Constance by Rosie Thomas
I have been reading a long time and had yet to come across a storyline involving an abandoned baby with just a single earring to link them to their mother. In the past month, I’ve come across two fictional babies with earrings. The first was Agnès from The Cleaner of Chartres, and now Constance, which begins in London with two teenagers finding an abandoned baby beneath a hedge on a June evening in 1963. Found with the baby was a single marcasite earring.
Fast forward to a grown Connie living in Bali, where she is content in her life of music and friends; however, she has been estranged from her adoptive sister, Jeanette, for many years. Connie is six years younger than Jeanette and their entire life was a competition. Jeanette is deaf, and so the household revolved around her and her special needs. Connie was always at odds with the women in her family and felt like an outsider long before she learned she was adopted. As teenagers, both sisters fall in love with the same guy, so you can guess where this leads.
An act of betrayal separates the sisters for many years, but they are about to be reunited when Jeanette contacts Connie with the news of a terminal illness. Connie chooses to leave her idyllic life in Bali and return to London to be there for her sister. Returning to London means Connie will be in the uncomfortable position of trying to reconcile with Jeanette, while being around Jeanette’s husband, and trying to build a relationship with their grown son, Noah.
The characters in this novel are well drawn and their messy relationships are believable. Thomas is adept at transporting readers to exotic settings; however, when compared to her last book, The Kashmir Shawl, Constance is somewhat lacking in depth for my taste. Perhaps my expectations were too high, since I was anticipating another sweeping saga and this just isn’t one. However it is a touching story about the power of forgiveness, and embracing all the complexities, good and bad, of what it means to be a family. Fans of Rosie Thomas will definitely be waiting for this read.
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