It’s an absolute delight today to be helping launch the blog tour for A Mother’s Story by Maggie Christensen, and to share my review: published on 2nd November, this lovely book is now available both as an ebook and in paperback. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the author for my advance reading copy.
If you’re a regular visitor, you’ll know that it doesn’t take a blog tour to make me want to read one of Maggie’s books. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed her Scottish selection of novels that began with the wonderful The Good Sister (her first and only previous historical novel – you’ll find my review here), I then became entirely hooked by her Granite Springs series, set in a small Australian county town, featuring mature characters that I found it so easy to identify with, along with some particularly well-told stories (if you pop her name in my search box on the RHS, you’ll find all my reviews – I do have two books to go to complete the series, and I’m keeping them as a special treat). But this book really is something quite different – a sweeping family saga, the stories of three women, starting in WW2 – and one I was particularly excited about.
A lost child. A mother’s grief. A daughter’s journey.
In Scotland, in1941, as WW2 increases in ferocity, Rhona Begg goes against her parents’ wishes and enlists in the ATS – a decision that brings with it heart-breaking consequences. After the war, weighed down with regret and grief, Rhona receives news that has the power to change her life.
Across the ocean in Australia, Nell Duncan worries about her husband who is fighting in the Far East. When she receives the dreaded news that he is missing in action, her world collapses. The end of the war brings changes to Nell’s life, but her dream of bearing a child is no longer possible and she grieves for what might have been.
In 1971, when Joy Baker gives birth to her daughter, she begins the journey to discover her ancestry. What she finds shocks her to the core and propels her on a journey to the land of her birth.
Three women. Three mothers. Three astonishing stories.
From wartime Scotland to present day Australia, A Mother’s Story is an emotion-filled sweeping family saga.
When Rhona leaves Scotland in 1941 to join the ATS, she certainly didn’t expect the series of events that followed – taking her through some of the most devastating personal heartbreak and loss. In Brisbane, Nell’s husband Joe is a prisoner of war in the Far East – she yearns for a child to make their life complete, but her desire is constantly thwarted. And the third main character is Joy – having always known she was adopted, the birth of her own daughter in the 1970s drives her to try to find her natural parents, little knowing that her mother is also desperately searching for her.
This really is a quite wonderful story, so well-told – over the best part of half a century, it takes you through all the twists and turns of the very real lives of three strong female characters who entirely won my heart. I will happily admit that sagas like this aren’t always my favourite reading, but this one had everything I’ve always loved about the author’s writing – those wonderfully drawn characters, the strong sense of place, the friendship and support (and sometimes a touch of romance), and the fine emotional touch that she always has. Added to that is the excellent historical and social context – all wrapped around family life and the changing lives and expectations of women. There’s a real authenticity about the all the settings – I particularly liked the focus on Joy’s mother’s desperate search, so very difficult in pre-internet days when involving library searches, letters and visits.
The whole story was exceptionally engaging and drama-filled – and I do apologise for not telling you more about the detail, but I really don’t want to spoil the journey for anyone – and it took me through every possible emotion as it unfolded. There are times when these women’s lives make you ache inside, and there were quite a few moments when tears were shed – but there are plenty of moments of joy too, particularly that to be found through motherhood. And motherhood is perhaps the book’s main theme – the tug of love between mothers and daughters, and that universal need to know where you belong.
The writing is excellent (as I knew it would be), and I particularly liked the way the story was told – there’s no metronomic shifting between the UK and Australia, or between time frames, every transition smooth and natural, each thread equally engaging. And I really loved the way the three threads were drawn together over time – with a particularly strong and emotional ending that left me with a smile on my face but also searching for my box of tissues once more.
I’ve always particularly enjoyed the author’s mature age fiction, but she’s also a very fine historical saga writer – this book was everything I hoped it would be, and I’d really recommend it to others.
About the author
After a career in education, Maggie Christensen began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations. Her travels inspire her writing, be it her frequent visits to family in Oregon, USA or her home on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast. Maggie writes of mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives and the heroes worthy of them. Her writing has been described by one reviewer as like a nice warm cup of tea. It is warm, nourishing, comforting and embracing.
From her native Glasgow, Scotland, Maggie was lured by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where she worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management. Now living with her husband of thirty years on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, she loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the river on weekends. Her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven!