Camp NaNoWriMo: My Experience

If you read my last blog, you’ll know that this is my first experience with NaNoWriMo and that my goals were to complete my novel and establish a daily writing routine.

CampNaNoWriMo was more challenging than I anticipated, but I’m so, so impressed with my progress! I documented my progress week by week, including my overall word count, capturing my ups and downs, and why I think every writer should try and take part in a NaNoWriMo at least once.

If you took part this month, let me know how you got on below! 

Week 1, 1st – 7th July

I started off this month feeling extremely productive and motivated, determined to smash out my daily word targets. And the first four days in a row, I exceeded my daily goals by decent amounts, earning my 5k badge on Saturday 4th! It’s times like this that make me wonder why I find writing so hard (a few reasons come to mind, but let’s just ignore them for now…)

Sunday, 5th July is the first day I didn’t meet my target; I’ve only written 334 words, but seeing as I’d gone over my target each day before that, I don’t mind so much. Still optimistic. 

Update: I’ve made up for this slump by exceeding my daily word count for the next two days!!

Word Count: 7,670

Week 2, 8th-14th July

Started the second week in a bit of a slump. I’m losing motivation as I’ve reached a point in my novel where I’m building up to a major plot point. I’m not sure if it’s the pressure of wanting to create the perfect build-up, or if I’m just losing motivation in general, but I can’t seem to write as much as my first week. I’ve also started my period and work is stressing me out a little, so not helping! Hoping things will be better by the end of it.

Also, I’m finding the website’s word count really depressing. It gives you a daily target, which can be different from what I’ve set myself. It makes me feel like I should be writing more than I am, especially on the days I’m too busy to write huge amounts. Trying to ignore it, but it can be hard to.

Saying that I earned my 10k badge on Thursday (!!!) and I’ve noticed that I’m finding it easier to prioritise my writing over other things. I would always clean and do general adult stuff before settling down, which wouldn’t usually be until late in the evenings, an hour or so before bed. But now, life waits while I get those words down! Just hoping that I can write some more by the end of the week…

Word Count: 16,352

Week 3, 15th-21st July

I’ve just taken part in a live NaNoWriMo Write-In. It was my first one and I loved it! I usually procrastinate so much when it comes to my writing; every 400-500 words, I’ll pick up my phone, start reading blogs, or even stare at the wall! But this time, I was able to stay so focused in the hour, and the short-timed sessions helped me bang out more words quickly. Looking forward to next week.

Also, feeling incredibly happy as on the 17th, I reached 20k words, halfway there!

I am starting to feel a bit nervous, as the last few chapters I need to write lead up to the end of the novel. Only two major plot points are left. That thought just terrifies me. I think it’s where I’ve been writing this novel on-and-off since university, so approaching the end after living with my characters for so long is simultaneously sad, daunting, and exciting. I’m still unsure if anything I’ve written is good or if anyone will like it, and I’m so scared to send it out to beta readers. I know I need to push those thoughts away for now, else it will put me off finishing, but that’s easier said than done, of course. 

If you’ve ever completed a novel, have you ever felt this way?

Word Count: 25,176

Week 4, 22nd – 28th July

An awful week this week. I haven’t had the time to write much, and when I do, I’m struggling to put anything down. I think it’s because I’m building up to the climax of my novel, and I want it to be incredible. I’ve concentrated on reading this week too, hoping that will give me a creative boost.

In case you’re interested, I’m reading Pride and Prejudice, an old favourite! What are you guys reading at the moment?

Word count: 31,317

Week 5, 29th – 31st July

So not technically a full week, but there we go.

I can’t believe the end is in sight! I’ve got 9k words left to complete my goal, although I’m still trying (and failing) to catch up with my daily word count. I’ve got a ticket to a virtual event with HarperCollins this week about getting your novel published with an agent, so hopefully, that’ll motivate me to finally finish my book. (Update: the talk was fantastic, so insightful!)

Just completed the final NaNoWriMo virtual write-in, and I think I wrote the most in that hour than I have all week so far! Closing the gap between where my word count should be and what it is right now, only 4,000 words behind, and 8,000 words to go for my overall goal. I’m busy Thursday and Friday, so I will be staying up late tonight and making the most of any spare minutes I can find tomorrow onwards.

Afterthoughts – did I reach my Camp NaNoWriMo target?

Final word count: 35, 311

Unfortunately, I did not reach my target. In the end, I had 4,689 words left of my overall goal, but I was busy the last few days of the month, so I didn’t have the chance to catch up in time.  

However, I don’t feel defeated. My main goals for this challenge were to complete my novel and establish a daily writing routine. About halfway through the month, I realised that I need a lot more than 40,000 words to finish my novel, so I stopped worrying about that goal and instead just focused on just getting through the middle of the story. And now, I am past that awkward stage and am almost at the end! The next chapter will be the start of the final climax – I never thought I’d get this far so quickly! I’m so pleased I participated in this challenge as it would have taken me ages to get to this stage otherwise. This challenge certainly gave me the push that I needed.

As for my second goal, I am proud to say that I’ve written every day this month. My writing streak is 31 days, and I’m hoping to continue that for as long as possible! Some days I wrote over 2,000 words, while others I barely wrote 200, but that’s OK because I knew this would happen. Everyone has those days where coming up with over 1,000 words every day can feel as painful as drilling a screw into your brain. All that matters is that I got something down every day.

I will definitely be taking part in NaNoWriMo in November, although I’m already feeling nervous about the target! I’ll be practising a lot between now and October. Will you be taking part?

My next steps are to write the remaining 4,000 words, probably using old NaNoWriMo write-ins to help me stay motivated, and then just focus on finishing my novel.

Did you take part in Camp NaNoWriMo? If so, what was your goal, and did you reach it? Let me know how you did in the comments!

Review: The Women At Hitler’ Table

Thank you to the team at HarperCollins for gifting me with this novel. I have not been paid for this review and all opinions are solely my own.

SPOILERS AHEAD.

WWII has been well-documented in historical fiction, so much so that it feels every aspect of it has been explored in many ways, each so different from the other you still learn something new each time. The Librarian Of Auschwitz, for example, told the tale of Dita, a real-life Jewish prisoner of the notorious concentration camp who risked her life protecting fourteen books that were hidden in the camp. Tales like these bring forward the individuals that suffered at the hands of the Nazis, ensuring victims are being heard.

While the majority of ‘minorities’ come to mind when we think of the lives lost during this time period, one’ group’ that is often overlooked is the Germans. Not all Germans were Nazis, and many became victims of Hitler’s ugly regime.

The Women at Hitler’s Table explores the lives of a smaller group of people who risked everything during the war: Hitler’s food tasters. They were not known until recently when Margot Wölk told her story for the first time in 2012. It is her account that inspired this novel.

Sadly, Wölk passed before the author, Rosella Postorino, had a chance to meet her, and so these events are not entirely accurate. However, what is included helps paint the picture of the fifteen women who risked their lives three times a day as they tasted Hitler’s food before it was delivered to him. He was paranoid about being poisoned, so women were randomly selected to try his food first – they had no choice in risking their lives.

The most appealing aspect of The Women At Hitler’s Table is that it’s an entirely different perspective of the war. Not only does it tell the tale of unsung heroes, it ties in with the current revelation of remembering the women who fought during the war – as this novel shows, in more ways than one. It’s certainly interesting when the protagonist states, ‘Women didn’t die as heroes.’ I feel that this represents Wolk’s opinion of herself and other food tasters, as perceived by Postorino, as the reason Wolk never shared her story until recently is that she felt ashamed and guilty of what she had done. She never even told her husband. Wolk could have possibly felt then that the group of women risking their lives to protect the Fürhrer – or, more realistically, to survive – were not heroes due to the nature of their task.

What I love most about this book was that none of the characters were likeable for me. There was so much conflict surrounding each person, particularly the protagonist Rosa, as she became involved with Ziegler, an SS Officer, while her husband was missing. While this was a blatant act of betrayal in more ways than one, it’s not hard to tell throughout the novel that Rosa is incredibly lonely. Her parents are dead, her husband Gregor is missing, and any friends she has are seemingly absent from the book, aside from her fellow food tasters. She moved to the country from Berlin, an entirely different setting, making her feel more lost than before.

This applied to the other food tasters as well, as they came from different backgrounds and have different opinions, creating conflict amongst the group – the most prominent example being that not all the women were on Hitler’s side. Of course, one can’t agree with every opinion, meaning that I was continually switching sides as they continued to argue over different things. Yet at the same time, a sisterhood was formed as they support each other through their worst times.

The way relationships are handled throughout the novel was interesting. Almost all relationships were strained, not completely relaxed. I think the most prominent example of this was Rosa’s affair with Ziegler, where it’s plain to see that there was little emotion between them. They’re both lonely and stressed, and that’s as far as it goes. Of course, any relationship with an SS officer is going to be complicated, as evidenced by Jewish Elfriede’s deportation despite Rosa begging him to halt it. He threatens her with a gun, strangles her, they’re both married and have gone through unimaginable experiences.

To start off with, I sympathized with Rosa through and through. But her character changed drastically throughout the course of the novel – understandable but still it didn’t do her any favours. I struggled to connect with her multiple times and strongly disagreed with many of her opinions. For example, when Leni was raped, Rosa was mad at Elfriede for informing the Ziegler and making a big deal out of it, causing more trouble. I suppose at this point in the novel she was very out of tune with herself, but I still think that’s no excuse for a decision like that.

Her changing character is further evidenced when she states: ‘The ability to adapt is the greatest resource of human beings, but the more I adapted, the less I felt human.’ These words strongly indicate how degraded she feels as she continues her work as a food taster. Without feeling ‘human,’ she felt a lack of emotion, hence her growing coldness and distance, such as her anger towards Elfriede for informing officers of Leni’s rape.

After a bad batch of honey causes a scare and Rosa collapses, the officers shut the women in a room for hours, sick staining their clothing and unable to leave for the toilet, resulting in them peeing in buckets. These degrading techniques would be enough to drive someone insane, especially when they’re let out the next morning and ordered to carrying on tasting straight away without cleaning themselves up. It’s a degrading treatment of the women that shows they are nothing but workers, not people.

But it’s a job that allows her to eat properly while the public starve.

Rosa’s growing ignorance does lead to interesting considerations that readers are left pondering. At one point, as she continued to put her head in the sand, she says:

‘I could have known about the mass graves, about the Jews who lay prone, huddled together, waiting for the shot to the back of the head, could have known about the earth shoveled onto their backs, and the wood ash and calcium hypochlorite so they wouldn’t stink, about the new layer of Jews who would lie down on the corpses and offer the backs of their heads in turn. I could have known about the children picked up by the hair and shot, about the kilometer-long lines of Jews or Russians—They’re Asian, they’re not like us–ready to fall into the graves or climb onto trucks to be gassed with carbon monoxide. I could have learned about it before the end of the war. I could have asked. I but I was afraid and couldn’t speak and didn’t want to know.’

The final sentence suggests Rosa’s reluctance to care about what’s happening around her, which can relate to the strict regime Germans were living under, her depression, or a combination of both. She is likely using the former as an excuse. There is also the indication that she is unlikely to care whether she lives or dies, seeing as she certainly doesn’t care about any of the prisoners. 

Furthermore, the sentence ‘They’re Asian, they’re not like us’ shows her using the beliefs of the dictatorship as an alibi – they’re different from the Germans, so the regime has no excuse but to eliminate them. This attitude frustrated me continually throughout. 

The issue with critiquing a book like this is that it’s hard to admit when you’re disappointed with the plot, which sadly I was. I felt like there were many loose ends left untied, like what happened to Ziegler. But of course, this is not through the fault of the author – Wölk didn’t know what happened to her real-life ‘colleagues,’ so Postorino didn’t, so it makes sense that Rosa didn’t either. However, it still left me with an unfinished conclusion.   

Overall, I enjoyed this book, as it blended well-researched history with fiction smoothly, I was able to engage with it, following Rosa’s every step. But it’s not my favourite book. While I liked that most of the characters were disagreeable – it shows that the writer has captivated you enough to feel so strongly – Rosa’s ignorance of these events seriously bothered me.

Saying that, it can be said that this possibly reflects the attitude of many citizens who lived through the war, as those believing in Hitler and the regime who knew about the camps likely turned a blind eye (not all of course.) Just a theory, but it’s an interesting thought.

review: The Familiars

SPOILERS AHEAD

If you’re following me on Insta, you probably know by now that I’m writing a novel. What I am yet to mention (I think?) is that it’s set on the witch trials. So when I first heard of The Familiars by Stacey Hall, I knew I had to get it.

A few months later, after being distracted by Christmas book stack, it’s now sitting closed on my bookshelf after spending a few days travelling everywhere with me. I couldn’t put it down.

The plot, characters and basically every aspect of this novel has been thoroughly researched (bar a few fictional embroideries), but none of that bogged down the story. Something happened in every chapter, the pacing was perfect, and I fell in love with two main characters, Fleetwood and Alice.

Fleetwood was my favourite character. I loved how determined she was, and that she was outspoken and didn’t hesitate to speak unless she needed to. There were many scenes throughout the book that occurred around the dining table – where Fleetwood would hear most of the news concerning the Pendle witches – and she always asked lots of questions and dug for information, even though this would not have been within her wifely role.

Even though I liked the character of Alice, I personally felt that there wasn’t much revealed about her. By the end of the novel, we know about her home and family, her previous job, little info on her mother, and the fact she can’t read, but nothing about her personality itself. She serves as a shadow throughout the book, popping in and out fairly quickly for such an important character.

Although, saying that, the scene where Fleetwood teaches Alice to write her name was one of my favourites. It was so well thought out, like how Alice questioned why Fleetwood’s name is longer even though it has the same amount of syllables as her own. ‘She smiled and took it from me’ was one of the few times that I could remember where Alice smiled in this book, so it was nice to see her doing something for herself, not being a midwife or working to provide for her drunken father. A moment of pure happiness.

It was also nice to see Fleetwood fulfilling the motherly role that she desperately wants. At this point, we’re unsure if she will survive the birth of her child, so this scene at least provided her with a small chance to have an impact on someone’s life.

One thing that I was disappointed about was that we didn’t get to see the trial of the Pendle witches. While witches are mentioned over and over, and we see the Devizes child who is alluded to be one, as is Alice, we don’t really witness any hangings or anything. We see the prison in which they are kept – which Hall described amazingly well, I remember feeling a chill when reading that section – but I would have liked to see the trial itself, especially as it’s such a significant historical event. Fleetwood was unconscious during childbirth so missed it, but Richard travelled there to rescue Alice for her, maybe we could have switched to his POV for a chapter and witnessed this ourselves?

This is only a small criticism though, as I still loved the novel and would definitely pick it up again. Books based on the witch trials are my favourites, so if there are any you recommend, please let me know!

Mary Queen of Scots

SPOILERS AHEAD

I was looking forward to seeing this film, as I have a fascination with the Tudors as well as the rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth !. I find it incredible that during a time when women were oppressed and degraded, two Queens were ruling two great countries at the same time.

While there were some issues that I had with the film, I still enjoyed it and would be happy to watch it again. The acting from both Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie was incredible; I couldn’t imagine two actresses who would play these challenging roles any better.

I had no idea that David Tennant was in this movie, playing John Knox. It was his accent that made me recognise him, not his appearance, as he was wearing a long beard and wig and dark robes throughout the whole film. I know Tennant as Doctor Who and the angry officer in Broadchurch, so this for me was entirely different from his prominent roles. However, I loved his portrayal of Knox, he was aggressive and emotive, thus making it easy to see why the real, charismatic Knox had obtained so many followers.

I love how the way that this film presents these two formidable Queens as merely two women trying to do what is right. This portrayal was more dignified than say, Reign, the American TV show that portrays Mary’s life in a more sensual way (which is still really good though!).

It’s strange to think that, if these two characters were not queens who were pitted together by royals, they would have probably worked together and become great allies, as hinted by Mary naming Elizabeth, her son’s godmother. James went on to be the first King of both England and Scotland, a historic moment and an indication of what could have been, had these two women were not rivals.

Furthermore, this can also be suggested by one, and possibly the most prominent, scene of the whole movie. Most of the rivalry takes place via the course of letters, where each queen has to wait weeks before receiving the next letter. Naturally, this created a challenge for the filmmakers, as a verbal fight is harder when conveying a sense of competition, so they invented a scene near the end of the film in which Mary and Elizabeth meet face to face. The issue with this scene is, while I get what the filmmakers were trying to do, the two queens never met face to face. Knowing this fact kind of ruined this part of the movie for me, as I had heard that it was overall quite historically accurate, but because of this scene, I started to doubt the whole thing together. I also highly doubt that Mary had her ladies rip apart her black dress to reveal a bright red one at her beheading.

Overall, I loved the film, aside from that one meeting scene at the end. There was a lot in terms of plot to squeeze in; you can’t blame the crew for making this film two hours long. However, they managed to tell Mary’s story in a way that had me crying for her, and admiring her even more (and Elizabeth too, of course.)

My favourite books of 2018

Today I’m going to post my favourite books of 2018. Not all of these were necessarily published this year, although there are quite a few on this list that were. This list is in no particular order; I feel that choosing my number one book of 2018 would be an impossible task. Every time I think I know the answer, I suddenly discover a new book that I love just as much!

The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell

“Death, once conceived, was rapacious. It took all with it .”

If you follow me on Insta, I’m sure you’re sick of me talking about this book by now. So I’ll make it short. If you like historical fiction, gothic horror, or are simply looking for a book that you can’t put down, then this is the one for you. It’s set in an old mansion filled with dark secrets, the main character is forced into a lonely and horrific situation and any person that lives in that house is far from safe.

The Corset – Laura Purcell

“But then I have noted that murderous thoughts seldom trouble the pretty and the fashionable.” 

Again, once I have raved about far too many times. But the second novel by Purcell is just as dark and terrifying. This one starts with a young woman, Ruth Butterham, who has been accused of murder. This Victorian gothic tale explores her life leading up to this point, uncovering a sad and dark past, while the second narrator, Dorothea is determined to help her as much as she can.

You can read my review of these two books here.

The Eve of Man – Tom and Giovanna Fletcher

“Against all odds, she survived. The first girl born in fifty years. They called her Eve…”

I love the world that the Fletcher’s created in this book, as well as the characters. The second book is currently being written, and after the ending in the first, it better come soon. It’s a book that I wouldn’t usually pick up, but once I started reading, I could see why so many people were raving about it. It’s the story of the first girl to be born on Earth in fifty years, and it’s one you definitely want to read.

This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay

“So I told them the truth: the hours are terrible, the pay is terrible, the conditions are terrible; you’re underappreciated, unsupported, disrespected and frequently physically endangered. But there’s no better job in the world.” 

We are incredibly lucky to have the NHS. Adam Kay kept a diary when he worked as a junior doctor, and now he’s published it so we can all experience his ups and downs. From unbelievable patients and funny remarks, this book provides an insight into the work of a doctor, in a witty and sarcastic way.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

I’m not one for books about motivation, sorting out your life, etc. because frankly I find them quite dull. I just can’t get into them, I don’t find them interesting or motivating, and I just end up putting them aside. But Big Magic is a different kind of motivational book. It is aimed at creatives, helping you work towards your goals and whatever it is that you are passionate about. Gilbert explores the concept of ‘inspiration’, and gives us insight into her creative process. If you are struggling to make a start with your creative endeavors, this book will provide you with the kick that you need.

Helter Skelter – Vincent Bugliosi

“I may have implied on several occasions to several different people that I may have been Jesus Christ, but I haven’t decided yet what I am or who I am.” 

I read this book as for university, and it is one that has stayed with me. It’s an account of the case and trial of Charles Manson, as told by the persecutor, Vincent Bugliosi. While it did take me a while to get into it, I still learnt so much about Manson, and it was interesting to see the amount of work that went into the case by the police.

All That She Can See – Carrie Fletcher

“To the voices in our heads that tell us we aren’t good enough: do be quiet.” 

My friend recommended this book to me and I’m so happy she did. It’s such a sweet book, where the protagonist has her own little bakery (you will get very hungry when reading this!) and just wants to make people feel better with her sweet treats – and her ability to see emotions. But of course, nothing ever goes to plan, and she runs into some trouble along the way.

The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

“While I was repairing a broken shelf in the crime section, I overheard an elderly customer confusing E. L. James and M. R. James while discussing horror fiction with her friend. She is either going to be pleasantly surprised or deeply shocked when she gets home with the copy of Fifty Shades of Grey she bought.”

I have this thing for books that are set in bookshops and libraries, so of course I bought this one as soon as I saw it. Shaun Bythell is blunt and sarcastic, and is filled with details about the book-buying process, the customers that he encounters and his not-so-reliable staff. It sounds like he wants to put people off running a bookstore, but strangely, it made me want to own one even more?

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

“How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home?” 

This book is so cleverly written, it just had to be featured in this list. Full of traditional crime-noir motifs, complex characters and inner battles between the protagonist and the bodies he inhabits, it’s a read that you will not want to put down. It’s long, over 500 pages, but that’s because there are so many events and little details that all add up to the novel’s conclusion, nothing could be missed out. I did struggle to get into it first, but after the first few hosts, the situation is explained and the rest of the book is clear.

Read my review for this book here.

Review: Coram Boy

SPOILERS AHEAD

Winner of the 2001 Whitbread Award, Coram Boy relates the intertwining stories of Meshak Gardiner and Alexander Ashbrook, two young men of different abilities and backgrounds who nonetheless find their fate inextricably linked. Meshak, the mentally handicapped son of Otis Gardiner, helps his father dispose of unwanted children; generally infants whose mothers think that Mr. Gardiner will transport them to Coram Hospital, a newly-created facility to care for abandoned children. Able to convince the distraught mothers that their newborns will be well-cared for in exchange for a small fee, Mr. Gardiner later hands the infants over to Meshak, who then buries the children in the woods. Years of burying infants and selling older ones into slavery have made Mr. Gardiner rich, but one day he is accused of blackmailing the wealthy mothers of these children. Everyone believes that he was hanged for his crimes and that his son, Meshak, quietly slipped away. Not until years later do people realize what happened to the Gardiners and all of the abandoned children.

***

Historical fiction is my favourite genre. I’ve always been fascinated with history, and so reading stories that allow me to live the lives based upon past events excites me so much. I’m currently writing a historical fiction novel myself, and for the setting, I’ve been inspired by the Forest of Dean, my home, and its surrounding areas. Coram Boy takes place in Gloucester as well as London, so it was nice to read a book of this genre that’s set in the same county as mine. I could see how Jamila Gavin captured two 18th century cities, both of which were clearly researched in meticulous detail, in their dirtiest light, exploring the lives of the lower classes instead of just focusing on the more privileged.

One of the things that stood out for me was the character of Meshak. He is described as a ‘simpleton’ and is treated poorly throughout the novel, particularly by his father. He has a strong moral compass, even though there are times when it becomes a bit warped (trying to keep Aaron from his parents to protect his ‘angel’s’ son, for example). He is plagued by the voices of the children that he buries, feeling guilty over the fact that he didn’t save them. Gavin capture this with chilling sentences like ‘He feels the need to be dead.’ For a boy as young as Meshak to think something like this is just heartbreaking.

While the story is told through an omniscient narrator, the majority of the events are experienced through the children’s perspective, which, in a way, makes some of the horrific events seem worse. When Meshak sees black slaves, for example. ‘It was human, wasn’t it? He licked his finger and smoothed it over the baby’s skin to see if the black would come off.’ The way that this baby is alienated because of his skin colour is shocking, and the way that Meshak innocently rubs him with his finger to see if the colour would come off shows the severity of the racism during this period.

Racism is also explored through Toby, a black orphan and Aaron’s best friend. Toby’s treatment at Mr. Gaddarn’s party is exceptionally saddening, as ‘the ladies adored him, and loved to bounce him on their knees, feed him sweets, and push their fingers under his turban to feel his extraordinarily crinkly hair.’ I never knew that black children were hired to be poked and prodded simply for entertainment during this time period, and, to say the least, it was appalling.

The characters of Alex and Thomas are two of my favourites in this novel. They both come from different worlds and yet are united through their love of music. I felt so sorry for Alex, as his father forbids him to follow his passion. I have to say though; there were times when I forgot Alex’s age and thought him as older, so the times when I was reminded of his age completely changed my image of him.

I also felt this way with Melissa, who, at the start of the book, is fourteen years old. She acts her age at the beginning, from joining in with her sibling’s games and experiencing her first period, but then also sleeps with Alex and gets pregnant. I could not imagine characters as naive as these having sex. Also, the fact that Melissa was able to conceal her entire pregnancy and birth is hard to believe tbh. There were moments when her youth was highlighted, such as when she thought she could raise her child at home without her parents noticing, not realising how noisy a baby could be, her focus on knitting cute little clothes for it. Not to mention her reaction to her growing ‘roundness’ and her disbelief when her maid informed her of her pregnancy. If anything, moments like this made it so much harder for me to believe this subplot.

I enjoyed Coram Boy, mainly because of the amount of history intertwined in this novel. Gavin covers a range of diverse perspectives when it comes to 18th century London, allowing the reader to explore this world in so many different ways. It’s a dark book that features some appalling attitudes amongst the characters, and Gavin conveys their beliefs in such a gripping way that you can’t help but feel shocked at some of the events. Aside from the issues regarding ages, I think this novel is beautifully written and an incredible read for both adults and children.