Thank you to Anne Williams for her – poli kala (very good) – review of JIGSAW ISLAND

Anne has crowned the last day of the Random Things blog tour… HERE
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, thought-provoking, engaging
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 August 2020

From the moment I began to read, I remembered how much I’d previously enjoyed Lynne McVernon’s writing, when I first discovered Clair and her diva daughter Jess. This is a sequel of sorts, and an opportunity to meet again some of those distinctive characters – but entirely self-contained, and 100% readable as a standalone. This is Annie Buchanan’s story – and what a story it is.

This book drew me in from the very first page, and kept me in its grip throughout the first part as we discover Annie’s life now, and her rather special relationship with son Jude. Her first person stream of consciousness takes us back in time to her teenage discovery that she was adopted, her flight to London from her Scottish home, and the experiences that shaped her. It’s quite a story, a naive and unworldly young girl who struggles to survive, confusing kindness with other things rather less savoury, suffers some quite appalling experiences – and returns home, her life entirely changed by her adventure. The writing is quite excellent, both in allowing us to see everything through Annie’s eyes, and through the extraordinarily vivid depiction of the realities of life on the streets.

And then, another flight – a real one this time to the island of Symi, with her son Jude, home to her brother Fraser (and Clair and Jess). The island paradise is perfectly evoked – its beauty, its blue skies and sunshine, the warmth of its characters – but the influx of both tourists and refugees has deeply changed the dynamic of the islands. The damage wrought by Annie’s experience is mirrored by the stories of those fleeing for their lives, the real kindness of those who offer their support – with glimpses of the way in which such experiences can shape the future. I was shamefully unaware of the situation affecting the islands and its people – the way the story unfolds in its second part certainly opened my eyes to that, as Annie travels on to Leros and shares significant parts of both its past and present.

And then, in the book’s final third, the whole story takes an entirely unexpected turn and verges on a psychological thriller – although the clues were there throughout had I chosen to pick up on them. Tension, pursuit, putting all the pieces together, seeing things clearly – the pacing is perfect, the emotional content so well drawn. Viewed from above, Leros looks like a piece from a jigsaw – and it proves to be where some of life’s complexities achieve resolution and the big picture is finally completed.

Am I making the book feel a little on the heavy side? Despite its content, it most certainly isn’t – the humour is always present, with the author’s clear affection for Annie and her sometimes questionable choices shining through. That same feeling of affection applies to Fraser too – he sometimes takes up the narrative, and I enjoyed his voice every bit as much as Annie’s. There’s a focus on friends and the complexities of family that I enjoyed, a number of other well-handled themes around alienation and belonging, even a touch of romance – this was a book that really worked, and I found it moving, thought-provoking and engaging.

Do read Alaa’s real-life story at the book’s end – it’s a postscript of sorts, but also a perfect prompt for discussion of the desperate plight of refugees, and the need for both action and compassion. Quite a book – and one I enjoyed very much, and would recommend most highly.

COPIES OF JIGSAW ISLAND HERE

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‘Loved it’ – Thank you to Julie Ryan for her review of JIGSAW ISLAND on Amazon 5 August

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5.0 out of 5 starsReviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 August 2020

At first, it took me a while to get into this book. However, once Annie arrives in Symi the pace quickens and by the time she’s on Leros, I couldn’t put this book down. All the seemingly inconsequential events in the first part suddenly make sense and are masterfully brought together in the climax. This book is so well structured and touches on many of the topics that are all too often brushed under the carpet. Just as the Greek islands can easily get under your skin, I have to confess that so has this book. I find myself thinking about Annie weeks later. Inspirational!

JIGSAW ISLAND SALES
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Can Annie find solutions for herself and so many others?

Another review on the Random Things blog tour – many thanks to Julie Barham of Northern Reader for her close reading and uplifting words…

Annie seems to live in a beautiful part of Scotland, but there is trouble in paradise, a fact which is even more evident when she takes her son Jude to visit her brother on a Greek island. This is a novel about the difficulties of life that a woman can meet in a contemporary world, when determination to find a different way of life can lead to trouble. It is also a very powerful look at the way the arrival of refugees on Greek islands means that those who seek to help are always meeting enormous challenges. There is so much in this novel that it is quite breathtaking, as the author also manages to put in a mystery that reverberates across several years. Identity, family loyalty and the imperfections that affect realistic characters, this is a novel which is memorable for all the right reasons. It creates a strong impression of how the islands cope with an influx of people who have risked everything to travel on the sea, and gives glimpses into their fates. I found this an engaging book with high ambitions, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it. 

 The book opens with Annie, a young woman, struggling with her thirteen year old son Jude. He is a mixed – race boy in a small Scottish coastal town as the author describes him, with quite a temper. Her desperation to cope with him leads her to bring forward a trip to see her brother Fraser on Symi, one of the Dodecanese Islands of Greece. He has connections there; to Clair who runs painting groups and spends the rest of her time helping some of the refugees who crowd onto the islands for much of the year, her daughter Jess who manages to get her own way most of the time, and owners of bars, hotels and others who make his life possible as he gets by as a bookkeeper. He also goes out as a volunteer on a boat which tries to help those who turn up in the local waters in makeshift craft. Annie and Fraser come from an unusual family, and the early part of the book goes back to the story of how Annie ran away to London as a teenager. The novel then goes on to the present day, as the desperate Annie turns up on the island with the truculent  Jude, hoping that the effects of the community will settle and give him a new focus. It soon seems as if they will both meet significant people, and will find new challenges, especially when the past seems to be catching up with everyone. 

The book cleverly combines some shocking tales within the main narrative, and reveals the vulnerability of people in many settings. There is attention to detail, especially in terms of clothing and setting, which really lefts the rest of the story off the page. The author also has a good ear for dialogue, as the various age groups and people are brought to life by their speech and small actions. This is particularly important as a mystery must be solved as a real threat emerges. I found it a good read, with a lot of depth and meaning. I recommend it to those interested in contemporary fiction which reveals real life in this country, as well as some of the reality of the reception of refugees on the islands of a country on the edge.  

 I found this a fascinating book, partly because I have met some refugees locally, and attempted to teach them English. This book tells some of the stories of people who have risked so much to flee from certain countries, and includes an actual story of one man who had a complex and challenging route to Devon. Please do not be put off by some of the  themes of this book; there is some real humour and insight shown in the writing throughout the novel.

See Northern Reader for other reviews

Link to Jigsaw Island Amazon Sales

 

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Thank you Karen Cole of ‘Hair Past a Freckle72’ for her in-depth review of Jigsaw Island

Intricately plotted, observant and empathetic
What a treat this book turned out to be, even if it turned out to be rather different from what I’d expected. I thought I’d be reading a novel about a woman finding herself on a Greek island and while to some extent this is true, Jigsaw Island packs far more into its relatively short page count.
The story is divided into two parts and the first is largely a meandering account of Annie Buchanan’s past, particularly focusing on her troubled time in London. The first-person narrative style is chatty and self-deprecating and has almost a stream-of-consciousness feel to it. The young Annie escaped the rocky atmosphere at home at sixteen, leaving just a note when she takes the bus from Glasgow to London. It proves to be a life-changing time and while I don’t want to give too much away here, there is one scene which although not graphic in any sense  which especially underlines the dangerous situation young runaways are in and how vulnerable they are to opportunistic predators.
Interspersed with her memories of the past are the chapters concerning her current problems. Now back in Scotland as a single mother living in a small community in Kilachlan, her teenage son, Jude has been targeted by racial abuse and not surprisingly has lashed out in retaliation. Their relationship is described so well, their closeness is undeniable and I loved the easy banter between them but it’s also clear that Annie struggles with knowing how best to help her son during this tricky transitional period in his life. She eventually decides to bring forward their planned holiday to stay with her brother on the Greek island of Symi, hoping Jude will benefit from Fraser’s male influence.
A vivid sense of place is rendered throughout Jigsaw Island; the descriptions of the squats Annie ends up in leave no doubt as to their pungent squalor but it’s the evocation of the Greek Islands which is particularly striking. The beautiful surroundings coupled with the warmth and support of the people she stays with are the balm she needs, however, this is a book which explores the complexities of identity and that’s as true for the islands of Symi and Leros as it is for the characters themselves. Tourists and refugees alike arrive in their droves and despite the stark differences in their circumstances, both groups leave their indelible impression on these ever-changing places. At one point in the story, Annie goes to visit the site of an old mental hospital on Leros which became infamous for the terrible treatment of the patients incarcerated there. As she ponders on this and on the occupation by the Nazis during World War Two she wonders why the island has such a powerful pull. She feels it too and with her complicated past – some of which she has revealed to very few people – she could be considered to be the human reflection of the island.
In the second part of the novel it gradually becomes evident that Annie can’t trust everybody and she will have to re-examine her past to protect what it is she loves the most. At this point the story becomes a psychological thriller and it transpires that even the most seemingly innocuous recollection from Annie’s past could hold more significance than either she or the reader realised. As this is only a relatively short book, this dramatic part of the plot is dealt with fairly quickly but I never felt it was rushed and was really impressed with the way the first and second sections are linked.
Jigsaw Island is intricately plotted, observant and empathetic novel that examines the complexities of people and places, recognising that individual experiences and encounters shape how we all view the world and those we share it with. With that in mind, I highly recommend reading the account at the end of the book which tells the real-life story of Alaa, a refugee Lynne McVernon met through Refugee Support in Devon who shared his experiences with her and became a friend. As Annie would agree, knowledge and compassion are equally important and perhaps through reading stories such as Alaa’s, the discussions around refugees will feature more of both. Moving, perceptive and thought-provoking, I thoroughly enjoyed the multi-layered Jigsaw Island and look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

https://hairpastafreckle72.blogspot.com/2020/07/jigsaw-island-by-lynne-mcvernon.html

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Can’t win ’em all – and now I’ve lost my anonymity…

Maybe my plotting was too subtle… 4 star Amazon review yesterday

Top review from United Kingdom

Pamela Scott
VINE VOICE

4.0 out of 5 stars I would have liked to spend more time on Jigsaw Island with these interesting characters

COPY FROM THE AUTHOR AND VOLUNTARILY REVIEWED

I’d never heard of the author before but agreed to take part in the tour because I wanted something a little different. I’d love to visit Greece so the setting appealed to me, plus the fact the characters are from Scotland, my home tuft which was doubly appealing even though Annie also lives in London for a period of time. The structure of this short book takes a few chapters to get used to, a variation of stream-of-consciousness which I don’t always get on with but I soon settled into the rhythm. I would have struggled more with a longer book. The book is quirky, well written and entertaining. The book tackles a lot in such a short space of time including Annie’s struggles as a single parent of a bi-racial son. The last third of the book veers off in a direction I didn’t see coming and becomes a psychological thriller. To be honest, I thought the book was too short and the dramatic events the book closes with were not signposted well enough and too rushed.

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Jigsaw Island blog tour – review by Sharlene 29 July 2020

Thank you for taking part in the blog tour on Instagram yesterday and for putting together this image:

Shh_reads_ I’ve been to a Greek Island!

It may have been in a book as part of a blog tour but was so lovely to have that escapism.

When single mother Annie and her son Jude take a break from Scotland and stay with her brother on the island of Symi they find warmth and support.

Annie tries to put together some of the missing pieces of her life but is not prepared for some of the uncomfortable truths from the past that will affect the present for herself and Jude.

Beautiful waters, glorious sun and a happy atmosphere all rolled into one.

I was fortunate to receive the authors first book Terrible with Raisins as a surprise gift and did read that prior to Jigsaw Island although this reads perfectly well as a stand alone.

The first part of the book reads as Annie’s stream of consciousness where she blurts out her thoughts. The second as a psychological thriller and this was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

Jigsaw is an apt description as the characters have so many differing viewpoints I tried to piece together.

I’m glad I visited Greece with Annie and thank you to @lynnemcvernon and @RandomTTours for the opportunity

#jigsawisland

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JIGSAW ISLAND – the blog tour

Never had a blog tour for a book before, so not sure what to expect other than, well, reviews. Starts tomorrow. Oh well, here’s hoping…

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Review Jigsaw Island: A great summer read

Katherine May

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 July 2020
A story that is full of human connection and compassion infused with a warmth and gentle humor that reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously and of what it might be to be human in this day and age. A novel that has left me with a warm feeling. A welcome break from the reality of these times!

Artwork by Lynne McVernon / Digital render Martyn Stead

Click on the image for eBook & paperback

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TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS – A wonderful book about second love

Thank you to Jillian Morton for this wonderful review. Wish Amazon would share it worldwide – Oh well, they think they know best….

 

That familiar headland rises from fabled depths and down every darkening slope, dwellings of ochre, cream, russet and pink tumble in jubilant greeting.

Jillian Morton5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book about second loves.
Reviewed in Australia on 22 July 2020
Lynne McVernon brings the island of Symi back to my mind vividly. Anyone who has spent any time in Greece will relate immediately to the Greek characters who are brought to life so well with their ‘kefi’ or passion for life. Wonderful descriptions
of Claire’s ‘passed his useby date’ boring English lover and fellow tourists are absolute gems. Many laugh out loud situations that could only happen in Greece. Travelling home to the UK brings real life back with a bang while Claire deals with the situations involving extended family that we all experience as we all get older. But Claire soldiers on and comes out the other side to a whole new world of love, laughter and ‘kefi’. Once I started this book, I could not put it down and now can’t wait to read Jigsaw Island.

TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS LINK – read a chapter – buy

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Lovely review of JIGSAW ISLAND – warms a writer’s heart

Katherine May 5.0 out of 5 stars Great Summer Read Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 July 2020
A great summer read. A story that is full of human connection and compassion infused with a warmth and gentle humor that reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously and of what it might be to be human in this day and age. A novel that has left me with a warm feeling. A welcome break from the reality of these times!

Artwork by Lynne McVernon / Digital render Martyn Stead

Click on Image to go to Amazon page.

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