There are three things which attracted me to this book. Firstly, it’s a book with a picture of beautiful old books on the front. Guaranteed to make a true book lover swoon. It’s main character also works in a book shop and part of the story is set there. Finally, it’s a story that intermingles past and present. My very favourite kind.
And oh how I did love it every bit as much as I hoped. Weaving the stories of two woman and spanning eighty years, this is beautifully written and at times achingly sad. Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase begins with Roberta in the present. Roberta works in The Old and New Bookshop and is fascinated by the old notes and letters she finds hidden amongst the pages of the second hand books brought into the store. But when she finds one belonging to her grandmother, Dorothea, it hints at a dark secret. One which changes the family history of which she was so sure.
I adored the war time love story between Dorothea and Polish Squadron leader Jan. It was so pure and elegantly written, I couldn’t help but fall in love myself. The alternating chapters into Dorothea’s past were probably my favourite and Louise Walters evoked the time and atmosphere so perfectly, drawing me in completely.
I also loved how Roberta’s story developed alongside Dorothea’s and was as much a journey of discovery for herself as it was to find out the secrets her Grandmother had kept hidden for so many decades. Aside from being Granddaughter and Grandmother, Roberta and Dorothea are linked by the things in their lives which remain unsaid and a fear of letting others in. This is all tied together beautiful in the closing chapters, which really are beautifully and tenderly written.
Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase is exactly the kind of novel I love. It’s deeply romantic without being over bearing, it brings the two women to life so perfectly, faults and all. It’s also subtly emotional, and I found myself with tears running down my face by the end. Despite being a début novel, Louise Walters easily blends lyrical and stark honest prose and keeps a perfect pace throughout. I absolutely loved this book and will be watching out for more from this author in the future.
Published Feb 27th 2014 by Hodder and Stoughton (UK)