I have been on vacation reading mostly lighter books - but I finished this one before I left. Where has everyone else been?
I have to admit I was confused and a bit disappointed by this Booker nominee. The Hiding Place follows the life of Dolores, the sixth daughter born to a Maltese immigrant and his Welsh wife. As her name might foreshadow, Dolores' life is not easy. She experiences a tragic injury in her infancy resulting in disfigurement, and she suffers various forms of neglect and abuse at the hands of her overwhelmed and impoverished parents, and her older sisters. The narration is divided into two - in one Dolores the child narrates various events of her youth, and in the other an adult Dolores returns to her home in the wake of her Mother's death, and remembers slightly different events with her remaining sisters.
In this her first novel, Trezza Azzopardi has moments of descriptive brilliance, for example in describing Dolores' disfigured hand:
I lost the fingers. At one month old, a baby's hand is the tiniest most perfect thing. It makes a fist, it spreads wide, and when it burns, that soft skin is petrol, those bones are tinder, so small, so easily eaten in a flame. But I think of it as a work of art: a closed white tulip standing in the rain; a cut of creamy marble in the shape of a Saint, a church candle with its tears flowing down the bulb of wrist.
But her narration is troublingly inconsistent - young Dolores knows details of events that occurred prior to her birth or when she was an infant, and yet adult Dolores does not appear to have conversed with her sisters or family about these events since she was a young child (if ever). But her narrative inconsistencies are not provocative or profound, alluding to something deeper - I just found it annoying.
The cover jacket compares the novel to Angela's Ashes as a tale of poverty and hardship among an immigrant community. I was reminded more of The Gathering, which addresses similar familial issues but in a much more emotional and stirring way - I recommend you read that one instead.