A Life Between Us by Louise Walters
Tina's sister Meg died in a childhood accident, but for almost forty years Tina has secretly blamed herself for her twin's death. During a visit to her Uncle Edward and his sister Lucia, who both harbour dark secrets of their own, Tina makes a discovery that forces her to question her memories of the day Meg died.
As Tina finds the courage to face the past, she unravels the mysteries of her estranged parents, her beautiful Aunt Simone, the fading, compassionate Uncle Edward, and above all, the cold, bitter Aunt Lucia, whose spectral presence casts a long shadow over them all.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a mixture of all my favourite kinds of novels. It is a family saga, a domestic noir, a story about marriage and parenting, a story about siblings, a story about lies, deception, truth and revelations. It is part psychological thriller and part drama, partly the character's emotional journey towards realisation and acceptance and partly a chilling and gripping page turner. It felt like a long read but in the most delightful way because I didn't really want it to end. It was a treat to really immerse myself in the world of the characters and watch the stories unravel, twist themselves around each other into knots and then eventually weave themselves together into a very satisfying conclusion.
The story is told by two different narrators and two different time lines. We meet Tina whose story takes place in the present and then we have Lucia whose story takes place in the past. Interspersed between these chapters are letters written by a young Tina. The changing narratives are very easy to follow and to keep track of as not only are the voices very distinctive and clear, but the chapters are labelled with the dates and characters speaking. Although there are lots of characters in the novel who appear throughout both story lines, it is not at all confusing and actually hugely engaging as the reader sees how the two story lines begin to impact on each other and how they are all intrinsically linked.
I would describe this book as a thriller but Walters does not set out to shock, deceive or surprise us. The relationships and situations are clearly laid out at the beginning so the reader begins with a very firm understanding of the premise. But, even though this is not a book about hidden twists and shocks, it kind of still is! Walters still catches us unawares and still manages to create dramatic climaxes and maintain a great level of tension and suspense throughout the whole novel. At times it is a chilling read.
I really loved the characters of both Tina and Lucia. They are very different yet both flawed. They are believable. They are easy to feel sympathy and empathy towards but also sometimes fear, frustration and pity. Their journeys are dramatic and traumatic but it is not sensationalism or soap operatic in style, more a quiet build up, a steady accumulation of events and situations which push them to breaking point.
Walters is able to explore some universal themes like grief, love, isolation, deception, redemption, and forgiveness. Her representation of families under pressure, marriages under pressure, friendships under pressure is compelling and well expressed. I liked the dialogue between the characters, the dynamics and interaction between them all and I really liked the subtle suggestion of malevolence or threatening behaviour in some of the people.
The ending was unexpected and challenged my perception of the genre of this novel. I liked it a lot!
I think the thing I enjoyed the most (apart from the wonderful character of Lucia!) was the fact that even though the main twists were not hidden from the reader, there was still lots I was unsure about (in terms of plot and which characters to trust) and I still felt an immense amount of tension as I was reading. Tina is very open with the reader but it still feels like she is keeping a lot from us. She is reliable but she isn't. There are still secrets that need to be uncovered and revelations waiting to be made. This is a page turner because you want to hear more from the characters and see more of their story.
This is Louise Walters' second book but it is the first book of hers I have read. I was really impressed by it. I was impressed by the well managed plot which was multilayered and complicated but always controlled. Nothing was superfluous and nothing was distracting. It had a slightly epic feel to it in the way an engrossing family drama novel that spans decades should and I could happily have kept reading about Tina and Lucia for longer. They will stay with me as will their story and I am going to try to make sure I read Walters' first novel, Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase as soon as I can. It has been on my TBR pile for a long time when I first saw other bloggers recommending it. I'm sure it will be as enjoyable and satisfying as A Life Between Us.
I would recommend this book. It will make the perfect holiday read this Easter! I really enjoyed it a lot. If you liked "The Thirteenth Tale", "The Roanoke Girls" or any of Kate Roidan's novels, I think this will be the perfect read for you.
A Life Between Us is published on 28th March by Troubador.
Louise Walters has also written Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase.
Click on the link below to find some reading group questions written by Louise on her website:
Reading Group Questions: A Life Between Us
You can follow Louise on Twitter or Facebook or via her website:
Facebook - LouiseWaltersWriter/
Louise also has a blog and at the moment she is interviewing Book Bloggers to find out more about their reading and their life as bloggers. You can click on the link below to visit her blogsite:
You can follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) for more recommendations and reviews.