Thursday, 18 August 2016

Thicker Than Water by Bethan Darwin
Release Date: 18th August 2016
Publisher: Honno Press
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Some secrets take their time to travel home.... 

Gareth Maddox has his own successful Cardiff Bay law firm, a clever and talented wife and four perfectly imperfect children. Then along comes Cassandra Taylor, managing director of a Canadian shirt company wanting to set up a major manufacturing plant in the Welsh valley Gareth hails from. It seems like the kind of work he will excel at and an ideal way to see the valley pull back from joblessness and despair.

Back at the end of the Great War, in the wake of a community splitting strike, Gareth’s Great-Great-Uncle Idris sailed off to Canada in search of his fortune and a new way of life. Behind him Idris left his twin Tommy and Maggie, Tommy’s wife, who shared her childhood and much else besides with both brothers.

Decades later, Maggie’s secret life is revealed – and for Gareth nothing may ever be quite as it was before Perfect Ltd came to Wales.

Thicker Than Water by Bethan Darwin was one of those books that kept me firmly planted on the sofa all day while the rest of the world went about its business. I however was too engrossed in this fantastic book to notice or even care what was going on! 

The book very quickly introduces us to the Maddox family. A professional couple, Rachel and Gareth juggle family life with 4 children and a dog with successful careers as corporate lawyers. Rachel feels she has had to struggle up the career ladder, less thought of by her peers because she is a mother. Taking time out of her career to have 4 children did put her at a disadvantage in terms of career progression. Gareth successfully runs his own practice. Not only is he a good lawyer, knowing the business inside out, but he is also a great father and loving husband. Despite the daily chaos of their family life, Gareth and Rachel seem to make it all work. That is however, until a Toronto based firm, Perfect Ltd, come to Wales with the intention of opening a factory and Gareth finds himself totally confused and more than a little intrigued by Cassandra Taylor, managing director of Perfect Ltd.

The book also slips back and forth between the past and present and we learn a little bit about a distant relative of Gareth's who emigrated to Canada in the 1920's never to be heard from again in the Welsh Valley's. Just what did happen to Idris Maddox all those years ago and how will it all ultimately affect Gareth and what will the consequences for everyone involved mean? The past and the present collide with devastating results.

Bethan Darwin has beautifully captured the wonderful chaotic lifestyle of two career people. Their four children add a wonderful realistic element to the story with all of them having unique personalities, all adding something to the book. Even the dog has a great personality! The picture of domestic chaos that is portrayed in the book will mean something to anyone who has children and understands the military planning that is required just to function. Bethan Darwin has also captured the essence of what it is like to be a couple who have been together for many years and still try to fit in passion and a little romance around their family and work responsibilities. And, try to keep that passion alive despite temptations put in the way. Put it like this, I will never look at a kitkat the same way again! No its not rude...........just so heartrendingly realistic and quite funny! There are also some really quirky and interesting secondary characters and I felt the character of Grace really added something to the story, exploring a difficult issue and addressing it.

I enjoyed this book so much and the ending left me feeling a little bereft as it was not quite what I expected. Its a fantastic book about love, family, regret and heartbreak. My only criticism is that such a beautiful book deserves a really beautiful cover as I don't think it portrays the beauty of the story although I can see the link now that I have read the book. Highly recommended. 

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Toronto born but Rhondda raised, Bethan studied law at King's College London and was a partner in a law firm in the City of London for some years before homesickness got the better of her and she returned to Wales.   

Bethan is now a solicitor and partner at a Cardiff law firm. She also runs women’s networking group Superwoman, writes a bi-weekly column for the Western Mail and is a regular contributor on BBC Wales.  She and her husband have two children. It's a struggle finding time to write fiction but she squeezes it in instead of doing housework or going to the gym.  

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