Monday, December 3, 2007

A note on A Bucket of Ashes, a romantic novel by Jill Lanchbery

A Bucket of Ashes, a romantic novel set in Britain and Nigeria, by Jill Lanchbery is publised by Libros International. At the heart of A Bucket of Ashes by Jill Lanchbery is an old fashioned love story. Joanna Townsend has it all. She has her own home in a beautiful Sussex village, a successful career as a freelance fashion illustrator, a fourteen year old son who she adores and a gorgeous boyfriend, Tom who wants to marry her.

Sally Akinola, mother of four teenage daughters, thinks she has it all too until she learns that her handsome Nigerian husband Isaac has a second wife who has produced the sons that his family and culture value so highly.
It is when Joanna is offered a prestigious assignment in Lagos that the two women, once friends but now separated by time distance and culture, rekindle their friendship. As their two lives - past and present - parallel and intertwine, ducking and diving between modern day and fifteen years earlier, they are forced to confront their own personal problems compelling them to make choices they had never wanted or expected to make.

Joanna, once again under the spell of her son's father, Marcus, the man who had abandoned her, must decide whether or not she can trust him a second time; both for herself and for her son, Harry's sake. For Sally it is a tragic event that irrevocably changes her life finally giving her the strength to do what she knows in her heart she must do.

Set against the colourful tropical backdrop of Nigeria, it is a novel of passion, intrigue and tragedy, of teenage angst and cultural identity, but above all it is a story of human frailty. Of what happens when people live in such close proximity that adultery becomes almost obligatory and of the goldfish environment in which it flourishes. Of what happens when emotions are allowed to overrule common sense.

Jill Lanchbery was born in Essex but brought up in South Africa and Zambia and has lived in Nigeria, Northern Ireland and England. She now lives on the Costa Blanca in Spain where she teaches English in between writing her novels. She has had stories and articles published in periodicals and anthologies.Although born in Nazeing, Essex, Jill considers herself to be a citizen of the world. As a small child, shortly after the end of the Second World War, she emigrated to South Africa along with her parents and brother and sister.

Jill was the stereotypical scribbling child. Fascinated from a young age by 'words on paper', she excelled at reading and writing.

An early marriage, four children and a husband whose job took the family all over the world meant that her formal education was curtailed. However she considers that what she may have missed out on in terms of 'pieces of paper' was compensated for by the abundance of experience she gained along the way.

She was a grandmother - and what she describes as a 'late developer' - when she attended the University of Sussex, where she studied creative writing and English literature.

Jill later went on to qualify as an EFL teacher specialising in Business English and she has taught both in the United Kingdom and in Spain.

It was a family trauma - the death of her second daughter Alison in 1988 in tragic circumstances - that made her re-evaluate her life and was the catalyst for her writing.

Since then she has had articles and short stories published in periodicals and anthologies and been placed in several international short story competitions. She was for many years an active member of Hastings Writers Group and is featured in their new anthology Diamonds.

Reviews of A Bucket of Ashes on amazon include:
Jill's story follows a fashion designer, Joanna, on an assignment back to Nigeria, where she lived years before with her husband. Her return visit re-discovers some skeletons from a cupboard she thought had been closed as she renews a relationship with Marcus, whom she promised not to meet. Throughout the book, Joanna has choices to make in her life and, perhaps, the return to Nigeria brings the options into sharper focus. A gentle story well told. The characters really do come to life.

Jill has conjured up the imagery of Africa with finesse, you can smell Africa, see her colours, hear her sounds. And against this backdrop, we are confronted with tough human emotions and difficult choices. It is the type of book that leaves you thinking about it long after you have finished the last page and put the book back onto the bookshelf. I really enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone who enjoys thoughtful, well-written narrative.

A Bucket of Ashes will appeal to anyone who reads romantic fiction, but it also has the depth and content to captivate the general reader.

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