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Redemption Song Paperback – January 28, 2016
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
'Engaging and lively, empathetic and addictive... I was hooked from the off' -- Sarah Rayner, bestselling author of One Moment, One Morning
About the Author
Laura Wilkinson is the author of three critically acclaimed novels: Redemption Song, Public Battles, Private Wars, and The Family Line. She grew up in North Wales and now lives in Brighton with her family.
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Reviewed by me as part of Rosie Amber's review team
Redemption Song starts off on a lonely track in wintry North Wales when Saffron de Lacy's car breaks down and the mysterious Joe comes to her aid. He learns she is a Baptist minister's daughter; when he drives her home she invites him in, and he meets her mother, Rain.
The story tells of three people's road back from emotional trauma, and alternates between the points of view of Saffron, Joe and Rain. This is done very well, with each character's section revealing their hidden side without overdoing it, each 'voice' different enough to be convincing. A quick mention for the amusing surprise at the end of Chapter Three - like Joe, I didn't see it coming at all!
Rain is very real, and likable, but I found it hard to connect with either Joe or Saffron at first, as Saffron is an twenty-five year old, qualified doctor who behaves like a stroppy teenager, and Joe is a slightly rough and ready carpenter with the vocabulary of one much more educated; however, it soon becomes clear that there are many secrets to come out, about all three main characters, and these explain the incongruities; it was the slow drip of information that kept me turning the pages. I found myself particularly fascinated by the truth about Joe, who I definitely started to fancy as the book went on!
The minor characters are more immediately appealing. I could see Saffron's friend Ceri (the 'Welsh Vicky Pollard') straight away, and also her lovely father, and Saffron's nit-picking boss at Wynne's 'department store'; I've lived in small town Norfolk, and Wynne's sounded just like Cromer Indoor Market ~ very well drawn.
I chose this to review because I adored Laura Wilkinson's debut, 'Public Battles, Private Wars', set during the 1980s miners' strike. It's equally well written, but it's a very different sort of book, a slow paced, gradual unfolding with lots of detail, rather than a down-to-earth, events orientated drama. It's about the journey rather than the destination....
A nicely structured drama for readers who enjoy curling up and getting to know their characters in an in-depth fashion.
Let's talk about those characters a little. They're complicated, wonderfully alive, people you might know: they're all a little bruised and damaged, hurting just below the surface, hiding secrets, just trying to get on with life. The central story is really about the two outsiders, Saffron and Joe - and it's a story that will touch you to the heart. But they're surrounded by other wonderfully drawn characters. I quite adored Saffron's mother Rain, with her faith and approach to life, her love for her daughter and her emotions so visible at times: I loved her interactions with eccentric locals (Mair is simply wonderful, and just like a Welsh aunt I remember), her efforts to hold things together, her wry sense of humour and her deep capacity for love.
Other characters were so real to me too - the lovely Ceri, honest and gentle Eifion... even the lad from Liverpool who helped out on the roof job and the lady who ran the shop. The dialogue is quite exceptional - natural, unforced, real conversations that you can hear in your head as you read. And I have to say - because I know about such things - that she captures quite perfectly the cadences of Welsh speech without any of those small annoyances that can sometimes affect my enjoyment of Wales-based novels.
The setting is incredibly vivid. Perhaps it helped that I know Llandudno - sorry, Coed Mawr - well, but I could picture so vividly every scene she described. No, it's unfair to attribute that to knowing the setting - not all the features are there in the town I know, but it's quite wonderful, the way Coed Mawr comes alive, almost as an extra character. The author has a real gift for creating images - Joe on the roof, the bonfire outside the cottage - and I was really struck by how visual this book was, as well as being very deeply moving.
Can I say I've found another favourite author? Yes, of course I can. One of my books of the year? I think yes. No, that's a definite yes. I loved this book so much - I wanted to get to the end, to see if everything turned out the way I wanted it to for these wonderful people that I ached for, but I could also have stayed in Coed Mawr for ever. This was such a special read - and so many others will love it every bit as much as I did.
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Set in the Welsh seaside town of Coed Mawr, Redemption Song tells the story of mother and daughter Rain and Saffron.Read more