Book Review: Suki by Beryl Kingston

It seems that all the books I’ve agreed to read & review have all been published in April & May. It wouldn’t be an issue – I can knock out 5 or 6 books a week, easy-peasy – but (and that’s a doozy) – life has been throwing a bit of chaos over the last few weeks and my reading time has been limited. Agh. Also, a bunch of the books have been sagas – not quick little pocket-friendly reads. They’ve had some heft to them. So we do what we can and refuse to let reading become a pressure.

My most recent read was Suki by Beryl Kingston, courtesy of Agora Books via NetGalley. You may recall I was a part of a blog tour for one of Kingston’s other novels, Two Silver Crosses. I have tried to eloquently frame the words I want to use for my review, but can’t quite find the right ones so you are stuck with my meagre offerings.

Suki was originally published in two parts: Only Young in 2000 and Only Human in 2001. It was republished under the current title on April 18, 2019. As with other Agora titles I’ve read, the cover art is highly appealing.

As for the novel itself, I had such mixed feelings the entire time I read it. The title character, Suki, is an unwed wet nurse who finds herself lying to provide a future for her own child. She is deceitful, naive, and yet, likeable. The family she works for is ridiculous and unsympathetic. Her lover is despicable… until you get to know him. There is so much going on in this book and there’s a whole scope of complexities happening in the plot.

The author touches on (unfair) expectations for women, the despicability and normalcy of the slave trade, the absurd habits and entertainments of society in the 18th century. You’ll travel all over England, across the sea, through the West Indies and Africa and back again and in between. You’ll meet characters you love, you hate, you love to hate and hate to love and sometimes it will be all of the above for a single personage depending on where you are in the book. My emotions were engaged – I was angry, I was incredulous, I was disheartened – I was also entwined quite intricately into the sinuous route from first chapter to final sentence.

As mentioned before, Ms. Kingston writes remarkable tales – sagas that take an investment of time. However, they’re very well written with descriptive prose and colourful situations. Well worth the time required when you close the cover for the last time with a possible tear and a heartfelt sigh.

Book Review & Blog Tour: Two Silver Crosses by Beryl Kingston

When a publishing assistant at Agora Books reached out to me in January to ask if I’d be interested in reading the re-release of Two Silver Crosses, originally published in 1992, written by the talented Beryl Kingston and being a part of a Blog Tour, my immediate reply was, “Thanks for the opportunity” and I was, of course, sure to include my mailing address. Thus, the journey of a big beautiful book across the Atlantic into my greedy little hands most welcoming arms. When I finally sat down to immerse myself in this title, I found another historical gem.

Here’s a synopsis of the book straight from the publisher’s press release:

Another historical gem…

‘Nobody is to know where we are. You must forget England. That part of your lives is over.’

Twins Ginny and Emily Holborn have everything they could ever need in their Wolverhampton home: a loving family, a garden to play in and a staff waiting to attend to their every need. Until, one summer day in 1926, they disappear without a trace.

Ten years later, bright-eyed solicitor Charlie Commoner is given his first job: track down the still-missing Holborn twins. Despatched to France, he’s left to unravel a web of infidelity, mystery, and terrifying family secrets.”

My thoughts on the novel are positive. It was not a short tale, nor was it fast moving – it was an actual commitment to read – no casual one-night encounter here. However, it didn’t need to be fast-paced and it would have lost so much vital content if it had been shorter. It wasn’t fluffy at all, but had depths of emotion and detailed environs.

Ms. Kingston does a remarkable job of transporting the reader back in time and place with her vivid, descriptive prose. Her characters are well-developed and thoroughly charming, flawed, and enjoyable – with the exception of her antagonists- they are still well-done, but utterly detestable. The book as a whole is warm and moving – a true tale of overcoming adversity and self-discovery.

I will say that I was surprised (within the first chapter) at the depth and content of the family secrets. They were not what I was expecting and the author did a remarkable job of ensuring that it influenced every part of the book. And, yes, while I know I was reading fiction, I was angered on the twins’ behalf that societal norms dictated such a lack of education and awareness of certain matters and that society itself was so harsh. Very much a sins of the father (mother) theme going on.

Overall, I was thrilled by the novel and impressed anew at how well the author captures a different era. It was enjoyable, emotional, and even educational, I would say. Gripping pre-WW2 fiction done absolutely right.

The Talented Ms. Kingston

Beryl Kingston is the author of 30 novels with over a million copies sold. She has been a writer since she was 7 when she started producing poetry. She was evacuated to Felpham at the start of WWII, igniting an interest in one-time resident poet William Blake which later inspired her novel The Gates of Paradise. She was an English teacher from 1952 until 1985 when she became a full-time writer after her debut novel, Hearts and Farthings, became a bestseller. Kingston continued writing bestsellers for the next 14 years with titles ranging from family sagas to modern stories and historical novels. She currently lives in West Sussex and has three children, five grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren.

If you’d like to catch thoughts on this title from the first Blog Tour stop, head over to Wrong Side of Forty and the second stop at Buttercup Book Review. For the next stops on our tour, visit Books in Their Natural Habitat tomorrow, and both Love Books Group
and Debra’s Book Cafe on the 21st. Pick up a copy of this title for yourself and use the hashtag #TwoSilverCrosses when sharing your thoughts on social media. Also, make sure you tag the publisher – @AgoraBooksLDN on Twitter and Instagram – so they can see and share anything you post!

My thanks again to Agora Books and Beryl Kingston for the opportunity to read this title, share my review, and be a part of the tour.