Monday, January 24, 2011

A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah

In A Room Swept White, Fliss Benson is a documentary film maker, who's just been given a project. For personal reasons, she doesn't want to work on the film, but she doesn't feel she has a choice. The project deals with SIDS babies where the mothers were accused (wrongly, as it turns out) of murdering their children. The doctor who testified at the trials is under suspicion for pointing the finger at the mothers in the first place. When Fliss receives a card with 16 numbers on it, she's stumped as to its meaning. Then one the of accused mothers (Helen Yardley) is found dead and in her pocket the investigators find a similar card. The investigators have their hands full solving the mysteries while Fliss has to come to terms with finishing the project.

I loved this book. The story is engaging and a little quirky in that it's made up of narratives, interviews, articles and book excerpts. It's multi-layered with lots of different little storylines going on. It not only kept me on my toes trying to keep track of everything, but it also had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen. Just as I settled into a section, Hannah would throw in a twist or skip to another part of the story. I did wonder a few times where the story was going, but it didn't take long for me to figure it out. It was so well done.

I really loved how Hannah brought in some of the past events through excerpts of Helen's (one of the accused mothers) book. Brilliant! Another thing she did really well was writing two parts of the story in the first person (Fliss's narrative and Helen's book). This could have been confusing. However, it really wasn't. Hannah did a great job of creating two distinct voices so that it was easy to tell which character was which.

I loved Fliss and couldn't wait to find out her secret, why she didn't want to make the film. I couldn't really get a handle on Laurie, so I didn't care for him that much. He just seemed flighty. As for the accused mothers, I went from feeling sorry for them to wondering if they all were really guilty; or even if one of them was guilty. This happened several times throughout the book. I wonder if that was what the author intended.

I haven't read any books by Hannah, but I did manage to read one of her short stories which appeared in The Penguin Book of Crime Stories: Volume II. It was great. I'd gladly read another book by this author.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Penguin's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Sophie Hannah's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin for this review copy.

A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah, Penguin, ©2010. ISBN 9780143177333(Trade paperback), 456p.

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