‘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]