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I agree with the reviews that say, “I’ve never read anything like it.” From the very beginning this novel is different: written in a style that evokes a different time period. It takes a while to get used to this: the main protagonist, Phyllis, comes across as a cold character, with very few redeeming factors. In fact, this first impression doesn’t improve and is one of the main criticisms I have of this book: Phyllis lacks any real depth: her feelings for her husband, children and family are at all times cold and distant. We have no insight into any deeper feelings she may have: jealousy, unhappiness, loss. She seems to sleep-walk through life.
My second criticism is that the story takes an absolute age to get going: I almost gave up on it. It wasn’t until almost halfway through that anything really began to happen but after that I was hooked and I realised why the author had taken so much trouble to build up the background against which the action takes place. The amount of research that has gone into the novel is phenomenal and the book was a real window into a time period I knew very little about. I even found myself Googling the British Union Party and detainment of political prisoners in World War Two.
My final criticism is of one of the minor characters: an ordinary working farmer who miraculously turns out to be an artist with romantic and creative talents. It was so unlikely and seemed to have been “shoe-horned” into the story.
Overall, I would say I enjoyed the story but it isn’t a book I would push onto people to read.
Bethany Askew is the author of five novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days and Poppy’s Seed.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Future projects include a new short story, this one for the young adult market, and another full-length novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.