23 August 2011

Book Review: Love Always by Harriet Evans

Returning to the wild Cornish coast for the funeral of her beloved grandmother, Natasha has no idea of how things are about to change. This trip reunites her with her large and complicated family for perhaps the last time: Summercove, her grandparents' beautiful house by the sea, is being sold. With it go a generation of memories and the key to the death, many years ago, of fifteen-year-old Cecily, her aunt, a tragedy that no one ever discusses. When she finds the opening pages of Cecily's diary, written the summer she died, Natasha discovers the family she idealised has secrets that have long been buried. But where is the rest of the diary? Back in London, trying to rebuild her own life, Natasha is haunted by Cecily's writing and the tragic tale of love, rivalry and heartbreak promised in those scant pages. She has to know what happened, the summer her aunt died. And so she makes some life-changing decisions – and in the process finds out that a second chance at love might be possible…

After reading Harriet Evans' debut novel Going Home a few years ago, somehow I've managed to not read any of other titles since, although I'm not sure why since I enjoyed her first book! I was sent a copy of this, Love Always, Harriet's latest novel for review and was quite excited to see if Evans was still as good as that first book I had enjoyed so much. The cover was absolutely gorgeous, with some gorgeous bright blue, and other colourful detail that certainly would entice me to pick up the book had I seen it in a shop. My copy was 500 pages long, quite a big chunk of a book but I was looking forward to diving in. I have to now say for the most part I enjoyed the book but there were a few niggles that let it down for me and therefore brought it down from a 4 star to a 3 star read.

Firstly, I found there was too many characters for me to keep track of, especially towards the start of the book. I found Evans jumped straight in and introduced lots of characters in Natasha's life, and I was a bit too swamped by her enormous family and kept having to flick back and remind myself who was who. There were her grandparents, mother, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and her husband - too many for my liking! I remembered the main ones but some just completely passed me by which was a shame. Natasha herself as the lead character was good, she had plenty going on in her life to be interesting enough, and I enjoyed the link to her family's past through her deceased aunt Cecily, who we see more of as the book goes on. The Kapoor family were interesting, a family who clearly struggled in their past with being an ethnic family in Britain, but I felt this was handled well by Evans.

A few times in the book, the story is interrupted by the diary of Cecily, Natasha's aunt who died aged 15 after a puzzling accident. This was a nice break in the business of the main story, and I felt like Evans really did well writing as a 15 year old, and it was interesting to see a lot of other characters as they were when they were younger, which also explained a lot of how they were in the modern story. The publishers have also used a handwriting type font for the diary too, which was nice and easy to read, yet set it apart from the rest of the text. In her diary Cecily not only deals with her family dramas, yet the trouble her and her sisters faced being ethnic girls at their school, and its awful to read how they were treated by people, shocking to think this probably still goes on really.

I enjoyed the setting of Cornwall and Summercove House, it sounds like a beautiful and certainly somewhere you can imagine yourself visiting on a warm summer's day. Much of the book is set here, however Natasha's life is in London and this too is written well, although I did enjoy the scenes at Summercove with the Kapoor family far more. Having the two locations allows for more characters though, and this perhaps added a bit of confusion for me as I found it hard to keep up with the places and people. I found the added story of Natasha's marriage woes interesting, and I felt Evans portrayed the issues between Natasha and Oli very well, and probably quite relevant too, especially given the other strange relationships going on in the book.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting book, but for me it was a little too long and there were a few too many characters for me to be able to follow with ease. The main ones were easy to get set in my mine but the others all seemed to blend together and I forgot the names and family relevance too quickly! The writing style was very easy to read, and I really loved the inclusion of Cecily's diary, even though I did think the revelation was a bit of a disappointment, I was expecting something a little more shocking, especially relating to Cecily's death! However, it was a good read and I imagine fans of Harriet Evans' will like this one. I do think I'll be looking out for more of her books as it was well written, and enjoyable for the most part.

Rating:  3.5/5


  1. I read a few pages of this and didn't like it at all!

  2. Sounds like a good premise but that it could have been written a bit differently. Thanks for the review!

    ♥ Melissa @ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf