Today I’m honoured to be taking part in the blog tour for Frankie McGowan’s latest novel A Single Journey. I was sold from the blurb – with all the escaping WWII, the touches of thrilling mystery, and a load of antique books and jewellery. Straight up, it sounded like all of my favourite things in a single novel, and once I got into the pages it only got better. McGowan’s latest creation is sure to land her another spot in the Amazon top 20, and it’s well worth every speck of my 5 star review!
With a failed relationship behind her, a business on the rocks and a flat that’s falling apart around her ears, she could really use some luck.
Elena Banbury, née Guseva, an elderly but imposing Russian woman who is Harriet’s neighbour and landlady, frequently entertains the punters at Harriet’s jewellery stall with tales of the palaces of St. Petersburg and the treasures of Fabergé. But Harriet sometimes feels, guiltily, that she could do without the endless errands that seem to fall to her as Elena’s friend.
Then, unexpectedly, when Elena dies, she leaves all her worldly goods to a grateful Harriet. In time, however, it becomes clear that others are shocked by Harriet’s good luck, too. Shocked… and very, very unhappy.
Challenged in court by Elena’s family who live in Berlin, Harriet is forced to give up her inheritance and long-dreamed-of plans for a new business, and start her life again. But with her reputation in tatters and the memory of Elena tainted, Harriet knows a great injustice has been done.
Against the advice of her friends, family and lawyers, Harriet sets off on her own, very singular journey to Berlin.
In the weeks that follow she meets rich and poor, the glamorous and the criminal, the honest and the secretive, and begins to see that perhaps she has something to learn from them all. Something to learn about herself, and something to learn about her priorities.
She knows she has to fight for justice. But, when she meets the scholarly, perceptive Neil, who generously tries to help Harriet in her mission, but who is struggling with a complicated marriage, she must also decide if she’ll fight for love, too.
A Single Journey is a compelling and lively story, combining colourful characters with a page-turning plot and romantic highs and lows.
Fans of Jojo Moyes and Lucinda Riley will be hooked.
My Rating: 5/ 5
Now, before I start this review there are some things you need to know about me. 1) I am a librarian, 2) my background is in rare and antiquarian books, and 3) prior to completing my MLIS I worked in high end vintage jewellery and watches. The result is that my partner and I have a small but carefully crafted collection of antiquarian books, furniture and jewellery – and in all of the things listed above provenance is absolutely key! So imagine my delight when the story opens with Elena regaling the provenance of a sumptuous peridot bracelet… Now, I might have been putting the cart before the horse, but I knew within the first few pages that this book and I were going to hit off and I loved every minute of Harriet’s journey thereafter.
With all my gushing about provenance and antiques aside, this baby touches on some really hard hitting and relevant issues that I hope will help to make A Single Journey both timely and popular. Namely the ways in which we treat and care for the isolated elderly, abusive relationships, and the toxic patterns we can fall into in our personal and romantic lives. With these themes featuring so strongly, it would have been easy to victim blame and laud Harriet as a self-absorbed fatalist thanks to the sheer awfulness of her initial behaviour. But this was balance by the realization and self-awareness of her errors, the desire to correct her actions, and the ultimate effectiveness of her amends.
It was important too, to see how Harriet’s friends supported her through her series of ordeals – even though she was absolutely horrible to them at times. Their care, empathy, and understanding really highlights the ways in which people can be supportive when loved ones are experiencing an ordeal. Conversely, those false friends showcase how to be deplorable individuals and make some rather excellent antagonists without being violent or aggressive. I can’t count the number of times I had to set my book down because I was seething with rage.
I loved how the story was as much Elena’s as it was Harriet’s, and really appreciated how their narratives were told in symbioses. If either element had been removed, this books would not have hit home in the same way. The elements of flashback and discovery were perfectly timed to advance the plot, and the weight of dealing with Elena’s death was balanced by Harriet’s burgeoning romance. Although Neil was as complicated character, his consistency and level headed approach was a subtle antidote to Harriet’s occasionally impulsive tendencies.
Ultimately, this is one of my favourite reads of the summer. It’s not too long, light when it needs to be, and it deals some emotionally heavy blows. It’s the type of book that starts out tugging at your heart strings, and before you know it, it’s playing you like a marionette. Evocative and heartwarming, I can’t recommend A Single Journey highly enough.
Author Information – Frankie McGowan
My career began on teenage magazines before joining Fleet Street writing features for among others, The Sunday Times, The Times, The Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror (where I was an assistant editor and columnist).
Later as a magazine editor and while bringing up Tom and Amy, my now grown up children I launched and edited New Woman and Top Sante before switching to writing the first of my novels. My short stories have been published in a variety of magazines, including You, (Mail on Sunday) Women’s Own, Home and Life, Image (Ireland), Redbook (US) The Lady and Woman’s Weekly.
More recently I was asked to adapt two of my novels, A Kept Woman and A Better Life into screenplays and my latest novel, A Single Journey is available now. All my novels have reached the top twenty on Amazon which is the best feeling ever for any writer, but this year two of them, A Kept Woman and The Italian Lesson, both went to Number One in Australia for which I was thrilled and grateful to all those lovely people who bought them.
I am currently working on a new novel – well, I say working on it, what I mean is I’ve got a title for it, A Short Break – and the name of the heroine so all I need now is to try not to lose the plot.
Many thanks to Hannah Groves and Endeavour Media for inviting me on this tour, and to Frankie McGowan for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.