25 February 2013

Book Review: With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan

"On a crystal clear Mediterranean day, Briony McAllister sits playing with her four-year-old daughter, Katie, while she waits for her mother, Valerie, to join them. Valerie has recently moved to a picturesque town in southern Spain to finally leave behind her turbulent past and find a peace that has always eluded her. Briony has no idea that in a few moments' time her relationship with her mother will change irrevocably. As Katie plays, Briony pulls from her bag an old photo album, found in a box in her mother's new home. As she begins to study the faded photos, a letter falls to the ground. It is addressed to her. My Darling Briony, it begins. As Briony reads the words with mounting shock, realisation dawns. Her mother lied to her about what happened with her beloved grandmother Tessa all those years ago - and denied Briony that most precious of relationships, the type of relationship Valerie now enjoys with Katie. The lives of three generations of women are set to change forever as the past is revisited and the truth unfolds through the undelivered letters Tessa wrote to Briony over the years. Secrets, lies, betrayals and sacrifices - the complex bonds between mothers, daughters and granddaughters are intricately explored as Patricia Scanlan takes us into the hearts and homes of a family at war."

Rating: 5/5

You can pre-order With All My Love as a hardback or an eBook now!

'With All My Love' is a poignant, heart-breaking yet touching look at different kinds of love, and how they shape the people who we are, and the people we are destined to be. The tale is told through flashbacks into the life of Valerie Harris when she was a young girl, falling in love with her new boyfriend Jeff. Valerie suffers with a poor relationship with her controlling father, and this influences her as she grows older, her need for independence is quite desperate, and as such she's a fairly lonely girl. I really did like Valerie, even though I didn't necessarily agree with the things she did, particularly towards her 'in-laws'.

I enjoyed the way it came full circle too, with Valerie being taught a harsh lesson the way she had acted all those years ago as well. Brioney and Valerie's adult relationship as mother and daughter isn't always plain sailing, but Scanlan manages to keep the relationship realistic and believable, whilst ultimately conveying the hurt and betrayal both women are feeling. Valerie's despair and Briony's anger are beautifully written, you can almost feel these emotions along with these characters. Some of the scenes are so painfully raw, you cannot help but shed a tear, I certainly did, and credit goes to Scanlan for really conveying the emotions these scenes warranted. It is good too to see Briony as an adult, and we are shown how Valerie's behaviour early on in her life has impacted her own adulthood, this added a new dimension to the book, and it was fun to flick back and forth between past and present.

As well as focussing on the Harris women, Scanlan also focusses in on Tessa and Lorcan, Jeff's parents. Tessa was quite a dislikeable women, judgmental and unkind at times, and I struggled to warm to her at all. Yet through her writing, Scanlan ensures you certainly feel empathy towards her plight, and what happens to her is terrible and as her story is revealed, I did slightly change my opinion of her and wished she would just come clean to Valerie, and even to Lorcan about her feelings. Scanlan is good at keeping these characters on the brink, holding their secrets back without spilling them, almost to the point of the readers frustration!

Scanlan really has a knack for writing about the truth behind relationships, and 'With All My Love' is a superb novel, highlighting not only the importance of family in our lives, and how to appreciate those around us, but also how quickly split decisions can impact your future, and those around you too. With a cast of very different female characters, 'With All My Love' certainly has characters and relationships within that most women will be able to relate to, and for that Scanlan ensures a broad readership. This is a book to be enjoyed by the generations, and with its glorious descriptions of Ireland, complicated women and a story to fall in love with, 'With All My Love' is sure to be another must-read from one of Ireland's greatest authors.

1 comment:

  1. This one sounds amazing. It went on my Amazon wishlist immediately. Right now I'm on a huge Brit Chick Lit reading fest and loving it!!!