The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris - book review: An uplifting journey, both thought-provoking and cleverly conceived

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris
The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris
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Grace Atherton’s life is divided into two very distinct halves… one is her secret love affair, and one is the music that orchestrates her soul.

But both are incomplete and unsatisfactory because her lover is married with children, and her talent for playing the cello has been kept under wraps for twenty long years. And when her little world is blown apart, she must learn to live her life to a new rhythm.

Banish those January blues with a much-needed fillip from Anstey Harris, a creative writing teacher, classical music fan and award-winning short story author, who turns her sharp eye and warm heart to full novel writing in this exquisitely wrought tale of one woman’s battle to start all over again.

Friendship in the unlikeliest places, self-discovery, acceptance and determination all play significant roles as we witness a 39-year-old woman rising phoenix-like from the ashes of personal disaster to find happiness where she had thought there was only hopelessness.

Cellist Grace Atherton loves the simple melody of running her musical instrument shop in Kent and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with married father-of-three David Hewitt. By her own admission, Grace is not ‘a natural’ mistress or ‘an accomplished fisher of other women’s husbands.’

Her relationship with Strasbourg-based translator David is different to other love stories, she tells herself, because his wife knows of their affair and both have agreed he should stay with the family until his children are old enough to go it alone.

For eight years she has been more than happy to let her world revolve entirely around David because her own secrets, dating back to her years at music college, have kept everyone else at bay. And then, suddenly and shockingly, one event tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes dapper Mr Williams, a lively old gay customer with a wealth of good advice, and her rude, angry, loyal teenage shop assistant Nadia to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that you are never alone when you have good friends, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that trust and love can be just as rewarding as romance and passion.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is in itself a triumph… full of compassion, emotional intelligence, psychological insight and beautiful music, the story explores universal truths about what makes us human, how we must learn to forgive if we are to survive, and that happiness is only ever a heartbeat away if we can reach out to others.

Harris writes with charm and wisdom, introducing us to the most unexpected, diverse and enchanting characters – not least, the spiky, expletive-prone Nadia and the achingly lonely and gay Mr Williams – each providing a delightful counterpoint to Grace’s heart-rending symphony of loss, love and redemptive friendships.

A whole world of emotions and experiences flash by as we follow Grace through her transformation from isolated love slave to woman of independence, ‘swimming, fast, to the surface of a sunlit pool’ and exploding into the daylight.

It’s an uplifting journey, both thought-provoking and cleverly conceived, and one that is sure to put Anstey Harris even more firmly on the map.

(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £12.99)