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Book Review : Christmas Child by Carol Rivers

 

Regular readers will know that I often feature books by best-selling author Carol Rivers who has written a series of books about the Isle of Dogs. Carol’s gritty and heartwarming East End family dramas are greatly influenced by her grandparents who lived in Gavrick Street and then Chapel House Street on the Island. The books are widely praised for their realism and have appeared regularly in many bestseller charts and have a loyal readership in the UK and increasingly in the United States.

Recently, I was delighted to receive her latest book entitled Christmas Child which is based in Victorian London and follows the exploits of Ettie O’Reilly, who grows up in an orphanage in Poplar.

The book begins on Christmas Day 1880 in Poplar when a sick unmarried mother leaves her new born baby at the Sisters of Clemency Convent, next we move forward thirteen years and that baby is now thirteen year old Ettie O’Reilly whose protected life in the orphanage is coming to an abrupt end with the closing of the institution. The nuns had been her only family and she had enjoyed helping the nuns and helping the younger orphans helping them with their reading and writing.

When Michael, an East End street urchin arrived, Ettie tries to help him with his reading and writing, but he is difficult and has spent his whole life looking out for himself. Eventually, Michael and Ettie become good friends, and when Michael declares Ettie to be his girl, she is not unhappy.

When the Roman Catholic church decides to close the orphanage, Ettie is found a place as a maid to Lucas and Clara Benjamin, who own a smoking lounge in Soho. Michael decides to go back to life on the streets and Ettie starts her new life as a maid to the Benjamin’s.

Ettie finds that that life outside the orphanage is a challenge in more ways than one and good fortune is often followed by bad fortune. The twists and turns of Ettie’s life during next few years are fraught with danger, poverty and near death, but she is blessed in finding some true friends who seek to protect her from her mother’s fate. After being exposed to the dark side of the city, will she ever find Michael and have true happiness?

What sets Carol’s books apart from many others of the type is that she creates believable characters who represent some of the best and worst of human qualities. Carol’s books pays tribute to strong characters, often women like Ettie who will not be defeated by life’s injustices and hardships. Carol also manages to realistically portray a complex Victorian London full of great wealth and terrible poverty.

Although this fascinating and enjoyable book represents a move away from the East End family dramas, it still has a strong sense of humanity which Carol suggests can be found even in the worst environments.

I am sure that Christmas Child will be just as successful as Carol’s other books and If you would like to read buy a copy of the book, it is available here.

Carol lives in Dorset but still follows closely events on the Island and is a long time supporter of Isle of Dogs Life. If you would like to find out more about the book or other books written by Carol Rivers. Please visit her website here

A Promise between Friends by Carol Rivers

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Regular readers will know that I am always keen to find books with a link to the Island. Very few writers have written about the Island in a series of books, the great exception is bestselling author Carol Rivers who has written a number of books which generally feature characters on the Island.

Carol’s gritty and heart-warming East End family dramas are greatly influenced by her grandparents who lived in Gavrick Street and then Chapel House Street on the Island. The books are widely praised for their realism and appear regularly in many bestseller charts and Carol has a loyal readership in the UK and increasingly in the United States.

I was delighted to receive a copy of Carol’s latest book, A Promise between Friends which takes place in the early 1950s and follows the adventures of the ambitious, 19-year-old Ruby Payne and her lifelong friend Kath Rigler. Ruby and Kath both suffer from issues that bring unhappy memories but are looking to start an exciting new independent life by moving into a new flat together.

London in the early 1950s was a city in transition, still suffering from shortages and bomb damage whilst trying to forge a new future. In the pursuit of the good things in life, some people were willing to take chances and the book captures the period when shady deals and false promises led many people into trouble. Ruby desperate to rise above her humble beginnings finds out that there is always a price to pay.

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Carol Rivers

What really sets Carol’s book apart from many others of the type is that she creates believable characters who are faced with situations familiar to many of us, in overcoming these problems they often seek help from their extended families who are considered of great importance. However, Carol’s books acknowledge that even though extended families were a great source of support, sometimes those loyalties were tested and could lead to conflict. This is another characteristic of Carol’s books, she often displays some of negative aspects of London life when characters go off the rails.

But for all the pain and conflict, Carol pays tribute to the strong characters, often women who manage to keep going through adversity. Ruby and Kath are two such characters who will not be defeated by life’s injustices and hardships.

A Promise between Friends is the latest book from a writer who still takes a close interest of events on the Island and continues to be inspired by this small piece of East London.

If you would like to find out more about the book or buy a copy, it is available in many formats at Simon and Schuster, you can visit their website here