Some people live in the past, either because they’ve never managed to come to grips with modern life, or because there are too many good things still left, they believe, which make it worth hanging on to. Yet others look back on the past, especially their own lives, and ask themselves what could have happened to me if… or, what happened around me that was kept hidden? When a family splits up, for whatever reason, the questions become more complicated, filled with wishes and desires, unanswered questions about who might have been at fault, whether life could have been different if only people had stayed together. For some these questions will probably never be answered, they are confronted with them at the most inopportune moments or at a time when life takes a twist, throws them a curve-ball, removes the only person who might have been able to set their mind at ease.
There are also many things in life which simply cannot be understood, the power of love is one of them. How can a person, so well set up in their home life, in their marriage, with their children, suddenly throw it all away and begin afresh? For someone who does not feel the same passion of love, it is almost impossible to explain, and can leave a deep hurt throughout the remaining years alongside the many unanswered, unasked questions. Would life have been different for Nigel and Louise if their mother Sara – or Sally as they knew her – hadn’t walked out in the late Seventies, sent them off to live with an Aunt, for Louise, or to a boarding school, for Nigel? What if their mother had never met the ‘Darling of the Eighties’, as Patrick came to be known when together with her, sharing the spotlight of his dubious fame and the eventual fall from grace?
Photo Credit: joansorolla – Creative Commons
All three come together once more, following the sudden death of their mother, in Patrick’s home, a dilapidated villa hidden away from the public gaze and hope, in their own way, to find answers to many of life’s questions. There is the prospect of an inheritance, of a new path through life, of a new start perhaps. And there is also Mia, a young student determined to make her own way upwards, by whatever means who, blinded perhaps by her prospects, throws aside her studies and begins to take control, as far as she can, over Patrick’s life. The whole, as all come together with their own complicated backgrounds, with their own problems, with their own memories, brings a delightful, bitterly humorous story of misunderstandings carried on over decades, of expectations unspoken, of questions never asked.
As with life itself, Amanda Coe’s new work leaves many questions unanswered, and that is a good thing. We are able, as readers, to place ourselves into the fate-twisted lives of each of the characters, to read their thoughts and almost feel their emotions. There is a certain understanding between the reader and each person portrayed which concentrates itself around that one person and their history, but doesn’t impede upon the uniqueness of the other characters, doesn’t bring them the answers they need, but lets us, the readers, understand what may have been the cause, what could be the future. And the bitter humor is not just a satire upon the expectations of an emotionally material society, but an insight into ourselves, we who, but for the grace of the fates, could have found ourselves in the same position, might still be faced with it in one way or another. We relate to the characters, and that is what brings a good story to life as much as the setting, the plot, the unexpected turns of fate and fortune.
Published by Virago. ISBN: 978 0 349 00509 6.
- Viktoria Michaelis