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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Review of the week: Woman in Blue and White, Janet Doolaege (@JanetDoolaege)

Janet Doolaege is fast becoming one of my favourite British authors and I had the great pleasure recently to read and review her latest publication Woman in Blue & White. Here is my review:

Having read and loved Janet Doolaege’s other novels, I was delighted to receive an ARC of Woman in Blue & White, a story that engrossed me from the very start.  I soon found myself so absorbed in the story that there were times I was unable to put it down and sat up very late into the night on more than one occasion, never knowing quite where the next twists and turns would take me.  I can tell you now, it took me on a great journey.

The story is set between France and Greece.  I always love the way this author writes about France with a curious combination of reverence and honesty that places the reader so firmly in the scene, you feel you are physically there.  She achieves the same with her descriptions of Greece.  I’ve been to Greece, though sadly not to Santorini, but now I feel as if I actually have been there.  The beautiful, evocative descriptions are what make Doolaege such a masterful author.

The plot of Woman in Blue & White is also very clever.  The rather na├»ve Zoe finally wakes up to the sort of person her long-term boyfriend is and finds the courage to leave him.  A last minute opportunity to travel to Greece on holiday with a colleague hurtles her into an adventure that changes her life.

When Zoe finds a watch on the beach, she also experiences strange kinaesthetic powers that seem to suggest a tragic, possibly violent history and the feeling is so strong that Zoe believes the watch to have huge sentimental significance for its owner, whom she determines to track down to return the precious object.  This is Ivar, a rather enigmatic and talented artist - and a fascinating character with whom I confess I fell just a little bit in love.  If you only read the book for this gripping part of the adventure, read it you must.  The author’s handling of Zoe trying to find Ivar is superb in its control of tension and drama.

I worry about giving too much away in reviews, and this is a story I would not wish to spoil for anyone.  It’s a must read and one I definitely plan to re-read (hopefully sitting on a beach on a Greek island this summer).  Ingenious plot, sensitive characterisation and haunting descriptions – what more can I say about this truly five star read?

About the author:

Janet grew up in Wimborne, Dorset, within the sound of the Minster bells and the Dean’s Court peacocks. English was her best subject at the grammar school, thanks to a dear eccentric English teacher popularly known as Fishy. After university she moved to France and worked at UNESCO in Paris as a translator, eventually becoming Chief of English Translation. Her husband is French and she has put down roots here, but still feels a strong attachment to England and its literature, particularly its wealth of children’s literature.

She has written three novels, all of them featuring just a hint of the supernatural and the unexplained, subjects which fascinate her, and all three are set at least partly in Paris.  Woman in Blue & White is the latest. Her three novels for children are embroidered versions of old legends, told in a form that she has tried to make more interesting for the children of today. For example, The Story of an Ordinary Lion is told by St. Jerome’s lion himself, and the adventures in Tobias and the Demon are related by Tobias’s dog.

Birds and animals have always been very important to her, and Ebony and Spica is a true memoir of two rescued wild birds, a blackbird and a starling. Each lived with her for many years and was an unforgettable character.

She tells me her house contains more books than she will ever have time to read! Reading and writing have been her life.

Woman in Blue & White is available from Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK)

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