Review published on November 20, 2017.
I am always delighted to receive a debut novel. For like Forrest Gump’s ubiquitous box of chocolates, ‘You never know what you’re gonna get.’ Sometimes you do though. There’s an enthusiastic, verbose, exuberance that distinguishes the debut novel, can make it a labour of love to read and sometimes demands the reader/reviewer work hard to extract the positives. Happily, this is not the case with this first novel from Ewa Dodd. It’s rare that I pick up a debut book and find myself disbelieving that it is the author’s first work. But that is exactly what has happened here.
Fusing history with the contemporary, this missing child tale is immensely moving, heart wrenching even. It’s a gripping story of love and determination, with subtle political undertones that form the catalyst for the events that follow. Three people, three separate lives, three different countries, but all intricately connected. But it’s more than just three people who are forever changed by the events in this novel. There is not a surplus character in sight. They are all fundamental to the tale.
It’s one thing to have an engrossing premise but quite another to execute it as competently as Ewa Dodd has done. The writing demonstrates a maturity and an understanding of the novelists’ craft that might be expected from a writer with a back catalogue of some depth, but this is the lady’s first book!
Structurally, the novel moves between the three people and their locations and their lives, with a beginning set in Poland that presents us with the incident from which the rest of the story develops. It was easy to engage with all three of the main protagonists. They are well drawn and come across as very real people. I guess Joanna was my favourite because I could somehow feel the angst she was living in; the not knowing that compelled her to keep searching. I don’t do spoilers so I am having to curb my feelings about Matty and Tom. But in a sense once you start reading the connections do become apparent. It is perfectly paced with such a protracted sense of how, when, where, and why. It is techniques like these that drive a novel forward and whilst there was an open opportunity to spiral into sentiment that road was fortunately not taken.
This book has been shortlisted for the Virginia Prize for Fiction. I do feel sorry for all the others on the shortlist!!
Gill Chedgey 5/5
The Walls Came Down by Ewa Dodd
Aurora Metro Press 9781911501152 pbk Feb 2018
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