A NICE, NORMAL HOUSE
Linda has lived around here ever since she fled the dark events of her childhood in Wales. Now she sits in her kitchen, wondering if this is all there is – pushing the Hoover round and cooking fish fingers for tea is a far cry from the glamorous lifestyle she sees in the glossy catalogues coming through the door for the house’s previous occupant.
A NICE, NORMAL HUSBAND
Terry isn’t perfect – he picks his teeth, tracks dirt through the house and spends most of his time in front of the TV. But that seems fairly standard – until he starts keeping odd hours at work, at around the same time young women start to go missing in the neighbourhood.
A NICE, NORMAL LIFE…
If Linda could just track down Rebecca, who lived in the house before them, maybe some of that perfection would rub off on her. But the grass isn’t always greener: you can’t change who you really are, and there’s something nasty lurking behind the net curtains on Cavendish Avenue…
When I was asked to read and review A Tidy Ending, I read the blurb and immediately said yes. It was only when I started reading that I discovered that the author also wrote The Trouble With Goats and Sheep which I read and enjoyed a few years ago. I knew therefore that I would love it. And I did.
Linda is the main character and we are reading in her voice. She is so naive, there are times when I cringed as I dreaded what she was going to do or say next. Still at the beck and call of her mother Eunice (who is one of my favourite characters in the book), Linda’s confidence has been knocked from early childhood, made to believe she is big and clumsy, yet her mother still keeps feeding her cake and puddings.
Linda and Eunice left their home in Wales following an unfortunate incident with Linda’s father, a piano teacher, and a number of his attractive, female, teenage students. Linda, however, maintains the girls made it all up, even though she caught him ‘at it’ when she was eleven years old. He was just comforting them, she maintains.
One of the saddest parts is when Linda is invited to a dinner party and even buys an expensive trouser suit, plus shoes and a handbag, only to discover she is not actually going to be a guest. I was heartbroken for her. The suit is ruined but she still makes excuses for the person who invited her.
But this is not a simple tale. It’s full of twists and turns and it’s also hilarious with as much dark humour as you can hope for in a book that revolves around a serial killer. It’s so well written, witty, clever and full of sharp observations, like the following.
‘When someone writes down what you say, what you say doesn’t belong to you any more. It belongs to the person who writes it down, and all the other people who read it, and everyone can look at your words and see whatever it is they want to see,’ observes Linda. And that’s the whole point. People only see what they want to see, don’t they.
It’s definitely one of my favourite books of the year. I just loved it. As I already said, it’s so clever – much more so than I could possibly have imagined.
About the Author
Joanna Cannon’s first two novels, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things about Elsie, were both Sunday Times bestsellers and Richard and Judy picks. She is a regular panellist on radio, TV and at literary festivals across the country. Her writing has appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Guardian, amongst others.
Joanna left school at fifteen with one O-level and worked her way through many different jobs before returning to school in her thirties and qualifying as a doctor in her forties. Her work as a psychiatrist and interest in people on the fringes of society continue to inspire her writing.