I’m not sure I should admit this but somewhere in the pages of Araminta Hall’s debut novel Everything and Nothing there are echoes of my own life. I’m not going to tell you where exactly, though you will have fun guessing, particularly as this is a novel about a patched-up marriage, a working mother who is totally copeless at home, a five year old who never sleeps, a three-year old who never eats and a capable yet psychotic nanny. In short a family on the edge.
Been and done some of that and I can, therefore, vouch for the authenticity of the psychologies depicted. Can’t quite describe the relief I felt when I heard repeated some of the strange utterances that I have made in times of stress. (Albeit from the mouths of fictional characters, but hey, I feel validated!) You can imagine, therefore, that I whizzed through this novel at the speed of light.
Not everything struck me as true. I didn’t quite buy into the husband’s sense of responsibility for his ex-mistress and the ending feels a tad implausible. Also there’s rather a lot of telling rather than showing, though that’s quite forgiveable considering that this is a psychological novel and most of the tension results from the internal monologue inside a character’s head. There’s light and shade and darkness, complex analysis on the nature of motherhood and it all completely thought-provoking and quite rivetting.
Interestingly there seems to be a covert apology for the domestic nature of the content.
When you compared the break-down of her marriage with soldiers blown apart on the other side of the world or children beaten to death by their parents in their own homes or half the world dying from curable diseases, then yes, it was meaningless. Except … except, exactly what did any of that mean to her? What did it matter? Pictures on screens, words in newspapers. They went in and out of her mind, they touched nerves, but they didn’t settle in her heart. Only Christian and her children had the ability to change the course of her life, to bring her happiness or sadness, to make her feel loved and worthy. It was, she felt, rather a tardy realisation.
Tardy? I found it a realistic assessment of the importance of personal domestic circumstances, which are everything to the individual but nothing in the grander scheme of things.
(According to the blurb, this is a must-read for fans of Sophie Hannah. Does this mean that Sophie Hannah is now a must-read for me?)