My rating: ✯✯✯
This novel is based on a housing estate near Manchester, in the UK. Cath Mason has a secret she never told anyone, and feels lost without her late husband. Now, she runs a service with a local community officer and takes distressed young women into her home. Jess has been there for a year, is seventeen, and still won't get herself a job, despite Cath's efforts to get her to attend courses. There are three new arrivals for Cath to deal with: 16-year-old Becky escapes from her rapist uncle and indifferent father, and Liz escapes from her abusive husband with her daughter Chloe, before he does any more damage. Thankfully, Cath stays strong for her guests with the help of members of the community.
This is not the type of book I usually read; I would never normally pick up a book set on a housing estate, but it was in the Kindle sale at one point, and I thought I'd try it. Well, I'm glad I did, even if it wasn't the best book I've ever read. It is actually only the first book in a series called The Estate, following the lives of different characters, but I won't be reaching for the next one.
Cath Mason is a loveable character. She is in her late thirties and is so completely selfless, that it is inspiring. She really makes a difference to young women's lives, and while she does set house rules to make things run smoothly, she is not their parent and knows that everyone deals with issues differently. She gives the girls and women she takes in the space to work through their horrors and come out the other side into a new life full of hope. She is a shoulder to cry on, a listener to vent anger at, and an understanding adult who will do all they can to help the poor souls to move on with their lives.
Some of the women's stories were devastating. There were passages that brought tears to my eyes, so I would congratulate Sherratt's ability to make the reader feel emotionally involved. In fact, it is difficult not to be. I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to be a part of such horrific situations. Sometimes Jess and Becky, being the teenagers they are, really annoyed me. They seem to think that their lives will fall into place by sleeping with boys who like them and stealing alcohol to impress friends. I found this particularly tragic, as they were trying to overcome their own trauma by adding awful experiences to their list. Even the people who were doing all the right things in order to come to terms with their ordeal, got a completely unfair deal.
However, if you're worried about the feeling of the book, it is not morbid and horrific. It is a story of revitalising hope, of people coming together to help friends and others in the community. There are some unpleasant scenes, but the overarching message is that people can live happily ever after.
I give this three stars for the excellent writing style and inspiring characterisation; but the subject matter was not always something I wanted to return to, and the sheer uselessness of some of the residents of the estate made me feel frustrated, because I know how many thousands or millions of these such people live in the UK, with no motivation to do anything with their lives.
This review was written by guest blogger Jemma
Image via goodreads.com