Winner Of The 2018 Millennium Book Award
HENRY: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America
by Karina Shawver
At the age of forty-six, Anita Hall knows exactly who she is. She has lived with partner Ed for fifteen years and is proud of the life they’ve built. They go out into the world separately: Ed with one eye on the future in the world of finance; Anita with one foot in the past, a curator at Hampton Court Palace. This is the life she has chosen - choices unavailable to her mother’s generation - her dream job, equal partnership, free of children, living in a quirky old house she adores. She is happy. Their foundations are solid and their future seems secure. That was before the fire.
Anita stands in the middle of the road watching her home and everything inside it burn to the ground. She and Ed have nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Fifteen years of memories gone up in smoke. Before she can come to terms with the magnitude of her loss, hairline cracks begin to appear in her perfect relationship. And returning to her childhood home in search of comfort, she stumbles upon the secret her mother has kept hidden, a taboo so unspeakable it can only be written down.
There’s an understated audacity to the way Davis writes, so cleverly handling her narrative that we must always be vigilant for subtle changes in tone. A novel with many meaningful messages strewn throughout we are left in little doubt as to the calibre of the mind behind the pen with few writers so adept at capturing the emotions of their characters. The overarching theme is that of loss in which style and story find alternative expression as Davis delivers a complete, absorbing and above all cleverly hewed story that rebukes mechanical writing and pays due deference to the intricacies of her characters. She invites us to peer closely at them, to know them as individuals as opposed to bit players in Anita’s life, with each chapter conveying something tangible and notable. Anita’s carefully constructed life is falling apart as she’s plunged into melodrama and revelations, but for readers looking for a novel with a deeper subtext, this is as good as it gets.
A wonderful introduction to a very talented Jane Davis, An Unknown Woman is recommended without reservation.
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Winner of the Daily Mail First Novel Award.
An Unknown Woman, was named Self-Published Book of the Year 2016 by Writing Magazine