This is the story of Fanny McBride, a tough Northern woman, struggling with her life and relationships and loneliness. The book displays how much Fanny’s unhappiness and dissatisfaction is actually brought about by her own actions – although she would never admit this fact.

I find the main character of Fanny McBride absolutely fascinating, and one that I have continued to think about long after I finished the book. One of the first things I found interesting about Fanny is her tough Northern exterior. Privately she adores her sons, (she wishes Philip, her last remaining son at home, would show her some affection, she feels scared of being left alone, and she feels hurt that her other children don’t visit her), but she automatically puts on a frosty and no-nonsense front and always keeps her barriers up, never letting anyone see how she feels or showing her emotions. This seems such a great shame to me – she is obviously scared and yet believes that showing her feelings would be admitting to vulnerability and weakness. She doesn’t realise that by these actions she is actually driving away the people she loves.

She is also automatically on the defensive – she sees an innocent remark as an insult to her and her way of life. For example, instead of being proud of her son Philip and his aim of getting a good job and having a future, she feels defensive and believes he is silently criticising her and her life choices. Coming from the North of England myself I have often met women like this – I don’t understand their reasons for acting in this way, surely it would be more rewarding to invite people into your lives; to show warmth and have warmth returned to you?

It is fascinating to watch how she eventually comes around to realising Phil (her least favourite son) is actually the most thoughtful and caring one. And yet, even so, she still can’t help yearning for her other son Jack. And her pride stands in the way of her relationship with Jack as well, as even though it’ll perhaps ruin her chances of seeing him again, she still can’t help rebuffing his wife and being rude to her – seeing her as taking her son away.

The whole story is beautifully written, with fascinating and interesting characters, and a mystery too with the secretive family living upstairs. The ending is also very memorable and touching and stayed with me for a long time afterwards.