‘The past is another country’
As always, Boyd is a wonderful spinner of tales. There’s something about this book which leads it to be read aloud, like being told a story – I suppose because there are two books in one, the daughter’s story, and her mother’s story – so a story is being told within the story. A mother with a secret history connected with the second world war, and a daughter discovering her perception of herself, her mother, and the relationship between them as the past extends its grasp into the present, makes this a compulsive read. Well it did for this reader.
I found a fascination in how the daughter discovers that she is not quite who she thinks she is, because she has been brought up with a mistaken idea of her mother’s past, her mother’s identity.
In a sense, I suspect part of my fascination is generational – many people who were adults, in a certain time and place in history (the second world war) had lives which they did not want to remember, memories which were too painful to revisit, and so many people born a generation or two later will have been aware that there were ‘secrets’ in the family, secrets which though personal, are linked to a wider history, that we can never properly understand.
The rather uneasy relationship between mother and daughter as the past unravels, and as the daughter unwillingly finds she inhabits a more ‘watchful’ space as she begins to see layers upon layers, as her mother did, is beautifully told.
My only cavill is anatomical – without wanting to give plot away, there is a crucial event that really could not have happened, due to the size of a fissure and angle. I tried this on a model I happen to have at home (don’t ask!) Mr Boyd should have had a closer look at a good Atlas of Human Anatomy!!!!!