13 February 2012
Book Review: The Love Book by Fiona O'Brien
When one of the women returns home unexpectedly from California, all three are forced to examine their choices, loves, and lives, which have proved surprising, and in some ways, precarious. So much for St. Valentine - if the saint has taught them anything about love - it's be careful what you wish for . . .
But real love is always a work in progress - and Vonnie, Abby and Diana must learn they need to open their eyes and more especially their hearts - because St. Valentine has some unfinished business with them . . .
I've read a fair few of Fiona O'Brien's novels in the past and loved each of them. O'Brien had such a realistic way of writing that she brings her characters and storylines to life and you end up really absorbed in the book and time flies by as you're reading! I was sent a copy of The Love Book by Fiona for review as I mentioned on Twitter that I adored the soft pinks and purples of the cover, and to be honest, it's prettier in real life. I tend not to go for really pink covers but this one is really lovely. It's a large paperback, and a fairly long-ish one at that but once I got into the book, I really didn't want to put it down and was totally absorbed in the story!
The book tells the tale of 3 Irish women; Diana, Vonnie and Abby. Each of them pay a visit to a special church in Ireland when they're teenagers on a school trip, and make a wish in the book of St. Valentine for something special in their love lives when they're older. None of them know whether it'll come true, but promise to meet each other every ten years to see if their wishes were granted. Diana is a successful make-up artist, but is having problems with husband Greg at home and him not taking any responsibility right when Diana wants to start reclaiming her life back. Abby's relationship with husband Edward is also on the rocks, especially since the arrival of her mother into their home, and her suspicions of Edward having an affair. Finally, there's Vonnie who is now living in California, but finds herself back in Ireland for work for the first time in many years, and doesn't know what she's going to do about her family.
I have to confess straight off that there are quite a lot of characters in this book, and it does take quite a while to get your head around all the names and who they are attached to in the book. I found the men in particular hard to get right, but once you've got it in your head, you should be okay! The chapters are also told quite oddly as well, Diana's was written in the first person, Abby's in the third and Vonnie in the first person also. It chops and changes frequently in the book, and I have to confess that sometimes it was a bit hard to keep up with who was speaking and what was going on. There were also occasionally other chapters from other characters in there too, perhaps a little unnecessary for the book but they worked quite well. And finally, there are these parts of the book called The Affair which is an anonymous story told throughout the book, with no identities being revealed right up until the end of the book so you're left wondering who exactly that story is about.
The book covers some emotional topics for the characters, but I think these only draw you into the book more because you're wondering exactly how these women will be able to solve their problems between them, and be honest with their friends as well. I really liked Diana, she was a strong and positive woman who works hard but just needs a break, despite what her husband thinks. I felt really sorry for her as things unravelled for her in the book, and she's involved in quite a shocking part of the story near the end which made me root for her even more! Abby was a bit too annoying for me, I struggled to sympathise with her as I couldn't warm to her and wanted her to wake up and see what was going on underneath her nose, and to stop being led by her extremely annoying and nosey mother! As for Vonnie, I liked her too, especially as more of her past is revealed throughout the book, and it shapes her as a character and shows why she is how she is with people, especially her family. They're all quite different, yet are going through the same struggles and O'Brien writes their friendship really well, and they make for great leading characters in the book.
Things don't go as expected in a few of the tales, and that's what I liked about the book. O'Brien was tempted to go down the route of an easy ending, with everything tied up neatly in a bow, and while some things ended happily, others didn't and I actually felt the characters were all the more realistic for that. I was left guessing until the end whether the women would end up happy or if they'd carry on as they were, simply because that is what is expected of them by everyone. It's a tale that takes you over the time of the lives of these women, but also the people important to their lives and how the stories have affected them also. Yes, at parts the chopping and changing of narrative, setting and time can be a little confusing and perhaps frustrating, but if you bear with it, you'll be privvy to a wonderful story that slowly unravels itself and the mysteries within it to reveal a tale that will have you hooked until the last page. A beautifully written and highly enjoyable novel that I whole-heartedly recommend!
You can buy The Love Book in both paperback and as an eBook now. (links go to Amazon.co.uk)