on 9 July 2012
This is the story of Mrs Dutton, a lonely, elderly lady who believes from the second she sees Zoe that she is the reincarnation of her own daughter who died as a young child. It is also the story of Dinah, a young mother struggling with parenthood, which doesn't come naturally to her, and wondering how life seems to be escaping from her. And it is the story of Zoe, who from an early age seems to have memories of a life she can't have lived, and finds refuge from a troubled relationship with her own mother in regular visits to Mrs Dutton. The story spans Zoe's growth from childhood through adolescence in the 70s and shows how people change, memories distort, and life goes on.
This novel is told from three different perspectives and for once the device actually works: the three voices are quite distinct from each other, and the reader is subtly shown how the three characters come to view the same set of circumstances differently. I really enjoyed the sense of ambiguity - is it really a story of reincarnation, or is it simply about the complexity of family dynamics - identity, loneliness, depression, and coming of age...
This is a subtle and cleverly drawn story: very readable, touching, and possibly more to it than initially meets the eye.
Suzannah Dunn is probably more well-known for her historical fiction, not a favourite genre of mine, so I've stayed away from her books in the past. This however, is very modern, contemporary fiction - a short novel with just 260 pages, but a very engaging read.
Told in the first person by three generations of women, it is a very well-done story with three very different perspectives on the same unfolding story.
Zoe is a young girl, just 6 years old at the beginning of the story, then Dinah, her mother - a cold-hearted, undemonstrative person who seems to care more about gossip with her friends than her daughter's welfare, and then there is Caddy - an elderly lady who just knows that Zoe is her own long-dead daughter - reincarnated. Although it is Caddy's belief that Zoe is in fact, her daughter Evie, and it is this belief that brings the three characters together, this is not the focal point of the story. It's a story of a young girl growing up - about family dynamics, about loss and grief and touches on the issues of mental illness. There is no fast-paced plot, it's purely character driven - but the characters are great, the story unfolds nicely and it's a satisfying read