I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from All That Was Lost by Alison May. I suspect I was drawn to the blurb; about past secrets coming back to haunt their keepers (thinking there was a mystery to be solved).
But it was quite different to what I was expecting. Not in a bad way…. it was just a different sort of book from my usual read, which is probably a good thing.
In 1967 Patience Bickersleigh is a teenager who discovers a talent for telling people what they want to hear.
Fifty years later she is Patrice Leigh, a nationally celebrated medium. But cracks are forming in the carefully constructed barriers that keep her real history at bay.
Leo is the journalist hired to write Patrice's biography. Struggling to reconcile the demands of his family, his grief for his lost son, and his need to understand his own background, Leo becomes more and more frustrated at Patrice's refusal to open up. Because behind closed doors, Patrice is hiding more than one secret. And it seems that now, her past is finally catching up with her.
As implied by the blurb this book unfolds in two timeframes. We meet the famous Patrice Leigh who can speak to the dead (sorry, those who’ve crossed over) but from the get-go we’re in on the secret… that her manager researches those coming to the show to get the information they need… so it just appears Patrice can indeed tell people what it is they’re hoping to hear.
In many ways it’s harmless fun. Kinda. It brings to her though, those wanting answers and comfort and she’s not always able to provide it.
Leo’s signed up to write Patrice’s biography but he has his own secrets and problems. His marriage is failing because his own son is mostly likely dead and then there’s stuff he suspects about Patrice’s past which he’s trying to uncover.
Louise Swift crosses Leo’s path and she’s wanting ‘closure’. Or answers. And she’s needing to move on. Her teenage son was killed in an act of violence. There’s no question of it and no logic behind it.
So Louise – and many others – are drawn to Patrice for answers.
But back in 1967 we meet 16 yr old Patience (Pat) Bickersleigh who’s working in a cafe for a local businessman when his fortune-teller goes AWOL. He seems to think Pat will be a good fit and so she becomes Gypsy Patience.
Pat is trapped at home with overly protective (and steadfastly religious) parents and their crumbling marriage – fuelled by infidelity and booze.
Pat’s been sheltered but she’s introduced into a world far different to her own, with drastic consequences. (Dum dum dum! Yes, cue dramatic music… )
This was an enjoyable read and it was interesting to learn how Patience became Patrice and the secrets she’d put behind her. I realise the time in which we meet her is the pivotal time in her story but I wondered about the intervening years as they’re only referred to briefly as Patrice shares her invented history with Leo for the book.
By the time we meet her half a century later she’s dealing with the early symptoms of dementia and struggling to hide them from the world.
May throws an interesting twist into this story towards the end that I wasn’t expecting. It’s a pleasant surprise and there are a series of events that follow which were very satisfying and moved we readers away from anything too prosaic or clichéd.
All That Was Lost by Alison May was published by Legend Press and is now available.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.