Today I’m reviewing Sandra Danby’s second novel, Connectedness.
Sandra will be here on Troutie McFish Tales on 12th July, talking about Connectedness, and how she writes evocatively about scents and smells in the novel. But first, a little more about the book, and a little more about my own experience of the book's theme.
Danby’s novels are about adoption, which is a subject of great personal interest as I was adopted myself. Therefore, before I review the book, I'd like to share my own story.
I was taken home by my adoptive parents when I was just ten days’ old, and they told me I was adopted as soon as they thought I could understand.
I actually feel uncomfortable using the term ‘adoptive parents’, as my parents were my parents, full stop, and using the word ‘adoptive’ seems to imply some kind of impermanence or substitution. I believe that your parents are the people who bring you up, who lavish you with love and time, and who make sacrifices for you. I'm very proud and thankful to have had the wonderful parents I did.
However, happy childhood or not, most people have a curiosity about where they came from - to find out who they are, to see a face that has similarities to their own. I'm no exception, and when I was a stroppy teenager, I fantasised about the different life I might have led if I'd been brought up by my birth parents!
My birth mother, who I'll call Carly, was fifteen when I was born, and I have never blamed her for giving me up. I traced her fairly easily when I was in my early thirties, but I didn't tell my mother and father, as I didn't want to upset them by making them feel that they somehow weren't enough. Carly and I met twice, and then lost touch – it was a little awkward as she lived a long way from me, and her husband still doesn’t know of my existence. However she now lives in a different town - somewhere I visit regularly - and we do see each other quite often. I think my biggest fear when I was looking for her was that I’d find out I was the product of a one night stand – or worse. But my birth father – who I met once before he died – was Carly's first love. For some reason that was very important to me.
Life is complicated, and so are people. Carly and I get on well, and we are similar in many ways - but different in many others. We do tell each other we love each other, and I find myself feeling automatically protective of her, yet I don’t think of her as my ‘mother’ in any proper sense. She was there for me when my mother died, and offered much needed practical support at a very difficult time, and I hope she knows she could rely on me for help too.
CONNECTEDNESS BY SANDRA DANBY - REVIEW
Connectedness is the second novel by Sandra Danby in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, yet it can easily be read as a standalone novel. The books in the series all feature Rose Haldane, who helps to reunite adopted children and their birth families, and who was adopted herself. Connectedness centres around the artist, Justine King, whose life is a tangle of lies and secrets.
I really enjoyed Danby’s first book, Ignoring Gravity, and so I was looking forward to reading Connectedness. It certainly didn’t disappoint. I found this novel more engaging than the last – as Hope Sloper said, ‘Sandra Danby does it again, only this time I felt she did it better.’
This is a beautifully written novel, exploring themes of love and regret, betrayal and impossible choices, grief and loss, and of course, adoption. It is a compelling and believable story, and the characters are well-defined, sympathetic and rounded. Danby brings the settings to life, and carries you there with the characters, using all the senses to evoke the vivid sounds, scents and sights of Spain, Yorkshire and London.
The book is well-researched, and art plays a huge part in the story. I really enjoyed the close and fascinating detail about the art world, and the way that Justine’s art is woven into her very being, the way she subconsciously and consciously uses it to express her hopes, fears, pain, and vulnerability.