Return to Mandalay by Rosanna Ley

"There's a promise I made many years ago, my darling Eva, that now I need you to keep."  

Title - Return to Mandalay 
Author - Rosanna Ley 
Publisher - Quercus 
Publication Date - May 22nd 2014
Format - Kindle Edition 
Pages - 560 

The blurb

Eva Gatsby has often wondered about her grandfather Lawrence's past, and exactly what happened to him in Burma during the Second World War. But it is only when Eva's job as an antiques dealer suddenly requires a trip to Mandalay that Lawrence finally breaks his silence and asks her to return a mysterious artifact of his own -a chinthe - to its rightful owner. 

As Eva arrives in Burma her mission soon proves dangerously complicated, and the treasure she is guarding becomes the centre of a scandal that will have far-reaching consequences. Caught between the loyalty and integrity, Eva is determined to find the truth about her grandfather's past, and of her own family origins, and of the red-eyed chinthe itself - enigmatic symbol of the riches of Mandalay. 

Becca's thoughts

Seriously, if you haven't read anything by Rosanna Ley yet, why not? Because I am telling you, she is SUCH an incredible storyteller, and I have completely fallen in love with Return to Mandalay, just like I did when I read The Villa. I've been hopelessly affected by her story, torn inside out, and I couldn't help but burst into tears when I turned the final page. Return to Mandalay crawled underneath my skin and shook me up, leaving me feeling a little breathless and at a loss for words. Rosanna Ley, you are incredible. I don't know how you do it, but you do it, and I love you for it. 

Luckily, I was accepted for an eBook copy of Return to Mandalay by the fantastic publishers Quercus, after I spotted the title on Net Galley and couldn't hit the request button quick enough. Ever since I read The Villa by Rosanna, I've always felt a little drawn to her stories somehow. I was completely sucked into The Villa, I remember walking around in a bit of daze afterwards and having this insane, almost obsessive urge, to jump on a place and head to Sicily in Italy, where her novel The Villa is set. This urge is still alive and kicking today, because I just want to SEE and FEEL the place where Rosanna brought her story to life. So anyway, when I spotted Return to Mandalay looking gloriously perfect on Net Galley, I knew that I had to have it, because I needed more of what the magical author had to offer. And boy, she knocked me for six with this one. 

Firstly, what an adventure! I'm being serious, readers. This was incredible. Rosanna begins Eva's gorgeous story in Bristol, England. More specifically, in The Bristol Antiques Emporium, where Eva spends her days repairing and restoring pieces of old furniture. That is until Eva's boss, Jacqui Dryden, gives Eva a task that could change the course of Eva's life entirely.

'Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay,' she said. 'That's where you'll be going. Ten days should be long enough. You'll have to take internal flights. I'll give you all the details in advance, of course.'

 From the dreary, grey skies of Bristol, Eva travels to Burma, where her world collides with another one entirely. Before Eva leaves, she is summoned by her grandfather, who needs her to do something very important for him. He hands her the chinthe that has traveled between both worlds and provides her with two addresses.

'Those addresses I gave you,' he said. 'That's where she used to live, before the war, you know.'
'The person I want you to look for,' he said. 'I need you to find out the truth of what happened.' 

From that moment on, Eva becomes determined to find out everything about the woman that her grandfather is desperate to hear about. Return to Mandalay was beautiful, incredibly emotional and a story that will stay with you for a lifetime. 

What I found fascinating, besides the entire novel, was how Rosanna managed to switch not only between her characters, but between the past and the present too. It was brilliant, and such an exciting way to really grasp each character's history and life. 

A particular character that this technique worked extremely well with was Eva's grandfather, Lawrence. Just like Eva, as soon as this other woman from Mandalay was mentioned, I was intrigued. Not only was Lawrence a kind, gentle man, but his memory was still alive from his days spent in the war over in Burma, a time now long gone. But he has never forgotten a certain someone, and Rosanna perfectly took me back in time, to see things from Lawrence's point of view, including the moment that he fell in love. This switching backwards and forwards was just sensational, and it really allowed me to see the whole story from a number of key perspectives. 

Something that was obvious to me, as was the case in The Villa, were Rosanna's absolutely gorgeous descriptions of Burma. Oh my goodness gracious me. Rosanna has such a gift when it comes to bringing a place to life with words. Her imagery is spot on. Every tiny little detail is picked up on. The sunsets, the pagodas, the Irrawaddy River, the Burmese homes, the streets and markets. Every smell, sight and sound felt almost as if I was experiencing it first hand. I feel like I've been to Burma and seen, smelt and heard everything for myself. It's magical, each setting made incredibly real by the way the author describes them. God, she really is just amazing. You need to read one of Rosanna's novels to really understand where I'm coming from, because there is just nothing like her words to take you away from everyday life and reality. Pure escapism, maybe not completely chick-lit, but definitely something that you need to try anyway. 

Another character that played a major role in Return to Mandalay was Eva's mother, Rosemary. When Rosemary was first introduced to me, I felt an intense sadness on her part. Something had gone terribly wrong in Rosemary's life, that much was obvious, but she just seemed as if something was missing... Not only had she lost her husband Nick, but in the same moment she had closed herself up and I guess, in a way, removed herself from Eva and Lawrence's life. I can understand this because grief is insane, and works in so many different ways with different people. Rosanna did an exceptional job when describing the character to me, and whenever I thought of Rosemary, I just felt like she had given up on herself. The relationship between Rosemary, her daughter and father was one of many complexities, and it was incredibly interesting to watch out Rosanna allowed it to play out. 

There are just so many themes and ideas rolling around in Return to Mandalay, far too many for a mediocre writer like me to talk about without making a complete mess of things. Also, for you to really enjoy this story, you should experience the entire novel for yourself. I've mentioned a few things about the characters and how bloody beautiful Rosanna's settings are, but this is a fierce story of love, fate and separation. An journey so intensely moving that I'm finding it impossible to describe it with just my words. 

From Bristol to Burma, Eva follows the trail to the woman her grandfather never wanted to say goodbye to. I was choked up, to tell you the truth. Rosanna, I'm so sorry this review isn't put together very well, and I probably haven't made an ounce of sense either, but I just want to say thank you! Thank you for writing such an incredible novel that whisked me away to Mandalay. Perfection. 

Becca's Books is rating Rosanne Ley's Return to Mandalay with nothing less than five cupcakes. I'm getting teary eyed just thinking about it. DAMN! Just magnificent, I'm telling you. 



1 comment :

  1. I can't wait to read this book, it sounds really great!