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Non 1001 Book Review: Castles in the Air Alison Ripley Cubitt


Castles in the Air by Alison Ripley Cubit
Published in: 2016
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★
Find it here: Castles in the Air: A Family Memoir of Love and Loss

This ARC was provided by Lambert Nagle Media (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Netgalley: An eight-year-old child witnesses her mother’s secret and knows that from that moment life will never be the same.

After Molly, her mother dies, Alison uses her legacy to make a film about Molly’s relationship with a man she had known since she was a teenager. What hold did this man have over her mother? And what other secrets was her mother hiding?

Castles in the Air follows the life of Molly Ripley through the eyes of her daughter Alison. From Molly’s childhood in colonial Hong Kong and Malaya; wartime adventures as a rookie office girl in the far east outpost of Bletchley Park then as a young nurse in the city; tangled romance and marriage… to her challenging middle-age when demons from the past seem set to overwhelm her.

The writer in Alison can’t stop until she reveals the story of Molly’s past. But as a daughter, does she have the courage to face up to the uncomfortable truths of Molly’s seemingly ordinary life?

As she unravels the private self that Molly kept secret, Alison realises that she is trying to find herself through her mother’s story. By trying to make sense of the past, can she move on with her future?

Honest yet unsentimental and told with abundant love and compassion, this is a profoundly moving portrait of a woman’s life, hopes and dreams. We learn not only about Molly, but about mothers and daughters, secrets and love. A story for readers struggling to come to terms with the trauma of losing loved ones.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I don’t normally read non-fiction, but the description of the book really appealed to me. Molly’s childhood and teenage years are fascinating. She is living through a dangerous period in history, in a culture very different from the one left behind in England. The problem is we don’t really hear about what is going on in the world. Instead we are given highlights of the letters that Molly sent to family friend, Steve — a friend for whom she has deep feelings. The letters themselves are what you would expect from a teenage girl. They are basically written with news updates about people known to both parties and largely contain details about how much Molly is missing Steve. Due to the ongoing war, the letters are censored. So even if she had wanted to, Molly could not tell Steve all the details of in which the family were involved.  I would have liked the author to have added more detailed descriptions about what was actually occurring in Malaya, Singapore, and Colombo at the time her mother was living in those places, but the opportunity is missed.

The later sections of the book are told from Alison’s point of view as she recalls the mother she thought she knew and the family life she remembers. We learn about Molly’s life after marriage and about the challenges facing her and her husband– to support their family, to do their best for their children, to grow and function as individuals, and to find happiness together something that becomes increasingly impossible.

Molly is a fascinating character and Alison has an interesting story to tell. However, the way it is written and the introspective focus let book down.

Who would enjoy this book? Anyone with an interest in individual people and how they function in their daily lives within their families.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Castles in the Air: A Family Memoir of Love and Loss

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nice book review format. I like how you anticipate who might like this book!


    March 4, 2016
    • Book Worm #

      Thanks it was actually Jen’s idea. I enjoy thinking about the kind of reader specific books will appeal to.

      Liked by 1 person

      March 5, 2016
  2. That sounds really interesting. I’m going to add it to my wish list. It makes me think of William Boyd’s Restless, which is about a daughter’s discovery of her mother’s secret wartime life.


    March 5, 2016
  3. this sounds like something Margaret Forster would write. Do you see any similarities?


    March 5, 2016
    • Book Worm #

      Unfortunately I have not read any Margaret Forster so can’t answer your question.


      March 5, 2016

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