Rest Upon the Wind by Gill Twissell
|Rest Upon the Wind by Gill Twissell|
|Genre: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Fairhead|
|Summary: Sophie's discovery of some old letters leads into a lengthy diversion to the early 20th century, and the life of her great-grandmother Emily, who died the day she was born.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 312||Date: January 2007|
The novel opens in 2004. Sophie and her mother are beginning the sad task of sorting out Sophie's recently deceased grandmother's house. Sophie takes on the attic, home to many ancient and long-forgotten ornaments, some first edition books, and a box with some old love letters. She knows very little of her family history, and wonders who Emily might have been...
Immediately we're taken back a hundred years, to meet Emily as a small child. She is the youngest of a large family, and almost inseparable from her brother Charles. This part of the book is written in the first person from Emily's perspective, and other than one brief return to 2004, the main part of the novel focuses on Emily's life from childhood through to old age. She lives through both the World Wars, losing loved ones each time, and suffering other losses, despite living on a farm well away from air raids and poverty.
It's a pleasant enough read. Surroundings are described without too much heavy detail, characters are believable, and there's a reasonable amount going on within the extended family. The characterisation isn't particularly deep, but I felt I could empathise with Emily; being written from her point of view helped, and her interests were similar to mine. I didn't feel anything for anyone else, however.
There were inevitably a large number of people - her five siblings, most of whom married and had children, in addition to family servants and friends - and I frequently found myself forgetting who was whom. It didn't matter terribly much, and I can quite see that a large family tree at the beginning would have spoiled some of the subplots, but it did make me feel rather removed from the storyline at times.
I also felt that the book was a bit rushed. It's only three hundred pages, covering a longer period of time than a typical six hundred page saga novel. It read, at times, more like an autobiography than a work of fiction. Perhaps that was the intent - the author is, apparently, very interested in family history and has done considerable research into her own ancestors. But I'd have liked a slower pace, more human interest and conversations, and a chance to get to know some of the minor characters a bit better.
In the last few chapters we're returned to 2004, when Sophie finds Emily's diary, and pieces together various clues to work out what happened in her life. She feels very close to her great-grandmother, who died the day she was born. Sophie thinks about her own past, and some unhappy circumstances that somewhat mirror Emily's - and the book ends hopefully as she looks towards the future. Unfortunately, this revolves around two rather unlikely coincidences, and they're not the first - there's another towards the end of Emily's section of the book. None of them is unexpected; indeed, I was rather hoping that the one towards the end of the book would happen, to tie the story together into a good conclusion. But I didn't feel quite comfortable with them.
So whereas I nearly gave the book four stars, I have to knock off another half for all those coincidences, which really didn't fit with the mostly factual and historical style of the novel. Don't let that stop you reading the book, however; on the whole it was a very pleasant light read.
Thanks to the author for sending the book.
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