1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.
Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.
Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.
I almost gave up on this book but I’m glad I didn’t. The first fifth of the book was a bit of a struggle to read, the mystery around her father and his friend and her mother wasn’t particularly interesting to me since the reason I picked up the book was for the blurb above and Peggy being kidnapped didn’t show up until much later than I expected.
This is one of those books where all the pieces don’t come together until the very end and it is a reason why I am glad I read it. It was only reading the last few lines where everything made sense and all the tiny pieces of foreshadowing (her clothes not fitting!) came together. I don’t know whether I like this book because it was slow to get going and I don’t think I want to read it again now I know what all the foreshadowing was building up to, but it was compelling. Peggy’s father is a fairly unpleasant man but you can see why Peggy believes him. Peggy herself is the ultimate unreliable narrator with her formative years being spent isolated with someone whose obsession is growing by the year but there are just enough clues so when the ending does come (and it hits hard), you look back at all those little details you read but didn’t really take into account and everything clicks.
The writing itself, seesawing between flashbacks and present time was both a good way to tell the story and at the same time really annoying. The present time chapters seemed less connected than the flashbacks, they seemed to jump around a lot more and it was irritating.
I don’t know whether I would recommend this book but I am glad I read it. Three stars!