Artis-Ann , Features Writer
Review: Her Last Promise By Kathryn Hughes
Ok, after quite a variety of reading matter, recently, it felt like time to sit back on a staycation and relax with a comfortable summer read – after all the sun has shown its face (understatements ‘r’ us!) – so, off the bedside pile came Her Last Promise
by Kathryn Hughes.
Hughes creates believable characters who are endearing – or sometimes not! Violet Dobbs is as realistic and down to earth as her alter ego, Violet Skye, is idealistic, attention-seeking and craving of the success her talent deserves...
The novel opens with the receipt of a letter which does not turn out to be quite what was expected. The chapters then move between past and present as seen through the eyes of Tara who lost her mother, a nightclub singer, when she was just fifteen. By lost, I mean that her mother went away on holiday and simply never came back. The mother and daughter relationship was closer than most and the loss Tara felt was devastating but she has learned to live with it, even though she never gave up hope of finding her mum. The letter she receives some thirty-seven years later, suddenly allows her to dare to hope that the answers to the questions she has long harboured, may actually be possible.
Hughes creates believable characters who are endearing – or sometimes not! Violet Dobbs is as realistic and down to earth as her alter ego, Violet Skye, is idealistic, attention-seeking and craving of the success her talent deserves, desperately wanting something better for herself and her only daughter. Tara is that daughter, a both loving and sulky teenager. She is a caring girl with common sense written all over her and we see her embark on a naïve, innocent fumbling in her first experiences of love. Tom proves that your first love is never forgotten while Larry is as shallow as Tara suspects. The caring elderly gent, Alf, a lonely widower turned saviour, with his huge heart of gold, does not deserve his thoughtless, career driven daughter and Nan is everybody’s grandma, forthright and tender-hearted. Ralph is your worst nightmare and why Tara didn’t file for divorce, long ago, is anybody’s guess. Even Sandra is a vision worthy of note who proves that you really shouldn’t judge someone at first sight. In Spain, the presence of Leo, the adorable Mateo and Gabriela, real as they seem, is not explained until the end, when all becomes clear.
While the ending answers the most important questions, there is enough left open for the reader to imagine for themselves how the tale might ultimately conclude.
The novel touches on difficult topics such as child abuse, the complexity of families, the importance of friendship and the effects of tragedy and guilt. There is warmth and reliability in the conversations we share with the characters. Some of those teenage moments we’d rather forget are recalled, and you can hear the tones of jealous and sarcastic girls just as clearly as those of the lascivious ‘punters’ Violet has to deal with at work. The novel is well paced and leads the reader through a series of events which twist and turn in a way which makes wanting to know the end, inevitable.
The novel touches on difficult topics such as child abuse, the complexity of families, the importance of friendship and the effects of tragedy and guilt.
Hughes says the inspiration for the novel came from an area she visited on holiday which felt more like a film set. She describes the locations vividly so the heat of Spain in all its rural beauty, emanates from the pages in contrast with the chill of an impoverished life in Manchester. The seventies come to life, too, for those of us who remember them, and the Amethyst Club all too well reflects a Saturday night in that decade.
While the ending answers the most important questions, there is enough left open for the reader to imagine for themselves how the tale might ultimately conclude. It’s better, somehow, than tying up all the threads too neatly. The epilogue raises more questions but suggests that Karma does perhaps exist.
Her Last Promise is published by Headline