The Truths And Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris is garnering rave reviews.
It’s an intriguing starting point. Will it win me over as it has all those other readers?
Grace Atherton is 40-ish, and although she’s a gifted musician she’s too afraid to perform in public.
Instead she makes musical instruments – violins, violas, cellos – for others. She lives alone, but for eight years has been in a relationship with David. David is impossibly handsome, charming, glamorous – and very married. Which Grace knows.
And that’s where this book started to unravel for me. Grace knows. But she accepts his lie, that delusion that so many mistresses of married men persuade themselves is truth: that he’s staying with his wife only for the sake of their children, that once they’re grown up he’ll leave and he and Grace will be together…That she is his one true love.
She’s naively dazzled by him but the reader can see through his skuzzy smarm and I found I was impatient with Grace for being taken in by it.
Their relationship begins to unravel when he performs a heroic rescue in a Paris Metro station and the press attention shines too bright a light on him and what turns out to be a somewhat complicated personal life.
A Second Storyline
Running alongside this storyline is Grace’s history, why she’s scared to play in public, and her emergence from that paralysis. Her two friends, the young Nadia and much older Mr Williams are instrumental (‘scuse pun) but I wasn’t convinced by Nadia’s characterisation: 17, and an odd mix of irritating teenager and wisely mature counsel who also seemed to be a genius violinist.
I’m afraid a lot about this irritated me. It’s narrated in Grace’s POV, first person, present tense, which struck me as pretentious and overwrought. The way suave David begins to swear all the time; that jarred. Nadia’s teenspeak. Grace’s analysis of her every thought and emotion.
I whizzed through this in just a few hours because I couldn’t bear to spend any more time than necessary with it or her.
But hey, most other reviewers have loved it, so maybe it’s just me! This debut novel by Anstey Harris out now in hardback from Simon & Schuster.