Synopsis (from amazon)
Historian Anna Bennett has a book to write. She also has an insomniac toddler, a precocious, death-obsessed seven-year-old, and a frequently absent ecologist husband who has brought them all to Colsay, a desolate island in the Hebrides, so he can count the puffins. Ferociously sleep-deprived, torn between mothering and her desire for the pleasures of work and solitude, Anna becomes haunted by the discovery of a baby’s skeleton in the garden of their house. Her narrative is punctuated by letters home, written 200 years before, by May, a young, middle-class midwife desperately trying to introduce modern medicine to the suspicious, insular islanders. The lives of these two characters intersect unexpectedly in this deeply moving but also at times blackly funny story about maternal ambivalence, the way we try to control children, and about women’s vexed and passionate relationship with work. Moss’s second novel displays an exciting expansion of her range – showing her to be both an excellent comic writer and a novelist of great emotional depth.
I found this book rather emotionally tough at times. I really liked Anna but because we could see in her head I often found the things she thought, and sometimes even the things she did made me feel uneasy, especially when it came to her children.
In fact it was quite well done because you could understand Anna’s thoughts and approach to things, even though you might not agree, and they were easy things to judge her for.
A lot of the book was about Anna as a mother. At times I did actually find her to be a good mother, but at others she completely lost the plot. Maybe that made it authentic, I really don’t know, I maybe hope not. I suppose all parents get frustrated with their kids sometimes, but Anna didn’t always deal with it well.
There was something about the kids. I think Raph maybe wasn’t meant to be ‘normal’, certainly he seemed ‘too clever’, but I did really like him. Moth was presented at the ‘normal’ kid but I work with two year olds, and he seems rather infantile.
The letters I found rather frustrating. They seemed to break the story, but the way they eventually linked in to the rest of the story made them worth reading.
It’s far from the easiest read, but I did end up abandoning my paperback in favour of finishing Night Waking, and I think that says a lot about how it captured me.