The Girl From The Savoy is a charming story set in early 1920s post WWI London where eager to forget the pain left by war for a little while, many found distraction in the glitz and glamour of the dawning jazz era of the theater, obsessing over each new starlet to grace the stage.
Housemaid Dorothy Lane is no different. Joining the gallery girls in the high seats at every show she can attend, she dreams of seeing her own name on the marquee outside, the spotlight following her as she dances across the stage. Hoping it will lead her one step closer to her dream of becoming the next great theater star, she moves to London, taking a job as a chambermaid at the famous Savoy Hotel.
A chance encounter on a rain soaked street on the way to her first day at the Savoy sets her on a path she’d dreamed but never really thought possible – friendship with current sweetheart of the stage Loretta May, muse to a composer on the brink of greatness, and time spent in the company of the up and coming Bright Young Things. And an audition. As her dreams become reality, Dorothy has to choose between the future she’d always hoped for – and the past she thought she’d lost forever.
I have to admit it took me a couple tries to read this book. The first few pages just didn’t grab my attention. Thankfully I finally committed and pushed through, quickly becoming engaged – and very happy I did. Author Hazel Gaynor does an excellent job of exposing the hidden wounds of war- the emotional scars left on both the soldiers and the families and loved ones left behind. It’s easy to compare the diagnosis of ‘shell shock’ given to the emotionally damaged soldiers of that era to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) our soldiers deal with today, making this story set in the glitzy and glamorous 1920s jazz age theater of West End London very real and relateable in today’s world.
I am drawn to Historical Fiction because I am in awe of the level of suffering and loss past generations have endured and yet pushed through. I love reading and learning about their struggles and determination to overcome. We would not be here today to complain about our petty issues if not for our incredibly strong and brave ancestors.
This newest book from Susan Meissner, with her unmatched talent for weaving history through fictional story, is currently my favorite of this category.
In As Bright As Heaven, the outrageous amount of death and loss caused by the Spanish Flu pandemic during WW1 was brought to life through the Bright family. Moving from their safe and quiet life in Quakertown to take over an aging uncle’s funeral home in exciting Philadelphia, the family sees nothing but promise in their future. As they settle into city life, new schools and friends for the girls, new career and financial freedom for mom and dad – an unseen fog of death, a.k.a. the Spanish Flu, is creeping closer, destin to destroy life as they have ever known it.
I had to wait a while after finishing this book before discussing or reviewing. It took some time to reconcile the overwhelming presence of death through the book.
As difficult as it may have been, Susan has taken this little known part of history and wrapped it in a page turning family saga that will stay with you long after the final page.
*An estimated 50 million people died from the Spanish Flu, 1918-19. The nagging voice of conspiracy theorist continues to whisper in the back of my mind – could this have been an early, and horribly successful, attempt of germ warfare? Significantly more people died during this time from the influenza than causality of WW1 (1914-18).
This true story chronicles first time author Maya Berger’s deteriorating health, struggle for diagnosis, and quest for healing.
Chronic insomnia followed by wide spread sudden on-set pain left many doctors without a solid diagnosis. Many made guesses and offered ineffective treatments, but her pain continued. A chance encounter offered a possible diagnosis, which was finally confirmed by a physician. Unfortunately, effective treatment was still unavailable. After spending much time and money seeking treatment across Europe, Maya finally receives some relief at a Relaxation Clinic using Energy techniques led by a Chinese healer.
Over the course of several years, Maya continues to learn and grow in the ways of Energy, realizing she needed healing for more than the medical condition. Because she never gave up, always believed she could once again live a normal, fulfilling life, Maya has now learned what real happiness is, and is eager to share her story to encourage others who may be living less than fulfilling lives, and especially those who are ill and have been told by their doctors that there is nothing more they can do. Maya urges everyone to keep an open mind, learn to relax, and accept the healing energy that is available to us all.
This story is written with honesty, sharing much about her personal and family relationships, although it is not clear until the ending chapters why much of the information is given. I also question the addition of “The Baby Project” in the title since the issue of having a baby does not appear until the last chapters. I struggled a bit at first to find a rhythm in the writing, finding some of the phrasing awkward and sometimes repetitive. Once I realized English is not the authors primary language, this made sense and as I became engrossed in the story, less of a concern.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for hope, or feeling like they have run out of options.
**I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
This story begins when Eva Madigan, recently single and relocated to Ireland with her young son Liam, stumbles upon a long neglected garden. Although she has never successfully grown anything, Eva is drawn to the overgrown walled lot. After initially rejecting Eva’s request to try to revive the forgotten acre, the icy owner best known for murdering her husband agrees to allow her to attempt the feat. Eva excitedly posts a flyer asking for help from the community and is soon joined by Emily, an odd young introvert; and Uri, a retired tailor with much needed gardening skills – although he denies having much experience. Uri’s son Seth and the elderly owner of the garden, Mrs. Prendergast, soon cannot resist the pull of the garden and join in the efforts.
Through real magic of the garden or simply the shared experience of nurturing it, their personal walls begin to crumble and slowly relationships bloom.
The surface interactions between these five as they coax the plants and flowers and vegetables into existence would have made a pleasant, entertaining read. But the story went much deeper. One by one we learn the heartbreak that led each of them to this place – needing the healing powers of the growing garden to bring them back to life.
I chose this novel as I do most books I select – for a light and entertaining read. This was so much more. The depth, emotion, quality story, and excellent writing make this easily one of my favorites in a long time.
Winter Bloom will go on my re-read shelf, and I am eager to read more from this author.
When Heather Bregman purchased the little house on the lake, she imagined afternoons in the sun, evenings by a bonfire, and growing friendships with the neighbors in the close knit New England neighborhood.
She quickly realized this was not to be. The neighbors – all over 70, living in the homes they grew up in and having known each other since birth – were not happy to have a newcomer invade their space. Determined to drive her away, the men of the little community pranked her house with cigar smoke, ants, and stink bombs while the women greeted her icily or ignored her completely.
Victoria Rose moved back to her home on the lake hoping to make amends with the only family she had left. Still hurting from her decision to move to California to pursue an acting career over 50 years ago, her childhood friends met Victoria with much the same cold welcome they gave Heather. Two lonely souls with more in common than the vast age difference would suggest, Victoria and Heather quickly became close friends.
Together they navigated the fallout from their personal and profession decisions, both finally learning – to have a friend you must be a friend.
I have to admit I almost put this book down after the first several pages. Jumping from character to character and moving back and forth through time, it was a bit much to follow – and very slow to engage. I am glad I stuck it out. As the chapters passed a lovely story developed, showing that even our most personal decisions can deeply effect those around us, and reminding us that when we think of others instead of ourselves, happiness follows.
Surprising and comical, I laughed out and smiled through the entire book. Definitely a keeper.
Longbourn Manor, rural England, early 1800’s, also the setting of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I’m a little ashamed to admit I have never read this classic, but may now need to.
This story centers around Sarah, the young house maid of Longbourn Manor and the other below floor servants who have been her family since she was orphaned as a young child. Sarah often dreamed of the world beyond the little town outside her neighborhood, but had comfortably reconciled herself to a life of repetition – each day the same as the last, for all the many years ahead.
The militia’s unexpected arrival in town, an eligible bachelor’s purchase of the vacant home next door, and the interesting stranger’s addition to the staff shake things up at Longbourn Manor, sending some of them down paths they’d never expected, bringing others full circle.
When Sarah is presented with every opportunity she thought she wanted, she has to choose between the life she’d dreamed of and a life of continued difficulty and hard times, with the chance of true love and happiness.
Some story twists and turns were a bit predictable, some completely unexpected, and some I thought improbable but still hoped for. I was not disappointed.
I loved this book. Should I now read Pride and Prejudice, or just leave well enough alone and stick to the story from the servants’ point of view?
Flowers have the power to heal heart and body, mend broken relationships, bring together new love, and accomplish almost any other miracle or wish of the heart. That seems to be true when Ruby Jewell is arranging the flowers. After an early life filled with tragedy, Ruby uses her bouquets to bring hope, love, and happiness to the residents of small town Creekside, Washington. When all those she has helped through the years decide it’s time for Ruby to find love, amazing things happen.
I love the idea that flowers have power. If the color of the walls of a room can induce a particular feeling and essential oils can alleviate various ailments, then the look, feel, and smell of flowers must have similar qualities.
Although many of the twists and turns were predictable, I still really enjoyed the story. Likely to be one I read again.