Eva is just about coping after the death of her much older, national treasure husband. She was sure the compromises of their relationship were worth it while he was alive – but now he’s gone, she’s not so sure, especially now she’s being forced to read his diaries. Four-year-old Nancy used to talk all the time. Then her parents split up and her voice disappeared. When Nancy’s dad Patrick volunteers his sister Eva’s house for his weekend custody visits, the two are thrown together – the little girl who can’t speak and her aunt who is working out what she wants in life and whether she can still get it.
The narrative in All I Ever Wanted is split between Nancy’s mum Caitlin and Eva, both of whom have their faults but feel more real for that. I found Caitlin a little difficult to empathise with at times, because I could see her making stupid decisions and couldn’t stop her, and I had moments where I wanted to give Eva a prod to get herself out and about a bit more. But the most frustrating was Patrick, who I wanted to slap at various points – for his bossy ways and for not having been there more for his sister when her husband died. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book – in fact I could barely put it down. I was reading it on the train to work and it was torture having to stop reading when I arrived at my station and then to have to do a whole day’s work before I could find out what happened next!
This is a wonderful winter book – perfect for curling up on the sofa with, preferably in front of a roaring fire to keep you warm while it’s cold outside. And the book will do the same for you – it will warm your insides as you watch damaged people heal and find a way forward and fractured relationships reshape themselves into something new.
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