Review: In the Light of What We See by Sarah Painter

In The Light Of What We See by Sarah Painter

Brighton, 1938: Grace Kemp is pushed away by the family she has shamed. Rejected and afraid, she begins a new life as a nurse. But danger stalks the hospital too, and she’ll need to be on her guard to avoid falling into familiar traps. And then there are the things she sees…Strange portents that have a way of becoming real.

Eighty years later, Mina Morgan is brought to the same hospital after a near-fatal car crash. She is in terrible pain but recalls nothing. She’s not even sure whom to trust. Mina too sees things that others cannot, but now, in hospital, her visions are clearer than ever…

Two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by a shared space and a common need to salvage their lives.

I was sent this book to review a couple of months ago but had other books I needed to read first but it’s felt quite serendipitous that I picked it up yesterday as it ended up being the perfect read for me and I just didn’t want to put it down. I read it in just two sittings as it drew me in and held me there from start to finish.

I loved the friendship between Grace and Evie. Grace had had a difficult time at home and was so nervous when she began her nursing career but Evie, who seemed so opposite brought out the lighter side of Grace and it was wonderful to read. It was lovely how as the novel went along we had small insights into Evie’s character too, and she ended up being such a great friend to Grace.

Mina was an interesting character from the start. She seemed very cold and distant from people but after her accident, when she was so vulnerable and had to rely on others, she found a softer side. I really liked how she didn’t change over night but it just gradually became apparent that she had always had this other side but she’d buried it under pain and guilt.

There are small elements of mystery running through the novel as Mina tries to piece together the tiny fragments of memory that are slowly coming back to her after the accident. I had such a feeling of dread about Geraint but was never quite sure what the story was with him until it is revealed.

I loved the connection through time between Grace and Mina, it was so fleeting and yet felt so important to the book. I was convinced all the way through the novel that there these two characters would turn out to be related to each other or that they would meet at some point – I’m not going to post any spoilers at all but the continuous connection between them throughout the novel and the way it ended was perfect and beautiful. It could so easily have become forced or even twee but it never, ever did.

The idea of ghost birds that have flitted in and out of Mina’s life is fascinating. The way they were there to protect her and to warn her about things that may be about to happen. This was another connection to Grace in a way in that Grace saw shadows on people that often foretold something bad about to happen. I think this was how the two characters became connected within the hospital – that ability to see something other, the openness to channels that most people are closed off to.


I rated this book 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book via the author in exchange for an honest review.

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