From a Distance by Raffaella Barker

lighthouseA long time ago there were a couple of books I read by Raffaella Barker that I loved and found enchanting. I didn’t think of her again for years until last week my friends mentioned her new book and I promptly picked it up. I remember the other novels as being very funny, and this felt so much more serious that I wondered if she’d slowly changed her style in the years I hadn’t been reading her, or was this a departure? Either way, I really enjoyed it. I loved the set-up of the story–one of those deals where in the present tense we see people figuring out something that has happened in the past (and dealing with its consequences) alternating with chapters of the events unfolding in the past (like in that Lisa Jewell book I read recently.)
So, in the past WWII has just finished and a young man, Michael, is headed home. But the war has confused and hurt him and he doesn’t feel he can head back to Norfolk, to his father and mother, the farm, the absence of a brother, and the “sweetheart” who presumably waits for him to return and settle down, but whom he barely remembers. He ends up heading instead to Cornwall. There he meets a lovely woman, Verity, and falls in love with her, the area, and they way of life. Verity is part of the community of artists there, and she herself is passionate about designing fabric. This was all super interesting to me as it reminded me of The Shell Seekers, one of my all time favorite books, which is partially about the artists’ community in Cornwall post WWII. Michael and Verity fall in love, but he believes this is just a bubble in time and that he must return to the family farm. To which I kept saying throughout, Why must it be one or the other? Why can’t he and Verity marry, have a baby, and stay there and just visit his mum and dad from time to time?

In the present day, in Norfolk, Verity’s son, Kit,  arrives to claim an inheritance-a lighthouse. He’s never been there before, doesn’t know why his mother owned a lighthouse without telling him, or what its significance might be. Kit’s a bit lost and overwhelmed by the friendly welcome in the area, especially by the noisy family headed up by Luisa and Tom. Luisa makes ice creams and dreams of a specialty ice cream van. Kit’s arrival brings a bit of spice to her life, as there is a definite instant attraction between them.

There’s definitely a lot going on in this story, what with so many characters being at crossroads in their lives. And, I have to confide, that though this is not a complicated story I found myself unable to get a handle on the logistics of one key component in particular, which I found maddening. Honestly, it’s not that complicated, why couldn’t I get it? Perhaps I was reading too late at night, or maybe I just kept forgetting where everyone was from. I loved how it all turned out, the promise of the future, and the structure of it. I must go back and see what I have missed out on by this author!

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