In 1964 Maggie wakes to find herself in a psychiatric ward, not knowing who she is or why she has been committed. She slowly begins to have memories of a storm and of a man called Jack and slowly the pieces of the past begin to come together… In 2008 Jonathan is struggling to put his differences with his parents aside to tell them he and his wife are expecting a baby, when a detective arrives to question him about crimes committed long ago… And as these two tales interweave, the secrets of the past, long kept hidden, start to come to light in unexpected and sometimes startling ways. The Things We Never Said is a powerful novel about fatherhood and motherhood; nature and nurture; cruelty and kindness; and mental breakdown. Written in beautiful, compelling prose, it is by turns revealing, witty and moving.
As far as books go I really enjoyed this read, as did most of the group, but it lacked in depth for a genuine book group discussion. It wasn’t a particularly challenging read and I thought that the two narrative stories intertwined quite nicely at the end, but it could have been much better. The author touches briefly on some very topical issues that would have made for excellent book group discussions, which was a real shame as we all felt that there was so much potential locked away in those pages.
Some of our group found the main characters lacked in depth and were difficult to engage with, but I actually found them to be very real and believable. It was a very sad story for Maggie, and was probably quite real for many women in those days, but I’d have liked to have seen more justice done at the end. As for Jonathan, I found him to be emotionally underdeveloped, but others found him simply annoying. You didn’t really get a chance to feel drawn to his circumstances (as they were pretty interesting circumstances) and some of our members who work in the education sector found the events in the school to be a bit far fetched and unbelievable. However, everything happens for a reason and the events all have a purpose in unravelling the final few chapters.
I’m going to be a bit hypocritical here as I normally love a happy ending, but this ending did seem a little on the flat side. Although it wasn’t the perfect ending for all involved, it could have been a lot worse, and I think I was secretly hoping for a bit more drama at the final close. Having said that, if things had developed into a full blown disaster I’d have probably complained about that too! There’s just no pleasing some people!
Someone did mention the title and that it didn’t seem relevant, but I thought that it was actually quite perfect for the book. If every one of the characters had been more vocal and voiced their thoughts, feelings or opinions then the book would have had a very different outcome. In fact, the lives of those involved would have been on entirely different paths.
It would have been interesting to explore more about the emotional journey of some of the characters. To get right inside their heads, to think and feel more about their actions (and lack of reactions). It’s difficult to really describe some of the ideas that could have been explored more without giving away too much of the plot, so I’ll leave it at that. Some parts were intriguing, beautifully crafted and thought provoking, but more depth on topical issues would have been welcomed.
So, to conclude I found it to be a very interesting and sad read and although it wasn’t good enough to be a book group read it is still worth a few hours of your time on a Sunday afternoon.