Monday, 18 April 2016

Book Review: IN THE LIGHT OF WHAT WE SEE by Sarah Painter

In the Light of What We See

In the Light of What We See
Author: Sarah Painter
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Read: April 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Brighton, 1938: Grace Kemp is pushed away by the family she has shamed. Rejected and afraid, she begins a new life as a nurse. But danger stalks the hospital too, and she’ll need to be on her guard to avoid falling into familiar traps. And then there are the things she sees…Strange portents that have a way of becoming real.

Eighty years later, Mina Morgan is brought to the same hospital after a near-fatal car crash. She is in terrible pain but recalls nothing. She’s not even sure whom to trust. Mina too sees things that others cannot, but now, in hospital, her visions are clearer than ever…

Two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by a shared space and a common need to salvage their lives. 

My thoughts:

Mina Morgan knows that something bad is about to happen when a siskin appears in her room one morning, watching her with beady eyes. It has been years since she has seen one of her “ghost birds”, the harbingers of doom only she can see. Mina is not surprised – she has been unhappy with her life choices lately, living a lie and yet too mired in regret and grief to take her fate into her own hands. But before she can take action, a serious car accident leaves her fighting for her life in a hospital in Brighton, unable to remember large chunks of her life including the circumstances which brought her here.

80 years earlier, young Grace Kemp also enters the hospital doors, a decision which was as much forced upon her as Mina’s coma.  Disgraced and estranged from her family she is hoping to make a new life for herself as a nurse, and that the hard labour will wipe away the sorrow and grief she carries in her heart. Little does either woman know that the hospital will change their lives in ways they could never have imagined.

It is hard to assign a genre to this unusual book, which I would call a “coming of age” story as two young women born generations apart must overcome the hurdles of the past and take their lives into their own hands in order to stop being victims. In the Light of What We See contains elements of several genres: there is mystery and suspense, an element of the supernatural, historical detail of nursing in the 1930’s, friendship and a sprinkling of romance. Linked only by the historical building of the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton, the two women connect through a thin ghostly thread as both their lives are hanging in the balance.

I loved the way the author managed to connect these seemingly two separate stories in the most unusual way, as well as the attention to historical detail which brings Grace’s story to life. I found the characters of both women thoroughly engaging and felt a definite connection and empathy for their plight as the details of their lives stories slowly unfold and they grow more confident as they start taking their lives into their own hands. The author does a great job of connecting the two story lines and tying together all the loose ends in the final chapter. Whilst the supernatural element is often overdone in other novels, it is perfectly executed here, a thin mysterious thread, a window in time. In the Light of What We See was a mystical, engaging read which kept me thoroughly enthralled from beginning to end, despite its relatively slow pace (which suits this story perfectly). I loved it!

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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