There are several sub-plots featuring Tilly's friend Erin, her boss Max and his former wife and a hunky teacher at Louisa's school. They add depth to the story without overwhelming the main plot, while reflecting the overall theme of appearances not always reflecting the truth. Ms. Mansell's talent lies in her ability to create quirky, sympathetic and compelling characters about whose fate the reader cares and creating storylines for them that highlight their particular personal journeys. Serving as background, small-town life is portrayed in all its gossipy yet close-knit glory, with just enough physical detail to ground it in reality. I could see the pub, the country lanes and Jack's house in my mind while I read.
Ms. Mansell's accomplished prose strikes just the right balance of narrative and dialogue. North American readers will occasionally encounter British expressions they don't understand, though in general the context makes the meaning clear enough. The story moves along quickly, as Tilly's dilemma deepens and her friends find themselves equally challenged by life's unexpected twists and turns. Are some of the situations in which our heroine finds herself a little far-fetched? Sure! But that's the fun of fiction.
As with other works by Ms. Mansell, I read this one almost compulsively, always reluctant when forced to set it aside to tend to the more mundane aspects of my life. Here's hoping you get to lose yourself in it on a gorgeous sunny day, when you have nothing but time to indulge in a moreish book.
Teresa Basinski Eckford
This review first appeared on my Thoughts from Lady Tess blog on April 28, 2010