Publication Date: Available now from Two Roads Books.
Elizabeth Pringle has lived on the beautiful island of Arran for over 90 years; the retired teacher and spinster is a familiar and yet solitary figure tending her garden and riding her bicycle around the island. When she dies she leaves her beloved house, “Holmlea” to a woman she merely saw pushing a pram down the road over thirty years ago. That young mother, Anna, had put a letter through Elizabeth’s door asking to buy the house, but Elizabeth never pursued her. But time passed and Anna is now in a home with dementia and it falls to her daughter Martha, the baby in the pram, to come and take up their inheritance.
This was an utterly charming novel, a gentle and engaging read, told over two alternating timelines, that of Elizabeth through her journal and that of Martha as she takes up the legacy and works through the issues in her own life.
Beautifully drawn when it comes to sense of place, the author manages to bring the Isle of Arran – a place I have never visited – to life in wonderful detail giving an evocative backdrop to Elizabeth’s story. Elizabeth herself is fascinating as we follow events from the first World War onwards, watching her develop friendships and live out her life, leading to the secret that defined her. I was totally engrossed in the tale throughout and I especially liked the similarites drawn between the issues both Elizabeth and Martha face and the changing outlook of modern times.
Martha is also enchanting – Taking up some of Elizabeth’s friendships, dealing with the difficult relationship she has with her sister, whilst also coping with her mother’s dementia (this part I think was one of the best, watching Martha see her mother fade is touching and poignant) Kirsty Wark manages to capture the emotional resonance of the two women perfectly, keeping you immersed in their story for the entirety of the read.
The story flows beautifully, there is some wonderful writing here, two strong and intriguing female characters, a story that spans changing times and attitudes and descriptive prose that will immediately make you want to visit Arran, I read this over the course of one day and was very sad to leave Martha and Elizabeth and for that matter ALL the characters behind me. Ms Wark is well known as a journalist and broadcaster and this, her first foray into novel writing, for me was pitch perfect and I can’t wait to see what she brings us next.
Recommended for fans of family drama that packs real emotional punch.
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Happy Reading Folks!