Will has recently been made redundant so he’s taking care of the farm and family while his wife commutes abroad to work for the mother she’s never got on with. There’s not much demand for history of art graduates and job hunting isn’t going well. So when Will finds an untitled book on his doorstep, he’s more than happy to let it distract it from what he should be doing. It’s a mysterious manuscript, presenting him with snippets from the lives of various people – Angelica, Sabina, the inappropriately named Clemence (he’s a boy), Helen, Louise and Mangikas – at key moments in their lives. These are their most powerful memories. They give Will fascinating insights into these memorable characters, but gradually he begins to see that their lives are connected to each other.
But what has all this got to do with him? Why has this book ended up on his doorstep? Did his wife, Sarah, write it? The mysteries in his life only deepen when he’s invited to what has to be the most bizarre interview he – and possibly anyone else – has ever had. And increasingly he finds himself drawn ever more deeply into the pages of the book. It’s almost as though a web is closing around him.
This is a fantastically imaginative novel from debut author Jessica Stritch. She has taken this idea of us each having our seven minutes of crucial memories, which is intriguing itself, and turned it into a fast paced, absorbing, highly original story. Every aspect of her writing is sharp and honed, but her strength undeniably lies in her creation of characters. She gives us people from not only different walks of life, but also of different nationalities and at various ages. Whether interacting with others, or wrestling with their own beliefs, they are persuasive and empathetic. Given the diversity of the people we meet in the book, the settings vary from sunny Greek beaches to a car race track to boarding school to wartime Germany, to give a few examples. Like Will, the reader can’t help but be drawn into their lives. There’s an unexpected but welcome twist as the novel reaches its climax making this a rewarding and very polished piece of fiction indeed.
You can buy the book here at Amazon.com and at all Amazon branches.