8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Exactly 'my' sort of novel,
This review is from: Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase (Hardcover)
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I am extremely fond of novels with two connected timelines. Here, as is often the case, we have two alternating stories. The contemporary story is Roberta's. She works in just the sort of bookshop I love and she delights (just as I do) in the serendipitous discovery of bits and bobs people leave between the pages of old books: letters, postcards mainly that give glimpses into the type of people who might have owned them.
Roberta's mother left her and her father when she was six. He is now dying. Her grandmother (well over 100) is in a nursing home and, as one might expect, often confused. Roberta's story is the more slight of the two, her 'relationship' with the bookshop owner the customers and fellow employees is often whimsical rather than deeply-wrought. When Roberta finds a book from her grandmother's collection, it leads to delve into the truth about her past.
Her grandmother, Dorothea's story is much more compelling. In 1941 she is living in rural Lincolnshire close by an RAF base. Her husband is away. They have no children and therefore she looks after two land-girls working on the nearby estate. She meets Jan, a Polish Squadron Leader, who is waiting to form a Polish Flying Corps. Slowly, she and Jan fall in love but it is what happens next that is at the heart of both timelines. Dorothea does something illegal which changes her life. (To say more would spoil both plots.
This is the Louise Walters first novel. It will certainly read more. It is well-written, accomplished and both witty and poignant. As I said, it is exactly the kind of novel I enjoy. If I had to offer any criticism it would be that it drags somewhat at the end. Both Robert and Philip come over as emotionally constipated. I can understand the restraint of Dorothea and Jan given the morals of the period but it makes very little sense in this day and age. I was also concerned that the structure of the novel means that readers know the truth well before Roberta does. I wish this aspect could have been handled more subtly. Unfortunately, it compounds the dragging-out of the latter section of the novel.
All in all, however, this is a pleasing novel and I wish it well.