Knitting is one of my favourite hobbies, and so is reading. "Knit lit" is a small sub-genre that has emerged in women's fiction after knitting had its last wave of popularity and celebrity endorsement. I thought this sounded great, as it combines two of my passions. The paper back version of this book costs RRP £6.99, but there are plenty of copies selling on the Amazon marketplace starting from just 1p plus postage + packing. It is also available in audio book format.
Description: "In Anne Bartlett's engaging novel, a chance meeting sparks a friendship between two very different women who share a fascination with knitting. Sandra, a rigid academic, struggles to navigate the world without her husband, whom she has recently lost to cancer. Martha - a self-taught textile artist with her own secret store of grief - spends her days knitting elaborate projects charged with personal meaning. As the two women collaborate on a new project, surprising events will help heal them both."
This story follows the characters of Sandra and Martha, who live strikingly different lifestyles but are drawn together after a chance encounter. There are a few other small characters featuring throughout the story, but there are really only part of the peripheral vision, as the main focus is always on Sandra and Martha. Sandra has been recently widowed and is struggling to cope with adjusting to her new life alone. She is an academic, and after meeting Martha is inspired to create a new project that will focus her energy on something and fill the empty hours without her husband. Sandra is a bit of a closed book and can come across as cold, especially in the way that she thinks about and speaks to others.
Martha is a breath of fresh air that adds a lot of life into the story. She is an odd character, and one that we would probably judge if we met someone like her in real life. She is almost infantile in some ways, as she has a carefree disregard for normal social rules and takes great pleasure even in simple things. Martha also brings the Knitting into the book. She is a skilled knitter and is always carefully crafting something with love and purpose.
I was intrigued by the characters and their apparent personality clash, and it was interesting to watch their relationship develop into an awkward friendship. There are many hints of real-life and I could feel myself identifying with Sandra in particular quite often. The story is told in a clever way and even though we are viewing things from Sandra or Martha's viewpoints, there are still some details held back and they each have their own secrets. There are some particularly moving scenes and without knowing it I had totally lost myself in this book. There are some shared anecdotes which touch a real nerve and manage to be deeply personal as I was able to associate this with experiences in my life and connect with the characters grief and sense of loss. It was a very emotional experience and I was moved to tears several times which is most unlike me. The feelings are put across clearly and communicated in a way that was both sad and beautiful.
There are several striking pieces that had strong imagery and really stood out to me. These turn into tiny references which are drawn upon and referred to later through the story, and you can see the connection between past and future, as well as between the two characters. This story had much more depth and meaning than I had expected it to. I was convinced that this would be a light hearted chick lit type book, but instead I was pleasantly surprised to find a story with a real heart that was not afraid to focus on the darker sides of our personality as well as the redeeming features.
For a book entitled Knitting, the knitting was actually not that important. It was more about the symbolic nature of knitting, and this provided many neat metaphors that were used to push the story along and connect people throughout the journey of this book. If you aren't a knitter then I think you could still easily read and enjoy this story without having to understand the technical references. If you are a knitter then I think you will find a deeper meaning which will resonate within your personal feelings about knitting, and it was a joy to read such a beautiful story that was connected with knitting in this way. It certainly makes you stop and think about the value of knitting and what it means beyond the practical use of a garment.
As much as I enjoyed this book, there was one minor down point. I am a strongly opinionated atheist, and the book was written by the wife of a pastor. Of course, this makes an impact to the book as there are many scenes that take place in church and religion is referred to throughout. This did niggle a bit as I find it impossible to enjoy anything preachy, but it wasn't overly pushy and came across as having a warmth to it rather than trying to force religious meaning into every chapter.
The book is set out with clear chapter headings that show the months passing by. This re-enforces the idea of time passing and shows how the characters and their lives are developing as the story moves along. There are some extra sections at the back of the book detailing the author's background, discussion notes for book club meetings, and an insightful interview with the author.
This book surpassed my expectations and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I was truly drawn into this fictional world. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading an emotional story about grief and friendship. It is not necessary to know lots about knitting, as this is a factor in driving the plot but not the main focus of the book. I feel like I gained something from reading this book and that is not something I usually feels about fictional writings, as I normally just read for light entertainment. This book is full of heart and I was really moved by it.