Where We Belong by Anstey Harris
|Where We Belong by Anstey Harris|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: A lovely thoughtful read. A gentle story that will nevertheless make you think.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: May 2020|
|Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK|
|External links: Author's website|
I've always believed that places and buildings absorb what happens within them and reflect it back; this is how we can tell that a sacred space is sacred. Cate Morris believes a similar thing, she believes that A house absorbs happiness, it blooms into the wallpaper, the wood of the window frames, the bricks: that's how it becomes a home. She is having these thoughts as she packs up her home. She has to leave. A combination of circumstances means that is not only redundant, but also homeless. With nowhere else to go, she has called on her late husband's family for help. Just for a few weeks.
Just for a few weeks over the summer, she is packing her stuff into boxes and her son and herself off to Hatters, a majestic pile on the edge of Crouch-on-Sea, such an improbable name, such and improbable place. It's not just a crumbling ruin of place, indeed it's not yet quite a crumbling ruin, although it is on the very verge of becoming so – the money is running out there as it already did for Cate – but more than a house it is also a museum. An anachronism. A museum from the days when the grand tour had morphed into a shooting expedition and people brought up animals rather than artefacts. Hugo Lyons-Morris (Lyons as in the city, not lions as in the animal) collected both and created a museum that is a family trust on the edge of bankruptcy.
Hatters is overseen, by Miss Araminta Buchan – no-one would dare to call her Minnie these days – and she does not seem pleased to see Cate arrive, with the awkward and very direct Leo in tow.
Meanwhile her only anchor to her past life is Simon, and he is on the other side of the world. Simon was Richard's best friend, and her might-have-been-first-love. Simon is an absent pivot.
What follows is a story of accommodation, of love, of duty. It is a story about the assumptions we make about people based on what we see of them and what they choose to show and what they choose to keep hidden. It is also a story about community, about changing times and the things which, actually, don't change very much. It is story about duty and secrets and how both have a point at which they cease to serve any common good at all.
It is also a story of loss – and grief and anger.
It is one of those stories that are difficult to describe without giving too much away, and one of those best enjoyed when you come into it not knowing these people. When you read a tale that hinges on how wrong we can be about people, you read it best if you come into it with your own set of prejudices and assumptions (sorry – but we DO all have them). That way you will make your own guesses about where this story is leading and you will be right and/or wrong – and it is well-written enough for it not to matter that you guessed ahead of time what would happen next.
The best books are the ones where even if you know, or believe you know, what is going to happen to the characters you still hope it won't and you feel for them when it does or doesn't (pain or relief or happiness accordingly). It's a gentle story but a subtly emotional one. The kind that might just make you weep while reading it, but makes you smile for having done so.
Liked this one a lot.
If you liked this one we know you'll also love The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
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