Busy days and touching reviews

We’ve had a busy few days. On Saturday we went to the races at the local race course, Te Rapa, in Hamilton. It was the Roger and Ken Browne Memorial steeplechase. My cousin, Roger Browne, was killed in a polo accident in Sydney in 1982. He was 21. The Roger Browne memorial race was established that same year and the first race was won by his mother, Ann, my aunt, riding as an amateur. Then in 2000 my uncle, Ken Browne, had a fall from a horse and broke his neck. He lived for five years as a tetraplegic and died in 2005. This race now commemorates them both. It was a close race and the horse that won it, Climbing High, is a crowd favourite and was ridden by a jockey who used to work for my aunt and uncle. We went to a special room afterwards where my aunt spoke and gave the prizes to the winning trainer who leases the horse. The President was delighted to have Mum there and I heard him telling people, “guess who we have here. Ken Browne’s sister!” It was a good day and beautifully fine weather.

Sunday we went to church and the Sunday school kids painted a great big long banner about vines and fruit and being a branch on the vine. Their enthusiasm is catching.

Yesterday we went to a National Party forum hosted by our lovely MP, Louise Upston. The guest speaker was a newbie in Parliament, the MP for Tamaki, Simon O’Connor. He’s a young, personable, handsome, witty man and I think he’ll make a very good politician. He’s had a varied background, including training as a Catholic Priest, and he has an empathetic nature. It was interesting to hear about his past and the select committees he serves on and then he took some questions.

I have an interview up on the internet! I was approached by Kitty Bullard who hosts a well-known site called Great Minds Think Aloud. She sent me some questions and I sent her back the answers. Apart from the fact that she thought I lived in Cambridge, England, it’s accurate and quite interesting. You can find it here on Facebook, if you wouldn’t mind, please ‘like’ it so that the message spreads.


And the actual website is here, there are some interesting interviews with other authors as well.


And I can’t help but have a little skite, this is a lovely review for “The Secret Keeper” from Good Reads where there are about 19 reviews now I think, 22 on the USA Amazon site.

“Julie Thomas can write. This book reads like it was written by a bona fide published best-selling author.  The Secret Keeper tells the history of a priceless antique violin, through WW2 to modern times. On this description alone it is not perhaps a book I would have necessarily chosen myself. It’s hard to try and shove it neatly into a genre –  little bit of mystery, a little bit historical fiction (WWII including a section set in Dachau, and in Russia during Stalin), and little bit coming of age. At times it is a heartbreaking story of loss and tragedy but at the heart of it is themes about the universal love of music. Thomas does a magnificent job of describing classical music, performing musicians and the instrument that binds the many threads of the plot together. I found myself looking up some of the pieces described in the book after I finished reading (Debussy’s Girl with the Flaxen Hair is a must listen, haunting and evocative of the whole tone of the novel IMO). A well developed and satisfying plot, and a totally enjoyable read by a NZ author I will certainly be reading more from.”

It’s hard to put into words what it means to have people reading and appreciating this book. It was such a labour of love and it took such a long time, seven years. I wasn’t sure how it would end and it’s gratifying to read reviews that mention how well the loose ends are wrapped up and how satisfying the ending is. I listened to so many hours of violin music and watched so many DVDs of people playing the pieces I was describing, so I could make my words accurate. I read accounts that left me in tears and I double checked dates and people until my eyes hurt. And it seemed as if no-one would ever read it and feel the power of the story the way I did. So it is satisfying beyond words to see so many people being moved by it. People saying they “couldn’t put it down” and “it was the best book I’ve read in a long time.” It makes me feel humble and content.


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