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Charity by Madeline Dewhurst

ABOUT THE BOOK

Edith, an elderly widow with a large house in an Islington garden square, needs a carer. Lauren, a nail technician born in the East End, needs somewhere to live. A rent-free room in lieu of pay seems the obvious solution, even though the pair have nothing in common.

Or do they? Why is Lauren so fascinated by Edith’s childhood in colonial Kenya? Is Paul, the handsome lodger in the basement, the honest broker he appears? And how does Charity, a Kenyan girl brutally tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion, fit into the equation?

Capturing the spirited interplay between two women divided by class, generation and a deeper gulf from the past, and offering vivid flashbacks to 1950s East Africa, Madeline Dewhurst’s captivating debut spins a web of secrets and deceit – where it’s not always obvious who is the spider and who is the fly.

MY REVIEW

Three women imprisoned. One in a detention camp. One in her mind. One by her guilt. 

The story unfolds with Lauren, a hard-up beauty school student agreeing to be a companion to a wealthy woman named Edith.  Lauren has an ulterior motive for being at that house. It’s a heartbreaking secret about her Nan. But as Lauren gets to know the frail and confused Edith who has terrifying nightmares, she becomes guilt-ridden and questions what she is doing. Would her Nan approve?

The story is told in two periods from the conflict between the Mau Mau and the British authorities in 1950s Kenya to present-day England where young Charity experiences class divide and racial atrocities done to Kenyans and eventually arrives in England. The story continues with Charity’s children and grandchildren and her connection to Edith and her deceased husband.

There are a lot of unlikeable characters in this book. Some are redeemable. Some are not. Lauren’s misguided ideals and manipulative ways make her a villain at first, but she grows to like Edith and listens to her conscience to make things right.  Edith has racist and classist beliefs from her upbringing during the British colonialism in Kenya that resulted in an unforgettable betrayal that gives her night terrors.  Edith’s selfish and obnoxious daughter, Johanna, is beyond redemption, and Paul, a co-conspirator with Lauren, and a secret character I will not give away has questionable morals as well.  The only character I did like was Charity with her tragic background and love for her family.

If you enjoy historical fiction with a menacing tone and unsavory characters, give this book a try.

Thank you to Ms. Dewhurst for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Madeline DewhurstMadeline Dewhurst studied English at Queen’s University Belfast and went on to complete an MA in Research and a PhD at Queen Mary, University of London. She also has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway.  She is an academic in English and Creative Writing at the Open University.

Her previous writing includes fiction, journalism, and drama. Charity, which was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, is her first novel.

She now lives in Kent.

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