Hester and Harriet is the first book in the Hester and Harriet series by British author, Hilary Spiers. Hester Greene and Harriet Pearson are “late middle-aged” widows living together in Pellington, the next village to their well-meaning cousin George, his wife Isabelle and their rather sullen son, Ben. On their reluctant way to another boring and probably inedible Christmas Day lunch, they pick up a waif taking cover in a disused bus shelter, a young woman with a baby, the perfect excuse to head home.
Before they have even had a chance to find out much about Daria and her just-months-old son, Milo, “nephew” Ben turns up on their doorstep, wanting respite from his parents. And when a private detective turns up looking for Daria, Hester and Harriet know they need answers. Trying to keep Daria’s situation under the radar of the village gossip, whilst also dealing diplomatically with Ben and his parents, certainly presents a challenge for these two feisty ladies. And that’s before others turn up in search of mother and baby, and a certain elderly gent in a hospital ward claims Hetty and Harry as his estranged sisters.
In this charming tale, Spiers gives the reader an original plot with a twist or two, while touching on several topical issues: the plight of refugees and asylum-seekers, the pressure of career choice, the rights of the indigent, the devastating effects of cot death. She populates her novel with a cast of delightful characters, quirky but easily believable: the teen wedded to his iPhone, the indigent gentleman scholar, the dodgy local businessman, the alcoholic wife, the anxious parents.
Hester and Harriet is a very enjoyable read: in amongst the serious topics there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and some wonderful descriptive prose. The sisters are a likeable pair whose flaws and foibles make them all the more appealing. Readers who enjoy Hester and Harriet will be pleased to know their story is continued in the sequel, Love, Lies and Linguine. Recommended!