Ann Patchett is one of my absolute favourite authors. I love her gentle but pointed prose and I look forward with eager anticipation for every new book. This book did not disappoint, the tone is so perfect and she drew me in from the first sentences. It is always such a relief when an author you love delivers you another book that you love.
This is the story of a brother and sister, their mother has ‘run away to India’ as they are told when they are children. Danny and Maeve are left with their father, Cyril, in a magnificent house, a house which has remained largely untouched after the previous owners died, the house has personality, it is glass and from the street you can see all the way through it, nobody else in their town has a house anything like this mansion, but a lovely house doesn’t necessarily mean a happy home. The children live there with their largely absent father and the housekeepers and cook who look after them as if they were their own. Maeve is considerably older than Danny and assumes the role of his protector and this continues all their lives. It is this relationship which makes the book so special. When Cyril brings home Andrea his wife to be, she immediately takes against the children, her jealousy and rage permeate the house, poison the atmosphere and when she comes to move in she arrives with two daughters that Maeve and Danny had no idea to expect. Why didn’t Andrea mention at any point that she had two small daughters? Why has Cyril chosen such an unsuitable person to marry? Why is Andrea so incredibly spiteful to these perfectly pleasant children? The story unravels these mysteries and the stories of all of the characters.
I loved these people, I became incredibly caught up in their lives, this is the gift Ann Patchett passes to her readers, an involvement in their stories and a deep feeling of attachment for these people, some of whom are difficult and prickly, but as you unravel the complex web you come to understand their struggles and trials.
This is sitting right up there with my top books of the year. I’m off to buy myself a paper copy because this is a book to keep and to go back to. And I’m sure on the next reading I’ll have a little sob in the same place that I did this first reading. Sigh. Lovely. Sigh.
Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for giving me access to this treasure.