There’s the old saw, usually directed at children, that goes: ‘The greatest gift of all is encouragement’. Like most maxims, it contains a large kernel of truth. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a little praise? And it applies to adults too, of course. At least it’s certainly true for creative people, like writers. It’s all very well working in your garret, stubbornly plugging away year after year, ignored and unrecognised, but you need a strong streak of masochism (and possibly a rich, encouraging and supportive aunt who thinks your work is wonderful) for that.
Authors, especially of the fiction-writing variety, are solitary creatures used to working alone, concocting their imaginary worlds. But that doesn’t mean they exist in a vacuum aloof from the real, outside world. Unless they are really self-contained and have the benefit of enormous self-belief, they care about the reading public’s opinion.
It’s painful when that public rejects, or is indifferent, or unfairly criticises, but when approbation, particularly from peers – and most especially from top writers, influencers, whose weighty opinions are worthy of great respect – comes along, it really makes all the creative blood, sweat and tears worthwhile.
Here, blowing my own proverbial trumpet a bit (sorry!) are three reviews I have had recently for Secret Shame. My huge appreciation and thanks to you, readers. It’s very gratifying that my writing seems to have resonated with you. To feel that I’ve touched someone’s soul a little, which is what I try to do, rather than simply entertained, means just as much as selling mega-copies. The reviews are in most-recent order.
1 By Sarah N
This is the fourth novel by John Needham I’ve read, and once again I thought it a terrific page-turner. I was enthralled and captivated by a very readable family saga about ordinary, believable people that was touching, fresh and down to earth without being overly sentimental.
It cleverly continued the story of Julie, who is a minor but crucial character at the beginning of his previous book, The One of Us, but isn’t in any way a spoiler of it, and equally, in spite of a little overlap, that one doesn’t spoil Secret Shame. So the two books can be read in any order.
The research was impressive (I particularly liked the references to Aberaeron in Wales, as I know that town well) and the harsh brutality of the Magdalene laundries was well evoked.
There were plenty of surprises along the way to keep me turning the pages, along with Mr Needham’s trademark unexpected twist. And the ending was deeply satisfying. It will stay with me for a long time.
2 By Robsrose
Words and characters in books have to speak to me and have substance to keep me reading, in addition to the plot and story. I also have to like the characters and empathize with them in some way. This book has all of those elements.
There were many characters in this story that I empathized with, but none more than Julie Brennan. Suffering through the vagaries and ignorance of youth, she finds herself in dire straits with no one to turn to, but some unsavory acquaintances for help. Out of sheer desperation she makes an unthinkable and reprehensible decision that will haunt her for years to come.
The lows of life’s journey are many for Julie as she struggles to survive. A failed relationship leaves her with a child that she must take care of alone. Meeting someone and achieving some semblance of a happy life are not in her sphere, until Derek Hawkins enters her life.
Marriage happens and for many years their lives are filled with happiness, including the birth of two children and a grandchild. However, lurking in the subconscious of Julie’s mind is that one horrible choice she made all those many years ago and the guilt that still weighs heavily on her heart. Not only that, it’s a part of her past that she never shared with her husband. Like all secrets, it doesn’t remain hidden and is exposed at a most inopportune time … but not by Julie.
With a lot of likeable and loveable characters in abundance, this was really an enjoyable read. I found Julie to be a strong woman and one that endured many things, as we women have always done and still do. Through all of what happened to her, she never gave up and I loved that about her! She certainly earned my respect. The emotional intensity of this story was overwhelming and I teared up many times, but it was a wonderful book and well worth the pain I suffered for some of the characters and redemption for others. Congratulations, Mr. Needham! I think you have another winner!
3 By Marilyn Z Tomlins
Author Needham tells us in his bio that he has had a love affair with the written and printed word all of his life. I can say that reading his novels is indeed like having a love affair with the written word.
I have read all his novels, having come across the first quite by chance, and I have not found one which had disappointed me.
As is the way of this talented writer, in ‘Secret Shame’ he yet again takes the reader into the homes of not super stars with whom we cannot identify, but ordinary people, people like us. In a most elegant way he tells us of their daily lives, of their concerns, their loves, their hates, but also of their happiness.
I recommend this novel, as indeed all his novels, highly.
Secret Shame is available now from Amazon (Kindle). It will also be had from Amazon as a physical book in the near future.
If you would like to read up to the first 11 chapters free on this site, click here. It begins at the end of the blog Words about The One of Us.