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While I Was Waiting Paperback – 10 Sep 2015
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‘The storytelling was absolutely gorgeous…a compelling and well paced story’ – Joan Hill, Reviewing Recommended Reads
‘A really interesting book – full of history and romance – and missed opportunities’ – Annie’s Book Corner
About the Author
Georgia Hill writes rom-coms and historical fiction and is published by Harper Impulse, the digital-first imprint of HarperCollins.
She divides her time between the beautiful counties of Herefordshire and Devon and lives with her two beloved spaniels, a husband (also beloved) and a ghost called Zoe. She loves Jane Austen, eats far too much Belgian chocolate and has a passion for Strictly Come Dancing.
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The modern story of Rachel's life change, moving to Clematis Cottage, learning to live like someone from the country, over-run by workmen, making new friends (and more) is really well told. And when she's handed the Huntley and Palmer's biscuit tin filled with letters, the book becomes simply perfect as it moves quite seamlessly between Rachel's life and Hetty's letters and diary entries.
We read Hetty's personal story, brought up by her maiden aunts with the occasional visits from her remote father, her first visit to Delamere House in 1903 and her entanglement with the Trenchard-Lewis family, through her growing up years then through the early years of the First World War. But the story abruptly ends in 1916, and Rachel sets about uncovering the rest of Hetty's story - I shared her fascination, however much there were others who felt it became an obsession. I also really liked the way that Hetty was a benevolent presence in the house, gently urging her on.
It's quite difficult to convey someone's personality through letters and diary entries, but the author does it really well - she comes across quite clearly, likeable but also wilful and stubborn. The other personalities in her story are really well drawn too - Richard as a boisterous child and a damaged adult, the slightly more sketchy and less sympathetically drawn Edward, the teacher at the village school where she helps out. The story is - as the author describes it - the story of the affair of her body, the affair of her expectation and the affair of her soul, and it was heartbreaking, joyful and wonderful.
Rachel has a great story too - what with Neil the estate agent, the suitor her mother would approve of with his solid reliability (and unfortunate obsession with triathlons), and Gabe the builder with his hidden gentle depths and rippling muscles. There are some equally perfectly drawn characters in her part of the story - I particularly loved her friendship with Ned the gardener in his string vest and with his liking for milky sweet instant coffee and appreciation of "owl frisky" living, and with Gabe's lovely mother Sheila. I laughed at her interactions with the less savoury members of the building team, and her London friend Tim is great fun (I just loved the birthday present...!). Even the less central characters leap into life - menopausal Rita at the village shop, Kit the vicar, Alan at the pub, and the ominous presence of Dawn the barmaid.
Georgia Hill writes wonderful descriptions - the views from Clematis Cottage would have made me want to get my sketch book out and draw them too, and there are some lovely set pieces like the "morning washed clean" that prompts Rachel to don her wellingtons and slip out "into the magic". Clematis Cottage itself, and the garden being worked on by Ned, became totally real to me. She does ugliness well too - the modern story introduces the impact of the foot and mouth crisis on the countryside, and the images she conveys are vivid, real and upsetting.
This was really excellent story telling, full of love, loss, sadness and joy, with perfectly judged gentle humour - I really enjoyed it very much. And the ending - simply perfect. If you enjoy dual time story telling as much as I do, I'd highly recommend this lovely read.
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