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I borrowed this book from my Mum who, being about forty years older than me, found it just as enjoyable as I did. Tell it to the Skies addresses some very sensitive issues but was written in a very respectful way and I was able to easily relate to the main character, Lydia, despite not having experienced these situations myself.
Lydia. Noah. Chiara. Valerie.
Lydia lives in Venice with her step daughter Chiara. She hasn't always lived in Venice, her late husband, Marcello, Chiara's father, is sure there is some dark secret of guilt and regret that she left in England, and now, after Chiara chances to meet and instantly fall for a handsome young man, the secret must come out.
Lydia didn't have an easy childhood; she lost both her parents tragically and had to bring up her little sister, Valerie. Their grandparents weren't kind to her at all, cutting her hair back to her scalp, making her wear others cast-offs, while pretty Valerie was doted on and brought up in the fierce worship of the Lord that the Brothers and Sisters of the local church believed in, Lydia on the other hand, was to face abuse from her grandfather and her brother, her only refuge being her friends; Sister Lottie, Joey, the Italian ice cream salesman, Donna and her love Noah, as her sister becomes estranged from her.
However one day she has to make a choice between her family, her freedom, her future and Noah, a choice that takes her all the way to Italy.
This is a romance novel with a difference as it has so many other depths and explores areas some authors are wary to tread. Abuse is a very delicate subject but Tell it to the Skies handles it beautifully, and gives others an understanding to how such situations make a person feel, and that things like that could be going on down the street from you without you knowing.
I really liked Lydia, she was a mature but proud child, her maturity no doubt brought on by her grief and responsibility for Valerie. I grew close to her throughout the book and was able to anticipate her actions and reactions to circumstances.
I did find the book quite predictable as it went on, however this didn't disappoint me to much because it does not pretend to be a mystery novel.
The book wasn't difficult to follow, and I didn't find it hard-going, although that may be because I am used to reading much heavier-style books.
The growth of the relationship between Lydia and Noah, from a young childhood friendship based on what they had in common, to the love they felt as they became older, was a pleasure to read. I also enjoyed Lydia's friendship with the batty Sister Lottie, her honouree grandmother.
Erica James is certainly a talented author, with thirteen best sellers, and she is known to enjoy striking up conversations with strangers in the hope of gaining some inspiration for believable, down-to-Earth characters; it definitely worked here.
This is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to women and those in their late teens, unless you are looking for a light-hearted romance.
If you've read some of my latest book reviews, you'll know that I discovered Erica James a few months ago and have been steadily working my way through her back catalogue whenever I spot one that I've not already read in the library.
Lydia has been living in the Italian city of Venice for the best part of three decades when she spots a man in a crowd who causes her to damage her ankle. He bears an uncanny resemblance to someone who formed an important part of her past and a subsequent meeting opens a big can of worms in her mind. Somewhat reluctantly, Lydia realises that she has to return to England and face up to the past but what will await her when she does?
***The Writing Style and Chronology***
The book begins in the present day, when Lydia's encounter with the mysterious stranger forces her to look back on her past. As the story of her past unfolds, it jumps backwards in time to when Lydia was a child. This 'then' section of the book is the bulk of the plot, with a third person narrative detailing her difficult childhood and the events that lead to her arrival in Italy. At this point, the narrative reverts back to the present day, where it becomes apparent that Lydia has been detailing all of this to Fabio, her friend in Venice, who persuades her that as things currently stand, she can't keep the past at bay any longer.
Lydia was a really likeable character and I had huge sympathy for her as her extremely harrowing childhood was revealed. There were a good deal of darker moments along the way and it was quite surprising that the Lydia that we meet at the start of the book is all pulled together as she seems. By the end of the 'then' section though, it becomes obvious that this is not really the case and the past has had a profound effect on her.
Lydia's sister Valerie was an interesting character. When the girls are sent to live with their grandparents, she is very young and becomes easily drawn into their world. As a result of various past events, she was often mute during her childhood. Despite this, her childhood didn't come across as difficult as Lydia's so I didn't feel the same level of sympathy for her.
Lydia's grandparents were unlikeable characters, particularly in the way they treated Lydia. Although the grandmother was clearly mentally ill, I couldn't see many (if any) good points in either character and was at times appalled by their behaviour.
Lydia's boyfriend Noah seems like the perfect boyfriend for the most part. He is loving and caring towards Lydia to the point that she eventually suspects that he has done something horrific to protect her and this turns both their worlds upside down.
I was really involved in this book, particularly by the twist at the end of the 'then' section which saw Lydia make her move towards Italy. This twist is not fully answered until almost the very end, despite a few red herrings along the way. It was a pretty dark and often harrowing read and certainly isn't a feel-good book (although you could argue that the very end is). As seems quite typical of Erica James, the writing style is not overly heavy but it's definitely a bit 'meatier' than most of the books that I've previously reviewed.
40 something, Lydia Jones has lived in Venice, Italy for almost 30 years. Now widowed, she lives with her beloved stepdaughter Chiara, and together they run a successful apartment letting business. One day though, their peaceful life is thrown into disarray, as out on the street Lydia sees a face from the past that shocks her to her core. Later that day, Chiara, brings her new boyfriend home to meet her and Lydia is again faced with the ghost from the past.
In a bizarre twist of fate, Chiara's new boyfriend, Ishmael, turns out to be the son and spitting image of Lydia's childhood sweetheart, Noah. But why has seeing his son affected Lydia so much? Just what brought Lydia to Italy and break all contact with her one true love, and what secrets has she been keeping close to her heart for almost 30 years?
I picked this book up after suffering a bit of a lapse in reading, struggling to find anything that caught my attention and kept my concentration. From the very beginning of this book however, I was completely enthralled. Lydia's story starts to enfold very quickly, so within the first few pages I was hooked and desperate to know who exactly Noah was and why the appearance of his son affected her so much. It's during a heart to heart with her brother in law that the story of Lydia and Noah's past begins to unfold, and we are transported back to 1970's England and are told about two young children who are thrown together after loosing their parents and severe trauma.
Lydia and Noah's relationship as children is quite simply, beautiful to read. Right from meeting at 9 years old as new pupils and outcasts at school, I found the bond between them to be just magical. Both children have been deeply disturbed, but in each other find solace and a soul mate. Set in the 1970's, Erica James really does bring the era back to life with her descriptions and I found it easy to just slip right inside this story. As Lydia and Noah grow, so does their relationship. Their first tentative steps towards each other is so touchingly well written, it actually brought tears to my eyes. Always throughout the book I was rooting for both of them, who are equally well-written, strong and complex characters.
At times the book is a little upsetting, as abuse and neglect is tackled within the pages. Religion, or extreme religion, is also tackled, very well. Lydia's Grandparents, who are taking care of her, are members of a cult like church, and this adds a sinister undercurrent to the story. As well as the fantastically believable Lydia and Noah, the book is also littered with deep, solid and realistic characters who range from wonderful in their simplicity to chilling in their evil, twisted and dark nature. When I began this book, I wasn't really expecting a mystery or thriller, but the author manages to craftily set the scene and then spring a mystery upon the reader, which kept me guessing till the outcome was revealed.
I found this book to be one that I could become completely absorbed in, turning pages eagerly and thinking about it when I had to put it down. It's at times really sad and emotional, yet also manages to be uplifting as well. I particularly appreciated how, despite tackling disturbing subjects, the book never seemed graphic and used suggestion to add a sinister atmosphere. The book is told in the third person, but almost exclusively from Lydia's point of view. I found this enabled me to feel great empathy with the character, and the author's ability to bring to life characters and places made me feel completely involved in the story, rather than just an impostor on Lydia's private thoughts.
If I had one criticism of the book, it would be at almost 500 pages, it seemed a little too long. For the vast majority of the book it is fast paced and engaging, the pages just turning themselves. However, toward the end of the book I felt it went beyond it's natural conclusion and included an unnecessary new storyline. I think to make it absolutely perfect, 50 pages could have been cut from the book. I wouldn't say this ruined the book for me, however I definitely found the pace changed and became keen to have everything wrapped up.
Other than that small niggle, the book was almost perfect for me. I would say that this book falls into the woman's fiction category, however I think that it would appeal to a wider audience than this. It's a coming of age book, sinister and chilling, a love story, with a bit of a mystery thrown in to boot. I'm not convinced the rather wishy-washy cover does it any justice, and the book may be passed over as being fluffier than it actually is. It's not a difficult book to read, and would be ideal holiday or weekend reading. This is the first book by Erica James I have read, though I am told in the notes about the author that this is infact her 12th novel. I will certainly be looking out for her other books. 5 stars from me, with only a fraction being lost for the slightly over long ending.
Tell It To The Skies By Erica James
Published by Orian Books in 2007