Monday, 26 April 2010

The Missing

By Juliet Bates (Linen Press)

I bought The Missing following a review by Sally Zigmond, which led me to the Linen Press website. I also read a piece by Linen Press publisher Lynn Michell in which I was appalled to find that she makes a LOSS on every book sold via Amazon. Well I knew small presses made a lot less through Amazon than by selling direct, but to make a loss!?! I resolved to always buy small press books direct from the publisher, and also to try to buy about half my books from small presses in future.

Anyway, what about the book? It appealed to me because of the mystery element - who was this woman who may or may not be Anastasia, daughter of the Tsar? I've recently read another book about the end of the Russian royal family so was familiar with the events. But The Missing is an altogether different book, with themes of missing persons (of course!), and missing memories. How we rewrite our memories to fit with what we want to believe, now.

Journalist Frances is in Paris, trying to track down a woman named Ania believed by some to be Anastasia. But she's also trying to track down her past, her mother who walked out when she was six. And is she trying to find herself as well? There are stories within the story here - different versions of Ania's history given by different characters, and different takes on episodes in Frances's past as well.

Throughout the prose is beautiful, descriptive and melancholy. It carried me along in a gentle and seductive way, and I enjoyed the book immensely.

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