Enid isn’t clear about much these days. But she does feel a strong affinity with Olivia, a regular visitor to her dementia home in a small coastal town. If only she could put her finger on why.
Their silent partnership intensifies when Enid, hoping to reconnect with her husband Roy, escapes from the home. With help from an imaginary macaw, she uncovers some uncomfortable truths about Olivia’s marriage and delves into her own forgotten past.
A deeply touching story of love, age and companionship, evoking the unnoticed everyday moments that can mean the world to the people living them, Tim Ewins’ second novel will delight fans of his acclaimed debut, We Are Animals.
Huge thanks to the author for sending me a copy of the book, and to the Squadpod for arranging this publication day blog blast.
I loved Tim Ewins’ debut novel We Are Animals, so I was really looking forward to Tiny Pieces of Enid. It’s also garnered a lot of praise from writers I admire, which raised my expectations even more. And it doesn’t disappoint – it’s quite different to We Are Animals, which was delightfully quirky, but what it does have in common is the same large heart. It is – in that overused phrase – a ‘quiet’ book, focused on the small moments, but those moments are everything – they’re what makes up life – and without all the dashing around the world that was so much fun in his first book, the author has time to slow down, and zoom in, and the result is a wise, tender novel.
Enid’s dementia is handled with real sensitivity – we get a good sense of her confusion, of her loosening grip on what is going on around her, but we still get an insight into her personality, and she’s a joy to spend time with. There are lovely moments of humour – watch out for the carrot – and her warmth and generosity shines through in her interactions with Olivia, in particular. I thought their relationship was really well done – there’s no ‘cheat’ here of a sudden moment of lucidity so that Olivia can get to know the ‘real’ Enid – there’s just an unspoken understanding, a connection, and it feels very real. We are not just what we can articulate, we’re people underneath it, even without words, and the way their stories merge reveals a lot about both women.
The real heart of the story, however, is the love between Enid and Roy. It’s beautifully depicted, so subtle and meaningful in all the ways that matter, and their unwilling separation due to Enid’s illness feels desperately sad. It’s refreshing and wonderful and also heart-breaking to see the unsung love story of a long term couple brought to the fore in this way – we often talk about having ‘someone to grow old with,’ but literature doesn’t often show us what this means in practice. There’s so much quiet tenderness in the way Enid and Roy think of each other, their love for each other is so clear and uncomplicated, despite all the complications that life has thrown at them. I’m firmly in my cynical phase at the moment, but even I was thinking, “yes, that’s how it should be”!
There are moments of real peril and drama in this book, which I was quite surprised by (at a couple of points I was actually quite concerned it was all going to go in a very different direction), and some pretty dark themes are explored, but again, it’s done very sensitively. My favourite moments, though, were the in between times, the times when Enid is reflecting on her past with Roy, or he is thinking of her, and that idea that even though they are physically apart, they’re still each other’s worlds. It’s beautiful and so moving. And I was glad to see that animals haven’t been entirely left behind – there are some stunning passages about nesting birds, and a few glimpses of the brightly coloured parrot from the gorgeous cover. I do like it when there’s a little thread that connects an author’s books!
I highly recommend this book, especially if, like me, you’re a fan of a cathartic, book-induced weep, and I’m excited to see what this talented writer produces next.
Tiny Pieces of Enid by Tim Ewins is published by Eye/Lightning and is available to purchase here.