The Girl in the Maze

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Pub Date 28 Oct 2021 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2021

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Traversing three generations of women torn apart by family trauma, The Girl in the Maze explores the complex relationship and challenges involved in both mothering and being mothered.

‘I would caution you against delving into the past. The past is often best left exactly where it is.’

Emma Bowen has never had a close relationship with her mother, barely speaking with her in the last years of her life. But after her mother’s death, Emma finds something that might just explain the distance between them.

Discovering letters between her mother and grandmother, it seems to Emma that her mother has always been difficult.

As she searches for answers about her own childhood, Emma is drawn into the mystery of her mother’s enigmatic life. The more she finds, the more lost she feels, but Emma is determined to uncover her mother’s past, and the secrets held within it, whatever the cost.

An enthralling story of three women, generations apart, linked by one terrible tragedy.

*Go to notes to see trigger warnings*

Traversing three generations of women torn apart by family trauma, The Girl in the Maze explores the complex relationship and challenges involved in both mothering and being mothered.

‘I would caution...

A Note From the Publisher

If you loved The Girl in the Maze, we'd love you to leave a review on any platform where you purchase or review books. Thanks for reading!

TRIGGER WARNINGS: abortion, sexual abuse, rape, miscarriage

If you loved The Girl in the Maze, we'd love you to leave a review on any platform where you purchase or review books. Thanks for reading!

TRIGGER WARNINGS: abortion, sexual abuse, rape...

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ISBN 9781913099947
PRICE £5.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 77 members

Featured Reviews

There is a lot of books out there currently about mothers,and it's no surprise.
It's a complicated relationship between mother and child.
As Emma clears out her mother's property after her death,she discovers things that she never knew.
I got completely pulled in by this one,the strained relationships,and current family dynamics and all.
A very enjoyable read

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With grateful thanks to netgalley for an early copy in return for an honest opinion.
Quite a spectacular book in many ways a very delicate subject and each of us has our own interpretation, I found this book extremely harrowing to read not a subject I would normally read about.
A very good book which has been well thought out and exacuted extremely well.

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Cathy Hayward’s “The Girl in the Maze” is an absolutely stirring debut novel. It can be a challenge for writers to accurately convey the complexity of each character’s emotions, especially when the character is not present in the scene, but Hayward has mastered the art of doing so. There are so many layers to the women and young girls in “The Girl in the Maze” but each layer stays loyal to the other. Layers become torn and taped half haphazardly back together, but when the time for questions comes, it is often too late.

This book was absolutely phenomenal and I wish the whole world could read it.

I want to thank netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an advanced copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

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The Girl in the Maze is a masterfully written tale of four generations of mothers. I found it hitting close to home many times as the story created these haunting spiderwebs between the motherhood, the roles women historically played in motherhood, societal expectations, and what we find ourselves searching for in a mother as daughters. It examines generational trauma and abuse, torn and strained attachments, and finds the beauty in healing the broken parts of oneself throughout the story. I found this to be an interesting and compelling novel that I would deeply recommend.

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4.5* Wow, The Girl in the Maze is hauntingly gut wrenching. It will stay with you long after you finish that last sentence. Powerful. Thought provoking. Intense. Heavy. Wonderful writing. I cant wait to read more by this author.

Thanks so much to NetGalley for the early opportunity to read this one.

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For her stunning debut novel, Cathy Hayward invites us to look into motherhood and the complexities of family relationships in her women fiction's The Girl in the Maze.

Emma Bowen was never close with her mother. But just after her death, she discovers letters that would explain her family's hidden truths and more. With an enigmatic and haunting multi-layered narrative, Hayward draws the touching stories of 3 generations of women: Betty, Margaret, and Emma.

Cathy Hayward's writing style is lyrical, sometimes promising, and sometimes brutal. She beautifully crafts the intricacies of each character and the many layers that compose this powerful story. The author explores delicate subjects such as sexual assaults, rape, miscarriages, abortions, death, and loss.

The Girl in the Maze rethinks the essence of motherhood and how we come over generational trauma. I was absorbed by this novel and could not put it down.

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The Girl in the Maze is a tale of three generations of a family, focusing primarily on the lives of the women: Betty, Margaret and Emma.
When Emma's estranged mother dies and she begins to clear her house, a journey of discovery is set in motion as she begins to unpick the threads of a troubled past. Why did her mother, Margaret, barely acknowledge Emma's daughter, Libby, but leave her the house, why did their own relationship deteriorate, and what about the painting of The Girl in the Maze, left to a stranger in the will?

I was drawn into the story quickly, and then I found it difficult to put down, as I was immersed in the lives of the characters, although I would have to add that some chapters are incredibly difficult to read. This is because of the subject matter and the disturbing themes it explores.

The Girl in the Maze is an assured debut that gets right to the heart of a family and its dark secrets.

Thank you to NetGalley and Agora for the opportunity to read this advanced copy.

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This was a surprisingly thought provoking read about motherhood and the relationships that we have with our mothers. Covering a multi generational family Emma discovers a pile of letters written by her mother to her grandmother which then takes us on a journey of strained family relationships and dynamics.
A compelling read!

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This book talks about motherhood, the difficulties of being a young mother and the connections between mothers and daughters. Also there is a twist in the family dynamics that causes a rift and disconnect . My heart breaks for this book. Not only did it touch "taboo" subjects but it also showed how families have flaws and alot of times the secrets don't reveal themselves until someone passes away. I will talk about this book to everyone I know because it touched my heart that much. I thoroughly enjoyed the two POV from 1930s to 2019s.

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Oh my goodness. Where to begin. From the very difficult opening to a dramatic ending this is one powerful and moving read. The subject matters are handled so delicately, which makes it even more believable, accurate and emotional. The Girl in the Maze very early on is explained as a painting. However, it really does become a symbol across the entire novel. Different characters cant really work out the image just as much as they cant figure out the history of this family. Touching, fragile. Does contain some triggers. A story that absolutely needs to be told and heard.

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Emma is clearing out the effects of her Mother’s estate following her death. Their difficult relationship is part of the story, but there are so many other facets to this story. The subject matter is difficult at times and it is shocking to realise just how recently things have begun to change for women. This book was a very readable exploration of the relationships between women and their daughters, it is well written and the characters are extremely believable. Great book.

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A moving story, The Girl In The Maze explores mother and daughter relationships, family secrets and shame. Parts were very hard to read and I admit to tears while reading this.

There definitely should be a trigger warning about content. That being said, I feel it's a very important book for people to read.

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An emotionally challenging book but one which is very rewarding. Although I have not experienced the situations dealt with in the book, I felt great empathy with the three generations of women, their relationships, their pain and the misunderstanding between them.
The book deals with the difficult and painful emotions raised by abortion, adoption (from both the point of view of the mother and the adopted child later in life) and child abuse.
Well worth reading though perhaps may cause painful emotions for anyone who has experienced these issues. This book certainly makes me feel grateful that society today has changed in its attitudes.

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Caught up in this book from the very beginning. A multi-generational mystery and family saga worth savoring! Excited to continue and see where the maze leads-- and what about the mysterious painting of the girl in the maze? Intriguing!

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I was so incredibly lucky to have started a bookstagram and receive this book early thanks to NetGalley!

This was the first book by this author and it was outstanding. It was most definitely an easy read, but coming from a family where adoption has been a huge thing, reading and relating to the main character in this book was invigorating. In the book it states, “some secrets were probably better left untold.” This book has a great use of mystery and history and brings you a story about a family and the hardships they face when it comes to learning new things after recent tragic events.

Can’t wait to see what is next for this author!

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A powerful book about a relationship between a mother and daughter. It's hard to read these sometimes. Not because I have a difficult relationship with my own mother, but because I have a good one.

It's a novel of secrets and terrible events. It's about trauma. It's about difficult decisions. It's about motherhood and choices.

It's the story of choices and it's beautiful.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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I loved this book so much! We start in 1937 with Betty and end in 2019 with Emma...BUT there are lots of points of view and timelines along the way. I know it sounds confusing BUT Cathy Hayward seamlessly entwines everything beautifully. The writing style makes you feel like you are reading a diary of these three generation of women and in some parts you are reading letters. I enjoyed the earlier years more than the current ones, but that's just my personal preference of time and place. This was a really sad book for the most part but there is also a lot of hope and even some joy for the future. Not every character was likable but you are given reasons why and it is heartbreaking. Cathy Hayward manages to write about hard hitting subject matter with a delicate hand and writes about mother daughter relationships with insight. This is a wonderful debut and I can't wait to see what Ms. Hayward comes up with next. All. The. Stars.

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The Girl in the Maze is the debut novel of Cathy Hayward and it is so good! This is a story about three women - mothers and daughters - across generations. As the story unfolds, we see how events, circumstance and social mores shape and influence their relationships that reverberate through the decades.

The novel has a very intense start - be warned there are some triggers in the novel - and the reader is very quickly caught up in the lives of the characters. Told through the eyes of the various women, the novel is well-written, the plot is well-crafted and the storylines of the women are expertly interwoven. I was thoroughly caught up in the lives of these characters. I loved this heartbreaking yet ultimately hopeful story. A highly recommended read. The Girl in the Maze is out on October 28.

Thanks to Agora Books and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I thought this was an accomplished, emotionally charged novel about family relationships. Spanning three generations, it explores how three women in a family deal with their negative experiences with men and how this affected their relationships with each other. I liked the way that the author unfolded the plots of the three women and I thought the way that she used the motif of the painting of the girl in the maze and the mystery behind it was well done. Although there are three different timelines, the voices of each of the women was distinctive and it didn't become difficult. Some of it, however, is difficult to read due to the subject matter, but this is the kind of book that will make you think.

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Emma had never been close to her mother.

After her mother’s death however, she finds something that may not only explain why her mother was always a little distant but also a secret that will change Emma’s life forever.

I found the premise of this novel immediately intriguing. I have always been fascinated by the relationship between mothers and daughters.

Told from the point of view of Betty, her Daughter, Margaret and Granddaughter, Emma, it gives the reader a real insight into three generations of women – their differences and parallels. The story also occasionally focuses on Emma’s stepfather, Jack and his input and influence over the women.

I also liked how the painting that featured in the novel was interpreted in many different ways. This really added an extra dimension to the story.

This book really shines a light on what it was like for unmarried mothers in the 1930’s and 1950s and how family dynamics can shape everything.

The characters I felt were well developed. They are flawed, complicated and relatable.

It deals with quite complicated and disturbing themes and I feel it does this well.

There are some truly heartbreaking moments in this novel that made me cry. There are also elements of hope.

The plot is paced well. There is enough tension and mystery and I really didn’t want to put this book down. I was completely engrossed all the way through.

There really isn’t much more I can say without giving huge plot elements away.

The Girl in the Maze is a beautifully crafted, moving story that combines family, love and lost chances. It also has mystery which keeps you guessing.

It shows that we don’t always know everything about our family and how shame, guilt and lack of communication can shape lives forever.

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"Some secrets were probably better left untold."

The Girl in the Maze is a moving and beautifully told debut that explores generational trauma, family secrets, motherhood, and the complexities of mother and daughter relationships. The pretty, floral cover belies the heart-rending story between its pages as the author shows us the darkest moments of the lives of three women from one family, examining not only how it affects their lives, but the lives of the generations that follow.

The story seamlessly shifts between timelines and multiple narrators as secrets that have been hidden for decades are unveiled. As the one at the centre of the secrets you would expect Margaret would be one of the narrators, but instead the author opts to tell the story through other members of her family: her daughter, Emma, her mother, Betty, and her step-father, Jack. At first I didn’t understand this choice, but as I got further into the book I realised what a brilliant decision it was. By giving a voice to everyone except Margaret she remains an enigma. A puzzle for both Emma and the reader to decipher.

The characters are richly drawn and fascinating, pulling you in and making you care about their story. Emma is a great character and my heart broke for her as I read about the difficult relationship between her and her mother, something that made me even more thankful for the strong bond I have with my own mother. I felt for her as she struggled to deal with both the grief of Margaret’s death and over the relationship with her that she craved but would never have. But the woman I took deepest into my heart was Betty. That powerful opening chapter hit me right in the feels and created an empathetic bond with Betty that coloured my view of her for the rest of the book. I didn’t see how Margaret could dislike this loving mother who went against not only society, but also her own mother, to keep and raise her daughter. Both of these things helped shape my view of Margaret as the villain, but as the story went on I began to see that there was so much more beneath the surface; hidden layers that peeled away to reveal heartbreaking secrets. This was a reminder of the layers we all have in our characters, that there can be so much more to a person than we know, and that there are sometimes reasons why people behave the way they do.

"I read an article once about family dysfunction. It described it as rolling down from generation to generation like a fire in the woods, taking down everything in its path. It said that you need one person in one generation to have the courage to face the flames. And that person will be the one to bring peace to their ancestors and spare the children who follow them, and their children."

One thing I particularly loved about this book is how the author uses the painting referenced in the book’s title as a symbol of so many things. Throughout the book we see it as a representation of Emma’s quest to untangle the mysteries her mother left behind, slowly finding her way out of the maze with each clue she solves. But as we learn more about Margaret the painting begins to take on new meaning; also representing the traumas the women experienced. It was an interesting layer to the narrative that added that little something extra to the storytelling.

Cathy Hayward is an exciting new talent. She tackles difficult subjects with sensitivity and compassion and writes like her words are the roses amongst the thorns; something beautiful even when what she is writing about is dark, bleak and painful. I was captivated by the story and the characters she created and can’t wait to read what she writes next.

Powerful, emotive and intriguing, The Girl in the Maze is an enthralling debut that I highly recommend.

Trigger Warnings: abortion, miscarriage, rape, adoption

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I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a book with such a disturbing and emotional beginning, as we first meet Betty back in 1937 and are plunged into her world of pain and desperation. It’s a particularly brave decision for a debut novelist, with the real possibility that readers might choose not to read any further – but it’s only a taster for the stunning writing that follows.

This is the story of three women – Betty herself, her daughter Margaret, and Margaret’s daughter Emma in the present day. Margaret’s voice isn’t heard, but her life and the experiences that shaped her are very much the book’s focus. We join Emma as she’s clearing out her flat after her mother’s death – their relationship was never an easy one, and in the years beforehand they’d grown ever further apart and were rarely in contact any more. At her death, Margaret had very much put her affairs in order – with the assistance of her solicitor Graham Eals, who plainly has more knowledge of her life than he’s willing to reveal – and some of her decisions come as a considerable surprise. Finding a series of letters and the contents of a locked box, Emma begins a quest to discover her mother’s secrets, in an attempt to understand how they might have impacted their relationship and shaped her character.

This is a story about motherhood and the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship, and of the way events and choices in the past impact on the present, examined and exposed with exceptional emotional depth in their telling. Some of the secrets of the past are exceptionally difficult to read, raw and painful – reflected in the painting of the book’s title, the child in anguish trapped in the maze – and the author’s writing is strong and assured, making you feel every moment of hurt and despair at your core.

There’s a stark difference between Emma’s own relationship with her husband and children and the complexities of the relationships experienced by the two previous generations, set firmly in their historical context but with a stunning emotional touch. The narrative moves seamlessly backwards and forwards in time – its construction is so cleverly done, and apparently effortless, with its progress relentless and compelling. This is a book that really makes you feel – to hurt, sympathise, rage against the many injustices, weep at the behaviour of others. At times, it’s a difficult book to read, its darker moments almost overwhelming in their intensity – but I found it quite impossible to set it aside, totally immersed in the lives of its characters.

I’ll struggle to forget this book – entirely stunning and original writing from an exceptionally gifted new author, and I recommend it without reservation.

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