I received this book from the author, Anne Goodwin, as a member of Rosie Amber’s book review team, #RBRT, in return for an honest review
In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.
Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.
As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.
Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.
A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?
Told with compassion and humour, Anne Goodwin’s third novel is a poignant, compelling and brilliantly authentic portrayal of asylum life, with a quirky protagonist you won’t easily forget.
The Secret Scripture crossed with Elizabeth Is Missing and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Chosen by Isabel Costello as a Literary Sofa Summer Read: “The light wins in this novel, which manages to be warm, uplifting and surprisingly funny for all the sadness and injustice portrayed.”
The one thing that was going through my mind as I read Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home was that there is only us inside our own heads. Obvious I know, but no one has an insight into anyone else’s thoughts, whatever the state of our mental health. And, quite often, it’s a case of second guessing on anyone’s reasons for their actions.
In this powerful and moving story, Anne Goodwin has shown the frailties and strength of each of her main characters through their internal dialogue, their actions, and their reactions to what is happening to them.
Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is narrated by three characters:
Matilda (Matty) herself; cruelly and discriminatorily incarcerated for fifty years in a psychiatric hospital, this seventy-year-old woman tells her own story in her own inimitable way – skewed as it is by increasing confusion – yet still with some individual insight that brings out wry and compassionate smiles in the reader, even as the horror of her life story unfolds.
Janice – a young newly qualified, newly single, social worker who, unable to mend her own broken world, seeks a project within her work at the asylum; a relic of such places that existed in the early decades of the twentieth century. Misguidedly, and seemingly unable to accept that Matty is totally institutionalised, Janice takes on the task of trying to find Matty’s long-lost family and guides her towards integration into the community, a programme devised in the nineteen nineties. I don’t like to give away any spoilers to stories – so I’ll leave that there
And then there’s Henry, now almost sixty, side-lined in his job, dithering within a clandestine relationship – and waiting for the return of his sister, a girl who left home in undisclosed circumstances. The author cleverly layers this sister in enigmatic ambiguity. It’s left to the reader to unravel the mystery.
Each of these characters are cleverly brought to life on the page, by their dialogue, by their actions. Every turn of a page is a revelation, an insight to human emotions and the lives we think we are creating, but, more often than not, are structured through fate and inadvertent choices.
The descriptions of the settings that the characters move through are brilliantly shown, giving a great sense of place, and evocative images. They also gave me a sense of claustrophobia for each of them, the sense of each being trapped, even as they go about, or are guided through, their individual lives.
This is such a absorbing book. It’s a complex and heart-breaking family story against a background of an historical, inflexible mental care system, tumbling into, what I think, through personal experience, was a injudicious, if well-meant plan.
Though the pace of the story is sometimes frustratingly slow, it becomes obviously necessary as the plot unfolds. For me, the denouement is enough. And Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is a book that will stay with me for a long time.
About the author:
Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She is the author of three novels and a short story collection published by small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital.