*Showing off* I was emailed by the publisher to see if I’d like to have an advanced review copy of this book, as they noticed I’d read similar on Netgalley before. Clearly this made me feel like some sort of social media book influencer – like I should be taking arty photos of the new book with a fancy filter, and perhaps an avocado in shot – so of course I said yes. I’ve never knowingly turned down a free book – which in some instances I probably should have – so I did at least check the blurb before I said yes this time (I’ve learned from having to read a dire book last year to ensure my Netgalley stats didn’t suffer!)
Here is the blurb:
“1957: Within a year of arriving at an American airbase in Suffolk, the loving, law-abiding Delaney family is destroyed. Did they know something they weren’t allowed to know? Did they find something they weren’t supposed to find? Only one girl has the courage to question what really went on behind closed doors . . .
Hedy’s journey to the truth leads her to read a manuscript that her talented twin brother had started months before he died, a story inspired by an experience in the forest surrounding the airbase perimeter. Only through deciding to finish what her brother started does Hedy begin to piece together what happened to her family.
But would she have continued if she’d known then what she knows now?
Sometimes, it’s safer not to finish what you’ve started…”
The book starts in the mid 50s (although has flashbacks to the second World War) when the Delaney family are posted to Suffolk from their current base in Iowa. The descriptions of the different settings are excellent – and having been to military accommodation (although UK forces not US) it did all ring true. However, I have one bug bear from the start of the book (which is possibly a bit pedantic!) but it involved white goods. A big fuss is made about there not being a fridge in the UK house – and Ruby wants to use hers that she’s brought from the US – so a colleague arranges for a car battery to be put in the kitchen so the fridge can be powered. This is then never referred to again – and yet a big deal of it was made initially – just seems like a bit of a white elephant reference, with the world’s never ending car battery saving the day. Then a few chapters later the family are ‘stacking the dishwasher’ after a meal. So – the kitchen didn’t have a fridge but did have a dishwasher, in 1957 rural England. It just didn’t sit right – and that put me on edge (which I appreciate is possibly just me overthinking and I probably should have just gone with it………..)
The first part of the book is very gentle, setting the scene – and filling in the back story of the Delaney family. The parts about Christopher’s scoliosis are written beautifully – and how caring his Mum and twin sister Hedy are is clearly evident.
Slowly, though, things disintegrate. I’m not going to give away any spoilers – but big stuff happens!
The second part of the book follows Hedy’s life at her Uncle’s farm – which is where her Mum, Ruby, grew up – although had been estranged from her UK family since before the twins were born. This section was much more fast paced – both in the speed of the writing and the years that are jumped through. Again the writing really evoked the feel of a run down farm and the hard work involved in working it. The intertwining of previous parts of the story is done really well.
There are some big themes running throughout the book – family, illness (physical and mental), sexuality, love (seemingly unrequited in some cases), responsibility, to name but a few – and these are all written really well and keep you absorbed.
The ending ties up lots of loose ends, which I always like in a book.
Moving on from my white goods issues and thus initial suspicion – I did really enjoy this book.
I’ve ended up not finishing this until after the date it was published – but at least that means you can go and order it immediately if you want to!