The Day You Saved My Life by Louise Candlish
|The Day You Saved My Life by Louise Candlish|
|Genre: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Fairhead|
|Summary: Compelling women's fiction which starts with a terrible accident in Paris; very thought-provoking. Hard to put down.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 482||Date: July 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
Holly, in her early twenties, is a single mother who has had severe post-natal depression since the birth of her son Mikey. He is now a toddler, and they live with Holly's mum, Joanna. She has a somewhat sordid past of her own but has given everything to raising Holly in a loving environment; she has also had to do most of the caring for her small grandson.
Joanna has won a trip to Paris. She takes Holly and Mikey with her, always hoping that something will happen to bring back the daughter she loved from the mire of depression. However is has not been going well; we meet them first on a pleasure boat travelling along the Seine, where - as we are warned from the first sentence of the book - a terrible accident is about to happen.
On the same boat trip are James and Alexa, a young couple celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary. At least, Alexa is celebrating. James has been rather distant of late - always good-natured, always doing what she wants him to, but not really very interested in her. It doesn't help that they have just bought a huge and expensive house which they are slowly renovating. Alexa hopes to rekindle some of the passion they once shared, and has planned their weekend with meticulous care.
Then the accident happens, and James leaps unexpectedly into the fray. This becomes a major turning point in his life, in his marriage, and also in the lives of Holly and her family.
It's a dramatic start to a book that kept me gripped - it's close to 500 pages but I read it in just three days. There are three main viewpoint characters in the events that unfold: Joanna, Holly and Alexa. For me, the lynch-pin is Joanna. She has a wonderful relationship with her daughter and grandson, and seems to manage the right balance between nurture and over-protection.
Joanna's past is gradually revealed - the jealousy she harboured for her older sister, who was their parents' favourite, culminating in her revenge which had long-term repercussions for the whole family. The writing is excellent; it's done without judgement, getting right into the skins of the people concerned. Nobody is supposed to condone what Joanna did as a teenager, but she has redeemed it in every way possible. What she did is compared and contrasted with Holly's previous relationship to the hapless Sean, and also with the new relationship she embarks upon after the events in Paris.
Alexa is a different kind of person altogether; she's prickly and controlling, and it was hard to like her. However, I did find myself feeling extremely sorry for her, suffering through something which was not her fault at all. It seemed that she had a raw deal, although towards the end of the novel she seems to become more human, and to find strength to move forward; her mother is a minor character whom I would like to have seen more of.
There are many moral issues raised by the novel, about the nature of love, how far one can go in the pursuit of passion, and family relationships in general. Not that they're mentioned explicitly; Louise Candlish is too good a writer for that. But I found myself walking in the shoes of both Joanna and Alexa, seeing events from their individual perspectives, and wondering how I would react in each case. I found Holly harder to empathise with; at first she seems rather selfish and demanding, but she, too, gradually becomes stronger and more likeable.
Thought-provoking and compelling - highly recommended to anyone who enjoys contemporary women's fiction.
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