Thursday


Emotional family drama with a twist



In Freya North's 13th novel, The Way back Home, Oriana Taylor is forced to live with her mother and step-father in uncomfortable proximity as she comes to terms with her past.

What is home? Where do I belong? Where does anyone belong?

These are all these questions that are central to The Way Back Home, Freya North's engaging new novel about love, family and coming to terms with the past.

Oriana Taylor has spent 18 years running away from the Windward, the crumbling mansion in Derbyshire where she grew up as part of a "raggletaggle tribe" of children who lived in a bohemian artists' commune.

Her self-absorbed parents, finally caught up in their own tempestuous relationship, frequently ignore Oriana, leaving her to look for love and attention elsewhere, which she finds with the Bedwell brothers Malachy and Jed and their dependable family.

Childhood turns into adolescence and Oriana, now 15, is right in the middle of the throes of teenage drama and passion when something happens that changes everything.

Fast forward 18 years and, despite swearing she would never return to where she grew up, Oriana finds herself back in her hometown after a relationship break-up. She's 34, miserable and stuck living at home with her brittle and selfish mother Rachel.

Having left Oriana's father, Rachel has completely rejected her earlier wild existence for a life of dull middle class respectability with her second husband, the appropriately named Bernard Safely.

The tangled relationships between Oriana, her parents and the Bedwell brothers, both in the past and in the present day make up the rest of the story.

As the plot unfolds we discover the source of Oriana's rootlessness and the painful reasons she has had nowhere she can with any reliability call home. The relationship between Oriana and her mother is particularly well drawn and at times makes for uncomfortable reading. Oriana, for so long desperate to belong, has spent her whole life being rejected by Rachel, a situation which doesn't change when she returns to live with her.

"[Rachel] liked her daughter less when she was troubled. In fact she liked her less when she was in direct contact. If their relationship was to survive she really did need her out of the house" is one withering summary.

This is North's 13th novel and fans will be glad to see the reappearance of Cat McCabe as Oriana's supportive friend and her eccentric uncle Django. If you like emotional family dramas with a twist then you'll love this. It's a romantic summer read that will keep you guessing until the very end.

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