What’s it all about?:
Yesterday was Alice’s wedding day. She is thousands of miles away from the home she is so desperate to leave, on the southernmost tip of India, when she wakes in the morning to see a wave on the horizon, taller than the height of her guest house on Kanyakumari beach. Her husband is nowhere to be seen.
On the other side of the world, unhappily estranged from her daughter, is Alice’s mother, Violet. Forced to leave the idyllic Wiltshire village, Imber, in which she grew up after it was requisitioned by the army during World War Two, Violet is haunted by the shadow of the man she loved and the wilderness of a home that lies in ruins.
Amid the debris of the wave, Alice recollects the events of the hippie trail that led to her hasty marriage as she struggles to piece together the fate of the husband she barely knows. Meanwhile, Violet must return to Imber in order to let go of the life that is no longer hers – and begin the search for her daughter.
What did I think?:
This is another book to be featured on the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club 2013, and an interesting and compelling debut novel. It focuses on two women, a mother and daughter, both of whom have had a catastrophe occur in their lives. For Violet, it is the loss of her home and way of life, during World War II, when she was evacuated from her home to make way for a military training ground on Salisbury Plains. Having lost her father recently in a terrible accident, and her sister to a new life in London as a nurse for the war effort, Violet feels that everything dear to her has been taken away (including the man she has been in love with since childhood) and struggles to recover in the long term.
Present day (1971) her estranged daughter Alice is travelling in India with her boyfriend James, who quickly becomes her husband, as Alice fights to come to terms with the difficulties she has had with her mother. Tragically, a tsunami hits the country as James goes out to get breakfast one morning and Alice is separated from the husband who she hardly knows. The story then follows both women, going back in time for Violet, and present day for Alice as they both deal with their own tragedy.
The most interesting part of this story for me was the fact that Violet’s home village of Imber actually existed, and was requisitioned by the military for use during the war. The army still use it to this day, whilst training on Salisbury Plains. Apparently it is rarely open to the public, but I think a visit there would be absolutely fascinating. I thought the use of a natural disaster (the tsunami) versus a “man-made” disaster i.e. wartime, was very interesting, and I loved comparing and contrasting the two as it alternated between chapters. It was also intriguing to see the pieces of the story come together at the end (for that slap your head “Of course!” moment). An entertaining debut from a talented author that I will be looking out for in the future.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):