Published: October 28th, 2021 in eBook
November 25th, 2021 in paperback
Publisher: Agora Books
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Fiction
Format: Kindle, Paperback
Welcome to my review of this enthralling debut. Thank you to Peyton at Agora Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.
Traversing three generations of women torn apart by family trauma, The Girl in the Maze explores the complex relationship and challenges involved in both mothering and being mothered.
‘I would caution you against delving into the past. The past is often best left exactly where it is.’
Emma Bowen has never had a close relationship with her mother, barely speaking with her in the last years of her life. But after her mother’s death, Emma finds something that might just explain the distance between them.
Discovering letters between her mother and grandmother, it seems to Emma that her mother has always been difficult.
As she searches for answers about her own childhood, Emma is drawn into the mystery of her mother’s enigmatic life. The more she finds, the more lost she feels, but Emma is determined to uncover her mother’s past, and the secrets held within it, whatever the cost.
An enthralling story of three women, generations apart, linked by one terrible tragedy.
“Some secrets were probably better left untold.”
The Girl in the Maze is a moving and beautifully told debut that explores generational trauma, family secrets, motherhood, and the complexities of mother and daughter relationships. The pretty, floral cover belies the heart-rending story between its pages as the author shows us the darkest moments of the lives of three women from one family, examining not only how it affects their lives, but the lives of the generations that follow.
The story seamlessly shifts between timelines and multiple narrators as secrets that have been hidden for decades are unveiled. As the one at the centre of the secrets you would expect Margaret would be one of the narrators, but instead the author opts to tell the story through other members of her family: her daughter, Emma, her mother, Betty, and her step-father, Jack. At first I didn’t understand this choice, but as I got further into the book I realised what a brilliant decision it was. By giving a voice to everyone except Margaret she remains an enigma. A puzzle for both Emma and the reader to decipher.
The characters are richly drawn and fascinating, pulling you in and making you care about their story. Emma is a great character and my heart broke for her as I read about the difficult relationship between her and her mother, something that made me even more thankful for the strong bond I have with my own mother. I felt for her as she struggled to deal with both the grief of Margaret’s death and over the relationship with her that she craved but would never have. But the woman I took deepest into my heart was Betty. That powerful opening chapter hit me right in the feels and created an empathetic bond with Betty that coloured my view of her for the rest of the book. I didn’t see how Margaret could dislike this loving mother who went against not only society, but also her own mother, to keep and raise her daughter. Both of these things helped shape my view of Margaret as the villain, but as the story went on I began to see that there was so much more beneath the surface; hidden layers that peeled away to reveal heartbreaking secrets. This was a reminder of the layers we all have in our characters, that there can be so much more to a person than we know, and that there are sometimes reasons why people behave the way they do.
“I read an article once about family dysfunction. It described it as rolling down from generation to generation like a fire in the woods, taking down everything in its path. It said that you need one person in one generation to have the courage to face the flames. And that person will be the one to bring peace to their ancestors and spare the children who follow them, and their children.”
One thing I particularly loved about this book is how the author uses the painting referenced in the book’s title as a symbol of so many things. Throughout the book we see it as a representation of Emma’s quest to untangle the mysteries her mother left behind, slowly finding her way out of the maze with each clue she solves. But as we learn more about Margaret the painting begins to take on new meaning; also representing the traumas the women experienced. It was an interesting layer to the narrative that added that little something extra to the storytelling.
Cathy Hayward is an exciting new talent. She tackles difficult subjects with sensitivity and compassion and writes like her words are the roses amongst the thorns; something beautiful even when what she is writing about is dark, bleak and painful. I was captivated by the story and the characters she created and can’t wait to read what she writes next.
Powerful, emotive and intriguing, The Girl in the Maze is an enthralling debut that I highly recommend.
Trigger Warnings: abortion, miscarriage, rape, adoption
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Cathy Hayward trained as a journalist and edited a variety of trade publications, several of which were so niche they were featured on Have I Got News for You. She then moved into the world of PR and set up an award-winning communications agency. Devastated and inspired in equal measure by the death of her parents in quick succession, Cathy completed The Creative Writing Programme with New Writing South out of which emerged her debut novel The Girl in the Maze about the experience of mothering and being mothered. It won Agora Books’ Lost the Plot Work in Progress Prize 2020 and was longlisted for the Grindstone Literary Prize 2020.
When she’s not writing (or reading) in her local library, Cathy loves pottering in second-hand bookshops, hiking and wild camping. She lives in Brighton – sandwiched between the Downs and the sea – with her husband, three children, and two rescue cats – one of whom thinks he’s a dog.
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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.
Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊Emma xxx