Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Ninepins - Rosy Thornton

‘Didn’t every kid deserve a chance?’

Ninepins is the old tollhouse where Laura lives with her 12-year-old daughter Beth. Laura often rents out the pumphouse next to her house to students, but the newest resident is to be someone different, a 17-year-old girl named Willow, who has been in care, and has been recommended for the accommodation by her social worker, Vince.

Laura has reservations and Willow coming to live at the pumphouse, and is nervous as to how the new arrangement will work, and what sort of influence Willow may be on Beth. Beth herself is bringing more than her share of worries into Laura’s life too, having started secondary school and making new friends who Laura knows little about, but what she does know doesn’t please her and makes her anxious about Beth. For Beth, there is the struggle to find her place amongst the teenage girls at school, to fit in and develop friendships with all the accompanying pressures amongst girls at that age.

I loved this novel. I liked the immediacy with which we were drawn straight into the story and the setting. I felt I was immersed in the wildlife and landscape of the Cambridgeshire fens, very nearby to where I live; they are vividly brought to life as the backdrop of this story; the author illustrates both the beauty and the dangers of the place. I found the characters intriguing and believable, and the dialogue equally convincing and apt.

I felt that Rosy Thornton portrayed the love, the difficulties and confrontations between Laura and Beth very realistically, and depicted the strong, yet at times fraught, relationships between mothers and daughters very successfully. The author contrasts the loving, caring and concerned nature of Laura’s parenting of Beth, with her always having provided the necessities for a safe, warm welcoming home, even as a single-parent, with the at times ‘wonderful, magical, intoxicating’ behaviour of Willow’s mother, who nonetheless left Willow feeling that ‘She’d never just felt safe.’

There were poignant moments, in particular between Willow and Laura, as Laura discovers more about Willow’s younger years, and how unsettled life was for her with her mother, Marianne. There are so many times when we, as a reader, identify with elements of a novel, and this struck a chord with me, and I was moved by some of the passages, as Laura realised what life must have been like for Willow:

‘If Willow at times seemed older than her years, this might be the reason. If the mother could not be a mother, how should the child be a child?’

As both Laura and the reader learn more about Willow’s mother and her past, the tension and sense of foreboding builds.

It’s an absorbing story that I enjoyed returning to every time I picked the book up again, more than anything I think because of how much I was immersed in the setting of the novel and intrigued and convinced by the characters and the development of the relationships between them, whether it was those between parent and child, adult and young adult, or the elements of gentle romance and attraction between adults. This is the first novel I have read by this author, and it has certainly encouraged me to want to go back and dip into her earlier works. This is assured storytelling and a satisfying read. 

Reviewed by Lindsay Healy

Published by Sandstone Press

Thank you very much to the author for kindly sending me a copy of her novel to read and review.

You can visit the author's website here.


  1. I'm always looking for well-written contemporary fiction and this sounds appealing. I like the fact that this is set in the fens.

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