Set between the 1950s and the beginning of the 21st Century, "A Time to Tell" is the poignant story of Cara, from her dramatic attempted suicide to her roles as a smitten eighteen-year-old, wife, widow and grandmother, and her final, passionate reunion with the man she has always loved. It is also the parallel tale of Cara's prodigal son Benjamin and his daughter Penelope, whose unhappy relationship with her father has led her into marriage with a man whose own dysfunctional family have turned him into a person who at first seems strangely attractive, but turns out to have a dark and terrifying side...Rich in colourful characters and pertinent social themes, "A Time to Tell" is an eventful and often disturbing tale of the pain and pleasures of family relationships.
Maria gives an overview of the book:
Cara stared out of her bedroom window, through the net curtains. She had a good view of the avenue from where she sat in her bed, her pillow propped up behind her.
She watched as the young mother with the little green car struggled to get her two children to behave themselves long enough for her to put them into the car. Her son, who looked to be about five or six years old, was wearing a smart grey school uniform and stripey green and blue tie. He was pulling his younger sister's hair. The two children looked almost identical with their coffee-coloured hair, and they seemed to be miniature versions of their mother.
Cara felt as if she knew this woman and her children. They did not know her, they had never met. But for the past few months the young woman had parked her car across the road and had always brought the children back here after school. Some days they were well behaved, other days they were not. Cara had witnessed it all from her view out of the bedroom window.
Her thoughts turned to her granddaughter, Penelope. She would be home soon, bringing the boys back from school. She usually arrived home about five minutes after the little green car had driven away.
Most days were the same for Cara now. Sometimes she felt so lonely sitting up in bed in that room for hours on end. The world outside the window was something she hardly felt a part of. She would follow the daily rituals of the people in the avenue. Some she recognized, like the neighbours, or regular visitors to the avenue, like the young mother in the little green car; others she did not. They were all unaware that she was watching them.
For five years now, she had stared out of this window. She was bedridden, due to illness, she had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis over thirty years earlier; suffering from dizzy spells and pins and needles in her hands at the time. The doctors had told her there was no cure for the condition and that it would probably get progressively worse. Her only symptoms over the next twenty years were that she suffered from a slight limp and people often commented that she looked drunk as her walking was unsteady at times. But she had never been the sort of person to dwell on an illness and had led a more or less normal life.
It was only really in the last ten years as she had become older and weaker that her mobility had reduced gradually. She had put it down to the worry over her son's disappearance and her husband's death. These stresses had taken their toll, she was sure, leaving her open to the progression of her illness. Her granddaughter, Penelope, had taken her in when Cara could no longer look after herself, and she had been grateful at the time, but now she often wished that she could leave this place.
Cara dearly loved her granddaughter, but she could not bear to hear the constant fights. Almost as soon as Penelope's husband David walked through the door after work, the shouting would begin. She would often hear things being thrown about downstairs, and the sounds of furniture and crockery breaking. Penelope never talked about it, and Cara wondered whether Penelope had perhaps convinced herself that her grandmother could not hear what was going on in the rest of the house, from her room upstairs.
Penelope had been seventeen years old when she'd married David Truman. They were like any other young couple, happy to be in love, or so it had seemed to Cara. She had felt so proud of her eldest granddaughter, and had gladly given her the dress she had worn when she married Billy. She could still picture Penelope wearing the white wedding gown: she had looked so beautiful and her eyes had been full of love for David. Recently, however, Cara's perfect memories of that day had become tainted.
She had got into the routine of switching on her portable television at the time when David came home each evening, using the remote control to turn the volume up to smother the sounds coming from the room below. That way, she could convince herself that there was nothing wrong. She wished she could do more to help Penelope, but she did not want to seem nosy.
On one occasion, two years ago, when she had been truly worried after hearing loud banging noises downstairs the night before, she had tried to broach the subject.
'Is everything all right between you and David, dear?' she had asked when Penelope brought her breakfast tray the following morning.
Penelope looked at her. 'Why do you ask, Nan?' she said, seeming offended by the question.
'I heard a noise last night... that's all.'
'A noise?' Penelope shrugged as if confused. 'Maybe it was the children, they're always getting up to mischief.' She turned to leave the room.
Cara felt unsatisfied with the response. Penelope did not look happy, but it was more than that; she had once been so proud of her appearance but now seemed to wear dull, frumpy clothes that would have been more suited to a much older woman. The brown sweater she was wearing today was tatty, and her grey skirt was one she had worn almost constantly for the past few months, alternating between that and a pair of jeans that had seen better days. She never seemed to wear make-up now and although her hair was starting to go grey, she did not colour it.
'Penny, if you ever need to talk, you know I'm here.'
'Nan, everything's fine. I'd tell you if it wasn't.'
'But I hear him shouting sometimes...'
'David and I are very happy. He has a bit of a temper. He works hard and he likes to let off steam when he gets home, that's all.' She did not look Cara in the eyes as she spoke, but as she turned to leave she looked back at her grandmother. 'I'd rather you let me make my own decisions in my marriage. If I need your advice, I'll ask for it.'
Cara resolved to let matters lie. Penelope's two sons, Carl, eight, and Andrew, six, did not seem disturbed or affected by any of their parents' arguments. She felt comforted by this. Surely, if anything was really going wrong between Penelope and David, the children would show signs of distress?
Sometimes, when she was feeling low, Cara imagined that perhaps Penelope and David's marriage had been all right before she had moved in. Was she in the way? She could not understand why they would have offered to look after her, knowing there would be such fights and quarrels, and that she would hear them.
One morning, a few months back, when she had been feeling like this, she had tried to talk to Penelope about it, without mentioning her concerns about the arguments she had heard.
'Are you sure this house is big enough for me to stay here with you, dear? The boys are growing up so fast and soon they'll need their own bedrooms.'
She had seen something in Penelope's eyes then. Was it fear? She could not be sure.
'I love having you here, Nan,' Penelope had said, sitting on Cara's bed and taking her hand. 'Promise me, you'll stay with us forever.' Her eyes seemed to be pleading. It was then that Cara began to feel that perhaps Penelope needed her to stay.
The only thing she was sure about was that if she had a choice, she would leave. If she were far away from here, she could pretend that David and Penelope were happy. She had often wondered whether she should ask one of her children, Catherine or James, if she could move in with them. But how could she? She did not want to upset Penelope, and she was not sure whether any of her children would have room for her, or even be able to make time to look after her.
There seemed to be no solution to the dilemma. She continued to stare out of the window, as if looking for an answer in the street below.
This is my latest novel. 'A Time to Tell' is a romantic drama/family saga which spans 50 years and three generations of the same family. It is the tale of Cara, an elderly woman who has regrets about secrets she has kept from her family. As the novel progresses, we see how these secrets may have affected the lives of her loved ones, and she reaches a point in her life when she feels that she must reveal all, even though it is the last thing she wants to do. It is also a story about Cara's granddaughter Penelope who is the victim of domestic violence, will she be able to escape her marriage before it is too late? There is also a love story theme running through the novel as Cara is about to be reunited with her first love, a man she has not seen for 50 years; a man she has never forgotten. It has received great reviews and has been compared to such diverse works as 'The Thorn Birds', 'A Yellow Raft in Blue Water', 'East of Eden' and 'A Child Called It' and the writing style has been compared to Maeve Binchy and the Brontes.
Born in London UK, in 1970. Maria is a lawyer and the author of four novels: 'Coincidences' 2001, the dramatic story of a young girl looking for her father who left the family home when she was only 2 years old; 'A Time to Tell' 2006, a family saga/romantic drama following...