A pleasure today, as always, to be joining Bookouture‘s Books-on-tour, this time featuring What Only We Know by Catherine Hokin: published on 21st May, it’s now available via Amazon for kindle, in paperback and as an audiobook, and in other e-formats via Apple Books, Kobo and Googleplay. My thanks to the publishers for inviting me to join the tour, and to Sarah Hardy for her ongoing support.
This isn’t the first time I’ve featured one of Catherine’s books – she was my guest here on Being Anne back in 2016, telling us more about her debut novel Blood and Roses, Margaret of Anjou, and how much she enjoys writing about strong women (you’ll find it here). This is her second book for Bookouture – the first was The Fortunate Ones, set in WW2, published in January 2020, and I was kicking myself that I couldn’t fit it into my reading list because it looked just wonderful.
And now, a second novel with a wartime backdrop – let’s take a closer look…
A door slammed and the unmistakable sound of boots came crashing up the hall. Liese held her little daughter’s hand so tightly, the tiny fingers had turned purple. The SS officer’s hand was at Liese’s throat before she saw him move. ‘I can kill you easily, then I can kill your daughter.’ He relaxed his grip a little. ‘Or perhaps I could kill her first?’
England, forty years later. When Karen Cartwright is unexpectedly called home to nurse her ailing father, she goes with a heavy heart. The house she grew up in feels haunted by the memory of her father’s closely guarded secrets about her beautiful dressmaker mother Elizabeth’s tragic suicide years before.
As she packs up the house, Karen discovers an old photograph and a stranger’s tattered love letter to her mother postmarked from Germany after the war.
During her life, Karen struggled to understand her shy, fearful mother, but now she is realising there was so much more to Elizabeth than she knew. For one thing, her name wasn’t even Elizabeth, and her harrowing story begins long before Karen was born.
It’s 1941 in Berlin, and a young woman called Liese is being forced to wear a yellow star…
A beautiful and gripping wartime story about family secrets and impossible choices in the face of terrible hardship. Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, We Were the Lucky Ones and The Alice Network.
Looks good, eh? And I’m sure you’ll read some great reviews as part of the tour – but I’m afraid I’m kicking myself yet again, because I haven’t managed to read it in time. I’m delighted instead to share an extract, from the book’s prologue…
10 July, 1971
Salt danced through the breeze, tingling at her lips. Dawn was breaking. Clouds trailed in chiffon streaks across the sky, rose gold and candyfloss pink. The promise of a heat-soaked day to come.
She stepped onto the beach and let her feet find the rhythm of the sharp incline. One step and then another, the shingle crunching, until the ground became softer, the stones giving way to sand and ripples that lapped round her ankles like a kiss.
The sun was coming up, floating over the horizon like an escaped balloon. She moved towards it, slipping through the water as sleek as a ship. Knee-deep, fingers trailing. Chest-deep, feet on tiptoes.
The waves whispered at her shoulders, their pull stronger here than at the stony edge. She let them lift her, let her eyelids drop. The seagulls fell silent. There was nothing in her ears but a gurgle as pure as Lottie’s giggle.
As she floated, the sea’s gentle tempo picked up a deeper swell. The water thickened. It settled in her hair, collected heavy in her cardigan’s bell sleeves. She sensed the shore slipping away. Felt sudden cold eddies pricking at her skin, telling her that, if she chose to take it, this was the moment to turn.
She opened her eyes.
Cornflowers bloomed across the sky. Soon, the hotel would rouse itself. There would be discoveries, questions. After that… well, she had little say in what happened after that. All she had was a wish: that he would read what she had written; that he would do what she asked.
The swell grew hungry, sucked up stronger currents. It tugged at her arms, added weights to her fingers, wrapped itself like blankets round her legs.
One has paid for my mistakes; the other will not.
She dropped her head back; let the sky disappear. The world had been out of balance for far too long. It was time, at last, to level the scales.
Love that… wishing you every success with the book Catherine…
About the author
Catherine Hokin is a Glasgow-based author writing both long and short fiction. Her short stories have been placed in competition (including first prize in the 2019 Fiction 500 Short Story Competition) and published by iScot, Writers Forum and Myslexia. She blogs on the 22nd of each month as part of The History Girls collective.