I am not an adventurous reader which is probably not the right thing to say if you are a book blogger, but you will all have realised this by now, so no use trying to hide it. Publishers, however, show great faith in me and send me books with little notes in 'Elaine, you will love this' or 'Elaine do try this, we are very excited about it' and they are nearly always right. Since Random started I have read books that I would not normally have picked up in a bookshop or the library and Bloomsbury, who look after me so well, have done it again.
Out of the blue last week a book dropped through my letterbox with a little note saying they thought I would like to see this debut novel by Elizabeth Day. Picked it up, thought this looks interesting so today I started it. Well, they were right again and I have not been able to put it down until I reached the final page. Right from the start it grabbed my attention.
"It was a curious thing but when she was told that her husband was almost dead, her first thought was not for him but for the beef casserole. She had been in the process of boiling up a stock when the doorbell rang......she answered the door while still wearing her apron and her hands were slightly damp as she unlocked the safety chain. A speck of indeterminate green foliage had attached itself to the cuff of her floral printed blouse. She was attempting to swat it away when she became aware of the uniformed officers on her doorstep"
Charles Redfern is in a coma. As he lies motionless in hospital, his wife Anne and daughter Charlotte are forced to come together to confront their relationship with him, and with each other. Anne and Charles met while at Cambridge together, he was handsome, charming, the catch of the year and she could not believe that he would choose to be with her. They marry and almost immediately he becomes cold and malicious taking pleasure in taunting her and making her life miserable; he has affairs and doesn't care who knows and gradually her self becomes lost, the beautiful and clever girl turns into a quiet and downtrodden wife keeping her disillusionment hidden deep inside her.
And then, unexpectedly, a child appears - their daughter Charlotte and Charles has a second person to control and this is where the worm in the heart of the rose begins to appear. His love for his daughter is unhealthy and perverse and slowly Charlotte begins to realise that she is frightened of Charles and, as with her mother, withdraws deep into herself as damaged children do.
Suffice it to say that Charlotte has a strained relationship with her mother and blames her for her childhood misery while Anne also suffers knowing she is guilty of neglecting her daughter and all for the love of a man who now despises her. The resolution of their differences is real and not overdrawn and, in the end, we learn that her mother did intervene and protect her in the only way she knew how and, in so doing, had to face the reality of being unloved.
A beautifully written and thoughtful book which made compelling reading. I found the ending touching as Anne finds a fragile happiness:
"Gracie installed herself on her grandmother's lap, turning her head so that it rested against Anne's chest...it was almost her bedtime but Annie did not want to surrender her just yet. She drew Gracie into her more tightly, placing a protective hand gently against the side of her face so that she could feel the extraordinary softness of her grandmother's skin"
Elizabeth Day is an award winning journalist who has worked for various papers and is a feature writer for the Observer. Scissors, Paper, Stone is her first novel.
All I can say is, more please.