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Book Review: The Haunting Scent of Poppies by Victoria Williamson

It's more than just a ghost story.

By Marie SinadjanPublished 4 months ago 3 min read
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The War is over, but for petty criminal Charlie his darkest days are only just beginning.

Charlie Briggs is never off-duty, even when a botched job means he's forced to lay low in a sleepy Hampshire town for the holiday season. Always searching for his next unwitting victim, or a shiny trinket he can pilfer, he can't believe his luck when he happens upon a rare book so valuable it will set him up for life. All he needs to do is sit tight until Boxing Day. But there's a desperate story that bleeds beyond the pages; something far more dangerous than London's mobsters is lurking in the shadows.

Could the book be cursed? Why is he haunted by the horrors of war? Can he put things right before he's suffocated by his own greed?

GENRE: Historical Fiction / Young Adult / Horror

PURCHASE LINK: Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Victoria Williamson is an award-winning author who grew up in Scotland surrounded by hills, books, and an historical farm estate which inspired many of her early adventure stories and spooky tales. After studying Physics at the University of Glasgow, she set out on her own real-life adventures, which included teaching maths and science in Cameroon, training teachers in Malawi, teaching English in China and working with children with additional support needs in the UK. Victoria currently works part time writing KS2 books for the education company Twinkl and spends the rest of her time writing novels, and visiting schools, libraries and literary festivals to give author talks and run creative writing workshops.

Victoria’s previous novels include The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, The Boy with the Butterfly Mind, Hag Storm, and War of the Wind. She has won the Bolton Children’s Fiction Award 2020/2021, The YA-aldi Glasgow Secondary School Libraries Book Award 2023, and has been shortlisted for the Week Junior Book Awards 2023, The Leeds Book Awards 2023, the Red Book Award 2023, the James Reckitt Hull Book Awards 2021, The Trinity School Book Awards 2021, and longlisted for the ABA South Coast Book Awards 2023, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020, and the Branford Boase Award 2019.

Her latest novel, The Pawnshop of Stolen Dreams, is a middle grade fantasy inspired by classic folklore. Twenty percent of the author royalties for this book are donated to CharChar Literacy, an organisation working to improve children’s literacy levels in Malawi.

You can find out more about Victoria’s books, school visits and free resources for schools on her website: www.strangelymagical.com

Review

Is there anything Victoria Williamson can't write? I've followed her from The Pawnshop of Stolen Dreams to Norah's Ark to The Whistlers in the Dark and, most recently, to Feast of Ashes, and does she deliver!

This book is tiny but mighty. It's very atmospheric, but beyond the spooky spectre is an even greater horror: war. Media has a way of toning down war or shifting our focus to something else about it, like the weapons or the strategies employed or even the drama. But then there are films like Hacksaw Ridge that really got to me and drove the point of war's awfulness home, and The Haunting Scent of Poppies did the same. Pretty unexpected for what's supposed to be a ghost story, huh?

I also didn't expect the ending to go the way it did. I can't say more without spoiling it, but I was very pleased.

Excited for my next Victoria Williamson read!

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️️⭐️️

The Significance of Poppies

I'm not British, so I had to look this up. I know it's a symbol related to the military, but not much else. The Royal British Legion website says:

During WW1, much of the fighting took place in Western Europe. The countryside was blasted, bombed and fought over repeatedly. Previously beautiful landscapes turned to mud; bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow.

There was a notable and striking exception to the bleakness - the bright red Flanders poppies. These resilient flowers flourished in the middle of so much chaos and destruction, growing in the thousands upon thousands.

Shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was moved by the sight of these poppies and that inspiration led him to write the now famous poem In Flanders Fields.

The poem then inspired an American academic named Moina Michael to adopt the poppy in memory of those who had fallen in the war. She campaigned to get it adopted as an official symbol of Remembrance across the United States and worked with others who were trying to do the same in Canada, Australia, and the UK.

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About the Creator

Marie Sinadjan

Filipino spec fic author and book reviewer based in the UK. https://linktr.ee/mariesinadjan • www.mariesinadjan.com

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