Described as ‘unforgettable’, ‘unputdownable’ and ‘based on a true story’, this kept me up at night, anxiously turning (ok, swiping) pages to see what was about to occur!
Paul is moving home with his 10-year-old daughter, Hope. During the move he unearths an old menu and a couple of photos from a trip he took many years previously (he was just 16 at the time) with his parents and sister, on the cruise ship Oriana. The menu is even signed by many of the people who were on the cruise with them.
For some reason these items stir up some long-forgotten memories for Paul. It becomes clear during the story that he’s suffered serious upheaval during recent years. He’s obviously struggled with alcohol and has tragically lost his wife in a car accident, made even more difficult due to the fact that they were in the process of divorcing. So he’s dealing with this, together with having to cope with the effects of all that this is having on his daughter. He decides that a move, and a fresh start is what they need.
So they move to a house, situated next to a farm in the countryside. Strangely enough it happens to be right next-door to a house where someone who was on the cruise-ship used to live! He can’t get over the coincidence, and even though he manages to scrape together some semblance of a new beginning, even a new relationship, the old memories insist on creeping into almost every waking moment as well as his dreams too!
He decides to seek some answers from his mother, and her vague responses and obvious attempts at changing the subject make him even more determined to find out what it is that is bothering him about the distant memories that are haunting him. He’s convinced that something definitely happened on this trip: a life-defining event of some sort. But how is he going to discover what it is?
I couldn’t help quietly cheering Paul along, as he doggedly goes about trying to find the keys to unlock the wisps of memory that keep flitting on edge of his sight-line, just out of reach, playing with his mind. You know that feeling when you know that you know something, but you just can’t put your finger on it? That’s how Paul feels, but he encounters obstructive neighbours, brush-offs and downright rudeness whenever he tries to get to the bottom of the mystery he’s trying to solve. What happened on the Oriana all those years ago? He’s sure he’s not imagining that there’s something important in his past that he needs to re-claim. How is he going to do that?
The more I read, the fonder I became of Paul. He was trying so hard on all fronts: trying to get his life back together; trying to do his best for his daughter, Hope; trying to overcome his feelings of grief and anger over the death of his wife … she hadn’t really even had the chance to become his ex-wife! And throughout all of this, there was just doubt after doubt thrown in his path.
The characters may not be as fully rounded as I’d have liked them to be, but I understood that they’d been written from the perspective that Paul saw them from. I think that there’s a lot more truth here than I originally thought, and I would really have liked an author’s note at the end of the book explaining the story, and telling readers a little bit more about his life. Call me nosy (ok, I am!), but I really wanted to know more about Paul, as I just couldn’t stop thinking about this story!
This is a 4-star read, full of suspense, that will keep you reading right until the last page! Highly recommended. I just wish I hadn’t read it so quickly as I think I missed a lot of the details!
Paul Barrell is a keen sportsman, and has skied all over the world. He is a serial entrepreneur and has owned restaurants, wine companies and is passionate about food and wine. He came to writing later than most, and writes about real events and people that have shaped his life. His first book Postcards from Pimlico is currently being turned into a screenplay for TV. He now lives in the Surrey Hills with his wife and rescue dog Lottie.
Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on the blog tour. Take a look at what other bloggers are saying about The Girl in the White Dress …