Today sees the new eBook launch of The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith, with the paperback publication to follow on 9 August. I was lucky enough enough the take part in the blog tour for the original publication of this novel last year, and I’m sharing my review again to celebrate the new launch and that lovely new cover!
Ravine and Marianne were best friends. They practised handstands together, raced slugs, and looked up at the stars and imagined their own constellations. And then, one day, Marianne disappeared.
Ten years later, Ravine lies in a bed in her mother’s council flat, plagued by chronic pain syndrome, writing down the things she remembers. As her words fill page after page, she begins to understand that the only way to conquer her pain is to confront the horrors of her past.
The Things We Thought We Knew is set in the present day with flashbacks to Ravine’s childhood as she writes down what she remembers from ten years earlier. For me, the flashbacks were the best part of the novel. I loved hearing about the antics that Ravine, Marianne, and Marianne’s brother, Jonathan, got up to, and found much that was familiar about it from my own childhood. Both Ravine and Marianne came from single-parent households, but while Ravine’s “Amma” (the Bengali word for mother) was ever present, Marianne’s mother was often drunk if she was there at all, and didn’t seem to take care of her children the way you might hope.
It’s clear from the beginning that something significant happened, and that since then, Ravine has lived with chronic pain syndrome, unable to do much of what the most of us take for granted, and that she has not seen or heard from Marianne since. The reveal as to what happens comes quite late on in the novel, and, to me, wasn’t entirely surprising. That said, this is definitely a book in which the journey is as important as the destination, and I don’t think that it’s meant to come as a big shock to the reader.
The Things We Thought We Knew is a coming of age story, and to me is one of the more relatable examples of this type of novel. Snaith has managed the difficult trick of creating characters that are the completely see them on the street everyday kind of normal that you don’t always find in novels. These are real people, with real troubles, and there are tears and tantrums and laughter and forgiveness and the whole spectrum of human emotions presented here.
Whilst the novel is told from Ravine’s perspective, it’s her mother that I liked best. Referred to only as Amma throughout, I loved her determination to be herself and to not adhere to traditional customs, particularly those that say a woman should act in a certain way. She’s vibrant and sassy and independent, and whilst she plays a relatively minor role in the novel, she adds a lot of warmth to it.
The Things We Thought We Knew is an incredibly well written debut, and to me the voices of the young Ravine and Marianna reminded me a little of Grace and Tilly in Joanna Cannon’s The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. I can’t wait to see how Snaith follows this up.