I wasn’t getting on with my chosen book. I could feel myself falling into a reading slump. I was also tired and anxious and in need of something to take me out of myself.
I stumbled across Anstey Harris’ The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton sitting on a supermarket shelf as I did the weekly shop. I had never heard of it or seen it anywhere else, even amongst the book blogging and bookstagram communities that I spend so much of my online life submerged in. The cover caught my eye: simple, elegant and hugely appealing. I read the blurb on the jacket and thought “That sounds like an easy, uplifting read.” – not my usual genre and something of a change of pace but that was what I was craving – and into the trolley it went. When I got home, it got added to the forever growing pile of books to be read and I didn’t pick it up straight away.
I should have.
When I did pick it up this weekend, within a few pages I was enraptured by Harris’ melodic storytelling and within 48 hours I had devoured the whole thing.
Like the music that is so central to this beautifully told story, the tale builds and layers in subtle shifts and tones: Grace’s character is so very human that she lifts of the page like a soaring harmony raises the hairs on your arms; Nadia’s intense, prickly and affectionate personality is like strings plucked in an erratic rhythm before being played with the smoothest bow strokes; Mr Williams is the steady bass keeping time – subtle but fundamental. I can’t help but talk about this book in terms of the music it embraces because reading it was akin to listening to a previously unheard piece which moves you unexpectedly to tears.
An emotionally raw tale of love and loss, hope and betrayal, fear and ambition, heartbreak and friendship, The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is a completely captivating story. As the lovely but lonely Grace faces up to the truths she has hidden from for so many years and learns to embrace the love of the unanticipated friendships that begin to blossom around her, we are swept up in her bittersweet life. Painful moments from her past are relived with aching clarity; soaring hopes for the future are admired and shattered and tenderly pieced back together. Flashbacks weave through the driving melody of Grace’s present life, fleshing out her character and backstory seamlessly and building to a poignant crescendo.
The arc of the story is beautifully done and although I was sad to leave the characters behind it was a perfectly rounded story that ended with hope rather than happily ever after.
I loved every page.
This has been my favourite read of 2019 so far and I will be keeping my eye out for any future Anstey Harris releases. Highly recommended.
(I’ve also been listening to various iterations of Piazzolla’s Libertango whilst I’ve been writing this and highly recommend you give it a listen too.)