A Place for Us
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 6/2/2015
My Rating: 3 Stars
From international bestselling author Harriet Evans, an engrossing new novel about a woman who, on the eve of her eightieth birthday, decides to reveal a secret that may destroy her perfect family. The day Martha Winter decided to tear apart her family began like any other day.
When Martha, a wife and mother of three, sits down one late summer’s morning to write out the invitations to her eightieth birthday celebration, she knows that what she is planning to reveal at the party could ruin the idyllic life she and her husband David have spent over fifty years building…But she has to let her family know what she and David have sacrificed. She can’t live a lie any more.
The invitation goes out far and wide, calling her three children and their families back home to Winterfold, their rambling house in the heart of the English countryside. They are Bill, the doctor; Florence, the eccentric academic; and Daisy, the child who never fit in. As the story unfolds, each character reveals the secrets, joys, and tragedies they are wrestling with through the confines of the family. What will happen when Martha finally tells the truth?
A special thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Great cover, a huge draw! Harriet Evans delivers a suspenseful and complex family drama of deep troubled dark secrets, with the A PLACE FOR US. A woman on the eve of her eightieth birthday chooses to reveal secrets, that may destroy her family. From 1948 to the present, starting out in August, 2012, Martha Winters is approaching eighty years old and she realizes she cannot put off the inevitable. She has to come clean with her family. What has prompted her to now tell the truth after all these years? The beautiful exterior of the home definitely does not match the chaos of the interior family members. Mother of three, and wife of David for over fifty years, they had not always had money. But she has to let her family know what she and David have sacrificed. She can’t live a lie any more. She had forgotten nothing, nothing that had happened before or afterward. The secrets every family acquires, some small-little indiscretions, tiny jokes. Some big, too big for her to bear anymore. They both were from gray worlds and suddenly there was art, and music and poetry and things she had never experienced. Bill, (doctor) Daisy (the one who never fit in), Florence (eccentric academic). Martha told herself she loved all her children equally, but in the secret part of herself she had a little rhyme. Bill was her first baby, Daisy her first girl, and Florence was like David. She found is terrifying that someone may look into her heart and see what she had done. But the time for secrets was over. It was coming. It was all coming to her and soon would come out. A time bomb waiting to go off. After she comes clean, would anyone come to Winterfold any longer? The invitations have gone out requesting the families to return to their English countryside. All will come down on Nov 24th. David, an illustrator, was the creator of Wilbur the Dog and Daisy, the little girl who thought she understood him. Every home had Wilbur tea towel, pencil case, book of cartoon strips. But back then Wilbur was in the future and the Winters had nothing much, except each other. Only Martha and David knew what they’d gone through to get to the moment when they stood on the lawn that hot day in 1967 and decided they’d buy Winterfold. As the book progresses we hear from a variety of characters, alternating between each of the family members. There are many members of this family saga, and they each have their own dramas. If you are patient and enjoy an even slower pace to learn the background of each character, you will enjoy the secrets as they unfold. Bill is struggling with problems in his second marriage and feels inferior around his younger wife, Karen with his older daughter Lucy. Florence, the baby, a professor of art history, has been overlooked both professionally and personally, lives in Florence. Daisy, the middle child, has been out of pocket in India, a charity worker raising money for schools who has not been home in years with a daughter Cat who lives in Paris whom they raised after Daisy left. David also wants the truth told before he dies, as it may be close. We also hear from Joe, the caterer and chef. We do not hear from Martha again until almost fifty percent through the book, and I was dying to hear her story, since this is her party. I will have to agree with some of the other reviewers, a little too slow for me as why the 3 star rating. Like I am rushing to get to the secret, and then it happens. I would have enjoyed more from David and Martha (found their past very intriguing) and less from the drama filled children; however, realize all parts are an integral component to the plot. However, I was not completely emotionally connected to the characters, as they all seemed at arm’s length. Possibly due to the multiple characters, layering, and dysfunction, not sure I can pinpoint one thing. Evans does take her time introducing each character, and we travel back and forth in time to blend the storylines The book is broken down into Parts and we hear from almost each child and spouses, and children in each, so a lot of back and forth and time periods. Part One: The Invitation (introduction) Part Two: The Party (cliff hanger) Part Three: The Past and the Present (more from each member of the family and their part) Park Four: The End and the Beginning (Summary of why Winterfold was so important to this couple) And Epilogue A Place for Us is my first book by Evans. I almost felt exhausted when completing. I have felt similar when attempting to read Maeve Binchy and Jan Karon's books, as almost like work, taking away the pleasure, as not a big fan of this style. I do however, enjoy a good secret reveal especially from an older parent, keeping quiet until towards the end of their life. Making me always wonder what my parents are holding back, now that they are in their mid- eighties.