Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Monday, 4 March 2013

Alys, Always - Harriet Lane

‘The random luck and lucklessness of an ordinary life…’

Frances Thorpe is in her thirties and works as a sub-editor on the books pages of a newspaper in London. She is driving back home one night after visiting her parents, when she happens upon the aftermath of an accident. Approaching the car that has left the road, she spends a few moments with, and hears the last words spoken by, the victim, Alys Kyte. These short moments will shape Frances’ life going forwards. The Kyte family hears that Frances spoke with Alys before she passed away, and is keen to meet her in their search for closure. Though her first reaction to this request is to decline it, she reconsiders, discovering that Alys Kyte’s husband is Laurence Kyte, a successful and well-known writer. As she begins to know them all, she glimpses the privileged lives they lead, and starts to become part of their world.

I found that once I started reading this book it was hard to put it down. It is a compelling tale that starts with an arresting opening sequence and then keeps you reading as you wonder what turn the narrative will take next. I was certainly very curious about Frances and her involvement with the Kyte family and I read on with a sense of both fascination and dread. Frances seems to lead an unexciting existence with few friends; early on, she describes her own reflection as showing ‘a pale, insignificant sort of person’, and her newfound connection to the Kyte’s opens the door for her to new acquaintances and experiences, to a fuller, more exciting life.

I enjoyed the depiction of the literary desk at the newspaper, with the competition and snobbery, the sudden recognition for Frances now she has new and important connections. Harriet Lane does a marvellous job of creating characters here. I thought the depiction of Frances’ parents and of Polly in particular were spot-on. Additionally she has created an intriguing tale that grabs the reader and keeps them guessing and wondering, how much does Frances control, how much happens to her and how much does she steer events? Is she a caring woman offering comfort, or is she rather heartless and purely motivated by shaping her own life for the better. This is a compact, spare yet involving story and it is clever and unsettling.  

Published by Phoenix, an imprint of Orion Books

Reviewed for the amazon vine programme


  1. Very nice review...thanks for sharing. Love the cover.

    Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved March Edition. I am in that list as #15.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Book Entry

  2. Lindsay, love the colour of that water. Thanks for linking up with Books You Loved. Cheers


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