Author: Isabel Wolff

Book Review – Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel Wolff

Posted February 20, 2015 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 / 2 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel WolffShadows Over Paradise on February 10th 2015
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


A childhood mistake. A lifetime of regrets.

Jenni is a 'ghost': she writes the lives of other people. It's a job that suits her well: still haunted by a childhood tragedy, she finds it easier to take refuge in the memories of others rather than dwell on her own.

Jenni has an exciting new commission, and is delighted to start working on the memoirs of a Dutchwoman, Klara. As a child in the Second World War, Klara was interned in a camp on Java during the Japanese occupation – she has an extraordinary story of survival to tell.

But as Jenni and Klara begin to get to know each other, Jenni begins to do much more than shed light on a neglected part of history. She is being forced to examine her own devastating memories, too. But with Klara's help, perhaps this is finally the moment where she will be able to lay the ghosts of her own past to rest?

Gripping, poignant and beautifully researched, Ghostwritten is a story of survival and love, of memory and hope.

‘This was Polvarth, a place I’d vowed never to return to, yet which I saw, in my mind, every day.
It was my idea.
I closed my eyes as the memories rushed back.
We did it all by ourselves.’

Jenni Clark is a ghostwriter that takes the ghosts of a person’s past and molds them into a story. Her most recent commission is Klara, a woman that survived after being confined as a child in a camp in the midst of World War II. Klara currently resides in a town called Polvarth, a town that Jenni spent time there and where the ghosts of her own past currently reside. The opportunity presented to her in this job though is enough to make her willing to finally face those ghosts after all these years.

Jenni has run into trouble in her relationship with Rick; he wants to have children and she does not. The two agree that maybe this trip to Polvarth will give each of them a chance to reflect on their lives together and hopefully help them to work things out. The issue behind her refusal to have children stems from a childhood incident that she’s never told him or anyone for that matter. The tragedy is one she blames herself for and it isn’t until Klara shares her own story does she realize how similar the two are, and how both women need to find it in their hearts to finally forgive themselves in order to truly move on. Jenni’s story may have been mostly a side-story but it was still a vital piece of the whole story that was interwoven and resolved beautifully.

Stories about World War II, especially when they are centered around a concentration camp, are some of the hardest stories for me to read yet I’m completely incapable of passing one up. They are typically all stories about general devastation but Klara’s story adds a piece of history to WWII that I didn’t previously know much about concerning the Japanese invasion of the Dutch colony of Java where Klara grew up. The natives of the island were left in peace but any and all European residents of the island were forced into concentration camps. Her story details being separated from family, the incessant degradation, the backbreaking work, the hunger, the sickness, and inevitably the death. They were constantly forced to travel on foot to new camps which were generally worse than the camp they left behind. Even after the war was finally over and they were no longer being held against their will in the camps, they were forced to stay when the natives wished to cause them harm for what happened to their country at the hands of the Japanese. It was of course incredibly painful to read but Shadows Over Paradise did a brilliant job at bringing this unforgettable time in history to life.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys {Purchase}
A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff {Purchase}
Night by Elie Wiesel {Purchase}

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Waiting on Wednesday – Shadows Over Paradise: A Novel by Isabel Wolff

Posted September 10, 2014 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 1 Comment

Waiting on Wednesday – Shadows Over Paradise: A Novel by Isabel WolffShadows Over Paradise: A Novel on February 10th 2015
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

For readers of Kate Morton and Jamie Ford comes a captivating novel of two very different women, struggling to come to terms with the ghosts from their past—by the internationally bestselling author of A Vintage Affair and The Very Picture of You
Sometimes the only way forward is through the past.
Jenni Clark is a ghostwriter. She loves to immerse herself in other people’s stories—a respite from her own life, and from a relationship that appears to be nearing its end. Jenni’s latest assignment takes her to a coastal hamlet in England, where she’s agreed to pen the memoir of an elderly farm owner named Klara. Jenni assumes the project will be easy: a quiet, ordinary tale of a life well lived.

But Klara’s story is far from quiet. She recounts the tale of a family torn apart by World War II, and disgraceful acts committed against a community on the Pacific island paradise of Java. As harrowing details emerge and stunning truths come to light, Jenni is compelled to confront a secret she’s spent a lifetime burying.

Weaving together the lives of two very different women, Isabel Wolff has created a captivating novel of love, loss, and hope that reaches across generations.

About Isabel Wolff

Isabel Wolff's ten bestselling novels are published worldwide. 'Ghostwritten', set in present day Cornwall and on wartime Java, was published in the UK in March 2014; 'The Very Picture of You' was published in the UK and the US in October 2011. 'A Vintage Affair', was an 'Best of 2009' title and was shortlisted by the American Library Assocation for their Reading List awards (Women's Fiction). Isabel lives in west London with her children, younger step-son and cocker spaniel puppy.

I thoroughly enjoyed both A Vintage Affair and The Very Picture of You and have been anxiously awaiting something new from this author. Shadows Over Paradise was published earlier this year in the UK under the title, Ghostwritten.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a link to your post and I’ll be sure to stop by!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine



Book Review – The Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolff

Posted December 12, 2011 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 / 1 Comment

I received this book free from a Giveaway, Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – The Very Picture of You by Isabel WolffThe Very Picture of You on October 4th 2011
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover


Where the eye sees the brushstroke, the heart sees the truth.

From Isabel Wolff, the internationally bestselling author of A Vintage Affair, comes a beguiling novel about artistic inspirations, family secrets, and the courage to turn one’s life into a masterpiece.

At thirty-five, Gabriella Graham—“Ella” to her family and friends—has already made a name for herself as a successful portrait artist in London. She can capture the essential truth in each of her subjects’ faces—a tilt of the chin, a glint in the eye—and immortalize it on canvas. This gift has earned Ella commissions from royals and regular folks alike.

But closer to home, Ella finds the truth more elusive. Her father abandoned the family when she was five, and her mother has remained silent on the subject ever since. Ella’s sister, Chloe, is engaged to Nate, an American working in London, but Ella suspects that he may not be so committed. Then, at Chloe’s behest, Ella agrees to paint Nate’s portrait.

From session to session, Ella begins to see Nate in a different light, which gives rise to conflicted feelings. In fact, through the various people she paints—an elderly client reflecting on her life, another woman dreading the prospect of turning forty, a young cyclist (from a photograph) who met a tragic end—Ella realizes that there is so much more to a person’s life than what is seen on the surface, a notion made even clearer when an unexpected email arrives from the other side of the world. And as her portraits of Nate and the others progress, they begin to reveal less about their subjects than the artist herself.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in Isabel Wolff’s vibrant and textured story, these words are brilliantly crafted to convey the humor, mystery, and beauty that exists within each of us.

‘I felt like Tantalus, neck-deep in water that he could never drink, grasping at fruit that was always just out of reach.’

Ella is an extremely successful portrait artist who has just been asked by her sister Chloe to do a portrait of her future brother-in-law, Nate, whom she despises. Early on in Nate and Chloe’s relationship, Ella overheard Nate speaking to someone and it appeared that he was not having an honest relationship with Chloe and that forever changed her opinion of him. After only their first sitting where she begins Nate’s portrait, her feelings have drastically changed towards him and Ella doesn’t know how to stop them, even if she wanted to.

Ella is also dealing with recent revelations regarding the father who left her and her mother when Ella was only five years old. Her mother always told her how he abandoned them after she caught him with another woman and that he made the decision to leave his family in order to be with her. Ella never had a reason to doubt her mother but when she discovers that may not be an accurate accounting of what actually happened she is more confused than ever.

This was a very interesting read and I enjoyed it immensely. Once the story began to unfold I had an idea of how it would all unveil; however, Isabel Wolff wrapped up all of the loose ends fabulously. I feared that it would be your ‘typical’ type of ending but I was left completely satisfied. I loved the details of Ella’s painting sessions: the particulars of the colors she uses, how she mixes them and the steps she takes to create the portrait of the person she’s painting.

‘Then came the moment when I put in the very last thing I ever add to a portrait – the light in the eyes. That’s when I feel like Pygmalion, having life breathed into his statue; because it’s that little flick of white in each pupil that finally – ping! – brings a portrait alive.’

I also enjoyed the closeness she develops with the people she paints and the stories she learns about them and how it’s woven into the story. It reminded me quite a lot of Isabel Wolff’s other novel that I’ve read, A Vintage Affair, and how the main character becomes immersed in one of her customer’s lives. (Also a fabulous read)

There were parts of this novel that I had a hard time liking at first, primarily the feelings that Ella develops for her sister’s fiancée. Strangely unfitting and not exactly understandable… her infatuation with him occurred a bit too quickly for it to be plausible in my opinion. Fortunately though, it was well written and by the end I was mollified with the outcome.

I also had difficulty liking her mother who was a major character in the story. Despite her tale of what had happened between her and Ella’s father, the fact that she withheld so much information for so long and even after she told it there still seemed to be something missing and I believed her to still be lying throughout the entire story. It’s hard to really care for a character if you feel that they are being deceitful. I loved the side-story of Grace and Mike that was the part of the story that touched me the most.

This is now the second book I’ve read by Isabel Wolff and it certainly won’t be the last.



Short and Sweet Review – A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

Posted October 24, 2011 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 / 1 Comment

Short and Sweet Review – A Vintage Affair by Isabel WolffA Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff
on June 17, 2010
Pages: 386
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Library

Also by this author: The Very Picture of You, Shadows Over Paradise


Every dress has a history. And so does every woman.

Phoebe Swift’s friends are stunned when she abruptly leaves a plum job to open her own vintage clothing shop in London—but to Phoebe, it’s the fulfillment of a dream, and her passion. Digging for finds in attics and wardrobes, Phoebe knows that when you buy a piece of vintage clothing, you’re not just buying fabric and thread—you’re buying a piece of someone’s past. But one particular article of clothing will soon unexpectedly change her life.

Thérèse Bell, an elderly Frenchwoman, has an impressive clothing collection. But among the array of elegant suits and couture gowns, Phoebe finds a child’s sky-blue coat—an item with which Mrs. Bell is stubbornly reluctant to part. As the two women become friends, Phoebe will learn the poignant tale of that little blue coat. And she will discover an astonishing connection between herself and Thérèse Bell—one that will help her heal the pain of her own past and allow her to love again.

‘There are some people who say they’re able to ‘compartmentalize’ things, as though it is possible to put negative or distressing thoughts into neat mental drawers to be taken out only at a psychologically convenient time. It’s a beguiling idea, but I’ve never bought it. In my experience, sadness and regret seek into one’s consciousness willy-nilly, or they suddenly leap out at you with a snarl. The only real remedy is time…’

This was an incredible story and not exactly what I was expecting.

The story centers around Phoebe who has just fulfilled her dream of opening her own vintage clothing shop. Her life isn’t completely happy; however, because she’s still trying to deal with the loss of her best friend. She blames her ex-boyfriend for reasons that aren’t explained till the end of the novel.

A side-story involves a French woman who contacts Phoebe to sell some of her vintage clothes. Phoebe visits her and while browsing through all of her beautiful clothes she discovers a seemingly out of place children’s blue jacket. The woman decides to share her story involving life during WWII for the first time in her life with Phoebe. The two are able to help each other by sharing their stories and being able to move on with their lives.

It was truly a beautiful story.