I read and reviewed ‘Stolen Summers’ for Rosie Amber’s book review team.
All she has left is her sanity. Will the asylum take that from her too?
In 1939, Matilda is admitted to Ghyllside hospital, cut off from family and friends. Not quite twenty, and forced to give up her baby for adoption, she feels battered by the cruel regime. Yet she finds a surprising ally in rough-edged Doris, who risks harsh punishments to help her reach out to the brother she left behind.
Twenty-five years later, the rules have relaxed, and the women are free to leave. How will they cope in a world transformed in their absence? Do greater dangers await them outside?
The poignant prequel to Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is a tragic yet tender story of a woman robbed of her future who summons the strength to survive.
It isn’t all that long ago that women who stepped outside of convention were ‘sent away’ for the good of society. This is what happens to Matilda in this short novella that explores how someone can be institutionalised in such a cruel and unfeeling way, but still manage to keep that spark of who they really are.
Told from Matilda’s point of view, this is a really well-written story, that deals with its subject matter sympathetically and unflinchingly. The coldness with which she is treated is horrible, but completely believable, unfortunately, and is written with authenticity. That aspect was, for me, the strongest part of this story and the writing – the way in which Matilda is tossed aside and treated as if she has no feelings, no worth.
There are moments of real humour and levity here too, which are a relief and which lift this novella above those that dwell in misery.
I would have liked more exploration of the way Matilda felt about giving up her child – for me this wasn’t developed enough. But that aside, this is a well-written and worthwhile read, and one that I definitely recommend.