7 May 2010
Book Review: The Way We Were by Elizabeth Noble
I always get really excited by the release of Elizabeth Noble's books because I fell in love with her writing ever since I read Things I Want My Daughters to Know, and this was followed up by the equally brilliant The Girl Next Door. So when Leah posted that Elizabeth's next book was due out this May, I was thrilled and therefore very happy when a review copy landed on my doorstep a few weeks ago. I managed to wait a few days before opening the book, but once I started I had a horrible feeling that I wasn't going to enjoy it as much as her previous 2 novels, and sadly for me I was right.
The book begins by introducing us to Susannah, a woman who is pretty unhappy with the state of her life. She's living with her partner Doug and his children when it's their turn to have them, but she isn't fulfilled by their relationship, not by a long way. Susannah is a pretty miserable character, and sadly doesn't change throughout the book, and I had such trouble warming to her at all. I could understand why she felt the way that she did, but something about her just made me feel unsympathetic towards her. I feel that Noble was trying to make Susannah a sympathetic character but because it didn't work for me, perhaps that skewed my enjoyment of the book.
I enjoyed the way it was written immensely, and felt that this is a big plus where the book is concerned. It is set in both the present day, and throughout the book are flashbacks to the childhood of both Susannah and Rob. This means that what happened between them is revealed slowly to us, and we get to know the characters properly before we know much about what happened to split them up when they were younger. I loved how easy it was to get into the chapters set in the past, I liked how Susannah was so different and how it highlights what the break-up did to her. As we progress through the book, the chapters in the past continue, and even deviate to things that happened to Rob once he was alone.
My major problem with this book is the mood of it. I felt that it was so depressing right from the beginning, and there just wasn't any let up through out the book which was so disappointing for me. Whilst her previous 2 books haven't exactly been happy, there have been elements of them being light-hearted in places and they never left me feeling upset and depressed by the end, yet that's exactly how I felt when I turned the last page of The Way We Were. I wasn't at all happy with the ending because it didn't leave things in a way I would have wanted them left, and therefore I felt that the whole of the book was just very depressing, and I just struggled to find even a bit of humour or happiness.
The way the story was meant that it was never going to be a cheerful book - it's all about lost love, your expectations in a partner not being met, and what happens if you sacrifice everything for something who can't sacrifice themselves for you, but even so I did expect some moments of relief. Noble has included some scenes with Susannah's step-children which were very well done because of the subject matters covered, and I think Noble has done them justice. The relationship between Susannah and Doug was well covered, but again not a happy one which did make some parts of it a chore. I expected to love the reuniting of Susannah and Rob, but it just left me feeling a bit awkward and therefore I found picking up the book to read on a bit of a task in parts.
For fans of Elizabeth Noble's previous books will definitely want to read this one simply because it's what you do when you love an author, but I just came away feeling really underwhelmed and quite depressed about it which was not what I expected at all. I didn't enjoy the book as much as I expected either, this can sometimes be the case when you hype a book so much to yourself but I really feel it was due to the storyline and the tone in this case. It is such a shame I couldn't rate this higher than 3 because it was very well written, the characters are all great in that you know them well, and I loved the way Noble tells us the story through flashbacks, but the negatives outweighed these things for me. Such a shame I can't say I enjoyed it more!