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Constance by Rosie Thomas

by Gary Reading, Dec 2018
Constance has made a new life for herself in a foreign land. She is a musician, a composer, a highly paid arranger of other people’s music, living in a lively expatriate community in Bali. There the world is idyllic – beautiful beaches framed with lush, green trees, charming small houses, and a relaxed, convivial lifestyle. So when the news comes of her sister’s serious illness the last thing she wants to do is return to London. For her sister is much older than Constance – and not a real relative. Constance was adopted. While she never felt completely at home with her ‘family’, nor did she ever want to find her birth mother. But none of these are the real reason she is so reluctant to go home. It is far more complicated than that: before leaving London, she fell in love with her sister’s husband. But when Constance does go back to London, she discovers a great deal more about her sister and family. She gets to know her 18-year old nephew and his Lithuanian girlfriend, learns about her family history and the hidden connections with her past. Most importantly of all, she must face the dilemma of her forbidden love; and in doing so, discover a new identity for herself. Rosie Thomas has a remarkable ability to write about human dilemmas and Constance is one of her most endearing characters.
Rosie Thomas can always be relied upon to produce a story worth reading. In this book set in the UK and in Bali during the 1980’s and 90’s, Constance, who has been abandoned at birth, is adopted by a couple with one 5 year old daughter,Jeanette. The lives of the two sisters are buffeted by sibling resentments and the early tragic loss of their father. Communication between the sisters is hampered by Jeanette’s profound deafness and ultimately all communication ceases when both sisters fall in love with the same man.
This is a tale of forgiveness, redemption and love, set within a framework of family history in the UK softened by brief interludes in the tropical lushness of Bali.