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Reluctantly Home

by Imogen Clark

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293704,538 (3.43)None
From the bestselling author of Where the Story Starts comes a tale about dealing with the past--and finally facing the future. Pip Appleby seems to have it all, with her prestigious job as a human rights lawyer and her enviable London home. But then a tragic accident stops her life in its tracks, and in an instant everything changes. Retreating to her family's rural farm and the humble origins she has been trying to hide, Pip is haunted by what she has done. When she discovers the diary of actress Evelyn Mountcastle in a box of old books, Pip revels in the opportunity to lose herself in someone else's life rather than focus on the disaster that is her own. But soon she sees parallels--Evelyn's life was also beset by tragedy, and, like Pip, she returned to Southwold under a dark cloud. When Pip and Evelyn's paths cross in real life they slowly begin to reveal the hidden stories that are holding them back. Can they help each other forgive what happened in the past and, perhaps, find happiness in the future?… (more)
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I'm only 15% through this book and I'm setting it aside. Normally, I'd persist for a little longer than this before abandoning a book, unless the writing was truly awful, which is not the case here.

I picked the book up because I loved the title, the cover and the premise.

The title, 'Reluctantly Home' has multiple meanings: the reluctant return to a home you thought you'd left behind you when you became an adult and took charge of your life, the dissonance that can be created because 'home' and the person that you were when you lived at home, never quite leaves you, even when your newly launched life is under full sail, the sense that home is something you reluctantly settle for when you accept that you can never escape its gravity well, and perhaps, if your lucky, it becomes a place that, despite your reluctance, where you feel you belong and want to stay.

The cover grabbed me because it's simple but evocative which gave me hope that the novel would also be simple but evocative.

The premise appealed in a couple of ways: I like the idea of women with high potential whose lives have been derailed by the events they can't control, helping each other to find the resilience and optimism to bring joy back into their lives.

So, how come I'm abandoning this book so quickly?

The main reason was that I struggled to empathise with either of the women. I understand that Pip Appleby is traumatised by the fatal accident she was involved in but I found her lack of introspection and self-knowledge difficult to reconcile with someone who has had the intelligence and drive to make a career for herself as a prominent Human Rights lawyer. To me, she came across as someone who ran away from her old life and invented a new one that was all shine and no depth. It's not that I can't imagine someone like her. It's just that, when I do imagine them, I have no sympathy with them. Evelyn Mountcastle, an actress on the brink of success when fate intervened and changed her plans, is another woman who had sold herself a fairytale but couldn't produce a happily ever after. To me, she seemed very naïve, which is not a fault but is a little hard to credit in an actress who is years into her career.

Imogen Clark's style of storytelling didn't help me become invested in these two women. It was too arms-length for me. I never got inside either woman's head. I felt I got dialogue, plot and stage directions but no intimacy.

Maybe the rest of the book works differently, once the characters and their situations are established but I have too many other books calling to me, to spend the time to find out if I'm wrong about this one.
  MikeFinnFiction | Jan 24, 2022 |
Reluctantly Home by Imogen Clark is about two women. Pip Appleby, a human rights lawyer, returns to her family’s farm in Southwold, UK after a tragic incident occurs. It becomes clear that the recurring panic attacks would drive her from her life in London. Evelyn Montcastle, a struggling actress, finds her professional life put on hold due to unavoidable circumstances and moves in with her sister in the family home in Southwold. A diary will bring the two women together, as they realize that they share parallel events in their lives and both have suffered tragedies that seem insurmontable. The characters in Reluctantly Home are flawed, yet sympathetic and interesting. Imogen Clark has written a novel about two troubled women whose paths cross, giving both a different perspective on their lives. This is a slow and moving drama that I found to be enthralling. Sometimes a quiet story well-told is all that is needed to capture a reader’s attention. This is one of those. Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK, NetGalley and the author for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  carole888fort | Jun 20, 2021 |
What attracted me to this book was the rural Southwold, county Suffolk setting and the discovery of an old diary - a mystery! Also, I am an easy mark for a attractive cover and I just love the looks of this one.

The beginning of the book is set in London and we do travel back there briefly during the story. Phillipa Rose Appleby is from a rural area of England, growing up on a farm. She aspired to have a grander life than a farmwife and achieved her goals by becomng a barrister, QC which means Queen's Counsel. On the farm she was always known as Pip. When she begins her life in London she switches to a posher name, Rose.

One morning during her drive through London she has an accident. She is on her way to court when a young boy darts out on traffic. Rose struck him with her car. It's an accident and ruled so by the police, coroner and witnesses but Rose can't forgive herself. She is detroyed by guilt and panic attacks and returns home to Suffolk, hence the title of the book - Reluctantly Home.

Her parents are supportive but Pip, as she was always refered to at home, is impatient with her situation. She longs to go back to her London life yet she is still consumed with guilt and worries about having another panic attack in court. Stuck in a small town where life is decidedly slower and low key, she volunteers at a chaity shop to keep her occupied. Fortuitously she comes across a diary from 1983, donated by mistake, and lets herself escape her life by reading the diary of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Evelyn was an actress in London but her story is very interesting as laid out in the diary. Both Evelyn and Pip have one thing in common - they both felt stuck in Southwold and wanted their old lives back. Evelyn's story is engaging and resonates with Pip even though their reasons for being back home are different. I will say the ending was not what I would have predicted but I'm satisfied.

The only other novel I have read by Ms. Clark is The Last Piece and I enjoyed it very much. I've now discovered she has several books published which I intend to add to my to-read list. As a matter of fact, I just purchased Postcards from a Stranger which was on sale for $1.99 (Kindle version/ Amazon).

Publication date for Reluctantly Home is April 29, 2021 by Amazon Publishing UK. Genre is Women's Fiction and General Fiction.

Much thanks to Netgalley for the advanced copy of this book. I was not compensated for the review and all opinions expressed here are mine.
1 vote SquirrelHead | Mar 30, 2021 |
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From the bestselling author of Where the Story Starts comes a tale about dealing with the past--and finally facing the future. Pip Appleby seems to have it all, with her prestigious job as a human rights lawyer and her enviable London home. But then a tragic accident stops her life in its tracks, and in an instant everything changes. Retreating to her family's rural farm and the humble origins she has been trying to hide, Pip is haunted by what she has done. When she discovers the diary of actress Evelyn Mountcastle in a box of old books, Pip revels in the opportunity to lose herself in someone else's life rather than focus on the disaster that is her own. But soon she sees parallels--Evelyn's life was also beset by tragedy, and, like Pip, she returned to Southwold under a dark cloud. When Pip and Evelyn's paths cross in real life they slowly begin to reveal the hidden stories that are holding them back. Can they help each other forgive what happened in the past and, perhaps, find happiness in the future?

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