Deep in the Cambridgeshire fens, Laura is living alone with her 12-year old daughter Beth, in the old tollhouse known as Ninepins. She’s in the habit of renting out the pumphouse, once a fen drainage station, to students, but this year she’s been persuaded to take in 17-year-old Willow, a care-leaver with a dubious past, on the recommendation of her social worker, Vince. Is Willow dangerous or just vulnerable? It’s possible she was once guilty of arson; her mother’s hippy life is gradually revealed as something more sinister; and Beth is in trouble at school and out of it. Laura’s carefully ordered world seems to be getting out of control. With the tension of a thriller, NINEPINS explores the idea of family, and the volatile and changing relationships between mothers and daughters, in a landscape that is beautiful but – as they all discover – perilous.
Note on review: where links are gathered around an author’s name these lead to reviews of the author’s books.
I’ve had this book waiting for review for a while, when I got it I intended to make it my next read in paperback, but I was really struggling with The Good Angel of Death (which is weird because I normally love Kurkov
) and ended up reading it for more than a month without getting very far. Eventually I decided I was in a bit of a slump (I started having trouble with the book I was reading on kindle too), I read Olivia Joules
, and then Big Fish
before returning to The Good Angel of Death but still couldn’t really get anywhere with it. So I decided to read Ninepins, partly because I felt a little guilty for leaving it so long (usually review novels go straight to the top of my pile) and partly because I remembered it as something that sounded easy to read.
Well in a way my memories were off. I was imagining something vaguely chick-litty, although maybe more sophisticated. I was wrong. Ninepins wasn’t hard to read, but it was far from chick-lit like too. Actually it kind of reminded me of Kate Morton
. There was the same kind of atmosphere built using the surroundings (a little gothic at times in fact, which I always like in a novel). There was also the family issue centre and hints of a big secret, although actually the secret, while never revealed fully was quite easy to guess at.
I thought that the way Thornton was able to make you feel about the characters, especially Beth and Laura, was clever. Beth was a pretty stereotypical teenager, not exactly a rebel but certainly testing some boundaries and trying to gain a bit much independence. Laura (whose voice the novel was told in) was understandable frustrated by this but despite the fact that you should be siding with Laura I found actually I had a lot of sympathy for Beth and found that Laura was a bit stifling. In fact at points I even found she was a little stifling to Willow despite the fact she was only meant to be Willow’s landlady. That didn’t mean that I didn’t see her viewpoint, or feel sympathy for her but sometimes I just wanted her to relax and let go, or let someone else take responsibility for once.
I did really enjoy it however. I think it’s one fans of Linda Gillard would enjoy
, and (maybe to a slightly lesser extent, as it’s less of a mystery and more of a family novel) Kate Morton’s fans may well appreciate it too.
There are no other reviews of Ninepins on my blog list. If you have reviewed it feel free to leave me a link in comments and I will add it here.