A Week in Books · Blog Tours · Books · Iona Grey · James Swallow · Literary Lowdown · Megan Angelo · R.C. Bridgestock · Rory Clements

Sarah's Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 22 December 2019

Welcome to my final weekly round-up of 2019. I’d like to say thank you to you all for supporting my blog this year and wish you a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Scroll down, past Santa, to get the lowdown on what’s been going on here at Sarah’s Vignettes, the books I’ve been adding to my shelves and other bookish delights.

~ On the blog ~

Shadow by James Swallow

On Tuesday, it was a pleasure to welcome author James Swallow to my blog. James tweets a lot about the music he listens to when he is writing and he wrote a brilliant piece about his writer’s soundtrack for his latest novel Shadow. Read James’ guest post.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 1 signed book to my bookshelf this week and 1 digital proof copy.

Last week, I entered a giveaway, run by Iona Grey, to win a copy of her latest novel The Glittering Hour. I have heard such wonderful things about this book and I was so excited when Iona let me know that I’d won a copy of the book!

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

The epic and long-awaited new romance from the author of Letters to the Lost, winner of the RNA Award.

Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying just the right side of scandal.

Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who stumbles into Selina’s orbit one night and can never let her go.

Spanning two decades and a seismic shift in British history as World War II approaches, this is an epic novel of passion, heartache and loss.


Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements

Hitler's Secret by Rory Clements

In the Autumn of 1941, the war is going badly for Britain and its allies. If the tide is going to be turned against Hitler, a new weapon is desperately needed.

In Cambridge, brilliant history professor Tom Wilde is asked by an American intelligence officer to help smuggle a mysterious package out of Nazi Germany – something so secret, even Hitler himself doesn’t know of its existence.

Posing as a German-American industrialist, Wilde soon discovers the shocking truth about the ‘package’, and why the Nazis will stop at nothing to prevent it leaving Germany. With ruthless killers loyal to Martin Bormann hunting him down, Wilde makes a desperate gamble on an unlikely escape route.

But even if he reaches England alive, that will not be the end of his ordeal. Wilde is now convinced that the truth he has discovered must remain hidden, even if it means betraying the country he loves . . .

~ On my bedside table ~

Followers by Megan Angelo
Payback by R.C. Bridgestock

I have 50 pages left to read of Followers by Megan Angelo. I’ll be sharing my review here on 8th January 2020. I’m then going to read Payback by R.C. Bridgestock and I’ll be sharing my review for that on 14th January 2020.


What books have you been reading and buying this week? Let me know by leaving a reply in the box below.

Until 2020, happy reading!

Blog Tours · Books · Guest Post · James Swallow

Sarah's Vignettes ~ Guest Post from James Swallow (@jmswallow): A Writer's Soundtrack ~ #Shadow #BlogTour ~ @ZaffreBooks ~ @Tr4cyF3nt0n

Welcome to Sarah’s Vignettes stop on the blog tour for Shadow by James Swallow. Thank you to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to be part of the tour.

I’m delighted to welcome James Swallow as a guest on the blog today. I noticed that James tweets a lot about the music he listens to when he is writing so I asked him if he would write a piece about his soundtrack for Shadow.

Before James tells us about about the Shadow soundtrack, here is what Shadow is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Things are about to go viral in Marc Dane’s most dangerous adventure yet . . .

Marc and his partner – former US Delta Force sniper Lucy Keyes – are pitted against their most terrifying challenge yet, when a genius bio-researcher with the ability to create a deadly biological weapon is kidnapped by a ruthless terrorist.

Their desperate search for the missing scientist takes them across the world, from the desolate wilderness of Iceland to the slums of the Near East and the dark underbelly of a fracturing Europe, where they will discover a shocking atrocity in the making.

Backed by shadowy interests, a cadre of hardline ultra-right-wing extremists plan to unleash a lethal virus among the population of a major European city.

Only Marc Dane can prevent this devastating attack from taking place – before a whole continent is plunged into terror…

~ A Writer’s Soundtrack by James Swallow ~

Sometimes, it has to be pin-drop quiet for me to get any writing done – and other times it can be noise all around, but I’m lost in the midst of my story. When my attention isn’t where it should to be, I need quiet in order to zero in on what I want to get down on the page – but when I’ve got my outline ready and all my narrative ducks in a row, a bit of musical accompaniment is exactly what I need to get me off the blocks.

Follow me on Twitter (at @jmswallow) and you’ll see I regularly post up my musical choices under the hashtag #writersoundtrack. My picks are usually something orchestral when I’m actually writing scenes, but when I’m out and about and thinking of characters and ideas, I’ll listen to songs that give me a sense of theme.

When I’m in my office in front of the keyboard, I go to my huge collection of classical music and film score albums, often queuing up a bunch of them into six hour playlists. Writing my Marc Dane action thrillers, it’s no surprise I gravitate to movie soundtracks in the same wheelhouse.

Here are some of my go-to composers (with my top picks for their scores):

  • James Newton Howard (Salt, The Bourne Legacy);
  • Christophe Beck (Edge of Tomorrow);
  • Hans Zimmer (Inception, Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises);
  • Steve Jablonsky (Deepwater Horizon, Skyscraper);
  • Daft Punk (Tron Legacy);
  • Reinhold Heil (Berlin Station, The International);
  • Lorne Balfe (The Sweeney, Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Hurricane Heist);
  • Etienne Forget (Missions);
  • Sarah Schachner (Anthem).

But as I noted above, writing a book isn’t just the putting down of words on the screen. There’s also the important effort spent nailing down plot ideas and working on characters. I find while on the train or on the runner at the gym is the best place for this, often with a driving playlist in my earbuds to propel me along – and with each book in the Marc Dane series, I went back to the same songs over and over, gradually creating a soundtrack for my characters, themes and locations.

Here’s my “virtual album” for Shadow, the latest of my thrillers now out in paperback, with a link to a YouTube playlist…

Open the video in Youtube to get the full playlist

Track 1 – “SHADOW Anthem”
The Drone Racing League – GUNSHIP
This hard-edged synthwave theme sets the tone for SHADOW’s hi-tech, hi-octane action narrative.

Track 2 – “Undercover / Rescue”
Dive For You – Boom Satellites
This dynamic number from a Japanese electronic rock duo cover the opening scenes where our undercover heroes turn the tables on their enemies.

Track 3 – “Club Skore”
Deep Impact – Dragon Ash (featuring Rappagariya)
Another track from the Far East, this time something loud and noisy from a rap-rock band to inspire the action taking place at a nightclub in Singapore.

Track 4 – “Basement Shoot-Out / Speedboat Chase”
Confusion (Pump Panel Reconstruction Mix) – New Order
A long and driving track here to back up an extended gun fight and chase sequence.

Track 5 – “The Lion’s Roar”
Calm Like A Bomb – Rage Against The Machine
A character-inspired, rage-fuelled track to characterize SHADOW’s main villain.

Track 6 – “Welcome to Iceland”
Reykjavík – SYKUR
Icelandic rap music singing the praises of their capital city, from a band that was introduced to me while hiking glaciers during a research trip for this novel…

Track 7 – “Survive the Night”
Immigrant Song – Karen O (with Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)
A cover version of this Led Zeppelin classic to play over scenes where our heroes must fight through a freezing night on the ice.

Track 8 – “Chasing the Mule / Finding the Family”
Freya – The Sword
The hard rock track racks up the tension as Marc Dane chases down a man being forced to detonate a deadly bio-weapon, while his partner Lucy Keyes tries to rescue the man’s family in time to stop him.

Track 9 – “Endure”
Sledgehammer – Rihanna
This character theme underscores Lucy’s predicament when she is brought low by a lethal biological agent.

Track 10 – “Back From the Edge”
Your Hand In Mine – Explosions In The Sky
This track conjures a quieter moment, where our heroes are reunited after the villains have been defeated and all is well…for now.

Track 11 – “SHADOW End Credits”
Razors Out – Chino Moreno
Finally, finishing strong with an energetic end track, as the story of our heroes continues onward…

~ Where to find Shadow ~

~ About James Swallow ~

James Swallow

James Swallow is a New York Times, Sunday Times and Amazon #1 bestselling author and scriptwriter, a BAFTA nominee, a former journalist and the award-winning writer of over fifty books, along with scripts for video games, comics, radio and television.

His writing includes the Marc Dane action thrillers, the Sundowners steampunk Westerns and fiction from the worlds of Star Trek, Warhammer 40000, Doctor Who, 24, Deus Ex, Stargate, 2000AD and more.

SHADOW, the 4th Marc Dane novel, is out now from Bonnier, and the 2nd book in the series – EXILE – is published in the USA by Tor/Forge.

~ Follow the Shadow Blog Tour ~

Be sure to drop by the other stops on the tour!

Shadow by James Swallow
A Week in Books · Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Charlie Mackesy · Emma Mitchell · Liz Fenwick · Megan Angelo

Sarah's Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 15 December 2019

Welcome to this week’s round-up of what’s been going on here at Sarah’s Vignettes, on social media, the books I’ve been adding to my shelves and other bookish delights. Keep scrolling to get the lowdown.

~ On the blog ~

When Stars Will Shine: Helping our Heroes One Page at a Time

On Tuesday, it was a real pleasure to share my review for When Stars Will Shine collated by Emma Mitchell. This is a wonderful collection of short stories with all proceeds from sales going to the Help the Heroes charity. With stories that will touch your heart, some Christmas crime, and love stories, there is something for everyone.

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I looked back on my review of The Returning Tide by Liz Fenwick.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 1 signed book to my bookshelf this week.

Whilst out and about in London this Friday, I popped into Gallery Different on Percy Street to have a look around the Charley Mackesy Exhibition. They were showing artworks and drawings from his beautiful book: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse . I was very lucky to meet Charley and he signed a copy of my book and included a couple of doodles!

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

A book of hope for uncertain times.

Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.

~ On my bedside table ~

Followers by Megan Angelo

I’m reading Followers by Megan Angelo. It’s set between 2015 and 2051 and, as the title suggests, it revolves around social media and followings. It is a good read and interesting to see what the 2051 digital world might have in store for us!


What books have you been reading and buying this week? Let me know by leaving a reply in the box below.

Until next week, happy reading!

Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Emma Mitchell · Review Copy · Reviews · Short Stories

A Sarah's Vignettes Book Review: When Stars Will Shine, incl. @ValPortelli @grahamsmith1972, compiled by Emma Mitchell (@emmamitchellfpr) ~ @BakerPromo #WhenStarsWillShine #BlogTour

Welcome to my stop on the When Stars Will Shine blog tour. Thank you to Emma Mitchell for inviting me to take part in the tour and for sending me a digital copy of the book. This is a great collection of short stories and I am thrilled to be able to share it with you.

Before I share my review of a couple of the stories, here is what to expect from When Stars Will Shine and a some background from Emma on how the anthology came to be.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

When Stars Will Shine is a collection of short stories from your favourite authors who have come together to deliver you a Christmas read with a twist.

With true war tales that will break your heart, gritty Christmas crimes that will shake you to your core, and heart-warming tales of love lost and found, this anthology has something for everyone. And, with every penny made being sent to support our troops, you can rest assured that you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.

From authors such as Louise Jensen, Graham Smith, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Lucy Cameron, Val Portelli, and Alex Kane, you are in for one heck of a ride!

When Stars Will Shine is the perfect Christmas gift for the bookworms in your life!

A Note from Emma Mitchell:

As the blurb tells us, When Stars Will Shine is a multi-genre collection of Christmas-themed short stories compiled to raise money for our armed forces and every penny made from the sales of both the digital and paperback copies will be donated to the charity.

Working closely with Kate Noble at Noble Owl Proofreading and Amanda Ni Odhrain from Let’s Get Booked, I’ve been able to pick the best of the submissions to bring you a thrilling book which is perfect for dipping into at lunchtime or snuggling up with on a cold winter’s night. I have been completely blown away by the support we’ve received from the writing and blogging community, especially the authors who submitted stories and Shell Baker from Baker’s Not So Secret Blog, who has organised the cover reveal and blog tour.

There isn’t a person in the country who hasn’t benefited from the sacrifices our troops, past and present, have made for us and they all deserve our thanks.

It has been an honour working on these stories, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.

Full contents:

Fredrick Snellgrove, Private 23208 by Rob Ashman

Four Seasons by Robert Scragg

The Close Encounter by Gordon Bickerstaff

Believe by Mark Brownless

What Can Possibly Go Wrong? by Lucy Cameron

Mountain Dew by Paul T. Campbell

The Art of War and Peace by John Carson

A Gift for Christmas by Kris Egleton

Free Time by Stewart Giles

Died of Wounds by Malcolm Hollingdrake

The Christmas Killer by Louise Jensen

The Village Hotel by Alex Kane

A Present of Presence by HR Kemp

The Invitation by Billy McLaughlin

Brothers Forever by Paul Moore

Girl in a Red Shirt by Owen Mullen

Pivotal Moments by Anna Franklin Osborne

Uncle Christmas by Val Portelli

Time for a Barbeque by Carmen Radtke

Christmas Present by Lexi Rees

Inside Out by KA Richardson

Penance by Jane Risdon

New Year’s Resolution by Robert Scragg

Family Time by Graham Smith

~ My thoughts ~

What a wonderful collection of stories this is and it’s for a great cause too. With stories that will touch your heart, some Christmas crime, and love stories, there is something for everyone.

I imagine that writing short stories is much harder than writing a novel. For starters, a writer must pull together a beginning, a middle and end with a decent plot in a restricted amount of words. All of the authors did this very well.

I would love to review each story individually but we may be here for a long time! So, I’ve whittled it down to two: Uncle Christmas by Val Portelli; Family Time by Graham Smith. I chose these stories because they stayed with me long after I finished reading them.

Uncle Christmas by Val Portelli

Uncle Christmas is a story of human kindness. It follows Jack, an ex-military officer and good, hardworking person, who has fallen on hard times and finds himself living on the streets at Christmas because he cannot afford to pay his rent. As the story progresses, Jack comes across some good people and each one helps him in ways that goes above and beyond.

This is a poignant story and one that needs to be told. I have watched news reports and read articles about how ex-service men and women struggle with life after the services and one thing affects another. If you don’t have an address, you can’t get help or a job and it snowballs. We should be looking after those who have looked after us.

Val Portelli is a new author to me and I really like her writing style. I was immersed in Uncle Christmas from the beginning. It was only a 13-minute read but in that time, she created a beautiful story and felt I had been on a journey.

Family Time by Graham Smith

Family Time by Graham Smith is the final story in the collection. It is told from the point of view of an unnamed police officer. We meet him when he is looking for a man known to the police but it’s not quite what we expect. I really enjoyed this story as it took a turn I wasn’t expecting. This character put the happiness of others over his own.

Graham Smith is another new author to me and I like his storytelling. Family Time is a 15-minute read and one I would highly recommend.

~ Where to find When Stars Will Shine ~

When Stars Will Shine: Helping our Heroes One Page at a Time

When Stars Will Shine was published on 9th December and can be found in digital and paperback formats at Amazon UK, Amazon US and on Goodreads.

~ About Val Portelli & Graham Smith ~

Val Portelli

The author’s pen name Voinks began many years ago. It started as a joke when a friend bought a holiday home abroad, then gradually spread through the family, so it was an obvious choice when her first book was published.

Despite receiving her first rejection letter aged nine from some lovely people at a well-known Women’s magazine, she continued writing intermittently until a freak accident left her housebound and going stir crazy.

To save her sanity she completed and had published her first full length novel. This was followed by a second traditionally published book before deciding self-publishing was the way to go. In between writing her longest novel to date at over 100,000 words, she publishes weekly stories for her Facebook author page and web site.

She writes in various genres, although her short stories normally include her trademark twist of ‘Quirky.’ From having too many hours in the day, she is now actively seeking out a planet with forty-eight-hour days, to have time to fit in all the stories waiting to be told.

She is always delighted to receive reviews, as they help pay for food for the Unicorns she breeds in her spare time.

T ~ @ValPortelli

Graham Smith

Graham Smith is a time served joiner who has built bridges, houses, dug drains, and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000, he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

He is an internationally best-selling Kindle author and has six books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team, and four novels, featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder. His ‘Lakes’ series which has three novels featuring DC Beth Young has received much critical acclaim.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009 Graham is the founder of Crime and Publishment, a weekend of crime-writing classes which includes the chance for attendees to pitch their novels to agents and publishers. Since the first weekend in 2013, ten attendees have gone on to sign publishing contracts.

T ~ @GrahamSmith1972

~ Follow the tour ~

Be sure to drop by the other stops on the When Stars Will Shine blog tour!

A Week in Books · Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Carol Drinkwater · Christmas · Extracts · fiction · Gill Thompson · Joanna Lumley · John Julius Norwich · Julian Fellowes · Linn B. Halton · Literary Lowdown · Liz Fenwick · Megan Angelo · Non-Fiction · Recommended Reads · Rowan Coleman

Sarah's Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 8 December 2019

Welcome to this week’s round-up of what’s been going on here at Sarah’s Vignettes, on social media, the books I’ve been adding to my shelves and other bookish delights. Keep scrolling to get the lowdown.

~ On the blog ~

The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson

On Monday, it was my stop on the blog tour for The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson. Sadly, I didn’t have time to read and review the book for the tour but I was able to share a powerful extract from it.

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I looked back on my review of A Greek Affair by Linn B. Halton.


On Friday, I took part in R3COMM3ND3D2019, a brilliant feature run by fellow book blogger Emma Welton. Emma has invited book bloggers, authors and publishers to choose and talk about three must-read books published in 2019.

This was a tough choice as I have read and shouted about many great books this year but these 3 are high up on my list:

~ On my calendar ~

The Ultimate Christmas Cracker, how to Academy event

On Wednesday night, I went to John Julius Norwich’s Ultimate Christmas Cracker in London and it was a real treat. Here’s a bit about it from the event web page:

In 1969, John Julius Norwich, the legendary popular historian, gathered together the favourite things he’d come across in the last 365 days into one short charming pamphlet. Initially just a treat for his friends, it rapidly turned into a huge word-of-mouth success.

This Christmas, How To Academy brings together an all-star cast including – Julian Fellowes, Joanna Lumley, Antony Beevor, and John Julius’s children Artemis and Jason Cooper – to celebrate this institution of English Christmas, honour the memory of John Julius Norwich, and read the finest Crackers from their illustrious 50 year history.

Joanna Lumley, Antony Beevor, Artemis Cooper, Jason Cooper, Julian Fellowes

It was such fun listening to Joanne Lumley and Julian Fellowes read and act out these Christmas Crackers. They truly are national treasures.

Joanna Lumley

Before I went to the event, it hadn’t occurred to me that the cast might be signing copies of their books. I am a huge fan of Joanna Lumley’s work, particularly her documentaries. So, when I had the chance to meet her, I was completely starstruck! There aren’t many times where I am lost for words but this was one of those moments.

Joanna Lumley

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 2 books to my bookshelf this week. One signed memoir and one proof copy of a fiction book, due out in January 2020.

Absolutely by Joanna Lumley

Absolutely by Joanna Lumley

The absolutely fabulous Joanna Lumley opens her private albums for this illustrated memoir. The real-life scrapbook of the woman known as AbFab’s Patsy Stone, this is an intimate memoir of one of Britain’s undisputed national treasures. A former model and Bond girl, her distinctive voice has been supplied for animated characters, film narration, and AOL’s “You’ve got mail” notification in the UK. She discusses speaking out as a human rights activist for Survival International and the recent Gurkha Justice Campaign for which she is now considered a “national treasure” of Nepal because of her support. She has won two BAFTA awards, but it is the sheer diversity of her life that makes her story so compelling; early years in Kashmir and Malaya, growing up in Kent, then a photographic model before becoming an actress, appearing in a huge range of roles.


Followers by Megan Angelo

Followers by Megan Angelo

When everyone is watching you can run, but you can’t hide…

2051. Marlow and her mother, Floss, have been handpicked to live their lives on camera, inclosed community of Constellation.

Unlike her mother, who adores the spotlight, Marlow hates having her every move judged by a national audience.

But she isn’t brave enough to escape until she discovers a shattering secret about her birth.

Now she must unravel the truth around her own history in a terrifying race against time…

An explosive and unsettling novel set in the near-future, perfect for fans of Station Eleven, Black Mirror, The Circle and Friend Request.

~ On my bedside table ~

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

I finished reading The Christmas Party by Karen Swan last night. It is a brilliant read and I’ll be sharing my review here soon.


What books have you been reading and buying this week? Let me know by leaving a reply in the box below.

Until next week, happy reading!

Blog Tours · Books · Extracts · fiction · Gill Thompson

Sarah’s Vignettes: Extract from The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson (@wordkindling) ~ @headlinepg ~ @annecater #RandomThingsTours #BlogTour

Welcome to Sarah’s Vignettes stop on the blog tour for The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson.

I am so pleased to be taking part in this tour and thank you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

I was sad that I couldn’t fit in a review for this book. It is exactly my kind of historical read as I gravitate towards stories set in World War 2. However, after reading the extract below, I will be reading and reviewing the book at some point. It’s powerful.

Before I share the extract with you, here is what The Child on Platform One is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Inspired by the real-life escape of thousands of Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Europe on the Kindertransport trains to London, the new novel from the author of The Oceans Between Us Gill Thompson. For readers of The Tattooist of Auschwitz Heather Morris, The Choice Edith Eger and Lilac Girls Martha Hall Kelly.

Prague 1939. Young mother Eva has a secret from her past. When the Nazis invade, Eva knows the only way to keep her daughter Miriam safe is to send her away – even if it means never seeing her again. But when Eva is taken to a concentration camp, her secret is at risk of being exposed.

In London, Pamela volunteers to help find places for the Jewish children arrived from Europe. Befriending one unclaimed little girl, Pamela brings her home. It is only when her young son enlists in the RAF that Pamela realises how easily her own world could come crashing down.

~ Extract from The Child on Platform One ~

11

The guard’s whistle blew. Pamela put her head out of the window to check that all the children were safely on board. Further down the platform, a wailing child was being forced into a carriage by a clearly agitated mother. How awful. As the train pulled out, Pamela hurried down the corridor to check on the little girl. As she did so, she caught the mother’s eye. There was no time to call out that everything would be all right, even if she could find the words, but in that split second of contact she concentrated all her efforts on silently assuring the woman that she’d protect her child. She saw the woman turn to her companion and they put their arms round each other. She couldn’t bear to think how hard it must be for them to hand over their children. She twisted her wedding ring round her finger as she thought of Will, and silently thanked God he was safe.
She found the little girl, her face buried in her doll, sitting by the window, her small legs dangling. Opposite her was a boy of a similar age, imperturbably munching on a hunk of black bread. For a second Pamela thought of Margery Weston, who no doubt had purchased new provisions and was tucking into them heartily. How strange that some people could carry on eating even in the most extreme of circumstances. She herself certainly couldn’t manage a morsel.

She sat down carefully next to the child. Her long hair, probably carefully brushed by her mother, was frizzy where it had rubbed against the seat. Pamela longed to smooth it but didn’t want to scare her. The girl had brown frightened eyes in a white face and looked about five or six. ‘Seef por ardku?’ Pamela asked. Are you all right? Mrs Brevda had taught her well. She was quite fluent now.
The little girl nodded woefully.
‘Yak-say-manyouyesh?’ What’s your name?
‘Miriam,’ the girl whispered.
Pamela gently stroked the doll’s hair. ‘Jakka hezka panenka.’ What a pretty doll! Thank goodness she’d had all that practice with Agata. She reached out to shake the doll’s hand, just as she had with Agata’s doll in the hospital. The child gave a half-smile. Pamela gestured to her to hand the doll over, and soon they were playing hide-and-seek with it. Even the little boy joined in. By the time the train pulled to a halt an hour later, the children had started to laugh a little.
Pamela walked up the train to find out why they had stopped. They were at a station. Terezin, the sign said. She located Margery, who was gesticulating at an official with a hand that still clutched an apple. Tiny bits of the fruit’s flesh flew through the air. ‘Ah, Pamela. Perhaps you can help.’
‘I’ll try.’ Pamela stepped forward and exchanged a few sentences with the man. ‘Apparently some important papers are missing. We can’t cross into Germany without them.’
Margery blew out her cheeks. ‘Oh no. How frustrating. I was assured everything was in order.’
Pamela bit her lip. They had such a long way to go, and already there was a holdup when they’d barely started. 

Margery had no choice but to dispatch Patrick Smith back to Prague to collect the necessary papers. Pamela looked out of the window to see the black ulster coat scuttling self-importantly up the platform, ready to catch the return train. Perhaps Smith was more competent than he’d appeared.
It had been nice to be back in Prague, however briefly. Despite the pain of her accident, and the horror of Ada’s death, Pamela still had some good memories of Czechoslovakia: the warmth and kindness of the people . . . the beauty of the landscape . . . even the food had been interesting, though very different to Hampstead fare. Most of all, it was tremendous to feel she was doing something. She had her part to play: registering the children, issuing brown labels, trying to console distraught mothers. It had been a very long time since she’d felt she was genuinely helping. I feel like a Quaker again, she realised. At long last the guilt of compromise, hypocrisy even, was beginning to recede. Hugh was doing his bit at the Foreign Office; she was rescuing refugees. Finally they were working as a team.
Their train waited at Terezin for four hours, while others moved through the station past it. Four hours of checking on the children, joining in with ‘Hoppe, hoppe Reiter’, which they seemed to want to sing countless times, making sure they didn’t eat all their food, placing blankets over those who had fallen asleep, comforting those who were distressed. And all the time listening to Margery’s infuriated rants and feeling her own blood pressure rise alarmingly. By the time Patrick Smith finally returned with the vital papers, and the train jerked into action, Pamela was exhausted and frustrated. They had so much time to make up. 

The motion of the train lulled more children to sleep, and eventually Pamela felt she could relax. For the first few hours the windows were filled with mountains and forests, just as when they’d travelled through Germany for their ski trip. She’d forgotten how beautiful the country was. How could such splendour and tranquillity have spawned such a warlike people? Adolf Hitler was a powerful man, there was no doubt about that. Thank God Chamberlain was holding him off for now, but Pamela had seen the worry and fear etched on the faces of the people at the Wilson station. Occupation was a terrible thing. She hoped it would never come to that in Britain.
When they stopped at Cologne, German officers boarded the train. Pamela heard the thud of their boots as they made their way up the corridors. She looked out of the window. Nazi flags hung from each lamp post; there were black swastikas in white circles and posters of Hitler everywhere. The air crackled with tension.
Suddenly their compartment door burst open and a German officer appeared, lurching slightly in the entrance. Pamela’s mouth turned paper-dry, and she held her breath. The officer strode up to Miriam and motioned to her doll. ‘What have we here?’
Miriam held out the doll with a shaking hand. The man grabbed it and dangled it out of the window, his fingers forcing the little cloth limbs to jerk up and down. ‘Help me,’ he cried in a high-pitched voice, then laughed at his own pantomime. Miriam was frozen with terror.
The little boy shifted in his seat. Pamela put her palm on his shoulder to restrain him, then strode over to the window.
 
‘Stop it,’ she said, as vehemently as she dared. ‘You’re upsetting the children.’
She had no idea if the officer understood her words, but he’d caught her tone. He shrugged, drew the doll back in and tossed it onto Miriam’s lap. Pamela hoped he’d leave them alone after that, but instead he hauled the children’s cases down from the luggage rack. As he dropped them on the floor, one of them burst open, revealing a neat stack of clothes.
The German pulled the garments out and flung them behind him, creating an untidy pile of skirts and dresses, several made from the same material. Something caught in Pamela’s throat. Miriam’s mother must have sewn them for her. She was obviously expecting them to be apart for some time. The officer grabbed another lot of belongings from the suitcase and dropped them on the floor. There was a smashing sound.
‘I can assure you everything here is in order,’ Pamela said.
The German ignored her.
Anger tightened in a band across her chest. ‘Enough!’ she shouted. She marched up to the German, snapped the suitcase shut, and hauled it across the floor away from him. ‘What kind of man are you that you victimise defenceless children? You should be ashamed of yourself,’ she hissed, putting as much venom in her voice as she could. Even if he didn’t speak English, there was no doubt about her anger. Let him attack her if he wanted – the man in the homburg would surely come to her aid soon – but these children were terrified. They had barely anything of their own. How dare he ransack their cases? 

The German scowled. Pamela stood her ground. Where on earth was the homburg man? ‘Keep away from these children. Their things are not yours to take.’ She made a shooing gesture with her hand. ‘Get out this minute!’
The German’s eyes bulged. He aimed a kick at the suitcase, then left the compartment.
Pamela’s legs were suddenly hollow. When she knelt down quickly in front of Miriam, it was as much to stop herself falling over as to reassure the child.
‘Come on, dear,’ she said in Czech. It was almost impossible to speak, her mouth was so dry. ‘Let’s repack your suitcase.’ She started to refold the girl’s dresses and place them carefully back in the case. A photo in a broken frame had slid under the seat. She picked it up to see a smiling Jewish couple, the little girl seated between them. ‘Don’t worry,’ she told her. ‘We’ll get this mended for you when we get to England.’ The child gulped and hugged her doll tightly.
Pamela heaved the cases back into the overhead rack.
‘Will you be all right now?’
Miriam and the boy both nodded.
She strode into the next-door compartment to find the man Lord Halifax had supposedly sent to keep an eye on her still sitting behind his newspaper, his homburg intact. The pages shook slightly in his hands.
She stood in front of him, hands on hips, until he lowered his paper. His face was pale and his forehead gleamed with sweat.
‘I thought you were here to help,’ she said.
The man swallowed. ‘Er, sorry. Got engrossed.’ He wiped his palms down his trousers. ‘Are you all right?’ 

~ Where to find The Child on Platform One ~

The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson

The Child on Platform One was published in the UK by Headline Review on 1 December 2019. It can be found in all good bookshops, on Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

~ About Gill Thompson ~

Gill Thompson, author, The Child on Platform One

Gill Thompson is an English lecturer who completed an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University. Her debut novel, The Oceans Between Us, was a No. 1 digital bestseller and has been highly acclaimed. She lives with her family in West Sussex and teaches English to college students.

W: wordkindling.co.uk ~ T: @wordkindling

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Be sure to drop by the other blogs on the tour!

Blog tour poster: The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson
A Week in Books · Advanced Review Copy · Books · fiction · Heidi Swain · Karen Swan · Libby Page · Literary Lowdown · Nikola Scott

Sarah's Vignettes Literary Lowdown ~ 1 December 2019

Welcome to this week’s round-up of what’s been going on here at Sarah’s Vignettes, on social media, the books I’ve been adding to my shelves and other bookish delights. Keep scrolling to get the lowdown.

~ On the blog ~

On Wednesday, I took part in a meme run by fellow book blogger Lisa over at Bookshelf Fantasies called Shelf Control. The idea is to choose a book on your bookshelf that you haven’t read yet and talk about when you got it and why you want to read it.

Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage by Heidi Swain

For this week’s post, I chose Coming Home to Cuckoo Cottage by Heidi Swain. How beautiful is the cover! It’s so inviting.

~ On social media ~

For #ThrowbackThursday, I chose Summer of Secrets by Nikola Scott.

~ On my bookshelf ~

I added 1 book to my digital bookshelf this week. It is an advanced copy of The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page, due out in 23rd January 2020.

The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page

The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page

Day and night Stella’s Café opens its doors for the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It is many things to many people but most of all it is a place where life can wait at the door. A place of small kindnesses. A place where anyone can be whoever they want, where everyone is always welcome.

Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They work at Stella’s but they dream of more, of leaving the café behind and making their own way in life.

Come inside and spend twenty-four hours at Stella’s Café; a day when Hannah and Mona’s friendship will be tested, when the community will come together and when lives will be changed . . .

~ On my bedside table ~

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

I’m reading The Christmas Party by Karen Swan and I’m really enjoying it!


What books have you been reading and buying this week? Let me know by leaving a reply in the box below.

Until next week, happy reading!