📚’The story is beautifully written and the characters brought to life fully’. @CathyRy reviews Stolen Summers by @Annecdotist for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Cathy.

Cathy blogs here https://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Cathy has been reading Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin.

Book cover for Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin
Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin

After Matilda (Matty) Windsor became pregnant, she was taken to a home for unmarried mothers and forced to give her baby up for adoption. When she left she didn’t know she wouldn’t be going home again. She was taken to Ghyllside Hospital and left there. Matty initially had no idea Ghyllside was a mental institution. She had no idea why her father would let her be taken there or why she had to stay. Her upbringing meant she was quite naive and had no experience of the wider world.

Matty’s story is tragic but not uncommon during the dark days when unmarried mothers were classed as ‘moral defectives’ and more often than not treated with unbelievable mental and physical cruelty.

‘Not all the nuns were cruel. Some of the younger ones would address the girls kindly if Mother Superior were out out earshot. So Matilda counted her blessings when Sister Bernadette slipped onto the seat beside her in the taxicab, while a sombre man with a box-shaped head took the passenger seat at the front. He resembled a tradesman in his white cotton coat worn over an ordinary jacket and trousers; Matilda assumed the nuns had offered him a lift out of charity. He wasn’t introduced.’

Matty’s main concern was her six year old brother who she knew would be missing her, and wrote to him religiously over the years. Meanwhile as Matty tries to make sense of, and come to terms with her situation, she makes an unlikely friend in Doris, her polar opposite. Her friendship with Doris (and Eustace, who has his own story and is also very likeable) and Matty’s underlying determination not to see herself as mad or bad, helped to ease her sadness and rage at the injustices she suffered and see her through.

Stolen Summers is the hard hitting prequel to Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, which is in my to be read pile. I can’t wait to read it after this. This short story alternates between the years 1939/40 and 1964 when attitudes regarding unmarried mothers thankfully had begun to change.

The story is beautifully written and the characters brought to life fully so you can’t help but be drawn to Matty and Doris in particular, while exploring a horrific time in the not too distant past.

Orange rose book description
Book description

All she has left is her sanity. Will the asylum take that from her too?

In 1939, Matilda is admitted to Ghyllside hospital, cut off from family and friends. Not quite twenty, and forced to give up her baby for adoption, she feels battered by the cruel regime. Yet she finds a surprising ally in rough-edged Doris, who risks harsh punishments to help her reach out to the brother she left behind.

Twenty-five years later, the rules have relaxed, and the women are free to leave. How will they cope in a world transformed in their absence? Do greater dangers await them outside?

The poignant prequel to Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is a tragic yet tender story of a woman robbed of her future who summons the strength to survive.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

📚The Lost Years Spent In A Psychological Institution. Frank reviews Stolen Summers by @Annecdotist for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Frank.

Find out more about Frank here https://franklparker.com/

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Frank has been reading Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin

Book cover for Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin
Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin

Ms Goodwin’s previous book, which I also reviewed for Rosie Amber, dealt with the issue of gender transition. The author’s background is as a practising psychologist. Stolen Summers is an exploration of life for inmates in mental institutions in England during the middle of the twentieth century. It is set in Northern England with chapters alternating between 1939 and 1964. This enables her to highlight differences in attitudes towards the mentally ill over the quarter century.

The central protagonists, Matty and Doris, are beautifully realised. Matty is middle class. She has had elocution lessons. Unfortunately her education has taught her nothing about how to survive in the world outside her insular community. Pregnant at 19 she has brought shame to her family. After the child is born in a home run by nuns and adopted, she is taken to an institution called Ghyllside. There she yearns for family life and is anxious about the welfare of her beloved six-year-old brother. Most of the other inmates seem hostile.

Doris, in particular, coming from a very different background, is scornful of the posh girl with her airs and graces. But she has been incarcerated in Ghyllside for long enough to become familiar with the routines and the pecadilloes of the staff. She takes Matty under her wing and the pair become firm friends.

The book follows their lives in Ghyllside, the small pleasures they enjoy, like the weekly dance, and the brutality of the ‘treatment’ to which inmates are subjected whenever they stray from the tightly controlled regime during the war years.

We also meet an Afro-Caribbean veteran of the first world war and learn of the racist violence such men encountered in the aftermath of that conflict.

What happens when, in 1964, the two friends are allowed out to attend a circus, is life changing for Matty.

Young women who were routinely incarcerated merely for having become pregnant, whatever the circumstance, had no opportunity to gain experience of real life. Both Matty and Doris are as naive in 1964 as they were in 1939, although throughout the book Doris has a better grasp on reality. But the world has changed beyond recognition, as has the way mental patients are treated by society.

My only problem with this book is that it seems too short. I would like to have seen more about the circumstances in which Matty became pregnant and her emotional reaction to them. Towards the end there are chapters that take us forward by another 25 years, to 1989, when Tilly is 70 and society’s view of women like her has changed yet again. It would have been good to have seen more of this part of her story. The book ends with taster chapters from the sequel which suggest it will provide that. I can’t wait to read it.

Orange rose book description
Book description

All she has left is her sanity. Will the asylum take that from her too?

In 1939, Matilda is admitted to Ghyllside hospital, cut off from family and friends. Not quite twenty, and forced to give up her baby for adoption, she feels battered by the cruel regime. Yet she finds a surprising ally in rough-edged Doris, who risks harsh punishments to help her reach out to the brother she left behind.

Twenty-five years later, the rules have relaxed, and the women are free to leave. How will they cope in a world transformed in their absence? Do greater dangers await them outside?

The poignant prequel to Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is a tragic yet tender story of a woman robbed of her future who summons the strength to survive.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

📚Set In A 20th Century Psychiatric Asylum. @OlgaNM7 Reviews Novella Stolen Summers by @Annecdotist for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Olga.

Olga blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Olga has been reading Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin

Book cover for Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin
Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin

I was lucky enough to read Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, the previous book Anne Goodwin wrote about the same character, Matilda, before its publication as well, and I was moved, saddened, touched, and delighted, all in one. A tragic story, made worse because, although fictional, it is not an uncommon one, and it bears witness to the many people who ended up spending their lives in the old psychiatric asylums, sometimes for reasons that had little to do with their mental health.

In this novella, which the author describes as a prequel, but, at least in my opinion, isn’t exactly that, we get to fill in some of the gaps of the previous book. This novella, although written in the third person (apart from some letters Matilda addresses to her brother, Henry, one of the characters who play a major part in the original novel) only has one narrator, Matilda herself, and it alternates two different periods of time: 1939-1940, exploring what happens when Matilda first arrives at Ghyllside Hospital, the trauma it supposes, and readers can start to see how and why her mind starts to unravel; and a particular day in 1964, when one outing with one of her friends and hospital peers, Doris, turns into a nightmare. We also get to see, though briefly, the consequences of that outing, and there is a chapter at the end, set in 1989, which functions as an epilogue, and links it directly with Matilda Windsor.

This novella shares the virtues of the previous book, and it bridges the possible gaps left by the other, as we get to see more of what Matilda experienced and share with her some of the terrible humiliations and spirit-breaking practices she had to suffer. Seeing her robbed of her dignity, ignored (at best) or abused, the subject of dubious psychiatric treatments and moral judgements, and experiencing loss, guilt, and repeated trauma, it is no surprise that her mind sought refuge in a fantasy world that granted her an important and grand role in life.

I loved the way the story puts readers in the shoes of the protagonist, and we get to live what happens through her own eyes: the fear, the trashed hopes, the moments of joy, the many disappointments, the companionship, the grief, the confusion… This is not an easy read, and I caution people who might have experienced or known similar events, as it is heartbreaking at times. The author also manages to include snippets about the historical and social events taking place in the UK during those eras. We hear about WWII and how the recruitment efforts reached even the psychiatric hospitals; we also hear about race relations and discrimination; domestic violence and its terrible consequences (Doris’s story brought tears to my eyes); changes in Mental Health law and in the understanding of mental illness definitions, classifications, and treatments… It is particularly telling to see how isolated and “protected” (in a certain way) the character is from the outside world, and how she can hardly recognise her own town when she goes back 25 years later. It is a sobering thought.

Although the story centres on Matilda, there are a few other characters we meet. Doctors (very few make an appearance, unsurprisingly considering how things were run at the time) and nurses are not identified by name, and seem interchangeable, not individualised, as they might have appeared to Matilda, for very good reasons. Other patients do have a more important part to play, and I adored Doris. She suffered a terrible loss, but she is a survivor, and she helps Matilda keep afloat and keep going. Some of her behaviours reminded me of many patients I have met over the years, but she is pretty unique.

The writing is as beautiful and poignant as in the previous book. Although there are no lengthy descriptions of people or places, the author manages to make us feel the sensations, the touch, notice the smells, and be gripped by fear and embarrassment as Matilda is. The characters’ expressions and turns of phrases are distinctive and reflect the era and the location, and the pass of time and the changes in social mores are brought to the fore by the way the story is narrated.

As I said, I am not sure this novella would work as a prequel, though. Having read the novel first, it is difficult to think how it would feel to read this one without knowing anything about the character beforehand. Part of the story in Matilda Windsor takes place before 1939, although the majority of the story is set many years later, right at the point where we leave Matilda and a new character is introduced in the novella. I can see how this narrative fits in neatly with the rest of the story, and I am sure that people who read it first will glean enough information from it to make an educated guess as to what is likely to have happened, and will be eager to find out the rest by reading the main novel. On the other hand, considering the way Matilda Windsor is constructed and told, I think the impact of reading the full novel and putting the pieces together might be lost if Stolen Summers is read first. Ultimately, both of them are fantastic, so the order in which they are read may well be a moot point.

Another great story by Anne Goodwin, and one I recommend to all who have read Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home. And to those who haven’t yet, but are interested in the topic, enjoy great characters, and a story that touches upon social justice with a focus on mental health, now you can choose, if you want, to read Stolen Summers first, but I am sure you will end up reading both of them. Highly recommended.

Orange rose book description
Book description

All she has left is her sanity. Will the asylum take that from her too?

In 1939, Matilda is admitted to Ghyllside hospital, cut off from family and friends. Not quite twenty, and forced to give up her baby for adoption, she feels battered by the cruel regime. Yet she finds a surprising ally in rough-edged Doris, who risks harsh punishments to help her reach out to the brother she left behind.

Twenty-five years later, the rules have relaxed, and the women are free to leave. How will they cope in a world transformed in their absence? Do greater dangers await them outside?

The poignant prequel to Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is a tragic yet tender story of a woman robbed of her future who summons the strength to survive.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

‘A mid-life coming-of-age story’. @OlgaNM7 Reviews Sugar And Snails by @Annecdotist, For Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Olga. She blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin.

Sugar and Snails: An unusual midlife coming-of-age novel shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize by [Anne Goodwin]

This is a remarkably difficult book to review, because although it is not a mystery in the standard sense, there is a secret at the heart of the story, and one that when it is revealed (and I will do my best not to spoil the revelation) has a similar effect to a plot twist. It makes us reconsider all we have read before and realise that the signs were there, but perhaps we put ourselves so much in the protagonist’s shoes that we lost all sense of perspective and objectivity. I am not sure I can share much more of the plot than what the blurb reveals, but I’ll add a few more details. Diana is a university lecturer in Psychology whose Ph.D. thesis had to do with the way teenagers make decisions. By the end of the novel, we get to realise that this topic is strongly linked to Diana’s life story, and she comes to accept that we cannot hide our past behind a locked door and pretend it didn’t happen. As the blurb states, this is a mid-life coming-of-age story, and I must confess that having read a few of those in recent times, it is fast becoming a favourite subgenre of mine.

I cannot discuss all the themes in detail, but I can mention amongst others: childhood trauma and bullying, difficult family relationships, Psychology, university life, middle-age expectations, long-term friendships, middle-age romance, issues of identity, secrets, and lies (or half-truths), guilt and its consequences, prejudice, therapy (or what passed for therapy at some point in the not too distant past)… Although I can’t go into details, for the reasons mentioned above, I should say that the main subject of the book is quite controversial (not so much the subject itself, but how best to approach it and its practicalities), and everybody is bound to have an opinion, no matter how much or how little experience or knowledge they have on this particular matter. From that perspective, I am sure this book would be perfect for book clubs, because the events, the attitudes of the many characters, and the way the story is told will make people eager to engage in discussion.

The book is told in the first person by Diana, and I hesitate to call her an unreliable narrator, although, if we take the story at face value and only think about the plot, there is some of that. She does not give us all the information from the start, but there are reasons why, and she is not so much trying to trick us as trying to trick herself, or rather, trying to fit into the role she has created for herself. The story is not told linearly, because the memories of the past keep intruding into the protagonist’s life due to her present circumstances, but the outline of current events follows a chronological order, and there is never any confusion as to what is happening when. Sometimes we only come to fully understand a memory we have already been witness to later on when we obtain new information and we can review everything from a slightly different perspective, and this is one of the most interesting aspects of the way the story is told and a big asset.

Diana, as a character, might not have a lot in common with many readers (although that was not my case and I identified with quite a few aspects of her current story), but her first-person narration, the way she keeps analysing everything that goes on in her life, her lack of self-assurance and the distinctiveness of her voice are bound to connect with most readers. It is clear that she is trying hard to protect herself, while at the same time being a good friend, a dedicated lecturer, a loving cat owner, and a lonely woman who does not dare allow anybody in because the price to pay could be devastating. There are many other interesting characters whom we meet through Diana’s point of view (her parents, her sister, her brother, her friend Venus [one of my favourites], her other colleagues and friends, her new boss, a university student [who makes her question many things] and her father…) and they all come across as complex human beings, who sometimes make mistakes, but never intentionally. There are also a number of professionals (psychiatrists, therapists, social workers, teachers) who make an appearance, and although we don’t get to know them as well, they represent different models or options of therapy. Some might seem old-fashioned now, but unfortunately, they reflect the situation in the past and some recent welcome changes.

I have described the way the story is told, and the writing not only flows well, despite the changes in the timeline, but it is also engaging, moving, and gripping. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an easy story to read from an emotional point of view; there are many dreadful things that take place in the book, and people who are at a fragile or vulnerable moment in life, and those who might have had difficult dealings with mental health services or suffer from severe mental health problems might find it a particularly painful read. Despite those caveats, readers cannot help getting caught up in the story, and the way the protagonist slowly comes to terms with who she is and gains insight into what is really important for her. Perhaps an easy life and peace of mind should not be her main priorities, and being true to herself is fundamental, but reaching that realisation is far from straightforward.  There are many quotes I have highlighted and inspiring paragraphs, but I worry about letting the cat out of the bag, so rather than risking that, I would recommend that anybody with doubts check a sample of the writing, to see if it suits their taste.

The ending… I enjoyed it. I think it is perfect. It does not over-elaborate the point and leaves things open to readers’ imaginations, but it does so on an optimistic and hopeful note, and it does feel like a true resolution for the character. What else should we ask for?

In summary, this is a novel about a controversial subject that deals with it in a sensitive and truly insightful manner. It has an unforgettable central character, and it is beautifully written as well as inspiring and hopeful. I have included some warnings in the body of the review, but I am sure many readers will enjoy it and it will make them stop to think about the real world situation many people find themselves in and, perhaps, reconsider their opinions. Ah, I recommend reading until the end and learning a bit more, not only about the author but also about the publisher, Inspired Quill, their mission, and their contributions to charity (a 10% of all profits will be donated to charity). Oh, and the cover is a work of art. Beautiful.

Desc 1

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Sugar and Snails: An unusual midlife coming-of-age novel shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize by [Anne Goodwin]

A Story About Secrets And Life. @CathyRy Reviews Sugar And Snails by @Annecdotist For Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Cathy. She blogs here https://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Cathy has been reading Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin

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Diana Dodsworth is a psychology professor at Newcastle University. After a confused, unhappy childhood and making a decision in her mid teens that impacted on her in ways she didn’t expect, leaving her with a host of insecurities, she chooses now to live alone with her cat and tends generally not to get too involved with people. Privacy is very important to Diana and her past is something she keeps very much to herself.

Meeting recently divorced Simon at her friend’s birthday party is the catalyst for an upheaval in Diana’s somewhat lonely and reclusive lifestyle, particularly when he invites her to join him on a trip to Cairo during his sabbatical.

‘When I pointed out my red front door I expected Simon to stop in the middle of the road and let me hop out. Instead he reversed into a space a few doors along and switched off the engine. Was I supposed to invite him in and, if I did, would he assume there was more on offer than coffee? Did he even want more-than-coffee? Did he think I did? Or was there no deeper meaning to his parking the car than a wish to avoid blocking the road while we got my bike out of the back.’

Diana’s story is revealed in alternating flashbacks, and the more we get to know her, the more understanding and sympathy she generates. It’s sad that her decision all those years ago didn’t really lead to a happier life. She wants to keep her secret at all costs and has effectively stalled her life. Meeting Simon has made her begin to re-evaluate the way she lives, and how confiding in the people closest to her might affect her going forward.

Sugar and Snails is a remarkable and poignant story, covering several significant topics, particularly the main one, which Anne Goodwin deals with sympathetically. I like the fact that we witness events unfolding from both Diana’s perspective and also that of her parents…the confusion, uncertainty, not knowing how to deal with the position they find themselves in. The characters are wonderfully drawn and realistic. It’s only when Diana’s secret is revealed that things, or situations read about previously, fall into place. I had no idea until then, although looking back perhaps there were subtle clues.

Sugar and Snails is described as ‘A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.’ That sums it up in a nutshell but there’s an awful lot going on in between those gaps.

Desc 1

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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‘Ms Goodwin has examined the subject from all angles’. Frank reviews #LiteraryFiction Sugar And Snails by @Annecdotist, for Rosie’s #bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Frank. Find out more about Frank here https://franklparker.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin

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I was about a third of the way through this book, the end of chapter ten to be precise, when I recognised the nature of Diana’s secret. And I saw how some readers would abandon the book once they made that connection. Others might even throw the book at the wall in disgust.

Either course would have been a mistake. What I wanted to do was to read on, in order to discover the degree of empathy Ms. Goodwin would bring to her analysis of the effect of Diana’s troubled childhood, and the choice she made at the tender age of fifteen, upon her life up to the age of 45, thirty years later; on her parents, friends and potential lovers. I was not disappointed.

The biggest surprise was that this is a first novel. The second that, despite having won an award in 2016, it seems to have remained below the radar of potential readers. It has just 58 ratings and 33 reviews on Goodreads. Fortunately most of the ratings are four or five stars. I suppose the problem for many is the subject matter – and I am not going to reveal that here because it would constitute an enormous spoiler.

Suffice to say it is a subject that generates an incredible volume of highly charged debate, both on social media and in the mainstream. As an inveterate follower of current affairs on the BBC I can recall a recent debate on Question Time, and  more than one feature on Newsnight, that dealt with the subject. As a follower of, and occasional contributor to, the on-line publication, Medium, I see articles and comments that make it clear that, in the USA especially, it is a source of anger and hate-fuelled rhetoric.

Ms Goodwin has examined the subject from all angles through the medium of a first person account from someone for whom it is a defining and ever present fact of life.

There are some superb evocations of life growing up in the 1960s, and as a teenager in the 1970s, in a small mining community in England.  By alternating scenes from her childhood and adolescence with episodes from Diana’s life as a lecturer at Newcastle University in 2005, Ms Goodwin enables us to observe the changes in moral attitudes that marked the intervening years. Changes that seem to have passed Diana by until she takes the courageous decision to reveal the truth about her background to a friend and colleague.

The characters are all well drawn and entirely believable. Early on I was struggling to empathise with Diana’s parents but, by the end, it became clear that they were torn between their beliefs, as Catholics, and the realities of late twentieth century life. In their way they were as confused by the situation they found themselves in as was Diana. Most of the time they are in denial. Yet, towards the end there are scenes in which the normally taciturn father reveals a surprisingly tender side to his character, based on the bullying he witnessed during army service and the resultant tragedy.

There is one scene that contains extremely graphic sex which makes this book unsuitable for young audiences. In my opinion this is a shame, for there must be many confused adolescents who would benefit from the message of optimism that this truly magnificent novel conveys. The number of five star ratings for this book on Goodreads has just increased from 23 to 24 with the addition of mine.

Desc 1

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be. 

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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‘A book that will stay with me for a long time’. @judithbarrow77 reviews Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by @Annecdotist

Today’s team review is from Judith. She blogs here https://judithbarrowblog.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Judith has been reading Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home: A hopeful, heart-breaking and humorous novel with a quirky protagonist providing a rare insight into life in the old asylums by [Anne Goodwin]

The one thing that was going through my mind as I read Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home was that there is only us inside our own heads. Obvious I know, but no one has an insight into anyone else’s thoughts, whatever the state of our mental health. And, quite often, it’s a case of second guessing on anyone’s reasons for their actions.

In this powerful and moving story, Anne Goodwin has shown the frailties and strength of each of her main characters through their internal dialogue, their actions, and their reactions to what is happening to them.

 Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is narrated by three characters: Matilda (Matty) herself; cruelly and discriminatorily incarcerated for fifty years in a psychiatric hospital, this seventy-year-old woman tells her own story in her own inimitable way – skewed as it is by increasing confusion – yet still with some individual insight that brings out wry and compassionate smiles in the reader, even as the horror of her life story unfolds. 

Janice – a young newly qualified, newly single, social worker who, unable to mend her own broken world, seeks a project within her work at the asylum; a relic of such places that existed in the early decades of the twentieth century. Misguidedly, and seemingly unable to accept that Matty is totally institutionalised, Janice takes on the task of trying to find Matty’s long-lost family and guides her towards integration into the community, a programme devised in the nineteen nineties. I don’t like to give away any spoilers to stories – so I’ll leave that there

And then there’s Henry, now almost sixty, side-lined in his job, dithering within a clandestine relationship – and waiting for the return of his sister, a girl who left home in undisclosed circumstances. The author cleverly layers this sister in enigmatic ambiguity. It’s left to the reader to unravel the mystery.

 Each of these characters are cleverly brought to life on the page, by their dialogue, by their actions. Every turn of a page is a revelation, an insight to human emotions and the lives we think we are creating, but, more often than not, are structured through fate and inadvertent choices.

 The descriptions of the settings that the characters move through are brilliantly shown, giving a great sense of place, and evocative images. They also gave me a sense of claustrophobia for each of them, the sense of each being trapped, even as they go about, or are guided through, their individual lives.

This is such a absorbing book. It’s a complex and heart-breaking family story against a background of an historical, inflexible mental care system, tumbling into, what I think, through personal experience, was a injudicious, if well-meant plan.

Though the pace of the story is sometimes frustratingly slow, it becomes obviously necessary as the plot unfolds. For me, the denouement is enough. And Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is a book that will stay with me for a long time.

Thoroughly recommended.

Desc 1

In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.

Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.

As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.

Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.
A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?

Told with compassion and humour, Anne Goodwin’s third novel is a poignant, compelling and brilliantly authentic portrayal of asylum life, with a quirky protagonist you won’t easily forget.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home: A hopeful, heart-breaking and humorous novel with a quirky protagonist providing a rare insight into life in the old asylums by [Anne Goodwin]

‘a book that will stay with me for a long time’. @judithbarrow77 reviews a story about #mentalhealth Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by @Annecdotist 

Today’s team review is from Judith. She blogs here https://judithbarrowblog.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Judith has been reading Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home: A hopeful, heart-breaking and humorous novel with a quirky protagonist providing a rare insight into life in the old asylums by [Anne Goodwin]

The one thing that was going through my mind as I read Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home was that there is only us inside our own heads. Obvious I know, but no one has an insight into anyone else’s thoughts, whatever the state of our mental health. And, quite often, it’s a case of second guessing on anyone’s reasons for their actions.

In this powerful and moving story, Anne Goodwin has shown the frailties and strength of each of her main characters through their internal dialogue, their actions, and their reactions to what is happening to them.

 Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is narrated by three characters: Matilda (Matty) herself; cruelly and discriminatorily incarcerated for fifty years in a psychiatric hospital, this seventy-year-old woman tells her own story in her own inimitable way – skewed as it is by increasing confusion – yet still with some individual insight that brings out wry and compassionate smiles in the reader, even as the horror of her life story unfolds. 

Janice – a young newly qualified, newly single, social worker who, unable to mend her own broken world, seeks a project within her work at the asylum; a relic of such places that existed in the early decades of the twentieth century. Misguidedly, and seemingly unable to accept that Matty is totally institutionalised, Janice takes on the task of trying to find Matty’s long-lost family and guides her towards integration into the community, a programme devised in the nineteen nineties. I don’t like to give away any spoilers to stories – so I’ll leave that there

And then there’s Henry, now almost sixty, side-lined in his job, dithering within a clandestine relationship – and waiting for the return of his sister, a girl who left home in undisclosed circumstances. The author cleverly layers this sister in enigmatic ambiguity. It’s left to the reader to unravel the mystery.

 Each of these characters are cleverly brought to life on the page, by their dialogue, by their actions. Every turn of a page is a revelation, an insight to human emotions and the lives we think we are creating, but, more often than not, are structured through fate and inadvertent choices.

 The descriptions of the settings that the characters move through are brilliantly shown, giving a great sense of place, and evocative images. They also gave me a sense of claustrophobia for each of them, the sense of each being trapped, even as they go about, or are guided through, their individual lives.

This is such a absorbing book. It’s a complex and heart-breaking family story against a background of an historical, inflexible mental care system, tumbling into, what I think, through personal experience, was a injudicious, if well-meant plan.

Though the pace of the story is sometimes frustratingly slow, it becomes obviously necessary as the plot unfolds. For me, the denouement is enough. And Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is a book that will stay with me for a long time.

Thoroughly recommended.

Desc 1

In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.

Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.

As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.

Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.
A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?

Told with compassion and humour, Anne Goodwin’s third novel is a poignant, compelling and brilliantly authentic portrayal of asylum life, with a quirky protagonist you won’t easily forget.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home: A hopeful, heart-breaking and humorous novel with a quirky protagonist providing a rare insight into life in the old asylums by [Anne Goodwin]

‘It was so tragic, so shocking’. @TerryTyler4 reviews #LiteraryFiction Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by @Annecdotist

Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin

4.5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which is both entertaining and incredibly sad.  It is set mostly in 1989/90, with flashbacks to the 1930s, and Matty Osborne, also known as Matilda Windsor, has been a resident in psychiatric hospitals for fifty years – since she was around twenty.  The reason given at the time was ‘moral turpitude’ – in other words, becoming pregnant without being married.  I remember seeing something on television once, a long time ago, about how, in the first half of this century, young girls who were committed to asylums for getting pregnant, and were never let out again.  In this circumstance, Matty eventually lost her mind; her path to this state is not revealed until the end of the book.


She believes that she is in her own stately home – sometimes during the Great War, at other times during World War II – that the other residents are her guests, and the carers are her staff.  The story weaves between three points of view: Matty, a young carer called Janice, and Matty’s younger half-brother Henry who doesn’t know where she is or why she left home.  The staff of Tuke House have no idea whatsoever what goes on in Matty’s head, or probably within the head of any of the residents.  Janice is likable and fun, and I enjoyed the portrayals of the people she worked with, most of them ghastly, grey jobsworths with limited imagination.  She is very much a young woman of the Thatcher years with anti-Thatcher ideals; I felt such a sense of going back over 3 decades when I read about her.


I guessed early on what had led to Matty’s dreadful fate, but it’s not obvious, and I did change my mind a few times; either way, the fact that we don’t know ‘how, who and why’ adds to the page-turning quality of the book.  When I got to the end of her 1930s story, I could have cried at how alone she was, how there was no-one, anywhere, who would listen to and believe her.  It was so tragic, so shocking, made even more so because you know that this sort of thing happened to so many girls, never mind the stories of some of her friends in the unmarried mothers’ home. 


Another element that adds to the suspense is Henry’s search for the long lost sister he hardly remembers, and all the near misses when he could have found her but didn’t.  They’re frustrating; each time I though, oh, they’re going to find each other!


I found this book particularly interesting because I’ve worked at a psychiatric hospital in the past, and because I was reminded of my late mother, who had Alzheimer’s for eleven years and lived in a care home for the last seven or so years of her life.  I visited her often; I remember her being under the impression that the place was a hotel, and the carers were waitresses.


Although this story has a certain amount of resolution, I gather there is to be a sequel.  I admit to being a little disappointed as I expected to get to the end and have everything nicely wrapped up – but life isn’t like that, and the stories of Matty, Janice and Henry will continue.  I look forward to reading the next book when it appears!

Desc 1

In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.

Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.

As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.

Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.

A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?

In this, her third novel, Anne Goodwin has drawn on the language and landscapes of her native Cumbria and on the culture of long-stay psychiatric hospitals where she began her clinical psychology career.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #LiteraryFiction Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by @Annecdotist

Today’s team review is from Robbie. She blogs here https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Robbie has been reading Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by [Anne Goodwin]

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home provides an interesting insight into life in a mental asylum in the UK at a time when policy was moving away from institutionalization and towards integration of patients back into community life. It was an even more intriguing peep into the mind of Matilda Windsor or Tilly, who had become known as Matty Osborne.

Janice is a newly qualified social worker who has pursued a job opportunity at a mental asylum which, at the time, was within commuting distance of her boyfriend’s flat. In the intervening period between making her application and attending the interview, her relationship has broken down and she is now reluctantly single again. The job doesn’t seem like such a good idea any more, but during the interview process, Janice meets Matty and is very intrigued by her. She takes the job.

Henry is a single man living in his family home. He is in a long-term relationship with a married woman who won’t leave her husband and live with him because of his obsession with his sister, Tilly Windsor, who left home 50 years previously and whom he lives in hope will return some day. Henry has a number of keep sakes that were given him by Tilly when she left and he keeps her old bedroom exactly as it was before she left. He has no idea what happened to Tilly when she left or why she has never returned to him.

The character of Matty was intriguing and those parts of the story that were narrated through her eyes reflected her delusional thoughts. Matty believes she is living through World War II and that she is a great lady living in a mansion and attended by servants. She sees the caregivers and medical personal at the asylum as being her personal staff and imagines them to be her personal maid, butler, and in other domestic roles about her home. Matty believes the other inmates are people she is giving shelter to because they have lost their homes due to the war.

It was most interesting to read her thoughts and conversations from this perspective. Janice is very taken with Matty and wants to help her find her family and manage to remain with the programme for integration into the community. Having being given insight through the style of writing into Matty’s confused mind, it seemed obvious to me as a reader, that Matty was not suited to the programme and would never manage to stand even partially on her own two feet. The hold her delusions had on her mind and behaviour were far to strong.

As the story unfolds, the other staff can also see that Matty is not a very good candidate but Janice cannot be swayed from her hope that Matty will find her family and her sanity will be redeemed. Janice is aware of the unfortunate circumstances that surrounded Matty’s admission into the asylum in the first instance and they had nothing to do with a mental condition.

This is a very poignant tale as Matty’s story is gradually revealed and the abuse she has suffered becomes known. As her story unwinds, Janice is forced to face her own relationship problems, issues with her sister and adoptive parents, and uncertainty about her job.

Henry is also compelled to confront his obsession with the past and decide whether his dreams of being reunited with Tilly are more important that the woman he loves.

This is a compelling book and is well written, although this is not a book you can cruise or skim through, it is a book that you need to sit down and focus on to appreciate the great skill of the writer and the complex story.

Desc 1

In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.

Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.

As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.

Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.

A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?

In this, her third novel, Anne Goodwin has drawn on the language and landscapes of her native Cumbria and on the culture of long-stay psychiatric hospitals where she began her clinical psychology career.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by [Anne Goodwin]