on 20 February 2010
When I first read this I was faced with a dilemma; It is such a page turner that I couldn't read fast enough and yet at the same time I did not want it to finish.
You become part of the story and part of the journey and you feel so connected to the characters as their journey unfold. Simply fantastic.
on 23 January 2012
I had the privilege of reading this book when it first became available - I loved it. So why haven't I written a review before? Well, I offer these reasons: I'm not the sort to push myself forward... I like to think books stand on their own (- but that shows a remarkable naivete regarding the book industry!) And as a voracious reader, ex-English teacher and bibliophile of excessive proportion I have met many good books worthy of note over the years. However, having read this first offering from Vivienne Tuffnell I also felt: how could I possibly do this book justice? I am no wordsmith, unlike the author. If I was to say the characters are good, that would be to underplay the most fascinating group of full-rounded and believably crafted characters I had come across in along time - the sort that stay with you long after you have put the book down, that wander with you through your daily chores, that you catch yourself pondering about as you drive to work. The basic premise of these six people all with their broken hearts coming to find a solution, may not in such bald terms seem immediately enthralling, but just you wait until they grab your own heart-strings: they don't let go! And as other reviewers have said, the compulsion to read on is a forceful one: I too had a sleepless night and blurred eyes in the morning (as witnesses can testify!) Over and above these excellent elements of a good read: good plot, good characters, etc is the sheer skill of the writing: the exciting juxtaposition of concepts and ideas, the relevant vocabulary choices and ultimately the delicate manner in which you are led yourself to the peace of the 'Wellspring', make you yearn for more as you close the book.
on 18 December 2011
I enjoyed this book very much. I was swept into the stories of each character, and the thing I liked most about each one was their very humanity. Flawed they may be, but the writer painted each person with such compassion that their flaws did not define them - we saw beyond their guilt, their ego, their jealousy, their loneliness and despair. Six individuals on a uniquely modern-day pilgrimage for acceptance, and isn't that what we are all searching for? Acceptance of ourselves as we really are, without the cloaks we sometimes feel pressured to wear or the unhealthy habits we may acquire to be acceptable to others.
Exquisite characterisation combined with some truly sublime descriptive prose made this as rewarding a journey for me, reading, as it was for the six pilgrims whose journey I shared. It touched me at a deep level - I even met the Warden in a dream one night - make of that what you may, but it was good.
on 21 June 2010
It's hard to say what I liked most. There are wonderful transitions between storylines, a gripping plot that never gets bogged down, and surprise endings. The characters are real and personal without extra baggage. The brief description of characters on the back is a great bonus for those easily distracted or with limited time.
on 11 March 2010
I just finished Strangers and Pilgrims. I am just blown away. It is WONDERFUL. It was so good, I was rationing myself to just a chapter at a time so I wouldn't finish it too quickly. It was strange.........the first half was so good, I was thinking, "Nah, she's going to blow it now; she can't keep this up; she's never going to tie all this together." But she did. Best thing I've read in years. When do we get the next one?
on 9 September 2011
So I bought the book on the recommendation of a lovely lady on the Twittersphere. It took me three days to go for it: I'm so sick of books. Lately I've only persisted with the truly awful ones just to make sure that they were as bad as I thought they would be. And they were.
'Strangers and Pilgrims' lay on the bedside table waving at me for another week. Oh heck, here we go again, I thought. Surely, it can't be any good if it's an indie-self-published-thingy, I said to myself? I'm not a woman in tune with all that New-Agey-Inner-Goddess-Within-type stuff either, so why do I buy these things?
The blurb on the back was intriguing and so was the device that brought the characters together. My ageing eyes protested at the size of the print but I started anyway and ....gulp!.... be still my beating heart. It was 4am when I finished and I had to get up and walk around the garden to calm myself. It touched me, moved me in unexpected places; it made me smile and I was left joyful. So there are a few typos - so what? I found them not only endearing but useful. The prose was just so easy on the heart, the dialogue flowed effortlessly and the experience was so sensuous that I`m convinced that a little gremlin planted them typos to make me pause and not race through it.
There was a bit that I hadn't seen coming (and I'm the smug know-it-all who can solve the crime in 12 pages, give or take 100) so I re-read the book in a different order, following each character. It was time to get up and I'm still thinking about the pilgrims and how I missed the clues. Game, set and match to Vivienne Tuffnell for her truly exceptional gifts.
I lost something too: my cynicism around mystical, magical, spiritual, reflective - what's the word, someone? - novel. Gone is my prejudice against the indie author-publisher. I'm going to get me a Kindle and go hunting for the rest of them, wherever they are. I think I like books again, too, so thanks V.T. - you're an angel.
on 6 November 2011
Strangers and Pilgrims isn't my usual reading choice. I came across it by accident, yet after reading the book I'm wondering how many other books are lurking out there which have the power to move me to such admiration. I've never met the author, but her ability to create a framework on which to set the different strands of such a complex novel is quite remarkable.
The structure of the book, for me at least, left the most impression. A great deal of thought went into the planning of the different stories and the writer's skill at bringing the whole entity together has to be applauded. Vivienne Tuffnell uses language beautifully and keeps the reader involved at every stage. As a reader, one can't hope for more. I've rarely read a novel that works as well as this. I need to read more from this author and am delighted to see I'll have the opportunity to do just that. Strongly recommended.
on 4 August 2010
I bought this book several months ago but hadn't got around to reading it. However, once I picked it up I couldn't put it down!! Vivienne has quite a unique narrative style which I found very refreshing. Her descriptions of the characters' surroundings are so detailed, it's as if you are there with them too.You literally experience what each character is going through and I found myself empathising with them all and their suffering. Without giving the game away there is an unexpected twist at the end of the story too! I would love to know what happens to the characters after their voyage of discovery.......
on 26 January 2012
Six wounded strangers, each with a unique story of broken relationships and lost dreams, are brought together by a common need for the healing waters of a mysterious Wellspring. Unlike their 14th century forebears who tell their stories on the road to Canterbury for the prize of a free meal, these pilgrims seek something far more vital: a reason to keep living. What they discover about each other, and most importantly, themselves, makes for a compelling, page-turning read. I was very drawn to Tuffnell's characters who are as real, complex and confused as you and me, and I have a passion for the inner journey to self-knowledge that was the essence of their quest. But it is her extraordinary sensitivity to the mysterious beauty of the world around her and her passion for the legends, traditions and sacred spaces of her beloved England that took me from interested internet friend to ardent fan. I couldn't recommend this book more highly.
on 31 January 2012
For a miserable cynic like myself to be so engaged, and have such love for a book about spirituality, personal transformation and other such jolly platitudes should tell you all you need to know about the mastery of the author and just how wonderful this book is.
Whatever paths you take in life and faith - whether you are a religious individual, indeed spiritual in any way, whether you think with new age philosophies, or indeed whether, like me you are cold and cynical, yet humanistic - This book will speak to you.
A tale of six individuals - wonderfully crafted - with their own unique problems that break their hearts, this book is an exploration of the pain with a Google twist. All of them input the same words into a search engine and find themselves drawn to the same result.
The first part of this book, 'Strangers' focuses on their individuality - and subsequently their isolation - as they all find the same result of their online search and contact the Kafka-esque 'Warden' of a retreat. A device that marries their situations together perfectly, and with intrigue.
The start of the second part, 'Pilgrims' is in stark contrast to the frank pain and misery of the first half. Each one seemingly kicking off their burdens as easily as a pair of shoes at the door and finding a place with just as much ease within a group of people. Indeed, this togetherness, and the notions of humanity is what drove the story for me, as characters talk, share, and experience things together. Each person seems to have lost something of their humanity and slowly each individual - through others - finds a way to piece it back. It is truly heartwarming and touching, and it is a joy to read the characters stories as each one undergoes a transformation for heartbroken husk to human being.
My trepidation at the 'spirituality' of this book was entirely misguided. The characters are magnificently written, and the author has a great knack for vivid description. Also, there are elements of religious, spiritual, new age and humanistic mentalities in every character and in this way it is relatable to all no matter what you believe. When a book can make even a cynic like myself grin with abandon at the end of it, you know the author has done a good job. This book teaches us not only the catharsis of purging our personal guilt, doubts and problems - but also the necessity to do so. And whether you choose a path of God, of spirituality, or alternative healing, massage or yoga, or whether you just decide to confide in other human beings, this book teaches us that it is better to be pilgrims on this journey, than strangers.