Novel set in Cornwall and London (“we’re having a baby”)
- Book: Flight
- Location: Cornwall
- Author: Isabel Ashdown
Author Isabel Ashdown has a real gift for storytelling – enjoyable, engrossing, with a few twists and turns along the way. Our introduction to her work was originally Summer of ’76 set in the Isle of Wight and in that book she beautifully captured the era and feel of this beautiful island. Flight, her new book, moves through London and into North Cornwall…
Flight is a story of firm friendship, family, abandonment, loss…. and secrets.
Three friends Rob, Laura and Wren form a tight friendship group when they meet as students in the 1990s; it is an unshakeable threesome going into their post Uni days, where mutual support and care is fundamental. They have created a family unit for themselves that suits their individual needs. There are early indicators that Wren comes from a difficult background where mum hasn’t really been emotionally available to her. Laura goes on to find herself in a relationship that isn’t working but struggles to bring it to an end and is all the while desperate to have her own child. And Rob is just content to be a part of it all.
Wren and Rob gravitate towards each other and end up getting married, in Weybridge as it happens. The three of them are so enmeshed that Laura is actively invited to join the happy couple on honeymoon (which feels just a little weird). Soon there is a baby on the way, yet increasingly Wren is becoming a shadow of her former herself. Baby Phoebe is born but Wren is struggling to cope and escapes to Cornwall – and the story develops from there (I will end there as I don’t want to give too much away).
North Cornwall is a terrific setting for Wren’s life in a small cottage, with a pair of tiny dachshunds – the sea pounds, the wind howls, the beach stretches on for ever. She is a tiny figure blending in with dramatic surroundings: “..the pink horizon shimmers beyond the barnacled rocks and pools of the bay, the peace only broken by the fires of gulls feeding some way out. Waders cast shadows along the wet shoreline, a colony of industrious migrants, digging deep for lugworms and rag.” The reader is definitely there with character.
I certainly wanted to see how the story ended, it’s a very readable book. I found myself feeling frustrated, however, with the interactions between the main characters. There is little palpable anger at the ‘loss’ of parent/partner Wren, there are none of the inevitable dynamics of inclusion/exclusion which are often at the heart of such a tight-knit threesome – jealousy, rancour, upset, for example… the real raw emotions never really seemed to manifest. For sure, Rob goes off the rails and sleeps with several women when crisis hits, and Laura disappears for a lengthy period too. A greater exploration of the psychology – hinted at – behind this unusual grouping of characters would have been a real bonus.
It’s nevertheless an engrossing read and a good book to add to your TBR pile.
This review first appeared on our blog