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How to Belong: 'The kind of book that gives you hope and courage' Kit de Waal
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How to Belong: 'The kind of book that gives you hope and courage' Kit de Waal (Hardback)

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'The kind of book that gives you hope and courage. I loved it' Kit de Waal

'Insightful, thoughtful' Carys Bray

'I relished every word' Shelley Harris

'Such a warm and touching novel' Lissa Evans

A moving and courageous exploration of belonging and finding home in a rapidly-changing world from the critically acclaimed author of Shelter.

Jo grew up in the Forest of Dean, but she was always the one destined to leave for a bigger, brighter future. When her parents retire from their butcher's shop, she returns to her beloved community to save the family legacy, hoping also to save herself. But things are more complex than the rose-tinted version of life which sustained Jo from afar.

Tessa is a farrier, shoeing horses two miles and half a generation away from Jo, further into the forest. Tessa's experience of the community couldn't be more different. Now she too has returned, in flight from a life she could have led, nursing a secret and a past filled with guilt and shame.

Compelled through circumstance to live together, these two women will be forced to confront their sense of identity, and reconsider the meaning of home.

Fiction & PoetryModern & contemporary fiction post c 1945 Publisher: Zaffre Publication Date: 12/11/2020 ISBN-13: 9781785764868  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
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Sarah Franklin grew up in rural Gloucestershire and has lived in Austria, Germany, the USA and Ireland. She lectures in publishing at Oxford Brookes University and has written for the Guardian, the Irish Times, Psychologies magazine and The Pool.

More books by Sarah Franklin

Customer Reviews

This is a really thoughtful book about home, displacement and belonging. Jo has spent years away from her home village and the family butchers shop during her time at university and working in the law, her job as a barrister isn’t progressing in the ways she wants so she takes on a new direction running the family business her parents are retiring from despite her queasiness working there. Tessa lives on the edges of the village and tries to live a small life to manage her health but she struggles financially so rents a room out which Jo takes. The characters are both incredibly different but thoughtfully built with good flashbacks to help you understand how they became the women they are today. It’s interesting to see how the place that should be home for Jo feels unwelcoming and how the house Tessa lives in was never home. The interactions between the characters work well in the way the initial awkwardness reflects the differences between the two. This is a moving, thoughtful story.

- 26/11/2020
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This is a book full of insight into unusual situations firmly anchored to the realities of everyday life. Based on two lives that are brought together by chance rather than choice, Jo and Tessa are opposites that somehow link. It is the stories of their two lives in their contexts, how the actions and attitudes of others have shaped them, how they have seized opportunities which are now perhaps not what they want. I found their occupations fascinating; Jo begins the novel as a barrister, finding it frustrating and not having the real effects on lives that she had hoped. Tessa is a farrier, shoeing horses in the Forest of Dean, worrying about her health. Jo wants to make a change to her own life, to return to the family butchers business that her parents want to sell. As past loves and lives crowd into the minds of the two women, they look about them and see their world in a new way and from a new perspective. This is a book written with care and appreciation of life in a forest, as well as life in a small town which is made special by a particular shop. Franklin has made a superb job of capturing some of the challenges that confront women in contemporary society and how they may react. It looks at the strain of illness, of growing up aware of difference, and long term guilt. It also shows awareness of the pressures of small town life, but also the isolation of living in London. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this very special novel. The book begins with the scene in Butler’s butchers’ shop a few days before Christmas, as Jo has returned home from London. The large number of people who crowd in are not only interested in buying meat; they are there for the special atmosphere, the tots of sherry, the friendship expressed by Jo’s parents. Jo finds it especially significant as this is the last Christmas that they intend to be in the shop, as they have decided to move near to her brother. Having felt dissatisfied with her life in London, dealing with many cases that she feels had made little difference, she suddenly feels tempted to move back, take over the shop, return to her old life. Tessa meanwhile is working with her portable anvil at a riding stable, when a sudden shock has a dangerous effect on her. She recovers, but realises that it means another attack in a series which is getting worse. Arranging her life to reduce risk brings problems, and it means that she must find a lodger. When Jo moves into the small cottage with her, it will be difficult to keep her fears secret. Can the two women survive and thrive in a small place? As other people have their say on the women’s situation, like Liam, the women begin to deal with the challenges. This is a detailed and realistic book which acknowledges that people have unspoken struggles, and I found it a deeply personal book which offers real insight into contemporary lives. I found Tessa’s situation particularly moving, with her doubts, unknown illness and much else. The descriptions of the work of a farrier are detailed and fascinating. I enjoyed this book of life in a small community, of love of various kinds, of the difficulty of explaining genuine feelings. I recommend it as a book which feels truthful and offers a real insight into women’s lives.

- 14/11/2020
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I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Sarah Franklin’s second novel with its premise that promised to explore what it means to belong to a rural community in a rapidly changing world. To me this sounded rather oblique but Franklin illustrates it perfectly with this story of two very different women, a decade apart in age, both struggling to find a place to call home and feel like an integral and valued member of the community they live in. The result is a triumph and How to Belong is both a heart-warming and surprisingly insightful novel with superior characterisation and memorably authentic dialogue. Set against a backdrop of the Forest of Dean and a small, insular community where everybody knows each other, this unassuming novel with a strong sense of place and effortless prose left me feeling decidedly hopeful. ——- Jo Butler is a local girl made good who hails from the Forest of Dean and has spent the past decade living in London and working as a barrister. Disillusioned with the reality of her career and the life she is leading, Jo returns home for Christmas and her parent’s final year of running the butcher’s shop which has been in the family for two generations. Making an impetuous decision to return to the place where she feels she belongs, Jo convinces her parents to let her run the shop in the face of dwindling custom and soaring costs. Forced by circumstance to rent a room in a cottage occupied by aloof and taciturn farrier, Tessa Price, whom herself is isolated from the local community, Jo finds things are more difficult than she imagined. Her relationship with her long-term best friend, Liam, is strained, her parents have moved away and in the face of supermarket competition the business is on its knees. For Jo, feeling like she’s no longer welcome or belongs is a new and demoralising feeling, but for Tessa it’s something she knows well. A traumatic childhood with an abusive mother has left her suffering from low self-esteem and she is plagued by a mysterious and possibly debilitating physical condition that has led her to withdraw from the woman she loves and turn her back on society. ——— Despite both women being poles apart and the initial barriers to communication that Tessa uses to keep people who might care about her at arms length, an unlikely friendship begins. Life is at a crossroads for both of the women in very different ways and as they wrestle with what the future might hold for them it is Jo’s need to be useful and her perseverance that sees her make a breakthrough on identifying Tessa’s health issues. It is through assisting Tessa and enabling her to think beyond a lonely future within the four walls of the cottage that Jo starts to see that she can actually be useful in the Forest of Dean community that she treasures. ——- Chapters alternate between the perspectives of Jo and Tessa, both of whom are incredibly well-drawn and characters that I found sympathetic with appreciable dilemmas. From Jo’s initial concerns that she is letting everyone down by leaving her job in London and returning home through to her naive belief that her old friends would still be the same people she left behind and Tessa’s fear of being a burden, Franklin’s characters are honest and relatable and this drew me in to their story. A gentle vein of suspense runs throughout the novel with the future of both women up in the air, primarily from a personal angle for Tessa and in Jo’s case, a matter of her livelihood. My sole reservation about the novel came in the final stages and what I felt was a rather abrupt ending which jarred with the books gentle pace. On the strength of this second novel I will definitely be seeking out Sarah Franklin’s debut novel, Shelter.

- 07/11/2020
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