The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal #review 5* #Viking @PenguinUKBooks

The Trick to Time by [Waal, Kit de]

Towards the end of last year I wrote about books I was looking forward to reading this year. Kit de Waal’s new book, The Trick to Time, was among them. I loved her previous book, My Name is Leon, but I absolutely adored reading this wonderful book.

“One day, you will want these hours back, my girl. You will wonder how you lost them and you will want to get them back. There’s a trick to time. You can make it expand or you can make it contract. Make it shorter or make it longer.”

Mona is approaching her 60th birthday and is a dollmaker. She lives a solitary life with only a few friends. She works with a carpenter who makes the dolls, to very exact specifications, while she creates their clothes and paints their features. Many of the dolls she makes have a hidden meaning known only to the people who buy them. Mona arrived from Ireland as a young girl, so excited to be living in Birmingham and with a new job. When she meets William at a dance, it is love between them almost instantly and they soon marry. A tragedy tears them apart and woven through the chapters of this book, Mona looks back at significant moments in her own life and their life together.

In Mona, Kit de Waal has created a character I think many women will be able to empathise with. She has known hardship, has known joy and has known great sorrow and loss. The subject matter may be very close to home for some women and for that reason might be difficult to read as it could evoke painful memories. It was at times hard to read as I knew that something terribly sad was going to happen. Yet, Kit de Waal has written with such insight and sensitivity that the book is never overly emotional but instead is moving and powerful.

Although Mona is the main focus of the book, it would not be right to review this without mentioning just some of the other characters who add so much to the story. In particular, William’s aunts Teresa and Margaret, (who he dubbed Pestilence and Famine!) proved to be a true support to Mona in her time of need, as did Bridie a family friend. The compassionate Nurse Archer showed much emotional intelligence at a time when women who had experienced loss were just supposed to get on with things. 

The Trick to Time is a beautifully written, powerful and poignant account of loss and grief yet above all an account of enduring love. Without doubt, this will be one of my Top Reads at the end of this year.

My thanks to publishers Penguin Books (Viking) for my copy from Netgalley. The Trick to Time will be published on Thursday this week, 29th March, in hardback and e-book formats. It will be available from all good book retailers or you can order a copy online here: The Trick to Time

From the back of the book

A heart-wrenching love story from the internationally bestselling author of My Name Is Leon

Mona is a young Irish girl in the big city, with the thrill of a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding house. On her first night out in 1970s Birmingham, she meets William, a charming Irish boy with an easy smile and an open face. They embark upon a passionate affair, a whirlwind marriage – before a sudden tragedy tears them apart.

Decades later, Mona pieces together the memories of the years that separate them. But can she ever learn to love again?

The Trick to Time is an unforgettable tale of grief, longing, and a love that lasts a lifetime.


Kit de Waal, born to an Irish mother and Caribbean father, was brought up among the Irish community of Birmingham in the 60’s and 70’s. Her debut novel My Name Is Leon was an international bestseller, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, long-listed for the Desmond Elliott Prize and won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award for 2017.



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