Review: A Hidden Life

27 09 2008

I finished Adele Geras’ A Hidden Life about a week ago, but am just getting around to writing about it now.  It’s probably not a good sign that it is already a bit fuzzy in my mind.

The story focuses on the family of a woman named Constance Barrington.  The novel opens with her altering her will just before she is to die.  The new will is unfair – someone of the family benefit a great deal while others get very little.  This brings out a great deal of tension between some of the family members, but in the end what they each received from the will is exactly what they needed in their lives.

Reading the description about the will and its effects on the people benefiting or not benefitting from it reminded me of my second favourite L.M. Montgomery novel: A Tangled WebA Hidden Life was very different though.  What it most reminded me of in some ways was a Rosamunde Pilcher novel.  There seemed to be a focus on the same kind of people, the same type of life and situations, but whereas I’ve always wanted to enter the world of Pilcher’s novels, I found I had little patience with virtually all of the characters in A Hidden Life, particularly the whiny Nessa.  I kept reading because I did want to see where Geras left these people, but I never warmed to any of them and I found the ending a bit predictable.

I did find the title intriguing.  Lou – the granddaughter who is virtually disinherited and only receives the copyright to her grandfather’s novels, which have been long out of print and were not successful at the time – discovers the ways in which her grandfather hide his life in his fiction.  On another level, though, the title could be applied to almost any character in the novel for they are all on one level or another living a hidden life or hiding from life (their true life) – a hiding that most (the most deserving) move away from by the end of the book.  I think I would have enjoyed the book more if I liked more of the characters and felt more invested in their journeys of self-discovery.

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