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A Warm and Involving Family Story
on 3 August 2013
It is 1947; we are in India, a country on the brink of independence, and Will and Flo Sutherland, a newly married couple, expecting their first baby, are trying to arrange passage home to England. Will, who came out to India in the 1930s as a sugar cane planter and then served in the Indian Army during the war, is reluctant to leave his colonial life behind, but knows the time has come to go home, and Flo, who came to India at the end of the war with the hopes of changing her life, is keen to return to her family and show them her handsome new husband. A couple of years later, and with two young children: toddler, Bea, and baby, Freddie, Will and Flo arrive in rural Devon, eager to start a whole new life, managing a farm they have leased from a relative of Will's. Farm life however, is much harder than either of them imagined - Will is not as physically strong as he had thought and the long hours and back-breaking work takes its toll on his health, and Flo struggles to combine the stresses of domestic life with her heartfelt desire to become a writer. When farm life becomes too much for Will, their lives change again when he begins work as regional secretary for the Rural Landowners' Society, but this job has its pressures too. And then things become too much for Flo...
Put quite simply, Sue Gee's latest novel 'Coming Home' is the warm and involving story of the Sutherlands' life together as a middle-class family, starting in 1947 and ending in 2009, involving life and death; physical and mental illness; love and heartbreak; and uncertainties and misunderstandings. This book is beautifully written, with believable characters (I particularly enjoyed the character of Freddie and was totally drawn into his unhappy experiences at boarding school), there are some wonderful descriptions of landscape and situation, and overall I found this novel an emotive and rewarding read. It is quite a leisurely-paced story and it was rather sad in some places, just as real life is sad, but it's one of those stories that reminds us of the importance of family and of how although we cannot choose our relations, and they don't always behave the way we would like them to, our experiences with those family members, and our memories of them, are so important and help to shape our lives. Sue Gee is a talented and perceptive writer and her latest novel is one that makes a very good read for bedtime or down-times, and one to share with others.