Originally published: 28 October 2021 (eBook) ; 25 November 2021 (Paperback)
Author: Cathy Howard
Published by: Agora Books
Genre: Family Drama
Page count: 304
Reading dates: 16-20 October 2021
‘I would caution you against delving into the past. The past is often best left exactly where it is.’
Emma Bowen has never had a close relationship with her mother, barely speaking with her in the last years of her life. But after her mother’s death, Emma finds something that might just explain the distance between them.
Discovering letters between her mother and grandmother, it seems to Emma that her mother has always been difficult.
As she searches for answers about her own childhood, Emma is drawn into the mystery of her mother’s enigmatic life. The more she finds, the more lost she feels, but Emma is determined to uncover her mother’s past, and the secrets held within it, whatever the cost.
An enthralling story of three women, generations apart, linked by one terrible tragedy.
I’m absolutely thrilled to be kicking of the blog tour today for The Girl in the Maze by Cathy Hayward.
When Emma’s mum Margaret dies, Emma has to travel to Morecombe to deal with her affairs. Having not spoken to her for several years, Emma feels as if she never knew her mum but is devastated to learn that a picture her mum painted, which she knew as The Girl in the Maze, has been left to a friend of Margaret’s instead of Emma herself. While sorting through her mum’s possessions, she discovers some shocking secrets and is determined to find out more about her mother’s life.
Told from the point of view of Emma, her mother Margaret and her grandparents Betty and Jack, we gradually find out the secrets that Margaret kept hidden and the long reaching consequences of them. The book opens in 1937 with a teenage Betty trying to give herself an abortion – she fails and later gives birth to Margaret. She fights to keep her daughter and after a difficult few years, she meets Jack and they fall in love. Jack agrees to adopt Margaret and they live a respectable life, something Betty could never of hoped for.
We never hear directly from Margaret, we just find out what happens through Betty and Jack’s narratives and also from Emma as she discovers some old letters. I felt desperately sorry for Emma to not have a mother in her life to show her love and support. As Emma finds out the secrets Margaret kept hidden, she understands why her mother was like she was but I would have liked to have a narrative from Margaret too at some point. Despite what we learn, I still felt a little unsympathetic towards her and I think this is because we didn’t really hear from her directly.
I really enjoyed this story despite it’s difficult subject matter and I really enjoyed how the author spanned the generations. It’s true as children, we don’t often ask about our parents lives, their history and their experiences and by the time we think to, it is often too late. This was an impressive debut from Hayward. The Girl in the Maze is shocking and dark but ultimately Emma gets the answers she craves about why her relationship with her mum was so difficult, despite being warned that the past should be left alone. This is a book I always found myself wanting to pick up – a tragic, sad yet riveting story about the often difficult relationships between mothers and their daughters.
Many thanks to Peyton at Agora Books for sending me a proof copy for the blog tour. You can see what others are saying by checking out these other brilliant bloggers!
About the author:
Cathy Hayward trained as a journalist and edited a variety of trade publications, several of which were so niche they were featured on Have I Got News for You. She then moved into the world of PR and set up an award-winning communications agency. Devastated and inspired in equal measure by the death of her parents in quick succession, Cathy completed The Creative Writing Programme with New Writing South out of which emerged her debut novel The Girl in the Maze about the experience of mothering and being mothered. It won Agora Books’ Lost the Plot Work in Progress Prize 2020 and was longlisted for the Grindstone Literary Prize 2020.
When she’s not writing (or reading) in her local library, Cathy loves pottering in second-hand bookshops, hiking and wild camping. She lives in Brighton – sandwiched between the Downs and the sea – with her husband, three children, and two rescue cats – one of whom thinks he’s a dog.