EXCERPT: ‘Rosie,’ I thought. ‘Little, little Rosie.’
It was so cold the night she disappeared, the night I stayed, looking for her. A shiver of stars crept across the lake but it was too dark to separate sky from mountains, or mountains from slag heaps. Waiting for the first breath of dawn to stir in the darkness like an animal waking. The lake breathed at my feet as if it too were sleeping and might wake. All night I stayed, my eyes open on the water. When the first clouds covered the stars, the lake turned grey. So grey I could have reached out and twitched it away, caught it in my fingers and pulled and pulled until it was all gone, except what lay under the surface, also curled, as if asleep. I’d lost everything. Not only at the lake two summers ago, but here and now, in Starling Villas. Everything I’d worked so hard to make, this small happiness, the frail living I’d scratched for myself under his roof. All lost.
ABOUT ‘FRAGILE’: Everything she touches breaks . . .
Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperate to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong.
So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands.
Only her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees that he is hiding secrets of his own.
But is Nell’s arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easy they can be to break . . .
MY THOUGHTS: She can run, but she can’t hide. Especially not from herself. Guilt, shame and regret are her shadow.
Nell thinks that by running away to London, she and Joe can leave their old selves behind, shed the tragedy of Rosie’s disappearance. Instead, when Joe bails out on her, Nell (Death Knell as Meagan Flack calls her) is caught up in a web of lies, deceit, and manipulation. She is unable to shed her past, which continues to haunt her, and it seems that the future she has planned for herself in a place she thought she could call home may not turn out to be too much different from her past.
Fragile is a grim story. Disturbing. A story of children abandoned for various reasons, flung together in a foster home where their carer, Meagan Flack, wasn’t in the habit of making happy memories for her charges. A home where those who ought to have been cared for, were doing the caring. It is a story of greed, and abuse at many levels. It is a story of the children who fall through the cracks, who live in fear. Continuing to fear Meagan, even after they have fled her, knowing that she will never forgive them, never forget.
It is made all the more dark and disturbing by the beautiful writing. ‘Fear was everywhere in Starling Villas now. Not hiding any longer, but sitting in the sun like a cat, stretching as the sky stretched, greedy for its heat.’
The story is told over two timelines, now at Starling Villas, London, and then at the foster home in Bala, Wales. The story of Rosie’s disappearance is cleverly eked out, so that we don’t learn what actually happened to her until the very end. We are fed snippets of information, teased and tormented by the mystery.
I can’t say that I enjoyed Fragile. I don’t think that it was written to be enjoyed, but it certainly hit its mark with me. It is heartbreaking. It is sad. It tore at my sensibilities. It is beautifully written, and gut wrenching.
I: @sarah_hilary999 @panmacmillan
T: @Sarah_Hilary @PanMacmillan
#contemporaryfiction #mystery #psychologicalthriller
THE AUTHOR: Sarah Hilary is a UK crime novelist and former bookseller.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Fragile by Sarah Hilary for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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