This is a somewhat melancholy book that tracks the marriage of Nina and her boy next door.
Nina is hit by a bus in Greece and after surgery is taken to a small island hospital where she begins telling the story of her life to her under-worked doctor, Christos. She talks at length about her marriage to Paulo, her neighbour and friend since early childhood. Paulo has a younger brother Luca and all of their lives have been entangled throughout adulthood. Now twenty-five years after their honeymoon, on the same Greek island, Nina’s support structure has crumbled and she needs to learn the lessons from the past to start afresh.
Although the roots were in childhood Nina only married Paulo when Luca marries Francesca and the two couples spend time together although in the telling it appears that poor Francesca’s position is slightly outside the early shared experience of the other three.
The characters are well described and although I felt some sympathy with the young Nina her actions later on had me shaking my head at the fool-hardy way she behaved and made me feel that the endless adoration she had received from both brothers meant that only now, all these years later does she reflect and begin to learn from her actions. Does she succeed? Well you’ll have to read the book to find out.
This book is rich with fluctuating feelings as the book travels backwards and forwards through time, detailing in particular the shared bond between Nina and Luca and by default the impact that this has on Nina’s marriage to his brother Paulo.
For anyone who read Andrea Gillie’s superb debut The White Lie, this is a very different type of book so comparisons are hard to make. What I can say is the writing is just as evocative, although the description of the Greek Island more muted due to the fact that Nina spent most of her time in the hospital, but the range of feelings, often contradictory were exceptionally well described.
Underlying themes of loss, guilt and the transient nature of even the most powerful feelings means this book would lend itself well to a book club read but the intensity of the subject matter and the style of writing means that this could not be categorised as ‘chick-lit’