* Prices may differ from that shown
This is a review of the book 'The World Below' by Sue Miller.
**Brief plot outline**
Catherine Hubbard lives in San Fracisco and is twice divorced and her three children are grown up and live away from her. She inherits a house from her grandmother in Vermont, a place she once lived when younger. Her journey back to her past reveals more information about her grandma's past, when she discovers her journals she puts together a jigsaw about a story of secret love during her time at a sanatorium recovering from TB.
The story is about four generations in a family and the similarities between their lives. It highlights traditional issues and moral dilemmas through the ages. It switches from the first person (Catherine) to around 80 years previous (Georgia) so the reader gets the full story whilst Catherine is left to guess what happened through the polite code of her grandmother's journals.
**Why I picked this book**
I find the way TB was treated - with outdoor beds on a verandah fascinating. The author describes how the patients, potentially close to death, all fell in love with each other and took comfort in small romances whilst there. I thought the back cover looked really interesting and couldn't wait to read it.
I must admit, the way the author jumps around between narrators gets a bit confusing at times and I found it hard to keep up. I can see why she needed to do this to weave the storyline in and reveal the family skeletons at key points. What was even more confusing was the extended family details, both Georgia and Catherine lost their mothers when they were young and had difficult upbringings and this caused a little confusion too.
I loved the way that Georgia squirreled away money from her housekeeping account to pay for her Sanatorium lover's funeral fees. Once she had done this she told her husband (the doctor) because she didn't want to lie to him. His reaction was to take her to the bank and open up a separate and private bank account - which was unheard of for women in those days - so that she can have her own money. He doesn't judge or punish her for the relationship or the secretive saving.
Because I read the book in lots of small chunks I think I struggled with the storyline a bit and if I had had the chance to read it in 1-2 sittings it would have been easier. Having said this, it was charming and began with a 50-something woman's life who was alone and single and looking for purpose. During the book she finds herself and makes closer links with her family and discovers she can still make new friends.
I would read other books by Sue Miller, in fact the front cover says she is the bestselling author of 'While I was Gone' so I will look out for that one to read in the future.