Briony McAllistair spends the day with her four year old daughter Katie in Southern Spain. She is on a visit to her mother Valerie, who has recently brought herself a place there. As Katie plays, Briony pulls out an old photo album that contains a letter that will change everything for her. The letter begins My Darling Briony. After many years, Briony discovers that her beloved Grandmother Tessa is alive and well, and has spent many years harbouring after contact with her first born Granddaughter. The first couple of chapters were interesting enough to pull me into the book without a hesitation. What at first seemed like an ordinary story very quickly turns into a complicated plot.
Patricia Scanlan's latest book grabbed me from the early stages and quite frankly didn't let go until the very end. This is one of Patricia's best books I have read. When Briony makes her discovery her instinct is to up and leave, but after a conversation with her Godmother, and Valerie's best friend as well as her husband she decides to wait and see what her mother has to say. This is the very beginning of the story and we are taken back to the past by Valerie herself. I thought this book would be sectioned out between past and present, and although it is to a degree, the majority of the story takes us through Valerie's life and how she has got to where she is today.
I very quickly got drawn back to when Valerie met Briony's father Jeff and her relationship with his parents Tessa and Lorcan. Times were very different when Valerie was young and Patricia Scanlan does a sterling job in transporting you back to a time when unmarried mothers and abortion were deeply frowned upon. I fell in love with the fiery and young Valerie and as the story progressed lots of things are revealed about the sorry state of affairs the present day has ended in. Before long I was shocked to discover I was three quarters of the way through the book in one sitting! What I really loved about this latest book is the layers within it that are ordinary (if that makes sense). Just the lives of ordinary people, who make mistakes, say things they don't mean and the consequences because of it.
I initially found myself disliking Tessa, however as the story went on it was easy to turn that around and sympathise. I think that by the time I got to the end of the book I was truly sad to have finished it, but found myself thinking this was by far and a mile one of the best Patricia Scanlan books I have read in a while. It was utterly absorbing and one that I couldn't put down. Highly recommended.