Toni Jordan creates the world of The Fragments so perfectly that I began to believe that Inga Karlson and her lost second novel really did exist. This novel moves between New York in the thirties to nineteen-eighties Australia, with a mystery built in that kept me turning the pages for hours. Inga Karlson was a successful novelist who died in a warehouse fire along with the only manuscript of her second novel. Only some charred fragments of the manuscript remain, captivating fans years later. One such fan is Caddie Walker, a young bookseller who is named for the character in Karlson’s first novel. She goes to an exhibition in Brisbane to see ‘the fragments’ and meets an older woman in the queue who seems to know lines from the lost second book.
Caddie is a character trapped in her own life without much future or ambition. She notes that she is ‘not marked or chosen’. When her father died in her early twenties, ‘everything unravelled’, and it’s only the mystery of Inga Karlson and her obsession with it that spurs her into something.
Running parallel to the story of Caddie’s attempts to track down the mysterious woman, and her blossoming romance with Jamie, is the story of Rachel. Beginning in 1928 in Pennsylvania, we follow Rachel to New York where she unknowingly meets the famous Inga Karlson. They begin a romance that remains a secret to everyone. As Caddie’s research reveals more of Inga’s history, Rachel’s point of view tells the private story. It’s a perfect structure that keeps us engaged in both time periods and makes this fictional hero of Caddie’s into a soft, real person.
There is a twist at the end that I doubt many readers would have seen coming, at once tragic and wonderful. A beautiful book.