A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion – A Review

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Publication Date: 28th January 2021

This book was always going to potentially be either a hit or a miss for me but I was willing to take the chance. I have always made it known that I struggle with books told from the perspective of a teenage female protagonist. I knew this book infact had several young female characters and I was dubious. Having said that, the synopsis explained that the story starts when a mother driving her children home from school gets into a fight with one of her daughters and eventually kicks her out of the car, leaving her at the side of the road in her school uniform with nightfall fast approaching. Now what intrigued me about this was actually the mindset of the mother and not so much what happened to the daughter.

The opening scene in the car told from 15 year old Libby’s perspective is absolutely dripping with tension. You can feel the anger rippling through the car carrying her and her four siblings Marie, Tommy, Ellen and Beatrice. Her mother’s facial features and erratic driving during the journey perfectly depict the mounting tension within the vehicle. When Ellen is eventually kicked out of the car, the other children can’t quite believe what has happened and yet they don’t dare to question their mother and her actions.

When 12 year old Ellen takes the naive decision to hitchhike, her actions reverberate through the rest of her siblings as they try to conceal her naivety from their mother, the consequences of which are potentially disastrous.

However, keeping things from their mother is not too arduous a task as she appears to be quite distant, works a lot and shuts herself away somewhat when she is at home. On top of this she favours young Beatrice, the daughter of a man she is having an affair with and not the offspring of her deceased husband.

The consequences of Ellen’s decision to try to hitchhike home flow out through the rest of the family and certain people in the wider community. I don’t really want to say too much more than that plot wise as it will just spoil the whole thing for you.

I didn’t struggle with the teenage female perspective at all really which was such a relief. Libby is a sharp young girl and I found her a very interesting character. In fact each of the siblings have their own very distinct characters and personalities which set them apart from each other whilst also showing their strong sibling bonds.

If after reading the synopsis you are expecting to be picking up a thriller, you’d be wrong. This is more an exploration of family, siblings and the small fractures that open out within any family with problems. It’s also a story of a harried mother, a woman bringing up five children alone after the death of her husband and the breakdown of her marriage before that.

I really enjoyed Una Mannion’s writing style and thankfully connected with the main narrative voice.

I’m very pleased I took the plunge with this one!

Thank you to the publisher for my review copy.

See you soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

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