Och, you must have known it was coming. I don’t really know how I’ve managed to hold out for so long. Of course there would be a book by Linda Newbery in my lockdown selection. There will always be one of Linda’s books in a selection I compile. The trick, as ever, is which to choose.
Normally I’d go for Sisterland and, even though there’s nothing normal about these days, that’s exactly what I’ve done! Oh, I know; I’ve written about it many times before. But I can’t help it. Of all Linda’s books it’s the one that stays with me most. For a really complex novel, I’d point you to Set in Stone. If you want a wonderful evocation of place, go to The Shell House. If, like me, early twentieth century is your historical setting, read Some Other War or Until We Win.
But Sisterland is the book that feels as though it were written for me. (It wasn’t.) It’s the book I keep on badgering Linda to write a sequel to. (She won’t.) Is it her best book? Wearing my objective critic’s hat, I’d be forced to say that it possibly isn’t. But as a reader, it got me.
It’s Hilly’s story, a coming of age one intellectually and emotionally. It’s full of prejudice, misunderstanding and family stress; acceptance, hope and fresh starts. The characters are perfectly drawn and flawed. And the ending is a new beginning. Linda once said to me that I could write the sequel (not actually, you understand, but in my imagination). But I can’t because I might not get it right.