#Blogtour The Cookbook of Common Prayer by Francesca Haig @FrancescaHaig @AllenandUnwinUk @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheCookbookOfCommonPrayer

The Cookbook of Common Prayer by Francesca Haig

The Blurb

When Gill and Gabe’s eldest son drowns overseas, they decide they must hide the truth from their desperately unwell teenaged daughter. But as Gill begins to send letters from her dead son to his sister, the increasingly elaborate lie threatens to prove more dangerous than the truth.

Told through alternating perspectives, and moving between Tasmania and London, this is a novel about family, food, griefand hope.

My Review

This wasn’t an easy read and I don’t mean that in a detrimental way. It was uneasy in that the subject matter, the death of a son would never be a topic you would necessarily like to think about or dwell upon but that is exactly what Haig did.

Haig didn’t just concentrate on one person but the whole family as they came to terms with the death of beloved elder son, Dougie. There was the initial collective shock, the parental flight to England to recover the body before slowly Haig crept into the minds of Gabe, Gill, Sylvie and Teddy.

For father, Gabe it was the practicalities, the how, what, if, when, why. It became his obsession as Haig sent him on a journey of text books, internet searches and the people close to Dougie. His relationship with Dougie’s girlfriend Rosie raised questions, were they seeking comfort in each other, was something else simmering below the surface.

For Mum, Gill it was all about denial as she flew back to Tasmania to hold the fort, to wrap herself in cooking and recipes that represented her state of mind. Her need to protect daughter, Sylvie, an inpatient in an eating disorder clinic over took everything else, the lies that Dougie was merely injured, not dead, the letters she wrote on his behalf engulfed her, but kept Dougie alive. You wondered when it would end, the impact, the consequences often too terrifying to contemplate.

There was Sylvie, daughter, whose bones protruded from her body, wrapped up in her own self, almost unresponsive to the outside world. I admired Haig’s ability to understand her sense of entrapment, a body that betrayed her, a death that seemed so far away, unattainable.

Teddy, youngest child was my absolute favourite, the one on the periphery who no one noticed, who quietly and determinedly set out to unlock his sister, to mend his family. Oh how Haig made my heart ache for this lovely young boy, his relationship with his dementia sufferer Grandfather beautifully portrayed. All I wanted was to shake his parents, tell them to open their eyes, to see what this lovely sweet, caring young boy was trying to do.

Haig knew that there was only so long before the barrier came down, before the pretence had to stop, and when it did we were wrapped in a maelstrom of emotions, of eyes being opened, of a realisation that life had to continue, grief confronted.

I liked that Teddy and Sylvie were the instigators of change, the ones who woke up the adults, who forced them to emerge from their grief like shells to appreciate that, yes one son may have died but that two other children survived who needed their love and support who could help heal their fractured lives.

What stood out throughout the whole of the novel were the distinct voices of each of Haig’s characters, the decision to alternate the chapters between each of them gave the reader multiple perspectives. You felt more engaged and immersed in their feelings and emotions, understood the individual impact of grief and death, the misunderstandings and assumptions. What the novel did have were rays of hope, of the possibilities of a brighter future, of a family that you hoped would be able to pick up the pieces and emerge better and stronger.

I would like to thank Allen and Unwin for a copy of The Cookbook Of Common Prayer to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Francesca Haig grew up in Tasmania and is an academic and writer, whose poetry and YA/crossover fantasy have been widely published. She lives in London with her husband and son. This is her first novel for adults.

The Cookbook Of Common Prayer by Francesca Haig Allen and Unwin Uk June 3rd 2021

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