Tag Archives: Theatre

New review: Gaslight by Eloise Williams

Gaslight is the second novel by Eloise Williams, published by Firefly Press.  Eloise grew up in Wales and studied for a masters in Creative Writing at Swansea. She also worked in the theatre and studied drama. Gaslight is set in Victorian Cardiff and gives a wonderful insight into life behind the scenes in a Victorian theatre, as well as a cracking adventure!

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Gaslight by Eloise Williams

I was found at the docks in Cardiff, lying like a gutted fish at the water’s edge. All Nansi knows is that her mother disappeared on the day she was fished out of the docks. She can’t remember anything else. Now, with no family to turn to, she works for Sid at the Empire Theatre, sometimes legally, sometimes thieving, trying to earn enough money to hire a detective to search for her mother.

Everything changes when Constance and Violet join the theatre. Nansi is forced to be part of Violet’s crooked psychic act.  But it’s Constance who is keeping the real secrets. Nansi is about to learn that her world is even more dangerous that she realised. Can she save her mother? Can she save herself?

Nansi’s life at the Empire Theatre is hard and fraught with danger.  With the vile Sid being her ‘father’ figure – something he constantly reminds her of – she has no choice but trust him and all his schemes, just to keep a roof over her head and the hope of finding her mother alive.  Nansi’s only comfort is her friendship with an orphan called Bee, who is more like a younger sister to her. Nansi is fiercely protective of Bee, determined to try and make her life easier.  With no memory to help her, Nansi is without clues to her mother’s disappearance and it’s only when the new arrival Constance takes up residence in Nansi’s room, that it appears that her trust in Sid is truly misplaced. The mystery surrounding her mother’s disappearance starts to unravel.   What follows is a dangerous and thrilling adventure to find the truth- and avoid disappearing herself on the way!

A wonderful Victorian romp with echoes of Dickens, Gaslight is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The narrative unfolds at a good pace and the setting is vividly described, creating a deliciously dark picture of a life in Victorian Cardiff.  From the grimy streets to the spotlit stage, the atmosphere positively draws you in. I loved Nansi; she is bold and brave and doesn’t allow her fears to get the better of her.  She’s exactly the sort of heroine I loved reading about when I was a girl! She holds on to the hope of finding her mother and this is carried throughout the novel, even when she’s at her lowest ebb. Her relationship with Bee is lovely and I love that the author weaves the joy stories can bring into their lives.  Scary and gritty at times the cast of characters includes thieves, mudlarks and even an evil asylum proprietor.  As the plot thickens, the brilliant storytelling takes you on a thrilling journey, with twists galore.  The added interest of life in a Victorian theatre and the intrigue behind the scenes ensures Gaslight will entertain all readers!

Postscript…I think my favourite character must be the maid at the end…called Dilly!! Thank you Eloise; very happy to have inspired the name (as I discovered through the wonder of Twitter!)

Watch the book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEfQGT_-EYw

Find out more at www.eloisewilliams.com and www.fireflypress.co.uk. Follow Eloise on Twitter @Eloisejwilliams .

With thanks to Firefly Press for sending me this book to review.

11 December: Michelle Magorian

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It’s Day 11 and we’re talking to Michelle Magorian!michelle-magorian-1

Michelle Magorian is one of our most respected children’s writers of historical family stories. Her first novel Goodnight Mister Tom won awards across the world and has been translated into eleven languages. Many of her books have been adapted for film, television and the stage. Michelle spends considerable time researching her books and enjoys this process, ensuring her writing is the best it can be. She has written for Barrington Stoke who produce accessible books for readers of all ages and abilities.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Gingerbread men, mince pies with Greek yoghurt and lebkuchen.

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? Decorating the Christmas tree (best).

There are wonderful stories shared at Christmas time. What is your favoa-christmas-carolurite story to read at Christmas? We have so many Christmas stories from all over the world. We always have a lovely pop up version of a Nativity scene on a mantelpiece but the story which keeps recurring year after year is A Christmas Carol.

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be? My mother. She loved feeding people and had the kind of laugh that made other people laugh too! She died when I was in my twenties.

You have created some wonderful characters in your stories. If you could give a book to any of your characters for Christmas, who would it be and which book would you give them? Josie from Impossible! I would give her We didn’t mean to go to sea by Arthur Ransome

(I loved Josie – such a great character!)

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Your latest novel ‘Impossible’ features London theatre in the 60s. If there was any play or production (in theatres now or from history) you could go and see during the festive season what would it be? Black Comedy by Peter Shaffer (1965) I saw it at the Old Vic when I was a drama student and it made me howl with laughter. It takes place in a blackout but the audience can see everyone stumbling around on stage.I think we need more laughter in our lives especially when it’s cold outside.

(Couldn’t agree more! Laughter is definitely the best medicine.)

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Reader’s question from Harry, aged 10, Dartington Primary, Devon: I cried when Zach died in the Blitz in Goodnight Mr Tom. Did you ever feel like crying when you were writing the story?  Yes. I had to go for long calming down walks between writing some of the scenes in the book. Harry, the area around back_homeDartington appears in one of my books called Back Home!

 

Turkey or goose? Turkey

Real or fake tree? Real

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Mince pies

Stockings –  end of the bed or over the fireplace? End of the bed – Red pillowcases.

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Both!

Thank you for participating in our festive Q & A! Have a Happy Christmas.

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You can read my review of Impossible on the Bookshelf.

Find out more about Michelle at www.michellemagorian.com

 

Lifeboat at the BOAT!

The B.O.A.T theatre in Brighton played host to a wonderful event on Sunday 19th June to raise money for the School Bus Project, set up to provide education to children in the Calais refugee camps.  A group of amazing authors & illustrators came together to entertain and enthrall an audience of children and their parents, with activities running throughout the afternoon.


Having read about the event at the last-minute, I was unaware of how many people were involved, so I couldn’t quite believe just how many fantastic authors were under one roof – well, not exactly, as it’s an open air theatre, but you know what I mean!    I’ve been to some wonderful book events, but this must surely have been one of the best – the atmosphere was great – and not just because of the wonderful venue and glorious sunshine! Hosted by Sid from CBeebies, we sat with bated breath as author after author performed/ read aloud/ drew/ played games and even sang & danced for the watching crowd.  Children were delighted to be involved, as were even the most reluctant of parent participants.  There was even an opportunity to do some life-drawing with a group of artistes posing in various costumes – including a storm trooper! Phoenix comics were running workshops and there were various vintage type circus games going on, each with a related book theme. From Emily Gravett to Axel Sheffler it was like a who’s who of children’s picture book illustrators and authors.

I was delighted to bump into a Book Activist friend, Adam Stower, who was enjoying talking with fellow illustrators.  He very kindly introduced me to Anthony Browne…! Okay so yes, I was a but start struck but wouldn’t you be? Anthony Browne has written some of the most incredible picture books ever published and there he was right in front of me.  He too joined in the fun, and had the audience helping him draw marvellous pictures. A F Harrold gave a brilliant performance of his poems and had everyone in stitches. But perhaps most exciting was Axel Sheffler, who proceeded to delight one and all by drawing one of the all time favourite picture book characters, The Gruffalo.  How completely magical to see these wonderful images appearing on the paper in front of our very eyes!


Enough of the name dropping – not forgetting the cause that the proceeds of the event were going to. The School Bus in question was actually there and I spent a good deal of time talking to those involved in creating the project.  What an amazing idea – to give those who have no opportunity to access any kind of education the chance to be taught by a range of volunteer teachers on a converted school bus, which will be filled with resources.  Inspiring. And incredibly brave.


This event totally proved the point that having authors share their wonderful creations directly with children and their parents is absolutely the best way to promote and encourage reading. The joy on everyone’s faces was a sight to see. It also enabled a huge amount to be raised for a very worthwhile cause. I defy anyone not to have left the B.O.A.T that day with a renewed love for children’s books and stories and an insight into telling stories through pictures. And of course, the very positive feeling of doing something to support children who live in the most dire of circumstances.

For more information about the event and the project visit:

https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/gallery/2016/may/27/lifeboat-childrens-illustrators-refugees

http://www.schoolbusproject.org/