What can you do when your life is broken?
You can try and piece it together again.
But for Eliza the only thing that she pieces back together is ceramics. Eliza is a ceramic restorer at the V&A Museum and finds peace in them broken pieces. She carefully reconstructs the past at work and at home with her own ceramics.
But a phone call, from the past means the broken pieces of twenty five years ago eventually have to come out of the box and be repaired for the first and only time.
Through Eliza’s fragile present story Marika Cobbold goes back to the past, where we meet a young Eliza and her friends Portia and Rose. A group of girls who at boarding school are starting to discover the temptations of the adult world, smoking, drinking and boys. Into this world comes a new girl, Sandra/Cassandra – one that was never going to become one of the inner circle not matter how hard she tried and what she did. Her actions were always the wrong ones. The three girls were nasty and the interaction between them and Cassandra was painful to read. It was a reflection of how cruel girls can be.
As the book progresses between Eliza’s present story and Cassandra’s past story we begin to understand how Rose features in their lives even though she tragically died. Rose is always in Eliza’s life and she battles for dominance in it with guilt. Through the kindness of a dying man, Rose’s father, she revisits the place of her childhood, and starts to let go of guilt and starts to rebuild those broken pieces which have been stuck together the wrong way with guilt.
Now they can be restored into something more beautiful which will last a lifetime.
This is a beautiful story and even the humour was handled as well as the tragedy of loss and guilt. Marika Cobbold has created an atmospheric novel where you could feel yourself in Sweden as much as the busy streets of London. The school element of the story was good, it was like reading what really went on at a place where as a child I thought would be fun to be at, (too much Enid Blyton as a child), it made it all that more real for me. A great novel, which cannot be pigeon holed into any particular genre. It is simply an excellent story, well created and crafted.
This is the first Marika Cobbold that I have read. I picked the book up after hearing her speak at the West Meon Festival back in July.
I am off to add more of her books to my ever growing wish list and if she is ever around locally, I will certainly go and listen to her talk again. I could go on much more about the book, because as I reflect back about it I remember so much. The wonderful innocence of Annie, her neighbour’s little girl who perhaps was the one that made Eliza sees things differently, to see a future without guilt. Annie’s wonderful distant mother who despite being in Australia, managed to control Eliza whilst at home and also in Sweden, this was a strong woman who is really only mentioned in passing in the book but has an obvious impact. Then there is Ruth, Eliza’s step sister who comes to Eliza for help and makes it very clear the effect Eliza has had her own life. Ruth’s life is falling apart but Eliza cannot seem to help fix it, she cannot help anyone else unless she first fixes her own life first. And so it goes on. The book is rich like that and which is why it does not fit into a particular genre – I think I am discovering more books like this and enjoying them so much!
I think I may well suggest one of Marika’s books for my book club. And if she ever wants to revisit her naval officer wife roots – I could always hold the meeting at work!