Sunday, 24 March 2019

Book review: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Holly Ringland (2018)

The main theme this novel deals with is that of domestic violence but I found the story too upsetting to read past a certain point so I didn’t finish it. Clem Hart, Alice’s father, is a controlling monster who beats his wife and daughter. He also forbids Alice from going to school, insisting that she be educated at home. Alice’s mother finds respite from her husband’s cruelty by tending her garden, and Alice becomes enthralled by books.

There are at times signs of hope for the reader. On one occasion, Alice runs away from home and goes into town, where she has never been before. There, she finds the library and goes inside. The librarian is a kind woman who takes an interest in the raggedy Alice – the child has left home dressed only in a dirty nightdress – and who calls her husband to report on the apparition, but Alice flees before the authorities can be called and so an opportunity for relief for poor Alice and her unfortunate mother is lost.

The writing that serves the purpose of conveying meaning in this book is very fine and suggestive. Ringland does a good job of communicating the depths of feeling experienced by a child, and while the threat of danger is ever-present other things are also given prominence, notably the love that Alice feels for her mother, and for her dog, Toby, who is deaf because of Clem’s violence. Clem has a wretched habit of spoiling his daughter in the aftermath of episodes of abuse and tiny Alice’s feelings about him are complicated as a result. There is plenty of nuance involved in creating the drama that animates this book but I just couldn’t continue to subject myself to the suspense that orbits around Clem’s outbursts. I found no fault with the novel.

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