Reviewer: Hilary Whorrall
Publisher: Picador 11th November 2021
ISBN: 978-1529083224 HB
Set during the Covid-19 pandemic, Kate the central character in this novel, a single parent with a teenage son, has been ‘pinged’ and has consequently been required to self-isolate. Kate is ‘climbing the walls’ at home and yearns for the freedom of the nearby moors. In a moment of impulse, she dons her walking boots and rucksack then heads out. She’s painfully aware that she is breaking government regulations, but reasons that if she’s only out for a short while and if nobody sees her, she’ll be OK. Her son Matt is oblivious to her departure, but Kate is spotted by her neighbour Alice.
The tension starts to rise as soon as Matt realises that his mother is missing and the reader becomes aware that Kate has fallen and is badly injured. What began as a furtive walk eventually precipitates into a full mountain rescue operation.
The prose is stream of consciousness, narration alternating between each of the main characters. It highlights the life changing impact which the pandemic has had on people’s lives since March 2020 and how each person has responded and coped, or not. As the storyline progresses, we slowly discover the secrets kept by each character. For Kate it is that she should never have married a man simply because he was ‘safe; for Alice that she’s been desperately lonely since the death of her husband and resorts to comfort eating.
I enjoyed the book immensely and found it an easy read, once I got used to the style of writing and the lack of punctuation for the dialogue included. However – I found it hard to empathise with Kate, before realising that my irritation with her behaviour was to some extent a reflection of how I’ve personally felt about people who ‘broke the rules’ during lockdowns!