Oh, my! Where to begin? Perhaps I should start simply: READ THIS BOOK!
Diana’s boyfriend, Simon, is leaving for Cairo in the morning. Their evening hasn’t gone according to plan. As he leaves Simon pleads with her to talk about it but Diana is compelled to open old wounds in private. What is it in Diana’s life that keeps her from the intimacy she craves? And what happened to Diana in Cairo at the age of fifteen that could prevent her from even travelling abroad for the next thirty years of her life?
In psychology lecturer Dr Diana Dodsworth, Anne Goodwin presents us with a remarkable protagonist. Anne leads us expertly through Diana’s dilemma, from the terror of her own day-to-day indecision to the memories and reminiscences of the past that shaped the person she is today. As a character she’s hard to stay close to, though that’s no criticism. That’s just Diana! At times you might want to shake her, as frustrated with her as she is with herself, but make no mistake you’ll be rooting for her by the end.
There’s some very neatly laid foreshadowing too. Entirely unobtrusive when you first meet it, there comes that moment when you think, Oh, really? I wonder!
It’s a very touching story, not least I think because Anne Goodwin doesn’t allow Diana to feel sorry for herself. There’s little sympathy in there, and when it does rear its head Diana’s response feels wholly characteristic. The family interaction is perfect and presented through the prism of Diana’s view, often very moving without the taint of sentimentality.
Oh, and the title – not out-and-out strange or eye-catching, but almost ordinary enough to make you wonder – is spot on.
We’re encouraged to sometimes read outside of our comfort zone, which always strikes me as an interesting thing to say. Fiction, after all, is fiction. What can it ‘do’ to us that we should have a sense of a line that it is somehow daring to cross? This book has brought me to a different understanding of that phrase. A book well-written is to an extent a life experienced. If it gets you under the skin of its characters you can come out the other side in some small way changed. The way it does this is by making us think, making us question. There are likely millions of us who think we’re pretty well-rounded, fairly okay people with a healthy respect for other people’s beliefs, thoughts, feelings, proclivities. But how much of that is a barrier to actually understanding something of those beliefs, thoughts etc? This book did more than bring me subjects on which I have little or no direct experience. It made me think about them, made me question them. What if I…what would I…And if someone I knew, how would I…? This makes it more than just a good book. It makes it an important book.
I both did and didn’t find this an easy read. It was easy in the sense that it’s well put together, that the language and the voices and the characters fit or clash where they should. I could meet Diana Dodsworth in the street and it wouldn’t surprise me to discover she’s an actual living person (I’d love to know what Anne Goodwin’s response will be when one of those people who says, ‘is it autobiographical, then?’ turns up!). It was easy in the sense that it drew me into a life I have no experience of. It wasn’t easy in the best possible way because after each time I sat down to read some I went away with questions. It wasn’t easy because it held a mirror up to my own prepared responses. Honestly, it asked, what would you really do?
I feel honoured to have been able to review this book and more than inviting you to pick it up for yourself, I urge you to do so. It really is worth it.
Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin is published by Inspired Quill on 23 July 2015
ISBN 9781908600479 or for Kindle here
You can find Anne on Twitter @Annecdotist and at her website annegoodwin.weebly.com