“Devastatingly emotional. De Waal’s storytelling gives us the poetry and sorrow of life itself.”


The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal follows the story of Mona, born in Wexford, Ireland overlooking the beach and sea, where as a girl she played. As a young adult, Mona travels to Birmingham in search of a new job and an exciting new life. She meets the love of her life and is swept in the whirlwind of romance and marriage until tragedy strikes. Decades later, the novel catches up with Mona now in Brighton. She is determined to fill her life with moments of happiness, knowing that every minute in this world is precious, however, she struggles to let go of the past that shaped the person she is now.

The plot darts back and forth in time from the historical passages that follow Mona’s trip from Ireland to Birmingham and the new life she begins to build with William, to the current day where an almost 60-year-old Mona in living in Brighton. The journey’s to and fro through history allows the author to build small peaks of suspense to urge the reader to continue on through the pages.

Kit de Waal explores life in Birmingham during the 70s, the IRA bombing, the aftermath, and what is was like to be an Irish person living in the city following that tragedy.

The novel explores over and over again themes of mental health, grief and sorrow, strength and survival, and relationships. It is a beautifully written novel that truly immerses the reader in each of its settings, and is full of characters that show such levels of depth and warmth.

“One day, you will want these hours back my girl. You will wonder how you lost them and you will want to get them back. There’s a trick to time. You can make it expand or you can make it contract. Make it shorter or make it longer…”

While the story itself isn’t particularly fast-paced or urgent, there is plenty of intrigue and mystery to pull the reader along right until the very end, with an interesting twist and a satisfying ending.

The only downside to this novel is the fact that it isn’t long enough to answer every single question the reader might have about Mona’s life, leaving some aspects unanswered and open to the imagination. I am, therefore, looking forward to returning to some of the novel’s background characters and the magic of Kit de Waal’s writing in her collection of short stories, Supporting Cast.


Reviewed by:

Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog

Added 11th October 2021

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Catherine Muxworthy