Sarginson (The Other Me) crafts an unusual, bittersweet coming-of-age novel that’s also a fascinating mystery steeped in Cold War history. Ruby thought she had left her lonely, emotionally desolate childhood in Norfolk, England, behind when she married Todd, a dashing American fighter pilot. In 1957, however, Todd receives a new posting at a U.S. airbase in England, close to where Ruby grew up, and they move there with their 12-year-old twins, Hedy and Christopher. Hedy is tomboyish and brave, often sticking up for her fragile, dreamy brother, who avoids his painful scoliosis (and equally painful back brace) by escaping into an imaginary science fiction universe. Life on the base is lonely and claustrophobic—as Christopher claims to hear screams and see mysterious lights, and as Todd’s behavior grows increasingly erratic, the family arrives at a breaking point that leaves Hedy on her own, contending with profound losses. Over the following 20 years, Hedy gradually grasps—and then confronts—the lies and misperceptions that, she comes to realize, characterized her childhood. Sarginson effectively interrogates the power of storytelling to engender catharsis and healing but also to deceive others and destroy relationships. Portions of the early sections are presented from Ruby’s and Christopher’s points of view, but as the narrative develops, it becomes Hedy’s story of reclaiming the truth and redefining the past. Set against a historical backdrop that will surprise many readers, Sarginson’s novel movingly captures the private and at times painful evolution of a resilient and inventive protagonist. (Dec.)
Praise for The Wonderful:
“Sarginson’s writing propels you forward with its strong characterization and quiet beauty. A gripping and devastating tale of a family torn apart by secrets, war, and human brutality.”
“A gripping and emotional story which, although set in a past era, has chilling implications for the present day. The Wonderful is an engrossing read with endearing characters thrust into traumatic circumstances.”
Lisa Ballantyne, author of The Guilty One and Redemption Road
“Stunning writing and wonderful, nuanced characterization. I was hooked into this story.”
Rosamund Lupton, author of The Quality of Silence
“Exploring the fears of a post-war era, The Wonderful is an inspirational and compelling story.”
“An intense and brooding read, with a brilliantly claustrophobic sense of place.”
Sunday Mirror (UK)
"(The Wonderful) movingly captures the private and at times painful evolution of a resilient and inventive protagonist." Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
Praise for The Other Me:
“I raced through The Other Me in just a few short sittings. Part coming-of-age story, part consuming family history, and part gripping mystery, The Other Me deftly moves between WWII Germany and London, nearly half a century later, until the storylines collide. This enthralling read will keep you up long into the night.”
Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark Wood
“The Other Me is the kind of novel I adore, precisely because it crept up on me and I suddenly realized I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. It’s a beautifully written, gripping novel.”
Louise Walters, author of Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase
“Gripping and spectacular, The Other Me by Saskia Sarginson is storytelling at its best.”
Sarah Jio, New York Times bestselling author of The Look of Love
“There are some books which are so compelling, the plots so engaging and the writing so perfectly paced and accessible that simply captivate the reader, and this for me was one such book…Tragic, haunting and affecting, it’s a truly immersive emotional experience and a read that you’ll want to share and discuss.”
We Love This Book (UK)
“This book blew me away. It was brilliant. Compelling, emotional, and heartbreaking.”
“Compelling and beautifully written, with spectacular descriptions, many plot twists, and a shocking ending.” Booklist
“Sarginson crafts an unusual, bittersweet coming-of-age novel that’s also a fascinating mystery steeped in Cold War history . . . Set against a historical backdrop that will surprise many readers, Sarginson’s novel movingly captures the private and at times painful evolution of a resilient and inventive protagonist.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Hedy Delaney knew she would miss Iowa when her father was reassigned to an English air base, but she had no idea how much. It's 1957, the height of the Cold War, and Todd Delaney, bomber pilot and World War II hero, is selected by his former copilot for a secret project. Hedy, her mother, Ruby, and her vulnerable twin, Christopher, who's trapped in a Milwaukee brace owing to his scoliosis, do their best to readjust, yet from the moment the family arrives, everything seems off until one horrible day their world falls apart. Hedy is left alone, packed off to an uncle she's never met and his forbidding, isolated farm in Norfolk. Her only connection to her family and former life is Christopher's stories, which raise as many questions as they keep memories alive. The one human link to the past is Hank, her father's former buddy whose connection eventually leads to horrifying answers to questions she is not even sure were real.
VERDICT Sarginson's (The Stranger) darkly atmospheric style evokes the mystery and tension at the heart of the Cold War, appealing to enthusiasts of Richard Condon's The Manchurian Candidate and other Cold War-era thrillers.—Cynthia Johnson, formerly with Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, MA
A young woman tries to unravel the mystery at the center of her life.
Set between 1957 and 1981, Sarginson's (The Other Me, 2016, etc.) latest follows the American Delaney family as they relocate to a U.S. airbase in England. Brought to the U.K. on a highly confidential assignment, war hero Todd brings along his wife, Ruby—a frazzled, beautiful homemaker—and their 12-year-old twins, Hedy and Christopher. Though extremely close, the twins could not be more different. Hedy, a tough tomboy, feels extremely protective of her gentle, sensitive brother, who suffers from extreme scoliosis and likes to write fiction. As the family tries to adapt to their new life, strange events begin to occur: Bright lights appear in the sky; people lurk in the forest; screams rise from underground; and Todd's behavior becomes increasingly odd. After a traumatic, life-changing incident rips her life and family apart, Hedy is sent to live on her uncle's farm. She spends the rest of the novel trying to figure out the truth, in part by using her brother's unfinished story, "The Wonderful." Rooted in history, the novel touches on themes like Cold War paranoia, segregation, bigotry, homosexuality, and mental illness. Broken into three parts—"The Base," "The Farm," and "The Forest"—the novel has slightly odd pacing. The first third is given far more breathing room than the other two, which leads to an uneven reading experience and leaves the reader wanting more at the end. Despite this, Sarginson's writing propels you forward with its strong characterization and quiet beauty: "...and then the slow and sometimes fumbling discovery of being unexpectedly twinned with another…the knowledge that she would not be alone again." The reveal at the end forces readers to reconsider the whole novel, which is interesting and bolsters the wartime paranoia themes.
A gripping and devastating tale of a family torn apart by secrets, war, and human brutality.