Tuesday 23 July 2013

The Wednesday Daughters by Meg Waite Clayton

It is early evening when Hope Tantry arrives at the small cottage in England's pastoral Lake District where her mother, Ally, spent the last years of her life. Ally -- one of a close-knit group of women who called themselves the Wednesday Sisters -- had used the cottage as a writer's retreat while she worked on her unpublished biography of Beatrix Potter, yet Hope knows little about her mother's time there. Traveling with Hope are friends Anna Page and Julie, first introduced as little girls in The Wednesday Sisters, now grown women grappling with issues of a different era. They've come to help Hope sort through her mother's personal effects, yet what they find is a tangled family history -- one steeped in Lake District lore.

Tucked away in a hidden drawer, Hope finds a stack of Ally’s old notebooks, all written in a mysterious code. As she, Julie, and Anna Page try to decipher Ally’s writings—the reason for their encryption, their possible connection to the Potter manuscript—they are forced to confront their own personal struggles: Hope’s doubts about her marriage, Julie’s grief over losing her twin sister, Anna Page’s fear of commitment in relationships. And as the real reason for Ally’s stay in England comes to light, Hope, Julie, and Anna Page reach a new understanding about the enduring bonds of family, the unwavering strength of love, and the inescapable pull of the past.

I will say now that I wish I had read The Wednesday Sisters first, but had read from other reviews that The Wednesday Daughters was a stand alone novel. I agree with this mostly, but I think I would have had a better understanding of the relationships between the characters if I had read The Wednesday Sisters first.

It therefore took me a little while to get into the novel probably partly because of this and also partly due to the number of characters in the story. But once into it, it was a good read.

I was instantly attracted to this book by the cover! Absolutely beautiful, such lovely colours and it had a beautiful story to go with it.

Hope Tantry, and her friends Anna Page and Julie (The Wednesday Daughters) go to the cottage that her Mother spent the remaining years of her life in. This is where Ally (Hope's Mother) spent her time writing her biography of Beatrix Potter and there are some wonderful quotes from Beatrix's books in the story which I loved. Hope soon discovers a mysterious journal that her Mother kept, all written in a strange code. We find out that Julie is also grieving for her twin sister Jamie and that Anna Page has a problem with commitment. What follows is a great story of love and friendship and the unbreakable ties  between friends that remain strong even after a loved one has past away.

Each character has an important part to play and they are each unique in their own ways, with their own story to tell.

I thought Hope's Mother's journal was an interesting take on the novel. The journal is written as if Ally had actually been speaking to Beatrix Potter, even though she died long before Ally and Hope begins to wonder if her Mother had gone slightly mad in her final years.

What also unfolds is a family secret that no one was expecting and Hope realises that she did not know her Mother as well as she thought she did and she wishes that she had taken the opportunity to do so whilst Ally was alive.

Once you get over the slight confusion of the characters at the beginning, this is a heartwarming story with some lovely characters and the bonds they share. I do think I should have read The Wednesday Sisters first though so that I would have a better understanding of the characters and maybe it would not have taken me so long to get into the story.

The Wednesday Daughters is out now.


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