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A clever novel with a big secret
on 7 April 2014
As a child, Julia is asked to be a bridesmaid at the wedding of her cousin Iris. This is the beginning of the complicated relationship between the two which is central to the plot of this novel. While Julia is still young, a tragedy occurs within the family, and she decides to keep secret her part in it. When her mother dies, leaving her orphaned, Julia is sent to live with Iris and her husband and daughters, and her relationships with this family cause her to behave in such a way as to necessitate the keeping of further secrets. It is these secrets which will affect her deeply for many years to come, and which lead to her eventual choice of a career working with disturbed children.
The novel cleverly builds up the tension, leading the reader to expect all kinds of possible outcomes, or even further secrets, and it makes for a gripping read. Julia grows from a disturbed child into a solitary, self-contained adult. Unable (or unwilling) to bond with Iris and her family, and with few friends, she is not really likeable, and yet I had a certain sympathy for her, and really wanted to know what was going to happen. I have loved all of Margaret Forster's novels, and while this is not my favourite, I enjoyed it very much, and have no hesitation in recommending it.