Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Thursday, 7 June 2012

To Turn Full Circle - Linda Mitchelmore

'Sometimes life's not about wishes and dreams but about making the most of the situations we find ourselves in.'

It is 1909. Emma Le Goff is fifteen, and as the novel begins she is recovering from illness at the house of a neighbour in the small fishing village in Devon. When she regains her strength and faculties, she remembers the deep sadness that has gone before. She has experienced three huge losses within a short space of time, first her father, then her mother and younger brother Johnnie passing away. Worse is to come when she returns home to Shingle Cottage, only to discover that Reuben Jago, owner of the town's fishing fleet and some of the properties, has taken possesion of the house, in payment of the family's debts, he claims.

Reuben's youngest son, Seth, is sweet and gentle towards Emma, and there is a wonderful attraction between the two of them. They share a friendship which is a rare thing for Emma and for Seth, she is the only one he can speak about certain things with. They are compassionate towards each other; Seth having lost his mother too, both of them are affected by sad bereavements with mysterious circumstances surrounding them:

'Seth reached for Emma's hand and she placed hers in it. How good it felt - the touch. The caring. The mutual understanding. "It's as if we can't let the deaths of our mothers be an end of them, isn't it?" Emma said. "We can't get on with our lives - not really - because we've both got unanswered questions."'

The new tenant at Shingle Cottage is Matthew Caunter, who starts working as a fisherman for Reuben. Emma is eventually persuaded to become his housekeeper, with the promise of a strictly professional relationship. Meanwhile, a new arrival takes over Nase Head House and it becomes a lovely hotel. Emma dreams of working somewhere like that one day. Her father having been French, Emma brings a continental flavour to this community which is distrusting of foreigners. She has advanced culinary skills learned from him.

As well as all the events happening in young Emma's life throughout the story - things are never straightforward for her - there is further intrigue in the plot regarding Reuben Jago and his two elder sons, and the activities on their boats as well as elsewhere; Seth has always suspected that there may be underhand activities occurring, though he takes no part in them. He has to become, and stay, a strong young man if he is to remain honest in his dealings with others, whilst dealing with the rest of his family and what might happen to them. Seth has to cope with the less than gentlemanly, dishonest ways of his father and two brothers, and try and somehow keep his own reputation from sinking to their level. Only when he is with Emma can he escape: 'Being with Emma made him forget time and responsibilities.'

Emma is a strong, determined young woman who has endured so much suffering at a young age. As kindly Mrs Drew remarks, 'a lot's happened to that poor maid in a short space of time.' She has ambitions which stretch beyond what is usual for a woman to undertake at the time, she would like her own business and wants to follow her heart not her head as far as men are concerned, she intends to marry for love. The relationship with Seth has it's twists and turns, but it is evident that the pair always care about each other and long for the circumstances to be right for them to be together. At times it was frustrating that misunderstandings or other events have thwarted them, I was willing things to work out. Matthew is an interesting and kind character who adds a lot to the story too. He demonstrates a gentleness towards Emma at a time when she feels so alone, and she feels there is more to him; 'the man was complex. Emma had never met anyone like him.' 

In To Turn Full Circle, Linda Mitchelmore offers us a lovely, warm-hearted evocation of a past time and place. She writes with skill and compassion about people, with much of the story related via convincing dialogue and internal thoughts. It has romance, endearing characters, cruel, selfish villains, and a world on the cusp of change, where cars are on the increase, telephones are being installed, and aeroplanes are being spoken of. It has a compelling plotline, with intrigue as to Emma's friendships and romantic intentions. As an aside, I love how much Emma treasures the one book that she has: '...she hugged her copy of Persuasion to her as she fell asleep each night, knowing her mama had bought it for her, touched it...She couldn't imagine how a life would be that had no space in it for books.'

I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for an enjoyable romantic read to really escape into, with a compelling plot and some lovely characters. This is the first novel in a trilogy, so lots more to look forward to from this author involving these characters - hooray!

Published by ChocLit on 7th June 2012 in paperback. Ebook available now.

Thank you to the publisher for kindly sending an ebook of this novel for me to read and give an honest review of.


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