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on 13 September 2008
Father Ewan McEwan - catholic priest, but a `man like any other' - this is his story, and as it gradually unfolds we discover the man developing from a 5 year old boy to the present man who is trying to come to terms with the death of Marina with whom he has has a long passionate love affair.

It is also the story of Marina, whose life has had overriding influences over the people and the events which take place. Her story too is revealed to the reader through her written confession `The Tales from the Purple Handbag' Marina, Lady Proudfoot is on the surface a perfect angel - but as her story is told we discover she was anything but the lady she appears to be with some shocking revelations. Each character has in some way had their lives affected by Marina. This is a story about relationships and secret lives.

Tim is grieving for his adored mother, he is delicate and breaks down in what I can only describe as Ophelia-like. He cannot live without his mother, and needs the support of the other love of his life, the selfish Roger who continuously lets him down.

Roger is an absolute cad - I took an instant dislike to this character! - selfish and behaving without any care for others around him. He has had 2 true loves in his life - his wife Sarah and a lifelong love for Tim for whom he leaves Sarah on the death of Marina. Those around him see him as charming - only the reader sees him for what he truly is.

The tale is told skilfully, interweaving the lives of the characters and their relationships, the drama gradually builds to a crescendo, never faltering, a fantastic page turner and thankfully with a very satisfying end! I have just finished the book but I know these characters will remain with me for some time yet - and I have the urge to pick up the book and go back to the beginning to read it all again. A fabulous must-read, this book will remain on my permanent bookshelf although I'll be buying more copies for friends!
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on 2 December 2008
As soon as I started reading this novel I could think of little else until I reached the end. I am tempted to say the best of Susan Howatch and Joanna Trollope rolled into one - but Mary is her own person with her own unique and captivating literary style. The narrative flows fluently, with enough vividly evocative descriptions of the variety of settings and atmosphere,witout being overworked. The characters are sharply drawn and credible, if complex and bizarrely unorthodox. The dialogue is fluid and totally natural sounding, be it brisk repartee or earnest, measured conversation. And although the narrative frequently switches between different times, which can be a risky technique, in this case there is little chance of confusion as this unusual and gripping story unfolds. This is clearly the work of an experienced, perceptive, imaginative and mature author with a great future. Hopefully she will meet the certain demand for a succession of further novels of quality.
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on 12 January 2009
An extraordinarily ambitious and complex novel which nevertheless manages to be a 'pageturner' in the finest tradition of the word.

It is unusual to come across a novel where the author evidently cares about the characters so deeply and grants nearly all of them a chance of redemption at the end.

I read it in about three long sittings - which considering what a slow reader I normally am, I found extraordinary.

For those who want a backstage pass to their character's inner lives and believe in second chances.
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on 15 October 2008
What a wonderful book this is. Very clever and intricate plotting, and a real page turner: is Father Ewan ever going to get a look at the tales of the purple handbag and find out the truth about the woman he loved? The whole cast of characters is vivid and appealing, and the description of the setting is very sensitive. I don't know the Suffolk coast at all, but the vignettes of it in this book made me want to go there.
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on 13 April 2009
This is one of those books you do not want to end! I started the book and hardly could put it down! An amazing story of a very worldly priest! Well done, Mary!
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