Edward Explores: Liverpool

Edward Liverpool dock side snack

Being a traditionally jointed bear, Edward is understandably wary of water. It was therefore with some trepidation that he set off on his latest adventure. He had been warned that this would involve a number of boat trips, both for pleasure and as a means of transport. He remained unconvinced that such journeys could be enjoyed.

The first leg was straightforward if a little tedious – a long car journey with occasional pitstops for coffee and to stretch legs. Due to the worrying lack of snacks, Edward was glad when his destination was finally reached. He wasted no time in checking out the menu provided.

Edward Liverpool hotal

In the event, a further journey was required before dinner could be enjoyed. It was a relief to our intrepid bear that a train ran under the river separating his hotel from the city to be explored.

Liverpool is well known as an historic port, but also for four young men whose music has endured beyond its impressive heyday.

Replenished and then revived by a good night’s sleep, Edward once again travelled into the city where he bravely agreed to board a Ferry ‘cross the Mersey. Invited to be photographed on the boat’s railings during the short river cruise he politely declined, opting instead to observe from the relative safety of his comfy travel bag. In his opinion, a small bear could easily fall into the waterway and be difficult to rescue, especially as some of the turns the boat took were notably bumpy as it faced side on into the tide.

Back on dry land, Edward undertook a tour of the Museum of Liverpool where he met a queue of strange but friendly creatures. He also visited the Maritime Museum, although remained perplexed that the city wished to claim a connection to the Titanic, given its fate. There was much to mull as Edward enjoyed the small snack that heads this post. The sun was now shining and the Albert Dock looked fine with its bustle of tourists and groups dressed to impress as they imbibed copious quantities of celebratory beverages.

Edward’s bearers then took him on a long and circuitous walk around the city before stopping for dinner at another fine eating establishment.

For his final day, Edward travelled inland to Chester, by train again much to his relief. Here he visited the remains of Roman baths, which he was pleased to find did not contain water. The amphitheatre was more of a concern as he had read bears were sometimes baited in such places and generally treated appallingly. Edward enjoyed his tour of the grand cathedral, and then imagined how it would be to drive a train. One day he may like to try this for real.

It was now time to move on to the next leg of the adventure, a transition that Edward was not looking forward to. As if in sympathy the weather had turned horrid, with water pouring down from the sky as well as lapping against the walls of the nearby docks. Edward sat in his vehicle and contemplated what was to come – an overnight journey on a very large boat that carried cars and lorries as well as people and their bears.

In the event this turned out to be a rather pleasant part of the journey. Edward was provided with one of the best cabins available, with a porthole and door onto a small deck. The darkness and rain precluded fully enjoying these features, but the bed and snacks enabled a good night’s rest despite the surrounding water on which they floated across the sea.

As a new city to visit, Liverpool had interesting features to enjoy but not enough to fill the three days allocated – hence the unplanned trip to Chester. The overnight sailing proved a surprising highlight, although Edward was still happy when the boat docked and he could disembark onto dry land.

Can you guess where he had now travelled to? All will be revealed in his next Explore.

Edward Liverpool Belfast

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Book Review: The Blackbird

Liverpool Cathedral was built over the course of the 20th century. As may be expected for such an impressive structure, it took many decades to complete. Progress stalled during both World Wars due to shortages of manpower and materials. The cathedral now ranks as the fifth-largest in the world. Built on St James’s Mount, the shape of the site required that the nave be oriented north to south rather than, as is traditional, west to east. Some believed this would bring bad luck.

The principle characters in The Blackbird certainly suffer their share of misfortune. Across alternating chapters, the story has two main timelines. It opens in 1941 with an accident on a building site where a much reduced team of masons are constructing the tall, central tower of a cathedral. As a result of the incident, a young man is grievously injured. Will Jenner, the on-site manager, blames himself for being persuaded to set the men to work.

Will is married to Mary and they have an eight year old daughter, Hope. The family moved to the city, away from family in rural Derbyshire, when offered the prestigious job opportunity. Will expects his wife to share with him every detail of how she spends her days. When she takes an interest in the hospitalised worker, Will grows suspicious of her motives. He requires that she be quietly obedient, becoming angry if she acts in any other way.

The growing cathedral, and Will’s behaviour, cast a shadow over his family. This is exacerbated by regular, night time aerial bombing raids. Homes have been razed and many killed. People must continue to function despite fear and sleep deprivation.

Moving to 2014, a young mother, Louise, has recently moved into a new flat with her toddler son, Jake. It is a fresh start and one she is content with. Jake’s father, Benny, broke her heart when he left them. Now she is in a relationship with an old friend, Carl, although still relishes her independence. When Benny shows up on her doorstep expecting to be taken back, Louise rejects him. Angered by her reaction, Benny refuses to leave them be.

There is a linking character across the two timelines – Hope – who in 2014 is struggling to care for her elderly husband; Robert has dementia and his behaviour is deteriorating. Through Hope’s thoughts and recollections the reader gains a different perspective on the events her father had to deal with through the war years and beyond.

Undercurrents of male violence percolate along with the limitations in agency women suffer due to their circumstances. The veracity of memory and perceived impact on subsequent decisions is explored and queried. Characters’ choices not to share their reasoning and personal justifications with those around them have damaging consequences. Jealousy and blame pervade.

It took a few chapters before the quality of the writing gripped me. What at first appeared an unremarkable if smoothly told tale established pleasing depth. The plot, whilst engaging, became secondary to my interest in character development. The impact of experience and situation are used to particularly impressive effect.

The structure is well balanced between detail and flow. This was a story I was eager to get back to each time I had to break away. Layered and nuanced yet never heavy, a good read that I am happy to recommend.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Henningham Family Press.

This review is a stop on The Blackbird Blog Tour 2020. Do check out the other fine posts, detailed above.

 

Giveaway time!

The publisher has kindly offered to send a copy of this book to one lucky reader who enters my Twitter giveaway. Follow me here and RT the relevant tweet (from around 8am today) to be in with a chance to win (UK only, ends 5pm BST 31/7/2020).

Book Review: Then She Was Gone

thenshewasgone

Then She Was Gone, by Luca Veste, is a crime thriller set in Liverpool, England. It starts with a father walking his baby daughter through a park where he is attacked and the child taken. At first the police are sympathetic, as you would expect under the circumstances, but when their investigations uncover apparent inconsistencies in the man’s story suspicions turn towards him.

A year later and two detectives from the Major Crimes Unit, Murphy and Rossi, are asked to look into the disappearance of a local man, Sam Bryne. They are to do what they can to keep their enquiries from the press due to Sam’s profile. He is a prospective MP, wealthy and privileged, and there are aspects of his life that his well connected family do not wish to share.

Murphy and Rossi question Sam’s staff, visit his house and talk to his parents. They discover the uncomfortable truth of what is being left unsaid. When a body is found, and then another, the full extent of Sam’s proclivities are revealed.

I found the writing a little simplistic at first but the structure and plot soon drew me in. There are chapters written from the point of view of the killer and the timeline goes back to explain why they seek revenge. The attitudes of many of the characters are depressing in their realism. There is casual racism, an inbred sense of exclusive entitlement, and an attitude towards women that is rarely acknowledged in such a blatant way.

This is the fourth novel in the author’s Murphy and Rossi series although the first that I have read. There are references to their past adventures but the story works standalone.

An engaging read with some satisfying twists. For fans of crime fiction, this one is for you.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Simon & Schuster.