Katy Mahood: Entanglement
Published By: The Borough Press
Buy It: here
What The Blurb Says:
2007: at the end of a momentous day, Charlie, Stella and John cross paths under the arches of Paddington Station. As Charlie locks eyes with Stella across the platform, a brief, powerful spark of recognition flashes between them. But they are strangers … aren’t they?
Plunging back thirty years we watch as, unknown to them all, the lives of Stella and John, and Charlie and his girlfriend Beth, are pulled ever closer, an invisible thread connecting them across the decades and through London’s busy streets.
For Stella, becoming a young mother in the 1970s puts an end to her bright academic career in a way John can’t seem to understand. Meanwhile Charlie gambles all future happiness with Beth when his inner demons threaten to defeat him.
In rhythmic and captivating prose, Katy Mahood effortlessly interweaves the stories of these two families who increasingly come to define one another in the most vital and astounding ways. With this soaring debut, she explores the choices and encounters that make up a lifetime, reminding us just how closely we are all connected.
What I Say:
“A collision of particles, a change that lasts forever, so that even far apart they respond to one another.”
I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of Entanglement from Harper Insider, and loved it so much I just had to write a blog post about it. However, this is not an easy novel to blog about, because it is so richly layered and complex. I was genuinely concerned about how I could possibly do it justice!
Entanglement tells the story of Charlie, Beth, Stella and John. The city of London, glorious and imposing, provides the ever present backdrop to their lives. It is throughout the book in landmarks, in street names, in the routes the characters take to different places and it is under London’s watchful eye that the novel unfolds.
However, it would be too simplistic to say that this is just a novel about the lives of four characters. Entanglement is so much more. Katy Mahood asks the question; are we really as separate as we believe? Isn’t there a chance that our lives may intersect with many more people than we realise and that our range of human interactions is far wider than we can comprehend.
The novel moves us through the lives of the four main characters. The narrative shifts between the relationship timelines of the two couples and we are party to the very different lives that they lead. Stella and John marry after Stella finds out she is pregnant. Charlie is in love with Beth, and despite being not exactly what her parents want in a future son in law, they marry too.
One of the many themes that is present throughout the novel is one which was very pertinent for me; that of the role of women in marriage and society. Stella is a creative and intelligent woman, whose academic and professional ambitions are sidelined while she at times, reluctantly fulfills the role of wife and mother. Ironically, her passion is writing about female writers whose voices need to be heard. She has to put her own hopes and dreams on hold while she supports John, a quantum physicist as his own academic career (a clever plot device that he is studying the field of entanglement) soars, culminating in him winning the coveted Fitzpatrick Medal for Physics.
Katy describes Stella’s frustrations at the limitations she faces, and deftly brings them to the surface of the novel. As a reader in 2018, I completely sympathised with the internal struggles she faces, as she longs for some sort of recognition as Stella, as oppose to a wife or mother. Unfortunately, Stella’s situation was commonplace then, and even more frustratingly, in 2018, this is still an issue which is relevant to many, many women.
Charlie meanwhile, has to deal with the aftermath of his sister’s death and his own injuries after the pub they were in is bombed. From the start of the novel, there is a charm and vulnerability to Charlie, who seems to be always working to create the stable family unit he lacked in his childhood. This is not to say he is perfect, but his mother’s alcoholism and the fact he has lost his sister, means that Charlie has experienced so much in his life already. He always seems to be just on the edge of losing his grip on the world around him. When Beth loses the baby they are both desperate for, Charlie starts to drink and stray from Beth.
As time goes on, Beth starts to correctly suspect that Charlie is having an affair. After she discovers she is finally pregnant, and gives birth to a daughter, she and Charlie decide to reconcile and try to raise Effie. Interestingly, as Charlie remains sober, Beth feels increasingly trapped in her marriage, frustrated by her teaching career and wanting to her academic potential.
Her desire to become a psychotherapist sees Charlie now in a position where he is unsure about his wife’s love and commitment to their marriage. All the time, Katy shifts the narrative focus between the characters, but it is always natural, and the dynamics flow easily between the different people, couples and world around them.
What distinguishes and makes Entanglement a must read novel, is the intricate plotting of the fleeting connections the characters make without ever truly knowing each other. Stella and John see Charlie in the aftermath of the bombing, Charlie sees Stella and John with their daughter, and in one scene, all the characters are at the same carnival. This is such a clever premise, that permeates the whole novel, but never seems staged or forced. They all interact and at points acknowledge each other, making snap judgements about the people they see in front of them, without knowing the reality of their lives.
Stella and John’s marriage is also tested, by a devastating illness that John suffers, and again we see how hard Stella works to ensure that everything stays intact, in spite of how unfulfilled she feels. For Stella, she finds her release in music, which also brings her finally emotionally back to John, as Charlie and Beth move further apart, connected only by Effie. As the novel progresses, and the characters age, we see how their lives shift and change, moving in ways that no one could have predicted.
Hope and Effie, the daughters of Stella and John and Charlie and Beth, move the novel towards its eloquent and hopeful conclusion, proving how powerful the theory of Entanglement is.
“Quantum entanglement, it turns out, is a good way in which to talk about marriage..because when two particles become entangled they remain connected even when they are far away from one another.”
Entanglement is one of those rare novels, which defies easy categorisation and is a fiercely intelligent and beautiful story of love, loss, the power of women, and the fleeting moments when we unwittingly connect with strangers. It is unlike anything I have ever read, and I was so entranced by it, that not only have I recommended it to everyone, I also went and bought a published copy!
I truly loved Entanglement, and hope you do too.