Kate Hutchinson and her husband Simon are Londoners, performing the balancing act of raising two young children in a cramped terraced house whilst holding down stressful full-time jobs. When everything starts to come apart at the seams they decide to uproot and move to the Suffolk coast. Sacrificing her career, her friends and her independence, Kate battles to make a new life for the family under her mother-in-law’s roof – while they search in vain for the perfect home. Months later, with Simon still working all hours and the strains of living with his mother beginning to tell, Kate is questioning the wisdom of their move. Then one evening, out walking, she stumbles upon the house of her dreams, a beautiful place, full of memories – but tantalizingly out of her reach. It belongs to a frail old lady, Agnes, and the two women become close friends. As Kate unravels the dying woman’s story she is amazed to discover how much it echoes her own. And as past and present intertwine, Kate is given the strength and inspiration to reforge her own life
I discovered Rachel Hore’s work through my Book Club and am now working my way through her works! This is her latest novel and yet again I couldn’t put it down.
This is the story of Kate And her family as they decide to quit the rat race for a peaceful life with more family time in Suffolk. However it will come as no surprise to know that the path to tranquility doesn’t run smooth. This ideal, placed under a microscope with added stresses and strains certainly is shown to be a bit of a mirage. Giving up one life for the dream of another is difficult and requires hard work and a bit of luck to make it come true.
But this is not even a straight forward move to the country. Maybe it would have been had Kate not come with so much baggage. She has had a difficult life since her sister died when they were both teenagers and her parents shut down. The impact of this is still rippling through Kate’s life. She struggles to deal with what happened and the repercussions it continues to have on her.
Once the family have arrived in Suffolk and settled living with Kate’s mother-in-law, cracks Kate has never realised exist begin to show. As Kate tries to get to grips with her new life, and the changes in her families life now they are away from London, she finds help and solace in a few places but in one particularly unexpected one as she meets Agnes. Agnes turns out to be a distant relative and, quite literally, lives in Kate’s dream house. Kate has dreamed about it and it is the complete picture of her perfect house. As Kate gets to know Agnes she learns to deal with some of the tragedies in her life whilst solving the mystery of Agnes’ own troubled life.
The two stories intertwine well with the narrative moving between the past and the present. There are quite alot if co-incidences in this story, but as Rachel writes strong, intelligent and relatable characters I was willing to overlook this. The air of mystery that pervades the book helps with this. It all feels as though it wil work out the way it is ‘meant to be’. At the same time, although elements of the story are what you might think of as predictable there was certainly enough for me in there that was not. Also when a novel is written with prose that paint’s a picture in your mind then I feel I can be even more forgiving.
I was really rooting for everything to work out for Kate and I enjoyed the fact that her journey wasn’t straight forward. There is a good cast of supporting characters too, and it was of particular note that Kate’s mother-in-law is one of the best and not cast according to stereotype. This time I was more gripped by the story in the present than of that in the past, but Agnes story was truly heart rending in places.
Verdict:Yet again Rachel Hore has produced an intriguing tale spanning two totally different lives and times that still shows how, in so many ways, the issues we face through our lives don’t really change with the passing if time. People still try and sometimes fail, love and sometimes suffer and battle and sometimes give everything to reach their dreams.
Reviewed by Helen