Sunday, 24 October 2010

Talking to the Dead by Helen Dunmore

After enjoying The Siege by Helen Dunmore I decided to see if I would enjoy any of her other books considering I have brought ten of them (they were on special offer and came as a set, I'm not mad)

The actual plot is not anything particularly new. The main protagonist Nina visits her sister Isabel to help out after the difficult birth of Isabel's baby. The novel then has the set up of two sisters, family secrets, set during a hotter than average Summer, secrets threaten to wrench them apart etc etc. Despite the familiar set up though I could not put this book down.

There are a lot of dark themes running throughout the book and the two sisters Nina and Isabel are not particularly likeable (in fact almost hateful) but I was desperate to know what happened next and the writing conjured up a wonderfully tense atmosphere.

I'm not giving much away but I will say that the plot had me guessing right up to (and I'm not exaggerating) the last sentence. This novel is disturbing and at times I was shocked by events but it is also additively intriguing.

"Slowly, slowly, I push open the door of Susan's room. I make no sound. The pale curtains are drawn, and the room smells of the new pine furniture, and baby sleep. He is rosy with the heat, his hair damp, his fist up to his face. He is sleeping on his side, and Isabel has put a rolled up towel beside him so he can't turn onto his face. I creep right up to the cot. His weight dents the mattress. He looks more solid than I've ever seen him. Already he's changing, filling out, and that fist by his face looks strangely mature."

Would I recommend this? Even if you don't happen to come across this particular book, its worth picking up a book by this author and if you haven't already because as demonstrated above the writing is wonderful.

Verdict 4/5

Posted by Jess


  1. I don't recall reading anything by this author but having just checked the library catalogue and finding a whole list of her books I must try one.
    Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. It is good to know that you bought the set - I was very tempted, but resisted as my library is well stocked with Dunmore books :-) I think all her books will be enjoyable and it is good to see that you liked this one. I look forward to working my way through her back catalogue.

  3. I really enjoyed The Siege (and The Betrayal) too and plan to read more of her backlist. I think next up for me is A Spell of Winter, which won the first Orange Prize

  4. Now that is just the sort of action I would have taken if I had come across an offer like that. Maybe it is a good thing I am far away from UK bookshops! Having read your review I am tempted to look out for more titles by Helen Dunmore as so far I have only read The House of Orphans.

  5. Cat - its worth picking something up of hers at the library to see how you get on with it.

    Jackie - Im really impressed so far, her books are not differcult to read and are good escapisum (I know spelt wrong) while still dealing with dark subjects.

    nomadreader - Im taking A spell of winter on hliday with me next month so I'll let you know how I got on with it!

    Lindy - they were a REALLY good deal LOL I have house of Orphans which I think also looks like another really interesting subject.

  6. This sounds like a great book for when you need to forget everything and dive into a story for a while...I have never read anything by her...would you suggest starting with this one, or something else?

  7. TheBookGirl - her award winning or short listed books are The Seige, The betrayal (sequal to The seige) and A spell of winter so I guess one of those would be a good place to start? She tends to go from historical fiction to more contempary setting quite easily so its worth looking at the describtions on amazon to see which you would prefer?