Book Review: Picking Up The Pieces by Amanda Prowse

Having read and enjoyed books by Amanda Prowse before, when I saw she had a new book out on 10 January 2023, I requested an ARC from NetGalley and here’s the blurb:

In this heart-warming story from million copy bestselling author Amanda Prowse, Nora has given up on finding happiness. But has it been waiting for her all along?
As Nora and her British Army officer husband, Gordy, pack up yet another home and leave the sun of Cyprus for the drizzle of England, she can’t shake a feeling of regret—at her failure to follow her own dreams, but also, if she’s honest, at having ended up an officer’s wife at all, drifting through a life of temporary homes and temporary relationships.
Since losing her parents at a young age, Nora’s life has been lacking an anchor: someone or something to make her feel secure. Her marriage has been her only permanent relationship, and just as even that appears to be fizzling out, a tragedy forces Nora into the role of legal guardian to her seven-year-old nephew, Ted. Faced suddenly with a responsibility she never dreamed of, how can Nora possibly offer the boy the kind of unconditional love he deserves, when she’s never experienced it for herself?
But as she navigates the precarious and unfamiliar world of parenthood, Nora begins to see herself through Ted’s eyes, as someone worthy of love and even joy. When she’s welcomed into the previously intimidating huddle of mums at the school gate, she has to wonder: is it too late to smash down the other barriers she’s built—and to have a second chance at a happy marriage with Gordy?”

The prologue starts with a very young Leonora and an old gentleman called Senor Agosti taking her back to bed when she’d got up scared in the night. The stories of Leonora / Nora and Senor Agosti then become clear as the book begins.

Nora and her army office husband are leaving Cyprus to be stationed back in the UK – and having relatives who’ve lived in forces accommodation – the descriptions of them and the furnishings are perfect! Their relationship is not great – but all of that is put on the back burner when Nora’s sister Kiki has a crisis, and Nora has to go and look after her nephew, Ted. Nora and Kiki don’t not get on – but just haven’t really been in each others lives much – so Nora and Ted don’t really know each other at all. Nora also hasn’t had her own children – so dealing with a seven year old is a whole new ball game for her.

The book looks at familial relationships – and siblings who perceive their own individual ‘truths’ from their upbringings (oh how relevant #WilliamandHarry) – along with the power of friendships. Exploring mental health issues is obviously something close to the author’s heart – and she’s been open about her own son’s issues with depression and suicidal thoughts – and that is very evident in the powerful and ‘real’ descriptions of Kiki’s own troubles in this book.

Interspersed with the main storyline of Nora’s family – there is also a series of chapters and letters from Senor Agosti trying to track down Nora and Kiki to return a painting to them that their father did when they were children. This is a lovely other strand to the book – and I do wonder what happens to M&M after the book finishes. Maybe a sort of sequel?!

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Picking Up The Pieces and would definitely recommend it.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC.

Book Review: The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

The Rules of Seeing.jpg

I was lent a copy of this by a friend – and told it was really ‘different’.  Now, I’m always nervous of ‘different’ having used exactly that word to describe Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ – some of my friends still haven’t forgiven me for putting then through that!  Anyway – I read the book without reading the blurb first – which is always a risk!!

But here it is for you:

“Nova is 32 years old and she is about to see the world for the very first time.
Jillian Safinova, Nova to her friends, can do many things. She can speak five languages. She can always find a silver lining. And she can even tell when someone is lying just from the sound of their voice.
But there’s one thing Nova can’t do. She can’t see.
When her brother convinces her to have an operation that will restore her sight, Nova wakes up to a world she no longer understands. Until she meets Kate.
As Kate comes into focus, her past threatens to throw them into a different kind of darkness. Can they each learn to see the world in a different … and open their eyes to the lives they could have been living all along?”

I LOVED this book – from start to finish.  It’s difficult to know what category to put it in – there is a lot about the physical act of seeing, but also non physical blindness to things going on around you – as well as a romance and thriller aspects – very difficult to pin it down to a genre.

The whole concept of ‘curing’ a ‘broken’ sense is something I hadn’t even considered until a few years ago when a friend’s son was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at birth.  Cochlear implants were an option for him – and as someone with no experience of the deaf world at all, I just assumed it was a no brainer, and anything to make a child ‘normal’ (I cringe writing that now) should be grabbed at.  I hadn’t realised – until my very patient and forgiving friend – explained to me the complexities of ‘curing’ deafness has massively opposing views in the deaf community.  At the age of about 1, my friend’s son did have the implants and is thriving as a funny, feisty, bright, articulate, handsome, loving and loved 6 year old – and his implants are something that will be an intrinsic part of his life forever.

I think this gave me slightly more of an insight into Nova’s operation than I would have had if I’d not even considered ‘repairing a broken sense’ before. Obviously in her case it’s totally different as it’s sight not hearing, and she’s 32 – so has lived without seeing anything properly her entire life to date.  She’s an independent, successful woman working as an interpreter for the police – and the aftermath of her operation plays out for her professionally, personally and psychologically.

Nova’s path crosses with Kate in hospital. I have to say I’d made assumptions about how Kate’s injuries would pan out – and I was totally and utterly wrong! But their lives become entwined in a complex and ever changing way. The support they show each other – in different ways at different times – is beautiful and very real.

Also, being a ‘builder’ in my day job helped me appreciate some of Kate’s geeky architect references, for example the soundproofed new flat – I love it when there are seemingly irrelevant facts that interest me!

Nova and Kate’s relationships with family and friends are fundamental to the story but work really well – you see them as rounded people without any of it being forced – it’s just written really well. I don’t want to give too much of it away – you need to see what I mean when you read it.

This book does make you think about how we ‘see’ – and Nova’s rules of seeing are dotted throughout – some are practical – and some with a much deeper meaning – but all very cleverly done.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone and everyone!