When Rosie arrives in the lives of Jonas Murrey and his two children, he can have no idea of what is to come. Because for Rosie this isn’t just about landing a new job as a babysitter; it’s an attempt to find herself in ways that will only become clear as the story progresses.
Rosie’s narrative alternates with that of a small child called Muriel who, in the 1950s, is abandoned by her mother and left to the not-so-tender mercies of the children’s home system. The two narratives are linked by a number of themes: identity and belonging; missing parents; race and genetic roots. They weave around and echo each other as the story progresses and the links between the two women and their respective situations are revealed.
As with her previous novel, 'The Ghost Of Lily Painter', Caitlin Davies has also woven in a historical strand based on reality, in this case the true story of the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle. In the novel it is seeing the portrait of Dido, a young black girl living in an aristocratic white family in the 18th Century, which leads Rosie, and Jonas’s young daughter Ella, to research and reflect on some of the issues of race, equality and identity that also feature in their own lives. By doing this the historical thread adds a different facet to the story and shines a brighter light on the central themes.
Full of intrigue and suspense this novel really does keep you guessing what its ultimate outcome will be right until the very end. Along the way it avoids taking the story in obvious directions in favour of more subtle and unexpected outcomes. A mix of compelling family story, exquisite historical detail and layers of mystery, this is a very satisfying novel indeed.
One of this summer’s must reads!
Many thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book.
You can find out more and buy a copy here.
You can find my review of Caitlin’s previous novel, 'The Ghost Of Lily Painter' on Bookersatz.