Book Review – Keep Them Close by Betty Rose

Genre: Family saga

Similar to: I’m not sure as this isn’t a genre I usually read. Angela’s Ashes maybe?

Could be enjoyed by: Anyone who is interested in multi generational, heartfelt stories

Publication date: 30th January 2020

Full disclosure – I read this book because I met the author at my local library and she was lovely enough to gift me a free copy. So, although Keep The Close is not my usual fare, I decided to give it a go and I have to say was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Thank you Betty!

The book starts with the early life of Robina in her hard working rural Irish family. Robina is a fascinating character – a charming dreamer who is also a tiny bit magical. She moves to Liverpool to study nursing which brings a culture clash so abrupt that innocent Robina is left not knowing which way is up. She meets Moses, falls in love and begins her happily ever after – except that life doesn’t work that way.

I loved the way that although I’ve referred to the book as a family saga, it has a bleaker, more realistic edge which made the story feel more true to life. It could have been quite one dimensional – a tale of two soulmates finding each other and starting a family – but the plot is far more complex and nuanced than that. There’s a lot of elements at play; an interracial relationship at a time when that was very much frowned upon, immigration, poverty, religion, mental health issues, racism… it’s all woven into a storyline which spans a lifetime.

I really liked the characterisation in this novel, especially the main protagonist Robina.  Each individual in the book has been really well depicted, so much so that I’d be shocked if it wasn’t based on real life events. I liked how human everyone was, often making bad decisions for good reasons and frequently getting things wrong! What really shone out though was the love that the characters had for each other and the close family bonds which kept them together – even when they were physically far apart.

As the book progressed I became more and more emotionally engaged with Robina and her family. Even though the ending wasn’t what I expected AT ALL it again felt very realistic and tied up all of the loose ends.

The only criticisms I have for Keep Them Close are that the cover is quite misleading – I think it makes it look like a gothic horror story rather than a family saga and I got a little bit annoyed by the use of quotation marks around every colloquialism. I’m all in favour of using dialect but my own personal preference is if it doesn’t have speech marks round it.

Overall though I very much enjoyed reading Keep Them Close and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading true-to-life novels about family and relationships.

 

Four “Is this real life?”s out of five.

Perfect for lockdown reading – heartfelt, comforting yet somewhat unexpected.

 


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of Betty Rose the author. It was so lovely to meet her and very kind of her to give me a copy of her book. Thanks Betty!

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Unpopular Opinions Tag

Hello bookworms!

I’ve been tagged by the amazing Orangutan Librarian to complete the Unpopular Opinions tag (yay!) – she’s seriously one of the best book bloggers out there so definitely check out her site!

I know I have a lot of opinions that might be a little… different to other bloggers so this should be interesting!

A POPULAR BOOK OR BOOK SERIES THAT YOU DIDN’T LIKE
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I’m soooo tempted to also say The Foxhole Court but I’ve just read Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie and I just. did. not. get. it. It’s got over 4 stars on Goodreads and won the Women’s Prize for Fiction but to me it was the most awkwardly written, boring book ever.

 

A POPULAR BOOK OR BOOK SERIES THAT EVERYONE ELSE SEEMS TO HATE BUT YOU LOVE

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I wouldn’t say I absolutely loved this book but I did enjoy reading it, even though the rest of the world seems to think it should be banned/ it’s scarred them for life etc. etc. Don’t get me wrong, the level of violence is extreme and the endless lists of clothing are repetitive but the atmosphere that’s created is incredible.

AN OTP THAT YOU DON’T LIKE

 

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A what now? *googles* Oh, Ok. I will forever dislike Ron and Hermione being together. Won-Won and Lavender were far more believable. Hermione and literally anyone else would have been better.

A POPULAR BOOK GENRE THAT YOU HARDLY REACH FOR.

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Young adult is not my bag. Too obvious, too cheesy, too unrelatable. Not all of it obviously but… a lot of it.

A POPULAR/BELOVED CHARACTER THAT YOU DO NOT LIKE

Literally anyone in this book. They were all horrible. Cries of *but they’re all so damaged!* butters no parsnips with me.

A POPULAR AUTHOR THAT YOU CAN’T SEEM TO GET INTO
Can I say John Green again? Ok, I’ll think of someone else…
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I see this book all the time in the library and I just. Can’t. I hate semi naked bodies on book covers (especially stereotypically perfect bodies), I don’t like how teenage the book sounds, I saw that Cassandra Clare also has a book called “What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything” and just nononooooo. They might be brilliant but nothing about any of her books appeals to me.

A POPULAR BOOK TROPE THAT YOU’RE TIRED OF SEEING

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Abusive men portrayed as damaged romantics. This book should have read;

“I like you. By the way, I’m really into BDSM.”

“Oh, I’m not.”

“Ok, bye”.

NOT that shitshow of isolation tactics, stalking, “punishment” and abuse of power and privilege.

A POPULAR SERIES THAT YOU HAVE NO INTEREST IN READING.
Haha, most of them?

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Maybe the Lunar Chronicles  – not least because a) my ankle looks like that after breaking it and I can feel the metal in my leg – urgh and b) what on earth is this fractional numbering convention all about?

 

THE SAYING GOES “THE BOOK IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN THE MOVIE”, BUT WHAT MOVIE OR TV SHOW ADAPTATION DO YOU PREFER MORE THAN THE BOOK?
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Oh gosh, Killing Eve was soooooo much better than Codename: Villanelle. The books were ok but the TV adaptations were phenomenal. Can’t wait for series two!

I tag anyone who wants to do this!

Have you read any of these books? Have I been overly harsh or do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

Review: The Letter For The King by Tonke Dragt

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s Literature

Similar to: The Hobbit, LOTR

Could be enjoyed by: Parents looking to read their kids something other than Harry Potter

Publication date: (In translation) 7th November 2013, originally published in 1962

Some of you may remember that I sent out a request a while ago asking for suggestions for some of the remaining categories in the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. One of those categories was to read a children’s classic published before 1980 and although you all gave some excellent suggestions, I shamelessly ignored them and read The Letter for the King instead. Sorry! I do honestly appreciate your imput, but this book just looked sooooo interesting that I had to give it a go.

Anyway…

The Letter for the King is something of a classic in mainland Europe but for some inexplicable reason was never translated into English until a few years ago (WHY???) The book follows the adventures of Tiuri, a teenage page who is on his way to becoming a fully fledged Knight. However, a chance encounter leads to Tiuri becoming tasked with a quest to travel across the Great Mountains to deliver a message to the King. In order to do so, Tiuri must avoid numerous perils, pitfalls and shady characters conspiring to stop him – otherwise the whole kingdom could be brought to it’s knees. 

Unsurprisingly, this is a lovely, exciting, easy read. It’s described as Children’s Fiction but I’d say the age range could be a little older – say ten years and up (I hate writing an upper age limit on these recommendations – I’m 35 and I enjoyed it!). I loved Tiuri and his unfailing dedication to always doing what was right – I thought he would make a great role model, especially for young boys. Unfortunately, these’s not a lot of (barely any) female representation but I’m reliably informed that this is rectified in the sequel. 

I really enjoyed all the action and suspense within the novel. I can imagine that if you’re reading the book as a bedtime story your kids would definitely be begging you for one more chapter. There’s just so much that happens and lots of chapters end on cliffhangers, so be warned!

I loved the central themes of bravery, friendship and choosing the right thing to do, even if it is the more difficult option. Although it feels very much like a high fantasy novel, there’s actually no magical elements so it makes for a bit more of a straightforward read. I actually didn’t miss them at all as the storyline has more than enough going on.   

Although the book is a great translation, it does retain something of that Germanic/Eastern Bloc creepiness that I have potentially only picked up on because I was subjected to watching those weird foreign cartoons as a child (things were very different at the BBC in the 80’s).Think like The Moomins or The Singing Ringing Tree, as parodied beautifully here by The Fast Show:  

Overall, I loved escaping into the world of Tonke Dragt. The Letter for the King is a great book to be enjoyed at any age and yet another brilliant find courtesy of Book Riot. I’d encourage you all to read it.

Rating: Four ‘how do I pronounce that inexplicably scary name’ out of five.

Fast paced, exciting and easy to read – I’m sure this book will now gain a whole new legion of English-speakng fans. 

Please note that I read this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #11 Read a children’s classic published before 1980.