It’s an absolute delight today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of Hannah Beckerman’s If Only I Could Tell You, published in hardback and for kindle on 21st February, and also available as an audiobook: my thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for the invitation, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy, provided through netgalley. It’s been such a very long time since I read and reviewed The Dead Wife’s Handbook – you’ll find my review here from 2014. I’d rather despaired of ever seeing another book from Hannah, although it was always lovely to catch up with her when she was hosting various book events, and to hear her book recommendations on Radio 2. But my goodness – if ever a book was worth waiting for, this is it…
Audrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.
As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?
A life-affirming novel with a secret that will break your heart and an ending that will put it together again.
This book will, I guarantee, make you cry – even if you’re a person who usually just raises an eyebrow, and sometimes wonder how people can be so deeply affected by a work of fiction. You’ll feel this one at your core, because it’s such an exceptional piece of work that takes you right into the heart of a fractured family, torn apart by a misinterpreted moment that impacts their lives. And when the big secret is uncovered, it’ll break your heart yet again – and it really wasn’t what I was expecting at all. We’ve all become rather blasé about jaw-dropping twists these days, but this one is so very different – a moment of such massive significance, a belief and understanding that has blighted the family’s relationships and driven a wedge between sisters Jess and Lily, preventing a relationship between their daughters, and created a rift that mother Audrey has an overwhelming need to heal.
The characters are wonderful, the story told from the perspectives of Audrey, Jess and Lily – Audrey seeks to provide a healing force and is immensely likeable and easy to empathise with, while her daughters are spiky and brittle, struggling with life for different reasons, reacting in ways that aren’t fully understandable until the story unfolds. I might be making it appear a difficult read, but nothing could be further from the truth – Audrey gives the book an immense warmth, there’s a nice touch of gentle humour and lightness, and some of the moments in the book that move you to tears are those of sheer joy, and you’re most definitely left with a smile by the uplifting ending. Her daughters are real people – complicated, sometimes likeable but more often not, sometimes making wrong choices, sometimes behaving very badly for deep-seated reasons that the reader doesn’t fully understand.
I really liked the way the author used the different viewpoints in the story’s telling, and the uncovering of the secrets of the past was beautifully woven through the story – this was very accomplished writing, and I was so engaged that I read the book in almost a single sitting, so powerful was the story. The issues at the heart of the story are immense, but every element is sensitively handled and perfectly managed.
Don’t miss this one, whatever you do – it’s one of the best books you’ll read this year.
Let’s just take a quick look at what other people are saying:
I found it utterly compelling and completely heart-breaking. I couldn’t put it down. Hannah portrays so poignantly a family ripped apart by a domestic tragedy and the secrets that it spawns, but it is their love for one another that finally triumphs and reunites them. Hannah’s characters are completely relatable but at the same time extraordinary. It made me cry. It’s usually only dogs make me cry! Ruth Hogan, author of The Keeper of Lost Things
Breaks your heart, but with an incredible skill and elegance. A wonderful story about families, secrets and how our many different interpretations of the world can determine the paths we take. It was an absolute pleasure to read and I’m sure it’s going to be a huge success. I loved it to bits – Joanna Cannon, author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
Such a sensitive, brave depiction of a family torn apart by their inability to be honest with each other. I was completely immersed in the world and memories of the characters and in the shifting relationships between them – Laura Barnett, author of The Versions of Us
Utterly heart-breaking and beautifully written. About families and the secrets that can tear them apart, it had me welling up throughout… the characters and story have stayed with me long after closing the book – Libby Page, author of The Lido
You can follow the rest of the tour here:
About the author
Hannah Beckerman is an author, journalist and broadcaster. She is a regular contributor to The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, and The Sunday Express, and was the book critic on Sara Cox’s Radio 2 Show. She chairs literary events around the UK and has been a judge on numerous book prizes including the Costa Book Awards.
Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Hannah was a TV Executive who spent fifteen years producing and commissioning documentaries about the Arts, History and Science for the BBC, Channel 4 and Discovery USA before turning her hand to writing.
Hannah lives in London with her husband and their daughter.