Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
We like to think we’re more than the material stuff we own. But, honestly, if we lost all our belongings, from the contents of that odds-and-ends drawer in the kitchen, to our most precious heirlooms in a house fire, along with the loss of our home, wouldn’t that be up there as one of the most awful experiences we could suffer? And wouldn’t it affect more than just our material world?
And it’s this theme of loss that Jane Davis explores in this novel.
Her starting point is a devastating house fire in which her characters, Anita and Ed, lose everything they own.
They’re a married couple in their forties, living in Surrey and commuting to their respective jobs in London. Childless by choice, they seem, on the face of it, to have a good life. But when their house burns down it’s not just their possessions they’re stripped of. All aspects of their life are laid bare.
The narrative sees Anita and Ed question everything about their lives and to realise that they may not want the same things after all.
The story is told mainly from Anita’s point of view but significant parts of it are also related through the eyes of Anita’s parents, Ron and Patti, who’re dealing with identity issues of their own. And Ed’s voice comes through too.
The story builds slowly, and along with the exploration of identity, the issues of maternal instinct, post-natal depression, family bonds and marital fidelity are also in the mix. And through it all there’s the question of how we see ourselves and how others see us, and of what it is that makes us who we are.
And the literary element of the story is beautifully overlaid with the warmth and vibrancy that comes from well-fleshed out and sympathetic characters. As a reader you care about the characters. There’s a credibility and authenticity to their story, to their hopes and fears.
Davis has a light touch. She writes with subtlety and nuance. And she does that most important of things, something many writers of literary fiction fail to do, she tells a good story.
Type of Read: Good one for holiday reading, when you can really indulge yourself with great writing, a glass of red and some dark chocolate.
Back Cover Blurb:
If we are what we own, who are we when we own nothing?
Look in the mirror and ask yourself a question. Who are you? Do you know the answer?
At the age of forty-six, Anita Hall knows exactly who she is. She has lived with partner Ed for fifteen years and is proud of the life they’ve built. They go out into the world separately: Ed with one eye on the future in the world of finance; Anita with one foot in the past, a curator at Hampton Court Palace. This is the life she has chosen – choices unavailable to her mother’s generation – her dream job, equal partnership, free of children, living in a quirky old house she adores. She is happy. Their foundations are solid and their future seems secure.
That was before the fire.
Anita stands in the middle of the road watching her home and everything inside it burn to the ground. She and Ed have nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Fifteen years of memories gone up in smoke.
Before she can come to terms with the magnitude of her loss, hairline cracks begin to appear in her perfect relationship.
And returning to her childhood home in search of comfort, she stumbles upon the secret her mother has kept hidden, a taboo so unspeakable it can only be written down.
The reflection in the mirror may look the same. But everything has changed. She thought she knew who she was. But not any more.
Authentic and heartbreaking, this intoxicating new novel by award-winner Jane Davis is an exploration of identity, not as a fixed point, but as something fragile, shape-shifting and transient.
The reflection in the mirror may look the same. But everything has changed.