For Joy, seeing her granddaughter is a dream come true. After the painful separation from Kate, she's looking forward to having time with Sabine. Yet almost as soon as the young woman arrives, the lack of common ground between them deflates her enthusiasm. And when Sabine's impetuous, inquisitive nature forces Joy to face long-buried secrets from her past, she realizes that perhaps it's time to finally heal old wounds.
Comment: I got this book in Portuguese in a book fair last year and because I've read the author before and liked her, I went ahead and got this book. According to reviews it's not the author's best and I wanted to check for myself if I'd share that opinion.
In this book we follow the lives of three generations of women during a short period of time. The grandmother Joy, daughter Kate and teenager Sabine. Although we don't spend a lot of time with each, we learn some family secrets while we get to see them in their daily routines and dealing with grandfather's Edward poor health and illness. But could the three women, who don't have such strong bonds as one may think, come to terms with all the new things they find and how that affects them?
I liked this book and it was certainly easy to read. The author's style is easy to follow and interesting and, as I've come to realize, objective and a trademark, as I found it the same I've read before in her other books. So, overall, I can't say this is badly done, but then I have to confess it was slightly less striking when one thinks about the plot and one or two characters. I really think the author missed her mark with those elements. I suppose the fact this is the first boom she wrote has something to do with it, considering the style and not as much polish when comparing to the later books, but...still.
What I liked best was how this book showed some interesting ideas about different cultures like the
life of British people in Hong Kong, where Joy lived in her youth and also the taking care of horses and the respect for animals in the propriety Joy has as a grown up back in England. The details of Joy's life, the choices she did to have a good life, the details of that and of the people around her were things I felt enthusiastic about. I also liked some secondary characters such as Thom and Annie, who went through challenging things in their lives but life helped and even surprised them, Annie more at the end of the book.
The plot, however, wasn't a cohesive element in my opinion. There are some interesting details but I wasn't fond of the jumping scenes back and forth in time. And the author picked too many themes to explore which means we didn't see much of all and instead of making the characters seem mysterious and with more depth, they just looked superficial because each things wasn't' explored as well as it could.
Obviously the plot revolves around the characters. I sort of liked Joy, I feel ambivalent towards Sabine because she's a teenager so I didn't like to spend too much time with her and I didn't like Kate that much.
Joy is a strong woman, the oldest in the family and her life seems to be based on a certain idea but later on, the biggest surprise comes out of her past and, despite not being something directly related to her actions, it affected her personality. I understand but it's not always something that can be explained in her actions or maybe I think she should just have dealt with things differently. I liked her passion for horses.
Kate is intriguing, a challenging character to develop but honestly I disliked her a bit precisely because she has a way of looking at relationships and romantic interests that I don't agree with. Her scenes with her family are always emotional because of that and I understand why and even recognize the beauty of the romantic interest being focused on her, but she's my least favorite character.
Sabine acts like any angry teenager, I don't have patience for those, I much prefer characters with some maturity and she acts so closer to the end out of jealousy which annoyed me. I do agree with some of her opinions here and there but overall, I liked when I wasn't following her steps and ideas...
All in all, a trademark emotional story by Moyes but I think it's clear this is a first novel type of book. The Portuguese translation of the title reads like "family portrait" which I think it's more appropriate because the rain only makes sense for one or two characters. Still, an interesting way to compare an author's evolution in writing.