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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Inside INDIA in the mid 20th Century

Under the Jewelled Sky by Alison McQueen 

This post can now be found on the new TripFiction site here

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Let TripFiction help you find your holiday novels: Summer 2013

We have been asked on so many occasions to help people choose their holiday reading - books that aren't too onerous but will keep the reader gripped. We shall therefore share some of our favourites, very often they are not mainstream, but always evocative of location; by combining our suggestions with the titles currently readily available at your local bookshop, you will hopefully find the perfect combination for your holiday. It would be great if you would add your suggestions, too, in the Comments Box. Click on the covers to find out more or if you are looking for something specific, contact us via BookButler

"Sometimes travelling alone can be murder".... Backpack by Emily Barr opens with Tansy burying her Mother, the end of a lifetime of care that frees her up to leave her job and go travelling. Young Tansy is not a likeable character as she jets off to Vietnam, her demons plague the prose - alcoholism, name it. To begin with she is a hugely self-referring character, critical of others, desultory about events, and just plain angry. It is a struggle to stick with her. But stick with her you must, because she takes her readers to all kinds of wonderful places on the backpacker trail, and introduces us to the obvious places like the Khao San Road in Bangkok, and amazing Lao and the Plain Jars (and what their purpose was, nobody knows) as well as China and Tibet. So, enjoy the read as she develops her sense of self in exotic surroundings, as the pathos builds with the backstory of the murders of young women, all of whom bare a resemblance to her.

Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa Klaussmann set in Martha's Vineyard. Nick and her cousin, Helena, have grown up sharing sultry summers at Tiger House, the glorious old family estate on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. As World War II ends they are on the cusp of adulthood, the world seeming to offer itself up to them. Helena is leaving for Hollywood and a new marriage, while Nick is to be reunited with her young husband Hughes, due to return from London and the war. Everything is about to change. Neither quite finds the life she had imagined, and as the years pass, the trips to Tiger House take on a new complexity. Then, on the brink of the 1960s, Nick’s daughter Daisy and Helena’s son Ed make a sinister discovery. It plunges the island’s bright heat into private shadow and sends a depth-charge to the heart of the family. Summer seemed to arrive at that moment, with its mysterious mixture of salt, cold flesh and fuel. Magnificently told from five perspectives, Tigers in Red Weather is an unforgettable debut: a simmering novel of passion, betrayal and secret violence beneath a polished and fragile facade.

A Night on the Orient Express by Veronica Henry. The journey of a lifetime from London to Venice. For one group of passengers settling in to their seats and taking their first sips of champagne, the journey from London to Venice is more than the trip of a lifetime.
A mysterious errand; a promise made to a dying friend; an unexpected proposal; a secret reaching back a lifetime...As the train sweeps on, revelations, confessions and assignations unfold against the most romantic and infamous setting in the world.
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What about Your Saucepans by Lindsay de Feliz - the author walked away from an enviable lifestyle - marriage, successful career, expensive holidays, designer clothes, fast cars - to pursue her dream of being a SCUBA diving instructor. She could not have predicted the journey ahead when she arrived in the heat, sunshine and vibrant culture of the Dominican Republic. She found love, a ready-made family and - despite being shot in a bungled robbery - a desire to help the Dominican people, many living in abject poverty. She supported her husband as he ran for political office and with Lindsay by his side they were a formidable team. As the campaign gathered momentum, they learnt the hard way what happens when you oppose those in power. Fighting corruption, double-dealing and with their lives at risk, they were forced into hiding. Their incredible story is stranger than fiction and twice as menacing. The dark underbelly of the Dominican Republic is exposed, from the tourist beaches to the soaring mountains of the interior. Lindsay tells it how it is, but in the telling her deep love for the Dominican Republic, its culture and its people shines through.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright is set in Cambodia, on a waste dump, just outside Phnom Penh. This is the story of people who pick over the rubbish at Stung Meanchey - they make their homes from rubbish, they pick up their cooking implements and pots from the dump, their very existence is underpinned by the dump. Sang Li makes her living on the dump, and this is her world. Her son Nissay is constantly sick with diarrahoea and can't keep any food down so he doesn't grow.

The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown set in Valencia, is a lovely story of life, love and loss and the art of perfume. Set in modern day with a backstory set in the period of the Spanish Civil War, Emma begins to explore her roots and herself. Beautifully evocative of Valencia

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The Lake House by Marci Nault is set in New England. Enter this thoughtful novel full of romance, friendship, jealousy, tragedy, and above all hope. The community of Lake Nagog is small and secluded and provides a beautiful backdrop for the storyline.

The Son-in-Law by Charity Norman is set in Yorkshire, UK On a sharp winter's morning, a man turns his back on prison. Joseph Scott has served his term. He's lost almost everything: his career as a teacher, his wife, the future he'd envisaged. All he has left are his three children but he is not allowed anywhere near them. This is the story of Joseph, who killed his wife, Zoe. Of their three children who witnessed the event. Of Zoe's parents, Hannah and Frederick, who are bringing up the children and can't forgive or understand Joseph. They slowly adjust to life without Zoe, until the day Joseph is released from prison...Our Blogpost

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe by Mary Simses is set in fictional Beacon, Maine: Manhattan lawyer Ellen Branford is going to fulfill her grandmother's dying wish - to find the hometown boy she once loved and give him her last letter. Beacon, Maine, home to blueberry fields and eccentric locals, is the last place she wants to go so close to her upcoming wedding. Hoping to be in and out in 24 hours, Ellen ends up the talk of the town when a tumble into the ocean introduces her to Roy Cummings, the carpenter who saves her life. Roy happens to be the nephew of Ellen's grandmother's lost love, and the one person who can bring closure to her quest. But as Ellen learns what Beacon has to offer and what her grandmother left behind, she may find that a 24 hour visit will never be enough...

Happy reading from all of us at TripFiction. Plenty more novels evocative of location on the TripFiction Website We now feature over 880 locations "see a location through an author's eyes" and combine that with a good storyline!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Mussels and MUCH more (BERLIN)

The Mussel Feat by Birgit VanderBeke

This post now appears on the new TripFiction website, here plus interview with the founder of the publisher, Peirene Press

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Tranquil Light over BROOKLYN (and NYC and JAPAN)

“I had always thought, from my outpost on Mount Nagata, that great beauty could be the product of only of nature. But these American skyscrapers – columns of shiny black mica, windows the colour of tremolite – were redolent with something else. They spoke to me of man-made dreams made concrete and grounded in rock, of lives fully lived. They were the solid manifestations of soaring spirit and a kind of service to a greater cause. Even the broken Manhattan skyline, where the towers had once stood, spoke to me of immense human suffering and even greater endurance. There was something unique about New York’s mountain ridge of buildings..” Seido-san’s observations of New York, quoted from Buddahland Brooklyn.

Buddahland Brooklyn by Richard C Morais is now reviewed on the new TripFiction website here

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The art of silk weaving captured in fiction. LYON

Croix-Rousse and River Saone, Lyon
We are really pleased that author Helena Fairfax has agreed to give share a bit about the background of her great novel and tell us something about the history of the silk industry of Lyon, France.

Helena was born in Uganda and came to England as a child.  She’s grown used to the cold now and that’s just as well, because nowadays she lives in an old Victorian mill town in Yorkshire, right next door to windswept Brontë country.  She has an affectionate, if half-crazed, rescue dog and together they tramp the moors every day—one of them wishing she were Emily Brontë, the other vainly chasing pheasants.   When she’s not out on the moors you’ll find Helena either creating romantic heroes and heroines of her own or else with her nose firmly buried in a book, enjoying someone else’s stories.  Her patient husband and her brilliant children support her in her daydreams and are the loves of her life.
The Silk Romance by Helena Fairfax

I wanted to try and bring the silk industry to life in my novel, in the same way that some small family firms in Lyon still flourish today. My hero, Jean-Luc Olivier, is a retired racing-driver who rescues a silk mill and turns it into a thriving concern.

A visit to Lyon’s old quarter – le vieux Lyon – reveals the most extensive Renaissance architecture in France.  The wealth needed to create these beautiful buildings was derived from the silk industry, which began to flourish in Lyon in the fifteenth century.
Prior to starting their own production, the French imported all their silks from places such as Asia and Italy.  As you can imagine, this was incredibly expensive, and so Louis XI decided to establish production in Lyon, in order to avoid paying the exorbitant costs of importing. Later, in the sixteenth century, François I allowed Lyon to control the monopoly of the silk production in France – and so the City of Silk was born.
The Croix-Rousse quarter of Lyon is the district where the silk-workers - les canuts – used to live and work.  This area is set on a hill, with a sweeping panorama of the city.  Today the Croix-Rousse is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and la colline qui travaille (the hill that works) no longer throbs with the sound of the looms, but it remains an absolutely fascinating place to visit.
The area still retains an old world charm, with its high stone buildings providing much needed shade in the heat of the summer.  And if you stroll round the area, you will be able to explore the traboules, a network of shadowy covered alleyways which criss-cross the city.  The traboules enabled the weavers to carry their silk protected from the rain.  It is said these hidden alleyways were also used as escape routes for the French Resistance during the second world war. The tourist office distributes a free map of the traboules of old Lyon, most of which are open to the public.  You can also now download a traboule app for your iPhone.
In the centre of the Croix-Rousse district there is a monument to Joseph-Marie Jacquard, a citizen of Lyon who developed a method of producing patterned fabrics using perforated cards. Jacquard’s invention caused a massive leap forward in weaving techniques – a sort of early computerised production – and spread rapidly throughout Europe and through other textile industries, including the woollen industry in West Yorkshire, where I live.  (In fact perforated cards were used up until very recently in the mill in Bradford where I used to work. It was only towards the end of the twentieth century that true computerised production, including computer aided design, began to be the norm).
You can see a demonstration of a Jacquard loom in La Maison des Canuts, a small museum in the Croix-Rousse, dedicated to keeping the silk-workers’ history alive.  The museum runs guided tours and has an outlet where you can buy luxurious silk products.
There are few remaining silk-weaving businesses in Lyon.  One of them is Prelle, which supplies a range of glamorous furnishings for theatres, opera houses, stately homes, etc.  Prelle keeps a vast library of historic designs, some of which they recreated for the film Marie Antoinette.

A synopsis of Helena's book to whet your appetite: 
Jean-Luc Olivier is a courageous racing-driver with the world before him.  Sophie Challoner is a penniless student, whose face is unknown beyond her rundown estate in London.  The night they spend together in Paris seems to Sophie like a fairytale—a Cinderella story without the happy ending. She knows she has no part in Jean-Luc’s future.  She made her dying mother a promise to take care of her father and brother in London.   One night of happiness is all Sophie allows herself. She runs away from Jean-Luc and returns to England to keep her promise.

Safely back home with her father and brother, and immersed in her college work, Sophie tries her best to forget their encounter, but she reckons without Jean-Luc.  He is determined to find out why she left him, and intrigued to discover the real Sophie.  He engineers a student placement Sophie can’t refuse, and so, unwillingly, she finds herself back in France, working for Jean-Luc in the silk mill he now owns.

Thrown together for a few short weeks in Lyon, the romantic city of silk, their mutual love begins to grow.  But it seems the fates are conspiring against Sophie’s happiness.  Jean-Luc has secrets of his own.  Then, when disaster strikes at home in London, Sophie is faced with a choicestay in this glamorous world with the man she loves, or return to her family to keep the sacred promise she made her mother.

The Silk Romance is published in e-format and is available here at Tripfiction, from the publishers MuseItUp Publishing, from Amazon and other major e-tailers.  If you read it, and enjoy it, please let her know at, or you can find her on Goodreads. You can also follow Helena on Twitter @HelenaFairfax