This is one of those compulsive reads that draws you in from the start. In a small market town there is a man, his wife and their young daughter. The man is keen to make his mark and how do you do that in a small town? You join the annual fair committee of course and make it the most successful one to date. How do you do that? Well you invite the journalists into your town, hype the obvious big pull, the dunking stall, no matter if it’s sexist in that only the women of the town are dunked, and you dress up in costume get the townsfolk to man their stalls and this being England, pray for fine weather.
Maura Wood is happy tending to her daughter Rosie’s needs and keeping house for Nick, well mostly happy, perhaps happier when he is out organising for the fair, but happy enough, that is until Kim a sassy journalist comes to town and opens Maura’s eyes to the possibility of life as a more independent woman, one who has more to think about than what to cook for dinner. The question everyone is asking, including Maura, is why is Kim so attentive to dowdy Maura? All of this was five years ago so what on earth happened in the meantime so that when we meet Maura she is living a life in London, not Dowerby, without her daughter and in the shadows working two jobs that pay cash in hand to avoid being found.
Well the root has to be in Dowerby, where the status quo rules, not just on the committee but in the minds of its traditional-minded inhabitants. When Nick and Maura move, far from being taken into the bosom of the community as Nick has been, but then this is where he came from, Maura isn’t quite ostracized but neither is she invited to join the other women so when Kim turns up and is interested in her life, Maura is predisposed to welcome a friend into her life, even if that friend is going to cause waves in Dowerby!
This is a clever story which unveils a chain of events, seemingly started so innocently, with a coffee and a chat, but ends up changing the course of Maura’s life forever so much so that she is extremely scared when she realises someone is onto her. On the anonymous streets of North London she hears someone mention her name, notes are posted through her door; who is this man and what does he want from her?
I thoroughly enjoyed this, the characters were well-drawn with the back-stories just enough developed to ensure that their actions were suitably aligned while the sense of small-town life was perfectly portrayed. This is a book that covers big issues but I’m relieved to say in an entertaining fashion which meant that rather than being dwelt upon or glossed over the effects remain long after the last page has been turned.
Having read this author’s second book This Little Piggy, Bea Davenport is certainly an author I will be looking out for in the future.