Book Reviews

Beating: #AFamishedHeart by Nicola White @whiteheadednic @ViperBooks #Extract #Review #blogtour

I am so excited to be part of the blog tour for A Famished Heart! If you haven’t added the novel to your list already, read the following extract and my review, you will know how much you need to read the book!!

Francesca arrived at the theatre with a deli sandwich in her pocket and an hour to spare before curtain up. A new review from The Village Voice was pinned to the noticeboard. It was favourable, but didn’t single her out, so
there was no need to get a copy.
She wondered if Rosaleen was still keeping the book of all her press cuttings. It was a long time now since anyone, even from the Irish papers, had asked to interview her. Rosaleen’s strange letter came back to her – the religious fervour that ran through it. It gave Francesca a feeling of
suffocated panic. She would call them tomorrow – she could chance using
Máirín’s phone. Máirín was always calling her mammy in Longford, she mightn’t notice it on her bill. And what the hell, it sounded like she was getting kicked out anyway. In the dressing room she arranged her hair into a modest bun. She was playing the role of inspirational teacher to a prodigious Latino boy-poet, whose family wanted him to stifle his gift and follow his father into construction. It wasa plonking, didactic kind of play, set in Queens, the place where Manhattanites thought ‘real people’ lived.
A knock came on the door.


She was expecting the young director who assailed her nightly with ideas for how she might disport herself when she was onstage, but not in the action, which was actually most of the play. The day before, he’d asked her to ‘make the listening more interesting, but not distracting?’ But it wasn’t the impossible director. It was Boris from the stage door, saying she had an urgent phone call.

‘Are you sure?’
‘I am so sorry,’ said Boris.

Fear was already prickling her scalp as she picked the receiver off Boris’s desk. A half-eaten Danish pastry lay on a square of greaseproof paper beside the phone, and this was what filled her vision, as Máirín spoke on the other end of the line.

‘… your brother Philip … trying to get you all day … didn’t say what happened … both your sisters … yes, both … so, so sorry …’
‘I have to go now,’ Francesca said, wanting Máirín to
stop talking.

She needed to get back to the dressing room. She had so little time to get changed into her costume.

‘You have to get back to Dublin,’ said Máirín. ‘I’ll ring the airlines for you.’
‘I’m due onstage, I’ll sort it out later.’

The Danish pastry had nuts scattered on top of it – pecans, she thought they were. One had fallen off the pastry and lay alone on the paper. She could feel Boris at her elbow, leaning in as if to catch her. The director was rushing towards them.

‘Francesca? Boris just told me. This is unbelievable, awful.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll be okay to go on.’
‘No, I’ll get someone to read in for you.’
‘Really,’ she said, ‘I want to go on.’

She had never meant anything more. On the far side of the play lay some terrible shift in her life. A black disaster. Just for a few more hours she could resist it. Just for a few more hours she could be where she was meant to be, on a New York stage.

Title: A Famished Heart
Author: Nicola White
Publisher: Viper Books
Date of publication: 27 February 2020

Oh my Goodness, how do I review this one?

Viper Books hits the ground running with this first publication! A Famished Heart smells of novelty and intrigue. I was as happy as a kid on Christmas day when I opened my copy, ready to be transported away from home for a few hours.

The journey was no disappointment. I was expecting a good read; I was rewarded with a striking and evocative story laced with questions of faith, guilt, and that little pinch of I-don’t-know-what that makes me want to grab my copy again and brush my fingers on the pages.

A Famished Heart belongs to the literary crime fiction in my opinion. No, the author doesn’t drag you all the way up to a path where you have to check the dictionary to make sure you understand the prose. What I mean by literary crime is the captivating blend of normal life stories enhanced by a spectacular narration which allows you to be in the moment, and the painstaking look at police work through the lens of realism and humanity. The devil is in the details and Nicola White knows it all too well! Her pen is descriptive yet light, and the reading is simply delicious.

There is no beating around the bush. The opening gives you a place, a date, and a dead body. Nothing is rushed, the discoveries, the scene, the work. I was led through all stages as if I were visiting the place myself, but instead of standing on the outside, the writing permitted me to grab the nuances of the events through the viewpoints of several characters.

Hello Father. You discovered the McNamara sisters and gave me a hard time. I am cautious around the church. I spent many hours learning about Catholicism and rules sitting on a hard bench. The Ireland setting gave me the impression that the church was almost like a coat keeping everyone warm, whether you felt cold or not. The importance of religion is clear, yet the author pinpoints the good, the bad, and the ugly in a balanced way. I found that having a priest meet the sisters after their departure from life, as well as involving faith throughout the book was an ingenious key element in the plot, a strong thread to pull at to get a better understanding of whatever fate had in store for the poor sisters and their family. I could imagine fate and religion fighting for the remaining souls of this novel, and for a skeptical like me, it was both refreshing and mesmerising.

How could two parishioners vanish without anyone noticing? This question stayed on my mind for a long time. Was it their age? As you get older, you go out less, you socialise less… At least, that’s what they say. Was it the broken family bonds? Was there something wrong with them? At some point, I couldn’t help but imagine if someone would find me, miss me, if something like this was to happen. But… something like what? That’s the one-million question! With it comes a sneaky uneasiness, a taste of something rotten at the core of the events. I’ll admit it, I loved it!

The case itself takes a back seat in A Famished Heart. Like the spark that lits up a fire, the mystery gives way to a deep exploration of relationships. The characters hold the stage – the Father, the detectives, the niece, and Francesca, the sister who escaped to the US a long time ago. There is a lot to do with those ones. Knots to untangle, brains to use, matters to probe. The built of this novel reminds me of Jo Spain’s novels. One big event, and a million waves the readers must navigates to get answers to questions they were not even aware were floating around. I was entirely consumed by my reading. Not because of big races or a huge amount of twists, but because this slow-burning intrigue talked to my mind and heart. I was as much involved in the why as I was in the who. There was no frontiers and the only way to solve this puzzle is to let the novel do its work. Sit, and let your eyes decipher the world Nicola White depicts in a unique and brilliant way.

A Famished Heart is a subtle and fascinating novel with great depth.

I would like to thank Viper Books for inviting me to share the book love!

Grab your copy now!

3 thoughts on “Beating: #AFamishedHeart by Nicola White @whiteheadednic @ViperBooks #Extract #Review #blogtour”

  1. I like it when books open with a dead body!
    I can tell you were invested in this novel by this review. It’s a scary thought to wonder how long it would take for someone to know you were missing isn’t it.
    Great review for a what sounds like a very well written book.


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