A family in 1950’s Britain who have a daughter, Elaine, who is classed as mentally deficient. Andy the elder brother remembers a tragic accident on a seaside holiday and soon afterwards his mother disappears. The book is narrated by Andy as a child in the first person and also by himself 30 years later as an adult the mother’s voice is narrated in the second person. Although I can see the reason why Jane Rusbridge chose this medium to tell her story I found it difficult to truly engage with her emotionally despite the tale she was telling being a tragic one.
I really enjoyed Andy’s childhood narration, his fascination with knots and his deep relationship with his `Grampy’ were both authentic and touching and his childhood fears were understandable given his father’s irascibility. I also loved the front pages with illustrations of the knots that Andy learnt to tie at his grandfather’s knee which went hand in hand with his childhood obsession with Houdini.
I didn’t like Andy’s adult voice though; he has become a wanderer leaving his younger sister to shoulder the burden of his father’s death without his support. For me he became an unsympathetic character.
The author raised the stakes with her ending which I thought extremely fitting that certain conclusions are left to the reader to imagine