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Review of 'Finding Edith Pinsent' - Hazel Ward

A moving story of love, loss and friendship that breaks and uplifts your heart.

Netta Wilde has a task to complete.

She’s agreed to go through the late Edith Pinsent’s diaries and possessions personally. The problem is, she’s been busy sorting out her own life. But she’s in a better place now. She’s free of her manipulative ex, has a new love in neighbour, Frank and has reunited with her kids.

What better time to begin Edie’s story?

But the path to discovery is not easy.

There are missing diaries to contend with, boxes of memories to uncover and revelations that turn everything on its head. Revelations that make Netta question if her own life really is sorted.

Delving deeper into Edith’s history, Netta is overtaken by a need to revisit her own past and put things right, but to do that she has to find the two people who once meant everything to her.

As her two challenges intertwine, Netta realises that Edith had a purpose for her. One that she must fulfil

Bit by bit, the house yields a lifetime of secrets and the real Edith Pinsent begins to emerge.

But will it be the Edith everyone thought they knew?

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When I reviewed Being Netta Wilde earlier this year, I was lucky enough to secure an interview with Hazel Ward and in it I asked if she was considering writing a sequel, as I wasn't ready to leave the characters behind at the end of the book. To my great delight, she said she was and I've been looking out for it ever since. As soon as I saw whose story it was delving into, I was doubly convinced I had to read it. Edith is dead by the time of the events of Netta but even there she is an intriguing character because of the unusual will she leaves behind. It's clear there is a story to tell there and I was so excited to find that this was the sequel Hazel had referred to.

The book opens with an intriguing photo being found and immediately, the reader is pulled into the mystery of Edith's past. It's set in WW2 so there is an instant feeling of the possibility of the story being a tragic one and this creates tension from the very start. However, it's the best kind of tension - not so tense that you can't sleep, but tense enough to keep you turning the pages.

The true love of Edith's life soon becomes apparent and a love story with a difference emerges from within the pages of her diaries. Familial love and romantic love are at war with each other in different ways throughout the whole book and Netta recognises echoes of her own life that make her re-examine the decisions she made in the past. Although much of the story is Edith's, we are also given further insight into Netta's life through the parallels between her and Edith.

One of the reasons I loved the first book so much was because on the face of it, the heroine was an unlikely one - there aren't too many books that feature middle-aged women and give a genuine picture of their lives, but Hazel Ward captures this in the small details, such as when Netta ruefully reflects on some peri-menopausal symptoms. In Finding Edith Pinsent, she has created another heroine who not only perfectly encapsulates the truth behind perceived societal norms of her era, but one who allows the reader to see the ageing process and follow the different attitudes towards the same person at different stages of their life - from young daughter, who is dismissed because of her gender and youth, to an old lady who is, if not exactly dismissed, then certainly becomes seen as 'an old lady'. These are attitudes we are all guilty of adopting at times, but what is striking for me, is how much more it seems to happen to women than to men. I don't doubt men also suffer in their own way from these kinds of dismissals, but from a female perspective, I think it's vital that these prejudices are recognised. Old ladies, particularly old spinsters, are not all frail creatures who have never truly lived. Many of these women chose, for whatever reason, not to marry and lived lives as full as any married couple. As a society, I think this is something we risk losing sight of behind the façade of grey hair and knitting needles and in doing so, we miss out on a wealth of experience and knowledge.

This is a worthy successor to Netta Wilde and if Hazel Ward chooses to continue the series, I'll be first in the queue to read the next book.

Hazel Ward was born in inner city Birmingham. By the time the city council packed her family off to the suburbs, she was already something of a feral child who loved adventures. Swapping derelict houses and bomb pecks for green fields and gardens was a bit of a culture shock but she rose to the occasion and grew up loving outdoor spaces and animals.

Strangely, for someone who couldn’t sit still, she also developed a ferocious reading habit and a love of words. She wrote her first novel at fifteen, along with a lot of angsty poems, and was absolutely sure she wanted to be a writer. Sadly, it all came crashing down when her seventeen-year-old self walked out of school in a huff one day and was either too stubborn or too embarrassed to go back. It’s too long ago to remember which.

Against all odds, she somehow managed to blag her way into a successful corporate career until finally giving it all up to do the thing she’d always wanted to do. Shortly after, she began to write her debut novel Being Netta Wilde.

Hazel still lives in Birmingham and that’s where she does most of her writing, although she spends a lot of time in Shropshire or gadding about the country in an old motorhome. Not quite feral anymore but still up for adventures.

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