Sunday, 16 March 2008

Constance by Rosie Thomas


FAMILIES: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. And the family of Constance Thorne is tougher than most, in Constance by Rosie Thomas.

We meet Constance first as a wailing scrap of a lost baby, discovered in a London garden by a courting couple in 1963.

Her only identity is a marcasite earring pinned to her blanket.

And this is where I part company with Rosie Thomas. A writer who produces a baby with an identifying mark makes a contract with the reader - this clue is going to result in a fulfilment of the story.

I can tell you right now that Thomas breaks that contract.

It's a pity, because the family story is charming. When we next meet Constance she's a successful commercial composer, living most of the time in Bali, with a lovely London penthouse flat on the side.

She has never come to terms with her unhappy childhood as a skinny dark outsider in a family of plump blondes. Or with her passion for her brother-in-law.

Now she hears that her sister, Jeanette, is dying, and she rushes home to remake the lost relationship.

Jeanette's son, Noah, has met Roxana, a remarkably respectable Khazak lap-dancer, who has left behind her country and is forging a new 'English' identity, trying to forget the brother she thinks is dead.

The complex family make for a warm and enthralling story, with plenty of twisty surprises along the way.

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