Monday, 16 May 2016

When I Was Invisible by Dorothy Koomson

In 1988, two girls with identical names and the same love of ballet meet for the first time. They seem destined to be best friends forever and to become professional dancers.
Years later, however, they have both been dealt so many cruel and unexpected blows that they walk away from each other into very different futures - one enters a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity.
Will these new, 'invisible' lives be the ones they were meant to live, or will they only find that kind of salvation when they are reunited twenty years later?
Have you lived the life you were supposed to? 

When I Was Invisible was published in hardback on 5 May 2016 by Century and is the author's eleventh novel.

Sometimes you read a book which poses questions that really hit a nerve. I read When I Was Invisible last week and the big question that Dorothy Koomson asks "Have you lived the life you were supposed to?" loomed over me, niggling away at me and consequently made me take a flying leap into the unknown. It's a scary jump, but I decided that I wasn't leading the (career) life that I was supposed to, and that there was only one person who could change that. Me! So, not only is this book an absolutely fabulous read, it's also going to one that I remember for lots of reasons other than the actual story.

So, back to the story. Two girls with the same name meet and become friends. They are the very best of friends, that friendship that young girls have that's made up of dreams and wishes and long summer days. Not only were these two girls the very best of friends, they also had the same names.

To tell them apart, they are known as Nika and Roni and When I Was Invisible is their story, narrated by both of them, their story now and their story then.

Nika and Roni dream of becoming professional ballet dancers, and it's quite possible their dreams could come true. Taken under the wing of dance teachers, they are nurtured and encouraged, and it is not long before they are having personal, one-to-one lessons. But, in 2016, their voices are very different. Nika is fleeing something very dangerous, she is a mess, living on the street, escaping from dangerous relationships, getting deeper into trouble. Roni gave her life to God. As a Nun and a Sister, she is trying to find her own peace, to escape the noise in her head that has been there since her friendship with Nika ended.

Dorothy Koomson has structured this novel beautifully and incredibly cleverly. There is a sense of the unknown danger and dark secrets all the way through and the reader knows that both Nika and Roni have something terrible to hide, but these secrets are revealed very slowly and are unexpected and shocking.

Friendship is a powerful thing. Shared experiences can bind people or break people and Nika and Roni have struggled for over twenty years to come to terms with what happened to them, and how both of them dealt with it. Dorothy Koomson explores the innermost feelings of both women with ease, not shying away from the difficult or heartbreaking and the reader becomes the third friend in their relationship.

When I Was Invisible is so very insightful, it is beautifully told and a compelling read. The Ice Cream Girls was always my favourite novel by this author, but I think that When I Was Invisible has now taken that crown.

Sensitive, absorbing and exceedingly well written. I loved it.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Dorothy Koomson is the author of eleven novels including That Girl From Nowhere, The Chocolate Run and My Best Friend's Girl.

She's been making up stories since she was thirteen when she used to share her stories with her convent school friends.

While writing When I Was Invisible, Dorothy rediscovered her love for music - especially 80s tunes, and has been asking everyone she sees nowadays, 'What's the one song you're embarrassed about loving?'

Get to know Dorothy at
Follow her on Twitter @DorothyKoomson


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