Looking Past by Katharine E. Smith


Looking Past by Katharine E. Smith

Looking Past

Looking Past

Sarah Marchley is eleven years old when her mother dies. Completely unprepared and suffering an acute sense of loss, she and her father continue quietly, trying to live by the well-intentioned advice of friends, hoping that time really is a great healer and that they will, eventually, move on.

Life changes very little until Sarah leaves for university and begins her first serious relationship. Along with her new boyfriend comes his mother, the indomitable Hazel Poole. Despite some misgivings, Sarah finds herself drawn into the matriarchal Poole family and discovers that gaining a mother figure in her life brings mixed blessings.

Looking Past is a tale of family, friendship, love, life and death – not necessarily in that order.

About the author

This is the second novel from Katharine E. Smith, author of Writing the Town Read. The narrator’s voice is clear and strong, with vivid descriptions and intelligent observations. Readers will quickly empathise with Sarah, the sadness of whose circumstances is contrasted with a dry and sometimes subtle humour derived from situations and characters which help colour the book.

Smith’s readers have praised her honesty, realism, warmth and humour. Both Looking Past and Writing the Town Read – Katharine’s first novel – are written from a strong female first person perspective. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is chick lit – or indeed exclusively women’s fiction. Looking Past has received praise from a number of male readers, including an ex-US Marine. You don’t get much more macho than that! Nevertheless, this is a story guaranteed to strike a chord with mothers, daughters – and daughters-in-law – everywhere.

The dual settings of Yorkshire and Cornwall will interest people with strong links to those places but the characters and events hold universal appeal. This is a book for people who like people.

Katharine E. Smith lives in Shropshire in the UK, where she runs Heddon Publishing. She is married with two children. Looking Past is her second novel.


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By LadyJaguar on 30 Jan. 2015

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

This is the story of Sarah, wounded by her mother’s death when she was 11 years old. She has an awkward relationship with her father, and at university, meets a man she falls head over heels in love with. Very soon, she has a house, a husband who works all hours and a baby on the way. It seems perfect, but cracks soon begin to show.I don’t want to say too much more. Katharine Smith packs a lot into a book that is easy to read and not too weighty. Her observations on relationships are spot on, and her writing is as superb as it was on Writing The Town Read.

At it’s heart is a bright young woman for whom a lot has happened very quickly. Twenty-three years old, and she has a handsome, rich husband, a baby on the way and a charming cottage, but that is only on the surface. She is still struggling with the death of her mother, especially now she is pregnant herself, and her father is far away in Canada with his new love. Her only family is her overbearing mother-in-law, and her husband who seems too weak to stand up to his parents. As Sarah’s pregnancy wears on, she knows she should be happy and grateful but she isn’t, and she feels terrible about it.

As another reviewer said, this is a very honest story. It isn’t sugar-coated, although everyone does seem incredibly nice. The reality is that most people are nice, and flawed, and mean well, however clumsily they try to do it. Smith gets this across perfectly, and the result is a lovely book that every woman will get something out of. One to share with your mothers, sisters, nieces and friends, especially those who are expecting. It is a human story, a woman’s story, and one well worth reading.


Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

I picked up this book after discovering that the heroine is a young woman – an only child – who lost her mother to cancer at the age of 11. A friend of mine had just died, leaving a daughter of the same age, and a son a couple of years older, and I wanted to read something that would be thoughtful and ideally comforting without being a self-help or bereavement counselling book. I have an 11 year old daughter myself, my only child.Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down and read it in the space of a busy weekend, as I was immediately caught up in the plight of the gentle, unselfpitying, sensible and fair-minded heroine as she tried to make sense of her subsequent life. The portrayal of all the characters, including the widowed father (I’ve been widowed too), was realistic and thoughtful. I could easily picture myself in her footsteps as she went through school and university and into adulthood.

The book doesn’t preach or propose ways of coping – it simply provides a portrait of a girl handling what life deals her to the best of her ability, and finding her own route to peace and comfort, which is neither the cliched nor predictable. It doesn’t underestimate the need for strength of character required to endure bereavement, nor does it idealise the circumstances or the outcome, but it did for me at least provide a comforting feeling that the girl’s mother and the values and love that she instilled in her remain with her lifelong and give her strength. It also demonstrates that comfort

All in all, a touching and memorable book, and I’m looking forward to reading Katharine E Smith’s other novel. May there be many more!

A good book for anyone interested in the family dynamics in bereaved and blended families, and of anyone who loves St Ives, which features strongly towards the end of the novel.


Format: Paperback

Looking Past by Katharine E. Smith is her second novel. Smith runs Heddon Press a small independent publishing company that has put out several works of fiction and historical fiction. Looking Past past is advertised as a book that will strike a chord with mothers, daughters, and daughter in laws everywhere, and it seems that the author wished to raise that bar by placing a copy in the hands of a Marine.I read and review a wide range of books but generally stay away from books that fall into the romance or chick-lit category. Looking Past, I am happy to say, avoids both these categories and is a rather engaging fictional memoir. Sarah, the main character and narrator, tells the reader her life story. Although still young, Sarah has much to tell and her life seems to be fairly normal in matters of believability, but interesting nonetheless. We all have events that shape and mold our lives from a young age, and he event that is imprinted on Sarah is the loss of her mother when she was eleven years old. Although she enjoys a close relationship with her father, she does not have that female confidant and mentor she needed while growing up. As a result, Sarah grows to become somewhat socially awkward in high school.

In college, Sarah keeps to a small group of friends and after a rough start has her first serious boyfriend. This is where the real story is told. Sarah’s story is a story of relationships that form around her: Her boyfriend, his mother, her father, and her father’s first love interest since his wife’s death. This is where the book shines. The development and dynamics of the relationships create the interest in the story. I have found that many stories will use sex in one way or another to keep the reader interested, but here the “burning loins” are absent.

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