SECOND OPINION: A History of Running Away by Paula McGrath

Review published on June 22, 2017.

Maybe it was the ‘Paula’ and I was thinking Radcliffe that made me speculate as to whether this might be an homage to marathon running. Nope. But the marathon of life might be seen as a fitting metaphor to sum up this second novel from Paula McGrath.

For me, this was one of those rare books where you had to reach the end to realise how good it really is. If that sounds like stating the obvious I apologise. And I will endeavour to explain without giving anything away. I spent much of the book feeling frustrated. The novel was supposed to be telling me about three women, their separate lives and ultimately the connections between them all. And it did. It all began so promisingly; chapters with a little on each woman ending on, not so much a cliff hanger, as a stumble down a little incline. Except that as the fiction progressed there seemed to be a disproportionate bias towards the story of just one of the women. I wanted to know about all of them.

It was only at the end that it became clear why such an emphasis and detail had gone into the story of that one woman. I hope that makes sense. If it doesn’t reading the book will.

To do this and get it right is the work of a competent and meticulous writer. For this is a well crafted plot that could easily go awry but it all unfolds skilfully. Unwittingly, the reader is forced into engaging with one of the characters more than the others because, quite simply, you are told more about her. But the other characters are easily accessible. Much of it is good, old fashioned story telling, a tale unfolding before you with some satisfactory conclusions and no real loose ends.

It’s a tale of growing up and allowing that maturity to help you discover who you really are. In a sense it’s not about the circumstances and situations but more the motivations and commitment to seeing things through. That is clever because it seems the very paradox of running away from things! There is plenty of actual running in the book too the descriptions of which gave the book a rhythm and a flow.

It’s a tight story that doesn’t allow a reviewer to give much of the plot away without risking spoilers. I found it a worthwhile and absorbing read. I don’t think it covered any new ground but then I don’t think that was the intention of the writer. It’s refreshing to simply read – a story.

Gill Chedgey 4/4

A History of Running Away by Paula McGrath
John Murray 9781473641754 hbk Jun 2017

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