This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
By Kay Brooks
Klara believed she had come to terms with her mother’s mysterious disappearance which happened when she was just a child. Her memories are made up from vague recollections of scents and sounds, plus the stories of a fairytale romance that her father has told her they experienced when they were much younger. He has painted a picture of a glamorous, ambitious woman who spent much of her time working away on modelling shoots. Then a letters arrives from someone who calls themselves ‘N. R,’ leading her to a storage room, full of clues about her mother’s true history. Klara’s world is turned upside down as she is forced to accept that the past she has been told about may not be an accurate account. The diary that her mother wrote as a teenager and young woman does not match with the stories she has been told. Klara embarks on a mission to sift through the past to find the truth of what happened to her mother.
After reading the blurb, I could not wait to wrap myself up in the mystery and actively use the clues to discover the truth along with Klara. Unfortunately, the novel is slow to start and I struggled to engage with the characters of Klara and her husband, Mark, finding them both quite boring. Their friends, Beth and Steve, featured quite early on and there were hints of an interesting relationship, but they disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.
Klara makes a few early discoveries that are intriguing but then the reflection over what they might mean is long-winded and repetitive. I was informed over and over again that her ‘daddy’ did not like to talk about her ‘mummy’s’ disappearance. At first, I thought the choice of address was her way of talking about her experiences as a child, but it became apparent that this was how she still referred to her parents, which seemed odd for a woman in her thirties.
As the novel develops, the character of her mother, Sadie, comes more to the forefront. Her diaries were the highlight for me, revealing gradually that she is an unreliable source, even when speaking about herself. She is full of hope for the future and fascinating contradictions. It was at this point in the novel that I became interested. I like the way Ruston does not give everything away at once, instead having different characters from Sadie’s past come forwards with conflicting stories, making me wonder whether I would ever truly know the whole truth about Sadie. The reader has to work if they are to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Description within the novel became much more atmospheric, offering an insight into the darker side of modelling in the 1970s and the people who took advantage of the naivety of young girls looking for a place in the world. Summarising the characters in a few words shows that they are at risk of becoming clichés but this was not the case. Those that have played a major part in Sadie’s life proved to be rounded and believable.
Although I have mentioned a few negative aspects of the novel, I did enjoy the read and, once I had been hooked by the mystery, raced with gusto towards the end. I had formed lots of theories before reaching the satisfying conclusion, none of which were correct. Ruston’s twists (there are more than one!) were exciting and revealed the last few fragments of Sadie. I only wish that I could have had as much enthusiasm for Klara.
A winding mystery that successfully spans decades!