Book review: Arms Around Frank Richardson

Having loved A Little Hope by Ethan Joella, it was suggested that I should read Arms Around Frank Richardson by Sylvia Colley, and I am glad that I followed up on this book recommendation.

At the heart of the novel is one question: How can your family shape the person you are going to be and your future? The answer is for the reader to find with the help of a beautiful prose, three well-developed characters and an evocative sense of time and place. The impact of childhood trauma is not an easy subject, but it is handled here in what appears to be an effortlessly delicate way.

More about the book…

The impact of childhood trauma reverberates into the grown-up worlds of Frank, Alice and Henry – children from three very different families suffering the fall-out from their early life. Frank, a working-class boy abused by his mum’s boyfriend and fiercely protective of his younger sister; Alice, physically disabled and fragile and Henry, the less clever son of high-flying parents unable to compete with his clever brother. 

From a run-down estate on the south coast, a small town in the north and an affluent home in the Cotswolds, each character grapples with the life fate has handed them. Until, by chance they all come together in adulthood.

Spanning 30 years this is a beautifully written and haunting story about how families shape lives. The scope of the novel is ambitious and beautifully honed, character and sense of place are masterfully achieved.

More about the author…

Sylvia Colley lives in North London and spent many years as Head of English at The Purcell School. She has published a book of poetry and two novels, Lights on Dark Water and Ask Me To Dance.


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