Sarah Jasmon explores loss, family relationships and identity in her brand new novel, You Never Told Me.
Thank you to Emma of Damppebbles Book Tours for asking me to take part in this book tour and sending me a free paperback copy in return for an honest review.
You Never Told Me follows Charlotte (or Charlie), who has just spent the last year teaching English in Thailand. She gets an email from her sister Eleanor, who says that her mother is seriously ill in hospital. Unfortunately she is too late and her mother passes away before she can get there. While clearing out her mother’s belongings, her sister stumbles across a secret savings account and a deed to a canal boat — shocking them both. Charlie decides to live on the boat for a while and find out who her mother really was.
While reading You Never Told Me I was transported back to holidays on the Norfolk Broads with my parents — it’s a much slower pace of life, with a friendly and welcoming community. Some of my favourite parts of the book were about Charlie learning to navigate the canals on her own. Sarah describes boat-life perfectly, so I was not surprised to read in her bio that she actually lives on a boat!
At first, I found Charlie really hard to like as a character. She is so disorganised, unreliable and a little thoughtless. For example, her young niece gets a mobile phone so that they can stay in touch while she’s on the boat. Charlie forgets to text her for weeks — then wonders why her niece is angry with her! However, I found it really refreshing for a main character to have real flaws. While Charlie grows and matures throughout the novel, I understand why her sister was worried that she might leave them.
This book deals a lot with grief and the sometimes strained relationships between families. Sarah deals with all of these topics and the different ways that grief affects us in a very respectful and human way. I could feel the tension between Charlie and her father when they are together. Charlie, Eleanor and her father all struggle to know what to say to each other, and I feel like a lot of people will relate to this.
I enjoyed learning more about Britta and about Charlie’s childhood through her memories. It got me thinking how well I know my own families. I don’t think any of them have secret inheritances or canal boats — but do they have hobbies and interests that I don’t know about?
This is a slower paced novel, but it suits the laid back life of a canal boat. I liked the less traditional ending, too — the book finishes with a lot of loose ends and unknowns. I finished the book desperate to know more and find out how Charlie and her family are getting on! (Definitely the sign of a good book!) I’d love a sequel — or even a prequel, there was a lot about Thailand and Charlie’s past relationship to explore!
The blurb for You Never Told Me
A year ago, Charlie’s life seemed to be following a plan: she had a beautiful house, a lovable dog and an upcoming wedding. But she felt trapped. A few months before the big day, ignoring the warnings from her family, she abandoned her life and fled to the other side of the world in a bid for freedom.
But when her mother unexpectedly falls ill, Charlie has to cut her trip short. She flies home, but by the time she gets to the hospital, it’s too late.
Her mother is gone, but she’s left a mystery behind. Why did she buy a canal boat, and where did the money for it come from? As Charlie attempts to work through her grief and pick up the pieces of her life, she follows the threads of her mother’s secret past – but has she missed her chance to learn the truth?
About the author
Sarah Jasmon lives on a canal boat near Manchester with her children. She has had several short stories published, is curating a poetry anthology, and has recently graduated from the Creative Writing MA course at Manchester Metropolitan University. To find out more, visit Sarah’s website. You can also follow Sarah on Twitter and Instagram.