Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018

The Perfect Affair – Claire Dyer

Contemporary Fiction

I actually purchased this book way back in March 2014 but like so many other great books, it sat unread until I read The Last Day earlier this year which urged me to find out more about this author.

We meet the elderly Rose serving tea to Eve in a flat, renovated from the home that she’d shared with her parents. Her father’s coat still hangs on the back door. As Rose leaves to retire upstairs, she knows what is going to happen, it has been foreshadowed for a year when Eve and the man who rents part of her home, Myles first met. Rose knows that look…

This is a beautifully written novel, full of emotion but also accurately capturing the essence of an affair, or two.

The two stories, that of Rose and Henry in the past, and the one that is being conducted in the here and now between Eve and author Myles are both engaging. In case you are mislead neither affair is full of heaving bodies, the beauty is in their snatched moments of forbidden love of (for the most part) more cerebral kind.

In the 60s Rose shared a flat with Eve’s Grandmother Verity and relishing her single life meets Henry at work. The description of dresses, that Rose keeps into her old age along with a box full of memories are for the future, now life is for living but will her love of Henry win the day?

In the present Eve’s marriage to Andrew has become distant and to make matters worse she is facing their daughter leaving home to start her life as an independent adult. In short, in common with many women of her age, life is changing and Eve begins to examine what she has. When she meets crime writer Myles on a visit to see her old friend Rose, a spark is lit. But, the same question is raised, will the pair end up together, or apart? What was particularly enjoyable about this story is that the past was seamlessly woven with the present as Rose looked back on her life while watching over Eve in the present. This avoided the sometimes jarring quality of switching between time periods that can occur in the hands of a lesser writer.

The scenes where Myles struggles with his detective series lifted the book. It’s just how I imagine it – shall we have a dog walker finding the body? What will forensics turn up? All interspersed with Myles, not thinking fondly about his controlled wife Celeste, or his two sons but about the woman who he is falling in love with. As is inevitable if the reader is going to fully engage with the affairs, their marriages are not painted in a particularly flattering light, but nor are they painted so blackly that the reader is left thinking that no one would have remained in such a marriage.

The writing is brilliant and almost lyrical without being too ‘poncy.’ With a realistic look at two very different affairs, separated by years and circumstances, this book had me entranced. So even though romantic novels are far from my usual kind of reading fare, there was more than enough depth to this one to entirely hold my attention. I have to admit in many ways I found Rose’s story the more poignant of the two because there is the realisation of what discovery would mean for a young woman in that era and what it could mean for her future. As for Eve I will just say that my views were in accordance with Rose’s.

This is the 19th book I’ve read and reviewed as part of my Mount TBR Challenge for 2018. I am aiming to read 36 books across the year from those purchased before 1 January 2018. The Perfect Affair was purchased on 29 March 2014 and so fully qualifies.

First Published UK: 28 February 2014
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Other Half – Sarah Rayner

Contemporary Fiction 4*'s
Contemporary Fiction

I imagine writing about adultery is more problematic than a lot of subjects due to the stance women often take on the subject.  I live on a small island and so conducting an affair in secret is very hard, one or other of the pair is always going to be seen and remarked on and at most you have a couple of days before you are being gossiped about from one end of the island to the other!  This comment, I hasten to add, isn’t from personal experience but from conversations from friends, and yes, the gossip that has reached my shell-like ears!  Now generally, I’ve found the behaviour that is taken apart and dissected by these dedicated arbitrators is reserved for the women, it appears that everyone has an opinion on the girl who is sleeping with the married man, speculation about how the wife should behave or what she may have done to drive him to commit adultery.  Far rarer is it that the man who has broken his wedding vows is treated to the same treatment, especially if it is the first time he has strayed.  So books about affairs intrigue me as I like to see how different authors approach this contentious issue.

The Other Half  starts by describing good time Chloe, an up and coming star in the world of women’s magazines who goes for a drink with her boss, James and ends up taking him to bed with her.  Chloe is trying to pitch an idea for a new magazine which is different (a concept that is long overdue in my opinion) and his contacts could be the break she needs.

Later on we get to know Maggie, the perfect wife, a well-known food writer who is well groomed and more sensible than Chloe.  James and Maggie have a six year old son Nathan and as readers we witness her humiliation at a dinner party they are hosting.  You see, although this reads far more like chick-lit than her previous novels there is a depth to the writing that I enjoy in Sarah Rayner’s books.

From these alternating views of their lives I found I was sympathetic to both women, they are different and both want more from James which to my mind perfectly replicates every affair that I have ever heard about.   Sarah Rayner has been clever allowing her readers to see James up close and personal from the beginning and not by painting him as an awful man, but depicting a situation which to my mind is realistic. While Chloe is extolling his good points we have an insight into a different side to James, a man who, like most of us, doesn’t have all the answers to explain his behaviour.

This is one of those books that I fairly rattled through, as a light read with a more solid centre, this was a familiar tale, not told so much with a twist, but maybe with a level of understanding of all the protagonists, in what is not an unfamiliar tale.  I don’t want to spoil the plot in any way but the ending was fitting, as it had to be, bearing in mind the subject matter!

I was grateful to receive a free copy of this book from St Martin’s Press ahead of the publication date of 25 March 2014 in return for my written opinion.