Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: The Wednesday Daughters

The Wednesday DaughtersAuthor: Meg Waite Clayton
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Publisher: Ballantine
Series: Wednesday # 2

Meg Waite Clayton, nationally bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters, returns with a compassionate, wise, and enthralling new novel of mothers and daughters, best friends who become family, and secrets and dreams passed down through the generations.

"The present and the past intertwine beautifully and inevitably in Meg Waite Clayton's winning follow-up to The Wednesday Sisters. From the beguiling Lake District setting, to a completely charming (and spot-on) portrayal of Beatrix Potter, to the way the Wednesday daughters strive to unpuzzle both their own choices and their mothers' legacies, every layer of the novel delivers. Utterly rich and satisfying.
—Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife

It is early evening when Hope Tantry arrives at the small cottage in England’s pastoral Lake District where her mother, Ally, spent the last years of her life. Ally—one of a close-knit group of women who called themselves “The Wednesday Sisters”—had used the cottage as a writer’s retreat while she worked on her unpublished biography of Beatrix Potter, yet Hope knows nearly nothing about her mother’s time there. Traveling with Hope are friends Julie and Anna Page, two other daughters of “The Wednesday Sisters,” who offer to help Hope sort through her mother’s personal effects. Yet what Hope finds will reveal a tangled family history—one steeped in Lake District lore.

Tucked away in a hidden drawer, Hope finds a stack of Ally’s old notebooks, all written in a mysterious code. As she, Julie, and Anna Page try to decipher Ally’s writings—the reason for their encryption, their possible connection to the Potter manuscript—they are forced to confront their own personal struggles: Hope’s doubts about her marriage, Julie’s grief over losing her twin sister, Anna Page’s fear of commitment in relationships. And as the real reason for Ally’s stay in England comes to light, Hope, Julie, and Anna Page reach a new understanding about the enduring bonds of family, the unwavering strength of love, and the inescapable pull of the past.

We Wednesday Daughters weren’t born on Wednesdays, and we aren’t blood relations. We don’t gather to write at picnic tables like our mothers did. We’re just daughters of friends who’ve called themselves “Wednesday Sisters” since before I was born, daughters who became friends ourselves the way girls who grow up together sometimes do, whether they have much in common or not.

And this is our story, which is, I suppose, a love story. Or two. Or, actually, probably four.

Mom didn’t need anything in this world anymore except for me to pack up what was left of her life in England, the way I’d not yet managed to pack up her pajamas and teapots and hairbrushes at home, her puzzle collection, her manuscript drafts of the children’s books she’d spent her life writing but had never seen in print.

This is very much a story of mothers, daughters, best friends, and the relationships that they all share. If you have read The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton then you already know what to expect from her wonderful, surprising novels that are full of vivacious characters and at times sad storylines. This book tells the story of the daughters of the original Wednesday Sisters. It picks up after the death of Ally, Hope’s mom, and the girls have traveled to her small cottage in England’s Lake District to clean out some of her belongings. This book, likes others by Clayton, confronts each of the characters personal lives and some of the personal struggles they are facing. I was just as pleased with this book as I was with the first!

The story was told in alternating viewpoints. Some of the chapters took place in the present with Hope, Julie, and Anna Page. Other chapters were from Ally’s diary and were conversations that she was having with the late Beatrix Potter. There were many Beatrix Potter allusions in this book, and I found them all to be very tasteful and remarkably placed within the storyline. I did enjoy the chapters from Ally’s diary the best. I found myself smiling and really feeling a connection to the entire literary sphere after reading these. Each chapter started with some type of quotation having to do with Beatrix Potter, and there is a note from the author in the back explaining her own fascination with Beatrix.

Although this storyline does not exhibit a lot of action, I still thought that all the events and recent happenings surrounding these three women were enough to keep me interested and involved. Clayton writes with a poetic form and it almost feels as if she is trying to paint a scene for her readers instead and of tell them a story. She shows and doesn’t tell; I absolutely love it! I was very invested in my time with the Wednesday Daughters, and this was a book that I flew through in less than two days!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Ballantine Books in exchange for my honest review***

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