When the paperback version of Susanna Bavin’s debut, The Deserter’s Daughter, arrived in the post I Tweeted this photo with the caption: “That’s my weekend reading sorted.”
In reality, I turned the first page on Friday night and the next thing I knew it was 24 hours later and I was breathing a happy sigh as I closed the book. It is THAT GOOD.
I’m sure I didn’t sit reading the whole time – there is a four-year-old in the house, after all – but Mark did comment, ‘Is that book attached to your hand?’.
I wanted it to be. I fell asleep (way after my bedtime) worrying about the lead character, Carrie, and I woke up desperate to see where the story would lead her. Where it would lead all of them, really.
Here’s the blurb:
1920, Chorlton, Manchester. As her wedding day draws near, Carrie Jenkins is trying on her dress and eagerly anticipating becoming Mrs Billy Shipton. But all too soon she is reeling from the news that her beloved father was shot for desertion during the Great War. When Carrie is jilted and the close-knit community turns its back on her as well as her mother and her half-sister, Evadne, the plans Carrie nurtured are in disarray
Desperate to overcome private shock and public humiliation, and with her mother also gravely ill, Carrie accepts the unsettling advances of well-to-do furniture dealer Ralph Armstrong. Through Ralph, Evadne meets the aristocratic Alex Larter, who seems to be the answer to her matrimonial ambitions as well. But both sisters put their faith in men who are not to be trusted, and they will face danger and heartache before they can find the happiness they deserve.
I’m going to let you into a secret, I was really worried about reading this book. Usually I am open to new genres but family saga is one that I thought wouldn’t float my boat. Not only that, I have got to know and like Susanna over the last year or so – since she appeared in my second Behind The Book post – and I really wanted to love her book. (Not that I think she would have cast me aside if it wasn’t my cup of tea).
I feel a bit daft now that it took me so long to read it (the hardback came out in June last year).
If Susanna’s book is an accurate representation of the family saga then sign me up. She has created nuanced, believable characters, who I was invested in from the start, along with an absorbing and colourful narrative – all elements I enjoy in contemporary books.
And, far from distracting from the story, the historical aspect only added to it. She writes with honesty and sensitivity about what it must have been like to be a deserter’s daughter. I felt the shame of the family as sure as if they were my relations.
This is an accomplished book and an incredible debut. I can’t wait for her next one, which I will definitely be reading as soon as possible.
Price: £8.99 (via Amazon).
My rating: Five stars.
With thanks to Susanna and her publishers, Allison & Busby, for the paperback in return for an honest review.