‘Flight’ – Isabel Ashdown’s fourth novel – is an engaging and emotional story, exploring the ties – and the breaking of the ties – between three people.
Wren, Rob and Laura.
Rob and Laura became the closest of friends when they were young children. Wren become friends with both of them at university; they became a closely-knit, beautifully balanced threesome. That didn’t change when Wren and Rob became a couple, when they married, when they had a child. You might saw that they were their own chosen family.
That changed when Wren’s numbers came up in the first National Lottery draw. She told no one, she simply packed her bags, kissed her baby daughter goodbye, and walked away from her life.
Twenty years after Wren left Laura was approached by a reporter. He was working on a ‘where are they now’ story about the winners of the first lottery draw. She was already unsettled, because Rob had received a letter and was evasive about what it said and who it was from. And so, when she had a hint of where Wren was she decided it was time to find her , to understand why she had left, to somehow come to terms with what had happened.
There’s a certain level of contrivance in the plot, but no ore than is needed to make the story work. It works very well, because everything that I read felt so real and so possible. And because the characters and relationships were so very well drawn. That make it so easy to believe that I was reading about real people; ordinary people whose stories became significant in the wake of one momentous decision.
I had been concerned that I would struggle to care about the woman who made that decision, but I found that he did. It helped that she chose the life I might wish for in times of trouble – a small house on the Cornish coast, alone but for the company of dogs – and it helped even more that it was clear that, though she would not – or maybe could not – make amends, her life was constrained by the guilt at what she had done and the grief at what she had done.
It was quiet – she was quiet – but it was there.
The woman who had picked up the pieces was easy to like. She was loyal to all those she loved, she put herself out to do what was best for them, and because she was open and honest I found it easy to understand and share in her feelings. I realised that she had both lost and gained a great deal when she effectively stepped into the shoes of a missing wife and mother.
I appreciated that the story affected not only the main characters, but also a younger generation and an older generation. And most of all I appreciated the relationships and the interactions between the characters; they rang so true, with all of the awkwardnesses, uncomfortable silences and unexpected turns that happen often in life and not quite so often in fiction.
The settings – a London suburb and the Cornish coast – were exactly right, and well chosen details helped to make the story sing. I particularly liked the understanding of the relationships between a woman and her dogs, and between those dogs and their beach ….
The narrative moves between character and through time quite naturally, always moving the story forward, always holding the attention.
‘Flight’ is a an engaging and emotional human drama; a story to make you feel and a story to make you think.