Three generations of women. Three generations worth of secrets. Will a cache of letters from beyond the grave hold the key to unravelling them all? The answer to that question lies at the heart of this addictive and atmospheric novel from the author of The House of Brides.
Growing up, the Anderson sisters could not have been more different. Susie, the wild one, had an adventurous life while Camilla— Mills—followed a safer path. When Susie suddenly dies, Mills falls apart. Until she receives a bundle of mysterious letters from her estranged sister to be read in the case of her death. Each letter instructs her to visit a place special to Susie, both to spread her ashes but also to uncover some truths Susie has long kept hidden from her family.
Their mother Margaret has secrets of her own. When living in Swinging Sixties London, she too made a decision about her life that not only haunts her, but will reverberate through the generations.
One family, three very different women. What choices and secrets connect them? In this novel of truth and lies, concealment and regret, Jane Cockram flips the looking glass to expose our true face, revealing the deep lines of deception that can run through families and how the people we love the most often have the most to hide.
The sumptuous if implausible latest by Australian novelist Cockram (The House of Brides) follows its middle-aged housewife protagonist from Australia to England and an idyllic island off the coast of France on a mission dictated by letters from her late sister. Camilla Anderson's adventurous younger sister Susie dies from a fall while hanging Christmas lights, leaving Camilla a series of letters that were to be read upon her death. The letters recount 19-year-old Susie's trip to Europe in 1998, where she fell in love a couple times before returning unhappily to Australia. Now, Camilla retraces Susie's steps and discovers surprising secrets kept by Susie and their mother, Margaret. It turns out both women held ties to the family of upper-class, reserved David, whom Susie first met at a London museum. The sensual story of Susie's youth on a Mediterranean island, where Camilla is instructed to scatter some of Susie's ashes, is a delectable treat, but the convoluted layers of connections between David's patrician family and Susie's middle-class one strain credulity, as does the narrative device of having Susie, who was not ill or expecting to die, write letters sending her sister on a wild goose chase. The sun-soaked atmosphere has its charm, more so if one doesn't try to make sense of the plot.