Book reviews

Dark TidesPhilippa GregorySimon and Schuster – Jonathan Ball (South Africa)Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

I haven’t read Philippa Gregory in a while, and this story reminded me how delightful her books are. This one, like all her others, is well-written, intriguing, fresh and not formulaic.

Dark Tides is the second book in the Fairmile series. I had not read the first book but it did not matter as this story flows so well it could easily be read as a standalone book.

Dark Tides picks up the story of Alinor and her waterborne family. The industrious women survivors have moved from the marshlands and are eking out a living as warehouse managers on the English shore.

Alinor’s brother Ned has moved to America, where he hoped to escape the English class system that he despises. Alinor’s son Rob has gone to Venice to train and work as a doctor.

The story picks up with a letter tying the three threads together. Alinor writes to Ned telling him she has been told that Rob drowned in Venice and his wife and child are coming to England to live with them. Alinor makes her doubt and scepticism clear. She does not believe Rob has died, least all by drowning.

After the letter closes, the family’s past and future collide with them on the wharf as James, an old love interest of Alinor, reappears in her life at the same time as Rob’s Venetian bride.

Strange things are afoot, and Alinor, whose psychic gifts which appear to have caused her so much trauma in the first book, are tingling with caution.

As the story progresses, the reader is given a perspective that the characters, at least those who have not inherited Alinor’s gifts, are not privy to.

It is a tense and frustrating ride to watch as this endearing family edge closer and closer to ruin.

I really enjoyed this book and am now eager to get my hands on more Philippa Gregory stories again.

The City of TearsKate MossePan MacMillanReview: Lauren O’Connor-May

The City of Tears resumes the story of the Joubert family which began in The Burning Chambers. Their old enemy is also back, and while he does not loom as large as he did in the first book, his long and dangerous feelers nevertheless seek them out unceasingly.

The story is of two families’ enmity, which spans generations. When Mosse launched the first book in the series, she said the final threads of the story would come together almost 300 years later in our very own Franschhoek.

While the prologue continues the Franschhoek thread, the epilogue takes the main story to the next generation and reveals some of the twists that are at the root of their centuries-long conflict.

In this book, the main story thread starts a short while after the first book ends, in Puivert, France, where Minou has recaptured her stolen inheritance and is living peacefully with her family.

Vidal, the Jouberts’ deadly enemy, has not been idle and has no intention of leaving their peace intact. However, he has many other plots afoot, of which the Jouberts’ intended destruction is only one.

As usual, the French wars of religion play a large part in the story, and the Protestant Jouberts are forced to flee and navigate political hostilities throughout the story.

The City of Tears is an enthralling, emotional, sometimes heartbreaking read and, at least this time around, all the Catholic characters in the book are not painted as evil.

● One lucky reader can win a copy of The City of Tears. Email your name, phone number and address to before midnight on Sunday February 28. Please type The City of Tears in the subject line.