Item description for The Tree with no Branches by Ella Race...
After witnessing a dramatic event, nine-year-old Leila is sent away on holiday by her parents to stay with her aunt and uncle in the North of England. As this holiday becomes an annual occurrence throughout her teenage years, she discovers a branch of her family whose triumphs and tragedies are not as ordinary as they appear.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.87" Width: 4.96" Height: 0.63" Weight: 0.53 lbs.
Release Date May 1, 2007
Publisher Grosvenor House Publishing Limited
ISBN 1906210047 ISBN13 9781906210045
Reviews - What do customers think about The Tree with no Branches?
Married, without children Jan 22, 2008
Setting: The South of England and the North of England Period: From 1960's and onward Main character: Leila Denver (aged nine when the story begins)
Short Attention Span Summary (SASS): 1. Leila lives a simple life with her parents, Amy & Robert, in the South of England 2. One day she makes a gruesome discovery, and her parents send her for a change of scenery to visit her mother's sister Dotty and Dotty's husband Fred 3. As you will have guessed, they live in the North of England 4. Leila continues to visit her aunt & uncle every year. 5. She meets lots of relatives and friends of her aunt & uncle 6. Like her aunt, they're all a bit dotty 7. The importance of family is proven conclusively
The main theme of this well written novel is the perpetuation of family and the continuity of lineage, and the way this affects branches of the tree that have no offspring to carry on the name. The characterization is wonderful, and the settings are described in vivid detail.
The only minor problem is that some parts are a bit hard to follow, especially as there are more than thirty five characters, including three imaginary ones and a briefly mentioned rascal known as the Knicker nicker. To keep them all straight I had to make a few notes (but then you all know I have a short attention span)
As a guide, here are the main characters:
Leila Denver (whom I've mentioned before) Amy & Robert Denver (Leila's parents) Dotty & Fred (Leila's aunt & uncle, Dotty being Amy's sister) Harriet & Albert Cambridge (Fred's parents) "Grandfather" (Dotty's father) Alice (Fred's secretary) Aunt Betsy (Fred's aunt) Daisy Morgan & Ned (couple from the South who are childless, but not for the want of trying)
Other than that, those with a knack for names will enjoy this little book with deep roots and many branches.
Amanda Richards, January 21, 2008
The Ravages of Longing for Posterity Dec 14, 2007
THE TREE WITH NO BRANCHES of the title of Ella Race's fine little novel refers to the Family Tree, the concept of the known origins of a family being the trunk and the various children born to the initial couple forming the first branches which then spread out as each family child continues the growth of the tree. But what, Race asks, of the childless members of the family? Does their fruitless branch mean the end of their influence/existence when they die? The manner in which Race poses this age-old conundrum forms the basis of her deftly woven tale of life in England in the 1960s.
Leila, a child of a poor couple, serves as the main character. She is from a family with traditions and history despite the fact they are without means. Leila is sent to Northern England stay with her mother's more monetarily fortunate sister - Aunt Dotty and her solicitor husband Fred. In their more gracious home Leila becomes used to the better things in life, yet there is one aspect of the home that is missing: Dotty and Fred are childless, a situation that grows into a schism in their relationship, each blaming the other for the barren marriage. Leila's visits over time witness Dotty's obsession with having children, Fred's desperate need for a family, the dissolution of the household, the eventual divorce, and the consequences that befall both Dotty and Fred. Dotty becomes an alcoholic bitter woman who feels that no one will tend her grave once she passes. Leila grows up watching the differences between her parents 'branches' and the 'branchless' dead-end lives of her Aunt and Uncle and in her observations finds a life of her own that reflects and appreciates the spectrum of life's trials, be they monetary or emotional.
Ella Race may be a new novelist but her style is well developed: she is facile with writing observations of nature and with creating credible characters. Time passes in this novel and some of the sequences are memory and some are actively happening: there are times when Race fails to makes this clear and the story tends to meander into paths that are not additive. But her gift with words is so exceptional that these minor flaws are barely noticeable. There is significant evidence in this first novel that Ella Race is an author from whom we will be receiving more works! Grady Harp, December 07
Keeping up appearances... Nov 21, 2007
After reading the first chapter of Ms. Race's first novel on her web site, the prose and tone of the book somehow reminded me of one of my favourite authors, Daphne du Maurier, well written descriptive prose from another time, possibly the early 20th century. Daphne du Maurier wrote some excellent tales, describing in detail the surface observations yet the reader knows something perhaps disastrous bubbles under the surface. This first novel has the potential to reach the heights of a du Maurier, but never actually gets there...
Race is good at her descriptions from the little girl, Leila's, point of view: at times it felt like I was reading a diary of a young girl's observations about all "grown-ups" odd behaviour.
Most of the chapters are written like little vignettes of the author's memory from child hood. The story is not linear by any means, focusing on particular events concerning Leila's visits to her Aunt Dotty and Uncle Fred's home and their rise to middle-class respectability.
One could propose that the novel is a representation (certainly not a satire) of English parochial middle-class values, attempting desperately to keep up appearances. Certainly Aunt Dotty is obsessed with appearances and moving up the social hierarchy; which, by the way, in the end, is her undoing.
The readership audience for this type of novel would be older women, perhaps fifty plus, certainly English, who can remember how it was to live back then...who, after reading the novel, would realize how some "norms" have changed but certain sectors of society continue to look down on those whose normative sensibilities are perceived as something lowly or inappropriate.
That said, however, I did feel compassion for Aunt Dotty and the end of the tale. This shows that Ms. Race has talent and should continue her art form because there's something in her that is great... just bubbling under the surface.
Three & half stars.
Sadness in everyday life, when you seem to have it all.... Nov 7, 2007
This is a quietly well written book, with characters that are interesting and well developed. It follows the annual visit of a young girl named Leila, who visits wealthier relatives in the north of the country once a year, and who observes what is essentially the long and painful deterioration of their childless marriage.
It is this sad topic that makes me give the book 4 stars instead of 5; as I have said it is certainly well written, but the subject matter is just plain sad - perhaps too realistic for my more pedestrian tastes. It is certainly an accurate picture of life in England in the 1960s and 70s, and in its own way enjoyable for that.
So, very well written and engaging - it certainly kept me turning the pages; but be aware that it is a study of the long slow deterioration of a marriage, and the realisation that there was never much love to begin with. It is very sad.
A GREAT READ AND A REMARKABLE BIT OF WRITING! IMPRESSIVE! Nov 3, 2007
What a wonderful bit of descriptive writing this novel offers us. Actually, the descriptive writing in this work is some of the best I have read over the past five years or so. This author can write! More about the author's writing ability later. I am not big on plot summaries in my reviews, so will not dwell on that aspect of this work all that much in this particular review.. Karen Potts has given a very fine plot summation in her review at this location...please reference that review, she has done a nice job with it.
This work is about choices. Some of the choices we make for ourselves, others are made for us. When a choice is made, more often than not, we are stuck with the consequences. The author has brought this home quite powerfully in this story of one small family and the choices various members of this family have made. This is not what I would call a "happy book," far from it. Somber and rather sad is a much better description, although, as has been pointed out, there is a dry and acute sort of humor brought to the story through the eyes of the little girl, Leila, and her general observation of life and family dynamics.
As I have noted, the author's observations of both the physical world, in her story, and the people that live in that world are beautifully done. You can actually feel the physical location the author places us, and you feel you actually know the characters quite well by the time the book is finished. I am a slow, methodical reader and am so by choice. I find a sentence or page or paragraph that I like and I read it over and over again, just to savor and enjoy the style and the pattern of words. With this book, I had many such lines to read over and over again, to ponder and to taste, and I loved every one of them. This is truly a talented writer, and those who wish to become writers would certainly be well advised to give this one a read, as this is how it should be done! The author also has an amazing ability to stay true to her characters (something quite often lacking in modern fiction at this time). She establishes each of her characters when they are first introduced to the story, and they stay true to their characteristics throughout the book. They are not necessarily predictable, but they are true.
The book is quite aptly titled. All of us have little dramas going on in our lives. All of us have friends that we might well spot in Ms. Race's story. All of us make choices and have made choices, and for the most part, are stuck with what comes after. This work is a slice of life and should be enjoyed and appreciated as such. I do hope, and certainly feel we will be hearing more from this author in the future. I will be very much looking forward to future works. Recommend this one highly. Thank you Ms. Race for a great reading experience!