Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Book Review - A Place for Us by Harriet Evans

A Place For Us
A Place for Us by Harriet Evans
Published: 15th January 2015
Publisher: Headline Review
Pages: 448
Available in paperback and on Kindle
From international bestselling author Harriet Evans, an engrossing new novel about a woman who, on the eve of her eightieth birthday, decides to reveal a secret that may destroy her perfect family.
The day Martha Winter decided to tear apart her family began like any other day.

When Martha, a wife and mother of three, sits down one late summer’s morning to write out the invitations to her eightieth birthday celebration, she knows that what she is planning to reveal at the party could ruin the idyllic life she and her husband David have spent over fifty years building…

But she has to let her family know what she and David have sacrificed. She can’t live a lie any more.

The invitation goes out far and wide, calling her three children and their families back home to Winterfold, their rambling house in the heart of the English countryside. They are Bill, the doctor; Florence, the eccentric academic; and Daisy, the child who never fit in. As the story unfolds, each character reveals the secrets, joys, and tragedies they are wrestling with through the confines of the family. What will happen when Martha finally tells the truth?
Harriet Evans seems to be one of those authors that I’ve heard about but never managed to actually read, so when given the chance to read her latest novel I decided to give her ago. A Place for Us has previously been released in e-book form in four parts over four consecutive months. I’m glad I was able to read this all is one go as parts one and two definitely left me wanting to see what would happen next.
A Place for Us is centred on Martha and David Winter and their extended family who are spread across the globe. Martha is about to turn eighty and decides it’s time to tell her family some truths, so she summons her family home for a party to celebrate and get everything out in the open. Their three children Bill, Daisy and Florence and their two grandchildren Cat and Lucy make their way home for the party wondering what is going to happen when they arrive home.
Bill their eldest son has stayed close to the family home Winterfold and is the village GP. He’s struggling to make second wife Karen happy. He daughter from his first marriage is struggling in her job in the fashion section of a newspaper, she longs to be a proper writer. Daisy the eldest girl and is away doing charity work in India. Her daughter Cat, who was raised at Winterfold by Martha and David is currently struggling with life in Paris and is hiding a big secret from her family. Florence is Martha and David’s youngest daughter and she is highly academic and working as a University lecturer in Italy. We are also introduced to Joe Thorne who is working as a chef in the local pub and has his own connections to some members of the family.
A Place for Us is told through the eyes of many characters, each having their own chapters, with so many characters I was initially a little concerned as each chapter introduced us to yet another character. However Harriet Evans has done a remarkable job of making each of these characters have a distinctive voice making their individual stories easy for me to follow.  My favourite characters were Joe and Cat, probably because they are a similar age to me and I could relate to their feelings. I also felt the Cat probably had the most to deal with after Martha’s revelation and it was interesting to see how she coped.
I really enjoyed parts one and two of this book, the introduction of all the characters and their situations was well done and helped build a picture of this family. I’d really love a home like Winterfold myself, it seemed like such a comforting place to be. I loved the way it was like a beacon to them all. They’re all off living their lives all apart but are all drawn back to Winterfold when their lives become in crisis, as if its walls provide them with a security blanket.
In the aftermath of Martha’s confession there is a lot of devastation in the family as other secrets become known. The thing which I didn’t really enjoy was all the flashbacks into David’s early life, they added a little to the story but I felt annoyed by them because I wanted to find out how to family were coping and the flashbacks detracted from that too much for me.
I felt A Place for Us started off really well but for me the middle part was too padded out with flashbacks and I just lost the pace of the book a little.  I will definitely read more from this author as I loved her characters. I’d rate this book 3/5 as I liked it but it didn’t wow me.

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