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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

Sugar and Snails
by Anne Goodwin
Blog Tour
Review

My thanks go out to author Anne Goodwin, who organised this lovely Blog Tour and was kind enough to save a space for me.

Blog Tour Banner for the book 'Sugar and Snails' by author Anne Goodwin

SUGAR and SNAILS

Cover image of the book 'Sugar and Snails' by author Anne GoodwinShortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize.

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

Cover image of the book 'Sugar and Snails' by author Anne Goodwin

ANNE GOODWIN

Alternativeimage of author Anne GoodwinAnne has been scribbling stories ever since she could hold a pencil and now she writes fiction for the freedom it offers her to contradict herself, although she hate bios for fear of getting it wrong!

During her career as an NHS clinical psychologist, her focus was on helping other people tell their neglected stories to themselves, although now that her short fiction publication count has overtaken her age, her ambition going forward is to write and publish enough novels to equal her shoe size!

She writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice and is also available as a speaker and trainer / workshop leader.

Anne juggles her sentences whilst walking in the Peak District, where she is now a volunteer ranger with the Peak District National Park, only to lose them again while battling the slugs in her vegetable plot.

“I write to tame and organise the thoughts that bubble in my head. I write for the part of me that’s inconsolable and don’t have the hands or the talent for painting, pottery or the piano. I write because it’s proven more effective than screaming to communicate my personal truths. I write because publication provides the perfect payback for a painful childhood and because I’m addicted to alliteration, a glutton for grammar and ruled by the rule of three. I continue writing to discover where my imagination will take me; because if I stopped, I’d no longer be me”

Visit Anne at her website

Follow Anne on Twitter

Chat with Anne on Facebook

Cover image of the book 'Sugar and Snails' by author Anne Goodwin

FIRST LINES

CHAPTER ONE

Halfway down the stairs, I sink to my haunches and hug my dressing gown across my breasts.

Below me in the hallway, Simon reaches up towards the row of coat hooks. His hand hovers above the collar of his black fleece and then falls, combing the sleeve as his arm flops to his side. “This is ridiculous, Di. We should at least talk about it.”

Can’t he see this has gone beyond talking? “It’s late. You’ve got a long day tomorrow.”

“Come to Cairo, then. Whatever’s bothering you, I promise, I can help.”

“We’ve been through all that.”

“Yeah, and you’ve served up one feeble excuse after another. Don’t you trust me, Di?”

Staunch as sculpted granite, Simon exudes reliability from every pore. Over the past five months, I’ve imagined him sharing my duvet, my toaster, my council tax bill. On good days, I persuaded myself I could summon up enough maternal sentiment to play mother to his kids. After tonight, I can’t envisage a casual catch-up over coffee.

Yet Simon rattles on, as if hope were a virtue: “Come to Cairo, Di. Come for a long weekend if that’s all you can spare.”

If I could explain, if I could open my mouth to speak, even, he would come to me. He would spring up the stairs and cradle me in his arms. If I could cry, perhaps, as other women can, and let my weakness make him strong. But tears don’t come naturally to me: I haven’t cried for thirty years.

Cover image of the book 'Sugar and Snails' by author Anne Goodwin

MEMORABLE LINES

“Like a dance-floor buffed to a silky sheen, hope is riddled with risk for the unwary: let yourself go and, sooner or later, you’re bound to come a cropper”

.

“We all crave acceptance, and we get it where we can”

.

“I’d never been comfortable with teasing. It gave me a sense of wrong-footedness. Of taking the world too seriously, seeing darkness where others found light”

.

“You can’t obliterate one pain by creating another”

.

“Only those who’ve never left their beds believe their dreams will come true”

.

“I’d never have dreamt a middle-aged man dressed as a woman could release me, that a person the wrong shape for her clothes should hold the key to setting me free. The door of my cage is finally open and I’m ready to fly”

.

“As I put in my letter, psychology and psychiatry are trying to change my mind to match my body. I don’t see why it has to be that way. Why can’t you change my body to suit my mind?”

.

“You can’t think properly when you’re scared; panic makes you rush towards a resolution before you’ve considered all the options”

Cover image of the book 'Sugar and Snails' by author Anne Goodwin

REVIEW

“The past lingers on, etched beneath our skin…”

Oh My Goodness! I had no idea what to expect from this story and having closed the final page I can’t believe what a moving experience and a complete roller-coaster of a ride I have just experienced. My tears were many and genuine, although I am convinced that Di wouldn’t have appreciated or wanted my sympathy, or my virtual hugs; just my understanding and acceptance.

It is going to be so difficult to write a meaningful review which will fully do justice to this powerful story, especially without giving away too many spoilers – But then, consider that Di has lived most of her life trying not to give away too many spoilers, and my own small challenge pales into insignificance compared to hers.

I am also still reeling after spending almost half of this book assuming one thing about Di’s story, when in fact I had turned things completely on their head, and the reality of the situation was the complete antithesis to what I had thought. Am I that ‘green’ or naive that I missed so many clues, which on careful retrospection were there in abundance, or was I simply conditioned to expect one outcome and couldn’t imagine or embrace the notion, that the actuality of the situation could be any different?

Notwithstanding that Di is a now a forty-five-year-old woman, this is something of a mid-life coming of age story. Having reached a decision in her teenage years which, in her own mind, she is still certain was the right one for her, she has nonetheless spent the intervening thirty years in a state of emotional flux, feeling the need to ‘play life safe’ and thus denying herself the true happiness her childhood decision was supposed to bring. She has spent so much time being certain of what she is not, yet frightened to stake a claim to the person she really is and the life she knows she wants; that it is only now, when she has something and someone worth fighting for, that she is forced to examine her motives, embrace who she is, be happy in her own skin, and finally to be ready and wanting to move on with her life. If only it all isn’t too little and too late!

For a while, I was a little nonplussed that the storyline weaves rather erratically back and forth between the 1960s and 1970s, when Di was growing up, and the 2000s, which is where she finds herself now. However I was essentially following Di’s journey, as seen through her own eyes, so it was no real surprise that in the vulnerable turmoil of a mind trying to rationalise and finally lay the past to rest behind her, that her thoughts would be erratic and a little muddled, I know mine would be.

From a visit which Di makes to her parents right towards the end of this chapter in her ongoing story of self-discovery, it is obvious that she has and probably can never, truly forgive them for certain aspects of the way she was treated as a child growing up. Not having been in Di’s mind space at that time, it possibly isn’t for me to comment about. However, being of almost the same age and coming from a similar working class background as Di, I actually think that her parents were quite progressive in their handling of events, as I just know that my own family would have taken a much different and more harsh approach to the situation, if I had been her. At one point Di observes that her parents seemed to listen to everyone except her, trying to make their own circumstances fit that of other people they know, almost as if the situation was happening to someone else. Again, I actually think this would have been a pretty standard response from most parents, given the social mores of the times, when prejudice and bigotry against minority groups, was still alive and thriving, many so called ‘deviances’ were still actually illegal, and being seen by your peers to be the textbook family of domestic bliss and stability was everything, with the label of ‘not being normal’, being an unendurable stigma.

Author Anne Goodwin, has donned her ‘work hat’, as a clinical psychologist, to write this wonderfully perceptive and fluent, sensitively nuanced and disturbingly bold story, about one woman’s search for cultural identity and social justice. It is multi-layered, well structured, highly textured and visually descriptive to the point where little is left to the imagination. Di’s story is totally compelling, immersive and often claustrophobic, such is the fragile state of her mind, and I didn’t really want to get pulled into it as deeply as I did, but once I entered her life, escaping without knowing an outcome, was never going to be an option. Although (again a little vague I’m afraid for fear of spoilers), I was a tad disappointed with the ending, as I really needed to know if there was going to be that ‘happy ever after’ moment for her and if not, would she regress and consider all her reserves of inner strength to have been depleted in vain, or was this leap into the unknown always going to be the catalyst for a new and exciting future, as it should have been all those years ago?

Anne has created quite a large and sprawling, multi-faceted cast of diverse characters, who with the exception of Di herself, are neither well defined, have any genuine depth of character, nor are easy to connect or identify with. They were a complex jigsaw of human emotions, often manipulative and duplicitous, making them completely unreliable and volatile, at a time when a desperately vulnerable Di, most needed their strength and stability to help her see things clearly, although she ultimately felt unable to confide in any of them, even Venus, who has been a huge part of  her life for as long as either of them can remember. Di herself, has been empowered with a strong voice with which to guide this storyline, manoeuvring  it in the direction of her own choosing and taking with her only those who mean the most to her.

Everything about this lovingly written book makes reading it a ‘must’ and the right thing to do. I am really interested to know just how Anne came up with the excellent title “Sugar And Snails”. Start reading and within a few minutes that evocative cover art makes perfect sense. And if you ever needed to lay a soundtrack from the times, over the early years of Di’s life, I guess that David Bowie’s ‘Rebel, Rebel’ would be the obvious choice and the one I can hear playing away in my head as I write.

What typically makes reading such a wonderful experience for me, is that with each and every new book, I am taken on a unique and individual journey, by authors who fire my imagination and stimulate my senses. This story was definitely one of a kind, so I can only recommend that you read it for yourself and see where your journey leads you!

Alternativeimage of author Anne Goodwin

A complimentary kindle download of this book, for review purposes, was made available by the author.

Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!

 

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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22 comments
  • The story of Diana sounds really fascinating and I have never read a novel written by a psychologist if my memory serves me right. Thank you so much for all of your hard work writing all the wonderful reviews, Yvonne.

    • I have read another of Anne’s books and found that equally moving and fascinating.

      They are however, very difficult books to review, not because they aren’t brilliant storylines, but because I am always a little cautious that with my limited knowledge of Anne’s profession, I might inadvertently not do true justice to either the story or the characters, or even worse, miss the point entirely!

      I am conscious that possibly ‘less might be more’ – if you know what I mean!

      Thank you so much for your lovely words of support though, they always inspire me.

      Have a lovely day 🙂

        • Whilst it is always good to share my thoughts about a book, either by rating or reviewing it, I still find it a rather subjective process, as the opinions of one reader may be so totally diverse to those of another. Which is why you will seldom find me recommending a book without adding that caveat, especially if I have received a complimentary copy of a book, whilst other readers might have to purchase a copy.

          I found this story quite sad and almost depressing in places and I am desperately hoping that you had in your mind, a happy ending for Diana’s story.

          Thank you for takin the time to stop by and I appreciate your kind words 🙂

      • Hmm! Not convinced this is a book I’d enjoy and yet, on the other hand, I’m not entirely convinced it’s a book that I wouldn’t enjoy. I guess that my reading it would be the only way to truly find out. Thanks for your thought provoking and concise review Yvonne.

        • I quite often have those mixed emotions before I decide whether or not to accept a complimentary book for review or Blog Tour, but I tend to work on the basis that I only have to read it once and it will only take a few days out of my life – unless of course it is a fantasy or science fiction book, which will be declined instantly, as I simply don’t enjoy reading those genres!

          It is not quite the same thing as having to fork out good, hard-earned cash for a book which I am not too sure about, that would require much more deliberation before a final decision, so I can appreciate your conflict of emotions here.

          From my 5 stars you will have gathered that I enjoyed the book, but I wouldn’t want that to influence you in any way!

          Thanks for stopping by, I really look forward to your visits, and I hope that all is well with you 🙂

    • This is a heart-breaking ‘coming of age’ story, which spans half a lifetime before Diana really accepts that she can be who she wants to be and feel comfortable in her own skin about it!

      The cover is quite alluring, isn’t it? And once you begin reading, it makes perfect sense!

      The strength of this book is definitely not in its location, however it is worth including in as many places as possible, because it is an awesome read!

      Thanks for taking time to stop by 🙂

  • Not sure if this is for me but I do enjoy how you write about books you’ve loved, Yvonne. Your enthusiasm jumps off the page!

    Hope you’re keeping well? As I said on Twitter we dodged the covid bullet, this time anyway. Seems to me that Spring is on the way, have you noticed the light changing? And the evenings drawing out. I’m sure Winter still has a few tricks up its sleeve but the worst of the dreary months are behind I think.

    • This is definitely not the kind of book I could read on too regular a basis, however I do like to shake things up as often as I can, and I also really like Anne’s style of writing and storytelling.

      I can’t tell you how embarrassed I get when fellow readers say nice things about my reviews (mind you I would probably be upset if they said bad things 🙂 ). Sometimes I look at so many 4 and 5 star ratings and wonder if people think I am being recompensed for good reviews. I do actually enjoy most of the books I read and can genuinely find positive things to say. Anyway, I would like to thank you for your lovely words just the same, I really do appreciate them 🙂

      We are both well, thanks for asking, although I am still waiting for us to go down with something, seeing as some family members have now tested positive for the third time! I am so pleased that you managed to stay free of it, especially with Peter’s health issues. Everyone keeps saying that it is just like having a cold, however if you are the one person who gets it really badly, that’s no consolation whatsoever!

      It hasn’t been too bad a week here so far, but looking at the forecast for the weekend, it looks as though we are going to get the kitchen sink thrown at us! The nights are definitely drawing out and by 6am it is beginning to get light now. It’s just nice not to need the electric lights on all the time, although it is still chilly enough for the heating!

      I may be extremely strange, or sad, or probably even both, but although I don’t like winter weather particularly, I actually don’t mind it getting dark early in the evening, as after a long day it is just nice to close the curtains on the world and not have to start looking outside for jobs that need doing!

      • My pleasure re my comments on your reviews, Yvonne. I think the various authors you feature on your blog tour stints should be really pleased. As to the four and five star reviews, well, I’m the same and mine are not blog tours. The thing is, I seem to have become rather good at picking books I will like. Almost as though I’ve refined it and refined it. LOL So now most of my Goodread ratings are four and five too, with the odd three. I think I can count the number of twos I’ve ever dished out on the fingers of one hand! If a book is that bad then I would stop reading to be honest.

        Pleased to hear you’re both keeping well. Sometimes it seems we’re surrounded by Covid so we continue to mask up in shops and supermarkets regardless of what others are doing. In Tesco in the week it seemed to be about half and half re wearing them or not.

        I’m quite a winter fan but I do also like it when the evenings and mornings start to get lighter. The when summer arrives I’m longng for darker evenings. I’m never content!

        Hope you’re having a good weekend.

        • I don’t think I have ever dished out any one or two star reviews either, although I am a bit of a stubborn old so and so and I never tend to DNF a book either. It’s a combination of not wanting to be beaten by a book and reading on in the hope that it is magically going to get better as it goes along!!

          We are still getting groceries delivered and I can’t see that changing any time soon. I know we have to pay for delivery, but when weighed up against the cost in petrol and wear and tear on the car to get to the supermarket, it tends to even itself out. Plus it is convenient not having to push and shove my way round the aisles, then have to stand in line at the till! Guess I am getting a bit lazy in my old age!

          I’m a bit like you, re: the weather. Never happy and always complaining, but then we just wouldn’t be British otherwise, would we?

          We have done a 100+ mile roundtrip today, to fix three of the Treasure Trails we look after. You would be amazed at just how often signs etc. go missing, or are changed, so if a customer comments, then we have to go and repair the clue. It is getting more and more difficult though, as the state of the public realm is definitely in demise and even churches and graveyards are left to go to rack and ruin. We were in Royal Wootton Bassett before 9am and then on to Ramsbury and Great Bedwyn (both close to Avebury). Just made it back before the rain, although it was definitely cold out there!!

          Enjoy your Sunday 🙂

  • I’m not sure if I would have picked up this book on my own (though I do find the cover quite interesting), but your excellent review has me wanting to take a closer look at it. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying so many good books lately!

      • This was Anne’s debut novel, which has just been relaunched with the Blog Tour, then came ‘Underneath’, followed by the book I read towards the end of last year ‘Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home’

        I quite like the sound of ‘Underneath’ too, sounds like it has a bit more of dark side to it! I’ll wait and see what you think of it 🙂

    • I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up off the shelf either, if I am totally honest. But that’s the great thing about becoming involved with Blog Tours / Review Requests, I quite often find myself out of my comfort zone and I think it has only back-fired on me once, when the book was really not up to scratch by anyone’s standards.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • It sounds like you really enjoyed this book.

    I’m not sure it’s one for me at the moment as I have a lot of learning to do at work, so my reads are fairly easy reads at the moment. Maybe at another time though.

    • I’m not sure that I ‘enjoyed’ the book as such. It was a difficult subject to make into a work of fiction and it was treated with such deference by an author who is clearly interested in the subjects she chooses for her storylines, and was so well written, that I suppose ‘admired’ might be a better adjective to choose.

      I have read a few very intense storylines just recently and I can see how you might need a bit of fun escapism with your own reading, if you are getting all that intense time at your work right now, I know I would!

      I hope that you have some great books lined up for those special R&R moments 🙂

  • It sounds like a fantastic book. The author’s career as a psychologist surely makes the narrative much more interesting. I am very curious about this book and I will look for it at the library.

    • I’m sure that Anne’s career in psychology added a sense of genuine authenticity to both this storyline and the previous book I read by her ‘Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home’. She approaches the many varied strands of mental illness with equal deference and empathy.

      These are both books which really deserve to be on the library shelves in the public domain, where as many people as possible have access to them!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment 🙂

  • What a thorough and well-written review this is. Thank you for it, and thanks to the author for putting her expertise and her writing ability together to produce this book. I’m in love with the title and the cover! A perfect package.

    • Yes! This book is definitely the complete package, as the storyline is really thoughtfully and poignantly presented and the characters, whilst complex and not easy to invest in, are so wonderfully authentic and genuine.

      I will admit that I was rather taken out of my comfort zone, however I thoroughly enjoyed the journey!

      Thank you so much for your kind comments about my review. I truly appreciate your support and for you taking the time to stop by 🙂

Written by Yvonne
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