Winner of the 2006 Montana Book Award.

I’m pretty sure that this is the first New Zealand title I have ever read.

From the blurb on the back cover: “At the heart of the story lies the strange relationship between Alice and her brother, Gordon, the mystery behind their estrangement, and the entrance into Alice’s life of Adrian, the nephew she never knew existed. Telling the story solely from Alice’s point-of-view, Gee masterfully constructs a tale of unreliability, as he traces these troubled lives over a period of forty years and only gradually reveals the dark family truths.”

I don&’t think we’re meant to like Alice, the narrator, but I’m afraid she endeared herself to me. Particularly with this: “I’m offended by some of the words people use today. The “f” one – which I used once to my father – is by no means the worst. They pick them up from American movies. I’m no prude. I hate the feebleness more than the ugliness – I mean the impoverishment – and it pains me when I hear someone I love sliding down there, even when he’s moved by strong feelings.” Gee draws a portrait of a very believable, crotchety old dame bearing her fair share of the scars inflicted by life. The portrait of her brother is equally accomplished but I cannot reveal the details for fear of spoilers.

I like Gee’s prose. The tale is told well without unnecessary flourish. The pacing too is excellent. The mysterious events at the heart of the novel are not overtly sensational, yet the resulting tragedy is absolutely heartbreaking.

I will read more from this author.

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