Title: Freya

Author: Anthony Quinn

Pages: 464 Pages

Publisher: Random House UK

The Blurb

London, May 1945. Freya Wyley, twenty, meets Nancy Holdaway, eighteen, amid the wild celebrations of VE Day, the prelude to a devoted and competitive friendship that will endure on and off for the next two decades. Freya, wilful, ambitious, outspoken, pursues a career in newspapers which the chauvinism of Fleet Street and her own impatience conspire to thwart, while Nancy, gentler, less self-confident, struggles to get her first novel published. Both friends become entangled at university with Robert Cosway, a charismatic young man whose own ambition will have a momentous bearing on their lives.

Flitting from war-haunted Oxford to the bright new shallows of the 1960s, Freya plots the unpredictable course of a woman’s life and loves against a backdrop of Soho pornographers, theatrical peacocks, willowy models, priapic painters, homophobic blackmailers, political careerists.

Beneath the relentless thrum of changing times and a city being reshaped, we glimpse the eternal: the battles fought by women in pursuit of independence, the intimate mysteries of the human heart, and the search for love. Stretching from the Nuremberg war trials to the advent of the TV celebrity, from innocence abroad to bitter experience at home, Freya presents the portrait of an extraordinary woman taking arms against a sea of political and personal tumult.

The Review

I loved this book.

Freya is the brilliant story of the eponymous character in post-war Britain and her turbulent friendship with Nancy.

Freya is not the most likeable of characters and Quinn has made sure that the reader sees that her flaws are obvious but also that the things that she dislikes most about people, society, and social morals are the faux pas that she keeps producing.

Even though Freya can be very unlikable so can Nancy. You find yourself yelling at both of them as they both make mistakes time and time again. Quinn really shows the truth about friendship. The upsides and the downsides and just how difficult sustaining a friendship can be.

I really loved reading Freya. It is by no means a small book but I wanted more. The story did not need more and I was satisfied with the story as a whole but I just loved it so much. I was bereft when it was over.

Freya by Anthony Quinn is available now.

For more information regarding Random House UK (@penguinrandom) please visit www.penguinrandomhouse.com.

Title: Toffee

Author: Sarah Crossan

Pages: 416 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

The Blurb

I am not who I say I am,

and Marla isn’t who she thinks she is.

I am a girl trying to forget.

She is a woman trying to remember.

Allison has run away from home and with nowhere to live finds herself hiding out in the shed of what she thinks is an abandoned house. But the house isn’t empty. An elderly woman named Marla, with dementia, lives there – and she mistakes Allison for an old friend from her past called Toffee.

Allison is used to hiding who she really is, and trying to be what other people want her to be. And so, Toffee is who she becomes. After all, it means she has a place to stay. There are worse places she could be.

But as their bond grows, and Allison discovers how much Marla needs a real friend, she begins to ask herself – where is home? What is a family? And most importantly, who am I, really?

The Review

I absolutely adore Sarah Crossan’s novels. Whenever a new one comes out you can guarantee it is on my ‘want to read’ list. The same can be said about Toffee. It was one of those books that I didn’t want to know anything about I just wanted to dive in because I know that with a Sarah Crossan novel I will be presented with challenging topics in a moving way.

Toffee did not disappoint.

It is a book about relationships. Not the love kind, but more the familial or the platonic kind. The story follows Allison, a runaway who is desperate to seek solace in the one person who has ever shown her kindness, however, when she ends up alone and penniless in an unknown area Allison forms a friendship with Marla. The only problem is that Marla has dementia and doesn’t remember Allison from one day to the next.

Crossan deals with issues such as abuse, broken families, loneliness, and mental health in such a caring, non-judgemental way. She has a magical ability to make her characters likable even when we question what they are doing. She is meticulous in her characterisation and I absolutely adore her books, Toffee included.

Toffee by Sarah Crossan is available now.

For more information regarding Sarah Crossan (@SarahCrossan) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Bloomsbury Publishing (@BloomsburyBooks) please visit www.bloomsbury.com.

Title: The Burning Girl

Author: Claire Messud

Pages: 247 Pages

Publisher: Little Brown

The Blurb

Julia Robinson and Cassie Burnes have been friends since nursery school. They have shared everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their birthplace, the quiet town of Royston, Massachusetts. But as the two girls enter adolescence, their paths diverge: while Julia comes from a stable, happy, middle-class family, Cassie never knew her father, who died when she was an infant, and has an increasingly tempestuous relationship with her single mother, Bev.

When Bev becomes involved with the mysterious Anders Shute, Cassie feels cruelly abandoned. Disturbed, angry and desperate for answers, she sets out on a journey that will put her own life in danger, and shatter her oldest friendship.

Compact, compelling, and ferociously sad, The Burning Girl is at once a story about childhood, friendship and community, and a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about childhood and friendship. Claire Messud brilliantly mixes folklore and Bildungsroman, exploring the ways in which our made-up stories, and their consequences, become real.

The Review

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud is a complex YA novel about the mercurial nature of friendship – especially for those who are growing up. The story follows Julia and Cassie as we watch their friendship gain momentum and gradually fall apart.

With the hindsight of adulthood, it is easy to see that friendships evolve and some burn out naturally, others implode in big drama but not matter what age it happens it still hurts. I really felt for the character of Julia – she felt so lost without her best friend, her constant. I have been in that situation so it was easy to empathise. Equally, it was easy to see the frailty of their relationship – things that maybe shouldn’t be an issue but sometimes can be such as socioeconomic situations or lack of strong role models.

I will admit that at times I did find the narrative of The Burning Girl a little slow paced but overall the story was well written.

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud is available now.

For more information regarding Little Brown (@LittleBrownUK) please visit www.littlebrown.co.uk.

The Story of Our LivesTitle: The Story of Our Lives

Author: Helen Warner

Pages: 400 Pages

Publisher: Harlequin Books

The Blurb

They think nothing can tear their bond apart, until a long-buried secret threatens to destroy everything.

Every year they have met up for a vacation, but their time away is much more than just a bit of fun. Over time, it has become a lifesaver, as each of them struggles with life’s triumphs and tragedies.

Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa have been best friends since they were girls. They have seen each other through everything—from Sophie’s private fear that she doesn’t actually want to be a mother despite having two kids, to Amy’s perfect-on-the-outside marriage that starts to reveal troubling warning signs, to Melissa’s spiralling alcoholism, to questions that are suddenly bubbling up around the paternity of Emily’s son. But could a lie that spans just as long as their friendship be the thing that tears them apart?

The Review

One of my favourite genres of fiction is one that is focused on friendship groups. I love the love of romantic fiction but there is something special about the friendship between women. It can be both a curse and a cause for celebration and that is exactly what Helen Warner examines in her novel The Story of Our Lives.

The Story of Our Lives focuses on the friendship group Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa and how their friendship group grows, alters, falls apart and falls back together again over the course of a few decades. Warner throws massive curve balls at her readers throughout the novel and pulls the rug from under your feet far too many times. With several ‘shocked face’ moments and me screaming at the book several times I can honestly say that The Story of Our Lives put me through the emotional ringer.

The Story of Our Lives by Helen Warner is available now.

4 Stars

 

Goodbye PerfectTitle: Goodbye, Perfect

Author: Sara Barnard

Pages: 384 Pages

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Goodbye, Perfect is a beautiful and emotional contemporary YA novel, with a powerful friendship at its heart, by bestselling author Sara Barnard.

When I was wild, you were steady . . . Now you are wild – what am I?

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with a guy Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. And it’s the last person she would have expected.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts. As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

The Review

If you pick up a Sara Barnard book and you are expecting warm cuddles and fun friendship frolics then you have definitely selected the wrong author. Barnard’s work is gritty and realistic and it doesn’t patronise its target audience: young adults.

Goodbye, Perfect is a story that focuses on the difficult concept of loyalty. Being loyal is one of the hardest things to be especially when you know that being loyal and being right aren’t always the same thing. This is what protagonist Eden McKinley must come to terms with in Goodbye, Perfect. Eden’s best friend Bonnie is normally the more mature one of them both. She is the straight A student with the perfect academic and behavioural record. She is the chalk to Eden’s cheese. But when Bonnie does the unthinkable and runs away Eden is left to pick up the pieces and re-evaluate the meaning of friendship and what it means to be best friends.

Having read work by Sara Barnard before I can honestly say that she is one of the best writers at understanding and expressing the complexities of teenagers and perfectly navigates the mine field of friendships between teenage girls. Goodbye, Perfect is a must read.

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard is available now.

For more information regarding Sara Barnard (@saramegan) please visit www.sarabarnardofficial.com.

For more information regarding Pan Macmillan (@panmacmillan) please visit www.panmacmillan.com.

4 Stars