Published By: Quercus
Released On: 07/07/2022
For Alice and Hanna, saint and sinner, growing up is a trial. There is their mother, who takes a divide and conquer approach to child-rearing, and their father, who takes an absent one. There is their older brother, Michael, whose disapproval is a force to be reckoned with. There is the catastrophe that is never spoken of, but which has shaped everything.
As adults, Alice and Hanna must deal with disappointments in work and in love as well as increasingly complicated family tensions, and lives that look dismayingly dissimilar to what they’d intended. And they must look for a way to repair their own fractured relationship, and they must finally choose their own approach to their dominant mother: submit or burn the house down. And they must decide at last whether life is really anything more than (as Hanna would have it) a tragedy with a few hilarious moments.
*Minor theme spoilers*
Thanks to NetGalley and Quercus for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.
I adored reading Rebecca’s previous book “Our Fathers”; it was not an easy topic but it was masterful in terms of her writing and storytelling ability.
I instantly disliked Michael, and wasn’t particularly keen on Hanna or their mum. Hanna did grow on me the bigger her role became, but I still found her a bit prickly. I did like Alice, she was a bit of a wet weekend at times, and I wanted her to stand up for herself more often, but she was a gentle characters.
At first I thought there were two separate stories going on, but they’re not, it’s more of a crossover of time periods and flashbacks, and the interweaving of the main characters’ stories. I thought this was a very clever way of showing us their backstories without it being clunky to follow.
I wouldn’t necessarily compare this to “Our Fathers” – for me, that was definitely more harrowing, more theatrical, whereas this one is definitely more relatable.
There’s a subtopic of mental health and mental illness running through it and I think that was handled well within the context of the story. Sometimes when mental health is explored by and outsider narrator, it can feel a bit glamorised and over the top, but by having it from the POV of several characters, including the ones suffering, gives us a range of opinions on it and makes it a more rounded theme.
I dislike books that simply tell the reader what’s happening instead of show us. This definitely shows you what’s happening. It takes your hand on page one and takes you on a journey showing you these characters’ complicated lives.
It’s written in third person and you don’t get specific point of views in the conventional sense (I.e. you don’t get a chapter that’s titled ALICE when it’s her turn to talk), but you do get a feel for everyone which allows you to develop your own views on them without being led by the other characters’ agendas.
Rebecca doesn’t hold back from the feelings in this book. Everything is dialled up and so passionate, whether they’re finding something funny, they’re happy or sad, stressed or angry. It is properly full on and thoughtful.
Her character building is exceptional. There’s a number of authors for whom character development is their forte – in my opinion that includes the likes of Jane Austen and Maggie O’Farrell – and for me, Rebecca Wait is up there on that list.
I won’t tell you the ending but it a really beautiful scene, it’s like it comes full circle and you can breathe a sigh of relief for them.