The Girl in the Maze by Cathy Hayward

I opted to take part in this blog tour followed an invitation from the publisher, Agora Books. I received a proof copy of the book to read in advance. This review forms my honest opinion.

Blurb

‘I would caution you against delving into the past. The past is often best left exactly where it is.’


Emma Bowen has never had a close relationship with her mother, barely speaking with her in the last years of her life. But after her mother’s death, Emma finds something that might just explain the distance between them.


Discovering letters between her mother and grandmother, it seems to Emma that her mother has always been difficult.
As she searches for answers about her own childhood, Emma is drawn into the mystery of her mother’s enigmatic life. The more she finds, the more lost she feels, but Emma is determined to uncover her mother’s past, and the secrets held within it, whatever the cost.


An enthralling story of three women, generations apart, linked by one terrible tragedy.

Review

It feels like I’m really neglecting my blog at the moment. I’m around a fair bit being all bookish on Instagram and Twitter, but it feels like a really long time since I sat down to write a proper review! Since starting work at The Rabbit Hole bookshop in the summer I’ve been even more immersed in books than normal. Now I literally get paid to read and know about books, and it’s just wonderful! Still – I will try and give my blog a little more love!!

So, today I’m delighted to be on the blog tour for The Girl in the Maze by Cathy Hayward. I am a huge fan of books which explore complex family relationships, even more so if stories are told over a number of generations and are female focused.

The Girl in the Maze tells the story of three women, Betty, Margaret and Emma. Exploring the evolving role of women in society and the resulting impact on the mother/daughter relationship through the generations.

The story begins with a first chapter so harrowing that it took my breath away. To launch straight into this as the author does is gutsy, but it pays off. The sense of desperation that Betty feels is palpable. She’s young, pregnant and unmarried. These scenes were incredibly well written, as difficult as they were to read on an emotional level. But it was this first chapter that had me hooked.

As the story unfolds we get to know more about these three women as the secrets that have blighted their relationships slowly begin to be uncovered as Emma clears out her deceased mother’s belongings.

The narrative focuses on the points of view of Emma, her grandmother Betty and step-grandfather, Jack, spanning from 1937 through to 2019. Her mother, Margaret is heard and seen only through the eyes of others. An interesting move, as Margaret becomes something of an enigma. She is central to everything and yet she is silenced, her voice only being heard through her mysterious artwork – a painting showing a little girl in a maze. As the reader the absence of her voice really made me confront my instinctive reactions towards her as reveals were made. I really found myself considering how these reactions have been formed and shaped by the society I live in.

This is a book about women, their lives and how they are and have been viewed by society and also by one another. And the most startling thing is just how much still remains relevant today. One of the key themes throughout is the idea of shame. It is this shame that controls the women in the story in one way or another. And it is down to Emma to break that mould and break the cycle moving forwards in not repeating the mistakes of her mother and grandmother with her own children.

I really enjoyed this book. Its well written, with complex characters and engaging stories. It would be a fantastic read for a book club because there are some really gritty themes to explore and discuss. Throughout there’s a huge sense of loss and sadness and a feeling of what could have been. It’s beautifully written and I really loved it.

The Girl In The Maze is out in ebook format on 28th October, releasing in paperback on 25th November. If you’ve been tempted by this review, it would be hugely appreciated if you could show your support by pre-ordering the paperback through either your own local indie bookshop, or if you prefer to buy online via Bookshop.org.

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