Thursday 7 March 2024

πŸ“– Featured Book of the Month ~ The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden


Random House UK /Cornerstone
7 March 2024

World War One, and as shells fall in Flanders, a Canadian nurse searches for her brother believed dead in the trenches despite eerie signs that suggest otherwise in this gripping and powerful historical novel from the bestselling author of The Bear and the Nightingale.

January 1918. Laura Iven has been discharged from her duties as a nurse and sent back to Halifax, Canada, leaving behind a brother still fighting in the trenches of the First World War. Now home, she receives word of Freddie's death in action along with his uniform -but something doesn't quite make sense. Determined to find out more, Laura returns to Belgium as a volunteer at a private hospital. Soon after arriving, she hears whispers about ghosts moving among those still living and a strange inn-keeper whose wine gives soldiers the gift of oblivion. Could this have happened to Freddie - but if so, where is he?

November 1917. Freddie Iven awakens after an explosion to find himself trapped under an overturned pillbox with an enemy soldier, a German, each of them badly wounded. Against all odds, the two men form a bond and succeed in clawing their way out. But once in No Man's Land, where can either of them turn where they won't be shot as enemy soldiers or deserters? As the killing continues, they meet a man - a fiddler - who seems to have the power to make the hellscape that surrounds them disappear. But at what price?

A novel of breath-taking scope and drama, of compulsive readability, of stunning historical research lightly worn, and of brilliantly drawn characters who will make you laugh and break your heart in a single line, The Warm Hands of Ghosts is a book that will speak to readers directly about the trauma of war and the power of those involved to love, endure and transcend it.

πŸ“– My Review..

I have enjoyed previous books by this author so I knew that I was in for a treat as her writing style is quite different and it is this quirkiness which appeals to me. The Warm Hands of Ghosts is set during the First World War when Canadian nurse Laura Iven receives news of her younger brother Freddie's death. Laura has already been discharged from her duties as a WW1 nurse and is back home in Halifax, however, determined to go back to Flanders she volunteers to work in a private hospital in order to find her brother. Freddie fighting in the trenches in Flanders has a very special story and it is Laura's quest to discover what happened to Freddie which forms the basis of the story.

What then follows is a powerful story about love and loss which cleverly combines the historical accuracy of trench warfare especially capturing the horror of the mud and blood of Passchendaele. The story is bleak in places and there were times, particularly with Freddie's story, when I had to stop and take a minute to assimilate what I had read and the direction in which the story was heading. I liked Laura from the start, she's doggedly determined to discover the truth, which I'm not about to spoil, and yet Laura is also chasing her own demons which are cleverly interpreted by this author's ability to capture even the smallest nuances of character.

Haunting, melancholy but beautifully imagined, with spectral elements, hence the title, The Warm Hands of Ghosts is a thought provoking read about  the power of love and the overwhelming sadness of devastating loss which leaves you chilled to the bone. On its publication day, I have no hesitation in making The Warm Hands of Ghosts my Book of the Month for March.

The Warm Hands of Ghosts is published by Century on the 7th March

About the Author

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden has always had a taste for wandering. She spent her junior year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrolment for a year in order to live and study in Russia. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature, and her studies included sojourns at the Sorbonne in Paris and the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow.

After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii and worked every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and guiding horse tours to serving as a personal tour guide. During this time she wrote what became her debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale. After a year on the island, she moved to Briançon, France, and spent nine months teaching. She then returned to Maui, where she began writing The Girl in the Tower, the sequel to her debut, and officially launched her career as an author. Currently she lives in Vermont.

She is the author of the Winternight Trilogy for adults and the Small Spaces Quartet for children. The Warm Hands of Ghosts is her eighth novel

Twitter / X @arden_katherine #TheWarmHandsOfGhosts


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