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5.0 out of 5 starsA moving novel highly recommended
Reviewed in the United States on April 11, 2019
A novel about loss, grief, death, thwarted love. Set in Ireland and Birmingham, England, the story if full of understated emotion and deep passions. The book is also suspenseful: we learn of events, but not how or why they happened until pages or chapters later. Read carefully!
Having read and enjoyed "My Name is Leon" when I read it a couple of years ago, I was quite looking forward to reading this one, by the same author. It's a strange tale played out by some very interesting characters and it operates on various levels of emotion. I think like Leon, this book will end up meaning different things to different people and will make an excellent book club read as I think it will provoke the right kind of discussions. So, Mona makes dolls. Well, she actually dresses dolls, they are made by the old carpenter. She has a shop and, although not doing really great, she's ticking over enough to make end meet. Each doll she creates is unique and special. She gets her materials from all sorts of places and crafts styles and outfits to suit the doll's personality. Whilst following Mona in the present, we also play catch-up with her past. We first meet her as a girl in her hometown in Ireland. We follow her as she leaves there and moves away to make her place in the world in England. We see how she falls in love and what happens thereafter. All in flashback, all in little chunks that are inserted into the present day narrative at the right moments to complement it. Back in the present we are also privy to another of Mona's services, again aided by the old carpenter. But no more of this here. Actually, it's hard to say too much more about the story here as much of the beauty of the tale is to see it being weaved and then watch as it unravels towards the end so, I will leave that there. In Mona, the author has created a wonderful but wounded character. There is an air of sadness about her right from the start, the reasons behind which become clear as the book progresses. As with most people, she experiences highs and lows in her life but again, as with people of her own age, she just seems keen to get on with things. To muddle through, making the best hand with the cards she has been dealt. It's nearly a coming of age book, albeit of the more mature kind, as she begins to realise certain things are missing from her life when she meets her neighbour Karl and starts a friendship with him. But to be able to move from the past she has to face it and that's the crux of this book. The way this book has been written, the language used, the descriptions, the characters, all fit together so perfectly. Yes, there's an underlying sadness running throughout but it goes hand in hand with hope and that makes the book balanced. There are also some great moments of light and occasionally comedy. Mona learning the computer system, her husband's Aunts and their nicknames, just to name a couple of things, inserted at just the right times to lift the mood of the book meaning that it didn't get too dark. It's a reflective book. It definitely made me think and re-evaluate some aspects of my own life as I was reading it. It also contains topics that some might find hard to read about so I would recommend caution when choosing whether to and when to read it if you are sensitive. My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
5.0 out of 5 starsThis is a beautifully written book but so sad
Reviewed in the United States on March 29, 2018
This is a beautifully written book but so sad.
Mona is Irish living in Birmingham with a new job. She meets William and they fall in love and have their lives mapped out in front of them. Mona falls pregnant and they look forward to the birth. However, on the day of the birth events overtake them to change their lives forever. Mona takes comfort from dressing individual dolls in hand made clothes which she sells all over the world . The wooden dolls are made by her carpenter friend who lives nearby. When she turns 60 Mona looks back on her life and loves. A love that lasts forever despite the challenges that life throws at them.
Reviewed in the United States on September 13, 2018
Thank you for writing this book, Kit de Waal. I enjoyed Leon and I enjoyed this one too. Thank you for writing about the realities of a sixty year old woman. Rarely is a woman of this age the main character in a novel and I suspect if this had been your first novel it might not have made it into the world, publishers and readers being as biased towards the young as they are. This is a sad book, but not without joy, the way some people's lives are. I read a review in the Irish Times that I felt nailed the positives and the negatives of the book. I give it five stars for all the positives and the great reading experience it gave me. But it is not without flaws. I'll let other readers judge those for themselves.
The first 30/40% of this book i found quite hard going. It didn't grip me and I was confused at times with the jumping between past and present day . Once I got settled in to the book i loved it. It's a story of love and loss and getting on and making the most of life. Mona is lonely and hasn't had the best life but uses her imagination and the trick of time to go back, fill in the gaps and finally live the life she would have wished for herself. A very thought provoking story that often pulls at the heart strings
Not my usual genre but I like to break out of my comfort zone occasionally , and I liked the sound of this book.It is basically a story of a woman looking back at her life and is very character driven, I did enjoy this step into the unknown and although I am keen to get back to my usual thrillers and Sci Fi it is really good to be able to read new authors and enjoy a new writing experience, I did read her first book and I like her thinking so will be looking out for more books .
5.0 out of 5 starsBringing overlooked characters to centre stage
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 8, 2018
I've been eagerly awaiting this book, having absolutely loved Kit's debut novel My Name is Leon and, though these are very different books, I wasn't disappointed. I'm not sure quite what I was expecting but Kit has mastered the art of writing about characters, who are too-often overlooked and slip below the radar. Mona, central character and protagonist of The Trick to Time is on the eve of her sixtieth birthday when the novel opens and the reader gets a strong sense of a life that might have been wasted. Her loneliness and longing are palpable but we know there are many layers to her story and this is what draws us in to follow her between the past (1970s and earlier) and present day. It's a journey well-worth taking because we discover how tragedies from the past have impacted on the woman Mona is today. It's also enlightening for readers interested in recalling how life was in the 1970s, in Birmingham and elsewhere, and the long shadows cast by the IRA. These pieces of recent history help to ground the characters and make the story more poignant because Mona's fictional experience could easily be a slice of someone's life.
4.0 out of 5 starsA Poignant Story of Love and Loss
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 20, 2019
We first meet Mona, a doll-maker living in an unnamed seaside town, when she is approaching her sixtieth birthday, but Kit de Waal’s poignant tale of love and loss moves back and forth in time, and it is in this way that we learn of Mona’s sad past life. Brought up in Ireland in a cottage overlooking the Irish Sea, Mona (short for Desdemona) loses her mother when she is a young girl and, after leaving Ireland for Birmingham, she loses her father not long afterwards. In Birmingham, she falls in love with William, a good-looking Irish boy with a gentle and sensitive soul who reciprocates her feelings, and the pair soon marry. However, this is the early 1970s, the era of the Birmingham pub bombings, and William’s fragile mental state is put to the test when more than one tragedy befall the young couple, and it is Mona (with the help of William’s two Irish aunts) whose strength and resourcefulness carries her through an exceedingly difficult time. Move forward more than thirty years and we find Mona childless and living alone and, interestingly, involved in a strange relationship with a very reticent, but talented carpenter from whom she commissions wooden figures to her exact specifications, which she uses in her counselling sessions with bereaved women. Mona also becomes rather friendly with Karl, a seemingly elegant and sophisticated elderly German man who lives opposite her, but Karl is not quite what he initially appears to be…
Beautifully written and with some marvellous dialogue, this is certainly a very poignant tale, but it’s also one that has its amusing and entertaining moments too and the characters are particularly well-portrayed - especially the resourceful Mona and William’s two wonderful aunts who arrive from Ireland when tragedy strikes. The author evokes time and place well and for those who, like me, don’t remember the Birmingham pub bombings, Ms De Waal describes how the Birmingham Irish were treated in the aftermath of the bombings, which helps the reader, in part, to understand William’s state of mind at that time. There is more that I would like to discuss about William and Mona’s tragedy in the personal and wider sense, but to do so would reveal too much for those who have yet to read it, so I will leave it here. Finally, I will just say that impressed as I was by this novel, the ‘twist’ in the tale towards the end was one that I had worked out for myself and I wish the author had spent a little more time on this part of the story as the ending felt a little rushed - that said, this poignant novel of love and loss, is one that I would certainly recommend.
A warming heart breaking cleverly written novel. Takes you on a journey that immerses you in a wrenching story so beautifully written that to find another novel that stirs such emotions a difficult task.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 29, 2018
Divided into present and flashbacks, this short book is absolutely beautiful from start to finish. From it’s stunning description to picturesque settings and intriguing character building, it’s gently heartbreaking, well-paced, real and raw and wonderful. It focuses on themes of new marriage, miscarriage and how growing up and away from your family is hard but also on our perceptions of ageing but how you’re never really old of mind. It’s different from the books I usually read but perfect! This book isn’t a romance like the cover suggests, by the way, as that puts me off but don’t let it put you off because it’s perfect!
5.0 out of 5 starsIf you love reading, love the human condition and ultimately love a good story - Buy now!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 8, 2019
Fantastic story, which makes you both laugh and cry. I chose this book for our book club as she’s a local writer and it had come recommended to me; I’m so glad it did. We’ve not had our book club yet but one friend whose recently had a baby said she had to stop reading in a public place because she was getting so emotional and another who is very widely read said that she was loving it and didn’t want it to finish. The testament to how much I enjoyed it is that I’ve order 3 more copies for Christmas presents and am about to start Kit De Wals ‘My Name is Leon’. It’s a page turner so quite an easy read but also has depth and is grounded in a place and time which you can transport yourself to. Whilst is has great moments of sadness in the story it is ultimately uplifting and joyous. Other books I’ve really enjoyed which I would say if you liked them you would like this are ‘Eleanor Oliphant’ & ‘I let you go’. This book deserves a wider audience than maybe it has got so far; however it’s nice to be in on the secret before the film is made !