A character driven psychological drama can be a lovely thing.
Fourteen-year old Sarah woke in a hospital bed not knowing where she was or what had happened. She would learn that there had been a car accident, that her father and her sister had been killed. She remembered nothing, because she had sustained serious head injuries that has left her brain damaged.
Her father’s younger sister, Leah, took Sarah in and supported her wonderfully well, but Sarah’s fears and the continuing unreliability of her memories made life difficult.
Sarah tried to be independent she had a legacy from her father, enough to buy a flat, and she wanted to give back to Leah some of the freedom that she had given up when she had needed her.
It was a brave step.
Sarah didn’t know that there was someone, close by, who wished her harm.
Ellie had survived an terrible childhood; her mother had been cruel and her father, not seeing, or maybe not wanting to see, what was happening had left. How she resented Sarah, who had been able to forget.
It wasn’t clear who she was, but I saw possibilities ….
There were two things that made the story sing.
The characters were so well drawn and I found it so easy to be drawn into their stories and to care. Everything – their relationships, their actions, their emotions – felt so real.
The writing was lovely: insightful and understated.
I was held in the moment and so when the twist, the revelation, came I was taken by surprise. Had I thought about it I suspect I would have worked it out. The clues were there, but I was too caught up with the story to stop to try to work things out.
I’m deliberately not saying too much about the plot, but I will say that wasn’t the only twist.
In the end I had to pause to work out how the pieces fitted together. I think that there was one too many piece, and that simpler might have been better. Ultimately, I think that they did fit together, but I don’t want to analyse the story too much, because I suspect there were inconsistencies.
I didn’t want to find anything like that because there was too much about this book that I liked, and because I suspect that the concerns I had came from trying a little too hard, making a little more story where there was no need.
I liked the was the story grew, from a story of family relationships into a story of suspense; and the way that it drew in serious subjects – abuse, therapy, identity – quite naturally.
I felt for Sarah, as she struggled to work out what was going on, and she began to question her sanity. And I felt for Ellie as she struggled with painful memories; the writing there was so beautifully measured, and it caught exactly the right details.
In the end I have to say that this is a wonderful human story; and that, two novels in, I think Joanne Graham has the potential to write something rather special one day.