It’s hard to believe that this is Sarah Winman’s debut novel, the writing is so effortless and the characters so real, if more than a little crazy.
The story is told in Part One by a child, Eleanor Maud, or Elly, not we are told Ms Winman herself, but if it’s not then it’s a child she fits snugly inside and breathes life into. Older brother Joe is “different”, at least that is what our heroine tells her new best friend Jenny Penny, she of the wild hair and slatternly mother.
The brother and sister in our story have a relationship built on her hero worship and his generosity of spirit. There is an unspoken pact between them, parents to be shielded from truths and dark secrets and, despite their intrinsic goodness, these are parents any child might want to protect rather than confide in.
Life changes for the family when they move to Cornwall, where more eccentric characters are embraced within the household. The irresistible ageing Arthur and Shirley Bassey impersonator Ginger replace lost friends Jenny Penny and Charlie and the childless Aunt Nancy is a constant and reassuringly worldly-wise confidante.
World events wrap around intimate relationships. Heartache is inevitable but above all the love of sister and brother remains.
Though there is sadness there are so many lines which will make you laugh out loud. A rich and rewarding journey from the childhood of the late sixties in Part One to adulthood in the nineties in Part Two and the knowledge that life has a way of coming full circle.