Saturday, 23 June 2018

Book Review - Mary Rosie's War

I'm thrilled to join in with the blog tour for Mary Rosie's War by Catherine Byrne.

Both my grandfathers served in World War II. I never knew my Dad's father, sadly he passed way before I was born. But a glimpse into his life during the years he spent fighting for his country can be found in faded black and white photographs. We'll never know the stories behind the photographs, or what became of the men are that are pictured beside him. According to my Dad his father didn't talk much about those dark days. He had lived through the nightmare and didn't want relive it. But occasionally he'd tell of the friendships, the adventure, and the wonder that took him far from his home to places he barely even heard of.

Mary Rosie's War is a beautifully told tale of the conflicting emotions that war brought to the young men and women who served their country, and the heartbreaking reality that nothing and no one would ever be the same again.

Told from the perspectives of Mary and her friends and family, the novel cleverly shows the different views and expectations that were held at the time. For Mary it's seems like a chance to broaden her horizons, but to her mother it seems like the past is repeating itself. Their journey brought tears to my eyes at times. It takes a strong writer to create characters so real that you feel their heartache, love and loss in such a way.

An exceptional tale, passionately told, which gave me more understanding of the struggles my grandparents endured, not just in the heat of battle but in the tough decisions that they had to make in a time of such uncertainty.

Mary Rosie’s War

WW2 has been declared. A strange find on the beach gives Mary Rosie the chance to fulfil her dreams and contribute to her country, but all is not what she imagined.

After witnessing the first bomb to be dropped on mainland Britain, Mary watches her friends leave to join the forces and longs to be with them, but is held back by loyalty to her widowed mother.

France has capitulated. Johnny Allan’s regiment has been annihilated by German troops north of Paris. Johnny has to find a way to get home and to the girl who no longer waits for him.

Leisel is a German Jew who lost her family to the Nazis and has to make her way in Britain, a strange new country, while harbouring a desire for revenge.

Their lives become entangled in a way that no one could have envisaged.

A story about war, family ties, love, loyalty and loss.

Author Bio

Catherine Byrne always wanted to be a writer. She began at the age of eight by drawing comic strips with added dialogue and later, as a teenager, graduated to poetry. Her professional life however, took a very different path. She first studied glass engraving with Caithness Glass where she worked for fourteen years. During that time she also worked as a foster parent. After the birth of her youngest child she changed direction, studying and becoming a chiropodist with her own private practice. At the same time she did all the administration work for her husband's two businesses, and this continued until the death of her husband in 2005. However she still maintained her love of writing, and has had several short stories published in women's magazines. Her main ambition was to write novels and she has now retired in order to write full time.

Born and brought up until the age of nine on the Island of Stroma, she heard many stories from her grandparents about the island life of a different generation. Her family moved to the mainland at a time when the island was being depopulated, although it took another ten years before the last family left.

An interest in geology, history and her strong ties to island life have influenced her choice of genre for her novels.

Since first attending the AGM of the Scottish Association of Writers in 1999, Catherine has won several prizes, commendations and has been short-listed both for short stories and chapters of her novels. In 2009, she won second prize in the general novel category for ‘Follow The Dove’

In 2016 The Road to Nowhere won second prize in the Barbara Hammond competition for Best Self Published novel. The follow up, Isa’s Daughter won 1st prize in the same competition the following year.

Although the books follow the fortunes of the same family, they are all stand-alone.

The fifth book in the Raumsey series is Mary Rosie’s War.

Catherine Byrne lives in Wick, Caithness.

Social Media Links 


1st Prize – all 4 of Catherine Byrne’s previous books in paperback .  

6 x Runners Up Prizes – PB copy of Broken Horizon  (UK Only)

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Monday, 5 February 2018

Guest Post: Naneh V H

I'm joined on the blog today by fellow writer @Naneh_V_H. We met recently at a writing event, and I was struck by her heart wrenching journey to creative writing:

Although I was born in the 70s, mine was nothing like your imagined, Western experience of the decade. My native country of Armenia, to the south-east of European frontiers, was part of the Soviet Union then. One good thing about it was that by virtue of association, I’d say domination, alongside my native, Armenian language, I also learnt Russian, the lingua franca of the empire, and grew up bilingual as a result.

I am proud of the fact that apart from reading centuries-old Armenian literature, I also studied Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Pushkin and Chekhov in the original. Being a bookish pupil, I wrote poems and essays in school - in Armenian and Russian - but I began writing in earnest as Arts and Culture Correspondent in the post-Soviet Armenian media; first, there was a newspaper, then TV and Radio, where I’d interview prominent artists, report daily on the arts and write scripts for travel, youth and music shows.

One ambition of mine then was to read Jayne Eyre in English. It would be decades till I could do that, years after the collapse of the USSR, following my move to the UK as a twenty-something year-old.
Considering that in addition to Armenian and Russian, I majored in Arabic at Yerevan State University, it could be said that English is my second or third foreign language. I love it - its agility and nuances - and I use it as a tool for understanding my experience of life.

The contemporary American writer Dani Shapiro once said that she didn’t have access to her thoughts unless and until she started writing, and I identify with that. Writing non-fiction, which I do, particularly short stories and memoir, I seek to sort through the upheavals that my generation or family have gone through.

And there is a lot to grasp! For example, it’s little-discussed these days, but the break-up of the Soviet Union, whilst inevitable and desirable, brought upheaval and chaos to ordinary people’s lives, who, on the one hand, had to overcome the trauma of having lived in a totalitarian country, and on the other hand, needed to adjust to the new political and economic reality. Many of those I grew up watching and loving didn’t make the transition and succumbed to a desperate existence.

On a personal level, through my writing I aim to voice my devastation about my four-year-old son’s sudden death and make sense of or find hope in life. In fact, it was following that crushing loss that I finally sat down to do creative writing in English. When Samuel died in his sleep, while I was pregnant with our daughter, my previous life disappeared overnight. As a way to cope with the tragedy, I began dedicating pieces to Sam and charting our years together, so I didn’t forget.

But anyone who knows anything about coping with a loss knows that how we deal with it is a lot to do with how we deal with life. So I began to expand into creating written tributes to other things I missed. I had been working in vibrant offices in Central London until then, feeling accepted in the sea of foreign faces, but all the while thinking of people back in my home country. So, I started interviewing fellow immigrants, writing and speaking about cross-cultural identity, including at Ignite Liverpool, in order to bring my past and present together. In recent years, I’ve also spoken at Nursery World Awards for the national charity Home-Start about child loss. These subjects have a lot in common: belonging, trauma and transformation.

I am a part-time Community Centre Manager, as well as a busy mum and wife. This year I am also working on my collection of autobiographical non-fiction, emboldened by terrific feedback from published authors and experiences agents. In it, I am documenting the personal stories of those people I grew up watching and loving. I was wrong: I hadn’t left them behind.  

Twitter: @Naneh_V_H

©Naneh V H, 2018