I love Joanna Cannon! Her first two novels (The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, Three Things About Elsie) are two books I really loved, so I was excited to read her third novel as soon as I could get my hands on a copy – and A Tidy Ending didn’t disappoint!
Joanna writes with such sensitivity that you see the characters unfold across the pages, layer by layer. She finds the little nuances and idiosyncrasies in people’s behaviour and shows us their strengths and weaknesses in a way which makes them incredibly real, often in a heart-breaking manner. Joanna’s observation of people is second to none; she picks out a little gesture or comment that says so much.
Her writing style itself is beautiful – clever enough to sound almost poetic at times, but never out of reach to the average reader – beautiful, yet accessible. There’s a lot of wit in the pages too, so many clever bits that made me smile. (She seems to have met my mother too, ha ha!) There’s also plenty to pull at the heart-strings – the dinner party chapter was an especially moving piece of writing.
As for the story – Linda is 43 and lives with her husband Terry, who is 45. From the outside looking in, they seem to have a normal kind of marriage and live in a normal kind of house, but as we see inside, the cracks and fault lines are obvious. Linda is unfulfilled and deeply unhappy, trying to escape from the mundane by doing crosswords and losing herself in the catalogues and brochures that arrive at her house addressed to the previous occupant Rebecca Finch. Meanwhile, it appears a serial killer is at large in the neighbourhood.
We find out more about the backgrounds of the main characters. Linda had a very difficult thing to deal with in her childhood and her life since has been scarred by this, as her mother’s. They moved from Wales to try to start again, but Linda explains that things follow you, even if you try to leave them behind.
Linda and Terry both have secrets too. But we all have secrets, right? It doesn’t make us bad people. Or does it?
This book has everything. It’s a bit of a whodunnit, as there’s a crime background to it, but it’s so much more. There’s no-one quite like Joanna Cannon to get deep inside her characters and this is what makes her novels excel over and over again. Another triumph!
9.5 out of 10