I received this book thanks to Dean Street Press
in exchange for a review on my blog.
I had never heard of Sarah Salway before, but when I got contacted by Dean Street Press I saw that she is a poet and I’ve always thought that poets have something special in their narrative works, so I picked up Getting the picture to see if I was right – and I was!
Getting the picture is an epistolary story told through the letters, emails and voicemails of several characters. The main character is Martin, a man in his eighties who once had an affair with a married woman called Mo, and she finally chose her husband over him. He has never forgotten her and his never-sent letters to her is what we are reading, even though she passed away a few years ago.
Martin is living in a nursing home because Mo’s widower, George, is also there, and he wanted to get to know the man she preferred to spend her life with. George, meanwhile, writes notes to the house manager of the nursery in order to let her know all the complaints he has towards the staff and the other residents, as well as voicemails to his youngest daughter, who lives in France. On the other hand, we have George’s oldest daughter, Nell, who is the one who tries to bring the family together, being all of them so adamant of the needs of the others. They still don’t know, but it’s Martin the one who will change their family life.
The author lets us get the picture step by step through the unique voice of all these characters, all of them with a background the reader doesn’t expect. We know that Martin’s curiosity, to the point of living under the same roof as Mo’s husband and getting in touch with her family, isn’t right but, at the same time, we also think that he deserves the explanation she never gave him. The fact that Mo, the character the story goes around to, isn’t there to say something makes you wonder how she would feel.
To me, this has been a delightful story whose turn of events was surprising; with human characters you end up worrying about; and with an original narration, through letters, that I always find enjoyable because they let you know the characters in more depth.