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Oh the joy of long summer holidays! My secret pleasure is reading all day, if I find a book good enough that I don't want to put it down. I found such a novel in Magda's Daughter, by Catrin Collier. In fact it was so good, I read all day, and evening, until the book was finished. Children were ignored, washing left in the machine, and I even barbequed one handed!!
Catrin Collier was born and brought up in Pontypridd. She worked for a while in Europe and America before returning to her native Wales. She now lives on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea. She has written lots of historical novels, many of which are based in some way, on her own family history. She also writes under other names - Katherine John (Crime), Caro French, (modern raunch) Katherine Hardy (TV novelisations).
This is the first novel I have read by her. Magda's Daughter was first published in 2008.
The blurb .......
This story is set in 1960's Wales and it tells the story of Helena, daughter of Polish refugee, Magda Janek. After the Second World War, Magda settles in the Welsh town of Pontypridd with her young daughter. We begin the story as Helena is returning to Wales after finishing her degree at Bristol University.
Helena is beautiful and well educated. She is engaged to Ned and has a wonderful future ahead of her. She and her mother have a close and loving relationship (Ned doesn't get on quite so well with his Mother in Law to be!) but then tragedy strikes. Magda has a bitter and explosive secret that she carries to the grave.
Magda Janek is a Polish widow. She has suffered much at the hands of the Germans and wants only the best for her only daughter. She is a devout Catholic and is ruled by what the church thinks, and respectability. She comes across as an over bearing Mother, but she obviously loves her daughter. She is a product of her past which we only discover as the story unfolds.
Helena Janek has just finished her degree and is returning to her home town with her fiancé to pursue a career in teaching. She is a carefree young woman and the only child of Magda. Helena finds herself travelling across Europe to 1960's Poland. Not an easy journey for a young woman to make during this period in history. She hopes that she will find answers to her mothers past. On the whole Helena is a believable character, whose reactions to the circumstances that life throws at her seem realistic and understandable.
Ned is Helena's fiancé. He too is returning to Pontypridd after finishing his degree, to take up his position as a GP in his fathers practice. I liked Ned - he obviously loves his girl, but maybe he is a bit too squeaky clean. He is thrown into turmoil when he thinks he may loose the love of his life. (If this was is ever made into a Movie I can see Zac Efron playing the part!!)
A large part of the story takes place in Poland where we meet Josef, a young school teacher and priest, and Anna who is an angry woman who seems to dislike everyone. Josef helps Helena find the Niklas family who she believes will help her answer questions about her mother. It is hard to talk too much about their characters without giving too much of the plot away. Suffice to say Catrin Collier develops these characters well. Both are quite complex and have also been greatly affected by the past.
Is it any good?......
As it took me less than a day to read the book I have to say yes it was really good. The storyline was believable and I was fascinated by the historical facts woven into the plot.
I was particularly interested in the part of the story set in Poland. Although I visited Poland in the late 1980's as a young adult, I had no real understanding of what happened to the Polish people and how the war had affected their country. I visited Auschwitz and was moved, but I did not fully understand the consequences of these evil places.
This was a very satisfying read. A real page turner. The author takes you on a journey with the characters and I was compelled to keep reading all day!! An above average historical novel and I shall be looking out for another book by Catrin Collier.
Thank you for reading! :o)