Review: How It Was by Janet Ellis

Title: How it Was

Author: Janet Ellis

Pages: 427 Pages

Publisher: John Murray Press/Two Roads

The Blurb

Marion Deacon sits by the hospital bed of her dying husband, Michael. Outwardly she is, as she says, an unremarkable old woman. She has long concealed her history – and her feelings – from the casual observer. But as she sits by Michael’s bed, she’s haunted by memories from almost forty years ago…

Marion Deacon is a wife and mother, and not particularly good at being either. It’s the 1970s and in her small village the Swinging 60s, the wave of feminism, the prospect of an exciting life, have all swerved past her. Reading her teenage daughter’s diary, it seems that Sarah is on the threshold of getting everything her mother Marion was denied, and Marion cannot bear it – what she does next has terrible and heart-breaking consequences for the whole family.

The Review

After finishing How It Was by Janet Ellis I was left feeling conflicted. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling and then it hit me. I was unsatisfied. Not by the novel, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading How It Was but Janet Ellis has brilliantly managed to make her reader feel the same sense of ennui that her protagonist feels.

Ellis perfectly balances displaying the humdrum but also making you feel the desire that Marion Deacon feels for a different life. The novels languorous pace highlights the stifled feelings of our protagonist who takes any kind of excitement where she can and her lack of appreciation for the things that she has.

How It Was isn’t a frenetic novel.  You keep pace with the mundane existence of the characters everyday lives which allows you to feel things as they happen. It is a novel that shows the consequences of wanting for more or thinking that the grass is always greener. It is almost a warning of be careful what you wish for.

How it Was by Janet Ellis is available now.

For more information regarding Janet Ellis (@missjanetellis) please visit

For more information regarding John Murray Press (@johnmurrays) please visit

For more information regarding Two Roads (@TwoRoadsBooks) please visit

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