The subtitle reads "A village, a secret, a woman hiding from her past", and naturally, the past the woman is trying to hide from eventually catches up with her. That is the story in this book by Sarah Challis in a nutshell.
There are, of course, more things happening, some rather dramatic, especially in the last quarter of the book, which make for an unexpected bit of suspense, but (almost) everything turns out well in the end.
What I like about the book is that it follows the main character for an entire year, which in a typical English village is marked by the changeing of the seasons visibly in the countryside, in farmer's endless activities and in village life itself with its events and festivities.
The writing is good without being truly remarkable, and I have found only a few errors; for instance, there is a character named Julia who on one page suddenly is "Julie", and there are a few "thans" that should correctly be "thens". Some editing should have been done on sentences like this one on page 8:
The pile of circulars and junk mail had been neatly stacked in a pile inside the front door...
Now, had I written anything like that in an essay at school, my teacher would have underlined the two "piles" and remarked "repetition!". Why not put "The heap of circulars and junk mail had been neatly stacked in a pile"?
Here are some bits I particularly liked and want to share with you because I do agree with them:
With a genuine pang of guilt Julia realised that she had never asked Lila how he [meaning her brother] was, or indeed telephoned Claudia to say how sorry she was. Glancing at her watch she decided she would do so when her guests had gone. Really, she could be an altogether nicer person if there were more hours in the day.
Don't you sometimes find yourself in a similar situation? So many people to talk to, personally or on the phone, write to and keep in touch with - you really want to, but another day or week or month goes by and you still have not sent that card or made that phone call.
This bit about village life strikes me as well-observed:
"Once the press have gone away, everything can get back to normal... half the people in this village won't ever know. Things are different these days. People move in and out and no one even gets to know their names. Both adults out at work, just coming and going, morning and evening, shopping at the supermarkets in towns, not drinking in the pub, not churchgoers. Think round the village. There are as many people like that as there are of the old sort."
The main character has two grown-up children, Jerome and Lila. Lila lives in New York and Jerome has spent a long time in India, so the siblings do not see each other often. One evening they talk on the phone, and the call ends on what I found a rather unrealistic note:
"Just a minute, Jerome. There's something I want to tell you"."Lila, it'll have to wait. I must go and find Finn [a dog]. Speak to you soon. Bye."
Now, if you were on the phone to anyone, and they said "there's something I want to tell you", you wouldn't just ring off, would you? Maybe you would let the other person know that you didn't have much time for some reason or other, and they would make it short, but you wouldn't just hang up on them, would you? And even less so if the person on the other end was your sister who you had not seen in a long time. Ah well, nobody is perfect, so I should not expect it from an author :-)
Altogether, the book made a pleasant, relaxing read, even with a lot of the events being neither pleasant nor relaxing. It was just right for the evenings to unwind after a mentally challenging day at work.