When I was contacted a few weeks ago by Thomas
Hill, the Press Officer for Transworld
Books, an imprint of Penguin Books, about a new book, naturally I jumped at
the chance to get stuck into it. I didn’t know much about The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Smith, prior to reading so I was able to go in with a
completely open mind and thoroughly enjoy everything that the book had to
offer. The story follows Ravine, a young girl, after her diagnosis with chronic
pain syndrome and is set in Leicester and her and her mother’s council estate
block. I loved how detailed the description of the setting is; I really could
imagine the cramped but cosy flat, and the surrounding neighbours who really
add to the multicultural nature of Leicester as a city and the UK as a whole.
The neighbourhood is incredibly close knit, which I think definitely affects
Ravine’s state of mind- being confined to her bed, in constant paint, and
having everyone know your business really doesn’t seem the ideal situation to
I found Ravine’s character incredibly
interesting, particularly because I don’t really know anything about chronic
pain syndrome. I found her struggle with her feelings, particularly surrounding
her best friend’s disappearance particularly poignant and she was definitely a
character that I felt a lot of sympathy for, in spite of her tendency to appear
selfish. Ravine’s mother, Amma, is a very fascinating character and I resonated
with her more than I did with Ravine; her personality was full of spice and
sass and her commitment to her daughter and her daughter’s health was
admirable. She attempts to get on with her life, hiding her romantic
relationship as far as she can, but also puts her daughter first, sacrificing
her own basic needs to ensure that those of Ravine are fully met. She really is
an admirable character and reminds me of my own mum, in many different ways.
I honestly cannot believe that this novel is a
debut, much less that the initial write was done when the author was 16 years
old. I think back to the own pieces that I penned at that age and find myself
overwhelmed with the sheer sophistication of the writing. The whole mystery
surrounding Marianne, Ravine’s best friend’s, disappearance is one that pulls you
in from the offset and makes you want to continue reading. I’m not one to use
the word “unputdownable” willy-nilly but this book honestly was. It’s hard to
talk too thoroughly about the story without spoiling the best bits, so I’ll
leave it to you to explore it further.
Thank you so much to the team at Penguin Random House for my copy of the
book, in exchange for this review. I really look forward to reading more by
Mahsuda and exploring her prose more over the coming years.
The Things We Thought We Knew was published by
Penguin Random House on 15th June 2017.