My first review of a book I’ve read this year, and isn’t it lovely when a book turns out to be everything you wanted and hoped it would be? I’m really delighted to share my review of The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris, to be published for kindle and in hardcover tomorrow (10th January) by Simon and Schuster: the audiobook is already available, and the paperback will follow in July. My thanks to the publishers for my advance reading copy, and the kindle copy via netgalley to make my reading easier. It’s not a prerequisite for enjoying a book that you should like the author, but I had the great pleasure of meeting her as we trudged along Gray’s Inn Road on our way to a Spring showcase event with Books and the City (more about that event here) – she spoke with such passion and enthusiasm about her book, and I knew it would be one I’d enjoy. Can I say “one for my Books of the Year list” about my first January read? Well, it really was…
For fans of The Keeper of Lost Things, The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is the story of a woman who has her heart broken, but then puts it back together again in the most uplifting and exquisite way.
Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.
Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.
It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about…
This book broke my heart – and then put it together again, filling me with total joy. The main characters are so very beautifully drawn – Grace herself, the love of her life David, the wonderful Mr Williams and the spiky Nadia – but so are all the minor characters. This is a book you inhabit totally, as the author makes it so very easy for you to identify with Grace, living with her through the joy and heartbreak, urging her on as she finds a way to recover and triumph in every way. It’s a book that makes you feel every emotion, ache about every hurt and betrayal, rejoice in every small victory – the writing is quite exquisite.
And then there’s the music. I’m very much a Classic FM on a Saturday afternoon classical fan – nothing heavy – but Libertango has long been a personal favourite and the way it’s used within the book moved me immensely, marking both the tentative moments of hope, the move to recovery, and the elation that follows. I knew nothing about the process of making and repairing stringed instruments before reading this book – it’s Grace’s livelihood, and the processes are described in fascinating detail, with love in every strut and carefully honed panel.
The locations are wonderfully done – Grace’s shop, the Paris of her love story, the scenes in Cremona (immediately added to my personal bucket list). But I think what stayed with me the most about the story was the strength of friendship and its power to support and heal – and the way it can sometimes be found in the most unlikely places. I so want to tell you more of the story that moved me so much and captivated me throughout – all the twists and turns, the disappointments, the depths and heights, the shadows of the past, the moments that make your heart sing and the others when you plunge into despair – but I’m not going to. I just loved everything about this book – do try it, because I’m sure you’ll love it too.
About the author
Anstey Harris is based by the seaside in south-east England where she lives with her violinmaker husband and two dogs. She teaches creative writing in the community, local schools, and as an associate lecturer for Christchurch University in Canterbury.
Anstey writes about the things that make people tick, the things that bind us and the things that can rip us apart. In 2015, she won the H G Wells Short Story Prize for her story, Ruby. In novels, Anstey tries to celebrate uplifting ideas and prove that life is good and that happiness is available to everyone once we work out where to look (usually inside ourselves). Her short stories tend not to end quite so well…
Things that interest Anstey include her children and granddaughter, green issues and conservation, adoption and adoption reunion (she is an adopted child, born in an unmarried mothers’ home in Liverpool in 1965), stepfamilies, dogs, and food. Always food. She would love to be on Masterchef but would never recover from the humiliation if she got sent home in the first round.