As She Left It by Catriona McPherson is a novel about the secrets of childhood set in a Leeds council estate.
Untangling the shame and sorrow on Mote Street
At the age of twelve, Opal Jones escaped her mother’s endless drinking and her life in Leeds, England. Returning to the small cottage on Mote Street after her mum’s death is like going back in time. Nosey Mrs. Pickess is still polishing her windows to a sparkle (the better to spy) and Fishbo, Opal’s ancient music teacher, is still playing trumpet. Then, Opal learns about a tragedy the neighborhood has never recovered from: the disappearance of three-year-old Craig Southgate. The sweet, red-haired child Opal once knew was kidnapped — and never seen again.
At first, unraveling the decade-old mystery is a fine distraction from Opal’s own ugly past. But teasing out her neighbors’ dark secrets begins dredging up uncomfortable memories of her own childhood – and a growing suspicion about little Craig’s fate.
This is an astonishing work of fiction.
It’s so good it’s almost impossible to talk about it without reverting to advertising-type nonsense. Spellbinding, disturbing, emotionall devastating. There, that’s my urges in that direction dealt with.
It’s the prose that really gets you. It is perfect for the book – imaginative and descriptive, using the language that the main character would have available to use. Good prose is very difficult to talk about – it can be tricky to describe exactly why it had the effect it did, because it is so perfect for the story that you barely notice the spell its weaving.
I believed utterly in the world. The grim council estates of Leeds felt familiar enough to the grim council estate I grew up in to believe it utterly. The lagnuage the characters used was spot-on, and the way McPherson wrote around the secrets and tragedies clearly showed that she knows her craft.
The plot does rely a little over-much on coincidence to help the main character along- a number of useful things just happen around her and it almost destroys the suspension of disbelief you’ve got going on. But that’s a minor flaw in a book I found so engrossing I read it in one sitting.
another 5, people.
Provided free by Midnight Ink through NetGalley.
- Throw Off the Genre Chains (heydeadguy.typepad.com)