17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Original, remarkable and absorbing,
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This review is from: Night Waking (Paperback)
Set on an imaginary remote Scottish island with a nod to St. Kilda, Night Waking has the most beautiful opening paragraph I have read in years.
The likeable and basically good egg Giles Cassingham is the heir to this barren island. He and his wife Anna, with their two continually questioning little boys Raphael and Timothy (Raph and Moth) are staying in the big house for the summer. They have just completed the refurbishment of another building, a `blackhouse' ready to receive holiday-makers. Anna devotedly answers her children's cries relentlessly through the night; her wide-ranging thoughts in these dark hours stitch the tapestry of the story.
This thoughtful and grounded work, so well evokes the experience of sleep-deprived parent who in this case is also a respected academic. Her dream of a Hotel de la Mere, a wonderful sanctuary for the exhausted mother which is fleshed out through the book, becomes a delightful and understandable fantasy indulgence.
The gruesome discovery of an infant skeleton buried in their proposed orchard provokes further questioning and research. Anna uses her skills to investigate life on the island, which has been historically a terribly hard place to live with an awful record of infant mortality. From the past we are party to a series of letters written by a previous visitor to Colsay House, May; who was sent to try to help the women who in those days had no luck in keeping their babies alive, little scraps for whom they had no true hope. Small poignant mysteries stir again and Anna is keen to solve them all.
Arriving for their holiday are Judith Fairchild, Brian her heart surgeon husband and Zoe their troubled daughter. Anna and Giles shoulder their responsibilities towards their guests with impressive good humour and patience. They produce amusing moments as well as challenges, all above the call of duty.
I really liked the Cassingham family and enjoyed my time with them. Just occasionally I felt a bit fed up with the continual dialogue between Raph, who is quite an extraordinary little chap, clingy baby Moth, always so demanding, and their overwrought perhaps prone to over explaining Mother. There was just a bit too much of that for me. However this does describe reality for a young family and showed the author's lively perceptive ear. The real comedy which emerges from some of these conversations together with the wry thoughts that occur to Anna as she soldiers on all add up to a great mix of humour, humanity and history.