Not forgotten – Lesley Ann Anderson


You have probably wondered what happens to us after we die – is there a heaven or hell? Can we expect to be reincarnated into something very distinct from our human selves? Do we become absorbed into an inky black nothingness, remaining only as memories after the lights turn out? Or maybe there is something different waiting for us after death. In Not Forgotten, author Lesley Ann Anderson explores this final idea. Delving into the complex nature of life after death – not just in the form of what happens to people that die, but of the lives of those left behind. .

The storyline centres on the rather complicated lives of seventeen year old Anna Munro and her dad, Mick. Mick is a bit of an oddball, having been thrown full force into fatherhood by the untimely death of his wife when his daughter was just a toddler. He spends his days indulged in a constant attempt to escape from reality and the hardships of fatherhood and life as a widower, absorbed in walks, books and music. For Anna life is not so simple and escape doesn’t come in the form of nature or the arts. Every night when Anna goes to sleep she feels herself being lifted from her earthly body, or has her semi conscious hours plagued by ghostly figures and incessant whispering.

The teenage years are a difficult time for any young girl, but particularly so for Anna, with new and strange things happening to her body and mind she turns to her father for help only to find out something very new and strange about herself. Assistance comes in the form of Anna’s maternal grandfather, Henryk – a beautiful, old country soul who escaped Poland for the green hills of Scotland during the Second World War. To help Anna understand her new found powers Henryk takes her to Poland, to the ancestral home of her great grandmother Rosalia.

Not Forgotten is a complex and intriguing book, exploring the many avenues of life and death. There is no central character but rather a range of people with conflicting desires and emotions, who have all been scarred by the tragic nature of human mortality. Anderson delves into relationship between love, loss and life, painting a striking picture of life after death, as those left behind struggle with conflicting emotions and grieve for those who have moved on.

Death is not final, and does not only come to us at the end of our lives, rather it is always with us, moulding and shifting our desires, our hopes, and our dreams, and preparing us for the inevitable, from the moment we are born to the day we die.

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

“If you have a sister and she dies, do you stop saying you have one? Or are you always a sister, even when the other half of the equation is gone?” ― Jodi Picoult

the-lovely-bones-9781447275206I had wanted to read this book for so long. I would often find myself seeking it out in bookshops just after it was released, picking it up and stroking the cover, reading the blurb on the back for the umpteenth time

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6th, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighbourhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer.

But I never bought it.

I have obsessed over the idea of this book for the best part of a decade – a story told by the spirit of a murdered girl, however macabre it may sound, is right up my street. I am fascinated by anything to do with the paranormal and spirituality. I wanted to get to know Susie Salmon better; I wanted to read her story.

So when my good friend Kate over at The Little Crocodile bought me the book last month for my birthday I was over the moon!

The Lovely Bones is a haunting tale told by the spirit of murdered school girl Susie Salmon. Looking down from her heaven Susie observes her family and friends. She watches the devastation and destruction that her murder causes, rippling through her small town, and shaking the community to its very core. Susie watches her family as they struggle to comprehend life without her, leaving the porch light on well after they know she is no longer coming home. As time goes on, and Susie watches her siblings and friends grow older, she learns that she must let go of her anger to allow those left behind to heal.

This book is not for the faint hearted. I become much more emotionally invested in a book than I ever have in film or TV and this one really got to me. I’ve had unsettlingly emotional episodes with books in the past; I grieved for Sirius black after reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Anybody out there? by Marian Keyes threw me into the depths of despair for a good few weeks. This one was different though. Sebold’s writing gave me nightmares, and at some points I doubted whether I would actually be able to finish it.

That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book – I did. It was everything I hoped for, and a little more. The effect that this book had on me speaks of the power of Sebold’s words – I was upset by Susie’s death, horrified by the circumstances and devastated by the effect that this had on the family. But more than this, I was distressed by Susie’s position in all this, as an outsider looking in on the effect that her death had in her community. She was intercepted by her neighbour on the way home from school that cold winter’s day in 1973; she never made it home. Susie’s story is incredibly moving in that it details her spirit’s journey, still attempting to find her way home after so many years; she may be in heaven, but her true place will always be on Earth.


Sebold has taken a story about a murdered school girl and completely turned it around, presenting an intricate analysis into grief and resolution. Fans of crime fiction may be put off to know that there is no secret as to who the killer is, you know him from the start, and if you begin the book hoping for a revelation in which Susie’s killer is brought to justice you will likely feel disappointed. But approach Sebold’s work with an open mind and you will be pleasantly surprised.

The Lovely Bones is beautifully written and hauntingly captivating and will leave you quietly contemplating Susie long after you have finished her story. It is difficult to say who I would recommend the book to – so I will simply say that if you feel intrigued by my review, then give it a go.

Has anyone else read this book? I’d love to hear from you to find out what you thought. Drop me a line or comment below.

The House at the End of Hope Street – Menna Van Praag

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W. B. Yeats


‘The house has stood at the end of Hope Street for nearly two hundred years. It’s larger than all the others, with turrets and chimneys rising into the sky. The front garden grows wild, the long grasses scattered with cowslips, reaching toward the low-hanging leaves of the willow trees. At night the house looks like a Victorian orphanage housing a hundred despairing souls, but when the clouds part and it is lit by moonlight, the house appears to be enchanted. As if Rapunzel lives in the lower tower and a hundred Sleeping Beauties lie in the beds.’

This book is so incredibly sweet and gentle, definitely one for a lazy afternoon where you just want to curl up with a book and wile away the hours.

In The House at the End of Hope Street Van Praag vicariously lives out her dream of providing a safe refuge for women who have lost hope and need a place to recover and find their direction in life.

Alba Ashby, the youngest PhD student at Cambridge University has hit an enormous bump in her journey towards academic success. Alone and beside herself she begins to wander the streets of Cambridge, her mind constantly wandering back to ‘the worst event’ of her life. As she walks she attempts to shake away her memories and search for solace in the dark streets of the university city. One night something calls to her on the wind and she finds herself stood before a mysterious house on Hope Street, unconsciously ringing the doorbell. There the beautiful Peggy Abbot welcomes her with open arms and a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Alba is invited to remain at Hope Street for no more than 99 days: ‘long enough to help you turn your life around and short enough that you can’t put it off forever’. As well as having the luxury of no rent or bills, and a room of her own, Alba is promised that she will not have to work through her problems alone.169457_3d60d4c13a1677754831f3f04683f9d2_large

‘If you stay I can promise you this,’ Peggy says. ‘This house may not give you what you want, but it will give you what you need. And the event that brought you here, the thing that you think is the worst thing that’s ever happened? When you leave, you’ll realize it was the very best thing of all.’

Alba is an unusual girl, gifted with a second sight. She has the ability to see those who are no longer living as well as things that others cannot see – sounds, emotions, feelings and scents trail through the air before her very eyes. Birds sing in blue and weave ribbons through the sky, and the words of those she speaks with emerge before her eyes, written as if by an imaginary typewriter, revealing the speakers true colours. When she steps through the door of 11 Hope Street she is perhaps not as surprised as the reader by the magical world enclosed within, and not in the least bit startled by the ghost of girl sat smiling in the kitchen sink.

In The House at the End of Hope Street Van Praag introduces us to an enchanting, magical world. Over the years the house has been home to great women throughout history, black and white images of Sylvia Plath and Dorothy Parker come to life to offer words of wisdom and advice to Alba, the walls rattle and breathe and Alba’s room transforms, filling with book cases, and fluttering copies of hundred of novels. The house is alive, and drops hints and ideas into the minds of the residents, placing notes on their dressers, providing them with gifts to nurture their talents, and denying them those which they must seek elsewhere. Bookish Alba spends her first days curled up in the cocoon of her bedroom, losing herself in the books provided for her by the house, before slowly embarking on her own journey.

In her time at Hope Street Alba goes through even more heartbreak and devastation, as she loses the person closest to her and discovers the truth behind a long kept family secret. These events help guide her on the road towards self-fulfilment, as though every cloud really does have a silver lining. For the first time in her life she is able to make friends, rather than just acquaintances, and she discovers that people living right beneath her nose will soon come to mean the world to her.

)7_WillPryce_CUL_There are twists in the story, some that I saw coming, and some that I didn’t, but all of which are delightful and sure go bring a smile to your face. Do not expect to find out exactly what Alba is running from right away, it takes some time, Van Praag teases the secret out deliciously, keeping you reading on long after you should have put the book down and started on supper.

As a Cambridge girl myself, I really enjoyed reading about the Cambridge Alba inhabits. I loved to imagine her slipping on the cobbles outside Trinity College, and running through the lanes, darting into a little bookshop to shelter from the rain, and delighted at her description of the Cambridge University Library as ‘her cathedral’.

Bookish types are sure to enjoy this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys gentle fantasy and magical realism. I would not say the book has changed my life and made it onto my favourites list, but I definitely enjoyed it, and was awarded with that warm feeling of satisfaction that comes from finishing a truly pleasant book.

Casting the Runes: An Arts Alive production

“In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.” ― Laurie Halse Anderson

25th March 2015 at Whittlesey Library and Learning Centre, 7pm

Robert Lloyd Parry as M R James

IMG_8302By now you will doubtless be familiar with my love of ghosts. So it will come as no surprise to know that I leapt at the opportunity to go to a ghost story reading. I was even more excited by the fact that the stories were those by none other than my favourite ghostly author, M R James. James’s Ghost Stories of an Antiquary is one of my bookshelf essentials. So I was simply quivering with anticipation from the day I was invited by my long-suffering best friend right up until the house lights went down and Robert Lloyd Parry took his place at the front of the audience.

The setting itself was less than spooky, a 20th century community building in the heart of a fenland market town, but the Arts Alive team had done a great job of creating a certain ghostly ambiance. The lights were dimmed, the audience assembled around a single high backed chair, nestled cosily next to a small wooden table topped with a decanter of ‘whisky’, several ageing leather backed books, a handful of old photographs and some other dusty artefacts.

IMG_8300For those of you who are unfamiliar with M R James, there are so many reasons why you absolutely need to get hold of and read some of his short ghostly stories (I recommend to the highest degree possible Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come To You, My Lad). James is nothing short of a master of the ghost story. His stories specialise in circumstance and the terrible events which can emerge from ignorant mortals meddling in the unknown. His writing is subtle, focusing on the small details; shadows, the voices of madmen and figures glimpsed out the corner of your eye. Like all great gothic writers, James allows his readers to create their own ghosts, existing only in their minds, and never once flitting across the parchment.

Robert Lloyd Parry did a stunning job donning M R James’s persona. The mind boggles at how he was able to reel off a 90 minute performance with such ease, never stumbling over his words or seeming to pause for thought. He expertly assumed not just James but each of his characters, never flinching or breaking character even for a second.

IMG_8303The first story – Casting The Runes – threw the audience back to 1903, and began by with the reading of a collection of letters. The letters informed an unknown character that a draft paper submitted for publishing in a programme was not to be included. These seemingly innocent notes paved the way for a series of strange and ghostly events including vanishing tram adverts, mysterious roadside leafleters, and unknown furry creatures lurking beneath bedclothes, all linked together by the passing of a cursed script. Parry told the story with remarkable ease, barely glancing even once at the audience, and framing the tale from multiple points of view.

When he came to the end of the first story, Parry rose from his chair for the first time and silently swept from the room, leaving the audience alone and awestruck. The house lights came up and we were able to mull about for a short time, enjoying a reasonably priced drink from the charity bar and discussing the past 45 minutes.

I was delighted to find that my other half – who before the event reported that he was ‘livid’ at my forcing him to come along to a ghost story reading – had thoroughly enjoyed the performance thus far. As, it seemed, had everyone else. I’d spent so long raving about M R James in the days running up to this event that I will confess to having been being slightly nervous that the performance would be met with anything other than pure wonderment.

IMG_8305After a short interval the house lights went down, and we were quickly ushered back to our seats. Parry once more slipped into his seat and immediately transformed once again into the evenings faithful host.

The second tale – The Residence of Whitminster – which was in equal parts mesmerising and chilling, was an 18th century tale of the supernatural destruction of a Whitminster residence, beginning with the arrival of a gaunt young man, the disappearance of a jet black cockerel named Hannibal and the feverish rants of a distressed child. Parry assumed the persona of no less than eight characters, slipping seamlessly from one side of a conversation to another, in a performance which had the eyes of the audience glued to his every move.

I was overwhelmed by Parry’s performance; I went to the event as a lover of all things M R James, and was delighted that one man managed to do his work so much justice. The most remarkable thing about the event is one I am not sure I can adequately put into words. I could compare Parry’s performance to the alcohol induced ramblings of an ancient figure propped against the bar of a public house; a one way conversation with a compulsive storyteller; or the confession of one whose secrets have been kept for too long.

The event, I feel, is something you will have to see for yourself in order to fully appreciate it. One of the ladies in charge of Arts Alive said that the events had been very well received, and I can see why. Lovers of ghost stories, fans of M R James, and those who were even slightly intrigued by the beginning of this review, I urge you look and see if Robert Lloyd Parry is performing in a library near you.

Author Interview – Marion Husband

I am delighted to be able to share with you my exclusive interview with Marion Husband, author of Now the Day is Over.

Having read the book and gushed about it to all my friends (click here to see my review), I was over the moon to get the opportunity to learn a little more about the woman behind the words.

About the author

unnamedMarion Husband is a prize-winning author of poetry, short stories and novels, including the best-selling trilogy The Boy I Love, All the Beauty of the Sun and Paper Moon. She has an MA in Creative Writing and has taught creative writing for many years for the Open University and has lectured on Creative Writing MA courses in Newcastle and Teesside Universities. Marion is married with two grown up children and lives in Norton in the Tees Valley. Her sixth novel, Now the Day is Over, was published in October 2014.

To start with can you tell us a little bit about your most recent book, Now the Day is Over?

Now the Day is Over is a ghost story set between the present day and 1920. Unusually for me, this novel is told by one person – Edwina, a ghost. She is omnipresent – knows everything about everybody: an eye-of-god narrator, just the type of narrator I would discourage my creative writing students from using – too experimental, too liable to go wrong for all the questions the style begs: how does she know? Is she making up stories or telling the truth? But I did want to experiment with this novel, to toss it all up in the air. Now the Day is Over is also a love story, but is also about guilt, grief and suspicion. Edwina – the ghost – was a nurse during the First World War. She haunts the present-day house of Gaye and David (the house was once hers) and tells the story of their unhappy marriage, gradually telling her own story, too.

Where did your inspiration come from to write a book like this?

My inspiration for Now the Day is Over was the First World War and how men and woman survived the war’s aftermath. But I’m also inspired by places: the Victorian houses I grew up in; my home town of Stockton with all its cemeteries and parks and churches, its High Street and backstreets. Inspiration is a nebulous thing, I think; for me it comes mainly from what I’ve just written, whether the character is becoming interesting or not. I have given up on other novels because I’ve failed to convince myself that the characters are entertaining enough to keep me writing.

And what about Edwina? Can you give us an insider insight into your main character?

Edwina, the ghost, is mad: she was maddened by her childhood, by the war and by her marriage, but mainly by her brother who was also maddened by his childhood and his experiences in the trenches. Edwina never truly grew up – her mother’s death when Edwina was five petrified her – she remained that frightened child even as she nursed seriously wounded and dying men during the war. The reader has to decide if Edwina is mad or bad, a liar – a story-teller – or someone with special powers of mindreading…But then, she is a ghost and I have invented my own version of what ghosts can and cannot do.

How much research went into Now the Day is over? Does research play a large part in your writing process?

I researched Now the Day is Over by reading diaries and autobiographies of 1st World War nurses. I read many, many books about the war itself, including novels and poetry – research is about knowing your subject, looking things up when you have to. There are facts you must get right, the rest is interpretation.

Who is your intended audience for this book?

My audience? – everyone (although I know my own audience is largely women and gay men) – those men and women who read a lot, so much in fact to have come across someone as obscure as me. My honest answer re who my audience is? Me. I write to entertain myself.

The cover of the book is an interesting one. Who designed your cover? Why did you choose this particular image?

9781908381811-frontcover (2)The cover was designed by me – I wanted a picture of an angel standing over a grave in an over-grown cemetery – the kind of cemetery I played in as a child where there was an angel just like the one depicted – it would scare my brothers and me to death. The image came out as rather more glossy than I would have liked…Covers are problematic in my experience.

Do you have any interesting or fun facts about your most recent book you would be willing to share with us?

An interesting fact about the book – Edwina was originally Edward – my agent told me to change the sex as he thought I shouldn’t write another novel about gay men…

Edwina started out as Edward! I let that fact bounce around in my head for a little bit before moving on to some more general questions about Marion as a writer.

Which writers inspire you?

Writers who inspire me: Julian Barnes; Pat Barker; George Orwell (very much so); Sarah Waters; Hilary Mantel (the best living writer); Margaret Atwood; Philip K Dick. Too many to mention, really.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It takes me less than a year to write a novel – sometimes only three months. But afterwards there are the months and months of rewriting and despair.

How do you deal with the dreaded writer’s block?

I have writers’ block now – no ideas, no inspiration, nowt. I am not dealing with it now, but I used to deal with it simply by writing. I used to think there was no such thing as a block, but I was young then and on a roll…

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

If I have a writing quirk it’s trying too hard to be playful (a contradiction in terms?) I like flourishes and embellishments, allowing one thought to lead to another – a stream of consciousness, which is what Edwina’s narrative is, I think. I hope I won’t put off anyone reading Now the Day by saying this – I’m very definitely not James Joyce; I just like messing around with ways of describing a thing or conveying an emotion.

As a reviewer, I’ve noticed reviews tend to be a bit of a mixed bag, and often authors are less than happy to hear about potential problems in their work. What are your feelings towards good and bad reviews?

Good reviews buck me up for a few hours; bad reviews confirm all my own thoughts about my writing. On balance, though, it’s a bit like Kipling said – good or bad – Triumph or Disaster – both are imposters and for me they tend to cancel each other out.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

To aspiring writers I would say write a lot – a very great deal – write and write and write. But also read – read more than you write and soak it all up. I would say that you can only get good at something if you practice for many, many hours, but you also need feedback from a trusted source…In essence, write grammatically correct sentences and make sure your syntax is elegant, interesting and strong. Go easy on adjectives and adverbs; make sure the verb fits the action.

And finally, how can readers discover more about you and you work?

Discover more about my work on amazon, where all my books are for sale and where there are reviews and synopsis. Also I have a website –, but it doesn’t always work properly, like me, and so I have a Goodreads Author page where all my blogs are. I also twitter links to blogs and reviews: @marionhusband.

Marion’s Latest book Now the Day is Over is available to buy direct from the publisher, Sacristy Press, or from Amazon for those outside of the UK. If this interview has piqued your interest be sure to check her out, you won’t be disappointed. I have another of her books sitting waiting on my bedside table, so there will be more to come from me too. Watch this space!

Many thanks to Marion for taking the time to talk with me.