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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Things We Never Said
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2014
This had my attention from the first few pages, and I read it to the end in one sitting - very late night! We are involved with Maggie's rehabilitation from a nervous breakdown in the '60s, gradually learning her story as she regains snippets of information about herself. Running alongside Maggie's story is that of Jonathan and Fiona who are expecting their first child, but whose life seems to be imploding. Just as things look as though they can't get any worse for them, a police man turns up to ask Jonathan about his father. The author skilfully controls the development of her characters and the release of information so that the reader is working things out at about the same time as the characters, The descriptive writing is excellent, particularly when dealing with the boarding house and rooms that Maggie and the theatrical troupe use; the 60s attitude towards sex, abortion and unwed mothers is also well captured. If you want a lazy holiday read then this might not be it, but if you want something to keep your attention and make you think, then I recommend this very highly.
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61 of 65 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 18 June 2013
This is an absolutely superb read. It is a story told in two halves with each chapter alternating between the two strands of the story, which then eventually dovetail together.

The first story is that of Maggie, who we first meet as a mental health patient in 1964. Maggie has no recollection of her life before entering the hospital and her story is divulged as she slowly starts to remember when we find out that she has had to make some very brave decisions which will affect her and others for a long time to come. It is not a pretty read, the events that brought her to this point in life and her treatment in hospital are very moving and quite harrowing at times.

The second story is that of Jonathan and takes place 40 years on. We meet him at a time when everything is going wrong in his life including, but not exclusively, problems at work and his father's death and the strain everything is putting on his marriage have really brought him to a low point. The only thing he has to look forward to is the birth of his first child. There are times in the book where you feel that he isn't getting the support he needs from his wife Fiona, but as a pregnant woman she has her own set of priorities. As the book says, when a woman is pregnant, she is the most important person in the world so when, on top of everything else, an unexpected visitor arrives with some quite shocking news that will have far reaching implications for Jonathan, he really feels he is on his own.

As I read the book, moving towards the point where the two stories meet up, I could appreciate how well the author had plotted this suspense filled story, which is very unusual, poignant and thought provoking. Like a jigsaw puzzle, each part of the storyline very neatly fits together until eventually you see the whole picture, with no spares.

There are some very serious issues in the book, which are dealt with in a very matter of fact way, not too melodramatic, but just right. It wasn't a book that I could sit and read in one go, partly because I didn't want it to end, but I kept having to put it down to catch my breath and take it all in.

It really is a special read, about parenthood, love, loss and mental health; one that I found very emotional and when it reached its very satisfying ending, I had to wipe a little tear away from my eye.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is a dual time frame novel set in the 1960s and in 2008/9. Maggie is in a mental institution but has no memory of what has happened to her or why she is there. We get insights into her story alongside the story of Jonathan, a teacher in 2008 whose wife is pregnant. He has a difficult relationship with his parents and has never known why.

As the story unfolds we start to learn of the links between Maggie and Jonathan in alternating chapters. This is an easy book to read, and one which I found myself getting through quite quickly. There are comparisons with Maggie O'Farrell and I would agree that the style is similar. Maggie's story reminded me of O'Farrell's The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.

I really enjoyed this book. Parts were set in Sheffield where I'm from, so I liked that although it was not recognisable as the city apart from some very broad accents. The parts in the mental institution were sad to read, as people were not treated well in those establishments in the past. I'm not giving anything away by saying that Maggie finds herself pregnant and unmarried and I do think that people would have treated her less sympathetically in those days than is portrayed in the book, but that's my only real criticism.

A good tale and I liked the way it unfolded.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 2013
I bought this book as an inexpensive holiday read, but was soon deeply imbedded in the lives of the characters. Fascinating how the two stories start to merge and I was an emotional mess, but in good way, for the last third of the book. It's been a long time since a book has moved me to tears. Excellent read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Things We Never Said is a story told in two voices and during the prologue the reader finds themselves in 2009 on a cold, wet and windy day. This is a gentle introduction, with flash backs to the past that really sets the pace for the story that follows.

The first voice of the story is Jonathan; a teacher, a father-to-be. Jonathan is a complex and worried character, his memories of childhood are not happy, he is struggling to know how to tell his ageing and controlling father that he is to be a grandfather. Jonathan's world changes beyond recognition, it happens so fast, with work problems and family issues, a visit from a policeman who is investigating crime that were committed over forty years ago is a huge shock, and one that will change his past, and his future.

The story goes back to 1964; Maggie is a confused and scared woman, she's locked up in a psychatric hospital, taking tablets, undergoing electric shock treatment. Maggie cannot remember why she is there, what happened to her? One small incident sparks off the beginning of Maggie's recollections, and as she gradually remembers her past, the reader accompanies her on her painful and traumatic journey.

At first, it is difficult to see how Maggie and Jonathan's lives can be connected, but as Susan Elliot Wright gently and carefully relays their individual stories, the links between them are uncovered.

The Things We Never Said is elegantly intriguing, the writing is passionate and authentic, the characters have flaws, yet are so very human. The sharp contrasts between the 1960s and the present day are clear, and fit together quite perfectly.

Susan Elliot Wright has explored many themes within this novel; the shock and shame of illegitimacy during the 60s; the pressures and political correctness of the modern-day teaching profession. The story centres on loss and deceit and the title is so very apt, for many people, certainly the lead characters in this story, it is the things that are not said that can have such a long-lasting and damaging effect on lives, and on futures.

There is a quote from author Veronica Henry on the cover of The Things We Never Said, she says "if you love Maggie O'Farrell, you will love this". I'm usually not so keen on comparisons and Maggie O'Farrell is a fabulous author, I was worried that comparing this debut novel with such an accomplished and successful author was a big big ask. However, I am delighted to say that I agree with Veronica Henry. Susan Elliot Wright has produced a superb story, she writes beautifully. I loved every page.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 2014
I finished this book late (very late) last night. I absolutely loved it although it made me cry a great deal.
Part familiar story of unwanted pregnancy (reminding me of An L-shaped Room, which I have always loved), part story of a young man coming to terms with fatherhood, on many different levels.

This book is so easy to read and so simply written that it feels effortless.Susan Elliot Wright is a deceptively skilled writer. I suspect this kind of gripping, unpretentious story-telling is a great deal harder than it seems.

I'm now rushing off to start her second book The Secrets we Left Behind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2014
This is a truly great book. Sometimes books which have two or more threads do not gel, not here though. Beautifully joined together, the threads in this join seamlessly. Stories with subject matter as this can be dull and dark but this is a warm book written with a knowledge and understanding that many will relate to. I didn't want this to end, but it does, and perfectly so.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 2013
Very well written, emotional story. Couldn't put it down! Bought tears to my eyes more than once, and I actually cried at the end, not many books have done that to me! recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2013
Not the sort of book I normally go for, but this was uniquely different.

It did hold my attention through to the end and I would recommend it to anybody that wanted a change to a modern day read.

I don't usually like modern books as I find most of them boring, but this was excellent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2014
i really enjoyed this book - it grabbed me from the start, i loved it as Maggies story was gradually revealed - so sad though at times. i did find Jonathans character a bit annoying and self absorbed initially but warmed to him as the book developed and he improved.
very easy and enjoyable read
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