Astra House. Aug. 2022. 224p. ISBN 9781662601477. $23. F
Past and present collide in this novel from Hildyard, author of the Somerset Maugham Award–winning Hunters in the Snow. Isolated in lockdown during the early days of the pandemic, a middle-aged woman sits by her window, observing her neighbors and looking back on her childhood. Growing up in rural England close to an abandoned quarry, she was a keen observer of the natural world—from kestrels to frogs, fox cubs, and all manner of insects. The humans in her life received equal scrutiny; her childhood friends, their quirky families, and assorted neighbors all sparked her interest that was ultimately more clinical than emotional. In particular, she was a dispassionate observer of a friendly older neighbor succumbing to dementia and of her close friend, Clare, who fell seriously ill. Now, after a largely unsettled life, the woman is alone at home, studying her houseplants and continuing to view what little she can see through her window.
VERDICT The pandemic provides a lens through which Hildyard’s narrator assembles a pastiche of memories. This quiet, well-written novel, which has a surprise ending, is worth a look.
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