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Summary

A lyrical novel about family and relationships from the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award winner. 

Nessa McCormack's marriage is coming back together again after her husband's affair. She is excited to be in charge of a retrospective art exhibit for one of Ireland's most beloved and enigmatic artists, the late sculptor Robert Locke. But the arrival of two outsiders imperils both her personal and professional worlds: a chance encounter with an old friend threatens to expose a betrayal Nessa thought she had long put behind her, and at work, an odd woman comes forward claiming to be the true creator of Robert Locke's most famous work, The Chalk Sculpture.

As Nessa finds the past intruding on the present, she must decide whether she can continue to live a lie - or whether she's ready to face the consequences once everything is out in the open. In this gripping debut, Danielle McLaughlin reveals profound truths about love, power and the secrets that rule us.

©2021 Danielle McLaughlin (P)2021 Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

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Unusual and winningly understated

Danielle McLaughlin is new to me and I really liked this, her first novel. She has published short stories and the skills of saying a great deal in few words seem to have been carried over into her novel. If there is such a quality, I found it quietly powerful - subtle, understated, gentle but with a strong swell beneath.
Nessa is perfecting the art of falling: struggling to re-align herself and her marriage after her husband's brief affair with Cora, mother of her teenage daughter Jennifer's best friend. Nessa is an art historian running a Gallery with a consuming interest in the work of the local sculptor Robert Locke, particularly in his best piece, The Chalk Sculpture. Locke's cantankerous widow and daughter live locally. When a woman appears from the past claiming to be the rightful sculptor of the piece and the one-time lover of Locke, the sense of falling for Nessa is intensified. And then Luke comes out of the past, the son of Nessa's best friend Amy who had committed suicide when they were young and Nessa's life is in free fall. Nessa had been an unkind treacherous friend to Amy and Luke has acquired letters to prove it. Nessa's daughter Jennifer is fighting for her independence in the hurtful way that teenagers do, and Nessa finds out that she's not at choir practice as Jennifer claims... It becomes increasingly complex but controlled and builds up to an extremely dramatic but unhistrionic scene and finally, an ending promising resolution with hope and peace: a safe landing.
The whole is full of ideas about truth, betrayal and secrets that can't be buried. Marriage and parent-teenage daughter relationships are presented in all their nuances of difficulty. It's beautifully read, Tara Flynn's Irish lilting accent adding to the overall gentleness of the writing. I'll certainly look out for Danielle McLaughlin's next one!

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A really enjoyable read

Loved the setting of this novel in Cork and its familiar place names. Some great twists in the story. Stirred up cringe-like emotions of how I could feel if stuff I did as a student came back to bite me! Also gave a great insight into the world of art/sculpture which I knew nothing about.