I’m really delighted today to be joining the blog blitz and sharing my review of Anna by Patricia Dixon, published for kindle today by Bombshell Books (and also available in paperback). My thanks to the author and publisher for inviting me to join the tour, and to Heather Fitt at Bombshell for my advance reading copy and her ongoing support.
This isn’t the first time I’ve featured one of Patricia’s books here on Being Anne, but I have neglected her rather shamefully – you’ll find my review of Over My Shoulder, a really gripping psychological thriller, here. Another thriller, Death’s Dark Veil, followed – and another non-thriller, They Don’t Know, that I very much liked the look of (and I’ve seen some excellent reviews) but just couldn’t fit into my reading list.
But I do remember her telling me how much I’d like her books about the French countryside, and I’m delighted that Bombshell Books have picked them up to revise and republish. The first in the series was Rosie and Ruby, published on 25th April (previously published as Three Mothers), but I just couldn’t read both: Anna is the second in the series (previously published as A Bientôt), but can be read perfectly comfortably as a stand-alone. And I’m pleased to report that Patricia was absolutely right – this was very much my kind of read…
Set on the coast of Portsmouth and the beautiful Loire Valley, this is the story of Anna. A married mother of three, the unremarkable rock of her family is content with her life until she discovers that Matthew, her husband of 22 years, is having an affair.
Consumed by hurt and tainted memories, Anna’s life is turned upside down by first betrayal and then loss. Her confidence totally destroyed, she is tormented by the spectre of Matthew’s unknown lover. Whilst keeping the secret of his affair from her family, Anna must find her way through the pain alone.
With one son on the other side of the world, another about to enter a war zone and her daughter off to university, her life gradually begins to crumble. A shock discovery, an unwelcome revelation and an advert in a magazine are the catalysts for her road to recovery.
Can Anna find peace and learn to love again?
I knew the author had a rather special touch with the dark and gripping page turners, but what a lovely surprise this book was. It really couldn’t have been more different from the book I read before – other than in the fact that the writing’s equally excellent. This is quite a substantial book at 500+ pages, but it never felt like it for a moment – and it was rather a treat to escape into it for rather longer than the average book usually allows.
There’s a tremendous warmth to the writing, and maybe the best way I can describe it is as a romance and a family drama, with an ongoing mystery and a rather lovely touch of travel writing too. The pace is slow, but that’s far from being a complaint – it’s the kind of “slow” that means you can luxuriate in it, follow the sidetracks a little, reflect on what’s going on, maybe think about how some of the situations would make you feel.
At times it’s sad – it begins with the sudden death of Anna’s husband, examining her grief, and her predicament’s only made worse when his infidelity and a whole basketful of other issues begin to surface. The aftermath of her loss overshadows her new relationship – and the author captures so well those feelings of guilt around being happy and moving on.
The family relationships are excellent – Anna’s mother is wonderfully eccentric and demanding, such a well-drawn character, and I loved her own relationship with her three young adult children as she deals with the fall-out from her decision to move on and her new relationship. Every one of them is just perfectly fleshed out – and their reactions, although sometimes causing additional problems for Anna, have a feel of absolute authenticity. Her friendships are just wonderful too – particularly the fiercely protective Jeannie and the new friends she makes in France.
I’m guessing those who read the first book will already know Rosie, but I met her at the same time as Anna, loved the way their attachment grew, and really liked the way she experienced some happy moments of her own.
The sense of place in this book is exceptional – as well as the country hotel at St Pierre, we experience all the joys of French family life, follow Anna on her drives (accompanied by Daphne the sat nav), visit the vividly described tourist spots, feel the sunshine, see the rural scenery and taste all the wonderful food and drink (this is most definitely not a book to read while hungry). It’s all beautifully done, but that sense of place is equally strong when Anna’s at home in Portsmouth, particularly when she makes some changes in her life – I’d rather like to drink my coffee on that balcony overlooking the Solent, waving to the departing ferries.
The issue of husband Matthew’s infidelity simmers beneath the surface throughout, and there’s an ongoing intriguing mystery as Anna tries to find out who his lover was – with a few false trails and red herrings along the way. The emotional side of it is nicely done too – there’s that mixture of sadness and unresolved anger, and I just loved the final moment of truth when Anna’s personal performance is simply magnificent.
The developing love story is excellent too – the initial misunderstanding, those recurring moments of doubt and uncertainty about trust, the moments of “shall I/shan’t I”, all so authentically done. There’s one wonderful scene in the book when Anna finally becomes aware that she’s still a desirable woman – and one of the book’s funniest moments when she finds herself fighting off more than one determined suitor.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book – and really can’t imagine that anyone could fail to. Very much recommended by me.
About the author
Patricia Dixon was born in Manchester where she still lives with her husband. They have two grown up children and one grandson.
Ignoring her high school reports and possibly sound advice from teachers, Patricia shunned the world of academia and instead, stubbornly pursued a career in fashion. Once the sparkle of London life wore off she returned north and embarked on a new adventure, that of motherhood.
Now, almost thirty years later she has acquiesced to the wise words of her elders and turned her hand to writing. Patricia has written a total of eight novels, the latest is due for release in March 2019.