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Monday, January 22, 2018

All I Have to Give & In Their Mother's Footsteps by Mary Wood - Book Review, Interview & Giveaway

Reviews by Suze

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It's 1916 and the First World War has cost a lot of people their lives already. Ada's two eldest sons are victims of the war and when her youngest son Jimmy decides to enlist she's devastated. Ada's having a hard time at home and now she's left alone with her violent husband Paddy. Paddy takes what he wants when he wants it and regularly rapes his wife. He isn't faithful and has betrayed Ada in the most awful way, her sister is pregnant with Paddy's child. Ada can't have more children and she's about to lose the only son she has left. There's one person who seems to truly care about her, Joe. Will Ada have a chance at a less unhappy future because of him?

Edith is a surgeon. She's one of the few women in this profession. She wants to help the war victims, which is why she's traveling to France to work at the front. She constantly meets soldiers, but one of them stands out. She feels something for Albert, but when tragedy strikes something happens within him that makes him act impulsively and results in unrepairable damage. This changes the course of Edith's life forever. When she comes home from France she's no longer the same woman. That's when she's being introduced to Ada. They come from different backgrounds, but have a lot in common and decide they will use their pain and turn it into something good. They're going to help others and will do this together.

All I Have to Give is a beautiful story about family, friendship, love, betrayal, loss and grief. I love the raw, open way Mary Wood describes the lives of her main characters. She doesn't spare them and her stories have shocking elements that make them incredibly realistic. I was captivated by both Edith and Ada. They're strong, capable women who know what it's like to suffer and who realize there are situations they can't prevent from happening. They are still trying to make the best of their lives after all the tragedies they've experienced. I admired their courage and resilience and their wonderful warm bond warmed my heart. It was a joy to read about the friendship between these amazing main characters. I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough to find out what would happen to them and Mary Wood managed to keep me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.

All I Have to Give is set in a time of great unrest. The First World War isn't over yet and many soldiers have fallen already. My heart ached for the main characters, who are going through so much pain because of it. There's a lot of action and the story is fast-paced and even though it's heavy, it doesn't become too much because Mary Wood balances the bad with the good. Her main characters are survivors of terrible events, but they also know love. They are being loved and know what it's like to love in return. They also know nothing is black and white and feelings are never straightforward. I love how Mary Wood writes about their doubts, dreams and flaws. It makes them human and incredibly interesting. All I Have to Give is a terrific versatile story that moved me to tears.

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Edith and Ada are still good friends. It's 1939 and Jimmy's Hope House is a success. They've helped many unmarried mothers and have provided plenty of medical care for those who are too poor to pay for it. Ada has learned to live with the loss of her sons. She's happy with the kindhearted Joe, but fears her unhinged sister who's in an institution. Ada has raised her nephew and has done this with love. She's also always supported her friend, who's still missing her girls. Edith's daughters were taken from her in the First World War and she still hopes she will get the chance to meet them some day. She's tried to find them, but all of her attempts have been in vain. Will she be reunited with Elka and Ania eventually?

Elka and Ania are living in Poland. They've been raised by a Jewish family and life is becoming more dangerous for Jews every single day. The German threat is real and if the sisters don't leave everything they've ever known behind as soon as possible, they might end up paying for it with their lives. However, they also want to help protecting the Jews, they want to fight for their country and for freedom. When they find out their real mother lives in England, what will they decide? Will they leave Poland and search for her or will they stay in their hometown to protect their loved ones?

In Their Mother's Footsteps is an impressive story about tough decisions and doing what feels right. Elka and Ania are willing to make sacrifices, so they can help fighting the Germans. I admired their courage. They constantly find themselves in scary situations and often there's nobody who can protect them, which means things don't always go well for them. They are wonderful girls whose happiness is being taken from them because of the war and family secrets. Mary Wood describes their lives in an honest and poignant way that kept me glued to the pages. I was captivated by their story from beginning to end. I kept hoping they'd be reunited with their mother and I couldn't get through the story quickly enough to find out what would happen.

In Their Mother's Footsteps blew me away. I often had tears in my eyes when I read about the horrors the main characters are experiencing because of war, family drama and other dangers. Mary Wood's descriptive writing made me go through so many different emotions, which is something I absolutely loved. She's a skilled writer with a gripping style. Her stories are surprising, compelling and vivid. I enjoyed the large number of impressive layers in the story line and the beautiful way she brings people together. I highly recommend any of her books, they're all fantastic.

Advice

All I Have to Give and In Their Mother's Footsteps are both part of The Generation War Saga and should be read together. These books are perfect for readers who love historical fiction.

About Mary Wood


Born the thirteenth child of fifteen to a middle-class mother and an East End barrow boy, My childhood was a mixture of love and poverty. This encouraged me to develop a natural empathy with the less fortunate and a fascination with social history.

I was educated at St Peter's RC School, where, at the time, the emphasis was on instilling the 3 R's plus 1 - Reading, Writing, Arithmatic and Religion. When I left school, I was ill-equipt for a future career, as most girls of my background were. Life had to become a learning curve.

Mine took the path of factory work, then office work as I learnt to type and write words in little squiggles. After marriage, cleaning, catering and pub jobs fitted in best with family life, as did party planning - Tupperware and Pippa Dee. There was later a stint in the caring industry, and then pub and hotel management. Until finally, I went back to my office skills and through an agency, worked in the office of the Probation Service. When a post for admin became vacant I was offered it, and from there rose to be a Community Service Officer and finally a Probation Service Officer. This took me to retirement, from 9-5. However, there ws no stopping me. Through most of this time I had been writing and trying to get publsihed, now I could spend much more time pursuing that dream.

I met my husband, Roy when I was just fourteen and he was nineteen. In 1963 we married and have four children, eight grandchildren, and five step grandchildren. Great granchildren, and step great grandchildren, is an ever changing number as we welcome more each year. Each one is a blessing and enhances our lives.

An avid reader, I first put pen to paper in 1989 whilst nursing my mother through her last months, but only became successful in receiving rejection letters, until the dawning of kindle and the innovation it offered to authors to self-publish their work.

At last, I could call myself an author! And a very successful one at that, as my books soared to the top of their genre.

This changed my life. I was living as an ordinary pensioner, eeking out our pensions, and the little I could earn by freelancing as a Creative Writing Editor, and wasn't even able to afford to run a car - I loved my bus-pass.... Then another author encouraged me to put my work on kindle, and suddenly, I was doing what I loved - telling stories, and earning money for doing so! My life changed as now I could fulfil another dream - to live in Spain for half of the year.

I love to travel. I go to many places in the world on holiday and more importantly, to carry out my research. All of this was now open to me. But more was to come:

In 2013, I was spotted by Pan Macmillan Publishers and offered a seven book deal!!!

This entailed, two new books and all of my five backlist. To date, two backlist have been published in paperback and two new novels.

I have since been given a further two book deal.

Two of my books a year are being published. Below are the ones that are in the shops now - WH Smiths and some supermarkets as well as all good book stores.

My most successful kindle book, An Unbreakable Bond, is coming out May 19th 2016. This book is a sequel to To Catch A Dream. And then, In November/December 2016, In Their Mother's Footsteps, will be published. This book is a sequel to All I Have To Give.

I began my career writing northern sagas along the lines of Catherine Cookson, whom I loved and admired. Now I have branched out and write thrilling novels with a wartime setting. I usually set these novels in London, the north, and with a fair bit of the action happening in France, and Poland.

I would say that I am a gritty writer, who takes her readers to live the situations my characters find themselves in. Parts of my books are not for the feint-hearted. I bring my stories alive, and take my reader into the depth of them. I would feel as though I am letting my characters and my readers down if I didn't do this, so be prepared to feel many emotions as you read my novels. Be prepared too, to tackle issues head on, to fight in world war one and world war two as if you are that nurse, that munition worker, that special agent. And in my northern sagas, be ready to experience what it was like to be a woman, in an era when it is was thought that there was no such thing as rape, and domestic violence was a man's right to keep his missus in check. But you will also see the downtrodden triumph, and the just win through. I hope you enjoy my books. I hope too, that you will become a friend. Much love, Mary x

Links

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Goodreads

Interview

1) Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Hello, everyone, so nice to be here.

I realised my dream at a late age. I was 68 when I signed my first contract with Pan Macmillan, after years in the wilderness, and then a successful spell of self-publishing on Amazon Kindle.
It was from Amazon that I was discovered. At the time I was writing sagas set in the North of England, and had just published a spin off to a trilogy. The character's stories had reached wartime, and I wanted to take one of them forward.

Theresa had been a particularly nasty young woman. Rich and spoilt she took what she wanted regardless of the consequences to those she considered beneath her standing. But at the end of the third book, she was brought low, and began to have a change of heart. I wanted to explore further this aspect of her, and also, channel the intelligence she had into doing good, not evil. And so, TIME PASSES TIME came into being and was a huge hit on kindle.

One of the editors at Pan Macmillan, was intrigued by me. Every time she checked to see how her authors were doing in the charts she would see my books in the top ten.

When she contacted, I thought it was a joke as she messaged me on Facebook. Thank goodness, it wasn't and the contact led to a seven book deal!

My world changed overnight.

At last I was part of the world that I had longed to be part of. I had to keep pinching myself to make sure that my dream wasn't still just that.

Now, I have just published my eighth book with them, BRIGHTER DAYS AHEAD.
Not bad for a great grandmother of twenty children and step great grandmother of three!
I spend my time divided between Blackpool and Spain. As soon as the first signs of cold arrive in the UK we pack our car and head for warmer climes. Here I can sit in the sunshine and write to my hearts content. And enjoy some of the culture and the relaxed way of life - usually while having a nice glass of red wine, that costs a fraction of what it does at home.

Summer is spent catching up with family and friends, and on book tours. I am at a nice and enjoyable stage of my life.

2) You write about family and friendship in many different forms, where do you find the inspiration for the relationships in your stories?

Being an older person, I can remember times when everything was difficult for everyone, and we all felt in the same boat. We had to paddle together, or sink. Family and friends were our anchor. Loyalty, and caring, our bywords. I have experienced times when friends have helped me out and stopped me sinking. It may have been just a bowl of sugar when I had none and wages day was still a couple of days away, or it might have been the loan of my rent from a brother, but whatever it was, just to know that there was someone you could turn to, or to be there for if someone you love was in need, kept us all going. It is this spirit that inspires me.

I know that it is still there too. If you use social media, you see it everyday on pages such a Facebook. People turning to virtual strangers in their time of need. And those 'friends' being there for them with words of comfort and encouragement. It does my heart good to see this spirit is still alive, and I like to capture it in my stories.

3) You write about both the First and the Second World War, what makes these times so interesting and what do you find the most heartbreaking about writing about war?

My research. Yes, it is that in a nutshell. When Pan Macmillan took me on on the strength of TIME PASSES TIME being set in the war, they wanted more like it. So, I had to set to and find out more. What I found out deeply moved me. I became in awe of what the young people of the day went through, and the courage they displayed. I wanted to get across that these were ordinary men and women. They weren't super human beings. They came from all walks of life, and yet, when called upon, they stepped up. And this is particularly true of the women of the day. They took up arms, they worked the factories and the fields, they broke codes, and nursed the wounded. And yet, they were vulnerable. They were still women and attitudes towards them were very different than they are today. They had to fight personal battles against discrimination by the men, and always had to 'prove' themselves. All of it is fascinating to me.

Most heartbreaking? The genocide. The vile treatment of the Jews, the gypsies, the disabled, and homosexuals. It all brings tears to my eyes. I want to do them justice. I can never change what happened, but hope to raise awareness of just how awful it was.

4) The women in your stories aren’t always being treated right by the men in their lives, how do you prepare to write those difficult scenes?

There is no way to prepare. My emotions are torn to shreds by the difficult scenes of rape and domestic violence and murder. I am driven by my need to show it as it was/is. This stems from working with the perpetrators of such crimes during my time with the Probation Service, and seeing first hand what it did to the victims.

I can be left shaking with the feelings that take me. As each time I am getting into the head of those being violated as if it was happening to me. But in some small way, I welcome this feeling, as I know that I haven't shied away from giving the full picture to my readers. I hope that when they read in the newspaper that a woman has been raped, or is the victim of any of these heinous crimes that their empathy is raised. I want people to stop blaming the victim.

5) What do you like the most about writing historical fiction?

I love learning about, and taking part in the social history of women. Their struggles through history. Rich or poor, women have had to fight for their rights. Many think it was just the poor that were downtrodden, but young rich girls were often 'sold' by their father, to a fat, old man, just to top up the family coffers, or make a good connection for the family. And, they didn't have to be fat and old, many young men entered these alliances, without caring a jot about the young lady they married. They did 'their duty' and made their wife pregnant from time to time, but didn't have any consideration for her. They went off and did exactly as they pleased and flaunted their affairs if the wife complained.

Rich or poor, the power of the pen is mighty. I like to tip the balance a little for them, and give them a happy ending. Make them strong and with the ability to fight back.

6) You’re from a large family, how does this influence your writing?

Yes, I am the thirteenth child of fifteen children. Brought up in the late 40's and 50's I lived through a lot of the social scene of the day. Nothing had advanced much in ordinary lives from the turn of the century. Two world wars had halted progress reaching the millions. I remember toilets in the back yard that didn't flush. And how a lorry used to come round and men would empty the stinking contents of the lav.

I remember, flagstone floors, and mats made of rags. I remember, the copper in the corner, and mum stoking it to boil the clothes, then emptying the water into the bath to bath us all. And the sharing out of the little we had. I remember the fire that was also a cooker with its side oven and hob that swung over the flames, and how it had to be black leaded to keep it from rusting. And the digging for Britain, and rationing of sweets and clothes. And the pulling together, that I mentioned earlier. All of it provides a backdrop for the eras that I write about.

7) You’ve done a lot of research for your stories, how do you approach this?

I like to visit the places that my stories are set in.

For ALL I HAVE TO GIVE, I visited the Somme. I 'found' my setting, and let the history of the time seep into me. I also read books and search the internet. It was while I was searching for facts about women doctors - a rarity in The First World War, that I came across the moving story of Elsie Inglis, the Scottish woman doctor, who bravely took herself to the Front to help the wounded and ended up setting up a hospital where soldiers could be treated before they were shipped home, and so saving thousands of lives. Her story influenced many aspects of Edith, the heroine of my book.
And for IN THEIR MOTHER'S FOOTSTEPS, I went to Krakow and Auschwitz and Zakopane. Auschwitz will stay with me forever.

I 'feel' things that have happened in a certain place, and am traumatised by it, but I allow this and put myself through it so that I can do justice to my characters and show my readers, the real truth. Nothing is papered over.

8) You like to travel, what’s your favorite destination and how does it inspire your writing?


Of all the places I have visited, Krakow in Poland is my favorite. The journey by car, through five countries, Spain, (my starting point) France, Germany, Czech Republic and finally Poland to reach Krakow, was amazing. I was struck by the open borders, and how these leave you with no distinction between countries. We would go into a garage and the language would be French, then pass a few fields and go into a cafe and the language would be German. It felt very surreal, and set me thinking how such a state of affairs came about. I found out that it dated back to feuding tribes, when, in order to keep strategies from their adversaries a few fields away, they developed a kind of code in how they spoke. These codes became the language of the countries that the land was eventually divided into. In the days of borders, this didn't occur to me as you went through a border and you knew you were in a different country! Now, you travel past a sign that says welcome to wherever, and everything changes!

But back to Krakow. It is a beautiful city with very welcoming people. We were taken on tours by obliging young men driving, what reminded me of electric milk floats. Great fun. Nothing was too much trouble for them and they made sure we saw everything as they were fascinated by me being a writer and how I was on a research trip. We visited Schindler's factory, and the square that is a monument to the Ghetto. It is dotted with one hundred chairs, which symbolise how, when taken from their homes, the Jews would always take a chair with them. We were shown the pharmacy run by Polish man Tadeusz Pankiewicz, who helped to save many Jews from the Ghetto, and who inspires a scene in IN THEIR MOTHER'S FOOTSTEPS. And were even given a special showing, out of hours, of the Gestapo Headquarters, by the relative of one of the drivers, who worked there. But apart from all of this and our visit to Auschwitz that one of them took us on, there was the beauty of the city to enjoy. The Vistula river. We whiled away an afternoon on a restaurant boat, enjoying the sunshine, the delicious food and beauty around us. And the square, with so much going on, street pedlars, acrobats, and beautiful horses dressed in their finery, while we sat and enjoyed a drink and yet another wonderful meal.

Krakow is steeped in history with many beautiful buildings - all preserved, despite the war, why? Because, Hitler loved it, and didn't want any part of it destroyed.

9) Your stories are raw and real, how do you handle the emotional part of writing them?

Not always well. I often end up in tears. The things that happen are happening to people I love - as in, I do come to love my characters. The are real to me. I can only liken it to what someone must experience if they saw these things happening to their sister, or their best friend.
Once I was sobbing at my keyboard and my husband came in and asked what was the matter. 'Megan is dead.'

'Well, you killed her darling, can't you, unkill her?'
'I didn't. Billy did. Her own son beat her to death.'

He put his arm around me, lost for words. Many times he has laughed about it with friends, as the depth of it escapes him, and he is trying to understand this crazy wife of his who spends half her life with imaginary friends. But, he is always there with a cuddle when I have finished a raw scene.
Sometimes, I have to go for a walk, to escape, or come to terms with the grief I feel. But always I remind myself, that I am - hopefully, doing a service for all victims by showing people how it really was for them.

10) What are your plans for the future?

My future plans lie in writing and more writing. I am starting on a new adventure. I will be writing under a different name as well as under my own name, and bringing even more sagas to my readers. It is all hush hush at the moment, but I am very excited about it.

I plan to write until my last day on earth. My last sentence will be: The journey was difficult at times, but every step I took, led me to where I am today - an achiever of my dreams.

Thank you for having me. Much love to you and to all of your followers, Mary x

Giveaway

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One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a signed copy of Brighter Days Ahead.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.

25 comments:

  1. Both books sound like thrilling sagas. Perfect for those of us who love historical fiction.

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  2. Hello, fellow Mary! :) I'm so happy to meet you! Wow, I am as inspired by your own story as those of your books! I'm an aspiring writer and it all seems a bit daunting right now, but how you achieved your dream of being happily published encourages me! :D I love history too - especially the everyday life. I'd love to bring it alive one day for readers - make them feel they are there! And always happy endings, as you said. :D Take care and have a lovely 2018! :)) xx

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  3. Thank you Mary and Solange. Mary, I wish you all the luck in the world. Though being a successful writer is only partly luck. I feel that you are putting the work in and learning your craft. So keep at it and acieve your dream.
    And thank you so much for these wonderful reviews Suze. So grateful. Much love and hugs x

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    1. Thank you very much, Mary, that's so sweet! :D I believe in God's providence - He is so good to me and knows the perfect timing for everything! ^_^ Meanwhile I very much enjoy the process of writing. Perhaps I'll bump into you on the Continent one day! ;) xx

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  4. Would love to win this book for my Mum who reads a lot.

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  5. What truly fantastic blog - full of fascinating information - I love following Mary's life and I LOVE her books she is an amazing author - where she gets the energy from I will never know. Her passion for what she does is second to none. I APPLAUD her - lots of love coming over. xxx

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  6. This sounds like a really beautiful story, looking forward to reading it.

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  7. I'm one of the older members here and distinctly remember making a mat made of rags with my mother and twin when I was a child, though I don't remember rationing. That must have been a very difficult time for everyone. I love the idea of your novels and feel sure that I'd be shedding tears too. Thanks for a great interview. :-)

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  8. I love that cover and the story sounds great!

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  9. Just the book for me
    I know I would love it.

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  10. I’m reading a digital copy of one of Mary’s books. Pretty gritty.

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  11. These books all sound great! Thanks for the chance x

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  12. I do love a good historical yarn! this looks right up my alley xx

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  13. great giveaway - sounds like a lovely read

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  14. I love historical fiction, especially WW2. I look forward to reading this one!

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  15. I love WWII books and the era. These sound really good and they're books I'd like to share with my daughters.

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  16. Hey Solange and Mary! Thank you for sharing Mary's books. I enjoy WWII era books.

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  17. This is the book I'd love to read with my mother.

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  18. I like reading historical fiction for the same reason you like writing them.

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  19. My kind of book

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  20. These sound fabulous. I can see my Mum and I fighting over who reads them first.

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  21. For 6 Feb Twitter entry it should be: https://twitter.com/MoonValleyRose/status/961002761411334144
    Sorry!! xx

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