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The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

Genre: Women's Fiction

Publisher: Viking

Publication: 29th March 2018 -

Date of Review: 28th March 2018


Mona is a young Irish girl in the big city, with the thrill of a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding house. On her first night out in 1970s Birmingham, she meets William, a charming Irish boy with an easy smile and an open face. They embark upon a passionate affair, a whirlwind marriage - before a sudden tragedy tears them apart.

Decades later, Mona pieces together the memories of the years that separate them. But can she ever learn to love again?

The Trick to Time is an unforgettable tale of grief, longing, and a love that lasts a lifetime.

My Review

Set in the present day, this timeless novel tells the sad story of true love and loss. Approaching her sixtieth birthday, Mona makes clothing for wooden dolls that she sells in her own shop. Each bespoke doll has its own identity and is made by a carpenter who isn’t named until much later in the book. Mona also volunteers helping other women who have faced tragedy in their lives through stillbirth. One night, unable to sleep, Mona looks out of her apartment window and locks eyes with a stranger who lives in the adjacent block. When Mona bumps in to this mysterious man, who Mona has envisaged as a General, they gradually get to know each other as friends. But is The General, the man Mona has imagined him to be? And will she be able to overcome her past and move on to a new one? Does she want to?

Whilst Mona (aptly named after Desdemona in Shakespeare’s Othello) has faced tragedy throughout her entire life, this beautifully written and thought-provoking narrative has a glass half-full tone. This has a metaphorical link to the book’s title, where as a child, Mona’s father helped her mother’s terminal illness by telling her ‘there’s a trick to time [...] you can make it expand or you can make it contract.’ This is a theme that runs throughout the story, where Mona uses this gift not only to help others but to get through life herself. The narrative has a literary feel to it: although there were a few twists and moments of suspense, this book was more about the protagonist’s inner journey and how she has dealt with the blows life has thrown at her.

The author’s in-depth knowledge of setting for both time and place are evident throughout; where events of the past are gradually woven into the present-day timeline through a series of flashbacks, until the two narrative strands finally come together.

Surprisingly, the book also has several laugh out loud moments, which is where the author’s Irish humour shone through. Combined with Kit de Waal’s talent for writing an almost poetic narrative, this made what could have potentially been a melancholy story into something inspiring and uplifting.

I absolutely loved this book and the ending was particularly emotive. Its compelling and poetic narrative, original plot, three-dimensional characters, and uplifting humour makes this a 5 star review from Literature Love.

I recommend this book for anybody who likes Carol Mason or Mary Paulson-Ellis.

Thank you to Viking and Netgalley for providing this ARC copy in return for an unbiased review.

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