Around the World in 80 Children’s Books: A Global Booklist for Kids
Novel set from LONDON through FRANCE to ITALY
6th August 2020
The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon by Sarah Steele, novel set from London through France to Italy.
What an eye-catching cover and this in itself will undoubtedly draw readers to pick up this novel.
Flo is in a wobbly marriage with Seamus and as the book opens she is at the funeral of her Grandmother. In recent times life has dealt Flo quite a few blows and she is reeling from the loss and upset of the life issues that have followed her around. Sorting through her Grandmother’s things she discovers a box with old dress patterns, swatches, postcards and photos, neatly tied into individual packages.
Her interest is, of course, piqued; there are clearly secrets in the family. She recognises many of the people in the photos, bar one woman. Who might she be? She determines that the woman is Nancy but why has her Grandmother kept all these mementos since 1962? They must have had deep meaning for her.
Flo starts to run up the dresses from the patterns on her sewing machine, she is a creative dressmaker who delights in adding the finishing touches to iconic styles of the 1960s. And then, where does she go from there?
After discovering that Seamus has been unfaithful, she decides to follow in Nancy’s footsteps and see if she can peel back the layers of the story. She wears her newly created dresses in tandem with the dress images depicted on each photo. Her first stop is Paris where she hooks up with a friend-of-a-friend, Ben, and who joins her later in her trip. Her story is very much set in the present. Nancy’s own story, set in the 1960s, is woven into Flo’s odyssey and the two narratives form a kind of pas-de-deux, tripping on down to the South of France, Capri, Venice and Tuscany.
The premise of this novel is truly delightful. The pleasure and detail of dress-making permeate the storyline. It is lovely that the author has searched out era specific patterns from Butterick, McCalls, Vogue etc., to enhance the feel of the times. Flo, really enters Nancy’s world as she endeavours to understand how each clue contributes to the full picture.
I very much enjoyed the novel overall. The aspects that didn’t work so for well for me were the characters. The novel opens with a good cast vying for the reader’s attention and then individuals are naturally singled out to take the story forward, the others still hovering (slightly confusingly) in the background. Who’s who does become clearer, however, although character development is a little slow.
The organic flow of the two, entwined stories faltered at some points, I just felt it needed a firmer editing hand to order the sequence of chapters and corral the slightly erratic pace. Coincidences helped the story to move along – it’s quite a thing to have several people in the here and now cast their minds back to 1962 and have pertinent and specific recollections to aid Flo’s investigations.
The writing style is lovely. It really doesn’t need off-pat imagery like “short gnocchi-shaped guards” assisting their passenger on a train in Italy; or when the first impression of driving in Paris is like “Le Mans” (how many times has one heard that tired analogy?); or Ben is described as dressing like Jeremy Clarkson/TopGear. The author can simply rely on her confident and accomplished style to get the story across. I enjoyed the novel for its creative escapism and for the evocative sense of place.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
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