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.