Before my blogging days I read a few of Dorothy Koomson’s novels. In fact a colleague and myself were always swapping her novels. I have no idea why this author slipped off my radar as Dorothy’s stories always drew me in with such an emotional pull. Would I feel the same with When I was Invisible?
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Century (5 May 2016)
‘Do you ever wonder if you’ve lived the life you were meant to?’ I ask her.
She sighs, and dips her head. ‘Even if I do, what difference will it make?’
In 1988, two eight-year-old girls with almost identical names and the same love of ballet meet for the first time. They seem destined to be best friends forever and to become professional dancers. Years later, however, they have both been dealt so many cruel blows that they walk away from each other into very different futures – one enters a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity. Will these new, ‘invisible’ lives be the ones they were meant to live, or will they only find that kind of salvation when they are reunited twenty years later?
My curiosity was captured from Chapter one where Nika in ‘present day’ is in a situation and as a reader I had no idea how she got there. I have to mention here that I enjoyed the format. For both Veronika (Nika) and Veronica (Roni) we don’t just have alternating chapters for each women but also timelines that go back to the first time they met and their shared passion of dancing and moving forward to 2016 so that a picture builds of what happened to them.
In 2016 there are hints dropped by both as to what is at the core of the story. Nika hints about why she ran away from home and Roni (now known as Sister Grace in a convent) has to leave and put right what she did wrong. This gave me plenty of scope for conjecturing on what and why.
The story unfolds at just the right pace. It gave me time to understand the life that was not so much chosen but as an action of the trauma that happened during childhood for both Nika and Roni. For me, Nika’s was the most hard-hitting; living in the world where the choices she made perpetuated the pain inside. Her relationship with Todd (shudder) didn’t feel right until we go back in her history and then it’s understandable why that became her reality. Roni chose to hide her pain away in religion but that just isn’t enough when the noise will no longer be hidden by the rituals of silence. Both try to save others as a result of not being able to face/save themselves.
Dorothy Koomson gets right into the minds and emotions of not only Nika and Roni but also the secondary characters. Reese and the ‘Judge’ are very real giving plenty of moments of tension and fear. And as for parents/family and those in authority … parents are always meant to protect their children right? We know that’s not true for everyone. There are some deep psychological patterns at work in both their families and after reading When I Was Invisible I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have experienced the family relationships I have had in my life.
I made guesses (which were correct) but all the way through I wasn’t sure how the story would end. It was exactly what I hoped for.
When I was Invisible is a very powerful story that will take you to the depths but also offer hope of redemption and healing. With settings that come alive, situations to make your heart pound and characters that will shred your emotions, this is one for your reading lists.
I would like to thank ED PR and the publishers for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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