It was the day when everything stopped.At quarter past two on a hot afternoon in August, Anna's beautiful, headstrong elder sister Rose disappears.Twenty years later, Anna still doesn't know whether Rose is alive or dead. In her early thirties now, she sees her future unfolding - with sensible, serious Martin and a grown-up, steady job - and finds herself wondering if this is what she really wants.Unable to take control of her life while the mystery of her sister's disappearance remains unsolved, Anna begins to search for the truth: what did happen to Rose that summer's day?
Linda Newbery is a successful author of books for children and young adults and has won the Costa Children's Book Prize and been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon is her first novel for adults and was published by Doubleday (Transworld) on 14 August 2014.
Before I'd even opened the book, I fell a little in love with it. The cover is divine. An image of two girls running off, and the photography seems a little hazy, it is the perfect image for this story.
It was a quarter past two on a Wednesday afternoon. It was the middle of summer, a hot day made for lazing in the garden. That was the last time that Anna saw her older sister Rose.
Rose disappeared. She didn't tell anyone that she was going, she didn't take her favourite denim skirt or her floaty blouse. She hadn't acted any differently. She'd always been hot-headed, hard to handle, a bit of a drama queen, but this was completely out of the blue.
Twenty years later, Anna's parents have finally decided to sell their house; to finally admit that Rose would not be coming back to the big old house that had been home. This major decision sparks something in Anna, and she begins to search again for clues about Rose. Anna's life has not really gone to plan, she's drifted into jobs, she's in a relationship that has become boring and dry. Maybe if she can put Rose to rest finally, she can move on with her own life.
Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon is not just Anna's story. It's really the story of her mother Cassandra, or Sandy, or Sandra - depending on which stage of life she's at and who she is talking to. Linda Newbery has deftly interwoven Cassandra's whole life story into the modern-day search for Rose, and she has done it so perfectly with each new chapter of that life adding another dimension to the things that Anna discovers during her search.
Anna is a hard character to warm to, she's a complicated person who is not at ease with herself, and so the reader can find her difficult to relate to as well. When we first meet Cassandra, we meet an elderly, confused, straight-laced woman who appears to be cold and distant, but as her story steadily unfolds we discover the real Cassandra. For me, her story was both beautiful and heartbreaking in equal measure, made up of tragic loss and huge disappointment. Cassandra has hidden her true self from those closest to her, carrying with her the burdens that have haunted her for most of her sixty years.
There are some very bizarre friendships within the story, and it would be easy to dismiss them as unrealistic and contrived, but stop and think about people you know or strange relationships you may have read about, there really is nothing as strange as human behaviour, and in this novel, the odd couplings really do work.
I had no idea what had happened to Rose, and as Anna's search revealed more information I became more and more engrossed in this exquisite story. Couple that with the beauty of Cassandra's life story and you really have a story that will touch your heart and stay with you for a long time afterwards.
It was about eighty pages from the end when my heart started to pound so strongly, I actually felt a little bit sick and was glued to those last 80 pages. I was desperate to find out what would happen but so so sad that it came to an end.
A story of loss and relationships, of family and friendships. A story of lies, deception and covering up secrets.
Linda Newbery has proved that not only can she produce award-winning stories for children and young adults but that she is a just as talented at writing for the adult market. When I was offered this book to review from Naomi at Transworld I hesitated, I have so many books to review, I wasn't sure that I'd have time to read and review by the blog tour dates. I am so so glad that I said yes, I really think I've found one of my favourite books of 2014, maybe one of my favourite books ever.
Linda Newbery began by writing teenage fiction, but has now written for all ages, with booksranging from a picture book, POSY, to her first novel for adults, QUARTER PAST TWO ON A WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON. She is a winner of the Costa Children's Book Prize, for her young adult novel SET IN STONE, and has twice been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, as well as for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and for numerous regional awards. She has served as a judge for the Whitbread award and for the Guardian Prize.
Linda is a frequent visitor to schools, libraries and festivals, and has tutored several times for the Arvon Foundation. She lives in a small village in north Oxfordshire with her husband and two cats. She loves yoga, reading, gardening, walking and swimming, and is currently trying her hand at stone-carving.
For more information, visit Linda's website: www.lindanewbery.co.uk