Saturday, 18 June 2016

BOOK REVIEW | Hester & Harriet by Hilary Spiers (****)

Hello readers, and happy Saturday! Today I am delighted to be able to share with you a book review, of the wonderful Hester & Harriet by Hilary Spiers! I was sent this book back in March (I know, I am terrible with keeping up with book post!) and I read it a couple of weeks ago during my stay at Hay Festival and throughout the exam period. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it reminded me of why I keep my blog open to more than just YA books - this was an adult novel that I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to anyone, young or old! Hester & Harriet is a beautiful story about two widowed sisters who, one Christmas, find their quiet, cosy lives interrupted by a stranger with a baby and their young Nephew Ben - all who are laden with their own problems and secrets. Hester and Harriet abandon the wine and the knitting to embark on perhaps the biggest and most important adventure of their lives.

I was kindly sent Hester & Harriet by Ruth Killick publicity (on behalf of Allen & Unwin) in exchange for an honest review :)

A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to be part of the Hilary & Harriet blog tour, where Hilary wrote a post about the inside of the mind of an author! Check it out here.

Intrigued about Hester & Harriet? Check out the blurb here...

When widowed sisters, Hester and Harriet, move together into a comfortable cottage in a pretty English village, the only blights on their cosy landscape are their crushingly boring cousins, George and Isabelle, who are determined that the sisters will never want for company. Including Christmas Day.

On their reluctant drive over to Christmas dinner, the sisters come across a waif-like young girl, hiding with her baby in a disused bus shelter. Seizing upon the perfect excuse for returning to their own warm hearth, Hester and Harriet insist on bringing Daria and Milo home with them.

But with the knock at their front door the next day by a sinister stranger looking for a girl with a baby, followed quickly by their cousins' churlish fifteen-year-old son, Ben, who also appears to be seeking sanctuary, Hester and Harriet's carefully crafted peace and quiet quickly begins to fall apart.

With dark goings-on in the village, unlooked-for talents in Ben, and the deeper mysteries in Daria's story, Hester and Harriet find their lives turned upside down. And, perhaps, it's exactly what they need.

Hester & Harriet stood out for me first of all, because it is such a warm, comforting book. The world we live is in such a state of despair and disparity, and sometimes it is nice to be reminded that, even in books with fictional characters, good people still exist. Within Hester & Harriet, Spiers reminds us that even in the smallest of English villages, people exist who can change society for the better.

This uplifting moral message and sense of collective communal responsibility is fantastically mediated through the two principal characters: Hester and Harriet. The way Spiers wrote them made them so vivid for me and their differences in particular stood out really strongly for me - a hard feat as the two characters are both related, have names beginning with the same letter and are the same age. Their dialogue was obviously well-thought out and clearly reflected their character, allowing me to imagine them more clearly. Hester and Harriet stood out for me to be two warm, kind-hearted, intelligent women who have an unwavering sense of right and a determined dedication to those who are less fortunate than them. Their wisdom and general benevolence was tangible and I felt like they were real people.

Other characters that stood out for me in the book were Daria and Finbar. Daria's broken dialect was caught perfectly on the page, and Spier's writing allowed me to equally empathise with and question her. The fact that the reader finds out more and more about Daria and her story as the book goes on works well in maintaining the reader's interest, and it certainly kept me invested in Daria's story until the last chapter.

Finbar was such a unique feature in the story and it was evident that he was an intricately created character. I loved the tiny details that Spiers added to him, and his relationship with Hester and Harriet was wonderful to read and become invested in. In particular, the dynamic between Finbar and Hester and Harriet's nephew, Ben, was interesting and showed hidden depths to both of the characters.

I loved the relationship between Ben and his aunts, however I thought that Ben's dialogue was not as strong and believable as the other characters. It might be an age thing, I don't know. It didn't impact the way I felt about the story, but if Ben's dialogue was better then this review would undoubtedly be 5*s! I just thought that the way his dialogue was written wasn't a true reflection of the way that teenagers actually speak.

Aside from the characterisation and the dialogue, as a whole I really liked the way the book was written. Spiers writes beautifully, clearly and with a warmth I haven't felt from a book in a really long time. I can definitely see myself re-reading Hester & Harriet - it is the kind of book that leaves you comforted and hopeful - like being enveloped in a warm hug. The story itself is very well thought-out and there are no holes or gaps where information could be filled in. Nothing that happened was extremely obvious or out of the blue - Spiers brilliantly kept the balance between the believable and the mysterious, and at times I found it really hard to put the book down!

Overall, I think it is pretty clear from my review that I adored Hester & Harriet and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a comforting, feel-good read! 

Buy Hester & Harriet here:

Check out Hilary Spiers here:

Until next time :)

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