sorry for a woman who has

a faraway look in her eyes as if looking back into places she’s walked in her long-ago shoes.

Staying On is a much quieter novel than the Raj Quartet.

Gone are the questions around loyalty to one’s birth nation and community versus loyalty to an acquired social group like the regiment.  Gone also is the question Scott poses in The Jewel in the Crown (the first of the quartet) about the personal and socio-political consequences that arise when individuals try to cross the racial divide. 

There are certainly no dramatic events in Staying On like the rape in Jewel in the Crown, or the massacre on the train in Division of the Spoils. In fact the main drama of Staying On is dispensed with in the very first page where we learn that Tusker has died while Lucy is at their hairdressers.

And yet there is one theme that seems to tie all five novels together – the ability of human beings to connect with each other; whether across class or across the breakfast table. Lucy and Tusker have as much of a divide between them as Ronald Meyrick and Sarah Layton or Daphne Manners and Hari Kumar experience in The Jewel In The Crown.

Staying On is a delightful end to Scott’s epic about India and its fight for independence against a ruling class determined not to let go of their power. I loved the way Scott mixed in familiar characters and locations from previous novels, yet showed that life had changed. Though it doesn’t tackle the same big issues or focus on highly dramatic events, this novel still provides an interesting perspective on the Colonial experience.

Staying On by Paul Scott: End Notes

About the book: Staying On was published in 1977, two years after the final book in the Raj Quartet series. The tetralogy had not been universally acclaimed; Scott faced accusations that he had written caricatures of the British in India  and those who served them.  By contrast, Staying On was named as winner of the Booker Prize in 1977.

About the author: Paul Scott was born in England. In 1943 he was posted as an officer cadet to India, ending the war as a captain in the Indian Army Service Corps, Despite being initially appalled by the attitudes of the British, by the heat and dust, by the disease and poverty and by the sheer numbers of people, he fell deeply in love with India.

Paul Scott, pictured in 1977. Image credit: Wikipedia

His writing career began in earnest with his first published novel in 1952, going on to achieve moderate success. The crowning glory of his career was winning the Booker Prize in 1977. Sadly he  did not have long to enjoy the success . In the year he won the award, he was diagnosed with cancer. He was too ill to attend the prize giving ceremony and died five months later.

Why I Read This Book: I first read Staying On in the late 1990s but decided to read it again as part of my Booker Prize project.

This review was posted originally in 2012. This updated version incorporates biographical information about the author and an updated image of the book cover . Formatting has been changed to improve readability.

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope: Sharply Witty; Socially critical

Cover of Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope, part of The Chronicles of Barsetshire series

Centuries before we’d even heard of payday loans and credit card debt, Anthony Trollope was writing about a society where living on credit is acceptable and loan sharks lurk in the shadows.

The critique of Victorian society found in The Chronicles of Barsetshire is one of the reasons I love the series so much. On the surface they are tales about love, marriage and religious rivalry. Pleasant enough but it’s the way Trollope criticises and mocks the “pillars of society” that makes them stand out for me. Church, aristocracy, government, politicians in general – it seems Trollope holds none of them in high regard.

In Framley Parsonage his scornful eye is turned on Nate Sowerby, a spendthrift Member of Parliament, and the men of power – politicians, socialites, the Duke of Omnium – in his network of acquaintances.

Anthony Trollope spends a good deal of the book demonstrating how these men he labels “gods” and “giants” connive and collude to advance their own interests, even if that is at the expense of the innocents.

Temptations of A Naive Man

The main plot concerns one such innocent. Mark Robarts is an affable man in his twenties who has been given a leg up in life by the mother of his schoolfriend Lord Lufton. Not only has Lady Lufton gifted him a wealthy living as vicar in her parish, Mark and his wife are regular dinner guests at her grand home.

But this is not enough for Mark whose ambitions lie beyond the small parish of Framley. He is flattered when Sowerby pays him attention and dazzled by the prospect that this acquaintance can lead to even more illustrious connections. Though he knows that Lady Lufton disapproves of the MP’s morals and lifestyle, he plunges on regardless, accepting an invitation to spend the weekend with Sowerby, the Dean of Barchester and another MP, Harold Smith.

His decision is partly an act of defiance against Lady Lufton, but he rationalises it as an essential step towards advancing his position in life.

I have no doubt that Harold Smith will be in the government some day, and I cannot afford to neglect such a man’s acquaintance.

In a naive attempt to mix in these influential circles, he gets persuaded by Sowerby to be a signatory to a bill of credit. Sowerby is an old hand at this kind of caper, deftly getting Mark to stand as guarantor for a £400 loan, considerable sum of money for the rather lowly parson. 

‘Allow me to draw on you for that amount at three months. Long before that time I shall be flush enough.’ And then, before Mark could answer, he had a bill stamp and pen and ink out on the table before him, and was filling in the bill as though his friend had already given his consent.

The MP makes no attempt to pay back the loan. When the due date materialises he simply gets Mark to sign another note (this time for £500) to buy his racehorse.

False Friends

In return, Sowerby helps Mark gain a prestigious post at Barchester Cathedral. But too late, Mark discovers that Sowerby is a false friend whose deviousness has brought him to the brink of disgrace, aided by a shady group of people whose business it is to speculate on unpaid debts. It proves to be a wake up call for the young cleric:

His very soul was dismayed by the dirt through which he was forced to wade. He had become unconsciously connected with the lowest dregs of mankind, and would have to see his name mingled with theirs in the daily newspapers.

Anthony Trollope said his intention in Framley Parsonage was to write “the biography of an English clergyman who should not be a bad man, but one led into temptation by his own youth and by the unclerical accidents of the life of those around him.”

It isn’t only Mark whose faults are laid bare. Sowerby is clearly the kind of parasitic person Trollope despises:

It is a remarkable thing with reference to men who are distressed for money… they never seem at a loss for small sums, or deny themselves those luxuries which small sums purchase. Cabs, dinners, wine, theatres, and new gloves are always at the command of men who are drowned in pecuniary embarrassments, whereas those who don’t owe a shilling are so frequently obliged to go without them!“ — 

In fact hardly any character (notable exceptions being Mark’s wife and sister) comes out of the story with any grace. They’re avaricious, acquisitive social climbers, driven by determination to get the status and wealth they believe is rightfully theirs. So they manoeuvre to marry their daughters off to someone with a title, get a position in the Cabinet, or acquire even more influence.

Mrs Proudie Returns

The mocking tone Trollope adopts towards many of these figures, makes the book hugely entertaining. Some of the characters from previous books in the series, make an appearance including the formidable Mrs Proudie, wife of the Bishop.

She’s her usual domineering self and still determined to exert her influence even beyond Barchester. There’s one memorable scene in which habing decided to play social hostess, she agonises over what kind of event would best “set the people talking” . Eventually she determines to hold a conversazione.

To accommodate with chairs and sofas as many as the furniture of her noble suite of rooms would allow, especially with the two chairs and padded bench against the walls in the back closet the small inner drawing−room, as she would call it to the clergymen’s wives from Barsetshire and to let the others stand about upright, or ‘group themselves’ as she described it. Then four times during the two hours’ period of her conversazione tea and cake were to be handed around on salvers. It is astonishing how far a very little cake will go in this way, particularly if administered tolerably early after dinner. 

Gems like this abound in Framley Parsonage. Trollope’s mocking tone had the ability to make me smile but there were some moments, of which this was one, that were pure laugh-out-loud. This is the fourth of the Barsester Chronicles I’ve read and the combination of social commentary and sharp wit has nudged this ahead of Barchester Towers in my list of favourites.

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope: EndNotes

About the Book: Framley Parsonage was published serially in the Cornhill Magazine from January 1860 to April 1861 and in three volumes in 1861. It was the fourth of Trollopes’s six Barsetshire novels.

Elizabeth Gaskell was one of its many fans. “I wish Trollope would go on writing Framley Parsonage for ever. I don’t see any reason why it should come to an end,” she declared.

Anthony Trollope

About the Author: Anthony Trollope was working as a postal surveyor’s clerk in central Ireland when he began to write, using long train journeys around the island on postal duties. His early novels, which had an Irish settings, were not well received. Returning to England he was given responsibility for investigating and reorganising rural mail delivery in south-western England and south Wales. His investigation took him to Salisbury where he conceived the plot of The Warden, which became the first of the six Barsetshire novels.

The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd: A Tale of Dangerous Obsession

Do you ever find yourself feeling you want to shout STOP at a character in a novel? I do occasionally when I notice the character about to make a decision or take an action that I know will lead to danger, heartbreak or tragedy.

Cover of The Innocent Wife, a psychological thriller by Amy Lloyd

I reached that point 16 pages into The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd. This is the moment in the narrative when an English schoolteacher’s fascination with a man on Death Row in America, crashes through the borderline with obsession.

Sam has been following his case for months, eagerly participating in online message boards and forums arguing Dennis Danson is the victim of a miscarriage of justice. She scrutinises every piece of evidence described in Framing The Truth, a TV documentary about the case. Then she writes directly to Dennis and is quickly won over by the charm and kindness of his reply.

Suddenly she’s declaring her love for him and hopping on a plane to visit him. Why? Essentially because she has little else going on in her life. She’s 31 years old, adrift in her job and recently broke up with her boyfriend. “It’s time,” says decides. ” for me to stop wasting my whole life wishing for things and actually do them.”

I know people do write to prison inmates even though they are complete strangers. There are even organisations like WriteAPrisoner to support this kind of penpal arrangement. But I’ve never heard of people flying thousands of miles to meet their partner prisoner in person.

Sam wilfully ignored my instruction to STOP. The stupid woman carried on disregarding the warning signs and said yes when this guy she barely knows pops the question. So there she is, wife of a guy in jail for the murder of one young girl and suspected of killing several others. Hardly the start of a wonderful marriage is it?

But Sam’s so naive that when Dennis does get released, she’s all a flutter, imagining this idyllic life together. Except you and I know it’s going to be anything like idyllic. He’s a non-smoking, health freak, superfit, meticulously tidy and jaw-droppingly handsome. She’s overweight, smokes, loves fast food and leaves a trail of discarded clothes and magazines in her hotel room.

They have little in common. She imagines the bliss of being wrapped in his arms. He doesn’t even want to share the same bed. Of course this is all heading for a disaster. We all know the signs and even Sam begins to get suspicious and afraid for her own suspicions. But Amy Lloyd cleverly keeps us in suspense about whether those suspicions are well founded and it’s not until the final 10 pages or so that we discover the truth.

Sam is a character for whom I had no empathy whatsoever yet I had to keep reading the book to find out whether my prognosis of disaster was misjudged or Amy Lloyd had been pulling the wool over my eyes all along. And that’s really the mark of a good thriller isn’t it? We keep reading even when the scenario is highly improbable and the characters disagreeable.

The novel does get rather draggy at times. I got tired of Sam’s expressions of physical desire for this guy and her frustration when he turns his back on her. I also got tired of the way she hangs about in hotel rooms doing nothing while he’s off to the gym, out running or hitting the keys on his laptop to write his memoirs.

There was an element of the story which didn’t ring true al all. We’re led to believe that Sam is being manipulated by Denis but there was little evidence of coercion. He snaps at her, is demanding about what they eat and where they go but generally shows little interest in her. It was hard to accept that she feels completely dependent on him and just goes along with whatever he wants.

But I did enjoy Amy Lloyd’s portrayal of the media and public frenzy that follows Dennis’ release. Money comes pouring in, as do freebie supplies of clothes and goodies from people who want ride the bandwagon. Media outlets hassle to be the first to get Dennis on their shows. Filming gets underway for a new documentary; there’s talk of a Hollywood premier. And then it all comes crashing down after one disastrous interview. That reversal of fortune felt such an accurate portrayal of the way heroes can so quickly become villains in today’s media and social media cycles.

Though I’m not a great fan of thrillers and I wouldn’t rate The Innocent Wife as one of the best, it did keep me entertained and distracted me from the crisis in which we find ourselves in the real world this year.

The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd: Endnotes

About The Book: The Innocent Wife was published by Arrow, an imprint of Penguin Books in 2018. It won the Daily Mail’s first novel contest 

About the Author: Amy Lloyd is from Wales. She studied English and Creative Writing at Cardiff Metropolitan University. The Innocent Wife, her debut novel, became a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. Amy lives in Cardiff with her partner, who is also a published novelist. Her second novel One More Lie was published in 2019.

How To Use WordPress To Get Free Photos

How much time do you spend searching for images to give your blog post more of a wow factor? If all you want to use is a book cover image, that’s easy enough. But if you want something more generic that:

  • has impact,
  • isn’t ubiquitous,
  • is free and
  • doesn’t have copyright restrictions

you can easily spend an hour sifting through photo library sites like Pixabay.com and Unsplash.com.

It’s only recently I discovered that WordPress also has a photo library containing thousands of images, and they’re all free to WordPress users. It’s also easy to use but of course you first need to know where to find it.

How To Use WordPress Photo Library

You can access the library in two ways. This is the method I prefer.

  1. Navigate to My Site → Site → Media.
  2. Click on the drop down arrow alongside the button for media library source button in the top-left corner.
  3. Select “Pexels free photos” from the 3 options.

4. Now do your search using the search box at the top of the screen. As an example, I searched using the term “reading”. As you type, the screen below the search box will fill with options.

5. Initially, the screen will show the possible images in small size but if you use the slide tool in the upper right corner, you can change the view.

This is how my first screen looked.

I found it difficult to really see the images clearly so I used the slide bar to change the view. By moving it to the mid way point I could see 6 images per row instead of 12.

Although it does mean you have to do more vertical scrolling to see all the options, I find it easier to work in this view.

If I wanted to see the images even more clearly, by moving the slider bar to the far right, I end up with just 3 images per row.

6. Now all you have to do is select the image you want (you can select more than one at a time). Your selected image will show with a small red dot in the bottom right corner.

7. Click on the “Copy to Library” text top left of your screen. Your chosen image/images are now in your media library, ready to add to your post in the usual way. You can edit the image here – changing the size, adding a title to make it easier to find, and an alt-tag.

How to Use The WordPress Image

8. When I’m ready to add the image to my post, I just select a new Image Block, click in “Select Image”

9. From the drop down menu I choose “Image Library”, and select the image I just added.

When the image appears on your page, you may notice that the caption has been pre-filled with the photo credit. One less thing for you to worry about.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

10 The alternative method is to access the WordPress image library while you are writing your content and building your blog post. You just “insert image” and from the drop down menu choose “Pexels Free Photos” as shown at step 10 in the graphic above. Then you just search that library, select the image in the same way.

I prefer having my images already chosen before I begin designing the page but both methods will get you to the same results. Just choose what works for you.

A Good Solution?

The catalogue is extensive though some of the images available are a bit on the cheesy side. But so are many of those you’ll find in other libraries.

You do need to think carefully about the search terms you use. The more general your search term is, the more results will be returned but many of them could be irrelevant. Again, that’s no really any different to what you’ll find in other photo libraries.

Of course the best images will be ones you create yourself since there’s no risk you’ll find another blogger using the exact same picture. But if you don’t have great photography or design skills, this is a good option.

This post is part of my A2Zofblogging series. Don’t forget to check out the other articles listed in the series page.

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris: masterful deception [book review]

I picked up Gillespie and I by Jane Harris in an airport bookshop, hoping it would keep me so engrossed I wouldn’t notice the length of the flight.  I thought ticked two of the right boxes: nineteenth-century setting and a sense of mystery

The story reminded me of Willkie Collins’ sensation and mystery stories and is told at a similar fast pace. It’s narrated by Harriet Baxter, a spinster approaching her 80th birthday, who recalls a chance encounter 45 years previously with Ned Gillespie. He is a talented artist who, we are soon informed, died before his fame was fully recognised. Harriet meets him again during a visit to the International Exhibition in Glasgow in 1888 – and quickly becomes close friends with the Gillespie family.

Dark shadows hover over their somewhat Bohemian home as one of the daughters begins to behave in an alarmingly malicious way towards her sibling and other members of the household. And then Harriet finds herself propelled into a family tragedy and a notorious court case.

The period atmosphere was convincing. Harriet’s recollections of the past come with lots of detail about  houses, dresses, domestic routines as well as the atmosphere of the exhibition ground.  Unlike many other novels with historical settings, Harris’ manages to avoid dialogue that feels flat and clunky with anachronisms.

The key to this novel however lies not in what we are told but more in what we are not told. First person narrators in novels are frequently unreliable witnesses or interpreters. Harriet Baxter isn’t simply unreliable, she is a master of deception.

She portrays herself as a generous-hearted person yet is prone to make waspish comments about the other women in the Gillespie household. She believes herself to be uniquely positioned to  tell the truth about the unrecognised genius of Ned Gillespie.

It would appear that I am to be the first to write a book on Gillespie. Who, if not me, was dealt that hand? Indeed, one might say, who else is left to tell the tale? Ned Gillespie: artist, innovator, and forgotten genius; my dear friend and soul mate.

She also claims to have privileged insight into the man’s character and his artistic prowess.

I learned to understand Ned – not simply through what he said – but also through his merest glance. So profound was our rapport that I was, on occasion, the first to behold his completed paintings, sometimes before his wife Annie had cast her gaze upon them.

But the reader comes to question her intention to “set the record straight” about the artist and the events in which she was enmeshed as a young. Harriet is however a tease of a narrator, often just giving hints rather than full explanations. One of her frequent tricks is to make dark allusions to tragedies yet to be revealed.  “If only we had known then what the future held in store,” she says early on.

Harriet Baxter is so skilled in the art of hints and suggestions that the only way the reader does in fact get to know what really occurred is by following the breadcrumb trail of those clues and by reading between the lines. By the end, you almost feel that you have to read it again for everything to fall into place.

If I had a gripe with the novel it lay in the ending. It didn’t so much end as just seem to peter out as if it had run out of steam. I didn’t feel cheated because the novel had done exactly what I needed it to do – keep me engaged so I didn’t notice the cramped and confined conditions of my journey. But I did expect it to come to some form of a resolution.

Now, with the benefit of a few months gap, I can see that instead of this being a weakness of the novel, it was in fact one of its strengths. Joanne Harris, like her narrator, is an arch manipulator, leading me through the labyrinth of her novel and making me believe that all would be revealed. But like Harriet Baxter, she left me to work out the truth.

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris: Endnotes

About the Book: Gillespie and I was published by Faber and Faber in 2011 and was well received by reviewers. The Times’ critic described it as “a compelling, suspenseful and highly enjoyable novel.” It was long listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction (now reincarnated as The Women’s Prize For Fiction) the following year. It lost out to The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht.

About the Author: Jane Harris was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and spent her early childhood there before her parents moved to Glasgow, Scotland, in 1965. After university she tried a variety of careers, working abroad variously as a dishwasher, a waitress, a chambermaid and an English language teacher. She started to write short stories during this period while confined to bed in Portugal with a bout of flu. She went on to undertake an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia then completed a PhD at the same university. The Observations was her first published novel. Gillespie and I was her second. She published her third novel Sugar Money in 2017.

This review was posted originally in 2012. This is an updated version which incorporates biographical information about the author and an updated image of the book cover . Paragraphs of text have been shortened to improve readability.

Sample Sunday: Off To The Antipodes

Saturday disappeared in a blur of cooking and cleaning in preparation for a family visit – the first since the pandemic hit the UK. So Sample Saturday has morphed into Sample Sunday – lucky me that both days begin with the same letter of the alphabet. I’d have been in a mess otherwise 🙂

This week sample is of three books all by authors from what we northerners call The Antipodes: Australia and New Zealand.

This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman

This novel explores the story behind the real-life death of Albert Black, one of the last people to be executed in in New Zealand.

Black, known as the ‘jukebox killer’, was only twenty when he was convicted of murdering another young man in a fight at a milk bar in in 1955. His crime fuelled growing moral panic about teenagers.

Kidman asks whether this case was indeed the result of juvenile delinquency or was it a reaction to outsiders – Black had migrated to New Zealand to get away from an impoverished childhood in Belfast, Ireland. Or was the young man simply unfortunate enough to fall in with the wrong crowd in Aukland.

I first heard of this book from Lisa at ZNZLitLovers who thought it “rivetting” and then found an interview in which Fiona Kidman explained the inspiration for the novel.

The Verdict: Definitely One To Keep

Remembering Babylon  by David Malouf

David Malouf won the inaugural International Dublin Literary Prize in 1996 with this novel. It was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Award.

Malouf’s tale focuses on a young English cabin boy, Gemmy Fairley, who is abandoned in Australia. He is raised by a group of aborigines but when white settlers reach the area, he attempts to move back in the world of Europeans. To them, Gemmy is a force that both fascinates and repels. The boy is also unsettled by his identity and place in this new world.

The few pages I’ve sampled give a really good sense of the way the novel reflects the clash of cultures and the fear of the unknown. I have a feeling this is going to be a superb book.

The Verdict: Keep

The New Ships by Kate Duigan

It’s back to New Zealand for my final choice. I hadn’t heard of this author but I went into an independent bookshop in Nelson, New Zealand, determined not to return home to the UK without at least one book by a local author in my suitcase.

After a long and delightful discussion with the shop owner (a patient man) I settled on The New Ships.

It’s the most contemporary of the three books sampled this week, being set shortly after the fall of the Twin Towers.

It concerns Peter Collie, a lawyer who feels adrift following his wife’s death. His attempts to understand the direction of his life, lead him to the past and the days when he was a backpacker in Amsterdam. His girlfriend in those days give birth to a daughter who died at just six weeks old. Or so Peter was given to understand. But now he is not so sure she did die. His attempt to find the truth takes him across London, Europe and the Indian sub continent.

I’m getting the impression the book considers not only the response to grief but how the choices we make or do not make, ultimately shape our lives.

No doubt about my decision on this one.

The Verdict: Keep!

Unusually, I’ve decided to keep all three featured books. The TBR is thus staying at its current level but that’s ok – the objective of Sample Saturday isn’t to get rid of books, but to make sure my shelves are full only with books I do want to read. What do you think of the decisions I’ve reached – if you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear from you.

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