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The Last of the Greenwoods by Clare Morrall
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The Last of the Greenwoods

by Clare Morrall

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191825,596 (2.67)2
In a field outside Bromsgrove, two elderly brothers live in adjoining railway carriages. No one visits and they never speak to each other. Until the day Zohra Dasgupta, a young postwoman, delivers an extraordinary letter - from a woman claiming to be the sister they thought had been murdered fifty years earlier. So begins an intriguing tale: is this woman an impostor? If she's not, what did happen all those years ago? And why are the brothers such recluses? Then there's Zohra. Once a bright, outgoing teenager, the only friend she will see from her schooldays is laidback Crispin, who has roped her in to the restoration of an old railway line on his father's land. For which, as it happens, they need some carriages ...With wry humour and a cast of characters as delightful as they are damaged, Clare Morrall tells an engrossing story of past misdeeds and present reckoning, which shows that for all the wrong turnings we might take, sometimes it is possible to retrace our steps.… (more)
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Clare Morrall is so good at writing about people on the margins. In ‘The Last of the Greenwoods’, Johnny and Nick Greenwood are estranged brothers who live separately in two abandoned, adjacent railway carriages; with shared kitchen and bathroom. They are adept at avoiding each other.
Nick lives in Aphrodite on the right, Johnny in Demeter on the left. Aphrodite has horizontal blinds at the windows, open at a slant so someone inside can look out but no-one outside can see in. Demeter’s windows are unknowable with permanently drawn curtains. The carriages sit amidst trees and shrubs, hidden from the main road in Bromsgrove, West Midlands. They have been the brother’s world since they were boys. Until one day, into the lives of these emotionally separated but geographically close brothers comes a letter which reignites haunted memories. “The floor is vibrating under his feet, there’s a sensation of motion, as if the train has started to move. What’s happening? Is he slipping backwards, losing his place in the present and tumbling back to the past? How can this be?”
The letter is from their older sister, Debs; the sister who was murdered when the boys were children. As the brothers consider whether the letter is real, a fake, or a joke we learn more about their background via Zohra, the postwoman who delivered the letter. Zohra has a past of her own which she tries to forget. What brings together these seemingly disparate story strands? Trains? And what effects change in the lives of the Greenwoods and Zohra? Trains.
Slowly, with exquisite and often humorous detail, Morrall unravels the mysteries of the past, building a picture of these people’s lives. They are ordinary people but in telling their story she makes them extraordinary, reminding us that the life of each of us has a story to tell and that elements of life can be repetitive. “Are they doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again – play, replay, round and round on an endless loop?”
Running throughout is the question of verifiable identity: the woman who returns could be Deb, or Deb’s friend Bev pretending to be Debs; and who are the girls who harassed Zohra on social media, did they use their real names or not? The brothers consider how they can accept Debs, do they need evidence, DNA proof, or can they trust their instincts? And why are the two brothers not talking?
Another masterful Morrall novel.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Jun 25, 2018 |
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