Book Review: A Question of Country by Sue Parritt

On Christmas Eve 1969, a letter from Australia House, London, brings welcome news for newly weds Anna and Joseph Fletcher.

Young and idealistic, Anna falls passionately in love with their adopted land. Seven months later, an unexpected event causes their life to take a stressful turn.

Years pass, and Anna retreats to a fictional world she has created. But when a different challenge presents itself, does she have the courage to take the risk… or will she take refuge in fantasy?

 

A Question of Country begins on Christmas Eve, 1969. Newlyweds Anna and Joseph receive a letter from Australia House and they are soon off to begin their new life in Brisbane.

Life isn’t as easy as the idealistic couple imagine and Anna finds herself retreating into a clandestine fiction world.

When opportunity arises, will she be courageous enough to take the risk or remain in her fantasy world.

It was so easy as a reader to get caught up in the enthusiasm Anna and Joseph feel when they embark on their new life in Australia that I quickly became invested in their story.

I found the setting and atmosphere in this novel intriguing and one of my favourite elements. The author gives us an insight into what life was like in 1970’s Brisbane, especially for the women.

The plot and themes focus on Anna and Joseph as a couple but in my opinion, it’s also about Anna and her finding her own identity in a time where women were still expected to uphold traditional family values. I feel it’s something a lot of women can empathise with.

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Book Review: The Silent House by Nell Pattison

If someone was in your house, you’d know … Wouldn’t you?

But the Hunter family are deaf, and don’t hear a thing when a shocking crime takes place in the middle of the night. Instead, they wake up to their worst nightmare: the murder of their daughter.

The police call Paige Northwood to the scene to interpret for the witnesses. They’re in shock, but Paige senses the Hunters are hiding something.

One by one, people from Paige’s community start to fall under suspicion. But who would kill a little girl?

Was it an intruder?

Or was the murderer closer to home?

 

Jaxon Hunter wakes up in the middle of the night and finds a strange figure in his room. This person tells him to go back to sleep. When he wakes up in the morning, his sister, Lexi, is dead.

The Hunter family are deaf and didn’t hear the intruder.

The police call on BSL interpreter, Paige Northwood to help them interview the witnesses but before long, Paige is drawn further into the case and begins to wonder if the killer is not an intruder but someone closer than she can imagine.

The Silent House is partly told from the point of view of Paige and also from the POV of Elisha, Lexi’s stepmother and one of the prime suspects.

I found this novel to have such a sinister atmosphere. It begins with the murder of an eighteen-month-old baby so it’s not shying away from tackling a difficult and heart-breaking situation.

The tension builds pretty much from the first page.

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Book Extract: The Gift of Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May

I am very happy to be welcoming Nicola May back to Novel Kicks. She joins me today with the blog tour for her latest novel, The Gift of Cockleberry Bay. 

Here’s a little about the book…

 

From the author of the #1 BESTSELLING The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay

All of our favourite characters from Cockleberry Bay are back in this final, heart warming story in the series. Including Hot, Rosa Smith’s adorable dachshund and his new-born puppies.

Now successfully running the Cockleberry Café and wishing to start a family herself, Rosa feels the time is right to let her inherited Corner Shop go. However, her benefactor left one important legal proviso: that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who really deserves it.

Rosa is torn. How can she make such a huge decision? And will it be the right one? Once the news gets out and goes public, untrustworthy newcomers appear in the Bay . . . their motives uncertain. With the revelation of more secrets from Rosa’s family heritage, a new journey of unpredictable and life-changing events begins to unfold.

The Gift of Cockleberry Bay concludes this phenomenally successful series in typically brisk and bolshy style and will delight the many thousands of Rosa’s fans

 

Nicola has shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

(Language warning.)

 

*****beginning of extract*****

 

Extract from The Gift of Cockleberry Bay where we see Rosa and Titch discussing Titch’ upcoming wedding

Titch appeared from the back kitchen with Theo in her arms. ‘Shit! They don’t tell you how much babies do that, either. I’ve put his stinky nappy in the bin, Rose, so the flies don’t get at it.’

Relieved that there were no customers within earshot, Rosa took Theo’s little hand in hers. He gripped it tightly, then smiled gummily at her.

‘He’s a bloody flirt already, too,’ his mother said proudly. ‘Right, I’m off. Did the interview go OK?’

‘Yes, fine, thanks.’

‘Good, good. I sold two flamingo inflatables so you’ll need to put some more out. And it looks like you are getting low on the big bags of the posh dried dog-food.’ Titch started loading stuff into the bottom of the pushchair. ‘Now, what did I want to ask you? There was a reason for me popping in earlier. Oh yeah. Can we have the wedding reception in the café, do you think?’ Before Rosa could answer, Titch added hurriedly, ‘We will pay you and everything, as we realise we will need it exclusively. We were thinking the day after Boxing Day if that’s OK?’

‘What a fantastic idea. We can decorate it beautifully and make it look all lovely and wedding-y, as well as Christmassy. I’ll have to run it by Sara, but I’m sure she’ll be fine about it.’ Rosa picked up Theo’s bottle, which he had just thrown to the floor. ‘And if it suits, well then – that can be my and Josh’s wedding present to you.’

‘That would be amazing. Thanks, Rose. We were just going to do a fish-and-chip supper for everyone. That’s Ritchie’s mum and dad’s present to us, seeing as they own the fish-and-chip shop and all that.’

Rosa bent down to Hot’s basket to gently play with the snoozing hound’s floppy ears. ‘So, my wanderer husband did return?’

‘Yes, he’s just gone upstairs to put some shorts on.’

‘Have you thought about your dress yet?’

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Novel Kicks Book Club: Longbourn by Jo Baker

Hello April. 

I know we can’t be outside enjoying the longer evenings for very long, if at all but I am pleased to see the beginning of British Summer Time.

A new month also means a new book and this month, I have chosen Longbourn by Jo Baker.

If you’re a fan of Pride & Prejudice, this is told from the point of view of the servants at Longbourn; which of course is the home of the Bennetts.

It sounds so good and I can’t wait to discuss it with you in the comments below. I have included a question to kick off the chat. Remember, anyone can take part.

Here’s a link if you want to check out the book on Amazon UK.

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NK Chats To… Rachel Walkley

Hi Rachel. Welcome to Novel Kicks. I am pleased to be part of your blog tour. Can you tell me a little about Beyond The Yew Tree and what inspired it?

Beyond the Yew Tree was inspired in part by a spell of jury service. It wasn’t the trial itself but location: an old courthouse with a semi-circular courtroom which has scaffolding propping up one wall, wooden panelling and a painted ceiling. If anywhere needed haunting, this place did. The next challenge was the nature of the spirit, who and how does it attract the attention of a juror who is focused on the trial? From there, the idea spiralled out and I picked Lincoln Castle for the location as it has everything I needed for the story: prison, graveyard and an old courthouse.

 

What drew you to this particular genre and what are the challenges when writing?

I seem to write cross-genre – mystery, magical realism and women’s fiction. Appealing to all those readers in one book is the biggest challenge. Some like the magical supernatural aspects, others don’t, which is fine. I also inject a little romance into the story as ultimately the themes are about people and love is the best theme of all.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

It’s the chicken and egg scenario. An interesting character will create a good plot, and likewise the other way around. Which comes first? My first book it was the plot, the second the characters. This time, it’s a bit of both.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

I don’t think I have one! Most writers spend a lot of time avoiding repetitions, weak words, poor adverbs etc. It leaves you focused on the negative when you’re editing, especially when your editor points out you’ve used the same word multiple times on the same page. Then that word shouts at you to be changed. If I had to pick a favourite, it would be ‘love’. Writers tend to use the word sparingly so that it has the biggest impact when put to use.

 

What’s your writing process like – from idea, to first draft, to final edit? How long does the process take overall?

My first book took four years from draft to published. Most of that was spent editing then putting it to one side for a duration. The process becomes cyclic and hard to break. At some point, you have to be brave and finish the book. Beyond the Yew Tree was two years in the making. I can write quite quickly, but I edit slowly as I find it harder to stick at it. I don’t think I’m alone with finding editing challenging.

 

How has the process changed since you first started writing?

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Book Extract: iRemember by SV Bekvalac

A big welcome to SV Bekvalac and the blog tour for her fabulous sounding novel, iRemember. Here’s a bit about the book…

The city of iRemember shimmers in the desert haze, watched over by the Bureau, a government agency that maintains control through memory surveillance and little pink pills made from the narcotic plant Tranquelle.

It looks like an oasis under its geodesic dome, but the city is under siege. ‘Off-Gridder’ insurgents are fighting to be forgotten.

Bureau Inspector Icara Swansong is on a mission to neutralise the threat. Her investigation leads her into iRemember’s secret underbelly, where she finds herself a fugitive from the very system she had vowed to protect. She has to learn new rules: trust no one. Behind every purple Tranquelle stalk lurk double-agents.

A sci-fi noir with a psychedelic twist, iRemember explores the power the past holds over us and the fragility of everything: what is, what once was, and what will be.

 

SV Bekvakac and Lightning Books have shared an extract today. Enjoy.

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Government Inspector Icara Swansong, Bureau Rank 4, has been sent into Desert Ring 2 to collect evidence on a suspected insurgent (Off-Gridder) ring-leader, Lucian Ffogg. She has only just arrived. And already things aren’t adding up. Here she is, trying to connect to the mnemonic surveillance network iRemember to help with her investigation. It’s a network of absolute surveillance. Yet she can’t get through. Which shouldn’t be possible. As she tries and fails to get a connection, we learn more about Icara’s mission and the Bureau’s internal power struggles, as well as discovering what it is that Icara wants. Really wants. More than anything. And it has nothing to do with her mission in the Desert…

 

 

…iRemember remembered everything. There couldn’t be nothing on file. Every time she tried to access an engram – the endless spiralling circle. She was getting tired of waiting.
 She didn’t feel safe out here. Noises were making her feel quite jumpy. She expected an Off-Gridder ambush at any moment. She felt for the tube of Liquid Scream and her service weapon in its holster.

Lucian’s psych-evaluation had not been flagged red by iRemember. If it had, the situation would have been much easier to deal with. She would have landed in the Lot, and, enacting Bureau Code Points 79-100 (Serving Employees whose Mental Processes Make Them Unsuitable for Service) she would have stuck an enormous hypodermic syringe deep into Lucian Ffogg’s neck. The Code outlined exactly what she would do with him then. None of it involved pretending to inspect the guttering or looking at rooms full of ancient computers.

The Lot had been flagged as part of a large interior operation. Nicknamed Project Eraser by the Board, it was an attempt to identify and erase any suspected corruption in the Bureau. It was a pet project of the Temple and was being spearheaded by the Bishop.

Only Inspectors with the highest academy scores and with unimpeachable records of comportment were selected to join Project Eraser. Icara had been among them.

She believed in iRemember. She loved the Bureau, that old concrete block, with a glass dome on top in the shape of a pre-frontal cortex. And as soon as she stepped into the Bureau building, she had known exactly what she wanted. She wanted to be architecturally elevated. Up on the top floors, with the decision makers. And eventually, she wanted to hit the ceiling. By which she meant she wanted to be at the very top. Sitting in Frome’s big green Chesterfield.

Icara was proud to be involved in Project Eraser. Partly because she thought it would get her closer to the top. But also because she really believed in iRemember. She believed that it was possible to make the City a better place. She believed in the rule of law and the importance of working for the greater good. The Bureau had always been beset by corruption. But in the ten years since Icara’s graduation from the Academy, there were increasing whispers that the Bureau was actively covering up criminal activity. Still only whispers. For the moment.

Icara was convinced that the Bureau was ultimately a good place. So it was a little dirty. That could be cleaned up. There was no place in the State for people like Lucian Ffogg. People who did not respect the rule of law. People who put the stability of the City in danger. People who fraternised with insurgents.

With Helena Frome leading it, the Bureau could never really be corruption free.

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Book Review: Clover Cottage by Christie Barlow

Hello and welcome to Christie Barlow and the blog tour for her new novel, Clover Cottage. This is the third novel in the Love Heart Lane series. 

Love Heart Lane – where friends are there for you no matter what.

When Vet Rory Scott inherits ramshackle Clover Cottage in the quaint village of Heartcross, Allie MacDonald just knows this is their happy ever after. A place to call home with the man she loves – it’s her dream come true!

Until Rory drops a bombshell. He loves Allie but he has dreams of his own to follow – to live and work in Africa. Clover Cottage will have to wait just a little longer…

Allie can’t imagine life without Rory, but she loves him too much to hold him back. And as he embarks on his adventure, Allie begins to rethink her own plans. She loves Rory and knows she wants him in her life, but maybe she can follow her own dreams too?

And always there, nestled in the beautiful village of Heartcross, surrounded by the people she loves, will be the place that will always bring them back to each other. Their forever home, Clover Cottage.

 

Allie has lived in Heartcross for most of her life and with Rory, the local vet, she feels as though she has met the love of her life. When he inherits Clover Cottage, she begins to picture the potential happy life for them both. When Rory drops a bombshell and opportunities threaten to pull them apart, Allie can feel the happiness slip away.

This is the third installment in the Love Heart Lane series and although I had not read the previous two books, this can be read as a standalone. There are characters that cross between the novels, but I didn’t feel as though I was playing catch up. I do want to eventually make my way through the first two books in the series though as I have quickly fallen in love with the residents of Heartcross.

All of these characters add something wonderful to the story and to me, feel real and relatable, even Zach, the visiting celebrity. I like how he was incorporated into the story. It wasn’t how you’d expect. I didn’t guess how it was going to go and it didn’t end the way I thought. There were a few surprises that kept the pace up well.

This was told from Allie’s point of view. I liked her. She displays a rollercoaster of emotions and I became invested in the relationship between Allie and Rory.

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Book Extract: How Not To Be A Loser by Beth Moran

Beth Moran joins me on Novel Kicks today as the blog tour for her latest novel, How Not To Be A Loser, continues.

 

Here’s a little about the novel…

Amy Piper is a loser. She’s lost her confidence, her mojo and her way.

But one thing she has never lost is her total love for her thirteen-year-old son Joey, and for his sake she knows it’s time for a change. But first she has to be brave enough to leave the house…

What she needs are friends and an adventure. And when she joins a running group of women who call themselves The Larks, she finds both. Not to mention their inspiring (and rather handsome) coach, Nathan.

Once upon a time Amy was a winner – at life, at sport and in love. Now, with every ounce of strength she has left, she is determined to reclaim the life she had, for herself and for Joey. And who knows, she might just be a winner again – at life, sport, and love, if she looks in the right places…

 

Beth and Boldwood Books have shared an extract from How Not To Be A Loser today. Cup of tea or coffee? Check. Biscuit? Check. Comfortable chair? Check. Right, all set. Enjoy.

 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Stop Being a Loser Plan

Day One

It wasn’t intentional. I didn’t get woken up by my phone alarm blaring, spring out of bed and decide today was the day. I didn’t open up Facebook and one of those irritating quotes – embrace the rain if you want to dance under the rainbow – actually inspired someone for the first time ever to change something. After cajoling my son, Joey, out of bed, I didn’t gaze at his beautiful face as he poured a second giant bowl of cereal, raving about the school football match coming up, and in a surge of love and regret suddenly experience the pivotal moment in a decade of non-moments.

In fact, apart from the invitation that arrived in the morning post, most of the day went precisely as expected. Which was, in summary, exactly the same as pretty much every other weekday. I waved Joey off to school, reminding him to hand in the form about the meeting that evening and cleared away the breakfast dishes. I worked at my desk in the kitchen, breaking the monotony of writing about corporate social responsibility policies by swanning off to eat lunch in the living room, because that’s the type of wild and crazy woman I am.

I rescued Joey’s football kit from festering on his bedroom floor and stuck it in the wash, because despite telling myself on a daily basis that it’s time he learnt the hard way, circumstances dictate that I also live with an extra-large pile of parental guilt, so I make life easier for him where I can.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room – Dear Me

I often wonder what my future and past self would tell me if I were to receive a letter from them.

What advice would I give myself? What would my ten-year old self talk about that is different to my older self?

I find this thought fascinating.

That is why I have chosen this exercise today. Write a letter to you, from yourself ten years in the future. Also write a letter from the point of view of your ten-year old self.

Obviously the advice and content would be slightly different but are there recurring themes?

Set the timer for about ten minutes for each one. Try not to edit, just write.

Now repeat the exercise but for one of your characters.

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NK Chats To… Hilary Grossman

Hi Hilary. It’s so nice to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your latest novel, Mom Genes has just been released. Can you tell me a little about it? 

Hi Laura! Thank you so much for having me! I am so excited to “chat” with you. Mom Genes, which is my fifth novel, is currently available on all eBook platforms and has been published today (March 24th.)

It is the second book in my Forest River PTA series, but it’s a completely standalone story. Mom Genes is a heartwarming and hilarious book about a PTA mom, Claire Conroy, who is searching for a fresh start while struggling to survive suburban backstabbing and parental politics

 

What songs would be on a playlist for this novel? 

Oh my, this is a hard question, but a few songs come to mind.

The first would be Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” because Claire is faced with quite a few problematic situations in the book. First, she returns home from a trip to Italy gearing up to separate from her husband of thirteen years. Then the meddling mothers spread rumors about the “real reason” for her divorce.

The second would be “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge because Claire’s family plays such an essential role in this story, especially her hysterical grandmother, Gigi.

The last would be “Take Me Back To The Night We Met” by Lord Huron because thanks to a chance encounter, Claire reconnects with someone from her past.

 

Hilary’s writing space

What’s your writing process like, from idea, to first draft and then to final edit? 

I’m pretty impulsive, so as soon as an idea pops into my head, I start writing. I don’t plot out my books. I let the story take its twists and turns. I often to run to my laptop fresh out of the shower, dripping wet, because one of my characters “told me something funny.

After I finish the first draft, which is always pretty rough, I read it over and polish it, and add a lot to the story. Then I send it to my editor. She has a keen eye and incredible insights, and I pretty much end up writing the book over again.

 

What has your route to publication like and, in your opinion, what’s the most common mistake new writers make when looking to be published? 

My route to publication has been like a roller coaster. I self-published my first book, Dangled Carat. Then a few months later, I secured a publisher who then published my second novel, Plan Bea. Right before they were about to publish my third book, Plan Cee, they went out of business. As soon as I received my rights back, I self-published all of my books, and have been self-publishing ever since.

I think the most common mistakes new writers make when looking to be published, they don’t have a complete understanding of the industry and the process. There is so much to know. It is overwhelming. However, I have found the author community is the most generous group of people. Everyone is always so eager to help each other out and share their experiences and knowledge.

 

Which author has impacted you the most as a writer? 

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Book Review: The River Home by Hannah Richell

Hello to Hannah Richell and the blog tour for her latest novel, The River Home.

The river can lead you home. Or it can take you under…

In their ramshackle Somerset home, its gardens running down to the river, the Sorrells have gathered for a last-minute wedding.

Lucy is desperate to reunite her fractured family. Eve is fighting to keep her perfect life together. Their mother, Kit, a famous author whose stories have run dry, still seethes with resentment towards her youngest child. And Margot, who left home eight years ago under a black cloud, is forced to come face to face with her darkness…

As the family come together for a week of celebration and confrontation, their relationships are stretched to breaking point. But can you ever heal the wounds of the past?

 

Eve, Lucy and Margot may be sisters but they are all very different.

Eve is the stoic older sister. On the outside, she has the perfect marriage and two children.

Lucy is the free spirit, the one who just wants her family back together.

Margot is the mysterious, closed off sister who has done all she can to put miles between herself and her childhood home and Kit, their mother who is struggling to finish her best-selling series of books.

When Lucy announces that she’s getting married, Margot heads home and back to the past she has wanted to escape from.

One word for this novel… WOW.

This is the first of Hannah’s books I have read but I am fast becoming a fan.

Immediately, I was drawn into this compelling novel, right from the first page. I could picture Windfalls, the river and the surrounding areas. It all felt so vivid.

The characters are all strong, complicated women who, through a lack of communication, miss out on so much with one another. It made me sad. I got emotionally involved with all these women. Each of them has such a distinct, unique voice. They are each holding their own secrets and there was a small part of me that wanted to shake them all. I grew so fond of them throughout the course of the book.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Talk to Animals?

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

 

Today’s prompt: What if I could talk to the animals? 

You have been stuck inside for a few days now. You are on your own with only your pet for company.

One morning, a voice you don’t recognise brings you out of sleep.

Your pet is on the bed with you but there is no one else there.

That is until you hear the voice again.

You turn toward your pet…

Continue the story.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: The Same But Different

Today, I thought we could look at different points of view. 

You have three characters standing together in the same spot.

They are all looking at the same thing. It could be the sky, a building, a pier, another group of people. The situation and gender of your characters are up to you.

Set the timer for ten minutes each character.

Write three different pieces of prose, describing what they are looking at but from each person’s point of view, voice and opinions.

How do they differ?

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Book Review: The Five Year Plan by Carla Burgess

Orla is a trainee reporter with a five-year plan: work her way up the career ladder, move to London and secure a job on a big national newspaper. She doesn’t want a boyfriend, he’s only going to hold her back anyway.

Aiden spends his life travelling the world and living in a tent. He knows his goal: to photograph animals and raise awareness of global warming and wildlife conservation. He’s definitely not looking for a relationship past the odd casual hook-up!

So when Orla and Aiden’s lives collide, they do everything to not fall for each other – with the opposite effect. But they stick to their plans, and go their separate ways…

Five years later, they meet again…

 

Orla has a five year plan. Advance in her journalism career, move to London and work at one of the national papers. What she didn’t count on was Aiden.

He’s a wildlife photographer who spends his life traveling the world. They don’t plan to fall in love but they do.

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Book Extract: Surviving Me by Jo Johnson

Hello to Jo Johnson and the blog tour for her novel, Surviving Me. 

Jo has shared an extract with us but first, here’s a little about the book.

Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.

Tom’s lost his job and now he’s been labelled ‘spermless’. He doesn’t exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.

All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family’s future out of the water.

If they can’t be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.

This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.

 

Grab that hot drink, biscuit, chair and enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

This excerpt features a conversation with my main character, Tom and his best friend, Harry, a doctor. Tom has recently lost his job and is too afraid to tell his wife as she’s desperate to start expensive fertility treatment. They talk about Harry’s new job but then Harry encourages his friend to tell his much younger wife about his predicament. Adam, is his brother-in-law, the other main character.

 

Harry and I can spend long periods without saying much. Eventually he describes his new job. ‘It’s exciting, Tom. I will actually get to know my patients and the staff.’

‘Explain what’s wrong with them?’

‘Neurological disorders like MS, brain injury and stroke; they will come to us for a few weeks or months for rehab.’

‘A care home?’

‘Not at all; they will be under sixty-five, most younger. The brain injuries are often blokes in their twenties. They will be stable, so not dependent on nursing care, and stay Monday to Friday. I will get weekends off and more evenings.’

‘I haven’t heard you talk about work like this for a while, all fired up with medical-student passion.’

‘I know. I was getting more and more disillusioned, which I didn’t like. This will give me more control and I have the freedom to work as I see fit. I intend to stay for years so no more moving from pillar to post.’

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