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Thursday, 30 August 2012


I love Rosy Thornton’s work so I’ve been looking forward to reviewing this one ever since it arrived. I’m very pleased to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

‘Ninepins’ tells the story of Laura, her 12-year-old daughter Beth, care-leaver Willow and Willow’s social worker, Vince. The other star of the story is Ninepins itself – the house where Laura and Beth live – and its setting in the Cambridgeshire fens.

I’m not going to say much about the plot, because it’s difficult to do so without being tempted to give too much away, but the story begins with Vince persuading Laura to take Willow in as a lodger. This is a decision that will turn out to have huge consequences for all four of them.

Setting this story in the fens was an inspired decision. As well as the depths of emotion explored between the different characters in the novel, there is a stunning interplay of atmospheric themes that could only have arisen from that location.

If you’ve ever been to the Cambridgeshire fens, you will recognise them from these expert depictions, and if you haven’t you’ll feel as though you have. The setting accentuates the themes of loneliness, vulnerability and isolation and allows the elements to become active participants in the story. Water, whether it is in the depths of the lode on which Ninepins is situated or in the form of ice holding the whole area in its grip during winter, is a constant factor and presents a contrast to fire, the other element that plays a significant part in the story.

‘Ninepins’ has a slightly different feel from Rosy Thornton’s previous works and I think it is the air of tension and menace hovering over this story which makes it feel like a bit of a departure. All round, a fabulous read which kept me reading late at night long after I should have been asleep.

Reviewed by Helen M Hunt

Thanks to the author for providing a review copy of this book.

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