Fate by Design by MJ Walsh
This is a novel which begins with a traumatic event, and it is one which takes the whole book to resolve. Set in the 1950s and 1960s, a mining village is the scene for a story of a disappearance and a survival, even a triumphal recovery in the face of challenges. Cassie is a young mother with a small son, Neil, at the beginning of the novel, and the challenges she faces are life changing. This is an interesting book which depicts the nature and benefits of close friends in supporting people through difficult events. It succeeds in giving details of life in a mining town, especially as the problems of having a one industry settlement, and the social difficulties that resulted in the later twentieth century. It is a book about female vulnerability, but also about how, with encouragement, this can be overcome. It has much to say about the Spanish Civil War, and the sacrifices made by those with strong convictions. This is a testimony to the survival of the human spirit, and it makes for a significant read which I was interested to have the opportunity to read and review.
The book begins with a police investigation into the unaccountable disappearance of Eddie Gallagher from home and work. There is no apparent reason for the formerly quiet, hard working and loving husband and father to disappear without explanation or apparent reason. The simple fact of his disappearance leaves Cassie bereft and bewildered, and dependent on her friends Jenny and Ellen. Cassie is aware that she has to bring up Neil on her own, with help from her friends with child care. Sadly her vulnerability is taken advantage of in a brutal way. As she begins to come to terms with her new life she discovers that there are all sorts of opportunities for new studies and ways of looking at life. A special friend opens up a world of books and ideas from which Cassie benefits greatly, despite there being an element of tragedy at the heart of it. As she ventures into new relationships, she discovers that trust is the most important thing to her, having been so badly let down by her husband. There is much to be explored by Cassie before she can begin to find her way to a new life, and trust herself and others.
This is a very serious and thoughtful book which looks at one woman’s story of being abandoned without explanation by an apparently loving husband. I found it a fascinating book based on a great deal of social research into a period of time when the rights of workers were still being established, the vulnerability of women was still evident, and the fate of single industry towns being discussed. It is a well written if solemn book, with a surprising revelation which is not expanded on. It is a fascinating slice of social history revolving around a woman’s life, and is a strong narrative throughout. It creates a strong impression of life at that time in Britain, as to be recommended to anyone who finds this period of interest.