Review time! Now that I am back at university, I should get a little more reading and writing done! Today, a seemingly tranquil story…
Title: Love after Love
Author: Alex Hourston
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Date of publication: 1st March 2018
Nancy Jansen is the beating heart of her family.
She is the centre around whom many lives turn.
But Nancy has a new role:
Everybody can be happy, Nancy believes, so long as they can be kept apart.
But when these lives start to overlap, collision becomes inevitable, with consequences for all…
I would like to thank James at Faber & Faber for offering me a copy of Love After Love, and with it, my first true reading time in days.
Cover love. Title love. And it turns out, story-love.
Slow-paced but grippingly realistic, Love After Love tells the tale of Nancy, a therapist, wife, and mother of three. Hands full, you would think. Well, add to this a lover, and you get 321 pages of life burning by both ends.
I love therapists. I am not saying this because I am seeing one! But they are trained to see the world, their peers, and each differently from us. The problem is the line is thin between their professional and personal lives and we all know it is never good to bring work home! But how can they not, when they spend their days interpreting signs, ticks, words, behavior, anything to help them understand who is in front of them and how to better react. We do say hairdressers have the worst hair and shoemakers get the most terrible pairs of shoes. Well, therapists can have books about human emotions heavy enough to kill someone if they were to fall on their head, but they are no stranger to the issues of looking for things where they are not, being totally useless in seeing what is happening to themselves, or to use their own advice! I think this is what I find most appealing in stories involving specialists. We rely on them, and personally, I consider they have the keys to make some things better, but they are also human. Just like us, and I took a guilty pleasure in watching Nancy’s life unravel in front of my shamelessly spying eyes.
There are many parallels in this story, layers allowing the reader to recognize situations, to connect with characters, or to learn, and enjoy what looks like a perfect and balanced life with its ups and downs.
The past and present introduce us to Nancy, her family, her lover, his wife… Memories help us shape Nancy’s form in a concrete way. I cannot say I agreed with her ways or her decisions, but the image I created of her was altered, enhanced, and completed by every page. Her work is also very important to truly get to the core of this woman. A special patient made me smile as I imagined the scenes, it sure will strike a chord with a few people, and in the end, roles are reversed so the reader can fully take the responsibility and the reality of being the face of help.
Nancy tackles many subjects throughout the story. Infidelity, of course, but also motherhood, and all that comes with it. I was moved by her love for her children. She is not portrayed as the know-it-all mom. She’s actually struggling with them. It was a strong reminder there is no right way, and you just have to swim, keep your head above water, and do what is right.
But what is the right thing? This question is at the core of Love After Love. Nancy’s sessions and her life pointed out the expectations others have of us, vice versa, and the image we have of ourselves versus the image we reflect with our words and behavior. Love After Love made me think I was looking through a mirror. What was, what could be. Why we lock ourselves into the role we are given, what it takes to find happiness. The story doesn’t give any answers, it offers raw thoughts about life and its domino effect. Despite her flaws, I wanted Nancy to be happy. I wondered why some people had it easier. If things were actually easier or if it was just an illusion. I gulped down every thought from Nancy, I analyzed them, I drank them up and fed from them to create my own opinion.
Love After Love is a quiet read toying with life in its routine clothes. A beautiful tale of love, whether for someone, or better, for yourself.
After fifteen years writing strategy for advertising agencies, Alex took a break to go back to university and her first love, books. She completed a Masters in English and started a PhD, but put it aside when the idea for this novel surfaced.
Alex lives outside Brighton with her family.
She is working on her second novel, an exploration of infidelity and emotional inheritance.