The Tree of Heaven by May Sinclair

Published by British Library as part of their Women Writers series in March 2020.

The British Library Women Writers series is a curated collection of novels by female authors who enjoyed broad, popular appeal in their day. In a century which the role of women in society changed radically, their fictional heroines highlight women’s experience of life inside and outside the home through the decades in these rich, insightful and evocative stories.

About the Author – May Sinclair (1863-1946) was a popular British writer and an active suffragist. Her publication record is prolific, including novels, philosophy, criticism, poetry and biography, as we as her 1912 pro-suffrage pamphlet, Feminism. she has been dubbed the ‘the readable modernist’.

The Blurb – Published in 1917 before women achieved the right to vote and victory in the First World War was far from assured, The Tree of Heaven taels the intertwining stories of Dorothea Harrison and her three brothers as their lives are overtaken by the outbreak of the hostilities. as the old certainties of the previous centuries distintegrate, Dorothea takes up the cause of women’s suffrage and joins the Women’s Service Corps as Nicky, Michael and John go off, one by one, to the trenches.

My Thoughts – I was very kindly asked to take part in the British Library Women Writers series and was instantly drawn to this book due to the author’s links to the suffrage movement. Set between the Boer War and World War One the story centres around the Harrison family of Hampstead, the children are young and innocent but those times will tragically change as the 20th century dawns and society moves in to more uncertain times. As the children grow into young adults it becomes apparent they are going to face some difficult decisions regarding their futures. The boys must decide whether or not to enlist in the army and be sent to the front line and Dorothea must consider her role as an active suffragette and the difficulties that could bring, not just to her but her family as well. As the boys leaves one by one for battle you cannot help but feel drawn into the heartache the family must have suffered as they waved them off, not knowing if they would return.

This is a story that has the ability to draw you into the time it is written, it gives us an eye witness account of life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the every changing political and social dynamics of the time, the Great War affected every man woman and child in this country one way or another, it marked the end of the old life and the beginning of a new way of living. The characters live through these changes, they are part of the fabric of life at that time, they are well written and relatable, they almost have a modern feel to them and as classics go this really should be considered along with some of the greats.

This book is what I would describe as a slow burner, the pace doesn’t really change from the first page t the last, which at times I found frustrating, but for the most part I can appreciate the skill of the author to build a story that can engage its reader for the duration of the story. The story is at time heart wrenching, sad, insightful but on the whole is a very good read.

Many thanks to British Library and Maria Vassilopoulos for my gifted copy on exchange for this honest review.

Awakening Musings on Planetary Survival by Sam Love

Published By Fly on the Wall Press.

Many thanks to Isabelle Kenyon for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Blurb – Far from the doom and gloom autopsy of the contemporary environmental crisis, ‘Awakening’ indulges in fun. From the craziness of shipping bottled water 6,000 miles, to how bcteria evolves for a counterattack, this collection laughs at humanity’s war on nature. after reading Love’s poetry, you will never look at nature in the same way.

Could there be a better time for this poetry collection than now, whilst the world is battling COVID-19 we mustn’t forget that climate change poses a huge threat to us and our planet.

The collection is divided in to four sections, Awakening, Origins, Impact and Recovering Hope each one dealing with aspect of climate change and the devastating effect it is having. In Elegant Travelers, Love talks to us about the Tundra Swans that dot the surface of Pungo Lake and how soon enough they will have to move further north as the south will be too hot for them in winter.

What I like about this collection is that Love looks at the impact on all areas life, not just the human aspect but the effect on animals, the land and the sea. There is anger and fury in his words but that is justified as each poem is only reinforcing what we already know, but seem loathe to do anything about. But at the same time, it is a lighthearted look at the environmental challenges we face, it is written in a way in which you can understand, not to say it is dumbed down, it isn’t, but it all just makes sense.

I connected with each poem in this collection, I found myself agreeing with his words, despite never thinking about some aspects before, for example in Jacuzzi Guilt when he comments that he is luxuriating in the same amount of water an African villager would use in ten days. I could happily spend hours discussing each poem as each one is excellently written and carries such an important message.

This may only be a small collection of poems but it is a very powerful one, the poems are easy to connect with and the messages are clear. I would definitely read more of Sam Love’s work and I would urge you to as well.

About The Author

Sam Love’s interest in the environment started with reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as a teenager in rural Alabama. He vividly remembers watching entertainment the airplane crop dusters spraying pesticides on the fields near his house. Currently, he lives New Bern, NC where he is president of Nexus Poets that organises a monthly poetry reading. He considers it as good a place as any to observe the drama that currently passes for Western Civilisation

About The Publisher

Fly on the Wall Press is a publisher with a conscience. Publishing high quality anthologies on pressing issues, chapbooks and poetry products, from exceptional poets around the globe. Founded in 2018 by founding editor, Isabelle Kenyon.

All Adults Here by Emma Straub

Published By Michael Joseph – Out Now

Many thanks to Gaby Young for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Blurb – Astrid Strick has always tried to do her best for her three children. Now, they’re finally grown up – but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Elliot doesn’t have any idea who he really is, or how to communicate with his own sons. Porter is, at last, pregnant – but feels incapable of rising to the challenge. Nicky has fled to distant New Mexico, where he’s living the bohemian dream. And Astrid herself is up to things that would make her children’s hair curl. until now, the family have managed to hid their true selves from each other. but when Nicky’s incorrigibly curious daughter Cecelia comes to stay, her arrival threatens to upturn everything…

My Thoughts – Isn’t it every parents wish that they can raise their children without causing them any major damage?

All Adults Here is like holding a looking glass up to every family you know. It is about how we all interact with our family, how siblings get on and how our relationships with our parents can shape us in to the adults we become. It also demonstrates how those relationships change over time as we grow and become parents ourselves. The family dynamics explored within this book are true of any family.

The story centres on the Strick family, Astrid is the matriarch, she is a widower and is in a love affair with her hairdresser Birdie. She is a recent witness to a RTA and soon to be guardian of her granddaughter Cecelia.  Astrid’s eldest son is Elliott; he is married with young twins who are a handful to say the least. He seems slightly lost in life and feels like he has never quite achieved the great things his parents had hoped for him. The middle child is a daughter called Porter, she runs a goat farm and is currently pregnant by a sperm donor as she can’t seem to settle with one partner or another she is also concerned over how she will cope as a single parent.  Finally there is the baby of the family Nicky, he is married to Juliette and they have one daughter called Cecelia. As the baby of the family you get a sense that Nicky has never really been held accountable for his actions, and still isn’t, which is why he has sent Cecelia, who has been expelled from school, to live with her grandmother.

For me it is Cecelia that holds everything together, often acting more like an adult than the adults do. She grows into a mature and well-rounded teenager, she is honest and makes a good friend for August, a lad who before meeting Cecelia had never really felt comfortable with his school surroundings.

All Adults Here is a witty and charming book that takes a heart-warming look at family life, the characters are relatable and whilst I didn’t connect with all of them you can appreciate the life struggles they are coping with and I think we will all see a little of ourselves somewhere amongst the Strick family.

I enjoyed this book for its attempts to deal with lots of different and often challenging aspects of life and in doing that you find yourself connecting with it on various levels.