“We are shaped by our mothers, and, if we lack them we are shaped by that loss.”
“I once read that motherhood is your heart forever walking around outside of you.”
Emma 2019 – our protagonist travels from her family home in Sussex, to Morecambe, Lancashire, to clear out her mother’s flat after her very recent death. She is shocked and saddened that her mother, Margaret, left her painting “The Girl In The Maze” to someone Emma has never met. Emma had been estranged from her mother for several years and wondered why her mother had always seemed so cold towards her.
Betty – Emma’s grandmother and mother to Margaret. We meet Betty in 1937 when she is just sixteen years old and pregnant. She was about to be a single mother back when ‘respectability’ was of paramount importance. The shame and public humiliation of being a ‘fallen woman’ could shape a life, and the taint of illegitimacy could follow a child to adulthood and beyond.
Margaret – Emma’s mother was a traumatized and conflicted woman. Like her mother Betty before her, she was a teenage single mother in 1953. Her pregnancy, and the circumstances around it, only became known to Emma when she was clearing out her mother’s things after her death.
Emma then realizes that she has a sister who would be twenty-two years older than her. A sister she has always longed for…
What an engrossing and accomplished debut novel! A layered family history highlighting how influential a mother can be, whether she is present or absent…
The first few chapters were brutal and heartbreaking to read, but formed a needed foundation for the rest of the novel.
This novel deftly explores the topic of motherhood in all its many guises and permutations. It also explores the intense complexity of parenthood and family relationships, and how we are all shaped by our childhood experiences.
The book puts a fictional slant on how society has changed over the years when it comes to children born out of wedlock. It tells of relationships forged – and relationships destroyed. It portrays the rift between what our parents’ relationships were really like and how we view them as children. How we take our parents for granted until we are no longer able to do so…
“The Girl In The Maze” was an accomplished debut novel that I can highly recommend. I look forward to the author’s next novel.
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 Agora Books via NetGalley.
Cathy Hayward started her working life as a journalist writing for trade magazines writing about everything from the supply chains behind Valentine’s Day to the most efficient way to move goods around a port.
After having her third child in 2009 and still living in London, she decided she needed to make a change. Within a couple of months, she’d left her job, sold up and moved down to Brighton on the coast.
In 2016, shortly after her father died, she started the two-year part-time creative writing programme with New Writing South in Brighton. It was the best decision she ever made. She finished the course in summer 2018 and continued to write what became The Girl in the Maze in earnest. It was the 2020 lockdown which proved to be her great opportunity to finish it.
She has written a second book called The Fortune Teller’s Promise which she finished in March 2021, and is now working on a third story. She can’t imagine a time when she won’t write.
She lives near the sea in Brighton with her three children, her husband, their Vizsla puppy, and two cats.
Follow Cathy Hayward on Twitter @CathyHayward7