With a tag line of ‘is this a great love story or a story of great love?’, the reader’s prepared for twists and revelations even before the story starts. Indeed, there are plenty of moments of questionable motivation, major revelations, and various acts of love. I wasn’t disappointed.
In essence, this is the story of Robbie and Emily. Having spent the best part of fifty years together, with two sons, grandchildren, their own beautiful seaside home, and successful careers behind them, they seem to have reached the perfect retirement.
However, Robbie is beginning to lose his memory; he worries it’s the start of Dementia or Alzheimer’s. Rather than making Emily endure the years of of his slow demise, he swims away into the sunrise, leaving Emily with a fresh pink rose, a note and a kiss on her cheek.
That’s the first, short, chapter. I was hooked.
The story then goes into reverse. Sections tell us more about Robbie and Emily’s lives, hinting at, then revealing secrets in their lives. It’s not confusing or disorientating as each section is long enough to settle into and signpost have been given in the preceding story (which is the chronological future but the book’s past, if you see what I mean!). This perfectly happy, perfectly matched couple have worked hard over the years to reach this point. Only at the end did I realise how hard.
Some readers may think some revelations are too farfetched, particularly as Robbie and Emily’s story comes to its final moment, but by then, I had invested in their lives. I cared for them, understanding something of the choices they made.
At moments unlikeable, unfathomable, unloveable, Emily and Robbie both have valid reasons for their actions, reactions and even inaction at various times.
This would make a good reading group book as there are plenty of topics to discuss (listing them would count as spoilers; everyone in the group needs to have read the book to the end!). I for one would love to spend more time with the Brandons.
True to the nature of a circular novel, told backwards, I started to read it again as soon as I’d finished. It was not time wasted. A well written story, with characters I cared about, making heart-breakingly difficult decisions throughout their lives together.
Regardless of whether you might regard the secrets and twists as farfetched or gimmicky, this is a very good ‘relationship read’, an ideal easy read for the commute or bedtime. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself reading past your bedtime…
Thanks to Orion Books for the prepublication proof.
Published in hardback in the UK in July 2017 ISBN 9781409171744