Happy New Year everyone. I’m back from my Christmas break, and it’s a real pleasure today to help open the blog tour and to share my review of Along the Endless River by Rose Alexander, due for publication by Canelo on 14th January in both ebook and paperback (and available for preorder). My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Tours for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
How lovely to see a new book from Rose. I remember how very much I enjoyed her second novel, Under an Amber Sky, back in 2017 – a compelling dual time story, with a slice of hidden Montenegran wartime history (you’ll find my review here). My plans to read her first, Garden of Stars, were thwarted – but I did feature a lovely interview with Rose, way back in 2016 (you’ll find it here). She’s also published under her alter ego Alex Day – I read and reviewed The Missing Twin in 2018, but found that although there was a lot I really enjoyed, I was perhaps more of a fan of Rose than I was of Alex (you’ll find that review here). And I must say that I loved the look of this book from the moment I first heard about it…
In the heart of the rainforest, Katharine will fight for her life and for love.
1890: When Katharine and her husband, Anselmo, set sail to Brazil to reap the spoils of the rubber boom, it seems as if they cannot fail. But when Anselmo dies suddenly on the treacherous waters of the Amazon, a pregnant Katharine must decide whether or not to continue her husband’s dream, alone.
Meanwhile her sister Mabel is struggling to support their family back in London. Navigating new worlds in the upper class, she discovers that life as a housemaid has its own dangers, and Mabel soon learns that the whims of men can prove deadly…
Mabel and Katharine must both fight for their futures if they are ever to be reunited. Can they find love and happiness along the way?
A stunning saga of love, betrayal, secrets and family for fans of Dinah Jefferies, Erica Brown and Renita D’Silva.
Well, what a fantastic way to start a New Year – I really thought this book was stunning, and found it quite impossible to put down. I don’t know how much you know about the colonisation of the Amazon rainforests in Victorian times, the atrocities that were committed in the name of capitalising on the need for the need for rubber to provide the tyres for those new-fangled cars, the obscene fortunes made by the rubber barons through the exploitation of the indigenous people – no, me neither, but I certainly loved learning more.
Against that backdrop, we get to know Katharine – I do love a book that has a strong and complex woman at its heart – who leaves her beloved family and her work as a shopgirl to travel to the Amazon with new husband Anselmo in the hope of making their fortunes. When Anselmo is tragically killed, and Katharine understands the extent of debt he has incurred in following their dream, she has little choice but to carry on alone – rejecting the offers of powerful baron Mac to buy her out, she travels on with a small group of supporters to set up the estate at Norwood, intent on operating ethically (unlike the many others) and hopeful of success with her dangerous venture.
The first part of the book focuses entirely on Katharine’s endeavours, and I have to say I thought the writing and storytelling were quite superb, the obstacles and moments of well-wrought drama coming thick and fast. This is an incredibly hostile environment, vividly and often beautifully described – and the actions of others often make things many times more challenging. And while Katharine strives for survival and success against all the odds, there’s always too a strong focus on family, on how the profit she hopes to make will improve the lot of her family back in England – and she particularly misses her young sister Mabel.
As Katharine’s struggles continue, we then have the opportunity to catch up with other members of her family – her feckless opportunist of a brother, and sister Mabel who’s been forced into service after misfortune befalls the family. I must say I enjoyed (perhaps the wrong word…) Mabel’s story as much as Katharine’s, as she discovers the realities and danger of life on the lowest rung of the ladder. The stories do very cleverly converge… but exactly how I think I must allow you to discover.
There was so much I really loved about this book – the exceptional descriptions that brought the Amazon to life (along with its towns and settlements), the strong women at the core of the story who had me willing them on at every turn, the wonderfully written moments of drama, the quieter moments of reflection and emotion, the unexpected twists that often drive the story in directions you’re not expecting. The research that went into this book must have been immense, and the way the author made use of it was sheer perfection – I was entirely transported to both the locations and their era, and you really can’t ask for much more than that.
This was one of those rare books that I found quite impossible to set aside until I’d reached its perfect end, and I felt quite bereft to leave its characters behind – if ever there was a book crying out for a sequel, then this must be it. Very highly recommended – and what a wonderful way to start a new reading year.
About the author
Rose Alexander has had more careers than she cares to mention and is currently a secondary school English teacher. She writes in the holidays, weekends and evenings, whenever she has a chance, although with three children, a husband, a lodger and a cat, this isn’t always as often as she’d like. She’s a keen sewist and is on a mission to make all her own clothes.