Francesca Fairweather has never lived up to the extrovert image of her copper-coloured hair. Escaping a difficult mother and a disastrous love affair to become a student in 1960s Bristol, she lurches from crisis to crisis.
In this coming-of-age novel, we join Fran on her journey of self-discovery. She is tested by loss and grief, by her strange marriage and by the secrets revealed when her mother dies. Will she ever find the father of her twins, maintain her independence and make a new life in Cornwall?
Jill Treseder’s first career was in professional social work and the second in the human side of management development. This work led indirectly to the publication of 'The Wise Woman Within: Spirals to Wholeness' (2004) a self-development book for women exploring feminine wisdom.
Her first novel 'The Hatmaker’s Secret' (2013) is based on a family secret. The second, 'A Place of Safety' (2014) is set on Dartmoor and the third 'Becoming Fran' (2016) is a coming-of-age novel set in Bristol. 'My Sister, Myself' is about two sisters who escape to England from Budapest during the Hungarian uprising of 1956.
The novella 'The Saturday Letters' links to 'The Hatmaker's Secret' and the novella 'The Birthday House' is a departure, being based on a true crime of 1955.
In this novel, Jill Treseder returns to her themes of identity and family secrets. She captures well the atmosphere of the 60s in which her protagonist Fran grows up, as well as the agonies of being a teenager. As the story progresses, we see her developing maturity in the context of the changing times. Fran's relationships, particularly with her parents and children, are well portrayed and the characters are convincing. The chapters switching to Fran's mother Eleanor's point of view cast light on some of the mysteries thrown up, a device that works well. The story holds many surprises and I found it quite a page-turner. The writing is good, especially in the second half of the novel. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the SW England countryside, an area that is obviously very familiar to the author.
Once again Jill Treseder demonstrates her considerable skill in conveying strong, complex and often ambivalent emotions. Her characters are all distinct individuals, vividly and sensitively drawn, and the relationships between them are woven into an ingenious plot, which contains both suspense and surprise. I particularly liked her depiction of a number of very different inter-generational relationships, showing the influence, even power, they exert on the lives of her characters. It is a thought-provoking novel as well as a 'good read.'