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I picked up 'Yesterday's Sun' from my local library, attracted by a rather intriguing cover and the strapline 'How can she choose between her child and herself?' This novel is the debut from Amanda Brooke and has been included as one of the Richard and Judy Book Club recommendations, which has been a source of many great reads for me.
I found the prologue was a really good start to this story - revealing a heavily pregnant Holly and alluding to her impending death. This grabbed my interest from the outset as I was intrigued to discover just how Holly was so sure that she was going to die and why she had chosen to conceal this information from her own husband. The novel then jumps back to eighteen months previously where we get to meet Holly and her husband, Tom, as they move into a new home together in the countryside.
Despite the attention-grabbing prologue, the story itself was quite slow going to begin with. I have to admit that I didn't particularly warm to Holly and find her relationship with Tom a little over-egged, with the author constantly emphasising how much in love the newly-wed young couple are and how they have planned out their futures together to the nth degree. I didn't really empathise a great deal with Holly and found there was far too much needless description and padding within the early chapters.
The story takes a more interesting turn when Holly discovers a 'moondial' (rather than a sundial) hidden at the bottom of her new garden and experiences a strange kind of vision of her own future, one in which she actually witnessed her husband grieving following her own death during childbirth. This was an unusual slant on the concept of time travel and should have been quite exciting and tense but, somehow, I felt this was lacking.
I find it difficult to pinpoint why exactly I wasn't totally in love with this story. The premise is unusual and intriguing but it didn't really captivate me in the way that I had anticipated. I struggled to empathise completely with Holly, even when she begins to question her long-term plans for her future. I suspect this might be because Holly was initially pretty ambivalent about the idea of becoming a parent in the beginning and only seems to begin to want children at the point she believes that she is likely to die in childbirth.
There are other peripheral characters around the story but I'm not sure why the author felt the need for these to be so much older than Holly. We have a kindly old gardener and a motherly lady in her eighties. I wasn't entirely convinced by the character of Jocelyn, particularly as she fails to share pretty crucial information with Holly early on in the novel. I felt the author missed the opportunity to really build up tension and intrigue with the introduction of Jocelyn, as Holly could quite easily have been suspicion of the (much) older woman's intentions and motivation. Instead, Holly instantly seems to accept Jocelyn and her version of events whereas I think most people would be a little more cynical.
In all, this fell slightly short of the mark. This is a debut novel and I would certainly consider reading more by the same author as she progresses but just don't feel this is entirely worthy of all of the praise it has received thus far.
The feelings behind this book are clear. It is about the sacrifices a mother would make for their child and the lengths they would go to put their child first. There is something so perfect about the balance in this relationship, the relationship between Holly and Libby. This relationship had so much potential and would have played out so perfectly in the pages of this story had the characters had a greater depth to them.
In the prologue the reader is immediately plunged into the mysterious world that you desperately want to know more about. There are so many questions that need answering, so many issues arose. As the story unfolds you learn more about Holly's life and how her upbringing has shaped the person she is today, but even with this knowledge it is difficult to form a shape to the character. In some places in the book her emotions lack depth and although she is supposed to be showing how lost and confused she is in her current circumstances something about her reactions feel fake and forced.
The author pays an amazing amount of attention to the finer details, the thoughts, movements and reactions of the characters, but it seems to almost gloss over the greater picture, the relationships that this stories foundation is built upon. The Relationship between Tom and Holly is so sickly sweet, it is completely unbelievable. I can't imagine anyone's relationship being filled with a constant mix of romantic babble that feels like it emerged from a cheesy film. Even as the couple face some difficult decisions in their life such as Tom moving away for work and their discussions about children, any disagreements are passed on with a moment's thought and a kind word.
I must admit in some parts I felt this book was greatly tiresome and found it difficult to pick back up, but it does have its hook, what happens to Libby? I did have to know and that is what kept me coming back for more. Two characters which greatly stole the show from Tom and Holly were Billy and Jocelyn. Billy was the perfect character, the cheeky builder and the knight in shining armour. He was instantly likeable and the kind of Character whose warm face you could just imagine. Jocelyn was perfection, a character the author should be proud of and someone I had to know more about. The choice to make her story unfold gradually gave her a greater mystery than the Moon dial.
The most beautiful part of this book is the ending. It showed just how amazing Jocelyn's character was. In one sweeping movement she had made the greatest sacrifice without as much as a thought for herself. Sure she had learnt from the mistakes in her past and she had built upon her life's experiences but she is such an amazing character. The true star of Yesterday's sun.
I always make a point of checking out books from Richard and Judy's book club, so when I saw the newest selection in Smiths recently I had a quick browse. Yesterday's Sun by Amanda Brookes caught my eye because of the pretty cover and the recommendation on the front from author Katie FForde claiming it 'Magical and Unputdownable'. When I read the synopsis describing the story of a woman offered a glimpse into her future by a mysterious Moondial I was sold.
Holly and Tom have just moved into their dream home and are about to embark on a new five year plan. For Tom this involves a family, but after a childhood of neglect and bitterness Holly isn't so sure. When she comes across a box containing a glass orb and strange mechanical objects during the renovations, Holly doesn't know what to make of them. Until it becomes clear that they belong to the stone sculpture Tom unearthed and plans on using as the centerpiece of their large gardens in the belief it's a sundial. But when elderly neighbour Jocelyn tells Holly it's actually a moondial, Holly is intrigued. One night when the moon is at it's fullest Holly feels an irrisistable draw to the moondial and places the glass orb into the mechanical contraption she painstakingly put together. She isn't prepared for what happens next. For Holly is offered a glimpse into her future. One which includes a beautiful baby daughter and for the first time Holly feels the stirrings of maternal instinct. But something is wrong with the picture of the future. It doesn't include her at all. Holly must work out if she can change her destiny, or will it become a choice of Holly's life for her daughter's?
I love time travel stories. I love real life settings with a magical twist. I thought I was onto a winner with this one, it contained both elements and sounded incredibly emotional too. Unfortunatly this one fell short and left me disappointed.
I encounted problems very early on in the book. Amanda Brookes writing is very readable, but personally I didn't find it at all convincing. Holly and Tom are in their early thirties, yet I've never met anyone of this age who talks the way they do. They just weren't believable at all. Secondly, it's a bit of cliche overload to the point of being cringeworthy at times. Finally it's so sickly sweet, the scenes between Tom and Holly left me wanting to gag. If the writing wasn't so easy going I would have given up very early on. Besides, I really wanted to know what the deal with the moondial was.
I actually thought the premise was a really good one. Imagine being offered a glimpse into a future which didn't include you and the only way to save yourself was to sacrifice someone else? The workings and history of the moondial are what kept me going and were at times fascinating. But as Holly wasn't interested in having children in the first place I wondered what message Amanda Brookes was sending out here. Tom is very persuasive and pressurising towards Holly in the early pages regarding her having children and Holly's emotional attachment to the child she glimpses in the future is immediate. Is she saying that a womans role is purely motherhood? I'm not sure. I didn't get it.
Maybe the book lacked a little emotional involvement for me. It's written in a third person narraitive from Holly and tells rather than shows Holly's turmoil. Again I thought the over sentimentalaity and outdated character speach distanced me. It felt like I was supposed to find this story heartrendingly sad but the truth is I didn't. And I'm the biggest wuss going and cry at anything usually. I also saw the plot twist coming about 100 pages before it happened, convinced myself it couldn't be that obvious and read on to find it actually was.
I did like the wise old neighbour Jocelyn however. She's a figure of strength and the little glimpses into her story were fascinating. In fact, this is whose story I wanted to hear full stop. Everyone else were charicatures, and old fashioned ones at that and I didn't like any of them. The other plus is that this is a pretty short book. It's only just over 300 pages and an easy quick read to pass a couple of hours. Overall though this book wasn't for me. Too syruppy, no emotional connection and the story was the wrong one, from the wrong person.
Published by Harper (Uk) January 2012