Madame Burova – Tarot Reader, Palmist and Clairvoyant is retiring and leaving her booth on the Brighton seafront after fifty years.
Imelda Burova has spent a lifetime keeping other people’s secrets and her silence has come at a price. She has seen the lovers and the liars, the angels and the devils, the dreamers and the fools. Her cards had unmasked them all and her cards never lied. But Madame Burova is weary of other people’s lives and other people’s secrets, she needs rest and a little piece of life for herself. Before that, however, she has to fulfill a promise made a long time ago. She holds two brown envelopes in her hand, and she has to deliver them.
In London, it is time for another woman to make a fresh start. Billie has lost her university job, her marriage, and her place in the world when she discovers something that leaves her very identity in question. Determined to find answers, she must follow a trail which might just lead right to Madame Burova’s door.
In a story spanning over fifty years, Ruth Hogan conjures a magical world of 1970s holiday camps and seaside entertainers, eccentrics, heroes and villains, the lost and the found. Young people, with their lives before them, make choices which echo down the years. And a wall of death rider is part of a love story which will last through time.
Ruth Hogan has done it again! Her fourth novel is brilliant – I read the whole thing in one sitting.
But first let me tell you how I discovered the writer whose books have become amongst my favourites over the last few years.
I first read The Keeper of Lost Things and instantly fell in love with Eunice and Bomber and the lovely cup of tea. In fact I have read it twice (you miss things the first time – who hasn’t watched The Sixth Sense over and over to look for the clues they missed) which is something I almost never do. Except for The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, which I have also read twice. I have only read Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel once so far, but only because I haven’t had the chance yet for a second go.
I think it is something to do with the richly-drawn characters that make them seem like old friends. And the dogs of course. There have to be dogs. But it’s also the detail, which is why I have to go back, because in desperation to discover what happens next, it’s easy to miss something important or beautiful. It may only be something little, but it’s still worth a second look.
Like with Keeper, Madame Burova is set in two time periods – now and the early 1970s when I was just 20 years old like Imelda. I only visited a holiday camp once; it was the mid-sixties. We went for the day to Butlins in Minehead – my dad wanted to see the wrestling. I thought it was amazing…the camp not the wrestling.
Nowadays we often go to Brighton – my older son’s family live just down the road. The place has its own special buzz, there is nowhere else like it. “The book’s protagonist was inspired in part by the life of Eva Petulengro, a famous clairvoyant and Tarot reader who lived and worked for many years in Brighton, and whose booth can still be seen on the promenade…..Hogan studied for many months with an expert Tarot teacher until she was able to read to a professional standard.”* I’ve walked past the booth many times. I’d never dare go in.
Ruth has said that: “….The cast of characters became my friends and companions, and in all the strange days of lockdown I never once felt alone.” They became my friends and companions, albeit for only 24 hours but I shall miss them as I still miss Eunice, Bomber and Sally Red Shoes amongst others.
Many thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Madame Burova is published by Two Roads in April 2021.
*Quote from The Bookseller website
About the Author
From Ruth herself: ‘I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford: my sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me. As a child I read everything I could lay my hands on: The Moomintrolls, A Hundred Million Francs, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the back of cereal packets and gravestones. I was mad about dogs and horses, but didn’t like daddy-long-legs or sugar in my tea.
‘I studied English and Drama at Goldsmiths College which was brilliant, but then I came home and got a ‘proper’ job. I worked for ten years in a senior local government position (I was definitely a square peg in a round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage) before a car accident left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously. It was going well, but then in 2012 I got cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing and the eventual result was The Keeper of Lost Things.
‘I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering partner (who has very recently become my husband – so I can’t be that bad!) I am a magpie, always collecting treasures, and a huge John Betjeman fan. My favourite word is ‘antimacassar’ and I still like reading gravestones.’