Paperback review: Part of the Spell, By Rachel Heath

 

Rachel Heath begins in similar territory to Maggie O'Farrell's Instructions for a Heatwave, with an elderly parent who goes missing one day for no apparent reason, but she lacks O'Farrell's edge and psychological complexity.

Stella is a young mother in a small town who doesn't fit in with the newcomers, those wealthier London commuters whose wives make her feel uncomfortable at the local mother-and-baby group, yet who are also struggling to make sense of their own lives – as an anonymous blog by one of them, Tacita, whose husband has been having an unsatisfying affair, shows. There's a little too much revolving around house purchases and other middle-class dissatisfactions, concerns that are hard to make novelistically as urgent as they need to be, and Stella herself is a little too passive for a heroine.

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