Reviewed by Debs Carr
This story is told from Mavis Gaunt’s point of view. It begins when she’s seventy and notices a little boy crying across the street. She takes him in and lets him wait for his mother, Eve, to return from work, only to discover that Eve's parents used to live in Shipleigh. Through meeting Eve, Mavis is taken back to when she was small and was evacuated to the village in Devon by her father who was attempting to send Mavis and her French mother to stay with his aunt. However her mother refuses to stay in the tiny village and so Mavis is left behind without her parents. She makes friends with the local children and is especially taken with the mysterious Upcott family. Robert, his younger brother Tom and their sister Frances who live with their widowed father on a nearby farm. Mavis is fascinated by Frances, an excellent pianist who she listens to when she visits her aunt’s cottage for piano lessons. The two girls become friends and for the first time Mavis feels like she belongs.
The book moves from the present to the past when Mavis ends up returning to London to live with her invalid mother, and then forward to when she returns to the village, the place she was happiest, through to the sixties when a tragedy occurres that changes her life forever. As Mavis retells her past, she answers Eve’s questions about her own parents and is reminded of those that she befriended and ultimately lost and we discover what actually happened at Upcott Farm.
Jane Feaver’s details throughout this story makes it come alive. Each of the characters has a well-defined personality and their own quirks. There were some funny parts, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for Mavis. Even as an old lady, she is an outsider, someone who’d never quite fitted in with others. Her loneliness and distance from everyone including her parents, the people she’d worked with and even the other village children give this book a haunting quality.
You can follow Jane Feaver on Twitter @jane_feaver