Thursday 11 June 2015

The Dandelion Years: Erica James

The first Erica James book I read was "Tell it to the Skies" about six years ago when I received it as a christmas present. I gobbled it up in one sitting before delving into any of her other books I could get my twitching hands on. Since working my way through her earlier books I have had to join every other reader and wait (not so) patiently for new releases. Of course I had Erica's latest offering on pre-order but due to an endless exam period and numerous essays that demanded my attention I was unable to read it until recently. It was worth the wait, as per usual I wasn't disappointed. Yet another brilliant book from Erica James!

"The Dandelion Years" focuses on two different time periods. Saskia is in her thirties but still lives at home with her father and two grandfathers since the death of her mother and grandmothers when she was younger. They have created a safe contained world for themselves and none of them want to nor feel they need to make a change. Saskia and her father, Ralph, work with books, selling and repairing them. Then enters Matthew who is in the process of sorting out his somewhat surrogate father Jacob Belinsky's house following his death. He enlists the help of Saskia and Ralph in dealing with the endless book collection he left behind. In the process they unearth a secret journal, penned "The Dandelion Years" which brings to life the tale of a man who worked for Bletchley Park during the second world war. Saskia delves into this tale of wartime love whilst dealing with changes that are occurring within her own life.

I am a sucker for historical fiction and this book offered a glimpse into Bletchley Park during the second world war. I loved that Erica gave so much time to Jacob and Kitty's story, I have experienced in the past dual narratives and often one is always compromised. In " The Dandelion Years" however there was a brilliant balance between the present day tale and its historical counterpart. Usually when a book is split between two narratives I often prefer one. On this occasion I would struggle to pick one over the other, they both offered something valuable to the overall story. I wouldn't have done without either. I liked the juxtaposition of the passionate consuming relationship between Jacob and Kitty and the incredibly "normal" relationship between Saskia and Matthew.

I warmed to Saskia very quickly, almost instantly in fact. I was able to relate to her extremely easily and I liked her quiet yet intense nature. Early on the reader learns of her family circumstance and her personality really reflected her childhood experiences. Saskia was both relatable and realistic, I couldn't have asked for much more! Equally I really liked Matthew as a character, he was far from perfect but I suppose that was why I liked him. Ralph and the two grandfathers offered a good contrast to Saskia and equally the character of Libby despite only playing a small role was a welcome addition to the book.

I really enjoyed aunt Jo and uncle Bob as characters and I wish that their presence had been stronger in the book. This is an absolutely minute criticism and of course there were so many other brilliant characters so it wasn't so much that I felt there was something missing but rather I was given a glimpse of their personalities and I just wanted more! I felt that Jo in particular was a brilliant contrast to Saskia and Ralph.

The story was heartbreaking and uplifting in equal parts. A book that makes me cry is a good book indeed and this had me in tears on a number of occasions.

So, would I recommend it? Yes of course I would, Erica James has yet to let me down and this was another brilliant book!


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