Back Home by Bethan Darwin

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Back Home by Bethan Darwin

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis
Reviewed by Trish Simpson-Davis
Summary: Romantic stories of granddad and granddaughter are interwoven to make an enjoyable light read. I think older readers will like this book.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 280 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Honno Welsh Women's Press
ISBN: 978 – 1906784034

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Back Home makes for an undemanding read in a single sitting – a favourite way to forget the nasty real world.

The title describes a true-to-life scenario that many mums will recognize. Grown up daughter, Ellie, moves back to her childhood home with her heart broken from a failed relationship. So for the first part of the story, Ellie is pretty much depressed and leaning on her local network: mum, Sarah and granddad, Trevor; childhood friends and the local Clapham pub community (I wasn't too sure about authenticity here. It sounded more like a rural village to me, but I'll defer to any Londoner who can put me right). This is what I might term the chick-lit part of the story, in the sense that it's about making mistakes and finding Mr Right. Ellie is gentler, though, than your average feisty chick, so that I think this novel is likely to appeal to 'Woman's Own' more than 'Hello' readers. Unusually, the romantic lead doesn't appear until half way through the book, and to be brutal, he's a bit wishy-washy after Robert, the sexy and successful lawyer.

Another reason why I wouldn't label this as chick-lit is that the other half the book is set in Wales during the period 1944-7, and follows Trevor's romance with Laura. Laura is a war widow, a commonality that many women will recognize from their own family histories. Trevor and Laura's exact problem at the end of the War had me gasping, though it surely happens in real life, too. As a result, Trevor moves to anonymous London to start a new life with his young daughter, Sarah. He and Laura shove their skeletons very firmly in the cupboard. That Trevor, Sarah and Ellie return to Wales, reunite with their family and open up the cupboards, is also reference to the 'Back Home' of the title. I enjoyed Trevor's story, surely because Bethan Darwin was so in tune with her characters, the Second World War setting and Welsh landscape in this, the strongest part of the book.

The story doesn't look far below the surface of the characters, but that's light fiction for you. If there is a message to this novel, it is Ellie's realization that: I've learned this weekend that secrets make people lose out on stuff: love mostly, and family.

In this otherwise pleasurable read, my one gripe is with the editor rather than the author. Out-of-character language patterns sometimes rear an ugly head, for example, Ellie's mother sounds neither South Londoner nor Welsh when she says: ...But before I go run that for you how about I … Occasionally, ambiguity isn't controlled by punctuation, as in: You don't cry for three weeks and wake up one morning to find you are miraculously all better… which needs a comma to sort out if the poor girl is or isn't crying. And sorry, but adverbial and tautological snobbery rail at: Thankfully Sandra had generously offered me the camper van to sleep in if I wanted to, and since this also gave me the option of a not particularly quick getaway, I accepted her offer gratefully. Hiccups like these stall the story for the reader.

I'd like to thank Honno Welsh Women's Press for sending a copy of this book to Bookbag. The website of this enterprising co-operative is also worth a look.

Seven forthcoming titles advertised at the back of the book looked good, with a recent review of Sweets From Morocco by Jo Verity on this site. On the Second World War theme, Margaret Mayhew's, The Other Side of Paradise, set in Singapore, or Leah Fleming's The Girl from World's End set in Yorkshire, might appeal. For a real taste of Austerity, I'd recommend the diary of a housewife, Nella Last's Peace edited by R. and P. Malcomson.

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Buy Back Home by Bethan Darwin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Back Home by Bethan Darwin at


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