I have mixed feelings about this book. I had high hopes for it and couldn’t wait to start reading it, as I’d loved One Day when that came out. The writing was really good, the story was good, but the best part was the last 50 pages and when 300 pages precede that….well, it was incredibly slow. And not very compelling. And took me forever to read. Fortunately Melissa told me that it picked up once it hit the halfway mark, so I stuck with it. And that did prove to be true, but half a book is a lot to slog through just to get to the picking up part.
The story is told by 50-something rational scientist Douglas. His wife of almost 25 years, Connie, has said she’d like to leave him, but not quite yet. First they embark on a planned Grand Tour style vacation with their only son, Albie. Douglas tells about the trip, alternating with stories of when he and Connie met and the early years of their marriage. They were an unlikely couple-he so stiff and rational, she a passionate artist. But somehow they fell in love and genuinely loved each other. The way Douglas is written you can see why he might be unlikable to some people, but I definitely aligned myself with him and felt like his wife and son were terrible to him. And when Connie leaves the trip early and Albie runs off on his own and Douglas decides to track him down across Europe I couldn’t help but think why bother? Your son is a total ass to you and everyone picks on you.
I really felt like the last 50 pages of the book were the best-adding new depth to the characters, their relationship and the novel as a whole. I should have known from One Day that there would be some sort of surprise (to me), and indeed I was startled by some events at the end (I wouldn’t call it a surprise or twist ending.)
It was a pretty melancholy book and a slow read and that combination just made it almost painful and dutiful to get through. But why did I continue? I really admired the way certain parts were written and I did want to find out what happened to Connie and Douglas (Albie, not so much.)