A woman moves back to her father’s house in the village where she grew up. With her are her two teenage children. They share a secret, of her husband’s systematic abuse of her carried out over at least sixteen years. This is also a book of hope, of discovering old loves, starting again in a familiar setting, of a love amongst those that find out that so much is possible.On the face of it they had been the perfect family, a husband and father who did charity work as well as being a top plastic surgeon, a boy and a girl who had been growing up in affluent circumstances, a wife who could afford to stay at home. This is a chillingly accurate account of domestic violence, not of the obvious kind, but of the clever controlling variety where a woman’s self confidence is systematically eroded. It is a book of discovering that a home town can be a good place to return to, and that the setting beside the sea is an opportunity to rediscover what truly matters. With realistic dialogue, the difference of dialect and accent, the prospect of a new job and new schools, Grace, Jack and Holly must readjust in the face of a past dominated by a dangerous man, and the future with a new community. This lively and absorbing book tackles several contemporary problems head on, and achieves a very human story which is effortlessly readable. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this special novel of a fictional important time in a family’s life.
Grace is conscious of her children’s reaction as she arrives at her childhood home, to be met with a grumpy newly retired GP father. The house is unwelcoming, cold and unchanged over decades, and situated in a village with few apparent amenities for teenagers,especially those used to living in the vibrant city of Dublin. Her father Des is struggling with the onset of Parkinson’s disease, and Grace is painfully aware that she has had to borrow money to escape her husband. Jack and Holly need school uniforms, a settled environment and the courage to start again without their friends. Grace has managed to secretly maintain her career as a GP and has to return to work at her father’s old practice, where the patients are reluctant to trust a younger woman. When she notes the challenges of a job amongst those who are suspicious of her arrival in the village, even a change of hair and image cannot completely cushion her from the challenges. She is also frightened that her husband will turn up, angry, vengeful and demanding.
Fortunately, this return also marks an opportunity to rediscover youthful friendships and alliances that bolster the inner strength of a woman learning to live again. Her appreciation of the people around her, both known and strangers, is echoed by her children, and they begin to forge new relationships, new lives, and take their second chances.
I really found this book a superb read. The issue of domestic violence that goes beyond physical abuse is superbly handled with great emotional intelligence and empathy, and the difficulty of leaving a situation looked at from several angles. It is a book of hope, as the coastal setting gives a beautiful picture of life where nature can offer so much. The village community is well drawn in, all its suspicion but also in all its possibilities. The character of Des, Grace’s father, is particularly well drawn, as he becomes determined to do all he can for his daughter and grandchildren. Full of characters that speak from the page, this is a wonderful novel of contemporary life, and I thoroughly recommend it.
This is a book of contemporary fiction that really deserves to be widely read, as it is so strong on the sort of domestic violence that is not so easy to spot or discuss. It is not a miserable book, but also has hope and a little suggestion of romance, amid the other sorts of love that are so well described. It is a little heavier than some of the books I have been reviewing recently, but it is a really good read.