The Weight of Small Things

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Pub Date 28 May 2020 | Archive Date 28 May 2020

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Nine-year-old Frankie Appleton likes to count gates.

One day she hopes to design the perfect gate - a gate to keep the bad things out.

Little does she know that the bad things have already got in.

Now her mother is dead, and the only other person with a house key has disappeared.

Frankie thinks she knows who it is. But first she has to prove it.

A delicately brutal exploration of what lies behind closed doors, and of the secrets and lies that form the fabric of every family, The Weight of Small Things is as charming as it is chilling.

Nine-year-old Frankie Appleton likes to count gates.

One day she hopes to design the perfect gate - a gate to keep the bad things out.

Little does she know that the bad things have already got in.


Advance Praise

"This is a beautifully written book with a charming, young narrator combined with a surprisingly dark and unusual whodunnit. It's a touching, powerful and twisty read, which is packed with intrigue. Will appeal to fans of Joanna Cannon's The Trouble With Goats and Sheep."      


"This is a beautifully written book with a charming, young narrator combined with a surprisingly dark and unusual whodunnit. It's a touching, powerful and twisty read, which is packed with intrigue...

Marketing Plan

Major nationwide marketing and publicity campaign launching May 2020 and running through the autumn (reach 45 million)

Beautifully designed proofs, postcards, and point of sale available 

Major nationwide marketing and publicity campaign launching May 2020 and running through the autumn (reach 45 million)

Beautifully designed proofs, postcards, and point of sale available 

Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781913406189
PRICE £8.99 (GBP)

Available on NetGalley

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Average rating from 59 members

Featured Reviews

Well what can i say I wasn't expecting the book to have so much mystery in it. This love little girl is her own Miss Marple. Funny in places but enjoyed so much will definitely be reading more by this author

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This is a book to read with as little interuption as possible. It keeps going back and forward in time but it does make that clear. However,there are many characters,a number of whom have complex relationships with each other and remembering that is the key to getting maximum satisfaction from the story. It is a book of complicated relationships in dysfunctional families. There is marital infidelity,domestic abuse,neglect of children. All are exceedingly carefully handled. The star is nine year old Frankie,a girl despite her name. She is clearly enormously intelligent which is awkward in the circumstances she is growing up in. Her love of gates,her talent for drawing and her love of the camera her now carer,her grandmother,gives her is charmingly recounted. Her passion to avenge her mother's death is the underlying theme of the book. This book is hard to summarise because so much of what it depicts is upsetting but sadly real. Frankie is superbly well depicted. This book is different and well worth a try.

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The Weight of Small things by Julie Lancaster is something certainly something very different . 9 year-old Frankie Appleton finds her mother Peggy hanging in her bedroom on returning from a Birthday Party, she's convinced it's murder and thinks she knows who the culprit is, the Police and everyone else tells her that her Mum's death is suicide. That's the basis of a quite remarkable book that is very dark , often depressing, bleak, raw and yet uplifting as the innocent and positive Frankie obliviously moves through a world of secrets, hidden dangers and damaged people with a down to earth "can do" attitude.
The book begins with Frankie's discovery and alternates with Peggy's story from being orphaned until the timelines meet . Peggy's life is one long tragedy,from a string of unsuccessful adoptions to a life of disappointments lived more and more in a haze of drink , drugs and mental deterioration. Despite Frankie's less than stable upbringing , her Mother's derangement, the constant flow of strange men she sees leaving their house in the mornings being her "normal", she's one of the best balanced characters in the book. Nothing seems to faze Frankie for long,death,bullying ,false accusations,she bounces back from adversity and continues to indulge in her somewhat unusual hobby of Gates,counting them,designing them and comparing them. Just surviving life with Peggy and her sometimes psychotic behaviour is an achievement .
It seems in this book that all of the main adult characters are deeply flawed,from the obvious nasty piece of work Stan,Frankie's suspect, to those who seem like decent people but turn out to be the complete opposite. . It's quite a complex tale that could easily have been an unbelievable and hackneyed mess in lesser hands , a kind of literary Eastender's Christmas Special given the subjects it covers. Julie Lancaster however is a very special talent and she gets under the skin of her characters. The descriptions of Peggy's ongoing heartache and loneliness ,not least when she's finally had enough of a life of ongoing misery, in particular are masterly and very moving.
I did struggle with this book at the start,it seemed quite slow to take off but it evolves into an engrossing story with a clever plot that will surprise and shock most readers. The ending leaves scope for a sequel ,aside from the main plot there are a couple of other unresolved threads and a friendship Frankie appears to have that is skimmed over that is decidedly odd.
Frankie is a great character in a book with a lot of other great,if not always terribly pleasant , characters, don't think this is a saccharine sweet story because it' features a 9 year-old girl, all human life is here and much of it isn't pretty , one of the best books I've read this year.

Thanks to Julie Lancaster, Mirror Books and Netgalley for the ARC in return for an honest review.

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My thanks to NetGalley and publisher Mirror Books for the ARC.

I found this to be a rather unusual book; told between present and past, it's a story of how childhoods and their traumas bleed through into adult lives and relationships, and the family secrets kept behind closed doors. It starts apparently quite innocently from 9yr-old Frankie Appleton's point of view. She is obsessed with garden gates - she counts them, she studies them, she draws them and designs them; she reads all books by gate designers - gates tell you a lot about the people living behind them. Her obsession pushes her home life into the background. Her father died the day she was born and her mother has declined in ever-decreasing circles ever since. When her mother dies Frankie is determined to blame the latest man in her mother's (previous) life and find the evidence to prove it.
However, through the past stories of family, friends and acquaintances and how their lives have touched Frankie's', the narrative becomes progressively darker and chilling as secrets and lies are revealed from their points of view.
There is murder, accidents, infidelity and abuse. Not easy reading in some parts, but Frankie's point of view is focussed on her task in hand - straightforward, witty and humorous.

Unfortunately, after a devastatingly chilling build up in all the revelations, my only response to the ending was "OH"! .

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A brutally honest, frank and beautiful approach to domestic life, families and growing up, through a child's perspective. Not an easy read by any stretch, but a necessary one.

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The Weight of Small Things is a poignant and haunting murder mystery that gives the reader a realistic look into the struggles of mental health disorders and their numerous ramifications and consequences. Told mostly from the perspective of a nine-year-old girl, albeit an unusually mature child, the story is given a unique voice in an unexpected mystery style.

Peggy Moon Appleton is a mother and a sufferer from what appears to tragically be schizophrenia – hard to treat and hugely impactful on a person’s quality of life and those of people around them. Peggy’s life has consisted of one challenge after another, each one becoming harder and harder to overcome until eventually, they engulfed her, leaving her mentally broken with little hope of successful treatment. Struggling to raise a daughter on her own and finding herself in an abusive relationship after abusive relationship, it is easy to understand how motherhood was more challenging for her than to most.

I love the way that mental health disorders are handled in this story. The portrayal of the mother’s psychosis is handled genuinely and with deep respect and sensitivity. Imagining what must go through the mind of someone who has been struggling with schizophrenia most of her life is difficult even to contemplate much less do. Still, Lancaster writes about it in a truly educated and sympathetic manner.

Frankie Appleton is wise beyond her years. Seeing much that other people overlook, she manages to make the best of any situation – and there are many. A large part of the story is told from Frankie’s POV, and I love how genuinely it came across as a nine-year-old telling the story. Never once does the story feel like an adult trying to tell the story through the eyes of a child. Instead, it feels very much like a child telling her story with all the determination and grit that defines Frankie.

Frankie loves gates. She reads about them, studies them, draws them, and photographs them. The theme of gates is so telling in this story. Gateways protect while allowing you to see what’s coming. Peggy and Frankie needed protection throughout the entire novel. Frankie must long for protection from the men in her mom’s life to her mother’s mental health disorder. Not to mention protection from her mother’s murderer, and she is confident that her mother was murdered, being the keen observer that she is. She saw many things that the police overlooked.

Yes, it is a murder mystery, and I love the way the plot is set up – mostly a story about Frankie and Peggy’s lives interspersed with the relevant historical events of the cast of potential murderers. The story provides all the appropriate clues to figure out if Peggy took her own life or if one of the handfuls of people with motive did it. I partially figured out the who but not the why – even though looking back, I realized the clues were right there staring me in the face. This is not, in any way, your typical murder mystery, with the plot being carried by the thrills of the investigation. Instead, it is a harrowing tale that compels the pages to turn faster and faster just by the sheer intrigue of the life unfolding in its pages.

To Read or Not to Read
If you like dark, intense murder mysteries that focus more on the story of the lives of the people involved, then this is the tale for you.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Frankie Appleton is nine years old and likes to count gates. She hopes that she can design the perfect gate one day. One that will keep bad things out. But bad things have already got into Frankie's life. Her mother is dead.

This story is told through Frankie's point of view. Frankie wants to find out who murdered her mother, Peggy. Peggy had mental health issues and she was in an abusive relationship. I loved Peggy and Frankie, even though peggy struggled with every day life. The story is told through the past and present day. This is not an easy book to read but it's worth it. Frankie is one clever girl. I loved this murder mystery.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Mirror Books and the author Julie Lancaster for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I really enjoyed this story of nine year old Frankie. Though at times it was difficult to read, my heart ached for her. Told over three time zones, which at times I struggled with, it's a story of what goes on behind closed doors.
Thanks to NetGalley and the author for the opportunity to read this book.

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Welcome to the world of gate obsessed, Frankie Appleton. At 9 years old this young lady is wise beyond her years and has seen and noticed many things. Things she shouldn't? Things that others should have?

In this endearing tale, we follow life through Frankie's eyes as she strives to uncover who murdered her poor mum.

Woven into the story is a deeper look into domestic relationships and the things people do, and don't, share in a bid to protect those they love.

Julie Lancaster does a wonderful job of highlighting aspects of mental health within the story.

It is a delicate mix of the sensitivity and brutality of life.

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This is quite a challenging read centred around the wonderful character of nine year old Frankie who despite her tender age tried to fulfil the role of carer to her mother who was very evidently suffering from mental health issues. The book starts with Frankie returning from her best friends birthday party to find her mum hanging in her bedroom, Frankie does not believe she committed suicide and is convinced her mums abusive boyfriend Stan was responsible for her death.

The book is told in snapshots of Frankie's perspective of her life now and her mum’s perspective of life from Frankie’s birth to her own death along with a couple chapters featuring other characters. It is a very intertwined story that gradually shows how one thing can impact on another however the overall tone is quite negative and does include many bleak storylines. I really liked Frankie but struggled mostly with the lack of care she received even after her mothers death however she offers a wonderful viewpoint despite her much troubled world.

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I read this book about a week ago and I’ve been struggling to review it. It’s such a great book that no matter what I say won’t give it the credit it deserves.

Frankie is a strong likeable nine year old girl. We get told most of the story from her point of view. Her story isn’t an easy read but a story that needs to be told sadly.

From the way the story is written to the storyline and characters the author had my attention from start to finish. I can usually inhale a book in one sitting but I didn’t with this one. Maybe it’s the topics included or I just wanted to savour the words. Great praise to the author on bringing certain topics to the forefront. I’ll certainly be recommending this story to my reader friends.

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This book is the debut novel by Julie Lancaster.
It follows the story of 9 year old Frankie who is trying to work her way through her abusive life. I found it quite a confusing read trying to keep track of lots of different character. but once i settled into the style i found it a great read . albeit a challenging one.

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Frankie Appleton hasn’t had the easiest of lives, but she has pluck and determination to be the best that she can be. She is nine years old but has honestly lived the life of someone much older. She is witness to her mother Peggy’s addiction to both alcohol and illegal substances, she has also watched as her mother has been slowly emotionally destroyed by a brutal domestic partner, which has meant that her mother has been less than stellar as a mother, never protecting, much less promoting her daughters well being. But scratch the surface of Peggy and one finds a wounded soul that was never given a chance to thrive herself, suffering grievous sins against her own body and spirit that would cripple her emotionally, seemingly forever, making for a flawed but understandable character. And woven through the two storylines are a myriad of other characters that seem trivial or unimportant until all the threads come together at the end.

This novel is a history twisting mystery that covers several storylines over several periods that twist and turn much like a plait/braid. This is not a book that one can read in fits and starts unless one wants to be thoroughly confused, rather it requires careful, thoughtful reading to keep each storyline clearly delineated in the mind so as to make sense of the story as it unravels. The lives of people around Frankie impact her time and time again, only it isn’t revealed until the very end of the story, making it shocking and terrifying at the same time.

This novel is clever, dark and painful, absorbing and deeply heartening all at once. It plays its cards close to its chest, never making anything obvious, always leaving the reader wondering how the story will come to a satisfying conclusion. The characters are deeply flawed and at times are so mired in pain and suffering that they either create deep sympathy or potentially hatred in the reader. This story is heartbreakingly sad, and the twists at the end sting. Beautifully written there are passages that feel poetic in style, with such stunning imagery such as the sun being an unpeeled orange or when her mother is described as trying to capture all her thoughts as they fell out of her head and scattered onto the floor. The book is charming, poignant and gripping, this book explores the hardships people often face alone, unable to find the help they so desperately need. This is not a true mystery as such. It is the exploration and magnification of personal foibles, hidden strengths and courage to deal with challenges.

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The Weight of Small Things is an unique book - different to what I’ve read before, and different to what I expected. It covers tough topics that you might not want to think about, which made this book even more powerful.

The story is told through the eyes of 9-year-old Frankie who wants to find out who murdered her mother. It reminded me how it’s never easy to look into the dark corners of your life and how everything isn’t always what it seems. I hope it reminds others how different things can be behind closed doors, and to be kinder to others.

The characters were deep, meaningful and easy to connect with. It’s natural to think they lead their own lives outside the book.

It could get quite confusing with all the twists and turns and the multiple timelines. It was sometimes hard to keep up and remember who was who but it didn’t take away too much from the enjoyment of the book.

Overall, a dark but powerful and absorbing read and one I’ll recommended to all.

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A fantastic find!

This book was excellent. I don't read a lot of fiction-mostly memoirs; true stories. But I loved this. It's told from different characters' own points of view, and well observed and detailed, so it often feels realistic and really gets you engrossed in their story.

The book starts with seemingly trivial things; quirks. And becomes much more. The small, everyday things can escalate to bigger things. The book quickly hooked me in, got me asking lots of questions, and reading on to find out more.

Some of these thoughts 9 year old Frankie voices to the reader seem almost comical. Yet I was feeling, should I be smiling at this she's said, given the darker side to the book? But this did provide a great balance. Sad, dark. But also some funny things some of the characters say. An entertaining and different read. A great book which keeps you questioning and guessing.

This book reminds me of 'Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine'. Not in any happenings-just the gradual unfolding of events. Some dark times. The characters' thoughts. And that it was an unknown quantity. Then you read it and think: That is a gem!

First glance at blurb: Young Frankie obsessed with You could go straight past this wonderful book and never know how fantastic it is. There are so many things going on. And believable, real life issues the characters go through. Unexpectedly, there is a crime to puzzle out in the midst of all this. It was just so well crafted. Could it be this year's book find that everyone will be talking about? I think it could.

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Frankie is a solid, brilliant 9 year old character with a horrible story to tell. It’s not an easy read but definitely an important story to tell.
For a debut novel this is excellent! Great characterisation, well written and hard hitting.

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The Weight of small things is a book based on nine year old Frankie and her life. When her mother dies and the only other person with the key to her house disappears she is in some ways transported into reality. There are so many twists and turns in the book along with a crime it will keep you gripped.

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This is more than the story of young Frankie. It's also the story of her mother Peggy, who you know from the start is dead, and her grandmother. The lives of these two adult women are fraught with violence and troubles and, as a consequence, Frankie has a regrettably sad outlook on life. This is more than a mystery as well- it's the story of three generations all coping- or not coping-with some of the worst life can bring to women and girls. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Well written, tough to read in spots, but worth your time.

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I would like to thank Netgalley and Mirror Books for an advance copy of The Weight of Small Things, a stand-alone set somewhere in England.

When nine year old Frankie’s mother, Peggy dies she is sent to live with her grandmother. Unsettled by new surroundings she seeks to make sense of her mother’s death and their shared past.

I was invited to read this title which I don’t think I would have chosen otherwise as it is fairly far outside my comfort zone of crime fiction. Nevertheless I enjoyed the extremely mature Frankie’s take on life. The novel is told by Frankie in the present, which is 1988, but slips into the past for key events. There are various narrators for these events whose significance only becomes apparent later in the novel but mostly it is Peggy and Frankie separately picking over their dysfunctional relationship.

As I said my main interest is crime fiction where everything eventually leads to a finite solution and I’m disappointed when it doesn’t, so I’m not used to the examination of events and reactions for the sake of it. I found myself wondering more than once what the point was and yet I couldn’t help but be beguiled by the artless (Frankie) and self justifying (Peggy) explanations of events. It gets steadily darker as the novel progresses and deep secrets are revealed, many of them surprising.

Frankie is nine in the novel but just the descriptions of her school life never mind her maturity would suggest that she is closer to twelve. It is a jarring note, why not adjust her age to her reality? Her fixation on gates is initially quirky but soon it becomes obvious that it is a coping mechanism. It’s clever and inventive. Peggy is a monster but the reasons for it are documented and explained, not that it endears her to the reader. The oblique descriptions of her behaviour leave the reader to read between the lines.

The Weight of Small Things has quite an artless, almost naïve tone that hides a multitude of sins, emotions and secrets. I found it compulsive in parts, less convincing in some of the revealed secrets and it just seems to stop at the end. I think it is a good read.

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The Weight of Small Things is an accomplished debut novel by Julie Lancaster.
Frankie, the books main narrator, is only nine years old, and yet she has seen more in her short life than any person should have seen. Her mother Peggy, who is the second narrator, is very damaged, addicted to alcohol and drugs, attention seeking and not a suitable mother for Frankie.
There are several other narrators, working on different timelines, and at first it is not apparent how their stories link into those of Frankie and Peggy’s. As the story develops all soon becomes very clear.
The book deals with dark themes but Frankie’s resilience and determination shines through and there are many light and humorous moments.
A great original and unique debut novel.
Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for a Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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