It’s two years since I first encountered Anstey Harris at a wonderful TeamBATC blogger and author evening that you can read about here. Then she was telling us about The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, a book I loved and reviewed here. We met up again at the 2019 evening and you will find out what happened then here. Sadly, I couldn’t make the 2020 event with Covid 19 looming, an abscess in my upper jaw and an appointment at the cardiac unit in hospital, so when a copy of Where We Belong arrived from the magnificent SJV I was thrilled.
Where We Belong was published by Simon and Schuster on 14th May 2020 and is available for purchase through the links here.
Where We Belong
One family learning to love again.
Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are homeless, adrift. They’ve packed up the boxes from their London home, said goodbye to friends and colleagues, and now they are on their way to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – to stay just for the summer. Cate doesn’t want to be there, in Richard’s family home without Richard to guide her any more. And she knows for sure that Araminta, the retainer of the collection of dusty objects and stuffed animals, has taken against them. But they have nowhere else to go. They have to make the best of it.
But Richard hasn’t told Cate the truth about his family’s history. And something about the house starts to work its way under her skin.
Can she really walk away, once she knows the truth?
My Review of Where We Belong
Cate’s moving with her son Leo and she isn’t happy.
I had unreasonably high expectations of Where We Belong because I absolutely loved Anstey Harris’ Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton. The author has not just met those expectations, but has exceeded them completely. I found Where We Belong an elegant, beautiful and emotional read that permeated the very core of me. The prose is somehow simultaneously understated, and elegantly descriptive, so that it feels like the reading equivalent of stroking raw silk. There’s quality, depth and a luminous sense of place and person that I found spellbinding and which took my feelings through the wringer.
It brought me enormous joy that Cate is a flawed fifty something woman because I could relate to her entirely. Her internal, as well as monetary, struggles mean that she has to draw on her past experiences and take responsibility for her life. This felt so realistic that I was on her side because of, rather than in spite of, her errors and flaws. I thought Leo was simply wonderful. The way he is gradually uncovered by Anstey Harris is so skilful and sensitive that I’d defy any reader not to think they have actually met him. What the author has done here is to let the reader get to know her characters in the same way as those characters get to know one another and themselves. Indeed, the concept of giving others a chance and not judging too quickly is not only vital to the plot but manages to educate the reader without them even realising too.
And what a plot it is. In its basic form Where We Belong is quite simple. A woman and her son move into a dilapidated old house with an elderly retainer, but that would belie the twist and turns, the lies and deceit and the intricate tapestry of relationships that make Where We Belong so compelling. It’s not possible to say more for fear of spoiling the story but I was shocked, thrilled, delighted and very moved by the wonderful storytelling!
I think what makes Anstey Harris’ writing so perfect though, is her exploration of themes that weave so flawlessly into the story. Trust, love, family, community, loyalty and betrayal, humanity and a sense of home are just a few of the elements that combine in this glorious book. It is as if the author is shining a light on who we are and giving us permission to be human through her words.
Where We Belong is a book of searing emotion about love, loss and the potential of the human spirit. I finished it feeling uplifted, tearful and privileged to have read it. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Don’t miss it.
About Anstey Harris
Anstey Harris teaches creative writing for Canterbury Christ Church University and in the community with her own company, Writing Matters. She has been featured in various literary magazines and anthologies, been shortlisted for many prizes, and won the H G Wells Short Story Award. Anstey lives in Kent, UK and is the mother of the singer-songwriter Lucy Spraggan.