Forgotten Laughter - Marcia Willett
When Louise Parry arrives at Foxhole for her summer holiday, she is welcomed by kind, sensitive Brigid Foster and her incorrigible, elderly mother, Fr...
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Review of "Forgotten Laughter - Marcia Willett"
Living in Cyprus with husband, three cats and about three thousand books. Two adult sons, one daughter-in-law, one grandson :-)
Brigid lives in the countryside and owns two small cottages that she lets out for holidays. Over the years she's become quite friendly with some of the regular visitors, one of whom is called Louise. This novel opens when Louise is on her way to stay, in a rather anxious state because she suspects that her partner is having an affair. There are clear hints that Louise's agitation goes a great deal deeper than this, that there is some tragedy in her past which she has been repressing.Meanwhile Brigid is not entirely happy herself: her husband spends much of his time away, working for the Navy, but is considering early retirement; she's the kind of person who needs time and space to herself, and isn't sure if she will be able to cope with him being there all the time, much as she loves him. Brigid is also trying to deal with her mother, who abandoned her as a child but who is staying long-term in one of her cottages, and her half-sister Jemima who lives not far away.
Jemima also likes her own space, and although she's had a series of casual relationships she considers herself mistress material rather than wanting to settle down. But suddenly she meets someone on the rebound from another woman, and she starts to fall in love with him against her better judgement.So there's the seeds of a pleasant 'aga-saga' type of family story, and that's what I was expecting. This is Marcia Willett's eleventh novel, and while - unlike some of the critics - I don't consider her in Rosamunde Pilcher's league, she generally writes enjoyable heart-warming stories that have upbeat endings and characters I can care about.
Unfortunately I found 'Forgotten Laughter' to be over-complicated, and I felt it could have done with some extra editing. In addition to the main characters, there are a sprinkling of walk-on parts belonging to people who've appeared in previous books by the same author, and there seems to be an enormous amount of explanation about everyone's background and past. I know it's important for a writer to know everything about their characters, but it doesn't all need to be included in the book!'Show, don't tell' is one of the golden rules for novelists, and while of course good authors break 'rules' all the time, I felt that Marcia Willetts went rather overboard in telling us what people were thinking, and why, rather than demonstrating it in action.
What's more, the past history style isn't limited to the first few chapters - where it could be skimmed - but is scattered throughout the book. Two people arrange to have a meal together at the end of a chapter, for instance, then the following chapter shows one of them doing some mundane task, and thinking about the conversation, followed by a bit of author's interpolation telling us what had happened. I don't mind this occasionally - this style can be easier to follow than a direct flashback - but I thought it was overdone, and included far too much detail.I also felt that there were some extra elements that didn't quite work. About a quarter of the way through the book Louise comes to a crisis point, but it happens so suddenly - and after an excess of explanations, with very little happening - that I didn't find myself emotionally moved at all, despite the content being something that would normally have affected me deeply. In addition I found some of the male characters to be rather faceless. We never even learn the name of the man Jemima falls in love with, and Louise's partner Martin seems to change from an untrustworthy rotter to a thoroughly decent chap, without any real reason.
There's also a background subplot involving a murderer on the loose, who has killed a few women out for walks. Suspense is built quite successfully on several occasions when one of the main characters is out walking and sees a lone figure, or drives somewhere and is followed closely by a particular car. This subplot fits neatly into the rest of the novel in various ways - ending in a manner that was probably meant to be a surprise, but which I'd guessed would happen - however, as I really dislike even mild suspense, it meant it wasn't a book I wanted to read late at night.A plus point, from my perspective, is that there's no bad language at all in Marcia Willett's books, nor any erotic detail that would make it unsuitable for children coming across them. Sex clearly happens, but we only know about it when people emerge from the sheets and get up to make coffee. It's the kind of book I'd like to have read in my teens when I wanted to explore adult emotions without being distracted by intimate and detailed physical descriptions.
All in all, it's a nice enough book, if long-winded. It was almost 500 pages long, and I felt could easily have been edited by about a fifth to make it more flowing and readable. But I did find myself caring about the main characters, at least by the end of the book, and some of the minor ones too.The final chapters tie up various loose ends quite neatly, with one or two unexpected developments, and I didn't feel dissatisfied by it. But I didn't feel warmed and emotional, either. Fans of Marcia Willett will probably want to read it, as I did, and perhaps add it to their collections - but I wouldn't really recommend it to somebody new to this author unless you come across it second-hand, or find it in a library.
First published by Headline in 2002, the paperback edition is £6.99 at most bookshops, discounted by 20% at Amazon.
Product Information : Forgotten Laughter - Marcia Willett
Manufacturer's product descriptionWhen Louise Parry arrives at Foxhole for her summer holiday, she is welcomed by kind, sensitive Brigid Foster and her incorrigible, elderly mother, Frummie. Amid the peace of Dartmoor, Louise tries to forget the haunting memories from her past but an unexpected visitor forces her to remember. See all Product Description
Author: Marcia Willett
Title: Forgotten Laughter
ISBN: 0747268363; 0747271925; 0750521120
Listed on Ciao since: 26/04/2004