True Colours by Kristin Hannah

In brief: The Grey sisters have always been a team, until a stranger comes to Oyster Shores. Can the sisters forgive or forget, or will it take a lot more?

The good: There are hidden depths in this book that made the latter half speed by.

The not-so-good: Start is a little slow, I wasn’t too sure where it was going.

Why I chose it: I’ve always meant to read a Kristin Hannah book but never got there – thanks Pan Macmillan for helping me out.

Year: 2017 (originally published 2009)

Pages: 393

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Setting: Oyster Shores, Washington, USA

My rating: 9 out of 10

Kristin Hannah is one of the (too many) authors on my to-read pile. I have a copy of a couple of her books, but fate has always intervened to prevent me from getting the book off the shelf. I was determined for this not to be third time unlucky when I was offered True Colours to read and review. Now of course, I am annoyed at myself for not reading Kristin Hannah sooner! This novel combined family relationships, love, suspense and some crime into an unexpected, riveting read. I think 2017 is going to be my year of the ‘new to me and absolutely fantastic’ author.

Initially, I wasn’t sure where this novel was going to head. It opens with the aftermath of the death of the Grey girls’ mother and then moves forward into the early 1990s where the girls are grown up. Aurora married a nice but boring doctor, Winona became a lawyer and Vivi Ann continues to work on the family ranch, Water’s Edge. (That really threw me having a farm so close to the beach – I’m more used to farms being inland and the ocean being a day trip away). Vivi Ann rides horses in barrel races to try and earn money for the struggling farm, but she seems to be fighting a losing battle. I began to wonder at this point if the story would be all about horses (people who know me would know that I like my horsepower wrapped in an engine). Luckily, for me, it wasn’t. It’s not a spoiler to say that the ranch begins to see better times, although both Vivi Ann and Winona are struggling. Winona is desperate for her father’s approval, which Vivi Ann seems to receive casually. To top it off, Vivi Ann is now dating Winona’s high school crush. How can sisters be so lucky and unlucky?

Unfortunately this is only the start of the Grey girls’ troubles. Winona hires an outsider, Dallas, to work on the farm and Vivi Ann sees far more in him than the others, despite being engaged to someone else. But it’s going to be a long hard road to happiness for the girls, if it comes at all…

One of the major plot points is unexpected and carries strongly through the latter half of the book, so I won’t be discussing it here. I felt that this lifted the book from a nice story about sisters and their lives to a gripping read that takes the story outside of the small town. It was very well done emotionally, tugging at the heartstrings of the reader, yet I was never entirely sure who was guilty… The whole story is very well written, right down to the mentions of the 1990s fashion (hairspray, shoulder pads and the like). I quite enjoyed this, and it was nice to not have the characters connected to their phones for the entire novel. It forced them to talk things out or on the other side, go to extraordinary lengths to avoid each other.

Each of the sisters goes through her own personal turmoil in various degrees of detail in True Colours and it’s interesting to compare them. Winona feels left out for many reasons – she’s not married, she thinks she’s fat and ugly and her career away from the ranch makes her feel alone and estranged from the rest of the family. She tries to cover it by being superior, but it often flies back in her face. Vivi Ann knows she has the love of her family, but is determined to stay independent and go through with life choices others don’t agree with. Aurora is much more of a background character – she’s sweet and dependable but the big events of her life don’t get much page time compared with the demands of her sisters. I wondered sometimes when she would get her chance to shine away from holding up Vivi Ann emotionally and doing Winona’s make up!

Overall, I really enjoyed this introduction to Kristin Hannah’s work. She can plot exceptionally well and bring her characters into the reader’s heart easily. Next stop, my bookshelf for more!

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