All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Paper Chains – Nicola Moriarty

on February 3, 2013

Paper ChainsPaper Chains
Nicola Moriarty
Random House AU
2013, 288p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Hannah is living in London, working all the days she can in a gift shop when she meets India. Hannah is amazed by India’s ability to go up to anyone she sees, introduce herself and become their friend. It’s been a long time since Hannah had a friend, but it seems like India is going to fulfill that role.

Both are Australian and both have found themselves in England for quite similar reasons. India knows that Hannah is hiding a secret. There’s a reason why Hannah is so withdrawn from life. She works 6 days a week and when she’s not working, she’s running, punishing herself by running all day long. India is determined to get to the bottom of Hannah’s mysterious behaviour and get her to spill her secret. But as time goes by, Hannah seems to resist the powerful allure of India and India begins to wonder if she can fix Hannah after all.

Hannah is on the run and she doesn’t want to think about what she’s left behind and she doesn’t want to talk about it either. She doesn’t deserve sympathy or help. She deserves punishment of the worst kind for what she has done. Unbeknownst to Hannah, India has a secret too. She’s left behind a wonderful man in the Greek Islands, to keep up her bohemian, traveling lifestyle and Hannah can’t understand why, especially as India seems so affected by it. India writes letters to the man she left behind but she doesn’t post them – she puts them in the hands of other backpackers, other travelers and hopes that they make their way back to him. If they do, then maybe, just maybe, its meant to be. India has taken a huge risk and written down her big secret. Now its time to see if its going to reach its destination.

Before she can move on, India has to help Hannah make an important decision and start her on the path to forgiveness of herself. And in return, Hannah might be able to help India find her own way to happiness.

Paper Chains is the second novel from Nicola Moriarty and it’s every bit as enjoyable and a roller-coaster of emotion as the first. When we meet Hannah, she’s in London, alone. She has no friends, hasn’t met any people and she knows nothing but work, cheap unappetizing food and running to punish herself. Hannah is filled with guilt and self-loathing because she has run away. It’s well clear what Hannah has run away from before it is revealed within the story – the reader sees it coming before Hannah herself does as she flashes back. It’s a heartbreaking situation for Hannah – I ached for her when I read what she was going to. I consider myself so blessed that I didn’t struggle the way in which she did (oh I struggled in plenty of other ways though!) but I know people that have. I think it would be too easy to judge, or blame someone in Hannah’s situation. But this novel takes an in depth look at her frame of mind, her disconnection, the way that she felt and how that was the only option for her at the time. There were clearly other options, but Hannah wasn’t ready to acknowledge her need for them until later. I don’t want to give too much away about what she’s running from (people who read the book will guess for themselves) but I do want to applaud the way in which it is portrayed. There’s so much pressure these days – to do things a certain way, to fit in, to juggle everything with ease. And when you can’t, that’s a crushing feeling of failure. And there’s judgement everywhere – judgement in every decision you make and every failure, real or imagined. And Hannah imagines a lot.

For all of Hannah’s crippling self-hatred and guilt, India by contrast, is light and energy. She makes everything seem easy to Hannah – meeting people, becoming friends with them, caring about them. Hannah isn’t sure why India has decided to become her friend and she doesn’t make it easy for India either. But India persists, her desire and ability to fix other people hiding a secret about herself. India mourns the man she left behind and she sends him letters, but not by post. Her thinking is that if they get to him, then she’s meant to see him again. But if they don’t, well then that’s the way things are meant to be. India is seeing the world, traveling light, meeting people, exchanging stories and absorbing as much as she can.

Goddamn I loved this book. Nicola Moriarty does grief and hope in equal amounts so well. I always tend to look upon a novelist’s second book with interest – it can be a difficult exercise, especially when the first one has been successful and well received. I really loved Free Falling, Nicola’s first novel and I think I might even like this one just a fraction more. It made me cry (more than once actually) but it was that sort of cathartic cleansing sort of cry where you’ve become so invested in the characters that you’re caught up in their journey and feel what they do. There’s lots of humour and hope in here too as well as some sad moments and they made me want to cry too sometimes. I was so immersed in this story and the characters that the leap of faith “small world” wasn’t hard for me to make and often I am that person who can’t believe the coincidences in a book. But when it’s written well and the stories really make you feel, then you can buy into anything and believe that things were meant to be this way for a reason. I especially loved the idea of the way that India was sending her letters – passing them around, like a chain letter, trusting fate that they’d get to the person she intended.

Highly recommended.


Book #27 of 2013


Paper Chains is the 11th book read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

5 responses to “Paper Chains – Nicola Moriarty

  1. Ooh this looks good…must check it out. Exactly the kind of book I’m enjoying at the moment.

  2. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    Oh I adored this one too – even more than Free-falling!

  3. […] fabulously kind! For instance there’s this one and this one. And okay, just one more… this one too. Each and every one of them make me want to jump up and down like a small child that has just […]

  4. […] Muster Down Under, that “…shattered [Lauredhel] into tiny pieces…” and made Bree from All the Books I Can Read “…cry (more than once […]

  5. […] me the most when I cried was Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. I also did some serious sobbing in Paper Chains by Nicola […]

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