The Trick To Time by Kit De Waal by Viking March 29th 2018
Mona is a young Irish girl in the big city, with the thrill of a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding house. On her first night out in 1970s Birmingham, she meets William, a charming Irish boy with an easy smile and an open face. They embark upon a passionate affair, a whirlwind marriage – before a sudden tragedy tears them apart.
Decades later, Mona pieces together the memories of the years that separate them. But can she ever learn to love again?
The second novel can always be a difficult one, especially when your first has been hugely successful and critically acclaimed. Many authors fail dismally or its simply just not as good, whilst a very few write a novel that transcends and exceeds. Kit De Waal is, in my opinion, one of the few that has written a novel better than her first. The Trick To Time, is just superb and this is why.
Lets start with the main character, Mona. We first meet Mona in a seaside town where she makes and sells wooden dolls in her small shop. Approaching sixty she is without a husband and even with a small group of friends you can sense that she is lonely. Unable to sleep well at nights she catches glimpses of a man in the flats across from her and a chance meeting sees them spending time together. It unravels a myriad of emotions in Mona as she wonders if this is what she really wants and slowly in flashbacks we learn Mona’s story.
We read of Mona’s Irish background, the death of her beloved mother, the closeness between herself and her father, and her escape to Birmingham with the promise of a more exciting life. There is happiness when she meets, falls in love and marries William before tragedy strikes. This is where the story really began and where I had to make sure I had a tissue to hand as I read.
De Waal takes us on a veritable emotional rollercoaster. There is love, loss and grief told in a narrative that pulls you in, and really makes you care for these characters, especially Mona.
Mona is hardy, strong and incredibly brave with a huge capacity for love, forgiveness and compassion. She is beautifully crafted with so much depth, so many layers that I could not help but feel a huge connection with her, one that I very rarely find in the many novels that I read.
I could clearly sense and feel her inner turmoil and anguish and hoped against hope that all would be well.
Supporting characters added humour as well as triggered memories. I particularly liked De Waal’s portrayal of the carpenter, the maker of Mona’s dolls. There was something haunting and sorrowful about him, the relationship between Mona and himself always business like until the odd touch or gesture hinted at something more.
What made this novel so special was De Waal’s ability to capture the emotion and mental torment of the characters and convey to us, the reader, in a way that was both captivating and poignant. The issues of mental health and grief are treated with a real understanding and sensitivity, the prose never overplayed, striking just the right note. There are some scenes that are incredibly moving and I was in absolute bits towards the end.
Don’t let the fact that The Trick To Time is a sad novel put you off, because you will seriously miss out on what is a beautifully written story that will stay with you for a very long time.
I have my fingers crossed that it will make the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Thank you to Viking and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review.
About the author
Kit de Waal, born to an Irish mother and Caribbean father, was brought up among the Irish community of Birmingham in the 60’s and 70’s. Her debut novel My Name Is Leon was an international bestseller, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, long-listed for the Desmond Elliott Prize and won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award for 2017.