Blog Tour Review – The Man Who Saw Everything – Deborah Levy

Deborah Levy is a writer unlike no other.

This strikes me, even as I write it, as a sentence that feels over used and some what stale. But that doesn’t stop it from being true.

There are so many authors out there that I admire but Levy’s work is always immediately identifiable as hers. Her work is consistently insightful, always complex and raw, and always magnificent.

I am thrilled to be part of the blog tour for her third Man Booker long listed novel, The Man Who Saw Everything.

The novel centres on Saul Alder, a young historian and opens in 1988. Saul is knocked over on the famous Abbey Road crossing, and despite a rather confusing encounter with the driver who hits him, seems physically unharmed. Immediately after the accident he visits his girlfriend, Jennifer Moreau, a talented American art student and fiesty independent women, who has imposed clear rules on their relationship.

This evening is a crossroads in their relationship. Saul is about to embark on a research trip to the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Jennifer is finishing her studies and moving on. Saul proposes marriage, Jennifer ends the relationship. The theme of misremembering, misinterpretation and conflict begins, and we get our first glimpse of the nature of Saul Alder.

For Levy has created a character that is intelligent, beautiful and articulate. Having lost his mother at an early age Saul seems emotionally tied to the past. At odds with his working class father and bully of a brother, refusing to remove his mothers pearls, Saul Alder is self absorbed, often selfish, but certainly not self aware. A man with an incredible eye for detail in the world around him, he is woefully lacking in his understanding of his own character and behaviour.

As his relationship with Jennifer ends Saul travels to the GDP. He is assigned a translator, Walter Muller, with whom he begins a relationship, one which comes to dominate his life despite it’s breivity. He also becomes involved with Walter’s sister Luna, a young woman looking for her key to the west.

The second half of the book takes place in 2016. Saul has again been struck by a car, again on the infamous Abbey Road crossing. This time he is seriously injured and the second half of the book is an account of his time in hospital. A time where the threads of his life come together and Saul begins to face the man he is.

Throughout the novel there runs an overwhelming sense of history; personal history and world history, particulary that of Europe. It is not a linear presentation, rather it is fragmented, appearing in snapshots, interpreted and misrembered by individual characters each adding their own version of events.

Levy continually plays with the concept of time. There is a fractured and fragmented feel to the novel as elements from each part of Saul’s life appear in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Personalities from the past appear in the future and vice versa, creating a running commentary on the complexity of what makes a person and what defines our experiences and choices. There is an inflated sense of deja vu as the echoes of the past affect the future and back again.

Saul feels like a conduit within the novel, a way of drawing together the past, the present and the future. A feeling embodied by Luna, when she says…

But you must.” she said, firmly. “You are history”

Pg 89

Continually the lines of time are blurred. Whilst in the GDP Saul is able to give Luna an accurate prediction about the fall of the Berlin Wall, bringing the future to the present. Equally we feel that the grief he holds, literally around his neck, for the loss of his mother, is what drives Saul to his study of German policital history. Again Levy is playing with and breaking through the barriers of time to create the sense of a novel seeped in history but unconstrained by it.

Throughout the novel there is a sense of haunting. The image of spectres appear again and again, particularly as Saul is hospitalised after his second accident. Levy points out that events in our lives continue to contribute to and define us as we move forwards. Similarly the motif of wolves, dogs and predators stalk the narrative, in the way that his grief for his mother and his guilt surrounding his relationship with Walter stalk Saul’s own life.

Yet Saul is the ultimate unreliable narrator. Taking into account the moving and fractured time frames, his own lack of self awareness and his two accidents, there is a continual sense of story and an author shaping and rediscovering themselves. At times this feels very insular and persoanl to Saul’s story, at other times this feels very much like a wider metaphor for the historial and polictical times we currently find ourselves in.

For this is a novel steeped in the history of Europe. There are continual references to various European countries and influences, woven skillfully into the narrative. The history of Europe and it’ s division and subsequent reunification through the fall of the GDR is central to the novel. It doesn’t feel coindicidental that Saul’s second accident is firmly in the time frame of the EU referendum result. There is a feeling that whatever our future relationship with Europe, we are still bound to it through the past and the present. Nothing is as linear as we would like to believe.

It feels so trite and unimaginative to call this novel complex and orginal. But it truly is. Every review I have read has come up with a different perspective and focus. For it is a novel that lends it’s self to interpretation and discussion. There is so much more to this work than I could ever hope to include in these short paragraphs. It is a work to be read debated and then reread. And I guarantee that much like the narrative structure adopted by Levy your perception will shift and you will find new angles, new motifs and new meanings upon each reading. I have read this book twice in 5 days and each time I have taken something different away from it.

The Man Who Saw Everything is an incredible book. There is no doubt it is a novel for our time; it is a novel for all time. And I am predicting a third Man Booker short listed book for Deborah Levy.

Book Review : The Wayward Girls By Amanda Mason

I am pretty sure that in the few short months that I have been blogging I have managed to mention my innate love of ghost stories, at least once or twice!

So when The Wayward Girls by Amanda Mason, due for release on 5th September hit my radar I suspected I was in for a treat.

The Wayward Girls by Amanda Mason

Set in the long hot summer of 1976 this is the story of a family living in a remote farmhouse whose world is turned upside down by strange and quite frankly terrifying happenings. Excited yet ?

Well you should be. Because if like me you like to be just a little bit scared by your reading matter this is one not to be missed…

When the Corvino family move to Iron Sike Farm it is in search of an alternative and simpler life. Cathy, a rather harassed Earth mother and Joe a struggling artist arrive with their five children Dante, Lucia, Bianca, Florian and Antonella in the spring. But by early summer the cracks are starting to show.

Dan and Bee, the elder children resent being ripped away from the city and their friends. Loo is struggling with the new regime of home education and home cooking. Cathy is drowning in housework and child care and Joe’s creative muse has left him.

When Joe disappears, allegedly ‘working away’ the frustration and boredom on all sides of the family reaches fever pitch, suddenly to be replaced by something much darker.

The haunting began quietly once the Corvino family had settled into their new home; the girls heard it first, the knocking inside the walls.

Extract from A Haunting at Iron Sike Farm by Simon Leigh

(Chapter 1 – Now)

Beginning with unexplained noises, missing property and uneasy feelings, events at the farm rapidly lead Cathy to seek outside help. When local press photographer Isobel gets wind of things it isn’t long before the farm becomes the focus of a team of paranormal investigators. Experienced Professor Michael Warren and rookie Simon Leigh are fascinated and excited by the unexplained events, all of which seem to be centred around the two girls Bee and Loo.

As the summer heat intensifies events soon spiral out of control, changing the lives of those involved forever.

The telling of the story divided across two time frames. As well as concentrating on the summer of 1976 we join the grown up Loo. Now Lucy, she has spent the intervening years trying to put the events at the farm behind her. But as her Cathy begins to decline the past returns to haunt both of them. And when Simon’s daughter Nina makes contact, determined to pick up her late father’s investigation, Lucy finds herself back at the farm and is forced to confront a past she hoped was firmly behind her. Will the new teams findings shed further light on what resides at the farm? It are somethings just best left alone?

All the hallmarks of a great ghost story are firmly stamped on this novel. From the moment I picked it up I was drawn in and held in it’s grasp. Right from the start there is an an air of inevitability and urgency, an uneasiness with past events not yet settled.

The structure of alternating time frames is used to create the palpable feeling of tension within the novel. As we move from the past to present and back again, the story seems to builds with a life of it’s own. Each event and revelation slowly adds another layer of anticipation and pulling the reader further in.

The girls Loo and Bee are undoubtedly the focus of the seemingly paranormal activity. They are girls, on the edge of womenhood, who suddenly find themselves the centre of all kinds of attention. Michael is convinced that the girls have attracted a poltergeist, their teenage energy acting a a conduit.

Yet continually the author allows doubt to creep into the narrative. The girls are clearly unhappy. Bee especially is seeking adult attention, and both girls are drawn to the young and attractive Simon, possibly seeking a father figure after Joe’s departure. Simon becomes a source of tension between the two, revealing the strength of feelings of Bee in particular.

And if Bee is at times reckless in her behaviour, she isn’t the only . Caught up in the unreality of the situation there is a feeling that all normal rules and conventions have been forgotten or at least disregarded. It is as if a spell has been cast over the farm, a place where adults are pushing the boundaries as they seek answers, playing a dangerous game and overlooking the risks.

A long unbroken summer is not the traditional weather to accompany an ghost story. There are none of the swirling fogs or crashing storms of other gothic tales. And yet the juxtaposition between light and dark works. The unrelenting almost mythical heat reflects the air of unreality created by events on the farm. It is as if real life is suspended and people have lost touch with reality.

And who is in control? Who can be trusted in this place? Indeed who can we the reader trust in this tale?

Right to the last page the sense of unease continues. As a reader we swing between time frames and view points continually questioning and reassessing. This may sound like a cliche but this one really will keep you on your toes until the very last page.

The Wayward Girls is an accomplished and complex novel, and as a debut it is a stunner. Look out for this one when it is published on 5th September by Zaffre Books.

I can’t wait to see what Amanda Mason does next…

ManBooker Review #3 : 10 minutes 38 seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak

This is a truly beautiful book.

Obviously visually with it’s stunning cover, shades of blue and gold that complement each other so perfectly.

But the words, the words within are truly, truly beautiful. This is a story told and imagined through the senses. Through taste, touch, smell. Through sound and sight, Istanbul and it’s inhabitants are brought to life.

At the simplest of levels this is the story of Leila, a prostitute found dead in a dumpster in Istanbul, discovered and then robbed by youths high on glue. A story with such an ugly beginning is in fact breathtaking in it’s beauty.

The story of Leila’s life is told as her brain begins to close down, minute by minute, sense by sense.

And Leila’s life is unexpected, intertwined with the people she meets and importantly the friends she makes. Five friends, all with different stories, backgrounds and ethnicity, that come together in the cultural melting pot that is Istanbul.

All five of Tequila Leila’s friends are outcasts in one shape or form.

Nostalgia Nalan, once Osman, a brave transgender woman who ran from her farming family in Anatolia on her wedding night.

Sabotage Sinan, Lelia’s oldest friend, son of a progressive female pharmacist, now trapped in a loveless marriage, forced to hide his friendships.

Jameelah, Somalian born to Muslim father and Christian mother, destroyed by her mother’s death, trafficked to Istanbul and prostitution.

Zaynab122, born in Lebanon into a Sunni family. A family so intermarried that dwarfism is common, hence the 122. Making her way to Istanbul, she finds herself cleaning the brothel where Lelia works.

Hollywood Humerya, cat rescuer and nightclub singer, at home in Istanbul after running from Mesopotamia and an enforced, abusive marriage.

These friendships are the core and the heart of our story. They are the core and the heart of Lelia’s life. Rejected by her own family Lelia’s support and sustenance comes from this diverse group, a complexity which is symbolic and reflective of the city around them.

This is story of true friendship, the friendship that springs from adversity and a meeting of souls, friendships that move beyond accepted definition and become akin to family.

…there were two kinds of families in this world: relatives formed the blood family; and friends, the water family…

…the water family, this was formed much later in life, and was to a large extent of your own making. While it was true that nothing could take the place of a loving, happy blood family, in the absence of one, a good water family could wash away the hurt and pain collected inside like black soot…

Her ‘water family’ are those people that Leila’s can share her truth with, that support her throughout her darkest moments and crucially whom her thoughts turn to in death as her mind slowly, over the course of 10 minutes, 38 seconds, shuts down.

The story of friendship is wrapped in a unique structure. Beginning with a chapter entitled The End we see Lelia’s death. Then follows three parts, The Mind, The Body, The Soul.

This novel is not linear, the story of Lelia’s life twists and turns just like the city that nurtures it. Yet it is the collection and formation of these unique friendships that are the glue that holds it all together.

Istanbul is portrayed as a feast for the senses, the span of the story and the diversity of the characters provides a tangible sense of the political, religious and historical turmoil and tensions which has created and at times almost destroyed this city. A city on a boundary, where East quite literally meets West, with all the complexities that brings.

Here we see the traditional and the modern fighting to co-exist. Sometimes rubbing alongside each other in a disordered and disjointed way. Sometimes one breaking the other beyond repair.

Story after story with in this novel present us with the expectations of family, of parents demanding conformity and tradition and of children torn. Torn between love, loyalty and the need to be true to themselves.

This is a story of what happens when your desires and your experiences don’t fit your preordained path. And how you find a place in the world when your world has rejected you.

And time and again in this generational, cultural, political battle it is women who are the casualties.

Women who are forced into marriages that abusive and filled with constrain . Women who are forced to give up their children, be it at birth or later in the name of family honour. Women who give up their bodies to survive, to serve the needs of men. Women who pay for men’s mistakes when political will changes and religion closes down a household and it’s freedoms.

What better way of commenting on the treatment of women by making a prostitute the focus and the protagonist of this story? By challenging each reader to look beyond a tragic and inauspicious start and to use that great leveller, Death, to revel this women’s history. To share her passions, her past, her tragedies and triumphs. To show us that we need to look beyond the label and the preconceptions, that in built sense of inevitability to discover the real women beneath. To see the brave women escaping one life and trying to make their own realities.

For Death is our storyteller here. It is the one inescapable factor in life and is presented throughout with a gentle but biting humour.

It is the rituals surrounding death that bring Lelia and her ‘water family’ together for one final time. The last section of the book is possibly one of the greatest testaments to friendship I have ever encountered in literature. It challenges the idea that there is one way to deal with a death, bringing together many rituals, creating the idea that departure should be as unique as each life lived.

A book of sincerity and complexity, of beauty, alongside great sorrow, Man Booker Judges if you are listening, this one deserves the Short List.

Rachel x

Book Review: On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming

I seem to be continuing my entirely unplanned literary trip back to the landscape of my youth. This time we are on the Lincolnshire the coast Chapel St Leonard’s in fact, just along the way from Skegness and all it’s seaside paraphernalia.

It is the setting of the beautifully crafted On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming, published by Chatto and Windus. It is the telling of a family history, moreover it is the telling of a family mystery, one that has remained in the shadows for many years.

Before I start I need to say that I nearly didn’t review this book.

Not because I didn’t enjoy it. I was utterly entranced. The story captivated me in that special way that only true stories can, as I listened to my constant inner voice repeating ‘My God, this actually happened…’

I hesitated about reviewing because I was worried that I would give something away.

For this is a story that needs to discovered. Piece by piece, layer by layer, just as the author and her family have uncovered, assessed and redefined their truth. I knew I needed to tread lightly.

So in terms of ‘plot’, ( and using the word plot feels wrong when you are dealing with someone’s life !) I will give you the merest hint. Just enough to whet your appetite, but trust me this is a feast waiting to be discovered.

The story begins in 1929, a young girl Betty is playing in the warm autumn sunshine on Chapel beach. She is 3 years old. Her mother, Veda, is sitting near by. Her father, George, a travelling salesman is away from home.

In the blink of eye she is gone.

Vanished.

Betty is missing for 5 days. She is finally discovered unharmed, dressed in new clothes, in a house a few miles away.

Restored to her family, Betty’s life continues and, although the ‘kidnap’ is common knowledge within the tight knit community, it is never discussed.

But the reasons behind it and the effects it has on this family will define not only this but generations to come.

And so begins the telling of a complex tale. A tale that is told with remarkable skill and originality. At no point does the reader feel lost in the tangle of truths. There is a structure and fluidity to the retelling which drives the tale onwards, not withstanding it’s many twists, turns, even dead ends that appear along the way.

This is a unique family story and it needs to be told in a unique way. Laura Cumming harasses all her skills as an art critic, systematically analysing family photographs taken through out her mother’s childhood, almost exclusively by her Grandfather George.

These photographs are the chronicle of her family, and Cumming assesses each one, looking to discover the subject’s intent and their emotion. Timelines, settings, clothing and scribbled captions are all scrutinised to build a picture of her mother; her childhood, her beginnings and the very essence of identity.

Throughout there is that familiar feeling of trying to make sense of the past. The way we all grasp at the scraps others have left behind. The way we try to fill in the gaps with ancestors thoughts, feelings and motivations. Cumming and her mother are trying to join the dots on a masterpiece, and it is a process that will take the whole of the book.

Art is a constant ribbon running through the fabric of these words. Beyond the carefully crafted photographs of George, both Laura’s parents were artists, she herself has made her life in artistic circles. Art in this book is a mirror and sometimes a magnifying glass, offering escape, clarity and a whole new perspective on an intriguing and sometimes painful puzzle.

Cumming’s voice throughout is one of intelligence and integrity. Her love for her mother seeps from the pages and yet she allows others in this story their voice. One of the most poignant elements of her work is the fact that the perspective and viewpoints we encounter are not static. In true art critic style we are encouraged to throw off our preconceptions and look at this from all angles.

And the story and it’s conclusion are all the better for this.

I have no doubt that this book will stay me for a long time. For anyone who has ever looked back at their own family story and wished for a second of clarity, for anyone who has unanswered questions, quite possibly lost to the mists of time, this book will hold a special charm.

See you on the sands.

Rachel.

Book Review: Don’t Think a Single Thought by Diana Cambridge

So one of the most exciting and, honestly, most unexpected bonuses of blogging about books is the chance to discover and engage with some fabulous and very talented independent publishers.

One such publisher is Louise Walters of Louise Walters Books. Based in Oxford and founded in 2017 Louise was one of the first publishers to take a chance on a newbie blogger – a.k.a moi(!)- and send me a real life proof. The Naseby Horses by Dominic Brownlow, out December 2019.

Louise has a gift for discovering unique voices in literature and none more so than that of Diana Cambridge author of Don’t Think I Single Thought.

This is a truly incredible novel. It is like nothing else I have read this year. In fact it is like nothing else I have read in a very long time.

It has a quality to that seems to transcend it’s setting. It feels very much grounded within it’s timeframe, chiefly 1960’s / 70’s USA, and yet it’s message and impetus are so up to date and relevant.

The book is centred on Emma a women who seems ‘perfectly packaged’. Intelligent and a skilled writer, she is stylist, beautiful, and married to a brilliant doctor. Money is clearly not an issue; maids and Picasso’s are standard in Emma’s life.

And yet Emma’s life is a struggle, a continual struggle to deal with events of her past and their longtime impact on her mental health. Her life is a roller coaster where significant, and sometimes seemly insignificant events cause her to spiral back into deep depression.

We see Emma living without truly occupying herself. She is intelligent woman, successful in her own right but depression robs her of her ability, time and again, to take control of her own life. There is a continual trend of deferring to her husband Jonathan, asking him wittingly and unwittingly to take control when things get too much.

Unable to understand Emma’s fragile mental health, Jonathan dresses up her world in money and treats. New clothes, a nice hotel, good food; all designed to smooth the road and maintain, at least superficially, the calm equilibrium of their privileged life.

A sterile world of maids, therapists, bought in meals, new clothes and expensive kitchen gadgets is created to cocoon, protect and maintain.

Until the problem is too big.

Until Chanel and a nice holiday stop working

Emma’s past is complex. Without giving spoilers her whole early life, and indeed beyond, is filled with loss and misplaced guilt. A young life filled with trauma is slowly revealed, Cambridge expertly shifts our sympathies and makes us question.

For the sands of this story are continually shifting. For someone in the depths of a depression isn’t always the most reliable of narrators, and it is up to us, the reader, to piece together Emma’s fragmented story. A process almost akin to that of a therapist.

And yet what treatment would we prescribe ? Where exactly does the trouble lie?

Within this story there is a continual avoidance of emotion and not just on the part of Emma. Difficult emotions are continually bubbling under, never confronted; all wrapped in a frosting avoidance.Emma is our key focus but other friends and acquaintances reflect the pattern.

Diana Cambridge presents with stark and devastating accuracy a pervading lack of understanding. And most shockingly a continual and woefully inadequate level of treatment.

Emma is repeatedly given means of escape, ways of blunting the edges, but never true support. Every time something happens that brings Emma to the edge of confronting emotion or past experiences, someone offers her a shield. Be it a holiday, a dress, a blank cheque, a pill.

This novel raises questions about the wider societal experience of and reaction to mental health. It reflects the knee jerk reaction to create immediate calm, offer temporary balm and paper over cracks. It reflects with pinpoint accuracy and terrible consequences a wider inability to truly listen, to understand and to encourage confrontation.

The style of the prose reflects the protagonist; alternating between calm and chaos but with an veneer of sophistication and chic. The style is sparse, understated but also devastating.

There is an unnerving, but powerful feeling of the protagonist moving away from you and coming back into sharp focus as her life and mental health ebbs and flows.

This is a novel that is painfully relevant, to yesterday, to today and beyond.

It is a warning, dressed up in couture and sleeping pills. And one we all need to hear.

Don’t Think a Single Thought by Diana Cambridge is published by Louise Walters Books on 26th September 2019.

Preorder here!

Book Review : Beneath the Surface by Fiona Neill

In a land where the sky is king, the weather announces itself hours in advance; the fields, ditches and dykes have a Mondrian‑like geometry, that repeats itself with utter predictability as far as the horizon; and you can see anyone approaching for miles.”

It is rare, in fact so far unheard of, that I start a review with a quote from the book in question. However this quote sums up so perfectly how I remember the Fens of my childhood it was an obvious place for me to begin.

Fiona Neill has hit upon the very openness of the landscape and the huge brooding skies; skies that reached the ground, skirting fields of wheat and barley for mile upon mile. Unlike the rugged Lakeland landscape I now call home The Fens are not beautiful in the traditional sense, but they have a unique quality and one which for me is ever present.

It is this unique quality which Fiona Neill has been so accomplished at embedding into her novel. It is a quiet delight to find a novel with such a strong sense of place, a sense of place which not only grounds the novel but is central to it’s key themes and motivation.

For The Fenland that Neill writes about is seeped in history and that history is cleverly interwoven into the lives of the characters.

Patrick, husband and Art History teacher, is the descended from the Dutch pioneers who drained the land, reclaiming it from the sea.

Mia, younger daughter; eccentric, creative and straight talking, becomes fascinated, some might say obsessed by the Anglo Saxon burials recently uncovered. They offer a glimpse into the past but they also indirectly threaten the future. Tas, Mia’s traveller friend, is likely to lose his site in order to preserve this newly discovered and important site.

The past, seeping through to the present, is a theme running through the very veins of this novel. For when Lilly, fated older daughter and A grade student collapses at school, her parents Grace and Patrick are thrown into a world of turmoil.

Grace has spend years constructing the perfect life for both her girls. The product of a chaotic and abusive childhood, Grace clings to normality and the concrete. Navigating her life with her notebook of Certainties she has suppressed the most traumatic event in order that her girls may thrive. But just like the rising marshland water that is infecting their new home, the more Grace fights her past, the more it threatens her present. Her need for boundaries is ingrained, but what happens when those boundaries stop being healthy and become a cage?

The story is testament to the fact that the past runs through all of us. Deny it and it will find a way to make it’s self known. Neill shows the reader that by suppressing the past we are giving it a momentum of it’s own.

Yet secrets within this novel are not confined to just the past. Here we find a compelling portrait of a family coping with both collective and individual problems . No one person is telling the truth. Each is keeping close watch over their own and indeed other people’s secrets, in a misguided bid to protect the family as a unit.

Lilly, for example, has created a double life; dutiful and driven daughter, competing for a coveted University place, verses young woman experiencing love, sex and deceit for the first time. When the pressure of this charade becomes to much the fallout affects not just Lilly and her family but the wider and surrounding community.

This novel is held together by tight family bonds. The theme of siblings and their unique relationships runs deep. They are a source of tension, humour and unexpected revelations, which once again underline the connections between past and present.

Neill has created a cast of characters that are authentic and believable. Their motivations, however misguided never seem outlandish, such is the skill with which they are drawn. It is a mark of Neill’s accomplishment as an author that the reader finds their sympathies continually shifting throughout the novel.

Should you want to take a trip to the open Fenland landscape the Beneath the Surface is an excellent place to start and one I would recommend.

Huge thanks go to Penguin Random House for sending me a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book review – Expectation by Anna Hope

Ever get an Advance Reader Copy of a book that makes your heart sing?

That’s what happened to me when I was approved for Expectation by Anna Hope. So thank you Transworld Books for making a middle aged blogger very happy!

Anna’s post World War 1 novel Wake has lived large in my memory for a number of years. I vividly remember reading it on a 5 hour train journey north. Spellbound and moved, I finished it almost in one sitting. Thank goodness my stop was the end of the line, as I would have undoubtedly missed it otherwise.

Hence my excitement about the release of Expectation.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Expectation is a novel about three women, all ploughing their own furrow. All following their own and others expectations, none of them completely fulfilled.

Cate, Hannah and Lissa have been friends for years. Connected by past events and shared memories, all three are at a crossroads in their lives.

Lissa is an actress, not quite fulfilled, still seeking success, constantly in awe and frustration with her artist mother.

Hannah is successful, married but desperate for a child, and facing down the process of IVF and all that it brings.

Cate is a new wife and mother but feels life has over taken her and that somehow she has missed out; that she has taken a wrong turn and is not fulfilling her potential.

Throughout the novel we see each woman peering in at the lives of their friends, and building their own expectations and desires. Each woman is questioning what they have achieved and quietly coveting what the other has.

Hope has created a believable portrait of friendship that houses underlining tensions and unspoken truths. Events and emotions in both the past and future seek to undermine the foundations of their friendship and those of people surrounding them.

The power of this novel lies, undoubtedly, in the authenticity of the characters. Their dilemmas and stumbling blocks aren’t outlandish or unusual. In fact that they are common, some might say mundane but they are all the more powerful and heartbreaking for that.

There is a real sense of empathy with these characters. We care what happens to them.

More than that we feel what happens to them. We have been Cate, or Hannah or Lissa. Surely is a rare individual who hasn’t questioned where their life is heading or where they have ended up.

And it is this quiet simmering undertone of dissatisfaction and re evaluation, which drives the story along. Can these characters make the changes they need, even if means changing the course of their lives and not fulfilling their own and others exacting expectations? Or are they destined to live up to Expectation but live unfulfilled?

Hope is showing us that fulfilling ‘Expectation’, is not necessarily the key to happy and successful life. In doing so she has created a novel that refines the terms and phases of our everyday lives.

Is fulfilling Expectation a mark of success? Or do we judge our lives through different eyes?