2012: #20 – Ninepins (Rosy Thornton)

Title: Ninepins
Rosy Thornton
Format: ARC Paperback
Pages: 320 (2012 total – 4,969)
Approx. Word Count: 96,000 (2012 total – 1,374,983)
Release Date: April 16, 2012
Publisher: Sandstone Press Ltd
Categories: general fiction, women’s fiction
Source: ARC from author
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Back of the book:

Deep in the Cambridgeshire fens, Laura is living alone with her 12-year-old daughter Beth, in the old tollhouse known as Ninepins. She’s in the habit of renting out the pumphouse, once a fen drainage station, to students, but this year she’s been persuaded to take in 17-year-old Willow, a care-leaver with a dubious past, on the recommendation of her social worker, Vince. Is Willow dangerous or just vulnerable?  It’s possible she was once guilty of arson; her mother’s hippy life is gradually revealed as something more sinister; and Beth is in trouble at school and out of it.  Laura’s carefully ordered world seems to be getting out of control. With the tension of a thriller, NINEPINS explores the idea of family, and the volatile and changing relationships between mothers and daughters, in a landscape that is beautiful but – as they all discover – perilous.

My thoughts:

Laura is a single mother who has suddenly found her life to be much more complicated than it was before. Not only has she agreed to a 17-year old tenant, Willow, but her daughter Beth is showing symptoms of the “terrible tweens”, a condition that leaves the “terrible twos” in its hormone-ridden dust. Ninepins is their home, situated at the edge of both the town and of the fens (a type of wetland, for those Americans not familiar with the term). Their isolation is both a blessing and a curse, providing them with privacy but causing problems at times, especially when it comes to Beth, newly trying to assert her independence. When Willow’s supposedly-institutionalized mother shows up, it’s clear they are not isolated enough.

Rosy Thornton has a way of writing that I can only describe as gentle. When you open one of her books, she takes you by the hand and leads you through her story in a way that makes it almost impossible to put the book down. She has a lot to say here about family, and what that word means. Inside of that there is a lot about the relationship between mothers and daughters, and the expectations within. There are many tightropes being walked and eggshells walked upon as these three women figure out how to navigate their new lives.

There is a nice amount of tension throughout the book, but for me it doesn’t quite reach the level of “thriller”, as mentioned in the blurb. That may be because I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, so my expectations are a bit different than others. Also, on a personal note, once  I got a chapter or two into the book I realized how refreshing it is to read a book where the main characters have normal names. Just “Laura” and “Beth”, solidly traditional. Not a misplaced “y” or boy’s nickname or extra “i” to be found anywhere. Another testament to the strength of Thornton’s writing — no gimmicks necessary.

Disclaimer: I’m lucky enough to be a member of an online writing community with Rosy Thornton, and she’s just as lovely a person as she is an author.

Available from: Amazon | Barnes & NobleWorldCat

Other reviews:

  • “A gripping story that held my interest throughout.” – BooksPlease
  • “I like that Thornton does not shy away from difficult issues.”Mystica
  • “Thornton’s writing is never “easy reading,” in the sense that it always tackles messy personal and political issues; but Ninepins does not have the comic brio of Hearts and Minds or the lush romance of The Tapestry of Love, and is accordingly a much more emotionally demanding read.”Vulpes Libres

Past reviews:

2011: Merciless (Mary Burton)
2010: Gossip of the Starlings (Nina de Gramont)
2009: The Prey (Allison Brennan)
2008: Sad Cypress (Agatha Christie)
2007: The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud (Julia Navarro)
2006: Kill the Messenger (Tami Hoag)
2005: G is for Gumshoe (Sue Grafton)

3 thoughts on “2012: #20 – Ninepins (Rosy Thornton)

  • May 22, 2012 at 9:33 am

    I haven’t read anything by this author. I am going to add this to my TBR.

  • May 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Thank you for your wonderful review. This is my first time reading anything about this book and it looks like something that I would enjoy. I am adding it to my ever growing TBR pile.


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