Welcome bookworm, it’s lovely to see you. It may be gloomy outside today but inside my warm little book nook, all is cosy and snug. I love how books allow you to escape from the darkest of days to all corners of this world or others. And not just via the Travel books, although they’ll sulk if they hear me say that, as they’re feel a little undermined these days. Just yesterday, my reading took me from Edinburgh to Estonia in a book called The Unravelling of Maria by F J Curlew. Have you read it? Here, have a cup of tea and a piece of Scottish shortbread while I tell you all about it.
First, here’s the blurb: Lovers separated by the Iron Curtain. Two women whose paths should never have crossed. A remarkable journey that changes all of their lives.
Maria’s history is a lie. Washed up on the shores of Sweden in 1944, with no memory, she was forced to create her own. Nearly half a century later she still has no idea of her true identity.
Jaak is fighting for Estonia’s independence refusing to accept the death of his fiancee Maarja, whose ship was sunk as she fled across the Baltic Sea to escape the Soviet invasion.
Angie knows exactly who she is. A drug addict, a waste of space. Life is just about getting by.
A chance meeting in Edinburgh’s Cancer Centre is the catalyst for something very different.
Sometimes all you need is someone who listens.
Here’s a little about the author: Fiona dropped out of school aged 15, because being the consummate rebel, she hated it! After becoming a single parent she decided to return to education, graduating in 1996 with an honours degree in primary education. Ah, the irony!
As soon as she graduated she packed everything she owned into her Renault 11, including her daughter, two dogs and a cat, and headed off to Estonia to become an international school teacher. After fifteen years of teaching, predominantly in Eastern Europe, she returned to the UK.
She now lives on the east coast of Scotland and has written four novels.
Her writing has been described as, “Human experience impacted upon by political situation, interwoven with a love of nature.”
And here’s my review: When Fiona Curlew reached out to me to see if I would be interested in reviewing her book, I agreed because she seemed friendly and her novel piqued my interest, despite my misgivings that the cancer centre might feel a little too close to home for me as a survivor. I’m so glad I did, as I’ve experienced almost every emotion possible whilst reading this book and feel privileged to have got to know Angie and Maria.
I connected with the characters instantly, and enjoyed watching their friendship grow. The changes in perspective and time helped to gain a deeper understanding of them and I was completely drawn into the Scottish dialect in Angie’s chapters and speech, reminding me of reading Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting as a teenager. Maria’s polished veneer hides a strength and determination, and as her past is gradually revealed my respect for her grew even more.
The descriptive quality of the author’s writing made me feel as if I was there: in the forest of Estonia, holding my breath as I hoped the Russian soldiers didn’t hear me; in the cancer centre, waiting to find out if my treatment was working; in the grimy Edinburgh flat, frantically rolling a spliff to try and calm someone’s temper. It was an immersive experience and sometimes I was glad when the perspectives changed so I could breathe a little easier.
I felt for Maria as she reacted to unexpected triggers from her past which cracked open the amnesia sealed boxes in her mind to memories she didn’t understand. Angie’s care for her was touching, although I worried at the risk to both women from the men in Angie’s life. I felt too for Angie as her inner critic told her she was unworthy, judging her harshly and perpetuating the cycle of self abuse.
I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone so I will end by saying that this is one of the most compelling books I’ve read this year and I feel privileged to have read it. Whilst the subject matter isn’t always easy, it’s a beautiful story which challenges readers to look beyond the surface of those they see in life. 5 / 5 stars from me.
If you would like to read this story, you can click on the book image to go to the relevant page on Amazon. I don’t get anything for providing the link, I’m just being a helpful bookworm. A huge thank you to F J Curlew for the digital copy of her book in return for my honest opinion.
Well bookworm, I suppose I had better go; I can hear rustlings from the Travel books and suspect there’ll be trouble if I don’t give them some attention. Until next time, farewell bookworm!