04 December 2008

After you'd gone

The first book I read by Maggie O'Farrell, quite some time ago, was My lover's lover, and I wasn't much impressed. So, I didn't read any more of her books.

Then, last year, I was given a copy of The vanishing act of Esme Lennox. This time, I was mightily impressed; it was superbly done. So, when I recently ran across a copy of After you'd gone, it seemed worth a try.

I have read books which very effectively describe grief; but this is probably the first one I've ever read which in a sustained way made me feel grief along with the protagonist. The constricting weight on the heart; the sense of hopelessness and empty despair; the dull knowledge that this how life is, forever.

At the same time, the story is very skilfully assembled from fragments of suspense, over three generations, with absolute surety of craft and purpose. It also describes, equally vividly, the miraculous astonishment of love.

It's a very powerful book – and it does end by offering to you, the reader, a step of hope for the future on behalf of at least two, possibly more, of the characters.

I shall seek out more of O'Farrell's work, now. And I shall reread My lover's lover to see whether I was mistaken – or whether it is just one of those books which, for whatever reason, doesn't hit the mark for me.

Maggie O'Farrell:

  • My lover's lover. 2002, London: Headline Review. 0747271119
  • The vanishing act of Esme Lennox. 2006, London: Headline Review. 0755332229
  • After you'd gone. 2006, London: Headline Review. 0755330722

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