Sunday, 29 June 2014

Living with Strangers by Elizabeth Ellis

Madeleine and her young daughter, Chloe, live in France above the bar where she works. One day she receives a package of letters that she sent to her brother, Josef, many years ago when he disappeared. They have come from Josef’s partner along with a letter telling her that Josef has disappeared again.

Estranged from her family Madeleine heads back to England in her quest to find out why Josef disappeared the first time and whether it’s possible that this broken family can be mended.

The narrative of this story moves across both time and place. Set in England, France and Germany the narrative changes from 1963 when Josef first disappeared to 1978 when Madeleine receives the letters. Those movements can sometimes be confusing to a reader but Elizabeth Ellis deals with this seamlessly and at no point did I find myself confused by which place or time I was in.

Madeleine is an excellent character. Full of strength she faces single motherhood alone and makes a place for herself and her child in a world that became disrupted for her by Josef’s disappearance many years previously. Through Madeleine the novel is able to address themes such as relationships, prejudice and inter-generational conflict; all issues that are not specific to the time of the novel but still exist today.

It is an interesting premise that one event leads to another whole series of related events throughout a persons life and through this book we not only see the effect that Josef’s disappearance has on Madeleine’s life but also that of the other members of the family. As the narrative closely follows Madeleine the other characters are more minor but as the novel progresses the other characters become more fleshed out and the novel begins to feel much more whole. By elaborating on the story of the minor characters the novel is moved to another dimension and feels much more complete.

When I first finished the book I was disappointed that the end was not more dramatic. However, a couple of days later I am still thinking about it and I think this was probably a deliberate ploy on the authors part as it depicts the realism of life. By which I mean, that real life events do not always conclude dramatically but rather are a series of small events that somehow stumble into becoming a form of conclusion. There are no spoilers in this paragraph but an encouragement for you to read this book and let me know your thoughts.

For a debut novel this has been well executed and shows much promise that quality writing will be flowing from the pen of Ms Ellis.

ISBN:  978 1783064069

Publisher:  Matador

Price (based on today’s price on £3.49
I read a digital copy of this so this is the price for the kindle version

Total saving so far:  £298.71

No comments:

Post a Comment