Tina Thornton’s twin sister Meg died in a childhood accident, but for almost forty years Tina has secretly blamed herself for her sister’s death. During a visit to her aging Uncle Edward and his sister Lucia, who both harbour dark secrets of their own, Tina makes a discovery that forces her to finally question her memories of the day her sister died.
Who, if anyone, did kill Meg? As Tina finds the courage to face the past, she unravels the tangled family mysteries of her estranged parents, her beautiful French Aunt Simone, the fading, compassionate Uncle Edward, and above all, the cold, bitter Aunt Lucia, whose spectral presence casts a long shadow over them all.
‘A first novel of great charm and assurance, beautifully told and utterly gripping’ – The Times
‘A heart-breaking tale of loss, missed chances and enduring love’ – Good Housekeeping
‘[a] charming debut...’ – Daily Mail
A Life Between Us is a beautifully evocative story of a family torn apart at the seams, which will appeal to readers who enjoy family sagas and modern-day mysteries.
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I really really enjoyed reading this book. There are not many novels that keep me up all hours desperate to find out what's happening next! I loved the slow progression over the years as we watch Tina and the other characters grow up from childhood. Using letters written by Tina to her distant relative was a lovely way of doing these flashbacks to the past. Although there are many different threads to the story they are interwoven together cleverly and it doesn't complicate the story, rather to complement the novel. The mystery surrounding Tina's twin sister's death had me eager to find out what had happened, and kept the pages turning. The twin plays a central part to the story as she is still a major part in Tina's life.
Twists and turns lead us towards a satisfying ending of this beautifully told story. A story of mystery, loss, family secrets, and guilt.
Fantastic. I look forward to the authors next novel.
by Emily Williams
I came to the second novel by Louise Walters with some anticipation, having enjoyed her debut Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase very much. This second book is being self-published by Walters, an act of independence to be admired.
A Life Between Us is set in the present day and features Tina, a lonely housewife, avid reader, compulsive overeater and bereaved twin. Tina is still grieving - her twin Meg, we know, died in childhood in an incident that Tina blames herself for. When Meg asks Tina to avenge her, we are plunged back into the past and the story of Tina's aunt Lucia.
The narrative switches between the past, as we begin to find out more about Lucia, and the present, as Tina starts to follow her husband's advice to get out more, joins a reading group and makes a friend.
Walters has written of a lovely, engaging, ordinary woman who has very little idea of how she is struggling, and her hapless husband who is equally stuck in different ways. (I mean it as a good thing when I describe Tina as ordinary - the kind of person we could all meet.) Walters is excellent at portraying an isolated woman, as she showed in her debut novel, and here she describes Tina's attempts to make sense of her world with a strong sense of pathos. She has also written a real *SPOILER ALERT - KIND OF* nasty piece of work in Lucia, someone whose first scene as a child displays some of the mean spirit she will continue throughout. The mean streak is not really explained, as some authors might do, and this is refreshing. She just is.
This is less a whodunnit, despite Meg's urging for revenge, and more an examination of how we deal with grief and loss. A confident and assured novel.
by Susan Barsby
Having loved Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase I was absolutely thrilled to be given the opportunity to read a advance copy of this new offering. I was in no way disappointed - A Life Between Us is another amazingly well written, instantly absorbing read. Once again the quality of of descriptive prose is superb and the plot flows effortlessly. This story of hidden family secrets is one of the best I've read so far this year. Loved it!
by Beverley Crofts
I liked this book as I do like books that alternate between past and present.
It's a family saga and a love story with dark secrets, betrayal and redemption. There are 2 main characters, Lucia and Tina. Lucia is Tina's aunt and Tina lives in the present day and has secrets about the death of her sister Meg as a child.
A great conclusion to the book and I must read this authors other books.
by Lynn McCarthy
A Life Between Us is a truly beautiful book. It deals with difficult subjects - death, divorce, incest, grief, mental illness - with subtlety and grace & moves seamlessly between past and present drawing the reader into Tina's world.
Louise has created an unputdownable family saga that keeps you guessing until the very end & will stay with me for a good while yet.
by Rachel Hawes
Emotional journey towards realisation and acceptance and partly a chilling and gripping page turner. It felt like a long read but in the most delightful way because I didn't really want it to end. It was a treat to really immerse myself in the world of the characters and watch the stories unravel, twist themselves around each other into knots and then eventually weave themselves together into a very satisfying conclusion.
The story is told by two different narrators and two different time lines. We meet Tina whose story takes place in the present and then we have Lucia whose story takes place in the past. Interspersed between these chapters are letters written by a young Tina. The changing narratives are very easy to follow and to keep track of as not only are the voices very distinctive and clear, but the chapters are labelled with the dates and characters speaking. Although there are lots of characters in the novel who appear throughout both story lines, it is not at all confusing and actually hugely engaging as the reader sees how the two story lines begin to impact on each other and how they are all intrinsically linked.
I would describe this book as a thriller but Walters does not set out to shock, deceive or surprise us. The relationships and situations are clearly laid out at the beginning so the reader begins with a very firm understanding of the premise. But, even though this is not a book about hidden twists and shocks, it kind of still is! Walters still catches us unawares and still manages to create dramatic climaxes and maintain a great level of tension and suspense throughout the whole novel. At times it is a chilling read.
I really loved the characters of both Tina and Lucia. They are very different yet both flawed. They are believable. They are easy to feel sympathy and empathy towards but also sometimes fear, frustration and pity. Their journeys are dramatic and traumatic but it is not sensationalism or soap operatic in style, more a quiet build up, a steady accumulation of events and situations which push them to breaking point.
Walters is able to explore some universal themes like grief, love, isolation, deception, redemption, and forgiveness. Her representation of families under pressure, marriages under pressure, friendships under pressure is compelling and well expressed. I liked the dialogue between the characters, the dynamics and interaction between them all and I really liked the subtle suggestion of malevolence or threatening behaviour in some of the people.
The ending was unexpected and challenged my perception of the genre of this novel. I liked it a lot!
I think the thing I enjoyed the most (apart from the wonderful character of Lucia!) was the fact that even though the main twists were not hidden from the reader, there was still lots I was unsure about (in terms of plot and which characters to trust) and I still felt an immense amount of tension as I was reading. Tina is very open with the reader but it still feels like she is keeping a lot from us. She is reliable but she isn't. There are still secrets that need to be uncovered and revelations waiting to be made. This is a page turner because you want to hear more from the characters and see more of their story.
This is Louise Walters' second book but it is the first book of hers I have read. I was really impressed by it. I was impressed by the well managed plot which was multilayered and complicated but always controlled. Nothing was superfluous and nothing was distracting. It had a slightly epic feel to it in the way an engrossing family drama novel that spans decades should and I could happily have kept reading about Tina and Lucia for longer. They will stay with me as will their story and I am going to try to make sure I read Walters' first novel, Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase as soon as I can. It has been on my TBR pile for a long time when I first saw other bloggers recommending it. I'm sure it will be as enjoyable and satisfying as A Life Between Us.
by Katherine Sunderland
What I love the most about this book is the sense of time. Once I'd settled in to the different characters and the shifting timeframes, the transitions were seamless, and I couldn't wait to read on to the next one. There are so many books which go overboard to show when they are happening, name-checking endlessly. This book just knows where it is. Tina is a fabulous character, and I was completely drawn into her world, rooting for her all the way through. If I had one niggle, it was the revelation of Lucia's part in the tragedy not being quite as bad as I'd been expecting. I'm working really hard to find a niggle, though. Warm and with a huge heart, I hope this book fonds many happy readers. Oh yes, and the books that Tina loves? Bang on, every one!
by Sarah Jasmon
I finished the book about a week ago but let it settle in my mind before attempting this review. I really had mixed emotions about the story and its characters. Also, I was left with just too many unanswered questions. Although there were several main characters and the story frequently switched between them, I believe that Lucia was the true focus of the book. Initially, it was confusing when the author switched between decades and characters, but eventually, I figured out what was happening.
After reading the entire book, I started at the beginning and reread all of Lucia's chapters. Lucia was a complex and highly unlikable character. She tormented and physically abused her helpless baby brother. She enjoyed destroying his toys and making him miserable, as often as possible. Later, when "forced" to help raise that brother's twin daughters, Lucia continued the pathological behavior. Her relationship with all of her brothers, except for the eldest, Edward, was, at best, strained. Lucia did not have friends at school or in the neighborhood. She liked nobody and nobody liked her.
Edward was ten years older than Lucia and was an eye witness to her treatment of their youngest brother. So, setting up the story, we knew that Edward was aware of Lucia's psychological issues. She needed serious help of some type but her abnormal behavior went unnoticed by her parents, as Edward kept the information from them. He told himself that he would monitor Lucia's actions and he warned her to stop hurting their brother. Unfortunately, Lucia just became better at masking her true thoughts and feelings.
After his military service, Edward returned home, an experienced college man of 27 years. He lived with his fiance Simone. After a disastrous experience at a party, Lucia returns home, devastated by the rejection of her first crush, Clive. Her mother attended her and then retired to bed, leaving Lucia in the loving comfort of her favorite brother, Edward.
I was wholly unprepared for what transpired next, as I did not alert to any previous inappropriate behavior between those two. I went back through Lucia's chapters, seeking any possible missed clues. No, the relationship between them seemed entirely normal. Lucia, the much younger sister, idolized her eldest brother. Edward even had a nickname for her, Loose Ear.
Although Lucia initiated the experience, Edward did not stop her outrageous actions. Knowing that she was a disturbed individual, he proceeded to take from her that which cannot be given a second time, with no thought to consequences. Edward acted in an unforgivable manner, excusing himself by claiming to be "drunk." Apparently, he was not drunk enough to lose consciousness and was capable of committing the act.
Throughout the book, Edward referred to the incident as a "mistake" when in actuality, it was a CRIME! Now, here was my question for the author. Were we,the readers, to view Edwards' abominable behavior as Lucia's just retribution for her previous acts against her helpless brother? Although she was unlikable, I did not believe that she deserved what Edward did to her.
In regards to the consequences, did Edward, a man of almost 30 years, not even consider the possible outcome of his action? Apparently not, as he just went on with his life, as if nothing untoward had happened. He married Simone and never gave a second thought to what could have, and in fact, did, happen, as a consequence of his "mistake" that one time.
While reading, my mind was formulating numerous theories, such as, somehow Lucia's pregnancy continued and the twin girls were actually her daughters. When that theory was proven false, I had hoped that Edward was not really Lucia's biological brother. I was especially hopeful when Edward's marriage dissolved. Was the author trying to tell a story about forbidden love that somehow became attainable? Yes, it still would have been a grave misdeed, as the two believed them to be siblings, but a non-relative situation would have been so much less disturbing. But no, the author did not provide us with that measure of comfort. Also, I held my breath when reading Tina's childhood memories of her beloved Uncle Edward. I was so afraid that he would make another "mistake", thus repeating the cycle with his niece. Thankfully, we were spared such a grievous transgression. What he did to Lucia was bad enough.
The other main character, Tina, survived a lifetime of agonizing, self-inflicted torment, as she carried the burden of guilt surrounding the tragic death of her twin sister, Meg. So many questions about all of Tina's life. Did Lucia kill Meg? Was it an accident that Lucia promptly turned around and placed blame on Tina? Did Lucia try to make the adult Tina fall off the chair in the kitchen? If so, why did she wish to harm her niece after so many years had passed?
Finally, there was Keaton, Tina's husband. I respected Keaton, as he remained the sole steadfast presence in Tina's life. He was gentle, patient and kind. He loved and supported his wife through many trying times. Unfortunately, Keaton betrayed his wife, allowing himself to be seduced by his secretary, Sharanne. Yes, another example of the weak male who was just incapable of resisting the advances of a female. Anyway, to the author, I ask "WHY?" The situation was so cliche and unnecessary. Even worse, he fathered a child with the woman. During that period we were privy to his selfish behavior when he pressed a promise from Sharanne that she would have the baby. Later, she changed her mind. Really? After everything she tried to gain his attention, she won the ultimate way in which to permanently ingratiate herself into his life and we were to believe that she just walked away from that situation. For the majority of the book, she shamelessly pursued her married supervisor. She must have enjoyed the chase so much more than the reality of the situation, as she agreed to end the affair, after changing her mind about the baby. The conclusion of their tawdry affair felt contrived.
Meanwhile, with her friend Kath's assistance, Tina finds a way to settle the events of the past and free herself from the demons that had haunted her without mercy. Tina miraculously conceived, fulfilling Keaton's ultimate desire to be a father. Honoring her twin's memory, Tina names the baby Meggie. Although I was extremely relieved when Tina found her happiness, the ending of the book was unsatisfying. I had hoped for more realizations, and perhaps, finally, a true acknowledgement by Edward, as to how his actions influenced the fates of so many lives, including his own.
When I returned to the beginning of the book, the story opened with Lucia suffering an injured leg. She also referred to her brother Edward as a "monster" at that time. None of that made any sense until reading the entire story. So, in regards to Lucia's labeling Edward a "monster", was that because she realized that he had committed a crime against her all those decades ago? I was perplexed and angered by Edward's violent reaction when he learned the truth of Simone's betrayal. Why did he deserve any less when he betrayed his sister in the worst possible way? How dare he be so indignant when he learned that Lucia told Simone about the incident between the siblings. He was furious that Lucia disclosed their darkest family secret, describing the event as "rape!" Well, is that not what it was? I was displeased with how the author did not address that aspect of the story, allowing now elderly, Edward to appear as a kindly, loving uncle to his family. With Simone's return, and their reconciliation, his life still continued, mostly as planned, as compared to Lucia's fractured existence. Regardless, I was not ready for the story to end.