The Women’s Pages by Debra Adelaide (published October 2015 by PanMcMillan)
This is an unexpected story, being a story within a story within a story. In this novel, Dove is reading Wuthering Heights to her dying mother. In reading her mother’s much notated copy, she is inspired to write her own story. In a surprising twist, Debra Adelaide weaves the story of Dove with her own story about Ellis, a woman in the 1960s who has lived with the mystery of an absent mother, so the reader is reading a story a character is writing about another character. In the reader’s mind, both become real and, the novel becomes a travel in time from the present to the 1960s as it follows Ellis’ life and that of Dove. Ellis is brought up with the traditions of her time – women are expected to marry and have children, but although she does marry and have a child, she then decides to leave this life to forge another life, to follow her dreams, and becomes a writer for the Women’s Pages, a magazine very reminiscent of The Women’s Weekly. This is a novel which deals with the complexities of motherhood, of family secrets, and personal fulfilment. Framing this story is the story of Wuthering Heights with parallels of love, madness, family and grief.
The writing is wonderfully evocative of the settings – the places and times – described, the characters complicated, and the family tragedies all too familiar and believable. I was not always convinced by the devices the author uses which at times felt forced – perhaps I needed to reread Wuthering Heights. Some elements are unresolved or not resolved satisfactorily – Ellis’ leaving of her baby and what happened to the baby is one. It is a novel that keeps the reader guessing, however, and wanting to know what happens to both Dove and Ellis. The ending is both surprising and, after the surprise, inevitable.
I can see book clubs discussing and arguing heatedly about this story.