GOOD GIRLS NEVER TELL TALES…
Everyone that meets Kat Keating is mesmerised. Beautiful, smart and charming, she is everything a good girl should be.
Her sister Eleanor, on the other hand, knows she can’t compete with Kat. On the awkward side of tall, clever enough to be bullied, and full of the responsibilities only an older sibling can understand, Eleanor grows up knowing she’s not a good girl.
This is the story of the Keating sisters – through a childhood fraught with secrets, adolescent rivalries, and on into adulthood with all its complexities and misunderstandings. Until a terrible truth brings the sisters crashing together and finally, Eleanor begins to uncover just how good Kat really was.
Good Girls is a love story, a coming-of-age story, a mystery and a tear-jerker. But most of all it’s a reminder of who to keep close and who to trust with your darkest secrets.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Two sisters, once close, but who have become estranged as they grew older. Eleanor, the older has her own reasons, but she’s never understood her sister Kat’s. Drawn together again, by a cruel stroke of fate, is it too late to reconnect?
This is an excellent family drama, with dark family secrets that devastate the once close sisterly bond. The story begins with Eleanor rushing to be with her sister, and them drifts back in time to the mid-1980s when they were young girls, and then the early 1990s, when Eleanor left for university.
The historical events slowly illuminate the present discord and misunderstanding, but all is not revealed until it is in some ways, too late to make amends. Serendipity plays a part in this story, as it often does in reality, and Eleanor gradually comes to terms with her past and the possibility of a hopeful future.
The cast of characters resonate, they all play a part in Eleanor’s life but have their own motivations and flaws, which makes them real. The story is realistically peppered with laughter, sadness, anger and despair. It is a poignant reminder that you cannot sometimes trust those closest to you, and of the rollercoaster nature of life.
An emotional family drama, with a realistic plot and memorable characters.
Author Interview – Amanda Brookfield – Good Girls
What inspired you to write ‘Good Girls’?
My original idea was to write about two sisters who are driven apart and then re-connected by the same man, deciding to get in touch by email after twenty years. But then the story took off in a hundred other directions, as stories do!
What interests you about family drama? Why are stories about sisters so absorbing?
We all come from families of one kind or another – our upbringings forge us, whether we like it or not – and I love looking at the myriad ways we try to deal with that. Sisters are a prime and rich example (I have two of my own!), being a relationship that is full of rivalries and ups and downs. But there are also, always, the ties of love and loyalty that continue to bind us as siblings, long after we have gone our separate ways in the adult world. This is a fascinating seam to explore as a novelist.
Dialogue is very important in a family drama story. How do you make your dialogue realistic?
You can have the most gripping plot, but if the voices of the characters do no ring true then it will fall flat. The way I work is to hear my characters speak inside my head. In fact, often snatches of dialogue – of how my characters would communicate – arrive at unexpected moments when I am away from my desk, driving the car say, or walking the dog. I have learnt to trust these snatches and write them down – it is my imagination working overtime, and 9 times out of 10 it is absolutely right. I guess it is like being an actor, trying to get inside the psyche of a protagonist.
How do you create your characters? What makes them believable and real?
Constructing a character is a bit like doing a jigsaw. You decide what they look like, and where they live; what age they are and what they do for a living. You give them hopes, hobbies and fears. Then you throw events at them and see what they do! If there is enough substance to your creations, enough humanity, the the way they behave under pressure will feel real and credible for the reader.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I read as widely as possible – mostly fiction, but also memoir, travel and some history. I love being surprised by what I find on the page and always have my antennae up to learn new things, both creatively and factually. If someone recommends a book to me passionately enough, then I will always give it a go! I also try to avoid reading books that I think might be similar to whatever I am working on – I hate the idea of being influenced or feeling that someone has already gone where I am trying to go.
What are you currently writing?
I am halfway through a novel about a woman plucking the courage to leave her abusive husband – one of those subtle monsters that no one else knows about. I am writing the story from my heroine’s point of view, so it has an intensity that feels new and exciting. It is important for me to feel that each new writing project is stretching the boundaries of what I have done before.
Extract from ‘Good Girls’ – Amanda Brookfield
Eleanor decided to take a taxi from the station, even though she knew it would cost ten precious pounds and mean a wait. Being so rural, only a handful of cars served the area, but she didn’t want to be a bother to Howard, her brother-in-law. She texted both him and Kat to say she would be there within the hour and stayed as warm as she could in the small arched station entrance. It was a cold, dank morning, not raining for once but with air like icy metal against her skin.
The taxi driver who pulled up some twenty minutes later exuded an attitude of reluctance that made Eleanor disinclined to make conversation. When they hit a tail-back, thanks to a loop round the old Roman bridge, still not fixed from the heavy flooding over the New Year, he thumped his steering wheel. ‘A bloody joke. We can land men on the moon and still it takes three weeks to fix a few old stones.’ Eleanor murmured agreement but found that she didn’t mind much. The fields on either side of the road were still visibly waterlogged. After the grimy mêlée of south London, it was a visual feast – ethereal, shimmering silver bands engraved with the black reflections of leafless trees and smudgy January clouds.
The usual criss-cross of feelings was stirring at being back in such proximity to the landscape of her childhood. Just twenty miles away, her father was a resident in a small care home called The Bressingham, which he had once included in his rounds as a parish priest, days long since lost to him through the fog of dementia. Howard and Kat’s substantial Georgian house was ten miles in the opposite direction, on the fringes of a town called Fairfield. They had moved from Holland Park seven years before, a year after the birth of their third child, Evie. At the time, Eleanor had been surprised to get the change of address card. She had always regarded her little sister and husband as life-long townies, Kat with her posh quirky dress-making commissions to private clients and Howard with his big-banker job. It was because they saw the house in a magazine and fell in love with it, Kat had explained at one of their rare subsequent encounters, in the manner of one long used to plucking things she wanted out of life, like fruits off a tree.
But recently life had not been so cooperative. A small tumour had been removed from Kat’s bowel and she was in bed recovering. Howard had reported the event earlier in the week, by email, and when Eleanor had got on the phone, as he must have known she would, he had said that the operation had gone well and that Kat was adamant that she didn’t need sisterly visits. No further treatment was required. She would be up and about in a matter of days. Their regular babysitter, Hannah, was increasing her hours to plug gaps with the children and he was taking a week off from his daily commute into the City. ‘But I am her sister,’ Eleanor had insisted, hurt, in spite of knowing better. ‘I’d just like to see her. Surely she can understand that.’ Howard had said he would get back to her, but then Kat had phoned back herself, saying why didn’t Eleanor pop down on Saturday afternoon.
‘Nice,’ said the driver, following Eleanor’s instructions to turn between the laburnums that masked the handsome red-brick walls and gleaming white sash windows and pulling up behind the two family cars, both black, one a tank-sized station wagon, the other an estate. He fiddled with his satnav while Eleanor dug into her purse for the right money. I am not the rich one, she wanted to cry, seeing the visible sag of disappointment on his sheeny unshaven face at the sight of her twenty-pence tip; I am merely the visiting elder sister who rents a flat by a Clapham railway line, who tutors slow or lazy kids to pay her bills and who has recently agreed to write an old actor’s memoirs for a sum that will barely see off her overdraft.
Howard answered the door, taking long enough to compound Eleanor’s apprehensions about having pushed for the visit. He was in a Barbour and carrying three brightly coloured backpacks, clearly on the way out of the house. ‘Good of you to come.’ Brandishing the backpacks, he kissed her perfunctorily on both cheeks. ‘Brownies, go-carting and a riding lesson – pick-ups in that order. Then two birthday parties and a bowling alley. God help me. See you later maybe. She’s upstairs,’ he added, somewhat unnecessarily. ‘
‘The Big Sister arrives,’ Kat called out before Eleanor had even crossed the landing. ‘Could you tug that curtain wider?’ she added as Eleanor entered the bedroom. ‘I want as much light as possible.’
‘So, how are you?’ Eleanor asked, adjusting the offending drape en route to kissing Kat’s cheek, knowing it was no moment to take offence at the Big Sister thing, in spite of the reflex of deep, instinctive certainty that Kat had said it to annoy. At thirty-eight she was the big sister, by three years. She was also almost six-foot, with the heavy-limbed, dark-haired, brown-eyed features that were such echoes of their father, while Kat, as had been pointed out as far back as either of them could remember, had inherited an uncanny replication of their mother’s striking looks, from the lithe elfin frame and flinty-blue feline eyes to the extraordinary eye-catching tumble of white-blonde curls. ‘You look so well,’ Eleanor exclaimed, happiness at the truth of this observation making her voice bounce, while inwardly she marvelled at her sibling’s insouciant beauty, utterly undiminished by the recent surgery. Her skin was like porcelain, faintly freckled; her hair in flames across the pillow.
‘Well, thank you, and thank goodness, because I feel extremely well,’ Kat retorted. ‘So please don’t start telling me off again for not having kept you better informed. As I said on the phone, the fucking thing was small and isolated. They have removed it – snip-snip,’ she merrily scissored two fingers in the air. ‘So I am not going to need any further treatment, which is a relief frankly since I would hate to lose this lot.’ She yanked at one of the flames. ‘Shallow, I know, but there it is.’
‘It’s not shallow,’ Eleanor assured her quietly, experiencing one of the sharp twists of longing for the distant days when they had been little enough and innocent enough to take each other’s affections for granted. They had been like strangers for years now in comparison, shouting across an invisible abyss.
Amanda Brookfield is the bestselling author of 15 novels including Relative Love and Before I Knew You, and a memoir, For the Love of a Dog starring her Golden Doodle Mabel. She lives in London and is currently a Visiting Fellow at Univ College Oxford. Her first book with Boldwood, Good Girls, will be published on 8th October 2019.