17/06/2007

Rest upon the Wind (by Gill Twissell)

"Rest upon the Wind" by Gill Twissell is one of the increasingly popular styles of novel where present day characters have strong links with ancestors in the past, and their stories combine.

It opens in 2004. Sophie and her mother sorting out Sophie's recently deceased grandmother's house. Sophie takes on the attic, and finds a box with some old love letters. She knows very little of her family history, and wonders who Emily might have been...

Immediately we're taken back a hundred years, to meet Emily as a small child, the youngest of a large family. This part of the book is written in the first person from Emily's perspective; the main part of the novel focuses on Emily's life from childhood through to old age. She lives through both the World Wars, losing loved ones, and suffering other losses.

It's a pleasant enough read. The characterisation isn't particularly deep, but I felt I could empathise with Emily. I didn't feel anything for anyone else, however. There were a large number of people - her siblings, most of whom married and had children, in addition to family servants and friends - and I frequently found myself forgetting who was whom. It didn't matter terribly much, but it did make me feel rather removed from the storyline at times.

I also felt that the book was a bit rushed. It's only three hundred pages, and read, at times, more like an autobiography than a work of fiction. Perhaps that was the intent - the author is,
apparently, very interested in family history. But I'd have liked a slower pace, more human interest and conversations, and a chance to get to know some of the other characters a bit better.

In the last few chapters we're returned to 2004, when Sophie finds Emily's diary, and pieces together various clues to work out what happened in her life. There are rather too many coincidences for my liking - although some of them tied up some loose ends to the story - but overall it's an enjoyable light read. Recommended.

(Longer review is now up at The Bookbag site)

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