Not since Graham Swift's Waterland has anyone written as passionately about history, education, love and belonging in the Fen region of England. A beautifully crafted novel by an outstanding writer who gracefully enters the heart and soul of all her characters.
Dawson . . . is an elegant but easy writer. She swiftly hooks the reader in with strong, convincing narrative voices, pacy dialogue, carefully crafted prose and an engagingly dramatic plot. Important too is one of Dawson's trademarks, an evocative, brooding sense of location. As the mysterious and history-steeped landscape of the Fens, an integral part of the boy and the ancestry to which he is now joined, unveils itself to Patrick the reader too is connected to this unique setting . . . it is a thought-provoking [book] about identity, relationships, fate and what we would change if given a second chance.
Jill Dawson's writing is simple but powerful, yet her plots are compulsive page turners. She creates characters that stay with you long after you've turned the first page
A tender and thoughtful novel which explores some fundamental questions about identity and the symbolism of the heart.
Dawson depicts the invasiveness of heart surgery with arresting clarity . . . though there is no conclusive proof about the existence of cellular memory, this deft, intelligent novel explores the human anxiety that replacing a heart is the closest one can come to replacing a soul. And it further expounds Dawson's personal belief in a collective consciousness of the Fens, marginalised and exploited, but undiminished in its sense of identity over time.
An uncanny and atmospheric novel from a skilful storyteller.
Jill Dawson, the much celebrated novelist, has produced a work of fiction that I expect, in the not so distant future, will appear on reading lists of many English Literature degrees. Her tale of identity, the symbolic meaning of the heart and the possibility of change is woven together with care like silk through cotton. It is an elegant understanding of how two separate men might think of themselves, their world and those they care for most. As wise as it is witty, Dawson's skilful storytelling constructs a unique look at how one deals with another life, if given a second chance. Split into seven parts, her prose absorbs the reader into a beautifully crafted novel that will extend many a reading afternoon.
Immediately engrossing . . . Dawson navigates this half-mystical territory with a freshness and wit that belie a seasoned novelist's careful skill. In 200 short pages, she seamlessly elides political history and neurophysiological theory with the madness that makes people drive too fast and seduce their students. It seems that the human heart, like the richly evoked Fens which the author knows so well, holds more secrets than we might think.
[A] searching and gently philosophical novel poised on the edge of the darkness that surrounds a human life . . . Perhaps a better life has been swapped for a lesser life; but, as this moving and intriguing novel suggests, the final sum amounts to a lot more than zero.
Dawson skilfully entwines the lives of two vastly different characters to create a touching journey. The backdrop of rural Cambridgeshire provides a calm setting that mirrors Patrick's new approach to life. A witty, uplifting account of self-discovery and change in middle age.
Dawson knows how to pluck the heartstrings too. The moment when Drew's mother listens to her dead son's heart beating in Patrick's chest is devastating . . . the flashback leading up to the hanging of one of Drew's forefathers is one of the highlights in a narrative that keeps you guessing.