6 July 2010

Reading Group Questions

appear on the last pages of Other People's Secrets, and I was so dismayed to find myself at the end of the story, that I read through them in the hope that there might be a further hidden chapter lurking somewhere within.

I'm not really that well versed in proper grown up books. I'm at that weird limbo stage in my reading life, when the traditional love-of-my-life-chick-lit written by and for those under 30, is not keeping my interest, and I don't quite know where to turn.

I'm not so familiar with the more tradition women's fiction. I've tentatively done The Lovely Bones, some Maggie O'Farrell and The Time Traveler's Wife. But I don't Jodi Picoult; I don't feel quite old enough for Lesley Pearse or Nora Roberts. I'm not and never will be a Twilight fan and I don't really want to go down the Stieg Larsson bandwagon. I know I should read The Kite Runner, The Book Thief and The Shadow of the Wind but I know I never will; I really want to try The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas and I fancy giving Dear John by Nicholas Sparks a go - but I know I won't.

So when I finished reading Other People's Secrets, which I did this afternoon whilst waiting for a man in a white coat and rubber gloves to stick a needle deep into my shoulder and waggle it about again - I felt a little shaken.

Louise has, of course, written grown up books before. Since I Don't Have You told of a women coming to terms with life after the loss of her daughter in a road accident, and The Second Husband concentrated on loss of a different type, when a women's lover runs off with her own daughter. But Other People's Secrets is a million miles removed from The Double Life of Anna Day - the book she wrote that had me begging her publisher for a meet and greet.

Two families meet on holiday in the Italian Lakes and whilst the book is set over just two weeks, you feel completely engaged in their lives - the before, the during and the hope for the after. Bea and her husband Marty together with their children Pippi, Esther and Dom invite Ginny and Adam Trustlove into their idyllic holiday rental; and it's with the arrival of mysterious stranger Zach that the threads of their lives start to unravel before us. There is a relationship twist that I genuinely didn't see coming - but that's not why I was engrossed. There is a pace and a picture that Louise has created here that I don't think I've ever experienced before. We, the reader, are truly taken on the holiday as well. The town, the island, the villa, the lake, the gardens... the waterside path. Not only can I picture in my minds eye the whole cast (bar Esther who I don't feel I know as well as the others perhaps) I can smell the grass after the storm, I can hear the lap of the water against the boat, I can feel the heat of Zach's hotel room overlooking the square.

I'm not going to say it's funny, because it isn't. There is some sex, but it's the passion that grips you. There is some glamour and some fashion - but it's really an aside. What I found here, was a beautiful story about love and loss, about friendships and marriage, as complex as it was simple. And I loved it.

So where to now. There is hope of course - with the new Jane Green (The Love Verb) and Katie Fforde (A Perfect Proposal), and I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson and Men I've Loved Before by Adele Parks that I'm going to give a go.

But after that, what lies ahead for me.... I don't feel I can move back now, back to cocktails and crushes. To dating and trivia. I need substance.

1 comment:

Bernadette Strachan said...

Told you it was special! I read the reading group questions as well, made me giggle to realise I'm not the only one who does this. And listen, I reckon you would like One Day by David Nicholls. Intensely romantic but in a bold modern way, no slush. And funny with it. A bit like you.