Next month sees the publication of Mahsuda Snaith’s debut novel, The Things We Thought We Knew of which I was fortunate enough to receive a proof copy. It tells the story of a girl from a council estate who is living with chronic pain, and who is looking back on painful memories from her past…
Ravine Roy has just turned eighteen but has spent the last decade confined to her bed in a flat on a Leicester council estate. Ravine has been suffering from chronic pain which has taken over her life, leaving her in constant discomfort and unwilling to venture outside of her home, much to her mother’s distress. Ravine’s mother is desperate for Ravine to be up and about and tries her best to encourage her daughter to leave the flat, even using her entitlement to vote to try and coax her from her room. But despite her best efforts Ravine does not want to leave – she remains controlled by the pain, a pain which has been with her since the day her best friend disappeared. From the opening pages I was intrigued to find out more about Ravine and the events leading to her current condition. And of course I was keen to find out the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of her friend, Marianne, and how it came to impact Ravine in such a way. Ravine’s mother provides a notebook to use as a ‘pain diary’ for her to talk about her situation and try to manage it in some way. Through this Ravine addresses these thoughts to Marianne, and we journey back to find out more about the friends’ story.
I was fascinated to hear that Mahsuda Snaith started writing this book at the age of sixteen and I was impressed by her writing. There were some beautiful and poignant passages in this book about love and loss, of pain and growing up. The narrative switches back and forth through time, as we see Ravine in the present day and look back at her childhood to see the events that led up to that fateful day when Ravine’s life changed forever. I really enjoyed Ravine’s character; a wonderful voice that provides an interesting narration on events that whilst tinged with sadness is also humorous as we learn about her home and the people who surround it. In film and media council estates are quite often portrayed as being unpleasant places but in this story we see that council estates are not all bad and there are positive elements to them. As Ravine’s story progresses we see the sense of community in her council estate home and meet some of the fascinating characters that live within it which made for an engaging read. As I grew up on a council estate I could certainly relate to a few of Ravines’ observations about the locals which made me smile! It was great to see this world described and also to get a glimpse of the culture and life for Ravine and her family as events build up and past secrets are unearthed and ready to be revealed.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Things We Thought We Knew and found it to be an impressive debut. It is a story that is heartbreaking and warm, surprising and amusing. And most importantly it is a story that vividly portrays the life of a young woman and her struggle to come to terms with the past, a past which has the power to shape her future.
The Things We Thought We Knew is to be published on 15th June 2017 by Doubleday. Many thanks to Becky Hunter for providing a proof copy for review.