Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin took part in my Author in the Spotlight feature last year (you can read the post here) and at the time kindly offered me a copy of her book, Sugar and Snails, to read and review. It has taken me a while to get to it but it has been a book which has really fascinated me over the past weekend. Sugar and Snails tell the story of Diana, a psychologist in her 40s. Diana has a few friends but has kept relationships at bay. Until now, when she has become involved with Simon Jenkins and their relationship is developing into something more serious. Simon is heading off to Cairo for a sabbatical and asks Diana to join him. Unknown to him, Cairo played a significant part in Diana’s past and she feels she is unable to return there for many reasons.

This was such a cleverly written book. A first person narrative from Diana’s perspective means the reader has a clear insight into her thoughts. Episodes from Diana’s past at various stages of her childhood and adulthood are woven into the story enabling the reader to come to understand what has made Diana the women she is today. Anne Goodwin has written a very powerful and thought-provoking story looking at issues which are quite rare in a novel. I can’t think of many others looking at the subject, at least in such a sensitive way. Through all the different stages of Diana’s life we come to learn how she has had to deal with very difficult feelings and how misunderstood she was. Anne Goodwin has used her own background in psychology to great effect both in exploring Diana’s feelings and her work.

It is hard to say more about this book without giving spoilers. You may guess Diana’s hidden secrets early on but you may not until all is revealed by the author and I don’t want to spoil it. All I will say is whether you have your suspicions or not, when you find out about Diana’s past you will appreciate just how clever Anne Goodwin has been in her writing. Diana is a brilliant character, very complex and rather brave. I found her parents particularly well drawn as they struggled to try to understand a situation they were bewildered by.

Sugar and Snails is a fascinating debut novel looking at identity and what makes us who we are. Anne Goodwin’s writing is excellent and she has a perfect balance of past and present. I found it very thought-provoking and think it is a book which explores a difficult topic in an engaging and enlightening way.  I was totally engrossed in Diana’s story and highly recommend it.

My thanks to the author Anne Goodwin for giving me a copy of her book to read and review. Sugar and Snails was published by Inspired Quill on 23rd July 2015 and you can order a copy here: Sugar and Snails

From the back of the book

The past lingers on, etched beneath our skin … At fifteen, Diana Dodworth took the opportunity to radically alter the trajectory of her life, and escape the constraints of her small-town existence. Thirty years on, she can’t help scratching at her teenage decision like a scabbed wound. To safeguard her secret, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon Jenkins sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, and he expects Di to fly out for a visit. She daren’t return to the city that changed her life; nor can she tell Simon the reason why. Sugar and Snails takes the reader on a poignant journey from Diana’s misfit childhood, through tortured adolescence to a triumphant mid-life coming-of-age that challenges preconceptions about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

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