Publisher: Louise Walters Books
Available in ebook and paperback (18 January 2021)
Source: Own copy
ABOUT THE BOOK
Diana and her sister Antonia are house-sharing spinsters who have never got over their respective first loves. Diana owns a gift shop, but rarely works there. Antonia is unemployed, having lost her teaching job at an all girls’ school following a shocking outburst in the classroom after enduring years of torment. Diana is a regular at the local library, Antonia enjoys her “nice” magazines, and they treat themselves to coffee and cake once a week in the village café.
Naomi lives alone, haunted by the failure of her two marriages. She works in the library, doesn’t get on with her younger colleagues, and rarely cooks herself a proper meal. Secretly she longs for a Boden frock.
When a body is discovered in the local quarry, all three women’s lives are turned upside down. And when Diana’s old flame Gill turns up unexpectedly, tensions finally spill over and threaten to destroy the outwardly peaceful lives all three women have carefully constructed around themselves.
Helen takes us back to the fictional Shropshire village of Morevale in this, her brilliant second novel which exposes the fragilities and strengths of three remarkably unremarkable elderly women.
My thanks to Emma of damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to take part. I had already received a copy of the book from Louise Walters as part of my supporter subscription and this was the ideal opportunity to read it for the tour.
The discovery of human bones in an abandoned quarry in the Shropshire village of Morevale is the catalyst for events affecting the mundane lives of three women.
Spinster sisters Diana and Antonia Littlehales live together, Diana at 63 being slightly older has a difficult relationship with Antonia who she often seems to resent having to live with. Diana looked after their mother for many years until her death and had looked forward to spending the rest of her life as she pleased, but instead Antonia landed on her doorstep, having left her teaching job under a cloud and now they are stuck with each other. However despite their petty bickering, it seems they cannot either live with or without each other.
“Over the years I’ve done my best to make allowances for my sister. If she had only apologised about the doll and many other similar but more significant incidents I might have forgiven her. Most of the time I keep the lid on my still-simmering rage, but I can only continue to do that by treating Antonia as a halfwit, someone to be pitied”.
Librarian Naomi Wilkinson is of a similar age and lives with the memories of her two failed marriages; the humiliation of the first and the anger of the second still haunts her. She is rather a prickly character, not easy to befriend and keeps to herself however the discovery of the remains brings memories to the surface which she would rather stay buried.
Told by Diana in the first person and by Antonia and Naomi in the third, all three women reflect on what their lives could have been and missed opportunities. There are deep rooted memories of jealousy and betrayal from past acts and one of them is forced to consider the possibility that her own precious memory of events may not be accurate.
I don’t know that any of the three were particularly likeable; Diana was often sharp and acerbic, Antonia could be spiteful as well a dreadful meddler and despite her age flirted like a silly young girl around the new young vicar. Naomi whilst lonely, was often blunt to the point of rudeness, even when people were trying to be friendly. Nevertheless, their characters were compelling and authentic and I really cared what happened to these women with their complex histories and personalities.
Old Bones has a gentle pace and is a poignant and thoughtful story with a mystery in the background; where characters hide behind regrets, distorted memories and secrets. It’s written with a light touch and it’s very easy to become engrossed. The only thing that I would take issue with is the inclusion of the word ‘elderly’ in the book’s description. As someone in their late fifties, the characters are not that much ahead of me in terms of age and I certainly don’t consider anyone in their early 60s to be elderly.
A recommended read.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen lives in Worcester with her husband, two teenaged children and two rescue cats. Her first poetry collection was nominated for the Forward Best First Collection Prize. She has published three other poetry collections and her short fiction has appeared in magazines including Ambit, Feminist Review and Stand. She holds a BA (Hons) in Humanities.
Helen’s debut novel The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson was published in March 2019. Her second “Morevale” novel, Old Bones, will be published on 16 January 2021.