‘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]

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

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

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

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I arrived in the UK in September 1992. My goal was to qualify as a psychiatrist (I had studied Medicine back home in Barcelona, Spain) and, also, to improve my English. I started working as a junior doctor in psychiatry in February 1993, and Anne Goodwin’s new novel is set (mostly) just a couple of years earlier, at a moment when mental health services in the UK were undergoing a major change. The move from the big old-style asylums —where people who suffered from chronic mental health conditions, sometimes poorly defined, were “warehoused”—to “care in the community”, with its resulting emphasis on normalisation, on reintegration, and on support within the family, and/or the community, rocked the foundations of the system, and resulted on new practices, roles, and also in bringing to the fore a number of patients who had spent most of their lives in institutions and had real difficulties finding a place in an outside world they no longer recognised.


Even though this is a work of fiction, it is evident that the author is writing from personal experience, and that lends immediacy and depth to the story. Goodwin captures perfectly the atmosphere of the mental health asylums, where routine was sacred, and everybody had a part to play they were not allowed to deviate from. She offers readers several points of view: that of a newly-qualified social worker (Janice), who is going through an unsettling time in her personal life, and whose values and certainties will be put to the test by this job, especially by Matty’s case; Matty’s, one of the long-stay patients, whose story is less-than-certain after having been institutionalised for over 50 years, who allows us a peek into her unique world (stuck as she is in the past, an imaginary refuge from her less than glamorous reality); Henry’s, a man who also lives stuck in the past, waiting for a sister/mother whom he is no longer sure ever existed; and Matilda’s, who takes us back to the 1930s and tells us a story full of everyday tragedy, loss and despair.


Although I only experienced the aftermath of the closing of the big asylums, I got to talk to many nurses and doctors who had spent most of their working lives there, and had been involved in the changes as well. I also met many of the patients who hadn’t been lucky enough to move back into the community and ended up in newer long-term units, and also some of those who managed to create new lives for themselves, with the dedicated support of members of staff who were usually stretched to their limits. I worked in a newly-built unit in the grounds of one of the big asylums in the South of England, and walked the beautiful gardens, saw the impressive buildings (it had even had a railway station in its heyday), and it was easy to imagine how things must have been. Hardly any of the patients who’d spent years there had any contact with their families any longer, and their worlds had become reduced to their everyday routine, the tea with the sugar and milk already in, and the daily trip to the shop that the novel so realistically portrays. The way the author contrasts the experiences from the characters who live “normal” lives in the community (Henry’s life is “peculiar” to say the least, and Janice is in a sort of limbo, an impasse in her life) with Matty’s life in hospital emphasises the importance of the stories we tell ourselves, and also reminds us of the need to take control and to impose our own meaning in our lives. If we don’t, we are at risk of becoming the person or the version of ourselves that other people decide. And that is the worst of tragedies.


This is not an easy story to contemplate, and most readers will soon imagine that the truth about Matilda’s past, once revealed, will be shocking and tragic. Worse still, we know that it is all a too-familiar story, and not a flight of fancy on the part of the author. But she manages to make it deeply personal, and I challenge any casual readers not to feel both, horrified and moved, by the story.


As a mental health professional, this novel brought goosebumps to my skin and a lot of memories. As a reader, it gave me pause, and made me care for a group of characters whom I share little with (other than my professional experience). As a human being, I can only hope no girls find themselves in the position of Matilda ever again, and also that, as a society, we always remember that there is no health without mental health. Thankfully, many people have come forward in recent years and shared their mental health difficulties and their experiences trying to find help. It was about time, because those patients not at liberty to leave the hospital always reminded us that we would go home at the end of the day, but they had no home to go to, or, worse even, the hospital was their only home. Out of sight, out of mind is a terrible attitude when it comes to people’s suffering. Hiding away mental health problems does nothing to help those suffering them or the society they should be fully participating in, and Goodwin’s novel reminds us that we have come a long way, but there’s still a long way ahead.


A fantastic novel, about a tough topic, which highlights the changes in mental health policy and forces us to remember we are all vulnerable, and we should fight to ensure that nobody is ever left behind.
Thanks to the author for offering me the opportunity to read her novel ahead of publication. It will stay with me for a long time, and I’m delighted to hear that she’s already working on its second part.

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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

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