Uphill All the Way by Sue Moorcroft
|Uphill All the Way by Sue Moorcroft|
|Genre: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Fairhead|
|Summary: After suffering a tragedy in Malta, 51-year-old Judith returns to the UK and then starts the long road to recovery and forgiveness. The novel comes highly recommended by The Bookbag.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: April 2005|
This novel opens with the scenario dreaded by so many women: fifty-one-year-old Judith is getting a bit anxious because Giorgio is late home. His mobile phone is not being answered. She tries to convince herself that he's just called into the pub with some mates after a day's diving, but it's evident to the reader that something terrible has happened to him.
The early part of the book is set in Malta, where Judith works with her uncle and lives with Giorgio. Religion and family ties are strong in this small country, so Giorgio is not divorced from his ex-wife, although he has been separated from her for fourteen years. This means that his family are somewhat hostile to Judith, seeing her as an immoral interloper. And when tragedy strikes, she is excluded from the family totally.
So she packs her bags and returns to her native England, staying initially with her loving but somewhat irritating sister Molly. Judith's own house has been rented out and she knows she has to give two months' notice to Adam, the guy living there. But she's not sure how long she can stand living with Molly. What's more, she needs to find a job.
As soon as Judith and Adam have their first (not entirely happy) meeting, it's clear that he is going to be an important character in the novel. Will they get together? Is there any future for them? The book could have turned into a light romance, but although there is that thread, there's a great deal more too. Judith's family are all well-drawn and believable, each with their own problems which impact on her. She has a rather bullying ex-husband, a delightful if irresponsible stepson, and an elderly insecure mother. Then there's Molly who is organised and efficient, but having trouble in her own marriage. All of them want to lean on Judith in some way, while she struggles with her grief, her homesickness for Malta, and her feelings of guilt.
Adam, by contrast, is the ideal friend in need. He's there when Judith wants him, making no demands or criticisms, allowing her to complain as much as she wants, and then cry on his shoulder. He's almost too good to be true, but not quite - and as such makes a wonderful 'hero'. He too is going through a lot of stress, and that forms yet another thread to the novel.
I read it in just three evenings, finding it hard to put down once I had started. I felt involved with several of the characters, particularly Judith. Not far off fifty myself, I like reading novels about middle aged women with plenty of life and zest. Moreover I felt the setting of Malta was warm and believable rather than researched. Apparently the author lived in Malta for some years and has a great deal of affection for the island.
I found the book thought-provoking, too. The themes of love, recovery from grief and forgiveness are strong. Judith has to let go of the past in many ways - of her marriage, of Giorgio, of her stepson, and of her guilt. She has to find out whether she can let go of her love of Malta, too, and learn to live in England once more. Living away from the UK on a small island myself, I could identify well with the feeling of belonging to two diverse cultures, not entirely sure which one is 'home'.
So why did I not give this book the top rating of five stars? Just a few niggling points, really. I could never quite believe in Judith as a diver; the whole scenario with Giorgio learning to dive and Judith as an expert seems a bit forced. Then there are a couple of characters who seem to be in the story purely from the point of view of plotting: Adam's two sons, the almost-perfect Matthias, and the wild but naive Caleb. Matthias only really appears to get married, providing a setting for Judith to see Adam with his ex-wife, and to learn something of her own feelings. Caleb comes into the book a bit more, living with his father at first until his rather dramatic contribution to the plot. Then he is barely mentioned again. I would like to have got to know these brothers a little more, to have felt that they were a part of Judith's life rather than just being catalysts for further events.
But they're only minor niggles. All in all, I thought this an excellent book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
My thanks to the author for sending this book to The Bookbag.
If you like this book then you might also enjoy Evening Class by Maeve Binchy.
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