Sunday, April 3, 2016

In the Light of What We See by Sarah Painter

I am lucky to have found another author who writes in a genre that is one of my favorites: magical reality.  Sarah Painter has written three novels, and I have them all on my Nook.  An opportunity to read and review this, her third book, had me hitting "Buy Now" to grab her first two: The Secret of Ghosts  and The Language of Spells (there is also a novella available as a 'prequel').  

This novel has two stories and two female characters living in different times, but bound by a place and a nagging sense of danger.  Grace, in 1938, has begun work as a nurse at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton, England.  She has disgraced her family by getting pregnant.  Unfortunately for Grace, the pregnancy was a result of a rape by a family friend.  Telling her parents about the pregnancy sent her father into a rage against the humiliation his family faced having such a bad girl, and he kicked and punched her until she lost the baby.  With no happy life ahead of her staying with her family, she fled to Brighton for a second chance.  Quiet and reserved, she struggles to be a nurse in a place where long, difficult days on her feet exhaust her, and a fear of being dismissed keeps her on her toes.  

In present day, Mina works at the Royal Sussex Hospital as a radiologist.  She's not a terribly happy person, and is in a relationship with her boss, Mark,  but is trying to end it.  Mina ends up in the hospital as a patient after a bad car wreck.  She's had head injuries, a damaged knee, and burns on her leg.  She can't remember what happened, and Mark soon arrives, telling everyone he's her boyfriend.  Mina has a sense of uneasiness around him, but without her memory, is hard pressed to understand why.  

As Mina spends weeks in the hospital, she sees a nurse standing near her bed and soon realizes the nurse is not one of the nurses that work on the floor, but rather an apparition.  Who is the nurse, and why is she there?  What is she trying to tell Mina?

Grace struggles to feel at home as a nurse in the hospital, and shares a room with Evie, who is fun, flirty, and full of life.  Friendship is there, if only Grace will reach out.  Meanwhile, she is slowly becoming aware that Dr. Palmer has his eye on her, and he terrifies Grace with his demeanor; catching her alone, saying inappropriate things to her.  She doesn't know what to do, and is afraid history will repeat itself.  

Mina's memory slowly starts to come back, and flashes of memories with Mark and her estranged family have her questioning her life, and how the accident happened.  What connection does Grace and Mina have, and will it save Mina?

I enjoyed this novel very much.  Mina isn't a very nice person, but her time in the hospital begins to change her.  Not remembering who she was gives her an opportunity to become a Mina that is kinder, more thoughtful, and capable of sharing her feelings with others.  Grace is super reserved, and you can't blame her after being shunned by her family, and told over and over that she wasn't a good girl.  When all is said and done, this is a novel about women in dangerous relationships, and how sometimes others need to intercede before something horrible happens.  It's about women looking out for each other, and creating family out of those who care about us the most.  A ghostly nurse, apparitions of birds, and foreshadowing add a touch of magic to an entertaining tale.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sarah Painter for a chance to read and review this novel.  

Available in paperback, e-book, and audio.

Rating:  7/10

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