“There are babies.” I looked up. I hadn’t expected to hear another word out of her. I took her hand again. Her eyelids flickered open. “Babies? Where?” I asked. “At bottom of garden.” I frowned at her. Maybe this was a sign that she as at the end now. “No, Grandma. Fairies.” I said. “You’ve got fairy statues at the bottom of the garden. The ones I used to dance around when I was little.” There wasn’t a pause on her part. “Not fairies, babies,” she said firmly. “Look after my babies for me.”
I always get a huge thrill out of reading books that perhaps initially I have glanced at and thought to myself ‘Oh no, this isn’t going to be my thing at all’. Followed, three minutes later, by being completely awed by the author’s writing and, by page two, knowing for certain that I’m reading something very special. Linda Green’s book, The Last Thing She Told Me, is such a treasure.
Linda’s plot weaves a superlative trail across the pages of her novel. Written from a first person perspective, we follow Nicola, a wife and mother to two girls. Initially, we meet Nicola as she gently cares for her grandmother, Betty, who is experiencing her final moments of earthly life. Before her grandmother slips away, she tells Nicola that there are babies buried at the bottom of the garden. From that mind-blowing revelation, Nicola’s world is turned upside down, as she investigates her grandmother’s bizarre claims.
This is my first experience of meeting Linda Green and it’s very clear from the opening page that she is an excellent writer. Her carefully chosen words weave everything together very tightly and the fast pace of the action keeps readers on their toes, or at the very edges of their seats. The sense of mystery is maintained right through to the concluding chapters; again a firm testament to the author’s literary talents. The balance between ‘show and tell’ is absolutely on the mark, meaning that all characters, and their wide range of expressions & actions, are very memorable; living on in our minds beyond the final page. Each character’s voice is strong and depicted with utter believability. Furthermore, each chapter is separated with a thread that goes back to wartime Britain in 1944. Over time, this thread becomes a vital part of the overall plot and helps the reader to gain further insights into the actions of the characters.
‘He had woven a web and I was trapped in it. It was my stupid fault for getting caught in the first place. When the knock came, I walked to the door, opened it and let him in. He wasn’t carrying flowers this time. There was no need for pretence. We both knew what he had come for. “Best get the kettle on, lass” he said. He drank his tea, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Right then.” he said. “Better go upstairs, unless you want world and his wife watching.”
Linda’s ability to portray realistic voices is another testament to her impressive writing ‘toolbox’, with characters ranging from small children to much older facing the end of their days. The secrets that many characters clutch painfully to their hearts is a vital aspect of the story, as Nicola turns detective and seeks to uncover many skeletons; both metaphorically and literally. The links and connections between all characters are made clear and the reader is left in no doubt as to who is who and what is happening; again a display of fine talent for a story line that bobs and weaves at a steady pace throughout the novel.
It’s very clear that Linda has researched this novel extremely well. It’s also a nice touch to have a short explanation from the author at the end of the book, describing her initial reasons behind writing it.
Because Linda has achieved a fine balance in the action and portrayal of characters, the pages turn very quickly and, for me, it is a literal definition of a ‘page turner’. We care about the characters because Linda makes them important to us, ranging from the background characters to the main protagonist who is relaying the story to our eager eyes.
This is a brilliant read across all three hundred and sixty-five pages and I thoroughly recommend it. I would also dare you to put it down, once it has utterly gripped your literary mind.