Book Club Choice Review: Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

The Book Club that I run at work, chose Crooked Heart as our first book for 2022. It was actually a re-read for me and it was a story that I was more than happy to revisit. Lissa Evans writes with such assuredness and precision that she seems to enable the reader to defy the physics of time and walk the blitz-damaged streets of north London alongside her protagonists. And what a cast of characters they are!

In the prologue we are introduced to Noel, a boy of 10 or 11, who lives in bookish bliss with his godmother, Mattie, in an airy villa on the edge of Hampstead Heath. His days are spent reading, visiting museums and engaged in stimulating, intellectual pursuits with his larger-than-life guardian until she falls under the curse of dementia. Within thirty pages of the most remarkable storytelling, Mattie’s personality arrives and departs, leaving her shadow hanging over the rest of the story from where tendrils will be woven in and out of the tale.

After a brief sojourn with an officious cousin of Mattie’s, Noel is evacuated from London alongside the rest of Rhyll Street Junior School as the Blitz begins in earnest. He is eventually taken in by Vee Sedge, a widow who lives from one small scam to the next, and who sees Noel with his limp and apparent muteness as a meal ticket for her small household. As he finds himself crammed into a small flat above a scrapyard with Vee’s self-indulgent son Donald and her invalid, deaf mother, Noel compares Vee to “a magpie hanging around a picnic” as she searches for scraps on which to feed, both physically and emotionally.

I absolutely love the way that this pair of misfits gradually develop a relationship and become partners in petty crime. Noel lending his intellectual and strategic mind to Vee’s money making scheme, so that she no longer finds herself “neck deep in consequences and drawbacks”. They, along with all the other characters in the book are truly nuanced, with Noel at one point arguing that what they are doing is “legally wrong but morally right”. He is a young boy, who as a consequence of his upbringing, often appears old beyond his years. However, his childlike sense of justice comes to the fore when he vows to avenge the crime that an air raid warden perpetrates on an old lady, who he himself has scammed.

The side plots are magnificently constructed too. Donald, like his mother, is a grifter and when his scheme goes awry causing him to abandon Noel in central London the consequence is a touching, deepening of the relationship between Vee and Noel. Old Mrs Sedge provides some of the funniest moments with her stream of letters to Churchill and other dignitaries, advising them on how to boost the morale of the nation!

I don’t think that I have read a book before where the behaviour of Londoners during WWII is portrayed as less than heroic but Lissa Evans manages to take you from outrage, to empathy; tears of sympathy, to snorts of laughter during this marvellous novel. Every character is fully formed, the story arc is absolutely perfect, set piece scenes are written with comic precision and the mix of pathos and humour is breathtaking. This book opened my eyes to the way that social class impacted the experience of those who lived through the war years, gave an insight into the aftermath of the suffragette movement and introduced me to characters who will live long in my heart. It is, without doubt, one of my all-time favourite books.

Short Stories for Long Winter Evenings: A Glove Shop in Vienna and Christmas is Murder

A Glove Shop in Vienna published by Macmillan Children’s Books & Christmas is Murder published by Sphere, an imprint of Little Brown

Sometimes there are just too many things going on in real life for me to settle properly into a long novel. The run up to Christmas 2021 was certainly one of those times, thus I was delighted to find a collection of short stories by Eva Ibbotson in my local Public Library and to purchase a collection of short mysteries to read for my Book Club’s December choice.

A Glove Shop in Vienna contains nineteen short stories, many of which are set in Eva Ibbotson’s native Austria. Her delicately emotive writing conjures up snow and frost covered landscapes, lavish villas in the fashionable neighbourhoods of Vienna, illicit love affairs, grand passions and the intricacies of Viennese society in the pre-WWII years. I found it to be the perfect transportive read, whisking me off to an entirely different time and place. I think that the first story, Vicky and the Christmas Angel was my favourite with its insight into the tensions running below the coming together of disparate branches of the family at Christmas. Vicky comes of age following her dramatic and unwelcome realisation of the enormous contribution that “poor relation” cousin Poldi makes to the family’s annual festivities. I also loved the story of a great life-long love which finally flourishes in the headily exotic setting of the city of Manaus, deep in the Amazon rainforest. This has prompted me to seek out our much-read family copy of Journey To The River Sea, which I have wanted to re-read since hearing that Emma Carroll has written a book inspired by this classic.

Christmas is Murder by Val McDermid is another fantastic collection of short stories by a writer of immense dexterity. Her ability to create believable characters and imbue them with a back-story sufficient to make them the victim or perpetrator of a crime; scatter some red herrings; build tension and draw the story to a satisfactory conclusion within the confines of twenty to thirty pages is incredible in and of itself. However, Val McDermid adds another layer to the majesty of this collection, her uniquely beautiful prose. My favourite of the stories, Ghost Writer, had a supernatural rather than crime theme and ironically centered on a struggling writer:

Gavin had no talent for narrative. Story eluded him. Sometimes he sensed it almost within his grasp but whenever he tried to corner it, it slipped away, slithering under his out-stretched arms or between his legs like a nutmegging football.

p172

If we are going to use footballing comparisons, then Val McDermid must surely be the Dennis Bergkamp of crime writing, entertaining her audience with supreme skill and making her craft look effortless. It was such a treat each evening to enjoy these short stories once the day’s chores were done – in all honesty, it was the most pleasurable Book Club choice that I read in 2021.

Non-fiction November Review: Everything is True by Dr Roopa Farooki

To be published by Bloomsbury on 20th January 2022

I finished reading this book well over a week ago and it has taken me until now to process the information and raw emotion in order to attempt writing a review. As I am not at all certain that I can do justice to such an important book, I will start by saying that I urge you to read this book to gain some insight into the real impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare workers. It will open your eyes to the human story that the government and much of the mainstream media seem to gloss over in their slick presentation of statistics.

Before retraining in medicine, Dr Roopa Farooki previously published fiction, for both adults and for a middle-grade readership, additionally she lectures on a post-graduate writing course at the University of Oxford. Her prowess as a writer blazes through this account of her experience as a Junior Doctor during the first forty days, “la quarantena”, of the pandemic lockdown in March 2020. Already grieving for the loss of her older sister to breast cancer, she is exposed to the rapidly escalating crisis of COVID-19 infected patients at a time when the scientific and medical community were desperately trying to assess the best way to deal with the new virus and frontline medical staff were asked to treat patients with little or no protective clothing. The absolute vulnerability of the healthcare workforce facing this new threat is laid out starkly, and although it angers her, the language of the battlefield is deployed to  underline their sacrifice on the frontline.

The book is arresting in its structure. I think it is the first time that I’ve read a biographical account written in the second person. As a reader, you are forced into Dr Roopa’s shoes and experience the immediacy, viscerality and exhaustion of  her journey through la quarentera. This focus on the first forty days of lockdown demonstrates how unprepared the powers at the top of our society were, and reminds us that we could and should have learnt from the experience of clinicians in Italy, who desperately tried to warn other countries what they were about to face. This lack of leadership in the very early stages accounts for the anger that comes later in the recount, in the light of so many lives both clinicians and patients, lost unnecessarily. The doctor certainly does not hold back on her scathing opinion of our Prime Minister.

As lockdown is enforced Dr Roopa begins walking to and from work and in the early days spots a fox, which she thinks is basking in the early spring sunshine. As realisation dawns that it is actually lying dead under the trees, she charts it’s gradual decomposition which symbolises her own slow deterioration under the onslaught of the pandemic. As the flow of patients with breathing difficulties into the hospital increases, frontline staff must treat them despite a total lack of PPE, or even basic scrubs. You can almost feel the bone-aching exhaustion of 13 hour shifts in which she is lucky to get a 5 minute break. Being skilled at tricky procedures such as accessing awkward veins means that Dr Roopa is often called in to take body fluids from COVID-positive patients, increasing her own risk still further.

It does not escape the doctor’s notice that there is a disparity in the COVID-19 mortality statistics between populations of different ethnicities. Amongst the names of those healthcare workers who died from the virus in the early stage of the pandemic she recognises that the majority are of BAME heritage and, as someone who was born in Pakistan, she conveys the desperation of knowing that becoming infected could be a death sentence. This is compounded by a less than sympathetic domestic experience, where she is treated like a leper who might bring disease into the family home. With so little support from those around her, mental conversations with her deceased sister become a means of rationalising the situation. Inevitably, Dr Roopa does fall ill with COVID-19; thankfully she recovers to return to the NHS frontline.

I am beyond admiration and gratitude to Dr Roopa Farooki for her dedication to her dual vocations as both doctor and writer. I hope that this searingly honest account will open the eyes of many to the sacrifices that are made by NHS staff to protect the health of the nation; standing up to their responsibilities in the face of indifference, ineptitude and disrespect from some of those in power who should be supporting them.

I am grateful to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for access to an electronic proof of Everything is True ahead of publication in return for an honest opinion.

You can read my reviews of Roopa Farooki’s two Mini-Medics Mysteries written for a middle grade readership on these links: The Cure for a Crime and Diagnosis Danger.

#GriefAwarenessWeek Review: Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Published by 4th Estate

This slim volume contains the powerfully emotional thoughts of acclaimed novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as she contends with her raw grief following the death of her beloved father, James Nwoye Adichie. The chapters are each just a few pages long thereby allowing the reader time to reflect on every step of her journey as she examines her pain and tries to reconcile herself to her loss. Her notes on grief provide snapshots expressed in her uniquely elegant style which speak to the universal suffering felt by those of us who have lost parents or other deeply loved family members.

My wariness of superlatives is forever stripped away: 10 June 2020 was the worst day of my life.

page 15

As she shares her pain, anger, frustration and utter disbelief that she will never again see her father, small details emerge of this kind, gentle and brilliant man. Like many thousands of bereaved individuals around the world the author had to deal with the pain of losing her “Daddy” at the peak of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, compounding the loss still further. She and her five siblings are marooned at different points on the globe, communicating their memories and sadness over Zoom and waiting on the vagaries of international travel before they can arrange a funeral. At a time when all of your usual compass points have been torn away, the feeling of utter helplessness is palpable.

In sharing such an intimate account of her own grieving process I think that the author helps us all to recognise and articulate the sorrow that we experience when a loved one dies and also provides assistance in expressing our condolences to others who are bereaved. She states right at the start:

You learn how much grief is about language, the failure of language and the grasping for language.

page 5

I think that many readers will be grateful that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has provided us with the words that both honour her own devastating loss and, at the same time, help us give voice to our own emotions.

Review: Allies edited by Shakirah Bourne and Dana Alison Levy

Published by Dorling Kindersley 29 July 2021

This insightful collection of sixteen essays is an excellent resource for anyone who wishes to gain an understanding of the lives of individuals who might feel marginalised by their ethnicity, their religious beliefs, a disability or their sexual identity. It is pitched at a Young Adult readership but I think that the content is valuable for adults of any age. The goal of the book is to educate and enable the reader to use whatever privilege they might possess to become an ally to those who face challenges and perhaps discrimination, micro aggressions or outright bullying in their daily lives. 

I am embarrassed to admit that I had not really encountered the terms ally or micro aggression until I attended a disability workshop run by the well-known campaigner Samantha Renke earlier this year. It was listening to her daily, lived experience of the challenges that she faces negotiating a world that is not designed to enable her, that opened my eyes to the need for support or ally-ship from those of us who can encourage change. This book fulfills the same task, with contributions from authors who generously present their own experiences of either being made to feel marginalised or their attempts to fulfill the role of ally. It explains that micro-aggressions are the constant undermining comments that seem to diminish or dismiss an individual’s worth and that we cannot ignore these if we want to be an ally.

One of the aspects that I most appreciated is the tone of gentle encouragement, and forgiveness throughout. It can be very difficult to keep up with the evolving language around ethnicity or sexuality if you are not immersed in the study of it and several of the essays acknowledge that it is easy to inadvertently use the wrong words. The advice is to listen carefully to anyone who corrects you, apologise for any unintended offence caused by your words and continue to progress on your quest to be an ally. I found this to be very reassuring as I try and sometimes fail to get the language correct. In the opening essay, Dana’s Absolutely Perfect Fail-Safe No Mistakes Guaranteed Way to be an Ally, Dana Alison Levy states:

“Being a good ally without making mistakes is like eating popcorn without dropping any on the floor: it’s possible, but let’s be honest, it rarely happens.”

p.10

My takeaways from this book were that a mindset of openness, civility, empathy and kindness are required from us all to help every member of our society feel valued and that we can all learn from and support each other. I feel indebted to the sixteen authors who were prepared to open up about their experiences to help us all develop empathy and I really like the essay (and illustrated story) format that allows you to dip in and out and refresh your mind whenever necessary. At the end of the book there is a comprehensive list of further resources to explore, suggested by each of the contributors. I think that this will be a valuable resource for anyone who wishes to play their part in making society and their workplace kinder and more inclusive and I would recommend it to all workplace, academic and public libraries.

I am grateful to the publisher Dorling Kindersley and NetGalley for allowing me access to an electronic version of this book for review purposes.

#20BooksofSummer21: #5 Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

10 books of summer
Image created by Cathy at 746books.com and used with permission.

So, here it is; one summer, three months and a challenge created by Cathy (@cathy746books) at 746books.com to make a dent in the toppling TBR stack. I have opted for the 10 books challenge due to time constraints! Thank you Cathy for hosting!

Published by 4th Estate

My fifth book in this summer’s challenge is actually a re-read as it was chosen by one of my book groups as our July title. Purple Hibiscus was the debut novel of acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and is a deeply moving, coming-of-age story, recounted through the voice of fifteen-year-old Kambili.

Kambili and her older brother Jaja, live in a luxurious house in the Nigerian town of Enugu. Their father Eugene is powerful and wealthy, the owner of factories and a newspaper and on first appearances their lifestyle: private school, chauffeur, large house filled with modern conveniences, abundant food and servants would appear to be enviable. However, the tone of tension in Kambili’s voice, her constant watchfulness and desire to say the right thing to make her father proud, betray the falsehood of this assumption.

Eugene controls every aspect of his family’s existence, the children’s lives are scheduled by the minute, they are expected to come top of the class without excuses, and when they anger him through a wrong look or word he punishes them with horrific domestic abuse. His wife is also subjected to the most extreme violence whenever she does not meet his standards of perfection. Eugene himself is controlled by his adherence to the Catholic faith in which he was educated as a schoolboy from the missionary school he attended. He credits his western education and faith in God with his success and now entirely rejects the beliefs of his ancestors, to the extent that he will not visit his own father or allow his children to visit him due to his perception of his “heathen” ways. When the family return to their compound in the ancestral village for Christmas, a time when Eugene provides food and money for the entire village, he callously sends his driver to deliver a small sum of money to his frail father and the children are allowed only a few minutes in the company of their grandfather.

Into this fearful and silent home comes a catalyst for change in the form of Eugene’s widowed sister, Aunty Ifeoma and her three loud and opinionated children; Amaka, Obiora and Chima. Auntie Ifeoma is a strong and educated woman, a lecturer at the University in Nsukka, who encourages her children to think for themselves, debate current affairs and who would rather live in relative poverty than bow to her brother’s demands. The contrast in her joyful practise of Catholicism mixed with Igbo hymns and traditions is in stark contrast to her brother’s dogmatism and rule through fear. You realise just how alien this is to Kambili when she is shocked by the sound of her cousins’ laughter, so absent from her own experience:

“She laughed so easily, so often. They all did, even little Chima.”

As the children come to realise that there is another way to live and a military coup threatens Eugene’s power base, events are set in place which are shocking and revolutionary for all protagonists.

I can only describe Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writing as pellucid. Without the need for long paragraphs of descriptive prose she takes you to the heart of the luxurious, walled compound in which Kambili’s family are imprisoned, the ancestral village where they discover their roots and the cramped apartment on the university compound where they discover the ability to live free of restraints like the purple hibiscus in Auntie Ifeoma’s garden. The character’s are all fully realised and even Eugene is not portrayed as a one-dimensional villain. There are passages which are absolutely harrowing but overall I found the book to be utterly compelling both times that I have read it, and I have subsequently read all of this author’s later novels.

#20BooksofSummer: The Book About Getting Older (for people who don’t want to talk about it) by Dr Lucy Pollock

The third of my reviews for this year’s #20BooksOfSummer challenge, hosted by Cathy at 746books.com is my only non-fiction choice this year and with my health librarian hat on, I would say that it is a book that everyone would benefit from reading.

Published by Michael Joseph Books, 2021

Dr Lucy Pollock is not just an experienced and compassionate geriatrician with a positive message to promote, she is also an engaging and entertaining writer. I was immediately struck by the accessible way in which she has presented a wealth of health information, which would be invaluable to a large percentage of the population, by framing this book through a series of stories with which readers can immediately empathise. The years of clinical experience are worn lightly and insights are presented with clear explanations which can be understood by anyone.

The Book About Getting Older celebrates longevity, explains how the final years of life can be lived positively and helps us all begin to have the necessary conversations about what is important to us as we get older. You will find clear-sighted and sensible discussion of poly-pharmacy, what is normal in old age and what is not normal, the concept of mental capacity, end-of-life care and a de-stigmatisation of dementia. Oh how I wish this book had been available 20 years ago when dementia cast its shadow in my own family. You see this book takes you by the hand as gently and kindly as the best clinician and leads you through so many aspects of the situations that confront us as we age, or watch those that we care for, age. In the company of Dr Lucy, the indignities and frailties of ageing do not seem such a frightening or lonely prospect. Quite the opposite, for the generous tone of this book is to celebrate the very old and to focus on those things that we can all do to live well for as long as possible.

It may also surprise you to know that there is a great deal of humour threaded through the book, with some passages that genuinely made me laugh out loud! The value of teamwork in the care of elderly patients is emphasised and practical ideas for improving social care are made, I hope that this book finds its way to the desks of some of our politicians! Dr Lucy’s respect for her patients as individuals and the life-lessons that she has learnt from them shine through the narrative. If people in power could see individuals through Dr Lucy’s lens rather than labelling older people with negative economic terminology such as “the demographic timebomb” one feels that something concrete would be done about social care.

I feel very passionately about this book, I think it will have a hugely positive impact on anyone who reads it and particularly for those who are in the lonely position of caring for a loved one. I have read the hardback version and also listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Lucy Pollock herself. In an ideal world everyone would have a geriatrician like Dr Lucy Pollock available when the complications of old age set in, the next best alternative is to get your hands on a copy of this book – in physical or audiobook format, and benefit from her wisdom, expertise and compassion.

10 books of summer
Image created by Cathy at 746books.com and used with permission.

So, here it is; one summer, three months, 10 books and I’m three books in! Thank you Cathy for hosting!

#20BooksOfSummer Review: Old Tabby Brontë The Servant’s Tale by Hilary Robinson

e-book, Published by Strauss House Publications

The second of my #20(10)BooksOfSummer challenge is somewhat different from my usual reading material and was bought on the strength of my admiration for Hilary Robinson’s writing.

This gem of a monologue expresses the righteous indignation felt by a loyal servant, in defence of a master whom she feels has been unjustly portrayed by a biographer. The servant in question is Tabitha Aykroyd who devoted many years to the service of the Brontë family, after the Reverend Patrick Brontë lost his wife and was left to care for six young children.

Hilary Robinson has used her exquisite writing talent, and I presume her experience as a radio producer, to conjure a wonderfully nuanced portrait of family life at Howarth Parsonage through the authentic voice of Tabby. The perfectly executed monologue is written in six parts, entirely in Yorkshire dialect. Thanks to the inclusion of an explanation of the use of the > symbol to indicate a glottal stop and a glossary of Yorkshire dialect, I could hear Tabby’s voice in my head throughout, despite my southern origins! I really felt as if I was sitting at the kitchen table sharing a pot of Yorkshire tea with an old servant and hanging on her every word as she refuted the inaccuracies in Mrs Gaskell’s biography, The Life of Charlotte Brontë.

The tale is written as a repudiation of the negative impression that Mrs Gaskell gave, of the Reverend Brontë’s care for his offspring, in her publication. As a household employee of the family for many years, Tabby is incensed that her master’s reputation has been besmirched and her irritation is palpable as she sets the record straight. As her narrative unfolds, many biographical details of the Brontë’s lives and personalities, and the way that these informed their works of fiction, are revealed quite naturally; the author’s meticulous research manifests completely organically throughout. A tale of devoted family love and support, beset by constant tragedies, emerges in this short but moving monologue.

I adored this monologue and I would imagine that it will have huge appeal to those who love Charlotte, Emily and Anne’s writing. It is also likely to be a great companion piece to students who have to read one of the Brontë sisters’ novels for GCSE or A level. Furthermore, as one of the rare readers who is actually not a big fan of the Brontë’s novels, I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this monologue and learning some of the background to a uniquely talented family. It is only available as an e-book at present, although I believe that an audiobook might be planned, which is excellent news for dyslexic readers. I actually listened to the excellent Audible reading of Jane Eyre by Juliet Stevenson in preparation for reading Old Tabby Brontë, the first time that I have managed to get to the end of that story, after three failed attempts to read it! I was certainly intrigued to learn about some of the experiences that influenced that classic novel.

This is my second post for this year’s #20BooksOfSummer challenge which is kindly hosted by Cathy Brown on her amazing 746Books.com blog. Do check out the other bloggers who are taking part in the challenge, it’s a great way to broaden your reading range.

image created by Cathy Brown 746books.com

#20 Books of Summer 2021 hosted by Cathy at 246 Books

10 books of summer
Image created by Cathy at 746books.com and used with permission.

I’m hastily posting before the end of the month, that I am looking forward to again taking part in the #20BooksofSummer Challenge hosted by Cathy who writes the marvellous 746books.com blog.

Since moving jobs at the start of this year, I will no longer have a long summer holiday in which to read therefore I am going to set myself the modest target of 10 books this summer! I have to admit that after a long day spent mostly staring at a screen, there are some evenings when I just can’t face reading for an extended period, so I definitely cannot consume books as quickly as I used too. Looking back at my post from this time last year I notice that The Mirror and the Light is making a second appearance, which is a prime example of my lack of reading time over the past 12 months! I am hoping to re-discover my reading mojo and just as importantly I shall look forward to reading the reviews that other bloggers, taking part in this challenge, will post.

My list contains a mixture of MG and adult books, physical and e-books. One, Purple Hibiscus, is a re-read as it is this month’s choice for one of my book groups, and the solitary non-fiction title, The Book About Getting Older reflects my new job in an NHS library. Several of the MG books have been sent to me for review by publishers and one was a very kind gift from a blogger friend, Rachael, bellisdoesbooks.wordpress.com which I feel terribly guilty for still having in my TBR stack.

7 physical books from my TBR
3 e-books, 2 of which are book group choices

So, here it is; one summer, three months, 10 books! Thank you Cathy for hosting!

AudioBook Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Finding myself unable to read for a couple of days following minor eye surgery, I decided to fill the void by listening to this debut novel by Richard Osman…and it was the perfect prescription for an enjoyable recovery!

I have been a fan of “cosy murder mysteries” since discovering a cupboard full of Agatha Christie novels on a family holiday when I was 12/13. I love the puzzle-solving element as you try to sift the clues from the red herrings and the satisfying resolution when order is restored and the perpetrators are brought to justice. Richard Osman has elegantly constructed his murder mystery to satisfy all the standard conventions and has done so with panache and an ear for the speech patterns of elderly women which compares to the genius of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads!

His setting of an upmarket retirement village is inspired and his cast of characters with their fascinating range of backgrounds is wonderfully crafted. From Elizabeth, the poised and precise leader of the Thursday Murder Club, the possessor of a list of contacts so extensive that we have to assume she worked for the secret services, to firebrand “Red Ron” in his shorts and West Ham shirt, the protagonists are written with skill and a genuine feeling of warm-heartedness. This feel-good factor greatly added to my enjoyment of the story, it felt as if the author was really searching for the good in all his characters and whilst featuring heinous crimes, the motives were apparent and believable. I really don’t want to reveal too much about the plot for fear of ruining anyone’s enjoyment, but The Thursday Murder Club’s transition from researching cold cases to investigating a murder within their own community is thoroughly enjoyable.

I have to also commend the narration by Lesley Manville in this Audible audio book, her impressive range of voices and accents greatly added to my delight in this story. I have so often had to stop listening to audiobooks due to the choice of narrator, but in this case the narration brilliantly enhances the story.

In summary, a very impressive debut from Richard Osman and I am certainly looking forward to the follow-up which I believe is due later this year.