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Genes Book Club - The Separation reviews

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GenesBookClub Advisor Report 14 May 2014 14:37

Hi everyone,

To those of you who were selected to receive a free copy of The Separation, we hope you enjoy reading it and would love to hear what you think of the book.

The Separation is author Dinah Jeffries' first title.


Winifred Report 7 Jun 2014 22:03

Not received mine yet. I'll post when I do.


Whizz Report 9 Jun 2014 17:36

I haven't received a copy as yet. As there are no reviews my guess is they haven't been sent out yet?


belladonna Report 11 Jun 2014 19:56

I was selected for the May book, but this hasn’t yet arrived, and I then wasn’t able to find the link for the June book, either, so have missed my chance to apply for that one!
Not happy :-(


+++DetEcTive+++ Report 13 Jun 2014 20:36

Belladonna - 'we' (other GR members) were discussing the absence of a June book on another thread - no one has seen the offer, and there isn't anything on the Announcement Board.

So don't worry - you haven't missed out on June's..................if there is going to be one!!!


Lesley Report 15 Jun 2014 19:28

The Separation by Dinah Jeffries
The book is set in Malaya during the 1950s at the time of The Emergency in Malaya. This was an unusual and interesting subject, one of which I knew very little. It would have been helpful if there had been a brief one page introduction explaining the period along with a sketch map of the country and the towns and regions in which the scenes were set. The novel had two main characters, Emma and her mother Lydia whose viewpoints, for most of the book, are given in alternate short chapters, Emma’s written in the first person and Lydia’s in the third.
The novel follows the experiences of both Emma and her mother during their separation after Alec, the father and husband respectively, returns to England with his two daughters. He claims that his wife had gone missing and was presumed dead after having an affair with another man. Alive and still in Malaya and searching for her family, Lydia is told that her husband and two daughters have perished in a fire started by rebels. Both Emma and Lydia are grief stricken by their separation.
There are some criticisms of this first novel. In the first two thirds of the book the short chapters all begin with the protagonist expressing angst and a feeling of loss of a mother/daughter, this along with reading of the gallons of beads of sweat along hairlines and the many men with lines from their noses to their mouths, does become tedious. Conveniently characters appeared as if by magic at various parts of the novel. All manner of events take place, which in my mind added nothing to the core story.
Adil and Maz were suddenly both on a bus and meet Lydia. This meeting is crucial to the plot (much later an explanation for this was given). Jack, with whom Lydia has been having a steamy love affair, without any prior evidence as far as this reader understands, just happened to live nearby where the bus had been stopped (again, later this was all explained). Because of the relationship Lydia had been having with Jack; her husband had claimed that he had felt compelled to return to England with his daughters in tow, despite his own lack of morals and the fact that they had lived in a society of Ex-pats many of whom openly had extra-marital relationships. Despite all his indignation, he quickly becomes attached to Vanessa who just happened to be on the same cargo boat, returning to England from Malaya with her nasty brother.
This very same Vanessa later becomes a close ally of Emma and helps her to search for her missing mother Lydia, despite the fact that a positive outcome could jeopardise her engagement to the “widower” Alec. Gran (Alec’s mother) changes from Gran to Grannie half way through the book, and for some reason Vanessa’s brother becomes a sexual predator both in England and in South Africa. Emma has a near-sexual encounter with Billy a friend from school and Lydia’s friend Cicely becomes not only a rich siren but also a secret service agent and a would-be gay lover. Of course there is the nun-teacher who just happens to have a locket containing Emma’s maternal grandmother’s image which leads Emma to discover a rich maternal grandmother whose only daughter was taken away from her at birth.
And finally we have Lydia’s lovers, the unfortunate Jack with hairline sweat and lines from the nose to his mouth, who did not live long enough to buy his way out of his contract and marry the “widow” Lydia. But then the shaven head Adil returned and sorted out a lot of things. He had caused many of problems in the first place; ordered by George, an even nastier man than Vanessa’s brother, who saves us from more intrigue by killing himself. Adil, who was working for a baddie turns out to be a goodie and falls in love with Lydia. The feeling is mutual. The book ends with two generations of mothers and daughters reunited and the reader wondering whether poor Adil will receive a letter from Lydia asking him to join her. Will he need to buy a woolly hat to cover his shaved head against the cold English weather when he sets sail for England, or will the now rich Lydia forget all about him? We never find out! Oh what a lot to take in. Probably too much.


Whizz Report 16 Jun 2014 10:46

Just to say that I received my copy of The Separation today so I am guessing others will too.
The delay is probably not the fault of Genes Reunited but Penguin Books themselves.
Perhaps it's my imagination but there seems to be an air of discontent with the despatch of the May books and no June book announcement.
Just like to say that I remain very grateful for all the books I have received and am happy to read them no matter how long they take to arrive or how frequently they are offered. I see them as a gift.
A review will follow when I've read the book


GenesBookClub Advisor Report 20 Jun 2014 15:49

Hi everyone,

Please send a PM if you are still awaiting a copy of The Separation. The next book club title will be announced on 1st July.


The Book Club


Lynda Report 22 Jun 2014 21:54

The Separation by Dinah Jeffries.
I enjoyed reading this book and got used to the alternating chapters between Emmas life in England and Lydia's in Malaya and the hopeful search each were
Each chapter in the book I looked forward with anticipation, I was hoping Lydia would be reunited with Emily and other family, and she did so near the finish of the book.


Gillian Report 1 Jul 2014 13:22

The Separation by Dinah Jeffries

Initially, I was somewhat put off by the alternating chapters. I just wanted to know what happened next to Lydia and Emma rather than having to do all the 'chopping and changing'. However, once I got used to this method of telling a tale, I became enthralled and could only very reluctantly put it down for meals or sleep.

The vivid picture painted of life in Malaya during the emergency is interesting as well as being a backdrop to the strong emotions and dangers suffered by the Lydia, the mother of Emma and Fleur. By contrast life for Emma in England seems very bleak and colourless.

Separation is the title of the book and its theme. The heart wrenching experiences of mothers parted from children runs through the book as does that of parting from men loved or once loved by Lydia.

I found the ending satisfying except for one thread which remained only loosely tied. Perhaps the difficulties of finding a convincing and happy outcome for all concerned defeated the author? I'll leave other readers to judge this for themselves.

As they say, 'a good read'.


Winifred Report 1 Jul 2014 18:11

Never got mine :(


Whizz Report 3 Jul 2014 17:07

The Separation Dinah Jefferies (spoilers within this review)
I was amazed to discover that this is the debut novel of Dinah Jefferies for it read as the work of an experienced and accomplished writer.
The Separation is the title of the book but it was a separation in more ways than one for this seemed to me as if it was almost two books. We have Lydia's story, the adult perspective of a complex emotional situation against a backdrop of some manipulative politics, that evolves slowly and skilfully. Then we have Emma's story told from a younger aspect with all the angst and impulses of a damaged child plummeting into adolescence without her mother. I thought this a clever ploy for the book potentially appeals to two broad audiences.
Ms. Jefferies' love and knowledge of Malaya in the 1950s shines though offering another dimension to the book and I found it informative.
Since it is Genes Reunited who offered me the opportunity to read this book it seems pertinent to mention that I think the novel will resonate with amateur genealogists as Emma and Veronica's research and detective work create some important pieces of the developing jigsaw.
I always admire the writer who has the courage to kill off an important character halfway through the book!
I think this is very much a book for the ladies without it being chick lit or straightforward romance as it is more than that. The men in the book don't come out too well with the exception of Adil. Even Jack is flawed.
I can see this book being made into a film or TV mini series. The characters have sufficient depth to be engaging and the plot with its intrigues, twists and turns keep the interest going.
I very much enjoyed this book and I thank GR for selecting me to receive a copy. I do appreciate it. I look forward t further work from this writer.


Marie Report 3 Jul 2014 22:00

Never got mine either :-(

And don't see new posting for July 1?? (new book)


Pammy51 Report 3 Jul 2014 22:35

Still waiting for my copy too :-(


Patricia Report 4 Jul 2014 21:49

I have mixed feelings about this book - The Separation.
The prologue seemed really promising. The alternating chapters between Lydia and Emma were not a problem to me. I enjoyed the setting in Malaya and initially the plot was interesting and drew me in.
Unfortunately I found the plot less convincing as the book went on. I feel that it became contrived with too many obstacles put in the way of Lydia and Emma's search for each other.
I found the most sympathetic characters were the children. The adults were not very likeable I felt. Even Lydia was a bit annoying. I thought she flitted from one man to another a bit too easily.
Overall I think the book had great potential but, for me, it did not quite come off.


Judi79 Report 4 Jul 2014 22:31

Well I loved this book! I wasn't sure at first but after a few chapters I couldn't put it down and in the end I sat for most of one day finishing it.
I found the setting in Malaya different and interesting and could feel the heat.
As a Mother I could completely understand Lydia's emotional state thinking that her only 2 daughters had died in such an awful way and I felt terrible for her.
The plot held me captivated and I loved the twists and turns of the story and felt the frustration and despair of both Mother and daughter when they lost each other.
I have now lent the book to my own mother who is 88!!
More please Dinah!
And thank you Genes for sending me the book :-) <3


AnninGlos Report 7 Jul 2014 15:10

I didn't read this book but there is an interesting piece in the Daily Mail today by Dinah Jeffries which tells why she wrote the book and is a bit of a biography. I didn't realise that she is fairly local to me living in Cheltenham (according to her piece in the DM), I might look out for the book now.


Morag Report 10 Jul 2014 19:31

The Separation by Dinah Jefferies

There is much to commend this book, in particular the descriptions of Malaya. You can feel the scorching heat, smell the plants and shrubs and shudder at the prospect of being alone in the jungle.

This book is written as a parallel narrative alternating between Emma,bereft of her mother and forced back to England and Lydia in Malaya trying desperately to find her daughters. The voice of the child Emma is authentic and sustained. I could empathise with Emma; her desperation to find her mother and her frustration at not getting answers to her questions were well conveyed. Her feisty reaction to the advances of the ghastly Mr Oliver was admirably done as was her increasing irritation with her father.

Unfortunately I did not feel the same engagement with Lydia and found myself skimming through her narrative to get back to Emma's. Possibly because Lydia's story was told in the third person, there was too much repetition of how angst- ridden she felt. The plot also felt a bit contrived, but for a debut novel this is perhaps not so surprising.

Thanks for the opportunity to read this book. Although I didn't think it quite fulfilled the potential of the plot, Dinah Jefferies has produced an acceptable first novel and I look forward to reading more of her books as she gains assurance and maturity as an author.


Dorothy Report 15 Jul 2014 07:31

I enjoyed this book, it was well written and held my interest through to the last page. I liked the way the author had kept the lives of the daughter and mother separate giving you an insight on the way both of there lives were progressing. Malaya was so well described that I felt I was really there among the trees and the heat. I will certainly be looking out for more books from this author.


Susan Report 17 Jul 2014 21:11

I received my book which I enjoyed. Like other reviewers I did not know much about Malaya in these troubled times.. Not sure that the actions of the husband/father are entirely credible but a good story never the less.Thanks for letting me have a copy of this book which I shall reread in the future. :-)