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Release Date: 1st March 2019 / Publisher: Bookouture

She followed her heart to change her life, but she didn’t realise how much she left behind…

Eliza Bloom has a list of rules: long, blue skirt on Thursdays, dinner with mother on Fridays, and never give your heart away to the wrong person. Nothing is out of place in her ordered life…

Then she met someone who she was never supposed to speak to. And he introduced her to a whole world of new lists:
New foods to try – oysters and sushi
Great movies to watch – Bambi and Some Like It Hot 
Things I love about Eliza Bloom

Eliza left everything she knew behind for him, but sometimes love just isn’t enough. Especially when he opens a hidden shoebox and starts asking a lot of questions about her past life. As the walls Eliza has carefully constructed threaten to come crashing down, will she find a way to keep hold of everyone she loves, and maybe, just maybe, bring the two sides of her heart together at last?

An uplifting and heartbreaking novel about finding yourself, perfect for fans Jojo Moyes, The Hideaway and P.S. I Love You. 

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My Review

This is the story of a young Jewish woman, Eliza Bloom.  Coming from a very strict Jewish family, Eliza was the shining example of what a good Jewish girl should be.  Fast forward 15 years, and Eliza’s life is very different.  She is married and has a teenage daughter, Leah.  But when Leah finds a photo hidden in a shoebox, she begins to ask questions which may just bring Eliza’s life crashing down.

Whatever I expected this book to be like, it certainly wasn’t this!  This was the first book I’ve read by this author, but it certainly won’t be my last!  I’ve seen two different covers for this book, and whilst I would have read the book with either of the covers, the covers don’t really convey what this book is really about!  I have to admit also, the blurb doesn’t really give much away so when I started this book I didn’t really know what to expect.

Eliza comes from a Jewish family in Hackney, East London.  To someone who isn’t part of the Jewish faith, Eliza’s life must seem completely alien.  Amongst other things, she wears long sleeved tops and long skirts, has a scarf to cover her hair, she can’t be alone with a man who isn’t part of her family and she has no idea of popular culture, never being allowed to watch TV or listen to music.  The story is told from two times in Eliza’s life.  Firstly in 2001 when she was a young woman who was on the verge of marrying a man whom her family had chosen, and then 15 years later when Eliza is married and has a teenage daughter of her own.  The switches between timescales are done simply and without confusion, leaving me perfectly clear as to what part of Eliza’s life I was in.

Meeting the young Eliza was fascinating.  I’ve heard of the Jewish faith, and learnt about it in Religious Education classes at school, but never realised how strict the faith was.   Being set in East London, predominantly Hackney where Eliza lived as a child I’d forgotten that there was a large Jewish community in these areas.  To Eliza the Jewish traditions which her family followed were the norm, but whilst I understood her faith and beliefs, I did find the storyline involving her father to be quite upsetting.

The storyline flips us back and forth through Eliza’s life.  Whilst this isn’t mentioned in the blurb, I don’t really think this is a spoiler, Eliza falls in love with Alex, who isn’t Jewish.  When she leaves to be with Alex, the transition into her secular life is so emotional and I really felt for her when she was trying to keep to her beliefs but also try to fit into Alex’s life.  I also felt for Alex and you can feel how frustrating it must have been for him to try and understand and accommodate Eliza’s beliefs.  My heart broke for the pair of them and left me on the verge of tears for most of the book.

When the story moves later in Eliza’s life, we find her daughter Leah has discovered a photograph which prompts her to ask questions about the family.  The story cleverly moves between present and past to keep the reader in the loop as to what is happening and everything in the present day storyline is explained.  There are some questions being asked by Leah, but whilst I could guess how the book was going to play out, it was a really interesting journey to get to the answers.

The characters within the storyline are all great, although I wouldn’t say they were all likeable as there were some I disliked from the start.  It was certainly a real eye opener into the Jewish faith and how different the lives were for the devout Jewish community in this country.  The storyline was wonderful and I found myself being hooked from the very first page with Eliza, Alex and Leah’s story.  It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, I found myself enlightened by many parts and others bought a smile to my face.  This was completely different to what I was expecting when I started this book, but I’m so pleased it was.  Every now and then a book comes along which leaves you thinking about it for a long time after I finished it.  This was one of those books!  A mesmerising story which I would highly recommend.

The Author