3 June 2013

Book Review: You and I by Emily Gillmor Murphy

"Each September, thousands of students walk through the doors of University College and Trinity College, Dublin. This year, Olive and Tom will be among them.

Eighteen-year-old Olive is fresh from the country, and her eyes are opened wide by the big-city goings on of her new friends. When she starts to be pursued by Tom, the scruffy maverick who's seduced half the girls she's met, she's adamant he's not for her. But when a tragedy befalls her family, it's Tom who proves her best friend - until that is, she discovers his real motivations.

Tom has never thought further than the next party, the next girl, the next drink. But now, with his own broken family about to cast him off and his social habits spinning out of control, he seems to have destroyed his relationship with Olive. What started out as a stupid dare metamorphoses into something much more serious."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy You and I as a paperback or an eBook now.

Sometimes I am sent books to review that I quickly dismiss as not being something I would read as I don't think they are of the chick lit genre. Emily Gillmor Murphy's debut novels was one such book - on looking at the cover I didn't think I'd like it, but once I had read the synopsis, I was actually intrigued and thought it might be worth a try. Emily is a young, new Irish author , still studying herself yet signed to a big UK and Ireland publishing house, so there must be something pretty special about this book which makes it worth my while in reading it. I'm so pleased I did because this was a little gem of a read.

Young Olive has finally made the break away from home, and is going to University. She's excited to be starting a new chapter in her life, but nervous about leaving her parents and beloved brother behind. Then there's Tom. He's keen to move out of home, away from his depressed mother and father who would rather pretend he didn't exist. When Tom spots Olive one night, he's determined he must get to know this beautiful, yet shy young woman. When the pair strike a relationship and something tragic happens in Olive's life, Tom is the one she turns to in her hour of need. But one stupid mistake a few weeks ago just might destroy everything Tom has built up with Olive. Can he undone what has already been done?

This is quite simply a love story of two young people struggling to get on with their lives despite the troubles they each have in their personal lives, and I really enjoyed it. Gillmor Murphy, while a new author, seems to have honed in on the emotions, actions and general lifestyle of her characters so well, they could well be any two young people attending college. I daresay Gillmor Murphy has perhaps drawn upon her own experiences of college as well, it reads so realistically and while there are some dramatic moments as the book moves on, I was more interested in reading the day to day lives of Tom and Olive and finding out what they would do next. I haven't read a book where I really liked both characters and really rooted for them both for quite a well, and it was a fabulous thing to discover that in this book.

The backgrounds of both characters are very important, and revealed gradually throughout the book. Olive's was an interesting one, because of a more secret story we don't know about that is explored slowly, and is quite devastating as it reaches its climax. It moved me to tears in a few scenes, and I have to really commend Gillmor Murphy's writing here because it really gets to the heart of the emotion of it, and it felt utterly devastating to read it. Olive's reactions, too, are very realistic, you cannot help but feel sorry for her and it made me all the more determined she'd have a happy ending! Tom, too, was a troubled soul and I felt sorry for him so much, he was like a lost little boy, and was using drink and drugs to try and escape his awful life. As the relationships he has in life, especially with his divorced parents comes to light more, you can understand why Tom is how he is - emotionally shut down - and I hoped Olive would be the one constant in his life.

I liked how Gillmor Murphy juggled the story, alternating between Tom's story then Olive's story, and then slowly beginning to merge the two as it develops further. The book is told in the first person from both characters points of view, and I found Gillmor Murphy easily got into the heads of both characters, and I didn't struggle with Tom's narrative at all, sometimes a problem I find when women writers try to write from a male perspective, but this seemed very realistic and enjoyable to read. She covers all aspects of University life, from their studies to new and flourishing friendships, to their home lives and growing independence too. There's no stone left unturned, and I found it was a joy to read because of this, there was nothing missing or that left me wondering. There was also a little side story involving one of the characters, Olive's friend and I found this to be equally captivating, and also quite emotional too, showing love can transcend all class barriers if the two people want it badly enough.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book right from the beginning, and grew to love Tom and Olive as the book went on, despite the good and bad points about both of them. With her dual narrative story-telling, Gillmor Murphy allows you to get really invested in their stories, and while Tom does make some silly mistakes, you can't help but wish that Olive will forgive him and that they'll live happily ever after. It's a book about young love, and it explores all aspects of their life in a realistic and hard-hitting way, but in a form that you can enjoy, whatever your age. Yes, there's some sex, and drug use in the book but it didn't put me off at all, and just added to the atmosphere of the book for me. With likeable secondary characters, a great setting and a well told narrative, Gillmor Murphy's debut novel is one to really enjoy, and one that I will certainly recommend this summer. Brilliant.