This is a relatively likeable debut novel set in both 1976 and 1988. With lines that hook you in, such as ‘Besides, if you were one half evil, wouldn’t you want to know about the other half?, it certainly catches your attention, but wasn’t an obvious thread.

Told from Robyn ‘s perspective, both as a 9 and a 21 year old, it alternates from the accurately depicted summer of 1976, the year of a significant drought, to 1988 when Robyn returns to the town to fully understand what happened to her when she was a child.

It starts with a man who appears in town and gives nine-year-old Robyn a present, which her mother once she finds out about it becomes frantic and paranoid. Holmes does a good job of conveying the confusion experienced from the limited information a youngster would receive that creates a fragmented understanding. Eventually we are told about the incident that causes the family to move away. Twelve years later, Robyn and Kit, her brother, return to the home they had shared with their mother and her partner, Matthew. Robyn does not receive a very warm welcome.

The writing is full of excellent depictions and imagery, which bring the eras alive. The characters also have an authentic feel from both decades. There are clues as well as red herrings in the story intended to misdirect the reader, but I have to say I found them quite obvious and guessed who the man was and what the twist was early on in the book. This meant it did feel laboured as it slowly worked towards a reveal. It would have been more enjoyable had the information sharing been steadier from an earlier point in the book, as the reader had to be very patient for this. The denouement in contrast got wrapped up almost too quickly, which after such a deliberate slow pace felt a bit of a blur.

In all, it was an enjoyable read, with a new and impressive writing style, just some timing adjustments that would have improved the reading experience for me.

Sara Garland 3/3

A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes
Agora Books 9781912194841 pbk Sep 2018