Kit de Waal: The Trick to Time
Published By: Viking
Buy It: here
What The Blurb Says:
Mona is a young Irish girl in the big city, with the thrill of a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding house. On her first night out in 1970’s Birmingham, she meets William, a charming Irish boy with an easy smile and an open face. They embark upon a passionate affair, a whirlwind marriage – before a sudden tragedy tears them apart.
Decades later, Mona pieces together the memories of the years that separate them. But can she ever learn to love again?
The Trick to Time is an unforgettable tale of grief, longing, and a love that lasts a lifetime.
What I Say:
This is not a planned blog post, where usually I will have taken notes, written out poignant quotations, and analysed the themes and narrative.
I have consciously been taking a break from blogging these past few weeks for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I have a LOT of books to read and review over the next few months and wanted to concentrate. Secondly, I have been finding that keeping up with social media and liking and retweeting, and following (and in some cases unfollowing), meant one simple thing was getting overlooked.
I had stopped reading selfishly, for myself, and was in danger of going against everything Years of Reading is about.
I knew that I just wanted to read The Trick To Time without distraction. I loved Kit’s previous novel, the astounding My Name Is Leon, and the premise of this one, ” If you lost the love of your life, what would you do to live again” sounded perfect for me.
Quite simply, I loved The Trick to Time so much, I needed to tell everyone about it.
The Trick to Time is the story of Mona and William. Mona, a young Irish woman on moving to Birmingham in the 1970’s, meets and falls in love with William, a young Irish man. Together they live and love, decide to get married and tentatively navigate their way through their new life together. Mona has had a good relationship with her father, after having lost her mother to cancer as a young girl, and William, initially evasive about his family, is determined that he will be a better father than his alcoholic Dad was to him. Kit masterfully details the day-to-day realities of life for a young married couple in the 1970’s, where three day working weeks were a reality, and there always had to be a supply of coins to feed the gas meter. As Mona and William’s story develops, we also see how the world around them is becoming increasingly hostile to Irish people following a spate of bombings.
The narrative switches between Mona’s younger life, and where she finds herself now. Mona is alone, living in a block of flats in a nondescript seaside town in Kent. Her days, and often nights, are filled with making dolls and their outfits for a shop she has in the town. She thrives on imaginatively sourcing and creating outfits for the dolls she makes. Aside from her bespoke dolls, Mona has also created a place where women who have lost babies come, to ask for the baby they have lost to be made for them. Mona works with a local carpenter to create the dolls which weigh and feel like the children they have lost. The dolls are given to the bereaved women, who tell Mona the story of what their children would have become, and with Mona’s guidance, they learn to accept what has happened.
How has Mona arrived at this point in her life, no longer with William or living in Birmingham? The novel moves backwards and forwards, filling in the missing chapters of their life, revealing the twists and turns and overwhelming tragedy that has led Mona to this place.
Mona is now approaching 60, and she starts to question herself and the choices she has made – we see her struggling to decide whether she should finally move on from William. Mona makes tentative steps to get to know a seemingly sophisticated neighbour called Karl, but her heart never really seems to be in it. As Mona decides whether or not she should get to know Karl better, she discovers that appearances can be deceptive. It is apparent that we all have our frailties and faults, our fears and resentments as we attempt to determine our place in the ever-changing and unfamiliar world.
The novel is so exquisitely written, often very understated, but is filled with an overwhelming emotional power that draws you in and absorbs you completely. Mona is a woman of immense strength, tenderness and resilience which means she spends the majority of her time ensuring everyone else is looked after, whilst constantly suppressing her own emotions. She has had no other choice but to keep soldiering on, and has never had the luxury of time to herself to be able to process and recover from what she has had to endure.
Mona comes to the realisation that she is tired of always having to survive, of living a life she has not chosen, and the final chapters of The Trick To Time show how she starts to take charge of her future. She longs to return to Ireland, to finally go home, and her choice means that she also has to decide if she has the strength to find William and bring him back with her.
The Trick to Time is a beautiful, haunting and elegiac novel. It shows us that although love is what we all need and strive for, that grief is just as important and needs to have a voice for us to be able to deal with it.
This novel will stay with you long after you have read it, as will Mona and William, whose story is testament to the compelling power of love.