Elise Morgan is ninety years old, has lived the vast majority of her life in Cornwall, and as her eminently capable daughter points out, “has a good, balanced view of things”, including, (alone among her contemporaries), a lack of panic at the large-scaled housing development threatening the sanctity of their local harbour. Instead, Elise’s practice is to navigate herself clear of the gossip and small-mindedness pooling in pockets of her much-loved village, and go on with the business of everyday living.
Elise is a lovely, practical, self-restrained and deeply lonely woman – a widow who lives a life steeped in sameness, alone and separated for large parts of the year from her two adult children – yet is still bravely joyful in the careful and solitary night-time walks she allows herself on her local beach.
A small-town story about aging, secrets, pain and resilience, Elise’s life unfolds for us with a quietness and piercing vulnerability reminiscent to me of the Olive Kitteridge books (both of which I also loved). We come to know and understand Elise and her world through a third-person current-day narrative, enhanced for us by the diary-like alternating chapters of first-person memories Elise shares of both the enchanting and the turbulent of her early years in and around the Second World War. With great skill, the author coalesces both streams into the beautiful, multi-textured rendering of an ordinary woman, who has lived her own remarkable existence.
I loved this book, aching for Elise and all the stories we glimpse connected to hers, behind the curtains of the sea-side cottages lining neighborhood streets, with lives and loves begging to be unreservedly shared over a cup of tea, (splash of milk with no sugar) and a plate of biscuits (hold the bourbon creams). I can’t wait for the next book in this series.
A great big thank you to the author for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.