Saturday 27 February 2021

BLOG TOUR: Old Bones - Helen Kitson

Diana and her sister Antonia are house-sharing spinsters who have never got over their respective first loves. Diana owns a gift shop, but rarely works there. Antonia is unemployed, having lost her teaching job at an all girls’ school following a shocking outburst in the classroom after enduring years of torment. Diana is a regular at the local library, Antonia enjoys her “nice” magazines, and they treat themselves to coffee and cake once a week in the village cafĂ©.

Naomi lives alone, haunted by the failure of her two marriages. She works in the library, doesn’t get on with her younger colleagues, and rarely cooks herself a proper meal. Secretly she longs for a Boden frock.

When a body is discovered in the local quarry, all three women’s lives are turned upside down. And when Diana’s old flame Gill turns up unexpectedly, tensions finally spill over and threaten to destroy the outwardly peaceful lives all three women have carefully constructed around themselves.

Helen takes us back to the fictional Shropshire village of Morevale in this, her brilliant second novel which exposes the fragilities and strengths of three remarkably unremarkable elderly women.

What did I think?

Old Bones is a bit of a change of pace from books I've been reading lately and it's nice to sit back and relax with a good book rather than being perched on the edge of your seat.  I think I'd call this book alluring rather than addictive; it certainly drew me in and caught me in its spell as I untangled the stories of the three main characters.

The title of Old Bones could actually have a double meaning; not only the bones found in the local quarry but the weary sixty year old bones of Diana, Antonia and Naomi.  Although the characters are in their sixties, it certainly doesn't feel like they are that age and I think that has something to do with how you seem to regress to your childhood when you return home.  Spinster siblings Diana and Antonia are living together in the family home and Naomi is someone they have known since childhood, which means that there are old scores to be settled in a kind of schoolyard 'I'm not your friend anymore'.

With such wonderfully complex and completely flawed characters there is a lot to discover about these women, especially some secrets that they would prefer to keep hidden.  Unreliability of memory is explored as memories from childhood are revealed and I always find this a very interesting subject.  Our brains can bury memories that are painful to us and it can also fill in any blanks with the best fit scenario so any distant memory has to have some element of unreliability about it.

I actually felt quite sorry for Diana, Antonia and Naomi as life has not turned out quite the way they expected.  Diana is haunted by a lost love (and don't get me started on Gill whose selfishness infuriated me), Antonia is scarred by a devastating event in her past and Naomi is tortured by a deeply buried secret.  So much mystery and intrigue, and that's without the discovery of the bones!

Old Bones is a wonderfully alluring character driven story filled with mystery, intrigue and buried secrets.  I really enjoyed it and will definitely be looking out for more Helen Kitson books.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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About the author:

Helen lives in Worcester with her husband, two teenaged children and two rescue cats. Her first poetry collection was nominated for the Forward Best First Collection Prize. She has published three other poetry collections and her short fiction has appeared in magazines including Ambit, Feminist Review and Stand. She holds a BA (Hons) in Humanities.
Helen's debut novel The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson was published in March 2019. Her second "Morevale" novel, Old Bones, will be published on 16 January 2021.

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