The Sleeping Beauties

Written by Lucy Ashe
Review by Simon Rickman

Now the war’s over, Rosamund Caradon can take the evacuated children in her care back to their London homes. She’s accompanied on the train by adored daughter Jasmine (eight), in whom a fellow traveller shows an unsettling interest. This apparently chance meeting of the doting mother and young Sadler’s Wells ballerina Briar Woods invites us to dine at a sumptuously detailed feast of a backstory, from which we’re thoroughly sated by a worry-web of suspense and secrets set against a backdrop of all things balletic – its history, celebrities, theatres, artistes, clothing and movements – crafted with the most beautiful deftness, à la Flaubert’s mot juste. A drip-feed of intrigue-bombshells, nonchalantly dropped throughout the narrative, make this kidnap mystery a wonderfully compelling, truly competent thriller.

The journey to London is but one upon which this story takes you. There’s the geographical tour comprising England, France and Holland, plus that of human emotions, portrayed through deep friendships, intimacy, love, honesty and betrayal. There are life journeys from adoption and childhood dreams to adult realities, accomplished character studies all. Further, we journey through time; plot seeds sown in the First World War burgeon amongst World War Two’s ubiquitous menace and the post-war deprivations of coupon-reliant Britain. But primarily, this is all about the mother-daughter journey. Rarely have I been so keen to uncover the truth. Simply excellent.