Carol’s story is set mostly in the mid to late 1980s. Desperate, after a final, almost deadly attack from her husband Ted, Carol secrets her two children away and takes them to live in a shelter for abused families. This action, though life-saving, had a dreadful impact on them all, the consequences of which will follow them throughout their lives.
Graham’s story is told in 1992 mostly through his interactions with a prison chaplain named Richard Crown. At this time, Graham has served six years in Lancaster Castle Prison. Richard is here to counsel some of the inmates and he finds himself drawn to the quiet and intense young Graham Watson. The two men become friends and find mutual benefit from their sessions together. Richard Crown’s story is also filled with poignancy.
“Guilt is not helpful. It is there to tell us when we have behaved badly and when we need to make amends, but other than that, it has no purpose.”
Nicola’s story was set in the present, in Merseyside where she has returned for her mother’s funeral. The youngest in the family, Nicola was studious and a wee bit oblivious to the turmoil of her early life. Now, a successful London barrister, she realizes – too late – just how much her Mother sacrificed for her in order that she might escape her roots and make a real success of her life.
“In families, we assume roles without even knowing we’re doing it. We fill in the blanks.”
S.E. Lynes has taken a departure from her usual thriller genre with this powerful work of literary fiction. When I was just barely half-way through this novel I knew it would be on my ‘Best of 2019’ list for sure. Brilliant!
It was the outstanding characterization that makes this novel a five star read. Told from three different points of view, each is told with such empathy and deep understanding that you feel you know the characters personally.
Carol’s story was heartbreaking, and all too real. Although this is a book about domestic abuse and its aftermath, it was told in such a compelling way that it had a unique impact.
Though the book is set in the Liverpool area, it could be set anywhere. It is the characters and their often tragic story that shines in this book. I was so mesmerized and engaged with these characters that I couldn’t put the book down until the final page was read. And then… already I missed the characters. I thought I’d list my favourite characters, then I stopped myself because really I loved them all with a special mention to Carol Watson, Jim MacKay, and Graham Watson. Oh, and I cannot fail to mention the heartwarming friendship between Carol and her next-door neighbour and best-friend, Pauline.
A novel about bravery, cowardliness, kindness, grief, loss, hope, contrition, self-sacrifice, shame, and endurance. It speaks to the resilience and love of family white at the same time lamenting how precious time is with the ones we love – and who love us.
Just because this novel is not a thriller does not mean that it can’t have plot twists. There are a few near the end that will satisfy most readers. Not shocking as such, just secrets revealed slowly over time, like peeling back the layers of an onion.
Highly recommended, memorable, literary fiction!
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Sarah Hardy and Bookouture via NetGalley in order that I might participate in the Bookouture Blog Tour for this new title.
After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London for a couple of years before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a Radio Producer at the BBC before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with teaching at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington, Middlesex.
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