My Review of "Hidden Legacy" by G J Minett

This is an impressive and ambitious debut which follows two main story lines. The first is set in 1966 where a horrific crime with life lasting consequences has taken place at a school, the second in 2008 where a life changing gift is bequeathed to Ellen by someone she has never heard of. The novel, interweaving between the two narratives, sets out to solve the truth behind Ellen's mysterious benefactor leading her to question everything she thought she knew about her family and friends.

The story continues by alternating between the various narratives of Ellen, O'Hallaran, Peter Vaughan, John Michael Adams and Eudora's letters. This is an ambitious number of characters to juggle but each voice is realistic and convincing. The voice of shady journalist O'Hallaran, is particularly effective at reflecting his malicious intent and untrusting personality. Ellen's voice is a good contrast and her friend Kate adds some lightness to what could become a rather overwhelming story. Ellen's emotional journey about how she handles her discoveries is well judged and captures the internal conflict she feels, hinting at themes of judgement and redemption in the ending.

The reader is left to question their feelings about Eudora, Barbara and most interestingly John Michael Adams, who is guilty of the dreadful crime in 1966, which I thought was a brave stand for the author and gave the book more depth. Minett takes a taboo subject and explores it from an interesting angle. There is lots of detailed description and the characters are meticulously presented which sometimes, for me, impaired the action a little although it did reveal Minett to be a skilled writer. I think it is a sign of an accomplished and clever writer to successfully direct, manage and ultimately converge such a multilayered plot and successfully bring together so many narratives without confusing or losing the reader along the way. I did find that I really needed to keep an eye of the date, location and name of each section but the investment was worth it and each voice has a valid role within the plot.

It's a good read. I look forward to Minett's next book!

As an aside, there was an article in Saturday's Weekend Guardian supplement about Sue Klebold whose son killed 13 people at the Columbine High School as she publishes her book, "A Mother's Reckoning" next week. It might make an interesting companion after reading this. She also talked about her feelings about "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and author's that choose to tackle this kind of subject for their books.

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    1. Hi Katherine. Many thanks for this lovely and insightful review. Whilst I'm delighted with it as a whole, I'm particularly pleased you picked up on the importance of Kate to the novel. She came slightly later to the party than some of the others. She was always there but was a much more sober and reflective presence in earlier drafts until I realised I needed someone more light-hearted and upbeat to relieve some of the pressure, more or less exactly as you've identified. Many, many thanks - I really appreciate your kind thoughts and best wishes. Graham

  2. A great review of one of my favourite reads of last year - a book that made me think as well as entertained me!


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