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The Image of Her by Sonia Velton

Publication Date 22 07 21

STELLA and CONNIE are strangers, brought together by two traumatic events - cruel twists of fate that happen thousands of miles apart.

Stella lives with her mother, a smothering narcissist. When she succumbs to dementia, the pressures on Stella's world intensify, culminating in tragedy. As Stella recovers from a near fatal accident, she feels compelled to share her trauma but she finds talking difficult. In her head she confides in Connie because there's no human being in the world that she feels closer to.

Connie is an expat living in Dubai with her partner, Mark, and their two children. On the face of it she wants for nothing and yet ... something about life in this glittering city does not sit well with her. Used to working full time in a career she loves back in England, she struggles to find meaning in the expat life of play-dates and pedicures.

Two women set on a collision course. When they finally link up, it will not be in a way that you, or I, or anyone would ever have expected.

Five Star Review

Press, release.

I do know I’m not made of glass, Connie. I do know that. Most of the time. Bad thoughts again. I can’t help it. Still, if I’m going to get to know you , I suppose you’ll want to know all about me too. The thing is, no one knows what really happened. No one at all. Not Mark, not the doctors, no one. Well, she knew, but she’s dead, and the dead always keep their secrets. Don’t they, Connie?

This is a beautifully written novel in the style of upmarket literary fiction. Full of intrigue, tragedy and gorgeous phrases. From the minute I started reading it, I was intrigued. How are these two women connected? Is it something to do with Mark - Connie's husband? He is a rather shady character.

The contrast between Connie's life in Dubai with its sunshine and vast open spaces and Stella's insular life was a clever device and it made the divide between them even stronger. I just could not fathom out the connection. What had happened to them and why was Stella stalking her on social media? But it wasn't all about that connection that gripped me.

Stella's relationship with her mother - who develops dementia - is complicated and heart breaking. Her delivery driver is her only real connection with the outside world. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see if anything romantic would develop with that. I just wanted some love for her. Some escape from her trauma and quiet life.

In a dual time line Connie is also struggling with life. The school playground politics, a foreign land, no support network and trying to rediscover her identity outside motherhood. When she agrees to a housekeeper Connie finds herself entangled in the plight of exploited workers. This was a fascinating strand to the narrative as I knew very little about it. Tense. unsettling and exciting. I found myself researching more about this aspect after I finished the book.

An authentic story filled with astute observations of finding one's place in a modern life. Complex characters that engage you throughout and a fascinating insight into the Ex Pat life in the Middle East. Sonia is an incredible writer and I highly recommend this novel.

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