Disclaimer – I was sent a free copy of this book from the publishers in return for a fair and unbiased review
‘The light was switched off, the door was firmly shut, and the tap, tap, tap of Matron’s shoes echoed down the stone corridor. The dormitory was pitch black; not a flicker of light.’
When farmer Dan Maddicott is found shot dead in one of his fields, he leaves behind a young family and a farm deep in debt. Although the coroner records accidental death, village rumours suggest he has taken his own life so that the insurance payout can save his family from ruin. Dan’s wife, Kate, refuses to believe the gossip and is determined to prove to herself, and her children, that his death was an accident. But could it have been murder? Kate discovers a set of old diaries containing secrets that may reveal how Dan really died.
What I thought
One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is the various POVs, each one is set in a different time, Susan is in the 1940’s whilst Dan’s is in the 90’s and early 2000’s and Kate’s is all set after the accident. It’s a really interesting way of storytelling the before and after are from completely different POVs (although it would be hard for the ‘after’ POV to be from Dan’s…). Dan and Kate’s POV both show a different side of their marriage. There is no doubt that they love each other but they clearly don’t talk anywhere near as much as they should do about the things that they are struggling with. (Call me old fashioned but talking to each other seems like an important part of any relationship). However interestingly you learn the most about Dan through Kate’s POV and vice versa. As Kate doesn’t have a farming background Dan was unsure about the relationship starting as he came with plenty of baggage and worked all hours in the day.
It took about me till about halfway through the story to properly work out Susan’s story arc fit in with Kate and Dan, but thinking back on it all the clues were there I just didn’t pick up on them.
The setting of this book, the farming crisis of the early 2000’s is a really interesting one and not something that I know much about. I was still at primary school when the crisis hit so I only have very vague memories of the time. However I do remember hearing about foot and mouth and a lot of people being worried about it. One of the boys in my class lived on a farm so it was definitely talked about at school but it’s not something I know much about.
As I was reading this book I realised just how little I knew about it and the full impact it had on the farming communities. The idea of Dan committing suicide for his family to have the insurance payout is accepted by the town and surrounding farms because it happened. It didn’t happen often but it wasn’t rare, the idea of that being accepted as a thing that people did because of the amount of pressure they were under is insane. Like actually properly insane. Suicide shouldn’t be an accepted risk of the job. I don’t care what the job is the fact that it this crisis reached the point where farmers were killing themselves…
More people should know about this, I definitely want to read more books with this setting, and will go looking for the documentary that Caroline took the idea from
The strength of this book is the various relationships, Kate/Dan, Kate’s parents, Dan’s mother and the family, Kate & Dan and their kids, Susan and her complex relationship with her son and ‘husband’.
Every relationship is different and has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. Like real life some relationships are good and founded on communication and love, and others aren’t great and have become apathy. I loved seeing the growth of some relationship and the collapse of others. People are complex beings and the interactions with others are even more so. Everyone has a ‘face’ that they show to different people – professional, responsible, friend, mum!friend, sister/brother, daughter/son, parent. Caroline Kington manages to show the various facets of humanity in her characters and the way they interact. If any of the interactions had felt forced or ‘wrong’ the story wouldn’t have been anywhere near as strong as it was. A character focused story is only as good as it’s characters, and these are GOOD characters. They might not all be good people, in fact some of them decidedly aren’t, but they are all people.
Why I read it
I read it because it was offered to be for free in return for an unbiased review and with an offer to take part in the blog tour as part of the release. I’ve got a Q&A with the author on my blog tomorrow.
However I was interested in this because of the setting of the farming crisis and because it dealt with the aftermath of a suicide/murder and looked at how the family learn to deal with what happened.
Lightening books have once again given us a book that defies the normal genres. If you were to just take it from the synopsis you would think a lot more of this book was about focusing on what happened to Dan and if he was murdered or not. And if so, how? And yet that’s almost a background issue. Kate does try to work out what happened but it’s more for herself and their kids.
With the various timelines each telling their own part of the story by the end the reader is the only person to have all of the information and even then it’s left to you to decide what you think happened. I love that there isn’t a definite ending, the author trusts the reader enough to allow us to make our own decision.
Did I enjoy it? Yes
Am I glad I read it? Yes, it’s not my normal type of book but I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it.
Would I read again? Probably
Would I recommend? This book definitely appeals to a wider range than some of the books I normally read. People should definitely give it a go!
PopSugar: Plant in the title/on the cover (cover of trees), about a family, multiple POVs.
The blog tour for ‘A Long Shadow’ starts tomorrow, publishing day, and I’ve got a Q&A with Caroline Kington. I’m very grateful to ‘Lightening books’ for letting me involved and sending me a copy.
As always they’ve offered me a book that I wouldn’t necessarily pick up for myself if it wasn’t published by them, and once again I would have missed out on a really good book. It’s not my normal book, there’s no magic in it for a start, but I really enjoyed reading it.
P.S The next post will be the Q&A with Caroline Kington.
P.P.S The next review is for ‘UnConventional’ by Maggie Harcourt.