Limestone Wall is about living in the past and trying to reconcile it with your present, and about grief for lives never lived and people never really known. It follows recently widowed Evelyn, as she returns to her childhood home across the road from an old prison, where her mother is serving a life sentence.
This book could have been great, but the writing lacked the kind of quiet power a story like this needs. The second half was better than the first as it was less overwritten and didn’t seem to be trying as hard. Though, it’s also possible that the first half didn’t work because any tension it might have had is taken away by the spoilery blurb on the back of the book. At times there’s a seamlessness between Evelyn’s fantasies of what could (but would never) happen and the present, but at others it doesn’t flow very well. I also found the way the end was written a bit odd. I kept thinking I’d accidentally missed a chapter or something because it just jumps from nothing being resolved to things being resolved (in Evelyn’s mind) without any in between. I like ambiguity, but it felt like the ambiguity was in the wrong place. I think Lee was going for something a bit more experimental in this book, and just didn’t pull it off.
The publisher also sent me a copy of Lee’s debut novel, The Absent Woman, which I’ve also read. It’s less uneven and overwritten than Limestone Wall so I enjoyed it more. The writing is nothing special, but better than the, again, terrible blurb would suggest – “…Virginia encounters Twilah Chan, an inspiring teacher and disturbing presence. Twilah’s son, Greg, an exciting but also disturbing presence, re-awakens Virginia’s romantic life.” Someone else really needs to start writing the blurbs for Lee, or she needs to do it herself if it’s the publisher doing it because the writing in the book is better than that (also ‘disturbing’ is completely the wrong word for those characters, and makes it sound like a creepier, more sinister book than it is).
Not a book I’d particularly recommend, but if you come across Lee’s writing I’d go for The Absent Woman over Limestone Wall.
I was sent a free copy by Holland House Books in exchange for an honest review