Genre: Modern Fiction
Published: June 2012 (Simon & Schuster)
Source: From the Publishers
About the Book:
'Don't follow the crowd,' she'd be telling schoolgirls at the swimming
baths. 'Follow your own star and when you have achieved your goal you
will have that with you for the rest of your life...'
In 1928, a
plucky young Welsh girl named Ida Gaze swims the Bristol Channel with
the help of her best friend Freda and the inspiration of her heroine
In 1937, on the instructions of the matron, a young
skivvy at a grand maternity hospital in London smuggles out an orphaned
baby on one of the coldest nights of the year.
Now, in a small town
in Wales, an old lady named Ceci pieces together these stories and is
about to discover the surprising ways in which they link to her own. It
begins with two girls in the twenties who left their small Welsh village
for the Big Smoke, feeling that the world was changing and everything
I really wanted to like this book....I loved the cover of the two young women wearing bathing suits from the 1920's and I thought the story would be more about them and their swimming lives....but it wasn't and I was so disappointed about that.
It started well ..... with 14 year old Cecily who was working as a cleaner at a rich private clinic in London in 1937. One cold evening the Sister asks her to take away from the clinic the baby of a very poorly mother. But we don't know why and this leaves us with a cliffhanger until near the end.
The story then moves to the present when Cecily, now an old lady, is living on her own after her 'companion' Freda had died. Whilst looking through Freda's effects she finds an old photo of a young girl in a bathing costume and this sets her on a quest to discover who this girl was and what happened to her.
The book moves back and forth in time from the present to 1928 to a time when a 16 yr old girl called Ida Gaze (the 'Wonder Girl') becomes the first woman to swim the Bristol Channel - 11 miles of treacherous water between Wales and England. 'Nobody thought a woman would cross the Atlantic and Amelia Earhart did - so why shouldn't I cross the water to another country?'
I was really enjoying this part of the story as I found it fascinating but shortly after when Ida and her friend Freda decide to go to London to start a new life my interest waned quite a lot. I found it a little boring and I struggled to keep going....but I did and it did get slightly better as the secrets are slowly revealed.
The only character I warmed to was Cecily, I didn't like Freda at all and I couldn't understand why so many women fell for her, she was an oddball, selfish and she didn't care who's feelings she hurt with her nasty remarks.
So, it was not really my kind of book overall.
If this sounds like your kind of book head on over to Lindsay at The Little Reader Library where Catherine Jones has written a fascinating piece all about the background to the story. Lindsay loved this book and you can read her brilliant review here
Thank you to the publishers, Simon & Schuster, for sending me this to review.