I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.
Mona is a dollmaker. She crafts beautiful, handmade wooden dolls in her workshop in a sleepy seaside town. Every doll is special. Every doll has a name. And every doll has a hidden meaning, from a past Mona has never accepted.
Each new doll takes Mona back to a different time entirely – back to Birmingham, in 1972. back to the thrill of being a young Irish girl in a big city, with a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding house. Back to her first night out in town, where she meets William, a gentle Irish boy with an easy smile and an open face. Back to their whirlwind marriage, and unexpected pregnancy. And finally, to the tragedy that tore them apart.
I loved Kit de Waal’s My Name is Leon, so when I saw The Trick to Time was coming out, I grabbed an ARC as quickly as I could. This book is fairly different from the previous one, but by no means less powerful. The focus here is on Mona, a sixty-year-old Irish dollmaker, and her efforts to live to the full the life she has left.
The book alternates between present-day Mona and her past, first as child in Ireland trying to cope with her mother’s illness, and later as a young woman attempting to build a new life in England. I loved slowly getting to know Mona: as her past is unveiled and her present unfolds before our eyes, she gradually shapes up to be a wonderfully complex character. Supported by an unforgettable cast of secondary characters, Mona tries to put together pieces of her past life, and tries to overcome pain bigger than anyone should ever have to face.
The author’s wonderful writing style takes us back to a time when life was different, and when social tensions exploded, immediately contrasting that with the quiet seaside town where present-day Mona lives. And it just works. Mona is complex and charismatic enough to hold the whole story together, the settings and historical elements add depth to the story, and the final revelations did surprise me a little bit, as I had drawn completely the wrong conclusion! The only negative for me is that, at times, the narration felt a bit slow, making this feel longer than it really is, but it was definitely worth it!