All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry
I’ve just finished reading All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry. I may not have read this in one sitting but it was riveting enough that I read it in less than 24 hours. This is such an intensely riveting book that I quite literally want to pick it up again right now and start again from the beginning, take my time to savour it properly without the headlong rush to find out what’s actually happening. If I was at the stage of the year when I was making ‘best of’ lists this book would be on it. In fact I doubt I can do this book justice to be honest as it totally held me spellbound. I loved it. I hope if you read this review you’ll give it a go!
The basic story is set around the disappearance of two young girls from a village in historical New England. (I’m not sure exactly when as it isn’t made clear – Puritan times, put me in mind a bit of the way of life in Witch Child or the Heretic’s Daughter). The main character, Judith, and her friend Lottie mysteriously disappear. Lottie’s unfortunate body is found dead in the stream and Judith returns approximately two years later – with her tongue cut out. There’s little sympathy for her however. Her mother, still grieving over the loss of her husband blames Judith for his demise. Believing Judith to be tainted and ashamed of the way in which she has returns she forbids her to try and speak and the rest of the village eventually come to think of Judith as not only mute but dumb. They have no time for her and it’s almost as if what happened to her reflects on them somehow. They all hate what happened to their little village and yet they have no sympathy for the surviving victim.
The one, the only, remaining light in Judith’s light that makes her friendless and hardworking days bearable is the boy she has loved for as long as she can remember. Lucas. Unfortunately it was Lucas’s father (the Colonel) who is believed to be responsible for the death of one girl and the captivity and mutilation of the other when he ran away from the village, distraught and driven half mad by the betrayal of his wife. That doesn’t really bode very well for a happily ever after for the two. Judith spends her time mooning over Lucas. Remembering better days and, well, basically following him around and spying on him a bit (stalkerish at all!)
Anyway, as though times weren’t harsh enough, war is coming to the small town of Roswell Station and desperate times call for desperate measures. In order to protect the village Judith takes action that sets a whole can of worms on it’s head and brings the story to a really compelling climax.
Sometimes jumping back and forth between timelines the story is almost told as though Judith were writing a memoir of events. Using lots of ‘you’ and ‘your’. Actually, as though she’s writing to Lucas. The writing is simple and yet totally effective. The result is an easily conjured place with characters that spring to life off the page. I really felt for Judith. In fact I really liked her, and Lucas. It’s amazing how the author manages to achieve so much and yet with such a relatively simple style of writing. Skillfully done.
On top of this JB manages to provoke such strong emotions. From the first page I was gripped. There’s a mystery here and certainly one that I couldn’t fathom, although there are hints along the way. Then you almost feel a bit, well actually a lot, of outrage for the way Judith is treated. And she puts up with such a lot, she works really hard, as did most people in these times, and yet she’s constantly judged and found wanting – I wanted to shake her and slap everyone else all at the same time. Friendless and loveless you can’t help feeling sad for her, not to mention outrage at the actions of some of the other characters. And, and this is no small achievement, I actually came incredibly close to losing my control and shedding a tear – the last few pages were blurry! That’s all I’m saying. Now, don’t judge me.
But, let me not paint too unhappy a picture here. This isn’t a depressing book – not at all. It’s compelling and you simply have to find out what really happened to Judith. There are moments of simple pleasure and there are times when you’re practically on pins hoping that nothing bad will happen.
Did I have any criticisms. No. I guess some people might not like this writing style. It’s not used very often and I would struggle to give an example of another book that uses this (although I’m sure that as soon as this is posted my memory bulb will ping on!). I didn’t have any such problems. And, there is the harshness and brutality of the times depicted – but that’s just history!
Anyway, I loved it. I absolutely, definitely without hesitation or shadow of doubt recommend you read it.