I know some people don't, but I like books with child narrators. I think it is a test of an author, because it is not easy to do well. I think Joanna manages pretty well and she captures the naivety and also vulnerability of Grace beautifully. Here she overhears her parents:
"My mother's voice continued to cut through the floorboards. The words were splintered and incomplete, which somehow made it worse. If I could hear what was being said, I might be able to find a pocket of reassurance, because I knew my mother was sometimes perfectly capable of embroidering a whole evening of arguing out of absolutely nothing at all. I wanted this to be one of those times, and so I held my breath and tried to make sense of the pieces, but they struck the ceiling like gravel." (p.156)
And then on the next page, this lovely portrait of people coping with the weather and then of Mrs Morton who regularly looks after Grace while her mother is 'having a lie down':
"July had found its fiercest day. The sky was ironed into an acid blue, and even the clouds had fallen from the edges, leaving a faultless page of summer above our heads. Even so, there were still those who nurtured mistrust. We walked past cardigans draped across elbows and raincoats bundled into shopping bags, and one woman who carried an umbrella wedged into her armpit, like artillery. It seemed that people couldn't quite let go of the weather, and felt the need to carry every form of it around with them, at all times, for safekeeping.
Mrs Morton managed to speak to everyone she met without ever stopping. My mother would pause in shop doorways and at the edge of pavements, until the carrier bags ate into her fingers and my feet scraped impatience on the concrete, but Mrs Morton seemed to be able to have a conversation as she walked, giving out small samples of herself to everyone without ever being anchored by their questions. She did however pause outside Woolworth's to stare at a stack of deckchairs propped on the pavement near the doorway. Tilly and I pointed to things in baskets that we felt we needed - lawn darts and Stylophones and badminton rackets wrapped in cellophane. There were even towers of buckets and spades, and a chimney of sandcastle moulds, which reached all the way up to Tilly's chin. The nearest beach was fifty miles away." (p.157)
It's a story with much unsaid, people's prejudices couched in euphemisms, even the solution to the mystery is only implied, but it is all neatly tied up with the coming of the rain, and nobody dies. Safe and unchallenging, but a satisfying read.
Yesterday Julie invited me to use her bring-a-friend-for-free ticket and we wandered the garden at Dunham Massey for an hour in the lovely September sunshine, admiring the trees and sniffing the late blooms in the rose garden.
Stay safe. Be kind. Have a rest from the taxing stuff occasionally.