Title: The last words of Madeleine Anderson
Author- Helen Kitson
Release date; March 7th
Publisher: Louise Walter books
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I do have to admit that this isn’t the type of book that I would normally pick up for myself so I’m really pleased that I took a chance on something new.
Gabrielle Price, a quiet
Her quiet world is turned upside down when her fan comes to visit and is not what she expects. Forced to relive her past and confront her demons, her carefully cultivated life looks set to unravel.
The writing style felt so familiar to me that at some points I wondered if this was actually the author’s debut novel. As I got further into the story and the tangled web that the protagonist found herself in, I realised that the style reminded me of Mary Stewart.
Mary Stewart is well known for her ambient prose and her ability to weave a tale that has you completely entranced for days.
The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson had the same soporific effect. The description was so gentle and lyrical that I felt I was being pulled down into the pages. Hours flew by and tea went cold while I was immersed in her story.
Although the story is told in the first person you get enough of a sense of the rest of the characters through Gabrielle’s interaction with them so as to make them fully rounded. Surprisingly, or maybe not, it’s the ancillary characters who are more likeable.
Lisel, Viv and Mr Latham are nice people that you’d expect to find in any village, or any village story, without succumbing to overt stereotypes. Mr Latham is the kindly Vicar who tries his best with his parishioners but is uncomfortable with the emotional side of being a Vicar. He does try and you genuinely feel that he is a kindly soul.
Viv is the hearty country wife. A larger than life soul, bounding and brash, who volunteers and organises and is basically the backbone of the village with a heart of gold but probably could do with a tad more tact.
Lisel is the ex- school teacher who is plain speaking, a little rude and entirely entertaining.
To be perfectly honest I enjoyed these three characters so much that I think I would have carried on reading even if the book was purely about them and village life. That was how lovely the writing was, it almost didn’t matter what you were actually reading about.
That said Gabrielle and Simon (and Madeleine) were really not very nice people at all.
I found Gabrielle to be irritating. Not because of her situation, but because of her lethargy and willingness to coast along with excuses that she was too old or untalented. Whilst part of me sympathised with what havoc Simon bought to her life, most of me thought she actually needed a good kick up the bum.
In fact Lisel summed her up quite well when she said “Don’t be like the pitiful pet dog who refuses to leave its master’s grave, pining away through misplaced faithfulness.”
Her devotion to Madeleine as well as her relationship with Simon were both obsessive to the point of unhealthy; self-destructive and entirely of her own making. It was very hard for me to feel any empathy for her at all.
I don’t want to give too much away so I won’t explain anything about Simon or Madeleine except to say that they were both equally unpleasant and manipulative.
The two main twists of the novel were excellent. One I did see coming but the other took me by surprise and I had to go back and re-read the page to make sure I had got it right.
The twist was excellently foreshadowed without actually making you think anything of it so it was brilliantly executed.
I really enjoyed this book, despite my dislike of the main characters, which goes to show how unique a writing-voice the author had.
I would heartily recommend this book especially for reading groups as I feel it has so many different themes that could be discussed and expanded on. I look forward to reading more from this author.