Sunday, 8 July 2018

Book review : The Hope Fault - Tracy Farr

A woman (Iris), her son (Kurt), her ex-husband (Paul) with his new wife and baby, her best friend (who also happens to be ex-husband's twin sister) and her daughter, all cooped up in her mother's house for one final, rainy midwinter weekend. It sounds like the stuff of nightmares, but for Iris and her merry band, it works (for the most part). There is a bit of teenage angst going on at times, but Iris and Paul get on remarkably well - in fact, it all seems a bit Stepford Wives-esque at times, with the divorcees hugging while the new wife looks on serenely !

 The purpose of this strange gathering is to pack up Iris's elderly mother's belongings and say goodbye to the family home before it is sold. Apart from the fact that it rains a lot, there is no real drama and those incidents that could have been exciting or nerve-wracking (a trip to the emergency department at the local hospital, a drunken teen wandering around on the beach in the middle of the night, ...) turn out to be non-events.

The middle section of the book, which accounts for about half of the novel, is what really made it for me. Unbeknownst to all but one of the house dwellers, 100-year-old Rosa, Iris's mother, passes away while her reconstituted family are clearing out her house. Starting with her last minutes and working backwards through her whole life in a series of letters and memories, we get a real sense of the woman, girl and child that she was, complete with her hopes, dreams and lost chances. The things that didn't happen are just as important as those that did in creating the woman she turned out to be, and this theme is continued in the wider novel - the most important details and events are left unsaid, from Rosa's death and the secret hospital trip to the final (and rather overdue) decision to name the baby - a decision which is left tantalisingly undelivered for the reader.  But it is always the unsaid and the invisible that shapes life and people - as the title suggests, the fault lines that run under the surface, creating the unsettling notion that the earth might shift, literally or metaphorically, at any moment, and change life as you know it.

It's a slow, lyrical, pensive look at life and families. Nothing much happens, so if you're looking for a gripping page-turner, you'll be disappointed, but the power of the prose is in the ability to pause and look at the intricate and seemingly insignificant details and complex relationships that make up the everyday experience of family life.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Aardvark Bureau (26 July 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910709433
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910709436

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.


  1. It sounds like an intricate book, with family secrets revealed along the way. I suppose the fault line is a metaphor which could apply to most families.

  2. It sounds like a good book, but I'm not sure I'd like that it's slow.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...