Justine Tree is a successful artist, about to be accepted into the Royal Academy. But we meet her in her childhood home on the East Yorkshire coast, remembering her childhood, as she clears her mother’s home after her funeral. She remembers the encouragement of her parents and her early interest in the life of Picasso. But she also realises that she is acting a part, concealing secrets from her past.
Justine’s home in London is shared with Darya, a much older woman who understands her art and has been a substitute mother for 27 years. As Darya sinks into dementia, Justine decides to make more effort to find the baby she gave up all those years ago, a secret which fuels the pain in her art. She seeks help from journalist, Rose Haldane, who has previously investigated her own adoption. As we follow the story we also discover cracks in Rose’s “happy” life.
The story moves back to the early 1980s when Justine was a penniless student in Picasso’s birthplace of Malaga. Bullied by her tutor, and struggling with the language, she meets Frederico, an architecture student who teaches her to embrace Spanish food, language and the way of life. The sensual description of the succulent Spanish food shared with Frederico, defines their building passion and is vividly remembered by Justine.
There are many layers in this sensitive story. The nurturing Justine received from her mother is only appreciated in retrospect,
“In the last year, Darya had aged like a film on fast forward.
I wasn’t there for Mum. I will not abandon Darya.”
Will Justine’s daughter forgive her? Will they be reconciled and what of Frederico, the love of her life?
This is the second book of the “Identity Detective” series, all centred on Rose Haldane who wishes to reunite those who lost members of their family due to adoption. I have not yet read the first book but will be seeking it out soon. Sandra Danby is a thought provoking author whose sense of place enhances a fascinating mystery.
The Identity Detective Series
Rose Haldane, journalist and identity detective, reunites the people lost through
adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. And each new challenge makes Rose re-live her own adoption story, each birth mother and father, adopted child, and adoptive parent she talks to, reminds her of her own birth mother Kate. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother, her hopes and anxieties, her guilt and fear, and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz, and how the now elderly woman is desperate to know her story before it is too late. Sandra Danby