I have to admit I was drawn to this book by the beautiful cover and the intriguing title and these window dressings weren’t false advertising; this well-written novel is told in a narrative that goes backwards and forwards over time slowly revealing an astonishing array of secrets and lies that span decades.
Thirteen year old Anna left her sister, Rose, who she was in awe of to go out because she was bored. It was a Wednesday afternoon in the summer holiday and when she returned eighteen year old Rose had gone, left without a trace leaving Anna with the image of how she had left her reading under a pear tree. The weaving narrative uncovers the truths, half-truths and outright lies that underpin this family, remarkable for their normality, as they struggle to cope with her disappearance. Not knowing what happened to Rose has changed them all and twenty years on, Anna who is trying to live up to her idolisation of Rose decides to track some of her friends in an attempt to find out what happened.
The narrative starts with Anna but it also picks up her mother, Sandra’s story, from the sixties giving this book an unexpected twist with parallels between the two tales that twist around each other revealing another piece of information which adds more detail to the picture being painted. For me the details, were incredibly visual, the writing easy to lose yourself in as the revelations tumbled out the reader understands more about the complexities of the family bonds but gently done so that I didn’t feel that the sheer quantity of issues seemed unrealistic.
This was an absorbing read, which delivers far more than the blurb may suggest with some powerful insights into the bonds that both hold families together and those that can cast members adrift. The wide range of time periods covered were exceptionally well handled with the changes in society clear without the author feeling the need to ‘over-explain’ the details. This is the kind of read I enjoy, one where the author has confidence in the reader to exercise their own reasoning to understand the actions of their characters. The visual characteristic of the book was underpinned by the artistic endeavours of both Rose and Anna, with the heart-breaking description of Anna’s A Level composition of missing people almost undoing me as a symbol of her yearning for her sister’s return.
I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Doubleday for allowing me to read this book in return for my honest review A Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon was published on 14 August 2014 in the UK although it is available on kindle in the US too.