Goodness, she certainly kept us waiting for this one! It’s a delight today to help launch the blog tour for You Never Told Me by Sarah Jasmon, to be published on 19th March by Black Swan both as an e-book and in paperback. It’s available for pre-order in both formats via Amazon: but you might prefer to pre-order your paperback from Waterstones or Hive, and it’s also available for Kobo. My thanks to Emma at #damppebblesblogtours for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
Do you remember The Summer of Secrets as well as I do? I so loved that book, and I can still feel that stifling heat, remember that wonderfully distorted lens – you can read my review again here. But that was way back in 2015, and I’ve been so looking forward to reading more from this talented author – and it was definitely well worth the wait…
A year ago, Charlie’s life seemed to be following a plan: she had a beautiful house, a lovable dog and an upcoming wedding. But she felt trapped. A few months before the big day, ignoring the warnings from her family, she abandoned her life and fled to the other side of the world in a bid for freedom.
But when her mother unexpectedly falls ill, Charlie has to cut her trip short. She flies home, but by the time she gets to the hospital, it’s too late.
Her mother is gone, but she’s left a mystery behind. Why did she buy a canal boat, and where did the money for it come from? As Charlie attempts to work through her grief and pick up the pieces of her life, she follows the threads of her mother’s secret past – but has she missed her chance to learn the truth?
I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this one – a gentle slow-paced read with no real fireworks, but immensely engaging and thoroughly compelling. It’s a story of exploration – the mystery around the hidden life of her mother, family relationships past and present, the waterways and the industrial past – as Charlie undertakes her own personal journey.
The writing is quite wonderful – the author has a particularly special touch in examining and exposing the intricacies of relationships, those intimate exchanges you feel you shouldn’t be party to. I particularly liked the push and pull in her relationship with her sister Eleanor – there’s love, but there’s mistrust and resentment too on both sides as they cautiously dance around each other. I enjoyed the portrayal of their difficult relationship with their father, against the background of the chaos wrought by a young family – and the quiet moments with Eleanor’s husband, unable to get things right but at a loss over what to do about it.
Charlie’s journey – along the waterways, and towards finding what makes her happy – is quite perfectly done, an experience you share and feel. She’s perhaps not entirely likeable at first – maybe a touch of selfishness and self-obsession, absence of consideration for the impact her actions have on others – but her character blossoms as we get to know her better and she begins to find herself.
There’s some lovely detail about the realities of water-borne life, intriguing encounters along the way, the kindness of strangers, the intrusion of her past life and relationships – sometimes there’s a joyful lightness, sometimes moments of reflection and introspection, all perfectly balanced.
The unravelling of her mother’s secrets gently drives the story, gives the narrative the drive it needs – and the layers of the hidden past are slowly unpeeled, revealing a story around the theme of identity and belonging that was everything I wanted it to be. I’ve noticed others mentioning the ending – I really liked its openness, the ends not quite tied up, just a gentle dipping out from a slice of life you’ve been allowed to share for a while.
A rather special read – and very highly recommended.
About the author
Sarah Jasmon lives on the Leeds/Liverpool canal in Lancashire, which is also the setting for her first novel The Summer of Secrets (Black Swan, 2015) (“An evocative and atmospheric coming-of-age story” – Carys Bray). Her second novel, You Never Told Me, will be published in March 2020, and follows Charlie as she traces her mother’s hidden past whilst coming to terms with her own future.
Sarah’s short stories have been published in The People’s Friend, Candis, Paraxis, Word Gumbo and Notes into Letters, and in 2018 she was shortlisted for the Harper’s Bazaar short story competition. She is an Associate Tutor in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, and is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Geography. ‘In Search of the Port of Manchester’, a creative non-fiction piece, was published in the Port anthology from Dunlin Press in November 2019.