Ravine and Marianne were best friends. They practised handstands together, raced slugs, and looked up at the stars and imagined their own constellations. And then, one day, Marianne disappeared.
Ten years later, Ravine lies in a bed in her mother’s council flat, plagued by chronic pain syndrome, writing down the things we remember. As her words fill page after page, she begins to understand that the only way to conquer her pain is to confront the horrors of her past.
Heartbreaking, seductive and utterly unforgettable, The Things We Thought We Knew is a rich and powerful novel about the things we remember and the things we wish we could forget.
Mahuda Snaith’s debut novel just GOT me. I read it from cover to cover on a hot sunny Sunday in June and promptly zoomed it into my top reads of 2017. Sometimes you just connect with a book as the character and the writing just intersect with your way of looking at the world and this captivating debut novel really stole my heart this summer.
I was initially tempted by the gorgeous colours of the front cover and the fact that it was marketed as a British ‘Coming of age’ read made me desperate to read it. Last weekend saw me reclining on the decking in the garden totally immersed in Ravine’s story and engrossed in her world.
Ravine has spent her last 10 years of her life in bed suffering chronic pain syndrome, since the day her friend Marianne disappeared… Her council flat in Leicester is described in so much detail by Mahsuda Snaith that we can literally smell the stale air and despair that lingers in Ravine’s ‘My Little Pony’ bedroom as she suffers daily both emotionally and physically. The writing is superb, capturing tiny details that make you sympathise with both Ravine and her eternally hopeful mother, Amma and will things to change for them and alleviate the stagnation and resignation they find themselves locked in.
The Things We Thought We Knew‘s use of the ‘pain diary’ is a clever device to allow us access into Ravine’s past and find out fragments of information about Marianne’s disappearance and this is a tantalising way to ensure that we keep on reading to find out exactly what Ravine is hiding and what she’s not prepared to remember even for herself. It’s so hard to believe that the original novel began when Mahuda Snaith was only sixteen – but it goes a long way to explaining how accurately she conveys the teenage intensity of Ravine’s feelings and her portrait of a unique friendship is wonderfully done.
The books it most reminded me of was Joanna Cannon’s fabulous The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Isabel Ashdown’s Summer of ’76 and if you’ve enjoyed either of these two fantastic, evocative British reads you’ll absolutely love this debut novel.
Amma was my favourite character and I loved the way she determinedly supported Ravine despite all of the elements of her illness that she just couldn’t understand. I also loved the way that Mahuda Snaith keeps lots of the elements of Marianne’s disappearance hidden from us to draw us into the story and keep turning the pages, immersed within Ravine’s claustrophobic world.
This is a powerful, affecting and evocative read that I wholeheartedly recommend. I hate spoilers so all I can say is you just HAVE to read it for yourself. Thanks so much to @ThomasHill at @TransworldBooks for the advance (gorgeous) copy. My sister has now nicked it and I can’t see me wrestling it off her any time soon…
I can’t believe it’s her debut novel and can’t wait to read more of her finely drawn portraits of British working class life. She’s a talented writer and definitely one to watch.
The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith is published by Doubleday and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Writer On The Shelf
Mahsuda Snaith was born in Luton and brought up on a Leicester council estate. She is a writer of novels, short stories and plays, and is the winner of the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2014, Bristol Short Story Prize 2014 as well as a finalist for the Mslexia Novel Competition 2013. Mahsuda leads creative writing workshops at De Montfort University, has performed her work at literary festivals and has been anthologised by The Asian Writer, Words with Jam and Closure: Contemporary Black British Stories.