Review – Quarter Past Two On A Wednesday Afternoon by Linda Newbery

By | August 25, 2014

It was the day when everything stopped.


At quarter past two on a hot afternoon in August, Anna’s beautiful, headstrong elder sister Rose disappears.

Twenty years later, Anna still doesn’t know whether Rose is alive or dead. In her early thirties now, she sees her future unfolding – with sensible, serious Martin and a grown-up, steady job – and finds herself wondering if this is what she really wants.

Unable to take control of her life while the mystery of her sister’s disappearance remains unsolved, Anna begins to search for the truth: what did happen to Rose that summer’s day?

Linda Newbery’s name was already very familiar to me – there was a time when I used to read a lot of young adult books, and the author has been a winner of the Costa Children’s Book Prize, as well as being short-listed for a number of other awards.  Having written for a range of age-groups, this is her first foray into adult fiction – and what a first foray, because it’s quite simply wonderful.

At first, you think the story will be focused on the mystery of Rose’s disappearance – young Anna leaves her on a sunbed, painting her toenails purple, leaves the house, and when she returns Rose has gone.  Moving forward to Anna in her thirties, we see that her life has been totally overshadowed by Rose’s disappearance.  She’s restless in her life with dependable and slightly boring Martin, unwilling to settle, and forges a friendship with Martin’s ex-wife which gives her an escape route, perhaps a substitute sister, and the time and space to try and solve the mystery of Rose’s disappearance.  Meanwhile there are problems with her mother Sandra – she has changed her mind about leaving the home where her girls were brought up, is behaving erratically and her husband is struggling to understand what’s happening.

The layering of mysteries, family secrets and revelations throughout the story quite take your breath away – this is the work of a master story teller, with the various threads tangled and then deftly untangled in turn.  The resolution is quite perfect – and not at all what I expected. As well as being an engrossing story, full of emotion, it’s quite beautifully written – all the characters are perfectly rounded, and while you won’t necessarily like or even sympathise with them all, they are quite real, living with you as you read and care about them, and for some time afterwards.

 I really loved this book.  Other friends loved it too – there are excellent reviews on Random Things Through My Letterbox and Jaffa Reads Too that you might like to read.  Please try it – I guarantee you’ll love it too.  

My thanks to publishers Doubleday (Transworld) and netgalley for my advance reading e-copy.  Available in hardback and for Kindle, Quarter Past Two On A Wednesday Afternoon was published on 14 August.


Linda Newbery began by writing teenage fiction, but has now written for all ages, with books ranging from a picture book, Posy, to this, her first novel for adults.  She is a winner of the Costa Children’s Book Prize, for her young adult novel Set In Stone, and has twice been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, as well as for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and for numerous regional awards. She has served as a judge for the Whitbread award and for the Guardian Prize.

Linda is a frequent visitor to schools, libraries and festivals, and has tutored several times for the Arvon Foundation. She lives in a small village in north Oxfordshire with her husband and two cats. She loves yoga, reading, gardening, walking and swimming, and is currently trying her hand at stone-carving.

For more information on Linda and her books, do have a look at her excellent website.  The author also has a Facebook page, and can be found on Twitter.

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