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Published: 22 February 2021 22 February 2021

The Things We Left Unsaid by Emma Kennedy

Only six weeks after the death of her father, Rachel is left standing at the altar by fiance, Claude, with no explanation. As she lived and worked with him, she has no choice but to return home to live with her mother, Eleanor, who is a well-known artist. Their relationship is strained and awkward, with neither of them able to comfort the other through their grief.

One day, when she just has to get out of the house, Rachel does not stop to listen when her mother wants to talk about something important, thinking there will be time later. On arriving home, she finds her mother lying dead in the garden. In her grief, she realises she knew little about her mother’s early life, and becomes obsessed with finding out what it was that Eleanor had been so desperate to tell her.

Emma Kennedy makes good use of dual timelines to tell this heartbreaking story. From Rachel’s reading of old letters and diaries, we get Eleanor’s story about when she went off to art school in London in the 1960s. I especially enjoyed these chapters that revealed how she embraced the freedom of being away from her parents for the first time and met lots of interesting people.

The characters are vividly portrayed; I particularly liked Jake, who Eleanor met on her first day at art school, and Eleanor’s sister, Agnes, who brought humour to both sections of the story. I’ll leave you to discover for yourself just how despicable and mercenary Claude turns out to be. The two separate strands of the narrative gradually coalesce until we discover the big secret Eleanor has been hiding from everyone.

This is a fascinating portrayal of bohemian London in the 1960s, and my only reservation is that the ending felt a bit rushed. Caspar was an interesting character, but could perhaps have played a bigger part in the story.

Thanks to Cornerstone Digital and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.