I was alerted to Rebecca’s first novel by a friend who suggested her as a possible author for the next Llandeilo Lit Fest. Rebecca comes with an accolade of awards for her short stories and with plenty of critical praise.
Often, such praise makes me suspicious and reluctant, and reading the first few pages I didn’t get sucked into it. But the excellent writing, the promising characters and an a story with potential soon cahnged that.
Henry Twist loses his wife most tragically and while he struggles as a single parent the unhappily married Mathilda makes her design on the fresh widower. She is a great character and you know that soon she is going to interfer in Henry’s life.
Meanwhile a stranger with amnesia shows up and manages to take Henry’s mind a little off his own sorrow to the mystery around the strange man.
I don’t want to give away too much, as some surprises and ‘twists’ turned this enjoyable and pleasant read into a complete additction.
I can see why the book is so hyped about and must congratulate Rebecca on making the transition from short story to novel so flawlessly.
The story continues from 1926 in to the 1950s.
There’s a lot of character depth and historical detail to bring interest beyond the story.
I can only recommend you grab this book and enjoy!
London, 1926: Henry Twist’s heavily pregnant wife leaves home to meet a friend. On the way, she is hit by a bus and killed, though miraculously the baby survives. Henry is left with nothing but his new daughter – a single father in a world without single fathers. He hurries the baby home, terrified that she’ll be taken from him. Racked with guilt and fear, he stays away from prying eyes, walking her through the streets at night, under cover of darkness. But one evening, a strange man steps out of the shadows and addresses Henry by name. The man says that he has lost his memory, but that his name is Jack. Henry is both afraid of and drawn to Jack, and the more time they spend together, the more Henry sees that this man has echoes of his dead wife. His mannerisms, some things he says … And so Henry wonders, has his wife returned to him? Has he conjured Jack himself from thin air? Or is he in the grip of a sophisticated con man? Who really sent him? Set in a postwar London where the Bright Young Things dance into dawn at garden parties hosted by generous old Monty, The Haunting of Henry Twist is a novel about the limits and potential of love and of grief. It is about the lengths we will go to to hold on to what is precious to us, what we will forgive of those we love, and what we will sacrifice for the sake of our own happiness.
Rebecca F. John was born in 1986, and grew up in Pwll, a small village on the South Wales coast. She holds a BA in English with Creative Writing (1st class hons) and an MA in Creative Writing (distinction) from Swansea University, as well as a PGCE PCET from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Her short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4Extra. In 2014, she was highly commended in the Manchester Fiction Prize. In 2015, her short story ‘The Glove Maker’s Numbers’ was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. She is the winner of the PEN International New Voices Award 2015, and the British participant of the 2016 Scritture Giovani project. In 2017, she was named on Hay Festival’s ‘The Hay 30’ list.
Her first short story collection, Clown’s Shoes, is available now through Parthian. Her first novel, The Haunting of Henry Twist, is forthcoming through Serpent’s Tail in July 2017.
When she is not writing, Rebecca enjoys skiing, reading, sketching, watching tennis and playing music. Rebecca lives in Swansea with her three dogs, Betsy, Teddy, and Effie.