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12 August 2015

Blog Tour: 'The New Woman' by Charity Norman

Luke Livingstone is a lucky man. He's a respected solicitor, a father and grandfather, a pillar of the community. He has a loving wife and an idyllic home in the Oxfordshire countryside. Yet Luke is struggling with an unbearable secret, and it's threatening to destroy him.

All his life, Luke has hidden the truth about himself and his identity. It's a truth so fundamental that it will shatter his family, rock his community and leave him outcast. But Luke has nowhere left to run, and to continue living, he must become the person - the woman - he knows himself to be, whatever the cost.

Today I'm really honoured to be part of the blog tour for a release I have been really excited about for quite some time, namely Charity Norman's 'The New Woman.' I was introduced to Charity Norman's work when I received a review copy of her novel 'The Son-in-Law' in 2013 and I ended up being blown away by both the story and the author's amazing writing style (click here to read my review). I couldn't wait for Charity's next release, so when I was invited to be a part of the blog tour for her newest release, it was no option to say 'no', even though my blog is on a short summer hiatus at the moment! So be sure to scroll down to see what I thought about 'The New Woman', but also to read an exclusive guest post from Charity Norman herself!

On the outside, Luke Livingstone seems to lead the perfect life: he has a great career as a solicitor; has been together with the woman of his dreams, Eilish, for more than 30 years; lives in a beautiful home in Oxfordshire; and has two great children, Simon and Kate, and even some amazing grandchildren. However, Luke has a dark secret, something he has been trying to hide from the people he loves; something that has been eating him up from the inside. Luke realises he only has two options left: end it for once and for all or come clean to his family and friends. It's time for Luke to start a new life, the life he was always meant to have. But will his family be there to support him? Or will he be forced to face the world alone from now on?

Another thought-provoking and powerful read by Charity Norman, who is definitely becoming one of my favourite women's fiction authors. 'The New Woman' already starts with a few captivating chapters that immediately grabbed me and pulled me into the story, not wanting to let go until the very end. The book has a wonderful and diverse group of characters at its core and the author provides enough background information and detail to really make it feel as if you, as the reader, get to know these characters and understand their actions. The story is told from the perspective of 4 members of the Livingstone family: Luke, Eilish and their children Simon and Kate. I found all of them fascinating characters with their own take on what their family is going through and felt myself looking forward to each chapter, no matter the perspective. Yet, I'd also like to point out that some of the secondary characters were wonderfully written as well, such as Simon's wife Carmela and their son Nico, who is just the cutest little boy.

The release of this book is well-timed, since it deals with quite a controversial and much-discussed topic. The story shows incredible courage, but a lot of other emotions play a central role as well such as anger, confusion, despair and fear. Charity Norman once again writes about a family in crisis, and she does this in an impeccable way, taking the reader on an emotional rollercoaster ride; but at the end I couldn't help but feel I really wanted to go on that ride again. 'The New Woman' is a simply stunning, powerful and thought-provoking read; another great novel by author Charity Norman. Don't hesitate to pick this up; you won't be disappointed!
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Guest post from Charity Norman!

As part of the blog tour for Charity Norman's 'The New Woman' I have an excluse guest post from the author herself to share with all of you. Be sure to scroll down to read more about Charity's inspiration for her latest release!

What inspired me to write The New Woman?

I grew up with knowledge that gender isn’t a binary thing, and that some people feel their minds don’t match their assigned, physical gender; but I’m also an old-fashioned feminist who spent years insisting that differences between male and female are massively overstated. I used to insist that there really is no significant difference. My children did not get pink clothes for girls and blue for boys! So you might wonder how it is that I created the character of Luke Livingstone, who is perhaps the character I love the best of all my books so far.

A few years ago I began to do some voluntary telephone listening work on a helpline rather like the Samaritans. We had all sorts of callers and among them were some who were struggling with their gender identity. I can’t go into the details because I’m bound by confidentiality, but I can say that I spoke to some wonderful people. Some had suffered horrible violence and rejection, but carried on with amazing courage and humour. Sometimes though it all seemed too much and I spoke to at least one who was considering ending her own life soon; the suicide rates are very high for transgender people. I admired them so much. I was struck by just how misunderstood this was, and how common. I was ashamed to realize that there were vast gaps in my own knowledge so I began to research and to try to understand. 

It was at this time that I became friends with another telephone listener, a woman in her sixties who had been through transition about a decade earlier. She’s a brilliant woman, well respected in her field, and also a person of great caring – the sort you ask for advice on all sorts of subjects. She’d been involved in helping other trans people and gave me new insight into their lives. I found her really inspiring. I began to notice how transgender people are often seen as caricatures in our society, as figures of fun – the drag queen, the man in a dress. This book was begun long before Caitlyn Jenner hit the headlines, but you only have to see the comments people write under any online article about her to realize just how much fear and anger there still is about transgender people. I think that is when the idea for this book began to form in my mind.

One day, I mentioned my views about gender differences - or the lack of them - to my friend. 

“There’s no significant difference between men and women, is there?” I said. “This is the 21st century. The old gender roles don’t exist any more. It’s all gone out of the window.”

She smiled gently. “Charity,” she said, “from where I’m sitting, there is a difference so fundamental that I had, in the end, no choice but to become the person I’ve always felt I was.”

She was trying to tell me that gender is a part of what defines us. It’s a part of what makes us who we are, and when a person’s mind and their body don’t match they suffer unbearably. By the time it came to deciding what to write next, this story was firmly in my mind and it would not go away. Writing it was a learning curve for me, and pretty humbling. All human beings are different of course; all trans people are different; but I wanted to write the story of a real person, with a real emotional life, and a family, and real struggles, and real courage – and with so much to give. 

Enter, Luke Livingstone. 

Thanks so much, Charity! 

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