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`Something wicked this way comes'.,
This review is from: Ninepins (Paperback)The glowing cover photograph of `Ninepins'; is a gorgeous golden sunset over wintry fenland, all mirror reflected in the still waters of a lode/ditch, a real visual pleasure.
Rosy Thornton writes beautifully too, her lyrical prose flows quietly on, describing an area of England that she knows and loves; the spacious, empty Cambridgeshire Fens. She explains their origins, how they work, the sound track of their wildlife and varying moods of light and weather exquisitely. I was there with her when she saw the first swallows arrive and admired the majesty of the grey heron.
Weaving a tale around half a dozen characters, the author creates a tight, dense domestic drama. Slipping easily into understanding, I found Laura, a divorced mother with her twelve-year old daughter Beth, the kind of woman I could relate to rather too well. Her interior monologue and awkward, desperate efforts to do the right thing by her child were entirely believable; making for sad, uneasy reading. A lone adult, a working academic, without much discernible family support, she is impressively fair and kind about her at times unreliable and needy ex husband Simon; happy to help him out in his new life with new wife Tess and their boisterous brood of baby boys. Prepared to be flexible and understanding to a point where she myopically sees everyone's needs but her own.
Soon a cat among the pigeons pads onto the scene. Willow, seventeen, who in a perhaps unlikely sounding fashion I felt, was being cared for and housed by the Social Services and had expressed the desire to live near water. Considering Laura's over arching motherly concern for her asthmatic daughter; with an overly involved, intrusive anxiety for her happiness, forever to be found playing out possible catastrophes; Laura still goes ahead and accepts Willow, plus the intrusion of her Social Worker, Vince, all without much apparent consideration for the possible consequences. Her ex is haphazard over maintenance for their daughter so it seems Laura is forced to grasp at straws. Previous tenants had been useful, friendly students who contributed rather than drained, as Willow must, even unintentionally.
The pages roll by and we have hardly an outline of Willow's personality, just a surrounding air of danger or perhaps genuine fragile vulnerability. Initially installed in the rented converted pump house Willow seems to pass her time entirely without purpose, hiding from life, or someone else. What she does all day is a mystery. Circumstances conspire to her needing to move into the family home and then the tension moves up a notch. Much is made of meals, laundry, and travel arrangements, often leading up blind alleys. Beth is upset at her new school and strikes out as a confused teen, falling into naughty ways at the horribly early age of first year secondary schoolgirl. Her problems are contemporary and chilling, involving a little cyber bullying and unluckily chosen company.
A frightening, unhappy event takes place by the lode, I hated that, but wraith like Willow just stands by, without much comment; we aren't party to her thoughts. All we hear of her motives, feelings, are flashbacks, confusing at times, but bolstering up the story that she needs Vince as a reliable, all knowing supporter. So, understanding, calm, helpful Vince hangs about in a fashion which comes across as a little over protective and closely involved, especially in these days of cut backs, or, has he got another purpose?
I wasn't sure what kind of book this was actually meant to be. It is not a crime story, although there is a crime, and there is definitely something or someone nasty in the woodshed, waiting their moment. Ninepins is not a romance although there is a gentle flicker of that; it is not a psychological drama as we aren't given quite enough depth to work with. Perhaps it most closely resembles writing by Joanna Trollope, offering a gentle meander through murky waters that leaves the reader with an interest in the fens and a definite desire to tell Laura that she needs to be more selfish, get some friends to talk to, shape up or ship out over the situation with Vince, ease up a bit on Beth. I liked it despite sometimes feeling the stage was set a bit too busily with kitchen sink stuff, where a few red herrings were served up.