This book by Emma Healey won the Costa prize last year and was long-listed for the Baileys fiction prize this year and it’s easy to see why.
The story is told by Maud, a woman in her 80s with dementia. As far as unreliable narrators go she is pretty much as unreliable as it gets – her memory is failing but she does know that her friend Elizabeth is missing, which leads her to remember how her sister disappeared over 50 years before.
When I started reading this book I was a little worried that it might get repetitive or that the plot would struggle because of the narrative style, but it actually worked really well and Healey presents a highly believable imagining of Maud’s mind. I would say that I found the ending a little disappointing and would like more strings tied up to make it more satisfying. However, overall I really enjoyed the way that past and present blurred and formed an interesting narrative.
It’s been over two months since my last book blog post… its taken me over 9 weeks to read this book. I know exactly how long it’s been because around 6 hours after I posted my last book blog I gave birth to my baby boy.
Reading with a newborn is a tricky business (more so when you’ve got 2 other kids to look after as well) and I’ll try to explain why…
1. You can’t pick anything focused too heavily on death, misery or emotional turmoil. In the weeks after having a baby your hormones just can’t take it!
2. No complex whodunits with a range of characters. Lack of sleep and having to read in short bursts mean you just can’t keep track of the range of characters and who did/said what.
3. No complex literary texts with long words. See above, re: tiredness. After having my daughter (over 3 years ago now) I had one day when I was so tired that I literally lost the ability to read.
With all that in mind I decided that a light, summery book was the way to go.
‘Summer at Little Beach Street bakery’ was exactly the kind of book I needed. Easy-to-read, not too many characters or sub -plots, feel good reading throughout. It was light and easy to enjoy, even when read in short bursts … I never lost track of what was going on in the plot. I particularly enjoyed the dramatic storm towards the end of the novel, even though the rescue involved was not particularly believable – but who cares about believable in this sort of story? I certainly didn’t.