The Hour Before Dawn Paperback – 21 Apr 2010
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Praise for ‘The House Before Dawn’
‘An absorbing exploration of lives lived in a circumference of loss’ Impact News
‘An intense, emotionally charged novel’ Yorkshire Evening Press
‘A riveting read’ Yours magazine
‘Intriguing and thoroughly readable’ Woman
About the Author
Sara Macdonald has written all her life. She has been an army wife, living all over the world, and now lives in Cornwall. This is her third novel for HarperCollins.
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Having lived as an Army wife in Singapore in the 1960's I was immediately transported back there - the sights, smells, her descriptions of the area, everything. Loved it, loved it!!!
Sara MacDonald's books follow a theme of switching from past events to present developments, and in this story she has as many as four different threads of the plot being followed at the same time. It works really well though, and does not confuse in any way, but instead it adds dimension and hooks the reader's interest.
This is a haunting tale which delves deeply into the mind and emotions, with a spiritual angle which to me felt totally natural and added depth and meaning to the story. The ending I found totally satisfactory and believable.
I'm so glad I decided to read another of her books, having loved Another Life and then been disappointed with Sea Music, which I found depressing and predictable. Her stories can get a bit heavy at times, but this one finds a good balance and is compulsive reading. The setting has obviously been well researched, and I loved the little touches such as the connection to the work of Hundertwasser, the Austrain painter and architect. For me,these little things are what turn a good author into a great one.
The story also goes back to 1966 when 15 year old, Fleur met army officer, David in Singapore. For me, having lived in Singapore at this time, this part of the tale didn’t ring true, but later scenes, particularly of Malaysia, reminded me of the sights and smells and the contrast between busy towns and the peace of the beach houses at Port Dickson.
Fleur’s flawed relationship, both with her mother and her daughter seem to stem from her selfish, single-minded behaviour but later it becomes evident that she has concealed a troubling secret to protect her family. In addition they have to cope with the mysterious disappearance of Nikki’s twin sister Saffie in 1966 and Fleur’s remarriage after her first husband’s death.
Now a widow once more and writing a dissertation as a mature student, Fleur sets out for New Zealand on a trail of Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s architecture. She intends to stay with her daughter Nikki, who is expecting a baby with partner Jack. But Fleur does not turn up. She has disappeared while stopping over at Singapore. Reluctantly Nikki and Jack set out to look for Fleur. In Singapore they meet Inspector Mockter who discovers that Fleur has taken a train and bus to Port Dickson in Malaysia, the place where Saffie was last seen.
In the course of the story we eventually come to understand what happened to Saffie and why Fleur behaved oddly. Inspector Mockter has a special rapport with Nikki which helps her to cope with an impossible situation, while heavily pregnant.
Sara MacDonald is a talented writer. She deals with complex family relationships and their breakdown very effectively. There is a strong sense of place in Port Dickson and the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. There are a few editing issues, especially with the spelling of places in Singapore but I am just being picky since they don’t affect the content of a tremendous story of loss and hope.
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I love the descriptive details that Sara adds to her books.Read more
I would recommend this book for holiday reading! One of those books you just do not want to put down.Read more