by Kathryn Hughes
Started: 6th December 2015
Finished: 6th December 2015
I was sent this book by Bookbridgr a few weeks ago, but I’ve only just had the time to sit and read it. I’m so pleased I had the chance to read this in one sitting as it would have been awful to have to wait to see how the story would unfold.
The novel begins with a grandchild watching her grandparents in the garden, prompting her to ask how they met. From there we’re transported to 1973 to Tina, who’s married to abusive alcoholic Rick. She spends as much time as she can out of the house, one of the places she spends most of her time is the charity shop where she volunteers and sorts through clothes. One day she comes across an unopened letter in a jacket pocket at the shop. Upon reading it she realises she has to do whatever she can to get the letter to the woman it who never received it. Not realising, however, how much this letter and Billy and Chrissie’s life will affect her own.
I quickly became very emotionally invested in Tina and Chrissie’s stories. There were times when I wanted to just reach in and shake some sense into them or just hug them. But when when I found myself frustrated by their actions, the characters were still likeable and I was still rooting for them (which I don’t always experience in books). Although there were certain characters who frustrated me that I just hated, luckily that was the point and it caused me to get even more consumed by the stories. Considering there’s technically three stories in the novel, there isn’t a lot of different characters which I liked. However, there were two characters who I felt were more plot devices than characters though, and they were Clark and Sylvia.
The three stories in the novel jump between 1973-1974 and 1939-1940, but despite these changes the plot was easy to follow and they tied together nicely. I really liked how the novel alternated between the two time periods after a few chapters. All the stories were paced really well and I never found myself bored with one and just skimming pages to get to the other. There were a couple of times where I thought the novel would become predictable, however I was pleasantly surprised. Even the way the letter impacted Tina’s life had an element to it that I wasn’t expecting at all.
Without giving too much away, I really would have liked to have seen more of Chrissie’s life in Ireland. I also felt that the ending, with a certain loose end being tied up for Tina, was kind of unnecessary and seemed too convenient and rounded the story off in a way that didn’t quite fit for me. However, that was quickly forgotten about when I got to the epilogue and reminded of how the novel started which I loved.
Overall, I did really enjoy this book it was a nice easy read for a Sunday afternoon and a great debut novel for Hughes. I would love to see what she writes in the future.