Ruth Thomas (3 stars)

Things to Make and Mend (Faber)


Edinburgh-based author Ruth Thomas has garnered a reputation as a skilled, award-winning writer of short stories and makes a convincing transition to novel writing with her archetypal story of two women whose friendship is brought to a premature end by an unexpected and shocking event. Their career paths diverge dramatically; Sally becomes a professional needlewoman while Rowena travels the world as a translator, the pair coming together again when Sally wins an embroidery award and travels to Edinburgh to give a talk.

The premise of friendship between two contrasting females, their bond surviving personal crises and long distances, may bring to mind such 80s tearjerkers as Beaches, but this is an altogether subtler beast, eschewing mawkish sentiment. As with her story collections, the emphasis here is on the strength of the writing rather than sensational plot twists and turns. Thomas’ deceptively quiet tone and understated wit effects an unexpectedly moving and insightful tale.

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