It was a real delight to welcome author Jane Davis as my guest on Being Anne in March, where she shared the pitfalls of writing fact-based fiction – you can read it again here. Smash all the Windows was published on 12th April – available for kindle and in paperback – and it was a book I was very much looking forward to reading, having captured my imagination from the moment I first heard about it. My thanks to the author for my advance reading e-copy.
It has taken conviction to right the wrongs.
It will take courage to learn how to live again.
For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.
Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.
If only it were that simple.
This book was simply stunning – a portrait of grief and loss with immense emotional depth, an examination of blame and responsibility, an ultimately uplifting read but tinged with the sadness that none of it really matters as those who remain attempt to survive it all in their own individual ways. The narrative moves backwards and forwards between the events of the day and the parts played by individuals – with searingly real images – to the aftermath, the vindication and the continuing lives of the parents, siblings and partners.
The characterisation is wonderful – real people, heartbreaking family portraits, tangible emotion, making the reader constantly question their own response if caught up in a similar situation. The writing is superb, the emotional impact intensified by the use of present tense to create the feeling of being in the moment, with scenes that touch you to the heart, an unexpected and perfect focus on the healing power of art, and a use of imagery that’s quite unforgettable. Recommended without reservation.
About the author
Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’, Jane Davis is the author of eight novels. Jane spent her twenties and the first part of her thirties chasing promotions at work, but when she achieved what she’d set out to do, she discovered that it wasn’t what she wanted after all. It was then that she turned to writing.
Her debut, Half-truths & White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award 2008. Of her subsequent three novels, Compulsion Reads wrote, ‘Davis is a phenomenal writer, whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless’. Her 2015 novel, An Unknown Woman, was Writing Magazine’s Self-published Book of the Year 2016 and has been shortlisted for two further awards.
Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her Formula 1 obsessed, star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she isn’t writing, you may spot her disappearing up a mountain with a camera in hand. Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.
Also by the Author