Delighted to be one of the blogs kicking off the blog tour today for What’s Left Unsaid by Deborah Stone. My thanks to Kelly from Love Books Group Tours for the invitation to take part and to the publisher and author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
“Sasha is just about managing to hold her life together. She is raising her teenage son Zac, coping with an absent husband and caring for her ageing, temperamental and alcoholic mother, as well as holding down her own job. But when Zac begins to suspect that he has a secret sibling, Sasha realises that she must relive the events of a devastating night which she has done her best to forget for the past nineteen years.
Sasha’s mother, Annie, is old and finds it difficult to distinguish between past and present and between truth and lies. As Annie sinks deeper back into her past, she revisits the key events in her life which have shaped her emotionally. Through it all, she remains convinced that her dead husband Joe is watching and waiting for her. But there’s one thing she never told him, and as painful as it is for her to admit the truth, Annie is determined to go to Joe with a guilt-free conscience.
As the plot unfurls, traumas are revealed and lies uncovered, revealing long-buried secrets which are at the root of Annie and Sasha’s fractious relationship.”
This is going to be a difficult book for me to review today as I have really mixed feelings about it and I am still not sure that my final opinion has been fully formed yet but I’ll give you my current thoughts and that will maybe help you decide if this is a book that will appeal to you or not.
The book is the story of three generations of a family with a complicated history and buried secrets which cause havoc when finally revealed. Everyone in the book is hiding something, and this lack of openness between the family members causes a lot of tension and heartbreak that ripples down through the generations with far-reaching effects. On the basis of this summary and the synopsis, this should have been a book that was right up my street as I adore a character-led, emotional drama.
The book is told through the voices of three characters. The main narrators are Sasha and her mother, Annie. Sasha is struggling in a marriage that has lost its warmth and closeness, and her son, Zac, has hit those difficult late teen years where he is rebelling slightly and his father is an absent authority figure, so Sasha has a lot on her plate. She has never been close to her mother, Annie, for reasons that Sasha cannot fathom but they are forced together more and more as Annie’s mind and health fails in old age, which leads to particular tensions. The third narrator is Joe, Annie’s deceased husband who interjects in the story with his own perspective. I really enjoyed the style of narration as each character reveals a different view of the story, with clues to the hidden secrets and pains dropped throughout the book and we can see inside their individual motivations. It is a really effective way to tell the story.
The plot itself is very interesting and, again, would be something that would ordinarily appealing and engrossing to me. We are taken back to the war years when Annie was evacuated from Manchester to rural Wales and we are made privy to events that took place then which shaped her outlook and attitude in the future. Joe’s history goes back even further as his family escaped from Russia at the end of the nineteenth century into extreme poverty in Manchester until they pulled themselves up by dint of hard work, and this family history was fascinating. The scene where he, as a Jew, is confronted by the rise of fascism in 1930’s Manchester is compelling and chilling and the kind of historical colour that will always draw me to a book and I think many people will enjoy the book for this reason.
The main issue I had, and the reason the book failed to grab me and move me as I thought it would, were the characters. I just did not engage with them, which is always the seal of doom on a book for me. Sasha should have been someone I could sympathise with, being a single parent myself, but for some reason I did not and I can’t really explain why. She just didn’t move me. I struggled even more with Annie. I felt nothing but animosity for her throughout, even when the torments she had suffered were revealed, I felt very little sympathy and could not accept that this provided enough of an excuse for her behaviour. Even when it came to the final reveal, which I had already suspected earlier on, I still could not excuse her, there just wasn’t enough warm mixed with the vinegar to make her sympathetic early on. Oddly, the only person I really warmed to was Joe, who seemed like a decent, determined and very human character.
I had another issue with the book which I can’t really say much about without giving away a major plot point but it relates to one character’s reaction to something that happened to her not really ringing true to me, as someone who something similar has happened to, but that is obviously a very personal reaction to the book that other people without the same experience are unlikely to have. This may very well be at the root of my ambivalence about the book, it is hard to know what makes one person love a book and another be lukewarm about it. For this reason, I would say that this is a book you need to pick and read for yourself to decide. I am very sure that other people will love it and be very moved by it. The book is well-written and plotted and has an interesting story and themes of family, trauma, lack of communication and the power of forgiveness that are appealing. I wish I’d loved it but, on this occasion, it just did not take an emotional hold on me personally.
What’s Left Unsaid is out now and you can buy a copy Here.
Please follow the rest of the tour by following the blog links below:
About the Author
Deborah Stone read English Literature at Durham University. She lives in North London with her husband, two sons and her dog.
Connect with Deborah:
Facebook: Deborah Stone
Goodreads: Deborah Stone