I won The Hiding Places in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway; thank you to Penguin Random House New Zealand for giving me a free copy! And also, thank you for the small handwritten note enclosed in the book – I appreciate such small, lovely sentiments.
Phew, this book took me so long to finish (two months! I am ashamed of myself), but, I am glad that I finally did. My initial impression was that it was a slow book – too slow for my taste. However, this book encourages patience; it is a slow-moving book, and once you accept this fact, there are so many nuances and subtleties that you can savour and appreciate. All I’m saying is, your patience will be rewarded.
How do you write about a book that has characters, so real, deep, and human, that they feel like people you once knew? How do you write about a book about the complexities, coincidences, and wonders of life? (I shall try.)
The Hiding Places by Catherine Robertson centres on April, a woman who lives in self-imposed state of asceticism (sans religious reasons). To others, her aversion to the luxuries of good food, comfort, beauty, and meaningful companionship is strange and futile. For April, however, it is retribution. Ultimately, she only permits herself mere existence; there is no living and enjoying in her atonement. So when she receives a letter in the mail, informing her that she is the heir to a country house, the Empyrean, it consequently becomes an unlikely opportunity for April to give life another chance.
Seeing the home in its true light was meant to flatten it into nothing, pack it away like an old cardboard box. It was not meant to give it shape, nor … a personality.
There was some truly beautiful writing in The Hiding Places. Looking over my notes for this book, there are some beautiful passages as well as the occasional quiet question about forgiveness, grief, and the pain and burden we live with. But this book isn’t dreary; it is not solely about grief and pain. If anything, The Hiding Places is a meditation of forgiveness, second chances, finding meaning, and what it means to live.
What I truly loved about this book was its characters – what a truly unforgettable cast! All characters were written so wonderfully, and their personalities quirky and charming. I sympathized with their pain, I laughed with them, and I was frustrated with their shortcomings. The Hiding Places illustrates that everyone – not just April – carry with them broken vows and promises, and are sometimes willing to die and suffer from them. History is meaningful, and memories – small or great, in one way or another – tie us all to the present, and it is through loss that new things – perhaps better things – can be found.
All in all, The Hiding Spaces is a heart-warming story with an inherently introspective prose, a sensitive exploration of grief and forgiveness, some truly wonderful characters, and a beautiful portrayal of the idyllic English countryside. Safe to say, I think I can say that I will look back fondly on my reading experience of The Hiding Place. (And now I wish I went to see Robertson at the NZ Writer’s Festival.)
Book Name: The Hiding Places
Author: Catherine Robertson
Publisher: Random House NZ Black Swan