My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Relaxation = Book and a bath. 😍
With a small child around I don’t get as much reading time as I’d like but with this book I have found myself squeezing it in at every opportunity. LO watching night garden, hello next chapter. 😉
The book is a dual timeline following the stories of Emily and Isabel. In present-day London, Emily is an up-and-coming editor who is helping a young biographer publish the life of a now-deceased famous writer, Hugh Morton. When mystery parcels begin to turn up at Emily’s work telling the story of Isabel, Hugh’s first wife, Emily becomes obsessed with Isabel’s story and must know more.
I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:
After a week of tense waiting she asked Stephen, ‘I don’t suppose you’ve had time to read that report on Hugh Morton’s book I left you?’
‘Ah, I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you about that,’ Stephen replied with a guilty look, and her hopes fell. But then he said, ‘The author’s coming in next week. I’ll make sure the two of you are introduced.’
‘We’re publishing the book?’ she asked, in surprise and not a little anger. She was used to not being told much, to having to pick up information through opening the post or by correspondence she was asked to type, but she was hurt that he hadn’t mentioned anything about this project.
Starting in 1948 we follow the story of Isabel. Isabel is working hard to find her place and forge a career in a man’s world in London. Having run away from home she is determined to manage life on her own. When she is given extra responsibility at work she relishes the challenge and after meeting a handsome young debut author soon her work and personal life begin to merge. Yet as these worlds merge she begins to struggle to keep her independence and personal identity.
I loved the characters in this book, especially those featured in Isabel’s story. Berec is a particularly interesting sub-character and I liked the hints the author left regarding how difficult someone in his situations life would have been at that time period, yet his jovial attitude was uplifting just when the book needed it. Hugh makes a great bad guy, that’s not all that bad, just attitudes of that time.
I must admit, the 40/50’s is a time period I don’t know much about, being so close to our own (for a historical history novel) it is easy to picture certain things, yet attitudes and opportunities certainly for young ladies, was different and I think the author does a great job in capturing this.
The timeline shifts were handled well with clear indications of the time period and most of Isabel’s story was told through manuscript extracts of Isabel’s memoirs.
This novel also touches on the fragile emotional state of post-natal depression. This can be difficult reading but is nonetheless a fact of life and would have been much less understood in the time period.
Any Negatives? Not negative as such but I did enjoy Berec’s story and think it has a place to be told in more detail (perhaps a little novella). I also found Lydia a strange character, meek at first then emboldened later on. I feel to be more true to life, she would have been less forgiving and more resentful of Isabel’s choices. None of this detracts from the main story of Isabel or Emily though.
Overall View: A really interesting book. A strong and engaging storyline that really had me reading at every opportunity. It was a compelling and addictive read. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
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