Magazine article The Spectator

'The Trick to Time', by Kit De Waal - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'The Trick to Time', by Kit De Waal - Review

Article excerpt

Mona -- single, childless, pushing 60 -- sells wooden dolls made by a carpenter friend, which she delicately costumes from odds and ends of fabric sourced in charity shops. But her business has an odd spin-off: mothers who've suffered past stillbirths can come and 'order' a lump of carved wood made to the specified birthweight of their dead child. By cradling this weight and imagining the future the baby never had, they work towards a kind of closure. Meanwhile, Mona herself -- who grew up in Ireland but lived in Birmingham through the IRA bombings -- has a tragedy of her own on which she has little or no closure.

Far too few novels feature protagonists who are post-menopausal -- and, much to her creator's credit, Mona hopes and yearns and plans like any thirtysomething. So, despite the fact that alarm bells tend to ring whenever I read about grown women and dolls (only one sad step from soft toys on the bed), I still began Kit de Waal's second novel and follow-up to her deservedly bestselling My Name is Leon, with hope in my heart. Sadly, it was soon dashed. Almost every aspect of this well-meaning novel is pedestrian and unconvincing, from the sinisterly cultured 'gentleman' neighbour, who courts Mona with quips such as 'sometimes one must act on impulse' and 'marrying food with wine is an art', through to the cluttered monotone of Irish aunts and neighbours, whose only function is to trigger each stage of the flashback-heavy narrative. …

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