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on 6 September 2011
This poignant subtle story is told chiefly from the points of view of two women recalling an incident in their girlhood from which neither of them ever recovered. The drowning of their schoolmate Rose has shaped both lives - but the cleverness of this book is that you don't know really where you are with them until quite far in, when the hint of a huge twist keeps you turning the pages at speed.
Eliza's job as a ceramic restorer serves as a beautiful metaphor for the fragility of life, and the impossibility of perfect recovery: everything, once broken, remains damaged within, no matter how carefully the flaw is hidden. The story is deftly told, with convincing dialogue, and Eliza's relationship with the dead girl's father is drawn with great subtlety and compassion. This is a great read - especially for someone who has felt regret about the past, and opportunities missed. Rose's father says at one point to the guilt-racked Eliza, "be a candle, not a black hole."
This book is a candle, and I feel the better for having read it.
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on 17 August 2011
I have read all of Marika Cobbold's books and think this has to be one of my favourites. Unlike one of the other reviewers I really loved Aphrodite's Workshop (MC is a really funny writer and in Aphrodite she lets her sense of humour run riot!) however Drowning Rose, whilst still full of very witty, funny thoughts and scenes (Archie the doom filled neighbour is just brilliant!), is a rather melancholy and dark book (rather like Shooting Butterflies). It was gripping and page turning. Her books are always beautifully easy to read (I mean that as a compliment, she writes without pretension) and yet complex, cleverly constructed and full of hilarious and sometimes very sad insights. I was really interested by the descriptions of Eliza's work and behind the scenes at the V&A (one of my favourite museums) and loved the scenes from Eliza and the fabulously awful and tragic Cassandra's youth at boarding school. She was spot on about boarding school life but also the hell (and bliss!) that is being a teenager. Her ability to completely inhabit her characters, however different, is something that Marika Cobbold is excellent at. As always she excels at children and the elderly, as an author she really seems to understand the outsider (a bit like Anne Tyler, though sometimes Anne Tyler's outsiders are too outside!) which is what makes her books so special. Anyway this is a beautiful and richly written novel. Gorgeous cover by the way!
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As soon as I finished the first novel I'd read by Marika Cobbold, Drowning Rose, I downloaded this book. I loved this first read so much I couldn't wait to devour more of Mirika Cobbold's wonderful prose.

I love the cover and the title of this book - Purveyor of Enchantment - just wonderful. So I sat down expecting a pure enjoyment experience....... and thought what's going on here. It's started ok but I just wasn't sure where it was going, but continued on not really taking to the story immediately.

However, around the fourth chapter it gained momentum and all the wit, humour, and beautifully descriptive writing all came flooding back keeping me completely hooked and chuckling through this novel, finishing it in a couple of days.

It's a beautiful love story and I took to Clementine early on. She's big and clumsy, neurotic, a gentle generous soul, put upon, particularly by her half sister Orphelia, 'the whole child' and oooh such a meanie and selfish character. I didn't like her from the beginning but boy oh boy by the end of the book!

Clementine, privileged, with an inheritance from her late father inherits her aunt Elvira's house in an enchanting village and takes Orphelia in as her house mate (very foolish decision in my humble opinion, but of course helps the storyline!). With a lovely 'old boy' for a neighbour Mr. Scott. She befriends him and falls completely in love with his son Nathaniel who in turn falls in love with her.

Twists and turns begin, where I felt poor Clementine was badly let down by two special people in her life but she pulls through it with an imaginative set programme of events she puts in place to turn her life around.

I loved it and recommend it, nearly as highly as Drowning Rose. This won't be the last Marika Cobbold book I read.
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on 29 October 2011
Drowning Rose I first read Marika Cobbold a while back when a publisher recommended her to me. I had yet to care for someone with dementia. When I had come through that life experience, `Guppies for Tea' became all the more poignant for me. Simply, Marika Cobbold writes real people, beautifully, and always balanced with just the right amount of humour. People you can identify with and recognise your own strengths and weaknesses through. I always feel as if I'm settling down with a huge box of chocolates when I pick up one of MC's books. But unlike Forrest Gump's Momma, I do know what I'm going to get: a hugely satisfying read. I wasn't disappointed when I read Drowning Rose - in one sitting. I was delighted by the switch of point of view from (present) forty-one year old Eliza, to Eliza at sixteen, the story narrated then by new girl to the school, Sandra/Cassandra, who is desperate to be seen as one of the inner circle of a group of more-privileged peers. A rather unique twist in the telling, then, and not easy to do, but Marika Cobbold pulled it off without a hitch. I'd rather not throw in spoilers - the book has to be read, so I'll just say that the story looks at the cracks beneath the veneer (Eliza's job as a ceramic restorer being a perfect metaphor). It examines how a traumatic event can shape one's future, the tragedy, which is the drowning of Rose, rippling out to touch and transform the lives of all those who loved and lost her. It looks at guilt, at grief, the burdens we carry and the impact on future relationships. It looks at `what ifs' and whys. I loved it, truly. Anyone aspiring to write should read it. Anyone who loves reading - you are in for a real treat!
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on 3 September 2011
This is the most exquisitely written story about fate, friendship and restoration. The balance between humour and poignancy is just perfect and I was pulled into each chapter by such well drawn characters, I could see and hear them from the very beginning. Ms Cobbold's description of an adolescent longing to fit in is painfully beautiful. A truly wonderful read.
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Oh I loved this book. I bought it early in January during the 'Twelve Days of Christmas' sale primarily for three reasons. I loved the cover! (teacup), substantially reduced price and it had been recommended by Trisha Ashley (author of a good book I'd just finished reading).

Somehow, with all my other book purchases this novel had lain untouched until now. Had I even suspected it would be half as good as it was I'd have read it immediately.

Well, where do I start. Plots in the form of chapters, primarily told from the view point of Eliza now in her early forties and Sandra/Cassandra, more a bit part player relaying her school day stories featuring Eliza, Rose, Portia and Julian. In between, a few chapters are given over to an unknown character. As well as these there are a whole plethora of wonderful characters, none neglected all superbly constructed, weaving the fabric of the story together.

What a treat, although a sad subject underpins the whole plot, Marika Cobbold's wit and humour, not to mention her beautifully descriptive writing had me completely hooked and chuckling the whole way through this novel......

"She didn't regret having given them a fright, she said. But she did mind having driven over a very handy thermos flask. Apparently it matched their cold-box. 'The trouble is' Ruth had told me, 'that they don't sell them any more, not even at John Lewis'........" - PURE GENIUS!!

I thought I had a handle on this plot but I wasn't bothered because I was enjoying it so much but then a twist came along (some may argue glaringly obvious) and I had a 'Eureka' moment.

I think it's obvious I absolutely loved this novel and the author, this being the first of her books I've read, but it will definitely not be my last. Highly recommended.
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on 15 August 2011
I hadn't got time to read this book, I was saving as a treat. I only picked it up yesterday evening to glance at the first few lines... Then of course I was hooked and couldn't put it down, staying up late into the night to finish it. Another quirkily brilliant read from Marika - all her books are very different, but all witty, poignant and funny - and this one didn't disappoint. Memorable characters, admirable scene-setting and atmosphere..wonderful.
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VINE VOICEon 10 November 2012
What can you do when your life is broken?

You can try and piece it together again.

But for Eliza the only thing that she pieces back together is ceramics. Eliza is a ceramic restorer at the V&A Museum and finds peace in them broken pieces. She carefully reconstructs the past at work and at home with her own ceramics.

But a phone call, from the past means the broken pieces of twenty five years ago eventually have to come out of the box and be repaired for the first and only time.

Through Eliza's fragile present story Marika Cobbold goes back to the past, where we meet a young Eliza and her friends Portia and Rose. A group of girls who at boarding school are starting to discover the temptations of the adult world, smoking, drinking and boys. Into this world comes a new girl, Sandra/Cassandra - one that was never going to become one of the inner circle not matter how hard she tried and what she did. Her actions were always the wrong ones. The three girls were nasty and the interaction between them and Cassandra was painful to read. It was a reflection of how cruel girls can be.

As the book progresses between Eliza's present story and Cassandra's past story we begin to understand how Rose features in their lives even though she tragically died. Rose is always in Eliza's life and she battles for dominance in it with guilt. Through the kindness of a dying man, Rose's father, she revisits the place of her childhood, and starts to let go of guilt and starts to rebuild those broken pieces which have been stuck together the wrong way with guilt.

Now they can be restored into something more beautiful which will last a lifetime.

This is a beautiful story and even the humour was handled as well as the tragedy of loss and guilt. Marika Cobbold has created an atmospheric novel where you could feel yourself in Sweden as much as the busy streets of London. The school element of the story was good, it was like reading what really went on at a place where as a child I thought would be fun to be at, (too much Enid Blyton as a child), it made it all that more real for me. A great novel, which cannot be pigeon holed into any particular genre. It is simply an excellent story, well created and crafted.
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on 23 February 2012
Drowning Rose is one of the most beautifully written books I have read for a very long time. The story is centred on Eliza, a ceramics restorer, who tries to restore everything except for her own shattered life. She blamed herself for the death of her friend, Rose, at boarding school and her life has since been blighted by guilt. The themes of waste and reparation are present on many levels throughout the book. The narrative, provided by Eliza, is interspersed with accounts by Sandra/Cassandra, of their time at school. Sandra, the outsider, gradually feeds us with more information about what actually happened at school, and shows us different facets of the lives and characters of Eliza and her friends. The background detail is fascinating, whether it be the world of ceramics restoration or boarding school life. There are beautifully described scenes set in Sweden, where Eliza visits her Godfather who is also Rose's father, with enchanting detail of Swedish customs. These are charming, but often tinged with a touch of darkness. This darkness is a thread running throughout the book, laced between the lighter moments and showing up in the characters and their imperfect relationships. It is offset by the feather-light language and the wonderfully dark humour present throughout. The imagery is finely drawn and highly original, making you linger on the ideas it is representing. The reader is drawn in by Eliza's fragility and her appealing character, which is contrasted with Sandra's self-centred, snobbish personality. The delicacy and originality of the writing, the off-the-wall humour and the depiction of the beautifully realistic flawed characters had me glued to this book, and, on finishing it, I felt compelled to immediately start reading it all over again.
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on 22 October 2011
'Drowning Rose' is a lovely novel. I don't want to provide any spoilers here so will not mention the plot.
It is a novel about guilt and how lives are lived in the shadow of chance events that happened many years ago. It is quite the most thought provoking novel I have read in ages. Marika Cobbold has created some wonderfully rounded characters here. She is particularly good at recreating the emotional lives of teenage girls as seen through the point of view one of the characters. Throughout the novel, despite the serious themes explored, there is a gentle sense of humour present which makes it a truly enjoyable read.
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