Friday, 25 August 2017

The Art Of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

The Art Of Hiding by Amanda Prowse
Published in America by Lake Union Publishing on the 18th July 2017.

290 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 2449 pages.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?
Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels. Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married.
Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate — and the sister — she thought she had left far behind. But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed — her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

I'm really struggling to review The Art Of Hiding, so much so that I postponed putting my words out there for three days running while I attempted to coherently marshall my thoughts. On the one hand, Prowse's writing is - as always - immensely readable and I enjoyed the few hours I spent in the company of bereaved trophy wife Nina and her family. For a simple read and set aside novel, I am sure this book will have wide appeal. It ticks many of its genre's essential boxes and and left me feeling good about Nina's world and future.

It was only on reflecting in order to write this review that I started to feel uncomfortable about the novel's mixed messages. Nina is that women's fiction staple - a poor girl who made a good life for herself by marriage - and the first third of the book laboriously extolls the luxuries of her affluent life in a way that is meant to encourage envy. Prowse's later attempts to present her reduced circumstances as a happier lifestyle choice therefore didn't ring true at all for me. Nina might be more comfortable back with her working class roots, but Prowse obviously wouldn't want to be in that position and the writing wasn't convincing. I was reminded of those 1950s set novels where no one has two pennies to rub together, but they all get by with family, community and a jolly good cup of tea! It all felt rather patronising and false. The repeated and blatant rich-people-heartless, poor-people-kind message was disappointing in its shallow simplicity as well. People are always far more nuanced than their bank accounts, but the characters in The Art Of Hiding are rarely portrayed that deeply.

I know this all sounds harsh! Prowse is known for putting her characters into difficult emotional situations and exploring their responses and I hoped for a deeper novel here. The way Britain is going at the moment, many people are likely to find themselves in similar financial straits over the next few years so The Art Of Hiding could have been very timely and incisive. Instead it is a good cosy read, but ultimately, for me, too superficial to be truly satisfying.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Amanda Prowse / Women's fiction / Books from England

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