Log in

No account? Create an account

October 2018



Powered by LiveJournal.com

Ninepins, Rosy Thornton

Rosy Thornton very kindly sent me a copy of her new book. I started it as soon as I could and read it very quickly, always a good sign. The story is set in the Cambridgeshire fens, where Laura lives in an isolated house with her young daughter, Beth. Brr, why does anyone choose to live in the fens? I think of floods, of biting winds and insidious damp, of Waterland, of generations of people suffering from ague. To a fenswoman like Laura, they have a strange beauty. they used to stand here side by side … and watch the sky slowly bleed from grey through mauve to black. There was so much sky at Ninepins. From here on top of the dike, looking out across the lode, across the empty fields beyond, it seemed to dwarf the earth, vast and tall and toppling. On days like today, when cloud was sparse, it held a quiet luminosity which lingered even after the sun was gone; the lode and banks were lit by a soft, persistent glow which seemed to come from around and within as much as from above, outshadowing the orange smudge of Cambridge on the southern horizon.

Laura is a nice middle class woman with an academic job in Cambridge; she’s on good terms with her ex, her life seems controlled and normal. All the conversations, Beth’s school life, the very food they eat are completely modern, with no ghosts or mysteries from the past about. Yet from the very start of the book, the reader is on pins waiting for something awful to happen. The premonition begins when social worker Vince persuades Laura to accept teenage Willow as the new tenant for the old pump house on her land. Laura is already worried about Beth’s asthma and her problems at a new school. Now she’s taking on an unknown girl who’s been convicted of arson and has no family apart from a ‘waste of space’ (Willow’s description) mother. And she lives in the middle of nowhere. Is it too much of a risk?

This book explores the modern family and its different forms: Laura’s cosy mother and daughter set-up, her ex-husband’s chaotic household full of wild little boys and the insecure life Willow led with her mother. The feeling of threat comes from the landscape itself as well as from the outsider. There is a dénouement but no spoilers here. Rosy Thornton is so good at evoking place and atmosphere. When I read The Tapestry of Love, I felt I was living in France. Reading Ninepins I could almost feel the cold damp of the fens creeping into my bones. Highly recommended for a tense read.


> Brr, why does anyone choose to live in the fens? I think of floods, of biting winds and insidious damp, of Waterland, of generations of people suffering from ague.

LOL. Not many floods these days as we have efficient pumping stations, miles of water drainage courses and flood plains but there is the odd village close to flood plains which get road floods now and then. However, we are the driest region in the UK! It can get chilly from the wind sometimes but then we are compensated by huge skies which are fabulous for sunrises and sunsets as well as a great expanse of blue on sunny days and views of windpumps and church spires and Ely cathedral seen from miles away :) Apparently fen men and women were very unsocial way back, when they walked on stilts through the murky waters. In Anglo Saxon times, the Fens were not a place where people wanted to live - it was scary with devils and ghosts, and covered in damp, dark mists :)

The book sounds good, I think I will read it :)
Ha, I thought of you, but you're in town. I hope you do read the book.


Thank you

Thanks so much for the lovely review, CallMeMadam.

And Gwen, you may be right that flooding is rarer hereabouts than in the past, but we have it over the kerb, up the steps and close to our front doorstep every time it rains for more than a few hours at a stretch - drought or no drought! I was brought up on the sandy coastal strip of Suffolk, which really is a dry place - to me, having moved the sixty miles west, the fens are eternally associated with damp!

Rosy T

Re: Thank you

You're very welcome. I always say what I think :-)

Dorset is an absolute desert at the moment, with more risk of heath fires than of flooding.

Re: Thank you

True, there are some houses situated in a vulnerable area. I hope that water doesn't get past your front door very often! As I live on top of a hill (a few steps from Ely Cathedral) I am not troubled much although our road did flood a couple of years ago when the drains couldn't cope!
How exciting, Barbara! I'm hoping it'll come on Kindle? The others are so fingers crossed!
I hope so, if that's the only way you're going to read it!


Thank you for this review. I am a great admirer of Ms. Thornton!



Yes, there will be an e-book out shortly - thanks for asking about it!

Rosy T

Re: Kindle

Good news!

Re: Kindle

I've just finished it too - couldn't put it down. Still deliberating over what I want to say about it but I like your comments about the doom-laden landscape. I was very grateful for a nice warm dog snuggled up to me while I read it.
It's like reading a thriller, isn't it? Very different from her earlier books.