Today I am delighted to be joining the tour with Harriet Cummings and her new release ‘We All Begin As Strangers‘
Inspired by true events, it tells the story of ‘an English village pushed to the brink and the secrets it’s residents are desperate to protect.‘
‘We All Begin As Strangers‘ is the lead debut in fiction 2017 for Orion Books so I was thrilled to be asked by Virginia Woolstencroft (Orion) to be a part of the blog tour.
Please continue reading for my voluntary and unbiased review…..
It’s 1984, and summer is scorching the ordinary village of Heathcote.
A mysterious figure is sneaking into homes through backdoors and open windows. Dubbed ‘the Fox’, he knows everything about everyone – leaving curious objects in their homes, or taking things from them.
When beloved Anna goes missing, the whole community believes the Fox is responsible.
For the worried residents, finding Anna will be difficult – but stopping the Fox from exposing their darkest secrets might just be impossible…
Inspired by a real 80s mystery, and with pitch-perfect characters, WE ALL BEGIN AS STRANGERS is a beautiful debut novel you’ll want to recommend to everyone.
The ideal read for fans of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP and ELIZABETH IS MISSING.
I loved the title of this book before I ever read one word about the story-line.
‘We All Begin As Strangers‘ is a very strong statement that carries so much truth. From the day we are born until the day we die, every brand new interaction we have with someone is as two strangers meeting for the first time. This exchange can develop into a deep friendship or remain aloof and formal with all the other variations of association in-between.
Harriet Cummings introduces us to the relationships of a group of individuals in a small English village where unusual occurrences have been taking place. Loosely based on true events from the 1980’s this character was dubbed ‘The Fox’. Harriet Cummings takes a little creative initiative and uses the premise of this mysterious character as the basis for her novel.
As a (*ahem*) child of the 80’s I absolutely loved all the references to the iconic symbols of the time. J.R. and Sue-Ellen, Soda-stream, Vol-au-vents, shoulder pads and of course prawn cocktail, I experienced a wonderful trip down memory lane.
We All Begin As Strangers focuses on a small number of villagers, each with a story to tell. Deloris is newly married to Harvey and spends her day watching Dallas. They have all the trappings of a good life but yet Deloris is not happy. Brian is a member of the local police-force with a difficult cross to bear in life, which he does with great strength and determination. Jim is the local minister running from something that he just cannot escape, a secret that he keeps close to his chest. Stan works in the local supermarket and leads a rather unhappy life with barriers up to hide his truth. And then there is Anna. Anna is a local girl who has lead a very sheltered and sad existence. Caught up in the day-to-day life of the community Anna has become known as a go-to when assistance is required. Anna never says no.
The village is thrown into disarray when it is suspected that there is an intruder breaking into houses. What makes this intruder so unusual is that nothing of value is taken. Personal mementos are slightly moved, people are aware of a presence in their homes and there is a general atmosphere of anxiety among the community.
It is on awakening one day to the disappearance of Anna that the villagers are thrown together in fear for Anna’s safety and their own.
I was reminded of William Golding’s ‘The Lord of The Flies‘ when reading sections of this book. Society has an unusual way of turning in on itself when a feeling of danger is introduced into a small group. With each person now a suspect, there is suspicion where there used to be trust. Doors are locked, curtains are kept closed and everything from Samurai swords to shovels are used as protection against an unknown foe.
Harriet Cummings has written an almost satirical novel of a small community in a rural setting. Tradition has us believe that everyone knows everything about everybody else’s business in such a tight-knit community but as we read in ‘We All Begin As Strangers‘, such is not the case.
As a novel, I’m not sure what genre this book falls into. There are a variety of issues tackled but ultimately it is a book about community and how trusts can be so easily broken. There is a fragility and loneliness to many of the characters that is dealt with in a sensitive manner, as truths are exposed and people’s lives are laid bare.
There is something quite comforting about the style of Harriet Cummings writing. There is a classic charm that belies her age and her words have a very delightful flow.
Purchase Link ~ We All Begin As Strangers
I was lucky to feature Harriet Cummings recently with a guest post which you can read HERE
Harriet Cummings is a freelance writer with a background in history of art and gender studies. As a script writer, she has had work performed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as well as independent venues around London
While studying at Faber Academy, Harriet threw herself into her first novel and hasn’t looked back since. WE ALL BEGIN AS STRANGERS is inspired by real events that occurred the summer that Harriet was born in the village where her parents still live.
Residents in Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable, Tring and other surrounding villages still discuss the summer of 1984 and the legend of ‘the Fox’.
She now lives in Leamington Spa with her husband and springer spaniel.
Follow Harriet on Twitter @HarrietWriter
or find out more at www.harrietcummingsauthor.com