3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Well written fictional account of dementia and family secrets.,
This review is from: Grace and Mary (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My first Melvyn Bragg novel and so different from how I expected it to be....in a good way.
Running to a comparatively short 250 pages Grace and Mary is powerfully poignant and well done to Mr. Bragg for packing such a complex structure into a short novel and making it work.
Grace and Mary spans more than three generations of family history and features Grace, her daughter Mary and Mary's son John as the principle characters. The setting of West Cumberland is well evoked and Bragg's knowledge of the area helps set the scene while adding a sense of reality. He also handles the differing time shifts, ranging from the days prior to The Great War to the present, very well without losing historical continuity.
I particularly enjoyed a glimpse into the social history of a previous generation with their widely different religious and moral belief systems. It's amazing how much our concept of 'sin' has changed and it was so important for Bragg to bring that into his plot and get it right as his story hinges upon Mary's 'illegitimacy'. Even though Mary's now in her 90s she's driven by the mystery of a mother she hardly knew and her need to connect with Grace is overwhelmingly sad. It's this intensity of emotion that draws in John, now 70, and convinces him to uncover his family history. Not an easy task when so much of it comes directly from Mary who is rapidly approaching the end of her life and dementia has set in.
Dementia is never an easy subject for an author to get right but in this novel Bragg has approaches it in a clean, unsentimental way keeping the character of Mary dignified and allowing the reader to find their own level of empathy.
Grace and Mary is easy to read and I'd finished the novel in two sittings. Intelligent, well crafted and thoroughly intriguing would make a great TV drama.