Today I’m delighted to be taking part in a blog tour for fellow author Sue Russell, with her new novel The Wounds of Time.
I have read a few of Sue’s novels, and they are challenging contemporary novels focusing on a central female protagonist who has to deal with traumatic personal and ethical dilemmas in today’s society, often bound up with difficult family relationships. I believe those who love Jodi Picoult’s fiction will enjoy Sue’s novels.
Today I’m pleased to be able to post my own review of Sue’s latest novel, The Wounds of Time.
I enjoyed meeting again some of the characters from SL Russell’s previous two novels, The Healing Knife and The Thorn of Truth. This time the story centres upon Janet Yates, a workaholic Barrister’s Clerk, colleague of Anna Milburn, Head of Chambers, main protagonist of The Thorn of Truth.
Janet is the first person narrator: married to Bob, a paramedic, with a son, Drew, she comes over as a hard, brusque person. Bob is her second husband, and she bitterly regrets her first marriage to Terry.
In the legal firm where Anna and Janet work, they are about to start interviewing candidates for a clerk position. We meet Jan’s sisters Pauline and Christine, their father Desmond and brother Ben, and we get a strong sense of a dysfunctional family. Desmond is an elderly bully, and Ben has a mental disability. Jan’s sour attitude extends to all her family members: to her father, to Pauline, her husband, son and daughter; to Christine and her husband Giles. We build up a picture of an unforgiving, harsh personality, through Jan’s carping inner voice and critical thoughts.
Jan also disapproves of her son Drew’s choice of girlfriend. This is Tiffany, whom we met before in The Thorn of Truth, where she had befriended Anna’s daughter Millie and caused concern then, because her wealthy father, Calvin Leaman, is believed to be a drug dealer and has been in prison.
Meanwhile, at the legal firm, Jan’s colleagues interview for the new clerk during Jan’s absence to tend a family crisis, and they appoint Lauren Barclay, who starts ringing alarm bells as soon as she enters the role. Back at home, to Jan’s alarm, Drew announces he will marry Tiffany. Alongside all this, we start to get intimations that Jan has a medical condition building up, and, true to her character, she brushes it off; but we, the readers, feel this is going to be serious.
Then we learn that Jan secretly stores significant items related to her childhood trauma in a white suitcase. We discover her mother died in violent tragic circumstances; Jan witnessed the death and consequently became emotionally damaged, having borne the burden of her mother’s loss, in helping to bring up her six siblings, two of whom have grown up to be crooks and con-tricksters.
Jan continues as an unemotional and dry person, described by others as a hard nut. Meanwhile, Lauren is in her new job, making serious mistakes and revealing a bad attitude. But her father is an important and influential solicitor, and her new bosses are afraid to discipline her for fear of the repercussions from him.
I find SL Russell’s presentation of complex family relationships and the psychological effects of trauma very absorbing and interesting. We learn Jan and Bob’s marriage is not good – they are becoming more distant with each other. Jan has a Catholic background, which she has rejected. The kindly Father Gerard, we discover, knows all about Jan’s family history, and could probably help her: but her own negativity cuts her off from that source of healing. Then vulnerable Ben gets drawn into a scam by his two nefarious brothers and plunges into another crisis. He is discovered to have been stealing expensive goods from his employer; will he lose his precious job, so hard-won and vital to his mental wellbeing? We wonder whether Bob and Jan’s marriage will collapse. Is Bob having an affair? What is Jan’s health problem? What’s wrong with Lauren?
I was fascinated by the way the author incorporates several notorious traumatic incidents in the recent life of the UK; terrorist outrages and appalling tragedies with huge loss of life: these are woven into Bob’ story as he is a paramedic.
Although for much of the story Jan may appear to the reader as hard, patronising, and cynical, her story shows how transformation is possible. Through Jan’s story, the author shows how resistant we can all be to change, even when that change is very much in our own best interest. As our questions are answered and the various dilemmas reach crisis point, we see how breakthrough often comes through shocking, life-changing circumstances. Often, only then do people reveal for the first time their inner resources of goodness, begin to see others differently, cracking the hard rock of resentment and pride, opening up to the possibility of forgiveness and true healing.