In the dead of night, Ayesha takes her daughter, Sabina, and slips quietly from her home, leaving behind a life of full of pain. Boarding a coach to London, all Ayesha wants is a fresh start. Hayden, a former popstar, has kept himself hidden away for years. He’s only opened up his home to two people – Crystal, a professional dancer with a heart of gold, and Joy, an ill-tempered retiree with a soft spot for waifs and strays. When Crystal asks Hayden if Ayesha and Sabina can stay with them, he reluctantly agrees and, as different as they may be, they quickly form an unlikely bond. So when enemies threaten their peaceful home, they will do all they can to save it and each other. Uplifting and emotional, this is a novel of new beginnings, of discovering love and of finding A Place to Call Home.
With no room in the refuge, Ayesha is found a place in a private home in Hampstead. As the story unfolds we become to care for and cheer on the other inhabitants. Owner Hayden, a reclusive popstar with his own emotional scars; retired and grumpy Joy who underneath has her own fears and hopes; Crystal who is seemingly brash and breezing through life … but has emotional scars of her own. None of our characters are really engaging in life, until Ayesha arrives. She is the catalyst for bringing them all together to not only create a home but for all of them to beginning healing and moving on.
Right from the beginning, I found everything that happened in the story to be true-to-life. We’ve supported mums like Ayesha and I have experience of Sabina’s need. This is something that fascinates me – how women either continue in the same/similar relationships or break that pattern and how the trust that’s been broken in children can manifest. Husband Suresh makes your skin crawl. His narrative in the story really makes a difference and gives us the conflict and tension. Hayden also narrates and this lets us deeper into his character so that we can identify with his pain.
Another thread to the story is culture. Ayesha coming from Sri Lanka and the authentic meals she creates is something that Matthews uses to great effect in bringing the different characters together.
The relationship between Ayesha and Hayden is very childlike and innocent which fits with where they’re at in their lives. The attraction is there but very considerate.
I always identify with Matthews’ characters as her perception of the human psyche is spot on. Her characters are always believable in who they are and what they feel. It’s easy to visualise them and see the world through their eyes.
Despite the trauma of why Ayesha leaves in the dead of the night, I found A Place to Call Home to be a very gentle and inspiring read – and I think this is because of Ayesha’s character. She is very solid and rooted, sure of what she wants for Sabina and she has found the strength to make that move.
An uplifting and inspiring read to add to your reading lists.
I would like to thank the publishers for pre-approval via Netgalley.