ShortBookandScribes #BookReview + Author #GuestPost + #Giveaway – The Convalescent Corpse by Nicola Slade @nicolasladeuk @rararesources #BlogTour
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Convalescent Corpse by Nicola Slade. I have so much to share with you today so please read on. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for the place on the tour and for providing a copy of the book for review.
A story of Family, Rationing and Inconvenient Corpses.
Life in 1918 has brought loss and grief and hardship to the three Fyttleton sisters. Helped only by their grandmother (a failed society belle and expert poacher) and hindered by a difficult suffragette mother, as well as an unruly chicken-stealing dog and a house full of paying-guests, they now have to deal with the worrying news that their late – and unlamented – father may not be dead after all. And on top of that, there’s a body in the ha-ha.
‘I love it. A delightfully unusual mystery with wonderful characterisation and historical detail.’ – LESLEY COOKMAN BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE LIBBY SARJEANT MYSTERY SERIES
I loved Nicola Slade’s last book, The House at Ladywell, so I was keen to read this one, her latest offering. Whilst I didn’t love it as much as the previous one, I did really like this story and the characters.
It centres around three sisters: Alix, Christabel and Adelaide. They’re young women (Addy is only 15) making do during WW1. Their life together is quite something. They live with their mother, a novelist who doesn’t seem to know what day it is, particularly when she’s in the throes of writing, and their grandmother, Lady Evelyn, who had a rather unusual introduction to Queen Victoria when she was presented to her. Alix helps out at the local hall which has been turned into a convalescent home for soldiers and it is events there that lead to the body in the ha-ha.
And I feel like I’m merely touching the surface of the story as there’s so much action crammed into the pages. What I particularly loved were the interactions between the characters, particularly the sisters, but also between them and various other key players. They live in a kind of gentle chaos and are so likeable and so unusual.
To be honest, I could have done without the body and the mystery as I would have been more than happy to simply read about this wonderful family and how they lived their lives in wartime. Food rationing plays a large part in the story, particularly as the sisters have to feed a number of lodgers, family to those soldiers in the convalescent home. There are some fascinating descriptions of food and Christy, in particular, puts together some amazing concoctions.
The Convalescent Corpse is a book that made me smile. Despite the backdrop of war it has a fairly light-hearted to feel to the narrative and it’s a delightful cosy mystery story.
Keeping the Home Fires Burning in 1918 by Nicola Slade
Setting a gently funny cosy mystery in the First World War might sound a tad insensitive, bearing in mind the carnage and desolation of that era, but while there was horror across the Channel and elsewhere, life – for the most part – just carried on. The Convalescent Corpse is the story of a family that does just that. This is a very domestic novel and Alix, Christabel and Adelaide, have the same concerns as the rest of the women in the country, suffering loss, grief and hardship – except that they must also contend with murder almost on their doorstep!
The story is set in March 1918 when the war has been going on for three-and-a-half years and shortages have started to bite at home. Manpower is short and food for the troops has to be shipped across the Channel. Enemy submarines threaten the supply ships that used to dock in Southampton or Liverpool or London and rationing is gradually put in place to make sure that everyone has a fair share.
Then, as now, newspapers and magazines published helpful tips on how to cope with running a household and there were plenty of ingenious recipes on offer. I have a pull-out section from the March 1918 copy of the women’s magazine, Home Chat. ‘Plain Puddings and Cakes’. It’s a great example of how people – in this case, women – were encouraged to be resourceful because the recipes are very adaptable. For instance:
Date and Nut Pudding (Hot, boiled)
If you can’t get dates, however, figs, soaked dried apples or any other dried fruit can be used for this. Or it is quite nice with a couple of spoonfuls of jam or marmalade instead of fruit.
4 ounces each of barley or wheat flour, fine oatmeal and dried fruit, or you can use all plain flour
2 ounces chopped suet or other fat
3 ounces chopped or ground monkey (peanuts) or other nuts
1 heaped teaspoonful baking powder
Half a pint water or any fruit juice
Stone (if necessary) and chop the fruit. Simmer in half the water for 10 minutes
Mix all the dry ingredients then work in the stewed fruit and water, adding as much more water as required to make a firm dough
Form into a roly-poly shape, tie up securely in a cloth, and put into plenty of boiling water. Boil for two hours then turn out and serve with a sweet sauce. (NB there’s a recipe for a thin, rather nasty sounding custard in the pull-out too)
I’ve made some of the recipes and the best that can be said of them is that they’re nourishing and filling, but I’ve not yet been brave enough to tackle this Date and Nut Pudding!
Fascinating post, thank you Nicola. I must admit that I wasn’t sure about the food in the book but I guess needs must and I admired the characters’ resourcefulness!
Giveaway – Win a paperback copy of The House of Ladywell (Open Internationally)
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Nicola Slade lives in Hampshire where she writes historical and contemporary mysteries and women’s fiction. While her three children were growing up she wrote stories for children and for women’s magazines before her first novel, Scuba Dancing, was published in 2005. Among other jobs, Nicola has been an antiques dealer and a Brown Owl! She loves travelling and at one time, lived in Egypt for a year. The Convalescent Corpse is Nicola’s 9th novel. Nicola is also a member of a crime writers’ panel, The Deadly Dames.
Social Media Links – www.nicolaslade.wordpress.com www.nicolaslade.com
Pinterest (I have a board for each book)
Thank you so much for a great review, Nicola. I’m glad you liked my Fyttleton girls! And yes, the recipes are pretty awful – I know, because I’ve tried them!
My pleasure, Nicola. I did love the girls and their quirkiness. Not so much the food 😉