Saturday, 3 March 2012

Book Review - All the Secret Things by Sheila Cragg

All the Secret ThingsAll the Secret Things is a story of secrets and lies and how they impact on the life of one young girl in particular. The book starts during World War II with a scene that seems starts out depicting a happy family. However Emily's life is in a state of constant flux during her childhood, first living with parents Veronica and James then, when alcoholic wannabe Veronica leaves, with James and step-mother Rosellen, then moving to live with Veronica and her husband, then back to James and Rosellen and, finding life with step-brother Doug unbearable again, to the home of her best friend. As she gets older her life continues to hit highs and lows, with the greatest trough being the point at which she becomes ill and well-hidden family secrets start revealing themselves.

This book is largely told from Emily's viewpoint with parts narrated by James and her grandmother Naomi. The story is a troubling one and I couldn't imagine how Naomi in particular could let events unfold as they did. While her family repeatedly let her down she was able to find friends who gave her some happiness. At the start I was expecting the focus to be on revealing the truth behind Emily's family history, which did happen eventually, but instead it became a story of how she dealt with all that she had experienced as she became older and a mother herself.

As the viewpoint moved around I found that the narrative voice didn't feel like it had changed, there was no obvious difference between the three despite the range of ages and different sexes. My main criticism would be that other than in small parts (which were much better) it felt like a recital of events as they happened, the old telling rather than showing chestnut. While I would accept that from a young child it didn't fit well as Emily got older or with Naomi and James. As a result I didn't really connect with the characters and although I had a degree of concern for Emily it didn't move me in the way it might have.

Finally there were a few silly typos that jumped out and one particularly obvious plot inconsistency that pulled me out of the book and distracted me. This has the right ingredients for a tear-jerker but didn't quite hit the mark for me.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 2*

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