Thursday, 5 May 2016

When I Was Invisible - Dorothy Koomson

‘Do you ever wonder if you’ve lived the life you were meant to?’ I ask her. 

She sighs, and dips her head. ‘Even if I do, what difference will it make?’ 

In 1988, two eight-year-old girls with almost identical names and the same love of ballet meet for the first time. They seem destined to be best friends forever and to become professional dancers. Years later, however, they have both been dealt so many cruel blows that they walk away from each other into very different futures – one enters a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity. Will these new, ‘invisible’ lives be the ones they were meant to live, or will they only find that kind of salvation when they are reunited twenty years later?

Veronica Harper is introduced to Veronika Harper, two eight year old girls born to different families yet with virtually identical names - the unlikeliest of coincidences. They both realise a love for ballet and want to become serious, professional dancers, not in frilly pink tutus but with unseen twisted feet covered in calluses - just for the love of the art. But that changes when something horrible and unthinkable happens, and Veronika (Nika) feels she has no choice but to leave her home, friends and family, and leaves the other Veronica (Roni) with a hole in her soul and guilt so strong the only way she can find escape is to become a nun. But then even that doesn't help, so she leaves in order to find the other Veronika Harper and try to ease the noises that wont quieten in her head. 

As usual, Koomson tackles hard hitting subjects with the most utmost skill and sensitivity, but brings them home with huge realism that makes you really think hard.

Roni and Nika's pasts and presents are delved into in personal depths, and we follow the events that define their lives and sculpt their futures showing how both girls' strength of characters differ, one choosing to face things head on, and one choosing to hide - both becoming invisible in their own ways.

I was fascinated by Nika's past, especially the time she spent on the streets and how she ended up there, making the hugest leap in circumstances someone can - and the characters that surrounded her.

The book culminated in a very powerful ending in so many ways which I certainly wasn't expecting. An excellent, thought provoking read.

Many thanks to Sophie at EDPR for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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