Hilary Spiers is an author who has made it her job to write stories about “Ordinary women in sometimes extraordinary circumstances”. Hester & Harriet – her latest novel – is supposed to fit this bill but unfortunately, is just plain dull. The book is pleasant and the ideas seem well-intentioned enough, but the premise is too weak to justify a 394 page narrative.
The novel stars the titular Hester and Harriet, two sisters and older women who have been widowed and live together. The pair generally like their own quiet lives, with Hester spending her time as a fussy and ordered cook while Harriet is a scary driver. Their domestic bliss is shattered when the pair happen upon a waif, a young refugee woman named Daria and her baby at a bus shelter.
The sisters take in the illegal pair and are soon forced to welcome their feisty, teenaged nephew Ben who has had a falling out with his parents. The story revolves around the characters learning the full story about Daria leaving Belarus to live in England and how she came to be a homeless single mother. There are also encounters with the town gossip (Penny) and a homeless man named Finbar (he is easily the most underused, unique and interesting character here).
The idea behind Hilary Spiers’ work is an easy enough one to follow but her prose can be a bit challenging at times. Spiers will often throw in some uncommon or old English words which may leave you occasionally scratching your head. In all, this book is similar to the film My Old Lady because it’s a weak premise involving some older characters that overstays its welcome, which means something that could have made a pleasant and light-hearted novella is just plain boring and difficult to read.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/hester-and-harriet/9566782