I met Nikola Scott at the Headline Blogger Night in February, and I was delighted when Becky Hunter offered to send me a copy of her debut novel, My Mother’s Shadow, to review.
Addie thinks she knows everything about her mother. But when a stranger appears claiming to be her sister, she realises that her life so far has been a lie. But why?
Hartland House has always been a faithful keeper of secrets…
1958. Sent to beautiful Hartland to be sheltered from her mother’s illness, Liz spends the summer with the wealthy Shaw family. They treat Liz as one of their own, but their influence could be dangerous…
Now. Addie believes she knows everything about her mother Elizabeth and their difficult relationship until her recent death. When a stranger appears claiming to be Addie’s sister, she is stunned. Is everything she’s been told about her early life a lie?
How can you find the truth about the past if the one person who could tell you is gone? Addie must go back to that golden summer her mother never spoke of…and the one night that changed a young girl’s life for ever.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot for My Mother’s Shadow, as I think that the above synopsis gives sufficient detail without giving too much away. Whilst the idea of a stranger turning up unannounced and claiming some form of kinship isn’t entirely new, I found that Scott’s spin on this was refreshing and a little different in the how and why to other similar books. The story unfolds slowly, and is told from the dual perspectives of Addie in the present day with flashbacks from Elizabeth’s diary from the late 50s when she was in her late teens. In this way, the reader always knows a little more than Addie, although there are a few little twists towards the end of the novel which prevent it from being predictable, and I thought that the plotting and eventual outcome was incredibly well done, with all of those little questions neatly answered by the end.
I have to admit that it did take me a little while to warm to the characters. I constantly wanted to tell Addie to stand up for herself, and while she’s nice, her being bullied into something or other by those around her got a little tiresome. However, once I had progressed a little further into the novel, I did find myself warming to Addie as I came to understand her more, and I loved it when she (finally!) stood up to her sister, Venetia, who is a demanding and pretentious human being. Then there’s Elizabeth, who we see as a young woman through the diary extracts, but only through the eyes of others in the present day. My opinion of Elizabeth was also one that I had to adjust as the story and her circumstances became clearer, and I think that the only person I had judged correctly was Venetia.
This is a beautifully written novel! I adored the opening paragraph (and I’m hoping that Headline will forgive me for quoting from a proof copy here!), but I had to share this with you:
There are many things this house has seen and secrets it has heard, whispered things in the night that drift on the breeze and curl around chimneys and slate-covered gables, mullioned windows and white pebbled paths, wind their way through roses and rhododendrons and the trees of old Hartland Orchard. Loves found and lost, the pain of unexpected death and the deliciousness of forbidden trysts. Midnight tears and laughter in summer nights, all the dreams to be dreamed and all the worlds to be found. The house has kept them, without question, without judgement, preserving them in the shadows of its walls.
I found this passage, and many others, to be absolutely captivating.
My Mother’s Shadow is an intriguing tale, and if I found it a little slow to start, the pace soon picked up once the scene had been set. The tale is a compelling one, and I wanted to know the how and the why. I had multiple questions around the story and I did wonder at times how it would all come together. I won’t share that with you, of course, but it does all come together brilliantly by the end.
My Mother’s Shadow is available to buy now on Kindle, and will be published in paperback on 21 September. Many thanks to Becky Hunter at Headline for the proof.