Having read her first novel, One Apple Tasted (click through to read my review), I knew that Josa Young is extremely masterful when it comes to intertwining several threads of a story, across different generations and historical eras, bringing them all vividly to life. Somehow, she manages to really get under the skin of her characters, perfectly understanding and channelling the mentalities of the time, without being judgemental or one-dimensional.
Sail Upon The Land again reveals her unparalleled skill of winding the reader through four generations of women, revealing their experiences as daughters, wives and ultimately mothers themselves. All of the characters are well-defined and fleshed out so we can really empathise with all of them, even if at times I wanted to tutt at some of their more irritating character traits ! The central character - or at least the one that we are first introduced to - is Damson, a young, happy-go-lucky, soon-to-be medical student, whose exciting, carefree adventures backpacking in India in the 1980's are brought to a sudden grinding halt when she is attacked. Without revealing too much of the story, this horrific incident, which opens the novel, will have far-reaching consequences that even Damson can not yet imagine.
From this starting point, we step back in time, discovering Melissa, Damson's mother, whose swinging sixties' youth ends tragically prematurely, and Sarah, her grandmother, who bravely chooses to be a nurse during World War II. Each of the women has a powerful and poignant tale to tell, full of drama and upset but also love and hope. We also move forwards in time, to the current day, meeting a fourth female figure, Mellita, whose sudden appearance brings to light further details from the past, allowing all four of the generations to find peace, unity and closure in the final touching scene.
It is a book which touches on many sensitive themes, including date rape, unwanted pregnancy, post-natal depression and mental health issues, but the ultimate sense is one of joy and hope, a celebration of women and all the things they have endured (and still do!) through time. The structure is complex, switching between generations and narrators, but it is so well-constructed that it is an effortless read and I didn't once have to check back to the beginning of a chapter to see which time period we were in or who had taken centre stage.
It will undoubtedly appeal predominantly to women, but it is far too good to be clumped in with the usual frothy, frivolous chick-lit. It's a really enjoyable read, which often had me wanting to reach into the book to give the characters a much-needed hug !
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £8.99
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.