A Grief Observed – C S Lewis


Written with love, humility, and faith, this brief but poignant volume was first published in 1961 and concerns the death of C. S. Lewis’s wife, the American-born poet Joy Davidman. In her introduction to this new edition, Madeleine L’Engle writes: “I am grateful to Lewis for having the courage to yell, to doubt, to kick at God in angry violence. This is a part of a healthy grief which is not often encouraged. It is helpful indeed that C. S. Lewis, who has been such a successful apologist for Christianity, should have the courage to admit doubt about what he has so superbly proclaimed. It gives us permission to admit our own doubts, our own angers and anguishes, and to know that they are part of the soul’s growth.”

Written in longhand in notebooks that Lewis found in his home, A Grief Observed probes the “mad midnight moments” of Lewis’s mourning and loss, moments in which he questioned what he had previously believed about life and death, marriage, and even God. Indecision and self-pity assailed Lewis. “We are under the harrow and can’t escape,” he writes. “I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the drinks, the arguments, the lovemaking, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace.” Writing A Grief Observed as “a defense against total collapse, a safety valve,” he came to recognize that “bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love.”

Lewis writes his statement of faith with precision, humor, and grace. Yet neither is Lewis reluctant to confess his continuing doubts and his awareness of his own human frailty. This is precisely the quality which suggests that A Grief Observed may become “among the great devotional books of our age.” 

My Review

This is not a book I would have picked up prior to losing my mum and father-in-law over a year ago. I have read C.S Lewis’ Narnia series, however, would not have expected to read this one. ‘A Grief Observed’ follows C.S. Lewis’ heartbreak and the process of grief. It is intelligently written and the way in which he words his experiences felt like a blanket; a blanket that I could snuggle up under and feel comfort in knowing I am not alone. His experiences of grief and questions are what I have asked. He is a man of faith and although he asks questions as to why, he does not question God’s presence.

In my grief, I found God…. or God helped me to find him! My heartbreak and sorrow, along with my family and friends’ heartbreak and sorrow was overwhelming and suffocating. The feelings that C.S Lewis journals about are real and I can unfortunately relate to them. C.S Lewis states that grief ‘feels like fear’. He comments that grief ‘feels like an invisible blanket, between the world and me.’ This small book is a powerful read that is not what I expected. It is honest and is a journal of his feelings at the loss of his wife. An intelligent and spiritual man who is dealing with loss and although we expect death, we are never prepared for it to enter our world in such a way when we lose someone close to us.

C.S. Lewis’ journal travels through his thought process and feelings, questioning God, others and life itself. He comes to a realisation, that he ‘can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears.’ He confirms the need to feel what we feel and to express it. His comment on what we miss if we grieve day and night. He discovered that ‘passionate grief does not link us with the dead, but cuts us off from them.’ He refers to the time when he has felt her presence in his happiness. ‘Tje less I mourn her the nearer I seem to her.’ I have experienced this. The times when my heart aches so much for my mum that I feel it so strongly and I have to remind myself to breathe, I don’t have those moments that make me realise my mum is closer than I realise… I have had moments that are unexplained. I have smelt her perfume at home when I was going about my day. I smelt it again when I was in church listening to a sermon that touched my heart. I have had a dream that felt so real, that I felt I was touching my mum’s hand. There are more of these moments I have not shared here…In my heart I feel that my mum is visiting from Heaven.

C.S. Lewis describes sorrow as a process. ‘It needs not a map but a history…’ ‘Grief is a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. As I’ve already noted, not every bend does… ‘

This book is one which when I read it, I highlighted what spoke to me. My hope when I picked up this book was that it would give me a quick fix to my pain. It didn’t. Instead it has given me comfort, hope and a confirmation of what I had already known. As I re-read parts of it, I realise the power of this book. It is a poetic, tragic, emotional and hopeful journey into C.S. Lewis’ heart. Faith is his answer.

My beautiful mum

The Cartographer’s Secret – Tea Cooper


1880 The Hunter Valley

Evie Ludgrove loves to map the landscape around her home – hardly surprising since she grew up in the shadow of her father’s obsession with the great Australian explorer Dr Ludwig Leichhardt. So when an advertisement appears in The Bulletin magazine offering a one thousand pound reward for proof of where Leichhardt met his fate, Evie is determined to figure it out – after all, there are clues in her father’s papers and in the archives of The Royal Geographical Society. But when Evie sets out to prove her theory she vanishes without a trace, leaving behind a mystery that taints everyone’s lives for 30 years.


When Letitia Rawlings arrives at the family estate in her Model T Ford, her purpose is to inform her Great Aunt Olivia of a bereavement. But Letitia is also escaping her own problems – her brother’s sudden death, her mother’s scheming and her own dissatisfaction with the life planned out for her. So when Letitia discovers a beautifully illustrated map that might hold a clue to the fate of her missing aunt, Evie Ludgrove, her curiosity is aroused and she sets out to discover the truth of Evie’s disappearance.

But all is not as it seems at Yellow Rock estate and as events unfold, Letitia begins to realise that solving the mystery of her family’s past could offer as much peril as redemption. 

My review

The Cartographer’s Secret is a beautiful balance between historical fact and fiction. Tea Cooper is a mastermind of Australian historical fiction.

This dual timeline novel follows the story of the Ludgrove and Maynard families. Evie Ludgrove is inspired by her father to solve the mystery of Dr Ludwig Leichhardt, the great Australian explorer. As she grows up, Evie’s father tells her past stories of his own adventures and that of Dr Leichhardt. He also encourages her to create maps reflecting Dr Leichhardt’s adventures. Evie and her father are close and share this common interest. Evie soon realises that the family is in financial difficulty and as such heads out to solve the mystery of Dr Leichhardt in order to claim the reward being offered. Evie vanishes and the family have no idea of her whereabouts…

In 1911 Letitia Rawlings sets out to meet her Great Aunt Olivia, who was looking after Evie at the time she disappeared. Letitia uncovers her Aunt Evie’s detailed maps and sets out to find out how Evie vanished. The family have experienced loss, love, heartache and tragedy. In finding out the mystery of Evie, Letitia uncovers the reasons for disconnection between her family members, in particular her mother and Aunt Olivia. From the outset of the novel, I connected with the characters. Letita is an interesting protagonist and her thoughts and feelings are shared with the reader in such a way that we can feel her pain, heartache and grief upon losing her brother.

The Hunter Valley setting is perfect. Tea Cooper’s research and knowledge of the area is translated through the pages. As a local, myself, I learnt significant historical facts and enjoyed the descriptions of the land. The atmosphere of the Australian bushland and nature described is magical. I felt like I was back home in an instant. I could feel the ‘warm sunshine’ on my back, see the ‘wildflowers’ and ‘butterflies’ and smell the fresh Australian air.

The Cartographer’s Secret was an enjoyable and intriguing read and I would highly recommend this novel. Tea Cooper had me on the edge of my seat trying to solve her mystery. If you love Australian historical fiction, Tea Cooper’s novels are a must!

Thank you Harlequin Australia for sending me a copy of The Cartographer’s Secret in exchange for my honest review.

The Family Inheritance – Tricia Stringer

A toxic will plays havoc in the lives of three generations of women when they discover they have been living a lie. A keenly observed story of the danger of secrets, the legacy of betrayal and the power of family from a bestselling Australian author.

Sometimes an ending is really a beginning …

Felicity Lewis’s fiftieth birthday party in her newly renovated home, loving husband and daughter Greta by her side, is going off with a bang when disaster strikes. Her father, Franklyn, with his usual impeccable timing, has keeled over and died.

For some members of the family, his wife Hazel for example, Franklyn’s death is not the great loss it first appears to be. But when his toxic and inexplicable will is read out, it becomes clear that long-buried secrets are about to surface, starting with the astonishing reappearance of Hazel’s long-lost sister.

Indeed, Franklyn’s death sets in motion a chain of events that will cause three generations of Gifford family women to question everything they hold dear – their relationships, their loyalties, even their identities. Until, that is, they choose to fight back against their dark inheritance …

A clever, sympathetic and thought-provoking look at how a legacy of lies can seep through the generations and poison all it touches, and how the truth can set you free.

My Review

Tricia Stringer is a master of family drama. The Family Inheritance follows the story of Felicity, her daughter, Greta and mum, Hazel. Felicity’s world is turned upside down in an instant. It begins with her father, Franklyn, passing away on her fiftieth birthday celebration. Upon his passing and when the will is read the family are left with a number of questions about their lives. They question who they are and the bonds of their family life.

Tricia Stringer’s characters are well developed and I enjoyed getting to know them. I wanted to continue reading about the lives of this family long after finishing the story. I took my time to read this beautifully crafted novel and thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

The story brings important issues to the surface that this family must examine. Here is a family who learn a about the secrets kept throughout the three generations. These secrets to uncover in turn teach each character about themselves, how to love and how to trust.

If you enjoyed the TV show Brothers and Sisters, you will love Tricia Stringer’s The Family Inheritance and The Model Wife too. Tricia Stringer expertly explores family values, dynamics and the meaning of love. This is a thought provoking and heart wrenching story. I highly recommend this novel. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you @harlequinaus
for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

The Book of Hidden Wonders – Polly Crosby

Romilly Kemp and her eccentric father have happy but sheltered lives in a ramshackle mansion in the English countryside. To help make ends meet, he creates an illustrated book with Romilly—striking girl with red hair and a mole on her cheek—as the heroine with her cat, Monty. The book becomes an instant success and their estate is overrun with tourists and adventure seekers after rumors spread that hidden within its pages is an elaborate treasure hunt.

As Romilly gets older and her father writes more books, he starts disappearing within himself. She returns to his illustrations, looking for a way to connect with her ailing father, and finds a series of clues he’s left just for her. But this treasure hunt doesn’t lead her to gold or precious stones, but something worth far more—a shocking secret that is crucial to understanding her family.

My review

The story is of Romilly Kemp, who lives with her father in a mansion in England. Polly Crosby’s writing style is interesting and although appears to follow Romilly’s life, the feeling of the narrative as a whole becomes clear as we learn more about Romilly’s father and what he is experiencing. The story is symbolic of his mind. I felt an overwhelming sadness and frustration as to the characters and their lives.

Romilly becomes the protagonist in her father’s book and it becomes a hit. Readers are convinced there are answers to buried treasure within the pages. As a result of fans of the book visiting their house, Romilly doesn’t leave the house often. Her life is simple and becomes more complex as time goes on.

The secrets hidden in the story kept me reading until the end. Although, I found it a challenging read due to the lack of events within and the overall melancholy mood of the entire novel. I appreciated the storyline, the emotional impact and how her father’s condition was portrayed.


The Henna Artist – Alka Joshi


Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

My Review

Thank you @harlequinaus @harpercollinsaustralia for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

The Henna Artist is a well crafted and powerful novel. Set in Jaipur, the magnificent pink city, it follows the story of Lakshmi and her sister, Radha.

The Henna Artist explores a side of India that I have not personally experienced; a world of status concerns in which people are treated differently due to the caste system. I love reading stories set in India and I particularly enjoyed the colourful descriptions of the place and especially the vivid descriptions of henna art. The intricate designs, how the images influence the wearer and meanings behind each are very interesting. I have since been inspired to explore these images more and am fascinated. Alka Joshi’s exploration of henna art throughout the novel is beautiful and provides insight into the emotional stories of the characters too.

Lakshmi is a strong female character who moves away from a violent husband to start her own life. She works as a henna artist for some of Jaipur’s most wealthy women. As she works, she is saving for her own home. The characters are well developed and their stories are intriguing. The Henna Artist questions what is truly important in life and deals with sensitive topics, including the lack of support of single unwed mothers in society and the expectations of women in India.

I enjoyed The Henna Artist and found it a very emotional read. The relationship between Radha and Lakshmi is tumultuous and realistic. The Henna Artist is a novel that will pull at the heart strings. Alka Joshi has written a compelling novel. I took my time to enjoy it, appreciating every page.

Sensible Shoes: A Story About the Spiritual Journey – Sharon Garlough Brown


Sharon Garlough Brown tells the moving story of four strangers as they embark together on a journey of spiritual formation: Hannah, a pastor who doesn’t realize how exhausted she is. Meg, a widow and recent empty-nester who is haunted by her past. Mara, a woman who has experienced a lifetime of rejection and is now trying to navigate a difficult marriage. Charissa, a hard-working graduate student who wants to get things right. You?re invited to join these four women as they reluctantly arrive at a retreat center and find themselves drawn out of their separate stories of isolation and struggle and into a collective journey of spiritual practice, mutual support and personal revelation. Along the way, readers will be taken into a new understanding of key spiritual practices and find tangible support for the deeper life with God. If you want to travel this journey with others, you will find a group study guide and book club resources at http://www.sensibleshoesclub.com.

My review

Sensible Shoes is a beautiful fiction/spiritual exploration. The novel centres around four women from different backgrounds, with their own stories. Hannah is pastor who needs a break, Charissa is a perfectionist completing a university degree, Mara is a woman who struggles with self worth and Meg has experienced loss and pain that has followed her throughout her life. Each woman decides to attend a Christian Retreat centre and learns a lot about God, the Word and themselves. This is not simply a fiction novel and I can understand why study guides and bookclubs have been created for this book. The author, Sharon is a spiritual director and it appears she has used her knowledge, experience and love for the Lord to write this book. Each character, each situation, each reference to the Bible is a teaching and I found that at times I had questions and suffering that related to one or more characters. Each time the characters visit the retreat centre there are activities and reflections they complete. The comments and questions are an excellent source for the reader too. I used the meditations and questions for my own personal journey too. This is a beautifully written novel aout four women whose lives intertwine. It is also a very important spiritual book. I read it slowly and enjoyed the teachings. This is a novel to be savoured, not sped through. What an insightful novel. What a beautiful way to further connect readers to God and the scriptures. I can’t wait to read the next novel in the series.

Women of the Word – Jen Wilkin


Many Christian women find great encouragement and joy in and through women’s Bible studies. However, popular Bible teacher Jen Wilkin is concerned that sometimes we let our emotions rule our study of Scripture and forget that the Bible is primarily about God, not us. Challenging hungry women to go deeper in their study of Scripture, this book will help you refocus your efforts on feeding your mind first and foremost. Whether you’re young or old, married or single, this accessible volume will energize and equip you for Bible study aimed at transforming both the heart and mind

My Review

Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin was a perfect read for me. Here I am, new to Christianity, enjoying reading the Bible, going to Church and feeling closer to God. This book has taught me a lot and will keep teaching me more, as I continue to refer to it, as I learn Bible Literacy.

Jen Wilkin’s book can be read in conjunction with her short YouTube videos and I am finding this very helpful. It is helpful in my personal studies and will no doubt help me in my Bible study group sessions. Jen Wilkin’s book teaches how to read the Bible with meaning. Rather than reading with simply ourselves in mind, we first learn to know who God is, love him for who he is, understand the text and it’s historical context before we consider how the text can help us in our daily lives. Jen’s approach is not easy, but I can see that it is thorough and I have learnt a lot. There is a process to follow and that suits me. It also suits my study and writing habits.

I particularly found the reflection pages helpful in confirming my understanding, along with Jen’s stories of her life. The pages on prayer are also extremely helpful. I have learnt to pray before each and every study/reading.

In terms of my own Bible Literacy, this is a perfect place to gain an understanding of how to approach the Bible. ‘Mind before heart. God before self.’ I have now started to study James and will take my time. Jen doesn’t suggest a fast paced approach, rather one of greater understanding which will lead to reflection.

I was hesitant to read this book at first, as I have very little knowledge of the Bible… I need not have worried.  I would highly recommend this book for anyone new to Christianity and anyone who has been reading the Bible for their whole lives. Thank you Jen for the wisdom and love you have poured into your book.

Stars Over the Southern Ocean


With her home and freedom on the line, will her family force her to leave it all behind?

1937 – Seventeen year old Marina Fairbrother has lived in the small logging town of Mole Creek, Tasmania, her whole life. When she meets Jory Trevelyan, she is intrigued by the young man with the strange name and his tales of the west coast. Stories of wild winds and a tumultuous sea leave her hungering for a freedom she hadn’t realised she lacked.

1993 – After a terminal diagnosis, Marina knows there is only one place she wants to spend her remaining days. The remote coastal property of Noamunga has been her home for the past fifty years. Her memories are imprinted on the walls of the house and the rocks of the cliffs. Here she raised their three children, loved deeply, survived a war, worked hard, grieved deeply and lived a good life.

But there are forces that threaten to pull her away from her beloved home. Daughters whose well-intentioned concerns hide selfish ambition, a son who puts his future in the hands of the wrong people, and an oil company intent on striking oil just off the coast of her land.

My review

Thank you Harper Collins Australia for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This is a beautifully emotional story of family, love, fear, hope and contentment.

J H Fletcher writes this dual timeline novel whilst sharing the story of Marina and her children. Although there are different settings and perspectives, the novel is so well written that it flows easily. From the atmospheric coastal property of Noamunga to the colourful and spectacular buildings of India to the hustle and bustle of Thailand. I loved that the author had the reader in a variety of settings that spoke to the senses. I could smell the spices in India and the fresh air of Noamunga. The main story revolves around Marina, who at 17 years old meets Jory Trevelyan. Marina moves from Mole Creek, Tasmania to the remote Noamunga to share her life with him.

As this story is told we are also taken to 1993, as Marina is diagnosed with a terminal illness and her adult children selfishly consider their inheritance above all else…

J H Fletcher writes in such a way that I connected with each place in an instant. This is the first time I have read a J H Fletcher novel. This will not be my last. Stars Over the Southern Ocean is real, raw and kept me intrigued the entire time.

The Goldminer’s Sister – Alison Stuart

Gold is a fever. Will it lead her to love … or death? A suspenseful romance set on the turbulent goldfields of 1870s Australia, for readers of The Postmistress and The Woman in the Green Dress.

‘There are people in this town with the gleam of gold in their eyes and cold steel in their hearts.’

1873. Eliza Penrose arrives in the gold mining town of Maiden’s Creek in search of her brother, planning to make a new life for herself. Instead she finds a tragic mystery – and hints of betrayals by those closest to her.

Mining engineer Alec McLeod left Scotland to escape the memory of his dead wife and child. Despite the best efforts of the eligible ladies of Maiden’s Creek, Alec is determined never to give his heart again.

As lies and deceit threaten Eliza’s life, Alec steps in – although he has problems of his own, as he risks his livelihood and those he holds dear to oppose the dangerous work practices at the Maiden’s Creek Mine.

When disaster draws the pieces of the puzzle together, Eliza and Alec must save each other – but is it too late?

My review

Thank you Harper Collins for sending me a copy of The Goldminer’s Sister, Alison Stuart in exchange for my honest review. 

The Goldminer’s Sister is a story of tragedy, grief, lies, loss and love. Eliza arrives in the town of Maiden’s Creek expecting to meet her brother. Instead she is met with the tragic news of his death. Eliza is a smart woman who has been dealt with too much loss  in her life. She is welcomed into her Uncle’s home and he attempts to find her a position as a teacher  in London. His rush to send her away, has Eliza asking questions, in particular, surrounding her brother’s estate and death. Eliza ends up finding a position in the local school. Her attempt to be self sufficient in life is admirable, especially considering the time. She is a wonderful teacher who cares for the children she teaches and is a true advocate for ‘education for all’.

Eliza stays in the town to feel closer to Will and to investigate further into what happened to him. Will had always wanted to look after his sister financially. For Will to leave the mine and almost everything to his Uncle seems unlikely. Eliza starts to question whether or not her brother’s death was an accident or whether he was in fact murdered. There are some nasty folk in this town!

The townspeople are interesting. Eliza meets Alec upon her arrival and their meeting is anything other than favourable. In time, Alec and Eliza try to help each other. I love Alison Stuart’s development of both Alec and Eliza. Alec’s backstory is very sad and yet he is a very likable character. Together they find their way. Eliza’s personality, as a strong and independent woman makes her a perfect protagonist.

What I particularly loved about this historical fiction was that the history and mining industry were a huge part of the story, yet were dealt with in terms that I could understand and easily feel a part of. The suspense and mystery had me hooked and I didn’t want to put the book down. The romance was an added bonus, but if you want to read a good mystery, I highly recommend this story. The Goldminer’s Sister is a gripping tale that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is a fantastic Australian historical mystery novel and I look forward to Alison Stuart’s next novel.

Normal People – Sally Rooney


At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers – one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

My review

Normal People is an interesting novel about the inner workings and relationship between Connell and Marianne.

Marianne, the unpopular girl at school who is bullied and sits by herself starts to talk to Connell, a popular boy at school. Connell’s mum cleans Marianne’s home once a week and the two start to talk. They are drawn to one another and their lives move in certain directions due to the influence they have upon oneanother. Marianne has low self esteem and her thoughts about herself are what we would hope is not the ‘norm’, yet we know that unfortunately teenagers and adults for that matter lack self confidence. This is however on a different level due to the abuse she has experienced. Connell goes through his own mental health issues and the two go through life with issues they learn to overcome. There are important issues raised in the novel and Sally Rooney raises them in such a way that we see varied perspectives on each issue.

It is questionable whether or not it is good for Connell and Marianne to overcome their issues together and whether they will continue to reconnect in each stage of their lives.

I was immediately drawn in by Sally Rooney’s writing. It is addictive.. I didn’t want to put it down. There is a lack of  punctuation and although this would usually annoy me it was the opposite here. I felt that it made for a quick read. Althought descriptive it is also straight to the point. The psychological impact upon the reader would differ. This is not just a romance, rather it looks at psychology and the inner workings of two minds that connect. I loved the book at the beginning, started to get a little frustrated and by the end was completely frustrated… I understand the ending, appreciate it, but I didn’t like it… I had hoped for further development in the characters’ mindset.

Overall, I am left wondering whether this book actually deserves the fifth star… here I am sitting down contemplating the novel and still thinking about it hours after finishing it. I also remember how annoyed the end of the book made me feel… to the point where I felt the story or characters weren’t progressing at the rate they did in the beginning. Normal People is a gripping story due to it’s psychological insight into the characters. It was worth the read and I would recommend it!