Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase

Roberta's grandmother has gone to live in an assisted living facility and Roberta inherits an old suitcase full of books. Since Roberta works in a used book store she immediately starts going through the books and discovers an old letter from her grandfather to her grandmother. But the letter doesn't fit the family history story that Roberta has always been told.

In this split narrative novel, Roberta's grandmother Dorothy Sinclair lives in the countryside of England during the beginning years of World War II. She meets a Polish pilot who is training nearby and events conspire to change Dorothy's lonely and unhappy life forever.

I read three World War II era books in a row. Unfortunately for Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase by Louise Walters, it followed immediately on the heels of a All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr which I loved with all my heart. I feel bad for books that have to follow absolute masterpieces. They get judged against the previous book instead of just being held up on their own merits. So, I'm going to try to critique Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase fairly.

Here's what it had going for it :

1. Interesting characters that are not perfect and sometimes not even likable. Occasionally, the characters make despicable choices but there are consequences.
2. A solid plot that while dependent on the war era for its plot is not fully about the war.
3. Fresh writing that is simple but mostly keeps a nice steady pace.

I wasn't blown away by Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase but I was curious enough about the ending to keep reading. It's an easy read, really--short, succinct and the pages kept turning. As is often the case with split narratives, one story is stronger than the other. Other than the familial relationship there's not much to tie the storylines together. Occasionally, the reader gets lost in Roberta's lonely ramblings. I didn't mind the particulars of the ending, it's fairly predictable, but it seemed to come together all at once without much fanfare. Overall, the novel just felt lackluster and forgettable.

**There is some swearing and a brief scene of sexual violence.**

Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase by Louise Walters is published by Putnam and released on August 4, 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

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