Buy this book at
To Past Reviews Index
Back to Last Page


Simon Robson

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Vintage

Published : 2011

Copyright : Simon Robson 2010

ISBN-10 : PB 0-09-954708-2
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-09-954708-2

Publisher's Write-Up

Catharine wakes to an empty bed. Her husband Tom, a human rights lawyer, is away on business and it’s the first time she has woken alone in their cottage since they moved there from London five months ago.

She is, as she confesses, a serious woman; realistic and practical. She has relinquished her hold on past ambitions, her music and her career, in preparation for family life. Now, without distraction, she wonders what she is to do. Time progresses, and in encounters both real and imagined - with the village’s inhabitants, with her best friend Maria and with Tom - Catharine plucks at the fabric of her life until it is threadbare. From assured beginnings the day rushes to a realisation of her very worst fears, and to a denouement of devastating poignancy.

'Robson’s writing tends to complexity, and is both effective and lovely.'

Hilary Mantel, Guardian

'Courageous and well-crafted… A potent work, clear evidence of a promising talent.'


'Precise, poetic prose.'

The Spectator

'Robson is astute and gentle in his observations.'

Column Ends


Reader Reviews

Why not Submit a Review your own Review for this book?

Review by Katie.B (310311) Rating (7/10)

Review by Katie.B
Rating 7/10
Catharine is a thirty-something, childless woman, who wakes one winter morning to find herself in a cold and empty house, miles away from London, from where she and her husband moved five months ago. As Catharine takes a detailed look back over her life she realises her accomplishments are few and now she is stranded in a cottage, detached from civilisation, to try and attain the one thing she wants more than anything: a baby. However, despite her efforts it seems she is unable to conceive and Catharine is left with a growing dread that yet another desire may go unfulfilled. Still nursing a broken-heart after her love for music failed to make her a professional musician, Catharine wonders what she has achieved in life. Everyday she waits for her husband, Tom, a human rights lawyer to come home from work and each month she waits to learn the outcome of their attempts to have a baby. On this particular morning Catharine delves deeply into the recesses of her mind, where she uncovers past memories, both recent and old. Her explorations beyond the isolated world of her home lead her to encounter some of the village’s inhabitants, including a suicidal 17-year-old and a flirtatious war veteran. As Catharine treads carefully over the fragments of her life, she makes a shocking discovery that could overturn her secure and comfortable world.

I admit I did not take to this book straightaway as I found the complexity and detail often difficult to get my head round. At times I felt lost in the intricate narrative and it was as if the author had got caught in his own trail of words, leaving the reader to fight their way through the detailed descriptions and observations.

My first impressions of Catharine were not good. She initially comes across as a cold and excessively serious character, who I seemed unable to empathise with. I had difficulty in understanding her constant flow of thoughts, especially when she comes to describe her love affair with music. However, now that I’ve read the whole book I realise I was too judgemental of her to begin with. As I read further I found myself intrigued to learn more about her. She is in fact a very vulnerable and lonely character, misunderstood by many. Whilst she is a very serious and practical woman, inside there is an unfulfilled longing, not just for a child but for something more from life.

As my liking of Catharine grew, so too did my appreciation of Robson’s skilful and excellent writing. Whilst the narrative was at times too complex for my liking, one cannot doubt that Robson is a master of his craft. I have never come across an author who writes as precisely and intricately as him. The way in which he takes the life of an ordinary woman and transforms it into something powerful and captivating is to be applauded. Unlike the majority of writers I have come across, Robson gently invites the reader into the story, through astounding and potent observations.

I was disappointed to learn at the end that I would not be meeting Catharine’s husband, Tom. One is told so much about him throughout the narrative but I would have liked the opportunity to judge him for myself. Robson achieves a graceful and effective ending, both powerful and lively. I was left with a sense that I had just witnessed a great stage performance and as I turned the last page, I was in fact drawing the red curtain.

The more I read of this book the more I enjoyed it. Whilst my first impressions may not have been very flattering, now that I have read it all, I would certainly regard it as a remarkable piece of literature. I will definitely be keeping a watchful eye out for more of Robson’s work in the future.
Katie.B (31st March 2011)

Back to Top of Page
Column Ends