I thoroughly enjoyed The Solitude of Thomas Cave by this same author, so was keen to read this book, the premise of which sounded extremely interesting.
In January 1961, Anna's mother drives out of the driveway to head to an appointment in Oxford, and never comes home. Anna, only eight years old, accepts that her mother has died, and life goes on, in the quiet house with her father and brother who is often away at school. She has music lessons, from a woman who has escaped from the horrors of Europe in the War, and who lost all her family. She too has a sadness that Anna feels. Anna's brother, older than her, believes that their mother didn't die at all; but that there was something more sinister.
And so we read of Anna's childhood, her brother's growing into a sullen and suspicious young man, and her father, sad and somewhat distantly going through his life. And overlaid with this is Anna as an adult, jogged by her father's death into investigating further where her mother may have come from, and what the war may have meant to her and her life before meeting her husband in 1947.
This is a very introspective book, where we learn of life from the perspective only of Anna; her eight year old self and the few years following, and then her quest as an adult. We glimpse Peter, her brother who has grown up to have a life far away and who seems, as we read through the novel to have been the most like their mother. Anna's sensitiveness is more that of her father, and they both feel things deeply.
This is a wonderful story; a story of what was, what might have been, and what we could find if only we knew the right questions. Anna's review of her life, and the life of her family is touching, sad, yet somehow resolves itself to a conclusion that she is able to accept. The book is written with a light touch; as with the earlier book of this author that I have read, the language is never over-emotional, never superfluous. What is not said explicitly is implied beautifully. The book gives a glimpse into lives that we just cannot imagine now; life in England post-War, and life in Europe pre-War. The humanity of it all, and the way that War, with a capital W, is not so big in nature that it does not bruise the individual lives of those it touches, even long after it has seemed to end. Totally recommended.