Sometimes the past won’t stay hidden, it demands to be uncovered…
Arthur Pettinger’s memory isn’t what it used to be. He can’t always remember the names of his grandchildren, where he lives or which way round his slippers go. He does remember Maryse though, a woman he hasn’t seen for decades, but whose face he will never forget.
When Arthur’s granddaughter, Maddy moves in along with her daughter Esther, it’s her first step towards pulling her life back together. But when Esther makes a video with Arthur, the hunt for the mysterious Maryse goes viral.
There’s only one person who can help Maddy track down this woman – the one that got away, Joe. Their quest takes them to France, and into the heart of the French Resistance.
When the only way to move forwards is to look back, will this family finally be able to?
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus- Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Arthur is ninety-six, and his memory is failing. His granddaughter Maddy comes to live with him as he is unable to cope alone. Her young daughter bonds with Arthur, but he is troubled by something in his past. Maddy is lonely and is resistant when a past lover is drawn back into her life. She wants to stop Arthur from fretting about his past, and maybe Joe is the man to help her?
This dual timeline story follows Arthur back to WW2, where he worked with the French resistance and met the love of his life. This part of the story is atmospheric and full of courageous acts and danger. The other timeline shows Maddy and Esther’s compassion towards Arthur, and there a realistic mix of despair and humour coupled with frustration and patience. The author captures Arthur’s confusion and fear about his memory loss. Maddy and Joe get a second chance at happiness as they try to find the missing pieces of Arthur’s life.
Heartbreak, hope, loss and love define this engaging story. Although the ending made me cry, it left me feeling uplifted.
Suzanne Fortin is a USA Today and Amazon UK & USA best selling author, with The Girl Who Lied and Sister Sister both reaching #1 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Her books have sold over a million copies and translation rights for her novels have been sold worldwide. She was born in Hertfordshire but had a nomadic childhood, moving often with her family, before eventually settling in West Sussex where she now lives with her husband and family.
Extract from The Forgotten Life of Arthur Pettinger
Well, that was a turn-up for the books. Moaning Minnie had gone and the smiley one was staying. Maddy, that was her name; he was sure of it. Maddy. Arthur repeated the name several times out loud. He wanted to remember her.
Maddy Pettinger. Of course, dear, sweet Maddy – his granddaughter. He could see her when she was a small child, maybe about five or six. She was wearing a blue pinafore dress and her hair was in bunches with blue ribbon. A warmth filled his heart as he could see the man holding Maddy’s hand. It’s his own son, Charles. Charles in his late twenties, a grown man, and he was so proud of Maddy and rightly so; she was such a delightful child.
There was a memory he couldn’t quite see clearly. It was all fuzzy, like the horizon on a road in the height of summer when the heat made everything blurry. The memory was there but it wasn’t clear. Arthur frowned as he tried to look through the heat waves. Slowly the mental image became sharper and Arthur’s heart hurt.
Charles, his dear son – he was no longer with him. He was with Joan. He shouldn’t be with Joan yet. Charles was too young. He was emerging from the blur, standing beyond Arthur’s reach.
Arthur could see himself, looking down, and Maddy was with him, standing at the end of that long road, looking at the man they both loved so dearly.
A voice from the doorway made Arthur look up. For a moment he thought it was Maddy, but then he realised it was the girl who came with her. Arthur smiled. ‘Hello, young lady.’
She gave an uncertain smile, which turned into a frown as she looked at his feet. ‘Your slippers are on the wrong feet.’
Wrong feet. Wrong feet. Arthur blew out a frustrated breath. Wrong feet? What was wrong with his feet? He looked down at them. Slippers? ‘Hmm,’ he said. ‘Wrong feet.’
The girl stepped into the room and crouched down in front of him. She reached for his foot and cupped the heel with her hand. She paused and looked up. Arthur wasn’t quite sure what she wanted him to do, but he lifted his foot and watched as she removed his slipper. She repeated the process with the other foot and then put the slippers back on his feet.
‘That’s better,’ she said, standing up.
Arthur nodded. ‘Thank you.’ He wasn’t quite sure what he was thanking her for, but it seemed the right thing to say. He remembered his sweets in the drawer and reaching out, he removed the tin and offered it to the child. ‘Would you like a sweet… err… young lady?’ He wished he could remember her name.
The child hesitated before poking around in the tin, examining the sweets, finally settling on a pink one. She unwrapped it and popped it into her mouth. ‘Esther. My name’s Esther.’
‘Esther. Esther, Esther, Esther.’ Arthur tapped his head as he repeated the name. He wanted it to stick. ‘Well then, Esther, what are you doing today?’
‘I’ve made a YouTube video.’
Arthur was baffled. He had no idea what one of them was, but she looked pleased about it. ‘Is that right? Good for you.’
‘I have one hundred and fifty subscribers.’
Again, she looked immensely proud of this but alas Arthur was clueless. He nodded and smiled all the same. ‘One hundred and fifty, eh? That sounds a lot.’
Her smile dropped and she gave a shrug. ‘Not really. Some people have thousands.’
‘Quality not quantity. Happiness should be measured in quality.’