Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Myriad Editions (3 Aug. 2017)
A compelling literary debut that explores the dark heart of the family – the secrets we keep, the illusions of memory, and the relationships we feel bound to, but long to escape.
Siblings Edward and Isobel Vernon haven’t spoken in years and live on opposite sides of the Atlantic. When their mother Mary dies unexpectedly, they are thrown together to sort through the family home. With Edward’s diffident but devoted girlfriend, Julie, making an awkward threesome, each stumbles through the practicalities of funeral preparation and house clearing, trying to make sense of their emotions and their feelings toward one another. Isobel makes a disturbing discovery and her fateful decision has consequences for all of them, challenging their beliefs about the past, hopes for the future and understanding of Mary’s role in keeping them at once apart and together.
Each character is a masterful invention. Julie, a devotee of self-help manuals, takes charge of her own destiny, transforming from the wet girlfriend into an emotional steamroller. Isobel is not the over-confident know-all Edward describes but someone who is far more vulnerable, and desperately trying to do the right thing. Edward himself has never grown out of his teenage petulance or been able to establish a meaningful relationship with a woman. He holds the key to why there has been such a rift and his dawning recognition of how badly he has treated Isobel, and the messages that never reach her, determine the endgame.
Beginning in a small coastal town during the Spring Bank Holiday, the novel moves forward through the point of view of each of the characters in turn, and culminates on Christmas Eve.
An insightful novel using three narrators, Edward, Isobel and Julie, who express the difficulties within families and relationships.
Edward and Isobel, siblings, who for years were distant until a loss brings them together again. Edward’s girlfriend, Julie finds herself making decisions which affect both Edward and Isobel.
Berlin’s portrayal of family and loss is compelling and beautifully written. An enjoyable read with interesting character progression.
S. V. Berlin was born and raised in London. She has worked as a copywriter, facilitator, speechwriter and wilderness Search-and-Rescue professional. She lives in Manhattan.
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