Nancy is four, nearly five. She talks all the time: in the car, on the way to nursery, to her extrovert older brother, to her collection of bears. But then, one February morning, everything changes. Nancy’s mum and dad split up. Her father Patrick moves away from their Bristol home to Newcastle. And Nancy stops talking.
Eva is forty-four, nearly forty-five. She didn’t expect to be the third wife of a much-loved household name, but eight years ago, she and semi-retired bad boy Michael Quinn fell in love. Eva knew marrying a much older man meant compromises, but it was the love of a lifetime for them both – until Mickey dies suddenly, leaving Eva alone with his gossipy diaries, their two pugs, and a distressing voice in the back of her mind, wondering if perhaps she’s sacrificed more than she meant to.
While Nancy’s parents negotiate their separation, the question of weekend contact is solved when Patrick volunteers his sister Eva’s house. It’s in Longhampton, an hour out of Bristol, with plenty of room for her to get to know a niece and nephew she’s barely met – even if Nancy continues to refuse to speak. Patrick is sure it’s just a phase but his soon-to-be-ex-wife is worried that something more traumatic lies at the heart of their daughter’s selective mutism.
Meanwhile, Eva begins to read through Mickey’s diaries, and with every page she’s forced to confront a view of her marriage that turns everything she believed about her late husband, her self – and her own heart – on its head. The fortnightly presence of two children in her peaceful, grown-up home – one constantly singing and performing, the other wordless and sad – initially drives Eva and the two pugs, Bumble and Bee, to exhaustion, but as spring turns into summer, a trust slowly begins to form between an anxious little girl with a heartbreaking secret, and a woman who has realised too late that what her soul yearns for is the love of a child.
Paperback, 464 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Hodder Paperbacks
As a big fan of Lucy Dillon I am always ready to read her latest stories, so couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one! And after a slow start that didn’t immediately grab me, I was soon drawn into the family drama and dynamics that the author writes about so well.
In this book we follow two main storylines – the first of which is the marriage breakdown between Caitlin and Patrick, who seem to have had it all but when Patrick is offered a job away from Bristol in Newcastle, and Caitlin is reluctant to leave her grans’ house which contains so many memories, then they decide to split and try and sort out a custody arrangement for the 2 children – Joel and Nancy. Caitlin had Joel before she met Patrick, but Patrick is the only father Joel knows so its’ a big change for them all. And Nancy – or fancy nancy as she is often called – is the sweetest 4 year old who is extremely sensitive and when daddy goes away, nancy ends up withdrawing into herself and refuses to speak.
Meanwhile, Patricks’ sister Eva is still in mourning after losing her husband Michael, a big hollywood star from yorkshire, and she has retreated into her safe space at home with her 2 pugs – bumble and bee! She never had much contact with her brother after a difficult childhood but when he asks if they can use her home to meet up with the children every other weekend, she reluctantly agrees. If only she knew what effect those 2 children are to have on her and her healing process.
The author has such a great way of exploring each character and the realities of life , that you soon lose yourself in their world as you follow their stories – some good, some bad – as they try and work things out and try and remember why they were together in the first place and to do what is right for the children. I did find myself losing empathy with Caitlin over certain decisions and outbursts she made as she often came across quite selfish and is very quick to judge others and refuses to blame herself when necessary.
And the character of Eva was such a lovely addition as she was reliving her life with Michael through diaries he had left, and certain things she read made her re-evaluate all she knew of her time with him, as well as bringing her comfort as she had struggled over the 2 years since his passing in life without him by her side. Spending time with her nephew and niece also made her revisit her childhood with Patrick and that brought up certain issues and explained why Patrick often behaved in certain ways.
Overall, another wonderfully enthralling story from Lucy Dillon and I look forward to lots more!