Wow! Penny Hancock has done it again. When I first started reading this book I wasn't sure about it. I didn't like the main characters and I felt that nothing was happening. But then about 150 pages in I was entranced. The characters became sharper and the intrigue, tension and mystery took hold. If you read this book please persevere the beginning is setting the scene for the exciting and gripping later half.
In this book Mona arrives in London as she has been hired for Theodora to help her with her elderly father who has dementia. Mona is sending money back to her mother and daughter who are desperately poor whilst also searching for her missing husband. In the beginning a lot of time is spent getting to know the characters and their history, but at first I didn't particularly enjoy reading about them. I did feel sorry for Mona but I didn't understand her character. She wasn't as timid as I would have thought and I wasn't sure where her story was going, however the more you discover about her the more I began to admire her strength and dedication to her family. It was the same with Theodora, she irritated me and I found her very self obsessed with her own worth but then when the story gets going the true instability of her mental health comes out and the unpredictability of her actions and her crazy rationalisations are fascinating and thrilling.
The characters in this novel are not straight forward. Mona is trying her best in a harsh world, some of the comments and explorations of poverty in this book made are quite hard hitting. Theodora says that Mona isn't poor because she is stupid but because she is a victim of circumstance and a lack of opportunities that are afforded to most people in this country. With this in mind we are viewing the lengths Mona is forced go to just because she is beholden to Theodora, when it seems that the only difference between them is where they were born. The author cleverly makes this point throughout the book by drawing the parallels between the two women. It highlights the unfairness of the fact that where you are born can largely dictate the direction your life takes. It taps in to the old issues about slavery and those with fortune taking advantage of those without. There is still slavery around today so this will hopefully make more people consider and empathise with this issue. I also liked that as much as I wanted to hate Theodora as the villain of this work, because we are presented with such a rounded description of her life and the way in which the people in her life have shaped her that it was impossible to write her off as evil.
I really am impressed with this author and her ability to come up with such interesting and gripping stories and vivid characters is amazing. They are so well thought out and always so different and unexpected. She is also brilliant at twists! The ending of this book completely threw me and I had to go and read the prologue again!
I recommend this to any fans of Penny Hancock, (if you aren't you should be!) if you like books with a twist in, books that tackle interesting and relevant issues you wouldn't normally read about, books that have flawed but vivid characters.