It’s July 1976. In London, it hasn’t rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn’t come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children – two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce – back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.
I have to start this post by saying that I’m a huge fan of Maggie O’Farrell, and have loved every book. The problem with this is that I’m always worried that the next book will disappoint. However, from the onset, Maggie proves once again what a great story teller she is. She managed to make me feel as if I already knew the characters, whilst at the same time allowing me an insight into the more intimate aspects of their lives.
Whilst you would expect the main emphasis to be on Robert and Gretta, it was the children who fascinated me the most. Michael Francis is watching his marriage fall apart, whilst Monica is finding how difficult it can be to connect with a partner’s children. Aoife, the youngest, was my absolute favourite, living her life away from her family, but still unable to confront her own problems.
As they are brought back together when their father disappears, they once again have to fit together as a family, something which doesn’t come easy, especially between the two sisters. The story flits back and forth between now and the past, but it flows beautifully, and not once was I lost.
I don’t want to talk too much at this point about the characters and the stories, as they are best uncovered as you read the book. I will say that this is a story about family, about secrets, and about facing up to the past – and it’s all wrapped up by some exquisite story telling. For existing fans of Maggie O’Farrell, you need to put this straight on pre-order. If you are yet to try her books, you also need to put it straight on pre-order!