Culture Street

By Sophia Whitfield
Costa Award winner Linda Newbery has penned her first adult novel, an expertly layered tale of family secrets that spark a journey of self-discovery.

Newbery's novel divides time from a pivotal event that consumes a family. Before quarter past two on a Wednesday afternoon life for one family was full of innocence and ignorance, after this point life unravelled revealing dark family secrets hidden for years behind shame.

On an afternoon in August, Anna’s beautiful and talented sister goes missing. Twenty years later Rose’s disappearance still haunts Anna. He sixth form art project, ‘Missing’, drew on all the aspects of fear and grief that had consumed her family since the mysterious disappearance. Now an adult in her 30s, she still can’t get her life on track. Leading a peripatetic life, Anna finds it increasingly hard to find stability. Currently in a relationship with Michael, she finds friends and family are asking her questions about settling down and beginning a family of her own.

The only way Anna can move forward is to investigate her sister’s disappearance. She goes back to her school days making contact with former high school friends that knew both her and Rose. Anna discovers the many shared friends they had as she endeavours to solve the mystery surrounding her sister’s disappearance.

The more Anna delves into Rose’s disappearance the more estranged she becomes from Michael, unable to share with him the horror of an event that has shaped her family.

As well as dealing with her own relationship, Anna is concerned for her mother who, year’s later, keeps mentioning Rose’s name as if she were still alive. Her father is constantly calling Anna for help and advice as he deals with his wife’s inability to grasp reality.

Familial ties and intrigue make this an engrossing read. Really enjoyed this one. You can buy the book here.

Meet The Author: Linda Newbery

As a child Linda Newbery was a secret writer, filling exercise books with stories which she hid in her wardrobe. Now she is a published author of over forty books, mainly children's and teenage fiction. She has been shortlisted for many prestigious literary prizes and has won the Costa children's book award.

What are you reading at the moment?
I'm re-reading NORTHANGER ABBEY, after reading Val McDermid's feature in the Guardian about putting it into a modern setting for the Jane Austen project.

Which writer most inspires you?
I'll have to give you a selection. Edward Thomas, Thomas Hardy, Aidan Chambers, Helen Dunmore, Sarah Waters, Patrick Gale.

If you were sent away to a desert island and were only allowed to take one book with you, which one would you take?
I’ll take Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, to help me to put things in context.

What would be the title of your memoirs?
Strictly Private

What are the challenges of writing for adults as opposed to writing for children?
I think one of the challenges is not to be indulgent. When I started, I was going off at all sorts of tangents just because I felt like it. But every book presents its own challenges, whatever age group it's for. Structure is so important - each book requires decisions about whose story is to be the focus, how it is to be told, from whose viewpoint and in what order. It always requires a degree of experimentation.

Although I've written for quite young readers, the main body of my work so far has been young adult fiction such as Set in Stone and The Shell House, and it hasn't been a great leap from those to writing an adult novel, at least not in terms of structure or even the demands on the reader. (Young Adult novels are not really children's books.) The main and obvious difference is that I'm writing about older characters with different concerns.

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