timetotell

Maria Savva’s novel A Time To Tell is a fascinating book: part mystery, part romance, part character study, and I enjoyed every page and every character in it. It’s an insightful and piercing look at a family where secrets and lies have shaped people’s lives for decades, and about what happens when those lies and secrets are exposed. The main character is Cara, an elderly woman suffering from MS. When the story begins she is living in London with her granddaughter Penelope’s family, all of them seemingly stuck in an unhappy rut in a home that isn’t exactly a home-sweet-home for anyone.

Cara carries a very big and very heavy secret from her past: it’s a secret that weighs her down with regret and sorrow and even anger, but as dark as that secret is, there are also brighter memories of love and happiness wrapped up in it. She has lived with the secret for so long that it has become a part of who she is, and parting with it – telling the truth – will not be easy for her.

Things begin to unravel for Cara when Penelope, who has endured years of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, makes a crucial and fateful decision. In the aftermath, Cara ends up in her old childhood home and is confronted with her troubled and dramatic past. As the story unfolds, it also becomes clear that it isn’t just Cara who has been keeping secrets and telling lies: many others in her family have done the same, and each lie and each secret has had a profound impact that reverberates through the years and decades.

The book carefully and skillfully unwraps each deep, dark secret as the story twists and turns through Cara’s life and the lives of her extended family, flashing between the present and the past. Throughout the story, Maria Savva delves into the repercussions of keeping secrets, but also the consequences of telling the truth, because in A Time To Tell, telling the truth is by no means a simple solution for anyone.

Maria Savva’s writing is fluid and flowing, as she gently and perceptively peels back the layers of deception and deceit within each character, and within the family as a whole. I love how she never judges or condemns any of the characters – no matter how dark or troubled they are. Her way of seeing people, of describing them as they are – with flaws and strengths, light and darkness – really appeals to me. And Cara herself is painted as a complex, conflicted, and multi-layered character, rather than a one-dimensional heroine, adding to strength of this story.

A Time To Tell has a great, complex love story at its heart, but more than that, it is a perceptive character study of ordinary people caught up in difficult circumstances. It’s a great read, and I highly recommend it.

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