It comes as no surprise, reading the opening paragraphs of Motherland, to discover that William Nicholson is an award-winning screenwriter, with movies such as Shadowlands and Gladiator to his credit. The novel introduces its characters with filmic economy: Alice Dickinson, a young English woman, is on her way to France to visit her grandmother who, until 10 days before, knew nothing of her existence. She has also just ended an unsatisfactory love affair. Herself an accidental conception, Alice comes, her father tells her, “from a long line of mistakes”. It is left to her grandmother to tell her the family’s “one true love story”.

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