This is an unusual book, and I kept changing my mind about it. The beginning was quite slow, and it took me some time to get into the story. I then read the second half very fast. I disliked the increase in drama as the book went on, but the ending charmed me again.
The story focuses primarily on the attempts of Fabbia Moreno and her daughter Ella to build a new life in York. I love the city of York, so I enjoyed that element of the setting. Fabbia has a number of secrets which are hinted at throughout the book, but Ella has been kept in the dark about her mother's true past and some of her current habits, and she is anxious to know the truth.
The parts that interested me the most were Fabbia's workings with "words" and her vintage clothes; The Signals; the tarot cards and her past in her true home country... unfortunately much of this was not developed particularly thoroughly and felt like a sideline to the much more well-travelled plot of outsiders trying to fit in. That said, I could sympathise in particular with Ella; we've all felt like an outsider at times and her struggle to find a place for herself was well portrayed.
Nicholls' writing style is lovely, very smooth and easy to read. Her characters are imaginative and well presented and the story reached a pleasant end, even if some of the more interesting elements of the plot remained unresolved. I understand there will be another, connected story however, so perhaps we may be given more development of these plot points in future. I give it 3.5 stars overall, and I do think I will be investigating the next book when it appears.