Augusta Hope grows up as a twin in Hedley Green. She’s desperate to get out and find a place she fits.
Gloriously awkward from a young age, Augusta becomes obsessed with words and language. At 8, she spins a globe to find her favourite country and lands on Burundi.
Across the globe in Burundi, Parfait is the eldest of seven children. He too dreams of escaping; he wants to make it to safety and wants a better life for his siblings after the deaths of their parents.
Augusta and her twin sister Julia, couldn’t be more different. Julia’s beautiful, well behaved, happy, content a bit quiet. Augusta dreams of exploring exotic places, she continues to obsess over words and continually asks questions – even her parents think she’s bit odd. Julia is Augusta’s biggest supporter and only friend or, as Augusta puts it, her home:
“You feel her tears before they fall – and you want to stop them, you so want to stop them, though you can’t, that’s the truth of it. You hear her laugh before it comes, and hearing her laugh makes you laugh too. Her lovely bright laugh. In this way, your twin is your home.” Joanna Glen
Something happens on a family holiday in La Higuera that will be felt by the Hope family many years down the line.
Tragedy forces Augusta to find where she belongs.
Tragedy forces Parfait to flee civil war.
I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying that it is pretty obvious early on where this book is headed, however, it didn’t take away my enjoyment of it.
Augusta and Parfait’s stories are interwoven with the chapters alternating between the two. You know that they are going to meet, finding out how, why and when is what made this book hard to put down. I’m a big fan of parallel stories, I like seeing them eventually come together and trying to work out how they get there .
I loved Glen’s writing and how language and words were used throughout. And I loved Augusta and her obsession with knowledge. I didn’t see her as odd, to me she was lonely. She was surrounded by love, even if that love felt claustrophobic to her at times. I liked her insights as she tried to navigate the world and her own thoughts towards her parents, who she judged as they judged her:
“the people we like, and might even love, will still disappoint us – in the same way, I suppose, as we disappoint them” Joanna Glen
It’s story about humanity and empathy. What it means to lose the other half of you and find it again.
It touches on the refugee crisis and the dangers people face to get to safety. Parfait, when he arrives in La Higuera, has to rebuild his life and start again. Parfait has a huge heart, he’s compassionate and does all can to raise the plight of refugees fleeing their countries. He’s also able to forgive and care for others.
I loved the imagery Glen uses, her use of Spanish poetry, the idea of Daffodils being like trumpets, Augusta’s image of living in a 100-year-old painted gypsy caravan and never settling anywhere.
It’s a story that touches on prejudice, disability, death, grief and guilt but it’s filled with funny moments, family and love. It’s heart-warming and hopeful.
It’s written beautifully and is a great debut novel. It isn’t perfect (is anything?) but it is a story you will enjoy and relate to on some level, it’ll at least remind you to treat others with compassion
Final thought, I’m also (trying) to learn Spanish so the fact Augusta became obsessed with the language was an added, unexpected bonus – or Una sorpresa util
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm