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Praised by critics on both sides of the Atlantic for its elegant and sensuous prose, "Talking to the Dead" tells the story of two sisters whose lives are bound by the hidden and surprising truth about the long-ago death of their infant brother. Praised by critics on both sides of the Atlantic for its elegant and sensuous prose, "Talking to the Dead" tells the story of two sisters whose lives are bound by the hidden and surprising truth about the long-ago death of their infant brother.


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Praised by critics on both sides of the Atlantic for its elegant and sensuous prose, "Talking to the Dead" tells the story of two sisters whose lives are bound by the hidden and surprising truth about the long-ago death of their infant brother. Praised by critics on both sides of the Atlantic for its elegant and sensuous prose, "Talking to the Dead" tells the story of two sisters whose lives are bound by the hidden and surprising truth about the long-ago death of their infant brother.

30 review for Talking to the Dead

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Helen Dunmore has long been one of my favourite authors and, with the sad news of her death this year (2017) I wanted to go back to the first of her novels which I read. Published in 1996, this is the fourth of her novels, but the first which I came across and which introduced me to her work. This novel is set within the heat of summer. Nina is a photographer in London, but she visits the countryside to stay with her sister, Isabel, who has recently had a baby. The birth has not gone as expected Helen Dunmore has long been one of my favourite authors and, with the sad news of her death this year (2017) I wanted to go back to the first of her novels which I read. Published in 1996, this is the fourth of her novels, but the first which I came across and which introduced me to her work. This novel is set within the heat of summer. Nina is a photographer in London, but she visits the countryside to stay with her sister, Isabel, who has recently had a baby. The birth has not gone as expected and Isabel is unwell. Isabel lives with her husband, Richard, surrounded by her beloved garden and with the almost constant attendance of her friend, Edward. There is also Susan Wilkinson, who has been brought in to look after baby Antony. The house, and the novel, are full of secrets. There are Isabel’s evasive techniques to avoid going outside, or eating. Plus, the secrets of Isabel and Nina’s childhood, memories of their mother and recollections of their baby brother, which are evoked by the presence of Antony. I love the dynamics between the characters, which are complicated by Nina’s changing relationship with Richard. As tensions increase, there is an impending feeling of disaster, which hangs over the characters as heavy as the heat… This will forever be a novel I return to and re-read. Although I love other novels by Helen Dunmore, this will probably remain my favourite, just as I was introduced to her writing through reading it, but also because it is also a wonderful read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fiona MacDonald

    Isn't it strange how an author can write something you think is so bad that it might put you off reading another of their books, and then the next thing you read by them can totally change your mind 360! 'Talking to the Dead' was a drastic change to 'With your crooked heart.' It was quick, welll written, and I was fascinated by the relationship between Isabel, Richard and Nina. Isabel has come home after giving birth and having a hysterectomy. As she recovers from her operation and struggles to co Isn't it strange how an author can write something you think is so bad that it might put you off reading another of their books, and then the next thing you read by them can totally change your mind 360! 'Talking to the Dead' was a drastic change to 'With your crooked heart.' It was quick, welll written, and I was fascinated by the relationship between Isabel, Richard and Nina. Isabel has come home after giving birth and having a hysterectomy. As she recovers from her operation and struggles to cope with being a new mother, her sister Nina comes to stay to look fter her. But Nina's relationship with Isabel's husband Richard has already crossed a boundary it never should have. On top of this, the constant recurring nightmare of the death of Colin, the sister's brother, finally takes it's tragic toll on Isabel. Painfully well written - I could feel the sweat and taste the heat of the hot summer. You've dragged me back into the game, Helen.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mary Durrant

    Two sisters with a secret. I was hooked from the start. Very compelling story of love and how people remember things differently. What really happened to Colin? Set in a heatwave . Nina comes to look after her older sister Isabel after the birth of her first child. Things aren't quite as they seem as the past comes back to haunt Isabel. This darkly strange psychological thriller will have you on the edge of your seat as it reaches its dramatic conclusion. Beautifully written. I loved it. Read for a group Two sisters with a secret. I was hooked from the start. Very compelling story of love and how people remember things differently. What really happened to Colin? Set in a heatwave . Nina comes to look after her older sister Isabel after the birth of her first child. Things aren't quite as they seem as the past comes back to haunt Isabel. This darkly strange psychological thriller will have you on the edge of your seat as it reaches its dramatic conclusion. Beautifully written. I loved it. Read for a group read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This is a terrible book about terrible people who do terrible, nonsensical, and incredible -- and I mean really not credible -- things to themselves, each other and other people. Yet it's all so beautifully described! You just want to go on reading it no matter what, just so you can stay in this garden with these flowers and this hot summer sun, and all this beautiful food. But before you know it, several hours of your life have been devoured. Then at the end, if you are anything like me, you are This is a terrible book about terrible people who do terrible, nonsensical, and incredible -- and I mean really not credible -- things to themselves, each other and other people. Yet it's all so beautifully described! You just want to go on reading it no matter what, just so you can stay in this garden with these flowers and this hot summer sun, and all this beautiful food. But before you know it, several hours of your life have been devoured. Then at the end, if you are anything like me, you are very angry with the author for wasting your time. She has seduced you into spending so very much of your precious, irreplaceable time with these truly awful, semi- but not completely useless people. How has she done this? Well, she's spent the first fifth or so of the book making them seem on the surface like people you would like, people with whom you might very much like to hang out, maybe for a whole summer by the sea. So when they start to reveal themselves as amoral, stupid, and thoughtless, you are confused yet hopeful and trusting that there's some point. You feel sure, even up to five pages from the end, that some transformation to make your disappointment and disgust worthwhile is bound to develop. I'm here to tell you it doesn't. Oh, and by the way? Throwing a lot of not credibly motivated adulterous sex into a total non-mystery, of which both the "secret" and the resolution are transparently predictable from page one, does not make a book spicy or thrilling. Yet were this book a hundred pages longer, I'd still have finished it; I'd just be that much angrier at the author (and myself). So now I'm going to do you a whopping favor. I'm going to quote for you here the very best part of the book. That way, you won't have to read it, but you can still enjoy one of Helen Dunmore's sumptuous descriptions completely anger-and-hatred-free: "I find the pie under a plate. Edward has been at it since lunch, digging out the fruit, which he prefers to the crust. I cut a straight line across the spoiled part, and then a thick wedge, the right size for Richard. There's some cream in a jug, thick and yellow. Susan's mother sent the pie over, and it has a spray of elderflower in it to bring out the taste of the gooseberries. She has patterned the crust with pastry leaves. The inside of the crust is white and glutinous now the pastry has cooled, and cooking has thinned the skin of the berries so the seeds show through. I pick one out, fragile but still whole, and eat it. I am hungry too. I cut another piece of the pie, for myself, and pour cream over them both, take two spoons and shake some sugar from a castor over the cream. I can hear voices, but the baby has stopped crying. A door opens and the voices grow louder. They must be coming out. I pick up the plates and hurry out into the light, round the corner by the pond, and into the garden. "Richard hasn't moved, except to take off his shoes and socks. he lies back with his feet in the sun, eyes shut. His feet are pale, naked-looking city feet. "'Here you are.' "We dig into the crust, the cream, the fruit. The edges of the cream are just beginning to swim in the heat already. I've always liked eating with Richard, because he is greedy, as I am. You can always tell. He leaves the plumpest gooseberry until last, to duck it in its own pond of cream. The sugar grits pleasantly on my teeth." There. That's it, the best part of this book. Now you can go read something else. You're welcome.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Monique

    Unfortunately this book was not as suspenseful and drama filled as the synopsis would have one believe. It was actually kind of flat. There were some interesting things happening in the story but Dunmore failed to make me really care. It was all rather boring. The story is told through the first person perspective of Nina. Nina character could have been interesting but she failed to connect to me. I wanted her to be interesting and exciting but she was as boring as the drama and suspense that was Unfortunately this book was not as suspenseful and drama filled as the synopsis would have one believe. It was actually kind of flat. There were some interesting things happening in the story but Dunmore failed to make me really care. It was all rather boring. The story is told through the first person perspective of Nina. Nina character could have been interesting but she failed to connect to me. I wanted her to be interesting and exciting but she was as boring as the drama and suspense that was promised. Isabel is a little more interesting in the fact that the reader sees her through Nina's somewhat jaded eyes. But there seems to be so much more going on with her. Other than that she was boring also. I really like to give somewhat in depth reviews but this was just bland. I was disappointed. The inside cover and title got me excited and didn't deliver.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jayaram Vengayil

    I read this book in a fascinating, one stretch read drawn into its spell by a web of mesmeric images. Dunmore excels at uncovering the dark side in relationships among family members. The haunting word pictures she paints of the human mindscape mark her out to be a writer of no mean abilities. I only wish I had discovered this author earlier.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Val

    Isabel and Nina are sisters. When Nina was young, Isabel looked after her devotedly. Now Isabel needs help and Nina tries to provide it. Complicating the sisters' relationship are Richard, Isabel's husband, Edward, Isabel's gay friend, and Colin, Isabel and Nina's brother, who died as a baby. I enjoyed this book very much. It has enough mystery behind the scenes to add suspense and the characters of Isabel and Nina are beautifully drawn, making the interactions between them believable and the eve Isabel and Nina are sisters. When Nina was young, Isabel looked after her devotedly. Now Isabel needs help and Nina tries to provide it. Complicating the sisters' relationship are Richard, Isabel's husband, Edward, Isabel's gay friend, and Colin, Isabel and Nina's brother, who died as a baby. I enjoyed this book very much. It has enough mystery behind the scenes to add suspense and the characters of Isabel and Nina are beautifully drawn, making the interactions between them believable and the eventual outcome both unpredictable and inevitable.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    Helen Dunmore is a prolific and award winning author, yet this is only the fourth of her novels I have read. I now think I really must make an effort to read the rest. This 1996 novel is an impressive family drama with a fascinating psychological slant. Dunmore’s excellent writing, with its sultry descriptions of place, draws the reader into the Sussex countryside during a scorching summer, and the lives of a group of rather unlikeable characters. There is a kind of chilly sensuality too in the Helen Dunmore is a prolific and award winning author, yet this is only the fourth of her novels I have read. I now think I really must make an effort to read the rest. This 1996 novel is an impressive family drama with a fascinating psychological slant. Dunmore’s excellent writing, with its sultry descriptions of place, draws the reader into the Sussex countryside during a scorching summer, and the lives of a group of rather unlikeable characters. There is a kind of chilly sensuality too in the affair that develops between two of the characters, their coldness perhaps heightened by the backdrop of a record breaking summer. Beware of reading this novel when hungry, there is an enormous amount of food too, the cooking, shopping planning and eating of food, there is a sensuality to this too, the greed of it going hand in hand with the illicit sex. “Richard hasn’t moved, except to take off his shoes and socks. He lies back with his feet in the sun, eyes shut. His feet are pale, naked-looking, city feet. ‘Here you are’ We dig into the crust, the cream, the fruit. The edges of the pie cream are just beginning, to swim in the heat already. I’ve always liked eating with Richard, because he is greedy, as I am. You can always tell. He leaves the plumpest gooseberry until last, to duck it in its own pond of cream. The sugar grits pleasantly on my teeth.” ‘Talking to the Dead’ is the story of sisters Isabel and Nina. Isabel lives in Sussex with her husband Richard in a house rented in her own name, where her friends – like Edward- come to stay for days and weeks at a time. When Isabel gives birth to her first child Antony – there are severe complications, and Richard asks her sister Nina to leave London to help the young nanny Susan, look after Isabel. Nina, a photographer and artist is devoted to her sister and is happy to spend time with her and the baby. Soon after arriving at her sister’s house Nina embarks on an affair with Richard, as already psychologically fragile Isabel’s behaviour gradually starts to cause concern. Cloistered away with her bitchy friend Edward for hours at a time, Isabel seems reluctant to leave the house, not even going into her beloved garden with which she had formerly been almost obsessed. Shut up in her sister’s house and garden during a ferociously hot summer, Nina begins to feel the strain of caring for her delicate sister and tiny baby, reminding her of a time she would rather forget. “I am sick of it all. Milk and blood and babies. I lug another bucket down the path, the dark water shivering inside it. Water slops over my bare feet and raises scent from the dust. These trees should never have been planted in a drought. I heft the bucket and walk on, all my skin prickling with attention. I’m waiting. I leave the full bucket standing by the trees and wander on through the gloom, down to the raspberry canes. There are big moths flying. When they land patches of white show up on their wings so they look like jigsaws. Daytime life closes down, and night life begins with its own excitement. I wish I was in the city now, where day and night brush each other for hours. I wish I was in a taxi, hurtling round the corners of parks as they turn from blue to black with dusk.” For Isabel and Nina share a tragic past, from the time when they lived in St. Ives as children. The secrets of this past gradually begin to reveal themselves through the memories of the sisters. This is a fantastically readable novel, the characters are not very likeable, but I never think that matters, indeed it can make a novel all the more interesting. Just when the reader may think they have it all tapped, Dunmore gently twists the knife – great stuff.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Moira

    I don't often mistakenly re-read a book. But it seems that I have done so with two Helen Dunmore books. I can't understand why, as both were excellent and very memorable. But, as with A spell of Winter, I realized about a third of the way through that I had read it before. However, I couldn't remember the end, and in fact, it didn't seem familiar towards the end so perhaps I never finished it - also unusual for me. Anyway, it was very enjoyable. Dunmore has an amazing ability to describe things I don't often mistakenly re-read a book. But it seems that I have done so with two Helen Dunmore books. I can't understand why, as both were excellent and very memorable. But, as with A spell of Winter, I realized about a third of the way through that I had read it before. However, I couldn't remember the end, and in fact, it didn't seem familiar towards the end so perhaps I never finished it - also unusual for me. Anyway, it was very enjoyable. Dunmore has an amazing ability to describe things in ways that not only make them come alive, but that makes you see ordinary things, food, gardens, pubs, in an entirely new way. She also has uses a voice that says, right from the very start, this is going ot be creepy, a little askew and off and very interesting. Talking to the Dead did not disappoint. The characters were so intriguing and their histories so alluring that I couldn't put it down. It is the story of two sisters and the past that has lain dormant until the older one has a baby. Visiting her sister who had a rough delivery, Nina, the younger sister, sees her sister through the eyes of adoration, but starts to see a bit more about Isabelle's true personality as the visit progresses. She also comes to learn a painful truth about the death of their baby brother many years ago. My only complaint is that I wish Dunmore would explore some of the issues (the gay friend, the anorexia) a little more fully and I wish the ending had been just a bit better defined (but then I tend to like good and evil in the end). It's a great read for those who appreciate a great voice and for those who like psychological novels. I'd love to hear what others say about it!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Roger Brunyate

    Sibling Rivalry Isabel has just had her first baby, after a difficult delivery. Nina, a freelance photographer, comes to spend time with her sister at her house in England's South Downs, but almost immediately begins an intense sexual affair with Isabel's husband. It is Nina who tells the story; she is a warm sympathetic character while Isabel seems moody and neurotic; and the sexual descriptions are terrific. All the same, there is clearly something wrong in this family portrait, and Dunmore is Sibling Rivalry Isabel has just had her first baby, after a difficult delivery. Nina, a freelance photographer, comes to spend time with her sister at her house in England's South Downs, but almost immediately begins an intense sexual affair with Isabel's husband. It is Nina who tells the story; she is a warm sympathetic character while Isabel seems moody and neurotic; and the sexual descriptions are terrific. All the same, there is clearly something wrong in this family portrait, and Dunmore is marvelous at building mystery and suspense out of the tiniest events. As in the only other Dunmore book that I have read, the Orange Prize winner A Spell of Winter, there are secrets long buried in the childhood of the two siblings. These appear to center around the death in his cot of their infant brother Colin. Each has different memories of this event, but they may not be true memories and they contradict each other in significant ways. Talking to the Dead is a much less melodramatic novel than the almost-gothic Winter, but it also depends on the elucidation of the past to explain the present and, with ominous foreboding, to predict the future. I greatly appreciated the relatively quiet development of the novel on the day-to-day level, and I was caught up in the growing suspense. But all the same, I felt that a denouement based simply on memories and dreams—on who remembers what, in response to what trigger, and in what order—is too disconnected from the present-day action to really work.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amy Meyer

    Helen Dunmore has written a riveting story about two sisters and the ties that bond them as well as drive them apart. Isabel and Nina were very close growing up, maybe too close. They know each other better than they know themselves. A painful tragedy in their childhood caused both of them, but especially Nina, to push the past away, choosing to forget much of it. But the difficult delivery and birth of Isabel's first child and the memories that come back to Nina while she is staying under Isabe Helen Dunmore has written a riveting story about two sisters and the ties that bond them as well as drive them apart. Isabel and Nina were very close growing up, maybe too close. They know each other better than they know themselves. A painful tragedy in their childhood caused both of them, but especially Nina, to push the past away, choosing to forget much of it. But the difficult delivery and birth of Isabel's first child and the memories that come back to Nina while she is staying under Isabel's roof, bring the past back resulting in unintended and surprising consequences for everyone. Talking to the Dead is a tale of love, loyalty, manipulation, fear, anger and betrayal will stay with you long after you finish reading the book. Nina is anxious to visit and help Isabel out after the difficult birth of her first child, Antony. When Nina arrives at the house, there is the expected tension between she and Richard, Isabel's husband, but Nina also senses an odd attraction that confuses and troubles her. Nina has always considered Isabel superior to herself, smarter, more sophisticated and more talented. She craves Isabel's approval as she always has and desperately wants to please her. This renders Nina awkward and uncomfortable around Isabel, unsure of how Isabel will receive her and if she will be able to please Isabel. Isabel, at first, is sweet and kind, very happy to have Nina staying with her. But it isn't long before Isabel turns selfish and manipulative. She enjoys controlling every aspect of Nina from her thoughts to her actions to what she says. Isabel appears not only aware of Nina's predilection but she capitalizes on it and manipulates her for her own enjoyment. Nina begins having vivid memories and dreams of her childhood in her parents house shortly after she arrives at Isabel's home. We see the relationship between Nina and Isabel when they were little girls and are privy to events of their childhood through Nina's dreams and memories. As the days and weeks go by and Nina struggles to bond once again with Isabel, she remembers more about her childhood. She recalls her artist parents, more focused on their work than on their children. Isabel and Nina turned to each other for love, comfort and care, as a result. Isabel, the older sister, took on more of a parenting, nurturing role for Nina who worshipped Isabel's every word and deed. Nina was extremely loyal to Isabel and trusted her completely. As a child, Nina believed there was nothing Isabel couldn't do to the point of magical acts that transcend reality. Isabel counted on this loyalty and worship and learned hot to control and manipulate Nina to get it. But the delicate balance in the household is threatened by the birth of Isabel and Nina's little brother, Colin. The girls are shocked to see their mother become the doting parent she's never been for them. While Nina is confused and doesn't understand what's happening, Isabel is perfectly aware of what her mother is doing and doesn't like what she's seeing at all. Isabel's new baby, Antony reminds Nina of her little brother, Colin, and stirs up these painful, long forgotten memories. As an adult, Nina understands more about Isabel's behavior and her parents. Nina also trusts her memories and her knowledge more now than she did as a child. One night Nina recalls the terrible tragedy that befell the family when she was still a little girl. Her memory of the incident shocks her and she tries to talk to Isabel about it. Isabel disagrees with Nina and remembers things differently, forcing her version of events on Nina. But Nina isn't the same little girl who worshipped everything Isabel said and did. Mixed in with her love and adoration of Isabel there is anger and jealousy. Nina's feelings for Isabel start to change. She is suddenly confused and troubled by her older sister. What she once thought of as love and caring she now reluctantly sees more as manipulation and a selfishness on Isabel's part. Feelings of anger and jealousy towards Isabel crop up as more memories, thoughts and feelings buried deep inside Nina bubbling to the surface. She is angry one minute, scared and fearful the next. Nina lashes out at Isabel in her anger and painfully betrays Isabel in ways that can never be taken back. This book is full of tension and raw emotion from the start. The characters, particularly Nina, Richard and Isabel are real and very flawed. I found Isabel particularly difficult to like. She comes off as extremely selfish and manipulative rather than appreciative of the people around her, all more than willing to do whatever will make her feel comfortable and allow her to rest. As the story progresses, some light is shed on Isabel's behavior. Unfortunately, those around her who should love her and care for her are always too wrapped up in themselves to see what Isabel needs and give it to her. I liked Nina for the most part and I felt badly for her. But when she betrays Isabel I saw a very different Nina and one I'm not sure I like very much! Although I understood why she wanted to hurt Isabel, I find it hard to excuse what she did. But the emotions and behavior started long ago in the sister's childhood. Richard and the nanny, Susan, can't completely understand the dynamics between Nina and Isabel because they weren't there all of those years ago. Poor Richard. He's such a successful businessman but at home he cannot seem to make his wife happy. He just wants her to be happy and comfortable and he wants to be loved. Like so many men, he doesn't get it, he doesn't understand why the women are behaving as they are or what it means. This is a beautifully written book about how the past is never really forgotten. Things that happen when you're young can have a huge impact when you are an adult. This is not a happy story, not even with the birth of the baby. It's a very painful, sad and surprising story. It's a story about flawed human beings who are too wrapped up in themselves to really understand what the people they love are trying to tell them. But it is a very real, very human story. Relationships are difficult and wonderful and troubling. Love can make people do things they would never imagine themselves capable of until something happens and it's too late to change it. Helen Dunmore's writing is beautiful. Her use of language and the imagery contrast sharply with the emotion expressed throughout the novel. Here are a few passages I thought were wonderful: "I'm under the fig tree, with it's big leaves all round me like hands to keep off the sun. There are plenty of figs this year, and for once they're going to ripen. Their warm, spicy smell fills the shade where I sit. It's half-past two and the sky's white with heat. In this weather you sit out the glare, waiting for the long light of evening." "Slowly, slowly, I push open the door of Susan's room. I make no sound. The pale curtains are drawn, and the room smells of the new pine furniture, and baby sleep. He is rosy with the heat, his hair damp, his fist up to his face. He is sleeping on his side, and Isabel has put a rolled up towel beside him so he can't turn onto his face. I creep right up to the cot. His weight dents the mattress. He looks more solid than I've ever seen him. Already he's changing, filling out, and that fist by his face looks strangely mature." "He was a handsome man, our father, and five years younger than my mother. He was fair, with the same eyes as Isabel, the same golden skin, which was creased by the time I knew him. By some reckonings my mother was lucky to get him. He drew people round him, because he was funny, because he had a way of making you feel that you were something new and delightful he'd just discovered, and above all because there was something lost and pained in him which people felt without knowing quite what it was. He seemed to need you. My mother didn't seem to need anybody much." Helen Dunmore won England's Orange Prize for Fiction in 1996 for Talking to the Dead, the year's best novel by a woman writer. this is the first of Helen Dunmore's books that I've read but it won't be my last!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Lawson

    Helen Dunmore never fails to disappoint. She has a way with words and makes you believe you are inside the narrative and able to experience the sensations she evokes. I can always feel, taste, smell and hear a Dunmore novel. Talking to the Dead is filled with tension and an awareness that something unpleasant will be revealed. The story unfolds through the filter of Nina, the younger of two sisters, who relates in the present tense, adding to the immediacy of the narrative. Although the perspecti Helen Dunmore never fails to disappoint. She has a way with words and makes you believe you are inside the narrative and able to experience the sensations she evokes. I can always feel, taste, smell and hear a Dunmore novel. Talking to the Dead is filled with tension and an awareness that something unpleasant will be revealed. The story unfolds through the filter of Nina, the younger of two sisters, who relates in the present tense, adding to the immediacy of the narrative. Although the perspective is Nina's, she doesn't try to pull the wool over the eyes of the reader, but presents herself in a way that is not entirely sympathetic. She is drawn deeper into the lives of her sister, Isabel, who has recently had a traumatic birth experience, and her husband Richard; the proximity between the two sisters leads to the awakening of long suppressed memories from the past.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    so far so good A short book has made me think a lot about family/sister relationships.I have cried reading because it reminded me of how traumatised i was staying with my sister after she had had a casarean. My favourite style of book:when very important,life changing things happen but they are just dealt with as if they and normal, everyday occurences.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris Cloake

    I liked the pace of this novel. The flashbacks help build the story as you learn why the characters are gathered for something monumental. You have to think the emotions through and I enjoyed that process. A little too much detail relating to food, I couldn't quite understand the relevance. An ideal read for anyone who wonders or reminisces about their childhood and siblings. I liked the pace of this novel. The flashbacks help build the story as you learn why the characters are gathered for something monumental. You have to think the emotions through and I enjoyed that process. A little too much detail relating to food, I couldn't quite understand the relevance. An ideal read for anyone who wonders or reminisces about their childhood and siblings.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Another book that has me sitting on the fence. The writing is lovely and engrossing. The people are intriguing. The story is so dark it's hard to enjoy. Otherwise it probably would have been a 4 star book for me. I guess that makes me superficial! Another book that has me sitting on the fence. The writing is lovely and engrossing. The people are intriguing. The story is so dark it's hard to enjoy. Otherwise it probably would have been a 4 star book for me. I guess that makes me superficial!

  16. 5 out of 5

    C.M. Stephenson

    A tale of two sisters and their sibling rivalry, this book is beautifully written. One sister has just given birth and the other comes to stay, ostensibly to help but the complexity of their relationship takes them both down a different path. An interesting cast of characters and a story-line that keeps you turning the pages. Highly recommended.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ant Koplowitz

    I’m not too sure how to construct a review of Helen Dunmore’s Talking to the Dead (1996), except to say that for a so-called ‘literary author’ (whatever that means) it was well-structured, with a forceful narrative that kept you turning the pages. Isabel and Nina are sisters, living an enmeshed life ever since the death of their baby brother, Colin, when he was a few months old. Now adults, the story describes the elaborate dance and rituals of their relationship immediately after the birth of I I’m not too sure how to construct a review of Helen Dunmore’s Talking to the Dead (1996), except to say that for a so-called ‘literary author’ (whatever that means) it was well-structured, with a forceful narrative that kept you turning the pages. Isabel and Nina are sisters, living an enmeshed life ever since the death of their baby brother, Colin, when he was a few months old. Now adults, the story describes the elaborate dance and rituals of their relationship immediately after the birth of Isabel’s first child. Nina is staying with her sister and brother-in-law, when she embarks on an illicit affair with Isabel’s husband, Richard. Events take place during the height of a sweltering summer in the Sussex countryside, and drawn into the ever-deepening emotional storm are Isabel’s best friend, Edward, and Susan their live-in nanny. So far, so middle class predictability, but this being Dunmore, things are more complex than at first they seem; as the summer heat intensifies, the secrets, lies, traumas and misunderstandings of a dysfunctional family get played out over the course of a week that moves inexorably towards further tragedy. As is usual with Dunmore’s writing, the sense of place is palpable, and her descriptions of the minutia of everyday life take on a significance and meaning far beyond the mundane. I have to say that for the most part I didn’t really warm to the characters, and with the exception of Susan, they had few redeeming features. But it’s the skill of Dunmore’s prose that transcends this surface dislike, and I can certainly see why this particular novel won the Orange Prize. Highly recommended for those who enjoy intelligent and beautiful writing. © Koplowitz 2012

  18. 4 out of 5

    K L

    I bought this book many years ago because of its beautiful cover and can I just say that without its dust jacket the book is still so so pretty! I finally picked it up to read it and it has been an easy enough read and there were aspects I really enjoyed. I love the author's prose and how natural the words seem to flow. Her descriptions of food especially make your mouth water!  All the characters are very human, with flaws and fears and desires.  The story is told from Nina's viewpoint and we foll I bought this book many years ago because of its beautiful cover and can I just say that without its dust jacket the book is still so so pretty! I finally picked it up to read it and it has been an easy enough read and there were aspects I really enjoyed. I love the author's prose and how natural the words seem to flow. Her descriptions of food especially make your mouth water!  All the characters are very human, with flaws and fears and desires.  The story is told from Nina's viewpoint and we follow her to the Sussex countryside where her sister Isabel has just had a baby. She is a few years younger than her sister. Events from the past haunt both sisters in different ways. Nina's actions are morally very questionable and she is a bit of a twit, but you cannot help but kind of like her. The romance in this book I did not feel at all. I mean... at all... No! The end feels a little rushed to me as well and is that really the way people react to such a tragic event? I have no idea, but I bloody hope I wouldn't!  The writing saves this book for sure. I will keep this book as it is a pretty little thing and I maybe I will re-read one day...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    When I was reading some of the other reviews, I came across one where the person had either read the book before, or she thought she had started it but never finished it. I almost fell on the floor! The same thing happened to me! I actually read this one and totally forgot it and read it again! I kept feeling like I knew the story, but couldn't remember until I would read each part and then I would know I had read it before. Strange! The story explores the relationship between two sisters and ho When I was reading some of the other reviews, I came across one where the person had either read the book before, or she thought she had started it but never finished it. I almost fell on the floor! The same thing happened to me! I actually read this one and totally forgot it and read it again! I kept feeling like I knew the story, but couldn't remember until I would read each part and then I would know I had read it before. Strange! The story explores the relationship between two sisters and how twisted things can get when obsession comes into the picture (the mother's obsession for their baby brother, and Isabel and Nina's obsession for each other and the lengths to which they would go to protect each other). This is a dark story, so if you are wanting something light, this is NOT it!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This story of two sisters reunited when one of them has her first child had me on the edge of my seat. The author sets a dark and delicious hook in the opening scene (*minor spoiler alert*) with a flash forward to one sister visiting the other’s grave, and then reels out the main story resurrecting several skeletons in the family closet over just a few tense days. As the household maintains a thin veneer of normality, intense emotions and dark truths rooted in long entanglements and shared memor This story of two sisters reunited when one of them has her first child had me on the edge of my seat. The author sets a dark and delicious hook in the opening scene (*minor spoiler alert*) with a flash forward to one sister visiting the other’s grave, and then reels out the main story resurrecting several skeletons in the family closet over just a few tense days. As the household maintains a thin veneer of normality, intense emotions and dark truths rooted in long entanglements and shared memories are unearthed. The story is told through the eyes of the younger sister Nina, and her role as narrator continuously calls into question what you think you know about what happened in the past, what is happening now and what will happen next. The suspense propelled me through the pages in a single day.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Melyssa Williams

    This is my first novel by Dunmore, and I can see why she has built a following and accumulated awards for her writing. It's fast-paced and well-structured and hard to walk away from. This is a smallish book: in my particular edition the margins are large, so you'll be turning pages quickly. I finished it in one afternoon. The characters are deeply unlikable, but somehow you get pulled into their drama. The descriptions of all the food is amazing. There is a lot of graphic sex, so I wouldn't reco This is my first novel by Dunmore, and I can see why she has built a following and accumulated awards for her writing. It's fast-paced and well-structured and hard to walk away from. This is a smallish book: in my particular edition the margins are large, so you'll be turning pages quickly. I finished it in one afternoon. The characters are deeply unlikable, but somehow you get pulled into their drama. The descriptions of all the food is amazing. There is a lot of graphic sex, so I wouldn't recommend it to just any reader. The mystery itself - whatever happened to baby Collin - isn't mind-blowing but it will keep you guessing. In fact, I was still guessing after the ending ... second guessing, that is. I had come up with my own alternate ending, which would have been more shocking - haha! But a very satisfying novel on the whole. Will read more of Ms. Dunmore.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Кристина Узунова

    Amazing book

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alane

    I find it silly when publishers try to make good, introspective, thoughtful writing into a potboiler seller. As a grief counselor I was interested in the book on title alone. I think the author was smart about this book in that it is about the long-term effects of grief, secrets, the confusion of childhood, relationships, and trauma. But this is a quiet book. it is not meant to be suspenseful any more than our lives are suspenseful when we realize that we have been shaped by our families and ear I find it silly when publishers try to make good, introspective, thoughtful writing into a potboiler seller. As a grief counselor I was interested in the book on title alone. I think the author was smart about this book in that it is about the long-term effects of grief, secrets, the confusion of childhood, relationships, and trauma. But this is a quiet book. it is not meant to be suspenseful any more than our lives are suspenseful when we realize that we have been shaped by our families and early experiences in ways that we did not expect. Unfortunately, my professional and life experience made me unable to buy the denoument. Good writing but florid psychology.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    I'm still trying to process this book, to be honest. This may be one that takes a while and may continue nagging at me for some days. The truth is - I'm still not sure what happened. The three stars are purely due to the writing and poignant descriptions of the world and characters. But I still feel confused and let down and manipulated, almost. It's a pretty dark story of two sisters and unspoken secrets. The potential was there. I just feel... Empty. Maybe that was the point. It's short enough I'm still trying to process this book, to be honest. This may be one that takes a while and may continue nagging at me for some days. The truth is - I'm still not sure what happened. The three stars are purely due to the writing and poignant descriptions of the world and characters. But I still feel confused and let down and manipulated, almost. It's a pretty dark story of two sisters and unspoken secrets. The potential was there. I just feel... Empty. Maybe that was the point. It's short enough to read it quickly, however.

  25. 4 out of 5

    George King

    I'd never read Dunmore before. This novel is a psychological thriller with some nice poetic passages. It explores a mystery from two sisters' childhood and the relationship of the two women as adults. The narrative moves along rapidly, and the author's use of language is at times exquisite. There are also some notably frank sexual passages. The denouement didn't blow me away quite as much as I thought it would. I'd never read Dunmore before. This novel is a psychological thriller with some nice poetic passages. It explores a mystery from two sisters' childhood and the relationship of the two women as adults. The narrative moves along rapidly, and the author's use of language is at times exquisite. There are also some notably frank sexual passages. The denouement didn't blow me away quite as much as I thought it would.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Miss.Always.Reading.Books

    * A little spoiler* This book is more than just about two sisters loosing their brother to dead. This book is like a Lifetime movie. No one knows what happened to their baby brother, either Nina killed him or Isabelle did. Nina is the wild one who starts sleeping with Isabelle's husband just after Isabelle gives birth to a son who looks just like their baby brother. Then Isabelle disappears and know one knows wheres she at......... * A little spoiler* This book is more than just about two sisters loosing their brother to dead. This book is like a Lifetime movie. No one knows what happened to their baby brother, either Nina killed him or Isabelle did. Nina is the wild one who starts sleeping with Isabelle's husband just after Isabelle gives birth to a son who looks just like their baby brother. Then Isabelle disappears and know one knows wheres she at.........

  27. 5 out of 5

    Meliney

    The best part of this book is the beautiful, colorful, floral dust jacket. The only character I felt anything for was Antony. The other characters were either not developed or very unlikable. I knew something was going happen but I didn't feel the suspense...no sitting on the edge of the seat and in fact, I put this book aside twice to read something else. For me, reading this book was like waiting for water to boil and just as it starts to bubble, the power goes off. The best part of this book is the beautiful, colorful, floral dust jacket. The only character I felt anything for was Antony. The other characters were either not developed or very unlikable. I knew something was going happen but I didn't feel the suspense...no sitting on the edge of the seat and in fact, I put this book aside twice to read something else. For me, reading this book was like waiting for water to boil and just as it starts to bubble, the power goes off.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lorna

    Not as complex as some of her other novels but as ever beautiful prose and intense

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ana Hays McCracken

    Loved this book and how Helen created a slow, quiet foreboding. It also interested me because the story is about remembering, and how people remember differently, and how secrets can destroy families.Her descriptives are spot on - so good, I could feel the heat of the summer the story takes place. And I can only hope to write metaphors like Helen.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Annabel Kantaria

    I last read this book over 10 years ago and I picked it up again this year after Helen Dunmore visited the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Oh my - she was writing 'dark' and 'suburban noir' long before 'Gone Girl' revitalised the genre. I love this story. It's intense and beautifully written and, oh, so dark. I last read this book over 10 years ago and I picked it up again this year after Helen Dunmore visited the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Oh my - she was writing 'dark' and 'suburban noir' long before 'Gone Girl' revitalised the genre. I love this story. It's intense and beautifully written and, oh, so dark.

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