14/06/2015

Postcards from the Past (by Marcia Willett)

I’ve enjoyed Marcia Willett’s books for many years now. She writes gentle, character-based stories that are usually uplifting and sometimes moving. So each time another of her books is published, I put it on my wishlist. I received this one on my birthday over a year ago, and am surprised to find that it’s taken me this long to read it.

‘Postcards from the Past’ is primarily about a retired brother and sister, Ed and Billa, who live in comfort in a pleasant home in Cornwall. The story starts when they receive a disturbing postcard from their step-brother Tris. They disliked him intensely as a child, and have not heard from him in about fifty years.

It’s not until rather later in the book that we discover why Tris has sent this card, and those that follow. In the meantime, we meet Ed and Billa’s half-brother Dom and his goddaughter Tilly who is working for a new computer company. Other characters gradually appear, including some of Tilly’s clients, and I was delighted to realise, part-way through, that some of the people involved were in a novel I enjoyed about eighteen months ago,‘The Christmas Angel’. Clem is now a curate, his son Jakey is seven, and the nuns are well-established in their convent with a retreat centre for which Tilly is setting up a website.

It took me a while to get into this book. Marcia Willett has quite a gift of description, but I’m not a visual person and it leaves me a bit cold. I get into books through the people, not the places, so I found myself skimming a little, wondering where the story would go and who would turn out to be the most significant people.

But gradually, as with others by this author, I found myself feeling more and more involved. Tilly is a very likeable young woman, and the older folk are also pleasant and believable. There’s a minor sense of suspense as Billa ponders the meaning of the postcards (and the reader is aware of Tris skulking around before they know he’s arrived in the neighbourhood) but there are so many other subplots that I kept forgetting about him.

I didn’t find Tris’s part of the story very believable. I suspect that Marcia Willett is a nice person who sees the best in everyone, and thus it’s difficult for her to make a truly unpleasant character. Indeed, although there are descriptions of nasty incidents in the past, making it quite clear why Billa and Ed disliked him so much, he comes across as an unhappy victim of terrible circumstances rather than a truly bad man. I don’t mind - I much prefer likeable characters - but the climax of the book felt a bit forced.

Still, I enjoyed it on the whole, and would certainly recommend it to anyone who has read ‘The Christmas Angel’ and would like to know a little more about what happens to the situation and people. Marcia Willett’s books are always free of bad language and anything that would be rated more than PG, although it’s not a story for children. But I will have no problem lending it to teenage friends.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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