‘I want you to know that I have always loved you.’
On his deathbed, Nell Hardy’s father Bill makes a mysterious declaration to his youngest daughter Nell. He says:
‘I want you to know that I’ve always loved you […] You need to know that I’ve always loved you even though you were never really mine to love.’
Shortly after, before Nell has an opportunity to ask him what he means, Bill dies. Perhaps her mother Annie knows, but she has recently been diagnosed with dementia and communicating with her is challenging.
The story shifts between the present, where Annie is coming to terms with her father’s death and her mother’s dementia, and the past where Annie is overwhelmed by a series of traumatic events. In the present, Annie and her older sisters Clare and Laura are packing, preparing their family home for sale as Annie will move into care. And Nell wonders about what her father said and what it could mean. The three sisters are not close: Nell is 11 years younger than Clare, and 7 years younger than Laura. Nell has had opportunities that her sisters have not, and Clare in particular seems to resent this.
In the past we meet Annie and Bill as a young married couple. Clare and Laura are young, and Annie wants to have another child. What follows is a series of tragedies and secrets, devastating events which ripple through many lives into the present.
‘Grief, she is learning, is love’s echo: it is not possible to have one without the other.’
I found this story moving and wondered how I would deal in a similar situation. I admired Bill’s resilience, felt sad for Annie, and wondered where the truth would lead Nell.
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.