Emma Henderson's superb debut novel tells the story of Grace, a woman "mangled in body and mind", and her experiences in a British mental institution in the 1950s and 1960s.
Her mouth misshapen, Grace finds it hard to speak, but Henderson imagines an eloquent interior monologue, telling of her dreams, desires and frustrations.
Henderson dramatises shocking attitudes to mental illness – doctors refer to the patients as "monstrous" – but her triumph lies in the fact that the reader begins to forget the heroine's condition altogether. Grace's romance with Daniel, a "debonair" epileptic, is tender and convincing; the limber, musical prose peppered with brilliant descriptions: Daniel's body is "dangle-dancing", his face a "squashed bauble".
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies