Reviewer: Nicola Smith – Short Book and Scribes

Publisher:  Agora Books     25th November 2021

ISBN: 978-1913099220     PB

The Girl in the Maze is the name of a painting by Margaret, Emma’s mother. Margaret has just passed away and Emma is clearing out her flat. Having had a very difficult relationship with her mother, the discovery of letters and documents that might explain that difficulty send Emma on a path into the past. Whilst most of the story is set in the present and from Emma’s point of view, we also journey into the past and read about how Margaret’s own life started, focusing on her parents and upbringing.

The book begins with a bang, a shocking chapter that took my breath away. Whilst this is in essence a family drama, the author doesn’t hold back on the devastating and life-changing events. This genre of books is one of my favourites and I have to say that I absolutely LOVED The Girl in the Maze. I found it addictive, thought-provoking and moving. The painting of the title pops up many times throughout the story, illustrating how life can be a maze that you must navigate.

The tagline cautions against delving into the past but it would have been a very different book without it as this is very much a tale of how the past shapes the future. As Emma discovers more about her mother’s life so much slots into place for her and I particularly loved putting the pieces of the jigsaw together myself, aided by the extremely adept writing and plotting by Cathy Hayward.

I also loved the detail, both historical and contemporary, which I drank in hungrily. I couldn’t get enough of it and it had me fully immersed from start to finish. It didn’t feel so much like I was reading a work of fiction, more that I was a part of it, so three-dimensional were these characters, their lives and their secrets. I think this is an amazing debut novel which focuses very much on motherhood down the generations of one family. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s superb!