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Mavis Cheek #DogDays Blog Tour

I’m delighted to welcome Mavis Cheek to the blog today. Mavis is the author of sixteen novels and she’s joined me today to chat about Dog Days, the second one to be reissued as an ebook by Ipso Books. Dog Days is a novel about a woman who quits an unhappy marriage and starts over with her young daughter and Brian, the doggy Dad substitute she’s agreed to buy her. I cheered, laughed, cringed, winced and chuckled my way through it as Patricia attempts to manage her new life, home and job with well-meaning friends setting her up on dates, the neighbour’s monster rabbit, Bulstrode, proving irresistible to Brian and Patricia, despite all the progress she makes and intelligence she possesses, singularly failing to read some people and social situations. It’s full of truths and sharp observation about life and dating post-divorce but it’s told with plenty of warmth and humour.   

Hello Mavis, and welcome. We’re usually all about the squirrels here at Nut Press but in honour of Dog Days being released, let’s talk Dog. And specifically Brian. He’s almost a doggy antihero. What made you choose him for your family?
Brian was a comic device for the story – and I enjoyed writing about him – as you say – he became almost a person – certainly a character – and it was nice writing about someone who was even more downtrodden than Patricia. Those anti-characters are great fun to invent.

Patricia freely admits to not being a dog person and only gets Brian because her ten-year-old daughter Rachel asks for a dog to make up for her parents’ divorce. Do you think she protests too much and is a dog person at heart, in the same way that she tries to persuade herself that she’s happier on her own with only Rachel and Brian for company, when in fact she’s a more sociable being than that?
I think Patricia is exactly like me – thinks she’s not a dog person but is always the one who ends up holding the mutt’s ear and stroking their nose and being kind to them. When my daughter and her boyfriend came to stay with their dog, dog and I would be sitting in the kitchen at some ridiculously early hour, me with tea, he with a mournful look, and I’d just hold his ear. And my dog walking friend arrives with her dog who promptly sits on my foot and gazes at me in rapture. It’s very seductive. Read more

Book Review: The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner

I initially wanted to read The House at the Edge of Night for the title alone but when I read the blurb, I definitely knew I had to read it. I’ve always had a weakness for island stories, perhaps because I come from an island nation, and this one had the added attraction of being set on an island off the coast of Italy with one of the main characters, Amedeo, starting off life in Florence.

On a tiny island off the coast of Italy, Amedeo Esposito, a foundling from Florence, thinks he has found a place where, finally, he can belong.

Intrigued by a building the locals believe to be cursed, Amedeo restores the crumbling walls, replaces sagging doors and sweeps floors before proudly opening the bar he names the ‘House at the Edge of Night’. Surrounded by the sound of the sea and the scent of bougainvillea, he and the beautiful, fiercely intelligent Pina begin their lives together.

Home to the spirited, chaotic Esposito family for generations, the island withstands a century of turmoil – transformed in ways both big and small by war, tourism and recession. It’s a place alive with stories, legends and, sometimes, miracles. And while regimes change, betrayals are discovered and unexpected friendships nurtured, the House at the Edge of Night remains: the backdrop for long-running feuds and the stage for great love affairs.

The House at the Edge of Night tells the story of the island of Castellamare, and in particular one island family through the generations, for just shy of a century. And in turn, as outside events and developments bring about change and impact upon island life, it tells the story of Italy throughout this period. Read more

Book Review: This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell

With her seventh novel, This Must Be The Place, Maggie O’Farrell quickly and skilfully wraps you up in story and takes you on an emotional journey through place and time. This novel is wide in scope and ambition, a story of and for our times, but it’s also forensic in its detail, focusing in on one modern family, and ultimately, two people and one marriage. Here’s what it’s about:

Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex-film star given to shooting at anyone who ventures up their driveway.

He is also about to find out something about a woman he lost touch with twenty years ago, and this discovery will send him off-course, far away from wife and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

This Must Be The Place very much feels like a story for my generation, where relationships and marriages no longer have to last or can, where both partners have their own careers or feel they can explore other options, where families are no longer nuclear and living in the same area that their parents and grandparents before them live(d) but which are the product of present and former relationships and scattered around the globe.

This Must Be The Place is a novel about finding home in such a fragmented world, of finding home not just in a place, but in another person or another family. It looks at how random life (and death) can be; how people play with and manipulate others’ emotions; about missed opportunities and second chances; how we run to and away from people, events and places, but how they never really leave us; at the different ways in which we cope with this and how sometimes we don’t cope at all, but instead carry around a backpack of guilt with us, as Daniel does. And with the character of Claudette, we get a fascinating look at the dark side of celebrity: how it must be to live in the glare of the camera lens, and what one woman will do to step away from all of that in order to find some peace for herself, some semblance of normal life. Read more

Book Review: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

When Leo Plumb drives off drunk from a party in a sports car with a nineteen-year-old waitress in tow, to the moral and legal fallout must be added the horrible inconvenience to his brother and sisters. Leo’s rehab costs have severely depleted ‘the nest’ – the family’s joint trust fund that would have cut them loose from their myriad financial issues.

For Melody, a suburban wife and mother, it was to cover both an unwieldy mortgage and her daughters’ college tuition. Antiques dealer Jack has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband. And Beatrice, a once-promising short story writer, can’t seem to finish her overdue novel.

Brought together as never before, the Plumb siblings must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledging the choices they have made in their own lives.

If you’ve ever relied on being bailed out financially or spent a sum of money in your head before ever receiving it, and who hasn’t imagined what they would do with a windfall such as a lottery win or radio quiz prize money, The Nest will resonate with you. Read more

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